Jonny the Pilot

Commercial Airline Pilot. Vlogging Europe. Loving life. Ironman. Feminist.

Category: Travel More

Venice 🇮🇹

Known as the city of love but you should know that if you’re not presently in love or are taking a break from that particular emotion then Venice offers so…

Known as the city of love but you should know that if you’re not presently in love or are taking a break from that particular emotion then Venice offers so much more.  Home to St Mark’s square, the Bridge of Sighs and one of the most magnificent hotels in Europe.

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We stay across the water on the mainland, but its only a 10 min taxi or a 20 minute bus journey so definitely worth considering if you’re on a tight budget.

On 99% of my flights to Venice we approach and land in an easterly direction onto runway 04 so picking a seat on the right of the aircraft at checkin will give you the best view of Venice and the constant flotilla of boats gliding to and from the floating city.

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For drinks you should definitely head to Harry’s bar. Eye-wateringly expensive but arguably the most famous in Venice! Birthplace of the ‘Belini’ and a brilliant buzz. Try it.

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Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s square to most of us Brits. A great place to start your day. One of the last stops on the water taxi so a good stating point to begin meandering back to the other side of the island.

Not open late but one of my recommendations to start the evening is ‘Al Prosecco”. They serve a great selection of wines by the glass. Most of which I have never heard of but, hey, it makes the experience all the more exciting!

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One of the liveliest bars in Venice, tucked away from the tourists, is ‘Margaret Duchamp’. We often enjoy a down-route beer here after a busy three sector flying day.

For somewhere to eat try the myriad of small side street restaurants. They’re generally great. Be adventurous and try something different to pizza, or pasta.  I love eating the black squid ink risotto.  The crew can always see when I have…

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The following morning, if its not an early flight back to London Heathrow, I like a wander over to ‘Caffe Florian’. It is popular with tourists, no bad thing, and claims to be the oldest restaurant in the world.  I always choose the Casanova breakfast!  Coffee, OJ, fruit, croissant, toast,, focaccia and cake.  Its around €40 but leaves me satisfied for the whole day.

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Gondolas are pricey but very romantic.  Don’t bother if you’re travelling alone. Try one of the water taxis instead and head down to St Mark’s Sq.  I would recommend Caffe Lavena.  A great place for people watching. My record for making a coffee last here is 90 minutes.

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That’s my pilot-eye view of Venice covering some of my favourite spots. Hope you enjoy visiting them as much as I do, often on my days off to explore further the places I’m lucky enough to visit with work whether it’s a nightstop or even better a standover.

Ever been to Berlin? 🇩🇪 

 

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Berlin 🇩🇪

Berlin is Uber cool! Getting around is easy and relatively cheap by metro or indeed by Uber.  I lived there when I flew as a senior first officer for EasyJet so…

Berlin is Uber cool! Getting around is easy and relatively cheap by metro or indeed by Uber.  I lived there when I flew as a senior first officer for EasyJet so know it well.  Believe me its a great place to party. Half the population is single which probably contributes to the fantastic night life.

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Some nightclubs stay open for days. Not really my thing anymore, but I can recommend plenty of alternative bars. KLO bar in Leibnizstrasse in the West of Berlin is utterly barmy. Expect drinks served in urine sample bottles, to sit on a toilet or a coffin and be served food in a bed pan. To clarify, Klo translates into english as toilet.  I don’t want to give too much away but a word of advice, you don’t want to be the first of your group to walk into the bar.

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Stagger Lee, in Nollendorfstarsse is named after an old American folk song, about a Missouri pimp and is listed as one the world’s top 50 bars. Think bourbon cocktails, candles, antique furniture all set in the American midwest.  This place usually has a mixed crowd and is unpretentious, like most of Berlin. Might be worth calling ahead to make a reservation. To get here you hop on th U-Bahn to Nollendorplatz and then a five minute walk back in time.

 

When you’re hungry, one of my favourite steakhouses in Europe lies just behind Mauerpark in the north of the city. The Bird in Am Falpl is insanely popular and for good reason. Arriving without a reservation is, well, for the birds!  You won’t get in. Low key, a well-stocked bar and mouth-watering messy burgers. Good luck and enjoy!

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During the day one of my recommendations would be enjoying a stroll around the German capital starting at the Brandenburg Gate. Don’t forget to take your passport and ask for all the historic checkpoint stamps to add to your collection.

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2711 concrete slabs make up the Holocaust memorial just next to the Brandenburg gate

We stay in the west near to the Zoo and is well located for a stroll or a morning run round the Tiergarten Park. When I lived here I stayed in Friedrichshain an edgy district to the east which I would describe as the Shoreditch of Berlin.  There’s a great Thai restaurant, ‘Lemongrass’ on Simon-Dach-Strase for a casual evening bite to eat.

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Tiergarten Park – perfect for a run or picnic in the summer.

