First impressions of Prague – stunning, scorching and an Astronomical clock

We staggered off the night train, blinking and yawning into the glaring heat of the Prague morning. Half seven and already 27 degrees. Not a good start for a vampire shade seeker like me.

First stop, we needed to ditch the bags so head straight to our hotel. The marvellous Louren Hotel, situated in Vinohrady which is in neighbourhood 2.

It’s not in the old town centre but a super simple ten minute journey from the centre on the green metro line. Just hop off at the Jiriho z Podebrad stop.

You can find out more about  Louren hotel on their website. 

I can heartily recommend it, marvellous service, lovely rooms and a great place to stay if you do not want to be right in the hectic centre of Prague.

Once unburdened we headed back into the old town centre to check out some of the awe inspiring architecture of Prague.

Arriving just before the hour in the old town square – Staroměstské náměstí – we were perfectly placed to see one of the main tourist sights, the Astronomical Clock striking the hour.

This beautiful piece of time keeping art dates from the 15th century.

The clock is intricately constructed, and each hour crowds of people gather to watch the procession of the Twelve Apostles.

Every hour, a small trap door opens and Christ marches out ahead of his disciples, while the skeleton of death tolls the bell in a grim nod to the passage of time.

Four figures flank the clock and these represent things that were despised at the time of the clock’s making. From left to right the first is vanity, represented by a figure admiring himself in a mirror.

Next, the miser holding a bag of gold represents greed. Across the clock stands Death, a skeleton that strikes the time upon the hour. Finally, the Turk represents pleasure and entertainment.

Below the Astronomical Clock are 12 medallions with the signs of the zodiac, added by Josef Manes in 1865.

Apparently the clock maker was blinded on the orders of the Prague council to make sure he could never make something so beautiful again. Nice.

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Pompeii, a tragedy locked in time

Pompeii is still in the shadow of the brooding Mount Vesuvius.
 The city of Pompeii, along with Herculaneum, was partially destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 ft of hot ash, pumice and mud in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

One of the tragic inhabitants of Pompeii, forever encased in ash. His teeth are still visable, clenched in fear.

Another former resident is frozen in their final, terrified position.

One of the preserved illustrations on the wall of the brothel. Several of them are dotted around the place, each showing one of the delights on offer for the excitable inhabitants.

Neil tries his hand at serving in the ancient fast food joint!!

Amalfi coast – spectacular

Neil surveys the view at the pretty coastal town of Amalfi. It is indeed Salad days . . . .

Here’s a different view of Amalfi, a gorgeous little piece of paradise.

A speciality of the region – delicate, ornate little painted tiles. Next to the obligitory moped!!!

Here’s another of the beautiful little villages on the Amalfi coast – Positano. Where houses tumble down the hillside to the beach.

Next we visit Pompeii, a huge site in the shadow of the brooding and treacherous Vesuvius.

Capri and Sorrento 2012

So back to Italy, for the fourth time! Despite swearing blind last year I would never spend my hard earned money in the grumpy rude fest that is Italy, back we go! Just can’t keep away from the culture, astounding architecture and glamourous beaches.

First off, the glorious wedding of a close friend in Rome. Married in the beautiful setting of the Campidoglio in Rome, it was every inch the Dolce Vita! Even though it was 38 degrees and no air conditioning!!

Here we are looking glam.

Next up a six am train ride to Naples, hopped on the hydro foil and headed to the home of glitz and glamour – Capri!

We actually stayed in Anacapri, the small, less developed little village higher up on the island.

We stayed in the fantastic Il Sogno B and B. Absolute bliss! Only three bedrooms and set just off the main square it is ideally situated, quite and set in gorgeous gardens. A perfect escape.

Check them out here


Here’s the Marina Grande – the ferry’s all dock here, in order to get to Anacapri you can either get a taxi or simply hop on one of the tiny, frequent buses that bumble up the steep hill.

Feel the fear as they wind up the impossibly high hill, with a sheer drop to the ocean on one side and barely an inch to spare between buses as they meet each other on the hair pin bends.

First glimpse of the Island.

Colourful houses line the Marina Grande.

The sea around the island is an incredible, azure blue. Almost too perfect to be true.

But always involving a very steep hill down, followed by the realisation it’s a private beach, followed by the hill you need to climb back up . . .

Next we visit the Blue Grotto and check out where the glamourous rich folks hang out – Capri!!!

Thailand ends on a high, azure seas and picture postcard beaches – I am in hell

So after the serenity of the old capital, the mania of Chinatown, the sobering WW2 reminders and the swim down the river Kwai, we had to end our holiday in typical style, on one of Thailand’s many idylic, gorgeous, perfect, pristine, baking hot beaches.

We stayed in Ao Nang, Krabi. A nice little town that has easy access to some of the most picturesque azure waters and white sands.

The area is renowned for its impressive karst formations that jut out of the sea as well as its”hongs” – caverns in the rocks that you can canoe through.

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Sadly for me, a combination of 36 degrees and no shade to be seen for miles = hell on earth!!!

