When I started writing this post, I wanted to share some of my travel experiences. At the time I was looking forward to my next overseas trip in 2020. Since then I have had a full refund on my bookings and am not sure when I will travel overseas again. So it has been with some nostalgia that I have prepared this retrospective of my travels organised by A to Z.
I have tried to cover most of the places I have travelled. Never as many as I would like. Some I have not even spent a whole day and my memories are quite hazy like Venice where I stopped for 4 hours before returning to my train. Other places have been my home such as Edinburgh where I lived for about 3 years and got very excited to see it on Avengers Infinity Wars recently which had a fight scene outside my old workplace. Most of my travels were around Europe in the late 1990s before I started blogging, though not all. I love a nature walk or a gorgeous beach but I particularly love museums and historic buildings, as you will see.
A is for Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In 1998 I spent a month or so backpacking around Europe by bus. It was not the most fancy way to travel but it got me places. First stop was Brugges and then onto Amsterdam. It was on my brief stay in a hostel in Amsterdam I met June-Anne. One of my main memories with her was eating chewy crunchy caramel stroopwafel. I wasn't there long but years later in 2006 I returned with E for a week and more good eating. It was so exciting to go to Anne Frank's house. I loved reading her diary as a teenager. I also remember the beauty of the Dutch Masters at the Rijksmuseum. I am sure we went to other museums but cannot remember their names. The house-lined canals were a wonderful sight. The Rijsttafel (rice table) meal was a splendid array of dishes. One of our favourite moments was when I ordered fruit toast with cheese on top and was told by the waiter that it was "very Dutch".
B is for Borders, Scotland
My in-laws lived in Peebles in the early 2000s so we would visit there regularly when we lived in Edinburgh. The trip there was undulating and so green. We enjoyed some of the local activities in Peebles: the Beltane parade and decorations, Highland games, and the carnival. On quieter days we would go for walks in the woods or browse at the Couchee Righ gift shop or eat dinner at the Kingsmuir Hotel. Some days we would take a bus further into the Borders to visit Melrose Abbey or Floors Castle in Kelso. Some of the towns had names that amused me: Auchendinny, Penicuik and Hawick (pronounced Hoik). You can read about visits to Peebles on my Blog.
C is for Copenhagen, Denmark
I flew from London for a short trip to Copenhagen in 1997 on a snowy winter's weekend. I stayed in a hostel where I met another traveller who told me he had put on viking clothes and sat in a viking boat in a museum. I believed him at the time but now I wonder if I should have. I enjoyed walking around the Centre marvelling at the wonderful wonderful city under a layer of snow. I visited Frederiksborg Castle and was surprised the portrait painters were not more flattering to the Danish royalty. I saw the film of Oscar Wilde starring Stephen Fry, I attended the ballet, and I enjoyed the dark nubbly breads so much I took a loaf home to my flat in London.
D is for Dunedin, New Zealand
A friend of mine from Edinburgh lived in Melbourne when I returned from Scotland and she encouraged me to visit her when she moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2005. We took a bus to Dunedin, named after Edinburgh. We toured the Cadbury factory, though did not see much, walked to the top of a very steep hill and stayed in a hostel I barely remember. It was fun to see Julie who always made me laugh. Then we returned to Christchurch where we went to a teppanayaki restaurant and were surprised by the swastikas in the cathedral (before the earthquake). I later visited Auckland (on my blog) for a conference and would love to return and see more of New Zealand.
E is for Edinburgh, Scotland
On my first visit to Scotland in 1996 I went on a terrifying ghost tour that gave me nightmares and made me swear never to visit again. I did go back. In fact I got married there and ended up working in the City Chambers on the High Street above the site of the ghost tours. I've been on ghost tours since then that were not at all scary but I have never forgotten that first one. I lived in Edinburgh for a few years and became very fond of it. I also was a volunteer at St Giles Cathedral and loved pointing out the bagpiping angel in the Thistle Chapel.
I have been back for a few visits since I returned to Australia but so much has changed that it will be odd when I finally get to visit again. So many familiar places have shut down: Helios Fountain, The Registry office on Victoria Street where we married, the Elephant House, British Home Stores, Jenners, Debenhams, The Filmhouse, even the council offices where I worked have moved to a new location. Of course some icons are unchanging: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Arthur's Seat, Greyfriars Bobby and the Botanic Gardens. You can read about my trips to Edinburgh on my blog.