The majority of the time we fly in and land in a westerly direction onto runway 26 so I recommend sitting on the left for the best views of the city

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Don’t forget to leave your comments and requests for further city reviews. Have an awesome week and I hope to see you onboard very soon.

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Edinburgh 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ☔️

Travelling to Edinburgh to visit the capital as a pilot with British Airways from London Heathrow. it is my favourite place to visit in the UK

I’ve decided to do a regular feature on my favourite places to visit for all you keen travellers looking for inspiration. So keep your eyes peeled for the next one and let me know where you’d like to go… ✈️ 🌎 

I’m always asked the best places to stay or where to eat, what bars to visit and even which side of the aeroplane to sit on for the perfect picture as we come in to land.

So where better to start than the beautiful Scotland.

Edinburgh 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 

The Scottish capital has to be my favourite UK destination. There is the famous castle, built on top of an extinct volcano. Climbing or running up to the 822 foot peak of Arthur’s seat when I have enough energy is one of the best starts to the day. The panoramic views are simply stunning. On May Day its traditional for young women to wash their face with the morning dew of the hill to make them beautiful. I’d argue that regardless of your gender it’s a pretty stimulating way to start your day any month of the year!  ☔️  🏃

 

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A run up to Arthur’s Seat in the rain is a great way to blow out the cobwebs. I may or may not have washed with the morning dew… 😆

 

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It was a lovely surprise to bump into Legolas, displaying his skills not with a bow and arrow but some bagpipes. Multitalented

 

Did you know there are more restaurants here per head than any other city in the UK. So depending on what you’re feeling like you could visit one of my favourite spots, ‘the Devil’s Advocate’, hidden just off the royal Mile. Minutes from the castle. An old Victorian pump house. Think bare brick, beams and wood with a fantastic bar, mixologists, whisky selection and dimly lit open plan restaurant that serves food that will quite honestly set the benchmark for the rest of your meals in Edinburgh. The place is always buzzing. The cocktails alone will certainly keep you going on those cold wet Scottish evenings. Not one to miss out on. 🍸

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A fantastic shot of Princes St taken from Calton Hill. You can see the Balmoral Hotel with the clock tower. Excellent afternoon tea. 📷 |@EdinburghPhotoWalk

I usually stay up towards Calton Hill and the Old Town. The city isn’t really that big so it’s easy to walk around but get those thighs ready as its anything but flat!

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If you’re standing in front of the Waverley train station in the centre of town, you’ll most likely be looking straight at one of the most luxurious hotels in Edinburgh. The Balmoral Hotel. If you stay here, you wont want to wake up anywhere else, ever! Make sure you ask for a room with a city view and don’t miss out on the afternoon tea!

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Wandering the streets of this enchanting, historical city is simply a pleasure to be endured. 📷 |@Edinburghphotowalks

 

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You can even have design and have your own tartan registered. So if you fancy joining Legolas on the royal mile this the place to come.

 

We usually land on runway 24 which generally means a flypast before making a 180 degree turn over the coast to head west. Sitting on the left side of the aircraft offers a fantastic view of the estuary and the bridges that span across to North Queensferry are a pretty spectacular sight as the sun sets.

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Slight word of caution, flying into Edinburgh can be a bit bumpy if there is a strong wind blowing over the hills so buckle up if we pop the seatbelt sign on.

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Snowboarding 🏂 : Canada 🇨🇦 Vs France 🇫🇷

Where to go skiing. Canada or France and where is the best snow? I’ve been to both this year and I’m comparing them both for you incase you fancy somewhere different this year. Enjoy.

2018 so far has been the year of snow! I’ve been lucky enough to hit the slopes on two different continents – Canada and France – and wow have they been awesome! Over 5000 miles (8000km) apart but some of the best snowboarding I’ve ever done.

The season isn’t over yet so I thought I’d compile a quick comparison of my two trips in case you’re thinking about getting your ski on this year.

GETTING THERE

Canada

3 pilot friends and I boarded a BA flight from Heathrow to Calgary – flight time just over 9 hours on the Dreamliner (this was my first time on the 787 and it’s an amazing machine…possibly my new favourite and what I’d love to fly next!).

We rented a Lincoln Navigator – this is basically a presidential 4×4 with 450 horsepower to liven up the drive…

Only one hour cruise later in temperatures of -20C and more fresh snow than I could dream of, we were already passing through Banff National Park. A further 2 hours later we arrived at our first and furthest destination, Kicking Horse mountain resort. Throughout the week we then worked our way back via Banff boarding some of the world’s best off piste.

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One of the best things about getting to Canada is that we departed at 2pm on a rainy London day and arrived at 4pm the same day in snowy Calgary (thanks to a 7 hour time difference). After a few films, some fizz and a nap on the plane (NB: the higher cabin pressure and humidity in the 787 does wonders for passenger comfort) I was honestly so pleasantly surprised at how fresh I felt on arrival!