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As  I watched a seemingly endless parade of perfectly proportioned, honey golden, waif like women parading in their perfectly fitting string bikinis with not a pimple of cellulite to be seen, how I sulked, sun burnt, heat rashed and in the most unfortunate all in one swimsuit known to mankind . .

Not really a bathing beauty . . . . . . .

But the beaches at Krabi really are lovely!!! We stayed at the Ao Nang Paradise resort. http://www.aonang-paradise-resort.com

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It is about ten minutes walk to the beach along the main street crammed with shops, bars and restaurants. Set in a lovely garden, backed with magnificent mountain views. It’s a brilliant place, would definitely recommend!

The main beach at Krabi has some inquisitive, hungry little locals . . .

Neil gets a close up call from one of Krabi beach monkeys!

But they are soooo cute!! We took a speed boat trip to several of the islands off Krabi, including Railey beach, Chicken Island and Poda. We also checked out Phra Nang where the James Bond film Man with the Golden Gun was filmed.

All in all a lovely, albeit too hot for me, end to our first experience of Thailand!!!

Travels in Thailand

After getting all nostalgic over India I’ve decided to go back in time by a year and put up my pictures of Thailand too. We travelled there in December 2009, flying into Bangkok.

We stayed at the New Siam Riverside (www.newsiam.net) on the bank of the Chao phraya  River. It provided a much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the crazy city. Having breakfast overlooking the majestic river was fantastic. This is a wonderful hotel and I can’t recommend it enough!

So first on my hit list was obviously the Grand Palace in Bangkok. With its myriad of glittering spires and epic grinning demons, it has been on my travel wishlist for a long time.

So braving 36 degrees and a lovely heat rash that was developing nicely, off we trundled!!

After being way laid by lots of helpful people telling us the Grand Palace was closed! (it wasn’t) and offering us alternative trips in their tuc tucs (we politely declined) we arrived.

The sunlight was so bright it was almost blinding as it hit the golden tiles and intricate details of the temples. It was a beautiful sight. But sunglasses were a definate must!!!!

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Huge demons grimaced and guarded the gates, detailing covered every surface. The work involved was immense.

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So much detail that my snappy finger nearly overheated!!

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But i was finally dragged away andthen it was on to Wat Po.

Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok (with an area of 50 rai – 80,000 square metres), and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddha images: the Reclining Buddha.

Travels in Thailand

Here’s Neil trying to out gurn a local deity!

And a monk keeps cool in the heat of the mid day sun.
 
We also visited Wat Arun – The temple of the Dawn, perched majestically on the edge of the river. The full name of the temple is Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahawihan !!!! 

The whole temple is decorated with broken porcelain and seashells, creating an amazing, if somewhat bizarre spectacle! Neil braved the steps, I however sat sulking and sweltering in the little shade on offer! (I should point out that i am not good in hot climates, ironically)

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Then day one was over, so we retired to the hotel to sip cocktails at the rivers edge. Fantastic start to our trip!!

Train journey and end of the Indian road

The next leg of our trip involved a train trip to Varkala, the final stop on our trip. Here’s me not looking too comfortable on our little window ledge / seat / sleeping compartment!

Neil however was delighted to get a full meal for 50p plus the coffee man who hopped on and off the train at each station was very appreciated!!

At long last we arrive at our final destination of our first ever Indian adventure – Varkala, a laid back little resort, strung out along a cliff top, overlooking a long beach and serene ocean.

We stayed at the Seashore Resort on the quieter South Cliff.  what a fantastic end to our trip. In our own air conditioned apartment, looking out towards the sea.

A series of steep steps take you down to a virtually private beach from where you can walk to the main sands.

I’m glad we choose to do the North first, to get the crazy, hectic side done and then take the chance to chill out in the South for the final five days. Doing nothing but swim, eat and sleep!

It’s like two completely different countries, personally I feel that the North holds far more of interest and what I would class as the “real “India (If such a thing exists).

The south is hot, laid back and easy, lovely in its own right but not that different to any other beach resorts around the world.

But the North was a challenge, in every sense of the word an experience.

Half the time I loved it, half the time I hated it, I went from tears of frustration to awe struck amazement within minutes! It was dirty, polluted, bewildering and frustrating. It was the worst poverty I have ever seen.

But also it was incredible, awe inspiring, uplifting, colourful, friendly and amazing. I swore I would never go back. I know I will.

Balmy Kerela

Arriving in Kochi we hail an old Ambassador taxi and soon we’re bumping along the back streets to our two day stay in Fort Cochin at Saj home  a lovely homestay just a few minutes walk from the Chinese Fishing nets.

The nets are a bit of a tourist and photographers hot spot! Here’s Neil getting in on the action . . .

During our stay we arranged a seven hour back water cruise – organised by the lovely owners of Sajhome.

As we lazed around and took in the scenery, the hard working ferry man kept on with his back breaking labour!!

Yes this is the only method of power for the converted rice barge we were in!