F is for Fethiye, Turkey
In 1998 when my brother and older sister were living in Istanbul, I set off from London with my younger sister to meet up with them. In Instanbul we went to the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, as well as a major league soccer match (unforgettable for the police with riot shields accompanying the players onto the ground), and to some local cafes. I spent about a week travelling through Turkey, down to the ruins of Ephesus and the cliffs of Gallipoli where in history I had studied Australia's baptism of fire in World War I but saw it with new eyes as I also had the tour guide tell us about his Turkish ancestors in the War.
We walked through the ruined pools of Pammakule (not at all like the guidebook photos), and made our way to Fethiye city in the south with the magnificent beaches. Fethiye is a city and a district. I started out with my sister's friend, met people from her part of New Zealand, found ourselves on the beach beside their friend from another tour, and one of them lived in the next suburb to me back in London. We travelled to the Ölüdeniz in the district where we swam in magnificent beaches (the photo above is the group I travelled with for a while). I climbed a cliff to a rural pension, stayed in a treehouse in Olympos, met locals in Antalya, and in a cave in Cappadocia. It was amazing just how the landscape changed as I travelled about. And the people were lovely. Plates of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and bread were wonderful sustenance.
G is for Germany
As I backpacked around Europe in 1998, people kept telling me I must do "the tour" in Berlin. Once I arrived in Berlin it made sense. It was one of the most exciting cities I visited. Ten years after the Berlin Wall had fallen, many places in the city were being rebuilt or showed so much modern history of world wars and the cold war. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (nicknamed the lipstick and the powder puff) was a modern building that incorporated a church ruined by bombs in World War II. The current Reichstag was still a building site. Museums were being planned. And the impact of the Berlin Wall on the city was very present in the artwork on the wall remains in the East Side Art Gallery (photo above) and the Checkpoint Charlie museum. I also loved the dense breads and the fun of meeting up with a German backpacker I had met in Cornwall.
H is for Hadrian's Wall
We visited friends we met in Melbourne who had returned to the UK from Australia. They were living in Durham where I was rather impressed by the Cathedral. As C and Y had a car, we drove out to Hadrian's Wall, which was built by the Romans to section off Scotland from England. I am not sure of the name of the Fort we visited but it was very atmospheric as when we peered over the ancient stone wall; all we could see was fog. We wandered around the ruins for a bit but it was too cold to be outside long.
I is for Ireland
I grew up with a lot of Irish Catholic culture and went to a school run by the Brigidine nuns who would tell us about Daniel Delaney and hedge schools. So I was pretty excited to finally visit Dublin but was disappointed it wasn't more impressive. More enjoyable was travelling through the beautiful rural landscapes west to Galway and to the Cliffs of Mohr. Did I mention we have a family castle there? It is a ruin and our links to the current owners is slim but that hasn't stopped any of my family climbing the fence past the no trespassers sign. My older sister and brother moved to Dublin so I visited frequently and grew to love the city with its fascinating history and sense of fun.
I went to literature festivals with my sister, visited museums, strolled St Stephen's Green, and was awed by the Book of Kells and the Long Room at Dublin University. We ate at Bewleys and shopped in Grafton Street. I had an ill-fated trip to the south where I did a tour around Killarney and at Cork spent most of my time in the hospital on a drip with cellulitis and missed my planned visit to the Rock of Cashel. We stayed with my parents and 6 siblings in an elegant Dublin Georgian House. E and I did a viking tour where we were encouraged to do the viking roar. I enjoyed a Bloomsday of literary readings and following in the steps of Leopold Bloom. And there are reminders of the early 20th Century wars in Ireland such as the bullet holes in the post office.
J is for Jerusalem, Israel
I worked on a kibbutz for a couple of months in 1998. I took a couple of trips to Jerusalem with other volunteers and a trip there after I finished up. During my time in Israel I also visited Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Dead Sea and Jaffa. But Jerusalem was most impressive. The Old City was amazing - a labyrinth of ancient stones with street signs in English, Hebrew and Arabic reminding me of the three religions laying claim to it. It was quite a sight to watch the Jews at the Wailing Wall and then look up high to the golden sight of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. As a (lapsed) Catholic I was fascinated by following the Via Dolorosa where Jesus had trod before he died on the cross, and my grandfather had walked during World War II. I walked through the Holocaust Museum full of sorrow. And I loved the falafels in pita bread with salad, pickles and cold chips.
K is for Krakow, Poland
I travelled to Krakow by bus from Amsterdam sitting next to an old Polish guy who was giggling at Crocodile Dundee on the bus tv with one male voice dubbing the film into Polish! I met other backpackers at the hostel, or maybe on the bus. I travelled with them to Auschwictz-Birkenau. concentration camp (photo above). The gates with Arbeit macht Frei ("work leads to freedom"), the piles of spectacles, hair etc and the watch houses made the horror of the Holocaust so immediate everyone walked around looking so so sad. I was so focused on Auschwictz I made no plans for the salt mine carvings - which I regret in hindsight. More enjoyable was sitting in the Krakow town square eating pierogi.
From there I went to Warsaw which was memorable for being refused on the bus with my bus pass, and being invited to stay at a local home in one of those Soviet-era grey tower blocks and eating beef stew because the family was too kind to try to explain to the non-English speaking mother that I was vegetarian. On my second day trying to get on the bus I was again refused but aother generous local told me I could stay in his bedroom because he was going on the bus. I gave up and took a train out of there!
L is for London, England
I lived in London for 9 months. It is an amazing city but too big and impersonal to stay long. Peak hour on the tube was hell. The offpeak tube is great but it makes more sense of London to walk around the West End. It is like a giant Monopoly Board. The Geoffrye Museum at Christmas was one of my favourite museum visits but who could not love the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey (when it was free), the Tate Modern, the British Museum and so on. The London Eye gives a glorious view of familiar landmarks such as Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Thames river.
It is hard not to feel immersed in culture. I worked on the BBC website (and met Rolf Harris as well as watching tv shows being taped), I saw well known names such as Liam Neeson, Niamh Cusack and Diana Rigg perform in plays, did a course about theatre and a Bloomsbury Group tour, and visited Portobello Rd and Camden markets. The problem with London was there was so much I wanted to see and I only saw a small part of it, especially once I had a job.
M is for Madrid, Spain
I booked two weeks in Madrid at the end of my two year working holiday visa in the UK because I had to leave the country. Spain sounded good but I really knew very little about it. Nothing about the language, the cuisine, the highlights. And then my favourite band, Pulp was playing in Edinburgh a week after I left and my credit cards were not in a great way. It took me a while to warm to Spain. Madrid bore the brunt of my resentment. I wish I could do it all over again better. It was not a lost cause. I was amazed at the sight of Picasso's Guernica at Museo Reina Sofía. I had a day trip to Toledo, I spent quite a bit of time in Barcelona falling in love with Gaudi, and I also was very fond of Sergovia with it's adquaduct and castle. I never had tapas (the shame) but I was obsessed with churros e chocolat.
N is for New York, USA
On my first overseas trip I flew to London via New York. Thanks to a delay in LA I arrived in the Big Apple at 4am, lost my hotel booking and was booked elsewhere by the airline. Which was fine except I was only there one night before travelling to visit a friend in Washington and had lost my booking for when I was back for a few nights. New York rolls with the punches so it was fine. I love the city and returned with E a few years later in 1999. I never got the appeal of Times Square but loved the the Chrysler Building, Washington Square, the Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Penn Station, bookstores and music shops. The photo above is the grunginess of the East Village.
I could have spent longer walking about the shops and houses but there was never enough time. I loved the friendliness of a woman on an underground train recommending us a place called Dojo in St Marks for dinner and it was fun to go to a bookstore reading by Cher and Sonny Bono's kid before Charity transitioned to Chaz. I think it might have been Barnes and Noble.
O is for Oban, Scotland
When my sister and brother visited me in Edinburgh we booked a bus tour to Oban. I don't remember much of Oban on the west coast of Scotland and I think we might have gone via Loch Lomond. I do remember the tour guide on the bus being very disparaging about Greenock. My brother started to make up stories about E's family coming from this town to stir her and it made us laugh when we visited E's parents and his father said the family had indeed lived there.
I loved travelling around Scotland while I lived in Edinburgh . I took the train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, drove through snow from Elgin through the east coast, saw REM play at Stirling Castle, went to a wedding in Perth, fangirled at T in the Park, holidayed in Skye, stayed in Fort William when the winds cut off the roads and trains back to work, took a bus around Loch Ness, walked the public rights of way through farms from Stonehaven to Dunnotar Castle, visited the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, and went to a folk music festival on the Isle of Arran.
P is for Paris, France
When I was 15, we did a project in French class doing a tourist pamphlet on Paris. It filled me with great yearning to visit. Though it took some years to get there I loved the city so much I missed the bus/boat back to London because I wanted to have one more look at the Eiffel Tower. (I caught the Eurail instead which arrived back before the bus/boat would have). I have been there many times and loved it every time. The museums, the cafes, the bakeries! The Pompidou Centre, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur Cathedral, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe, the Left Bank, the Catacombes, Musee D'Orsay, the Pere Lachaise cemetery. I even took a train trip to the gilded palace of Versaillies.
I have two places I particularly love in Paris. The view from the Notre Dame surrounded by gargoyles (above). It was only recently I read the gargoyles's faces are based on real people! Unfortunately the recent fire at Notre Dame has put them off limits. I also love the nearby left bank Shakespeare and Company bookstore. My honours thesis included a study of Sylvia Beach who started the original bookstore, published James Joyce's Ulyssses and inspired the name of my daughter. When I first visited in 1996 I discussed the history of the place with the staff who asked if I wanted to stay there. I thought it was a joke but years later read about all the people who did have accommodation above the bookstore. When I took Sylvia to Paris she really loved the hop on hop off bus and the double story carousel.
Q is for Qatar (Airport)
One of my favourite airport meals was this meal of dips, salad and bread at the stopover in Doha, Qatar. (And it was hard to find any place starting with Q so I chose a place I had only been at the airport.) While I hate the waiting around, I find airports fascinating. They often have some interesting shops and a little taste of a culture. On my first overseas trip I stayed overnight at the Osaka airport in Japan. On the flight there I had terrible airsickness and had to ask for air sickness pills. It surprised me how few people in the shops spoke English and I had to have a Japanese translator help me. On a stopover in Singapore I had a tour of the town.
R is for Rome, Italy
I regret that I didn't have a great time in Rome. It was my moment of not enjoying being a solo traveller in a noisy hostel and being followed by creepy men. I also felt unsure of myself with being vegetarian and was so distraught at the riches in the Vatican I accidentally queued to climb to the roof of St Peter's basillica. I have vague memories of scaffolding over the Vatican and going down some dusty road in fruitless search of some catacombs. It was not all bad because I also remember the wonders of the beautiful piazzas, amazing gelati, the fun of the Trevi Fountain, the awe of the huge Colosseum. I was in love with Venice and Florence for their beautiful historic architecture but I really need another visit to Rome to appreciate it more.
S is for San Fransisco, USA
I visited San Fransisco with E en route to moving from the UK to Australia. It was a stressful time but I was glad we could stop and relax in this fascinating city. Once I got over the huge freeways, I loved the crazy hilly streets, the Painted Ladies houses (pictured), the stories of Alcatraz, indulging at the Cheesecake factory, the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight Ashbury and lots of places on a bus tour including the Mission District and Pacific Coast Highway. Special memories were of taking a limosine with lots of other people instead of public transport and hanging out in the City Lights Bookstores in the footsteps of the Beat Generation.
T is for Thailand
In 2006, my youngest brother and his wife got married in Phuket, Thailand accompanied by some of their family. It was a great experience as I haven't travelled in Asia. The pool at the resort was great for swimming laps in the morning and hanging out by the bar in the evening. Balmy nights eating amazing Thai food and cocktails in busy streets wearing tropical flowers. We soon adjusted to taking Tuk Tuks everywhere. We visited the temple at Wat Chalong, rode an elephant (but I don't think I would do that now) and took a boat to Phi Phi islands with beautiful beaches. I am forever grateful that my oldest brother convinced me to go snorkelling off the boat. It was an amazing experience to swim around the clear ocean and watch the fishies. And of course there was the fun of the wedding on the beach followed by a banquet.
U is for United Kingdom
I was so excited to finally visit the UK for a holiday and loved it so much I returned a year later for a 2 year working holiday. I lived in London, Radway and Edinburgh and returned to Edinburgh to get married and live there on a UK residential visa for a few years. During this time I travelled around with friends, family, with a husband (E) and in tour groups.
There were many memorable moments. Lands End on the day of Princess Diana's funeral. Performances at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, the London recreation of the Globe Theatre, the Minack Theatre carved in Cornish cliffs, and an Edinburgh Festival play in the closes off the High Street. Towns with evocative names like Coventry, Elgin, Nottingham, Penzance, Torquay, Banbury, Sheffield. Travelling in the footsteps of writers: Jane Austen in Winchester and Bath, Wordsorth's Dove cottage in the Lake District, the Brontes home in Haworth, Hilda Doolittle (HD)'s blue plaque in Mecklenburgh Square Bloomsbury, and the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford where Tolkein and CS Lewis hung out. Quirky museums: the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick, the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds Castle, the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. Castles, cathedrals, country houses, ye olde pubs, eating Wensleydale cheese with my parents on the Wensley Dale, driving around Glasgow and Stirling with a crazy Czech guy, and having a train whizz by us only to reverse to pick us up in a village outside London.
V is for Vienna, Austria
After being unable to get a bus out of Warsaw with my bus pass, I paid for a train ticket to Rome. I slept over night on the train, had 10 hours in Vienna, another night on the train and then 4 hours in Venice before reaching Rome. I had a lovely time walking around beautiful historic Vienna. No doubt I was glad to stretch my legs. I visited the Opera House, St Stephen's Cathedral and the colorful Hundertwasserhaus. It is quite a vague memory but I do remember sitting in a cafe eating one of the gorgeous Austrian cakes before getting back on the train.
W is for Wales
I first visited Wales with my parents when we were driving around the UK. It was really beautiful countryside. Green, lots of sheep and some slag heaps. Visiting Bodelwyddan (near St Asaph's) was important because my great great grandfather was born before migrating to Australia in search of gold. He was Catholic so St Margaret's Church was an important part of his life. See above photo which I think I took but could be a postcard!
Later I visited a work colleague in Pembrokeshire. We stayed with her family and hired a manual car that I was the only one old enough to drive despite having much less experience than my fellow travellers. They were not impressed! We stopped at tiny St Govan's Chapel built into the cliff face for a hermit, visited St David's cathedral and walked along the beach. And we saw my fave band Pulp play in Cardiff. I'd love more time to explore Wales as it looks wonderful and I am quite proud of my Welsh Heritage.
X is in susseX, England
It might not surprise you that I studied literature and history at university. Hence it was exciting to walk in the footsteps of the Bloomsbury Group, despite my first year English tutor telling me I was conned by Virginia Woolf. After admiring their blue plaques in Bloomsbury in London, I headed to Sussex. That's where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived at Monk's House, not too far from Charleston Farmhouse where Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant and David Garnett lived. Charleston is particularly fascinating because painters Vanessa and Duncan painted their creations on the walls.
I also visited Knole House in Kent that had links to Vita Sackville-West who had an intense relationship with Virginia. And I even went to a fundraiser draft sale organised by Blue Peter's Janet Ellis that had cushions covers made by Virginia's great niece. I should have bought one.
Y is for York, England
I visited York on my first trip to the UK as a stop between London and Edinburgh. I have been back a few times. It is a gorgeous old city. I loved wandering around the magnificent gothic York Minister, the impressive ruins of St Mary's Abbey (above) and the charming Shambles, a narrow street with buildings dating back to the Fourteenth Century. I also really enjoyed the York Castle Museum with its re-creations of Victorian streetscapes.
Z is in cZech Republic
In my beginning is my end said T S Eliott. And sometimes that is how travel seems. The first place on this list was Amsterdam where I met June Anne. We arranged to meet at the Prague train station in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks later and had a great time together. We stayed in a pension that was a precursor of Air BnB. The first thing we did was have lunch in King Wenceslas square and walk along the Charles Bridge. A highlight was a bus trip to Kutna Hora church with amazing decorations made of human bones. But we also enjoyed sitting at the tables outside a bar with new friends discussing the politics: democracy, compulsory voting, and the big news of the time about the affair between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
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