France

22 of us this time boarding a flight from Gatwick to Grenoble for a friend’s 30th birthday – flight time ~1 hr 20m. We caught a 10am-ish flight arriving in France 12.30 local time.

After spending a good hour or so gathering bags and loading them onto a coach chocablock full of snow seekers, it was just over three hours to our accommodation for the week – a catered chalet in Val Thorens, part of the infamous three valleys (les Trois Vallees).

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Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe and part of one of the biggest ski areas in the world.

Verdict: Despite the idea of going half way across the world to Canada potentially feeling like a chore, the time difference and well-timed flight from LHR actually means you’re effectively still only spending a day getting there. Having been to the Alps many times it really felt like a huge adventure heading over the North Atlantic Ocean. So while France is nearby it still takes a good full day to get to your resort so don’t let the distance to the Rockies put you off if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous!

ACCOMMODATION

Canada

We stayed in two apartments. The first was in Kicking Horse. The apartment slept 4 comfortably with a hot tub outside – good for a beer in -22C after a gnarly day off piste! It had a car park underneath to ensure our wheels didn’t freeze. Given Kicking Horse is essentially a village (there are a couple of lodges and a few apartments) booking accommodation in advance is recommended.

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The second apartment was in Banff – it was essentially a massive hotel full of apartments called The Fox Hotel and Suites (if you stay there definitely make use of the grotto-inspired pool for some R&R and the waffle maker at breakfast with the local maple syrup!). Compared to Kicking Horse, Banff had a lot more options for accommodation – from hotels to hostels.

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France

I’ve been skiing and snowboarding in the Alps many a time having been based in nearby Lyon for 3 years.

As I’ve done a couple of times before we stayed in a catered chalet – for a large group this is an awesome option. Some great chalet hosts, a space you and your group can call your own and some delicious food provided throughout – cooked breakfasts, cake and tea on the table when you arrive back after a hard day in the snow and dinner every night but one when the chalet hosts deserve a well earned break!

We stayed in one of SkiWorld’s many catered chalets in Val Thorens which was very comfortable and had the option to ski in/ski out which was a huge plus. If you’re feeling more upmarket the other nearby resorts of Meribel and Courcheval have plenty of other options too whether self-catered apartments, hotels or catered chalets. (I once stayed in Hotel & Spa L’Helios in beautiful Meribel – definitely recommend if you’re looking for a romantic getaway!).

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Head to Meribel’s Hotel & Spa L’Helios if you’re in need of some luxury

Verdict: if afternoon tea and dinner made for you each night is what you’re looking for then a catered chalet is for you – you’ll find these in abundance in the 3 Valleys. For my trip to Canada we went for the self-catered apartment option which gave us a base from which we could explore local restaurants and bars. Essentially, both areas have got many options of accommodation to meet your needs – ultimately your decision will likely be guided by cost, number of people…..and availability!!

THE RESORTS

Canada

Kicking Horse is a small resort centred around extreme skiing and boarding and was once only accessible by helicopter. There really isn’t much there in the way of apres 🍻 but it’s the champagne powder capital of Canada – enough said 👊.

2 hours along the powder highway Banff offers a completely different resort experience.  What’s odd about Banff for Europeans is that you can’t actually ski or snowboard in the town itself. It’s essentially used as a base to drive from each day to some new slopes and powder in the area (hence why the V-6 engine was a real necessity 😉).

It’s a picturesque resort, well catered for tourists – plenty of shops, restaurants and bars. Block Kitchen & Bar was our favourite – it offered a fusion of Japanese Indian food which was a welcome break from your traditional lunchtime piste-side food (e.g. chips, hotdogs etc.). For a delicious burger I’d recommend Eddie Burger + Bar. Finally, remember to try the local dish, poutine, which you’ll find in most eating establishments in the town.

France

Val Thorens is the highest of the three valleys resorts at 2300m (7500ft) and the highest ski resort in Europe so they say. While a relatively functional resort its height does mean you’re guaranteed some good snow.

As with the three main resort villages in the region (Courcheval, Meribel and Val Thorens), you’ll find shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and spas to satisfy either a day off or a good bit of apres. In Val Thorens you’ll find the infamous Folie Douce with pumping music on the mountain side (although the one in Val D’Isere is arguably bigger and better). We also popped into 360 bar for a quick afternoon wiggle…

In town head to Tango for a more sophisticated vibe which serves some great cocktails (and is a favourite of local ski/snowboard instructors). Or on the same strip  head to one of the many bars with live music – e.g. Saloon Bar – or pop to Crewzer which has a great atmosphere and serves Belgian beer. The local bar to our chalet was The Red Fox which we happily frequently a couple of times for a beer.

If you’re looking for a more picturesque resort, Meribel and Courcheval might be more your cup of tea or one of the smaller satellite villages such as St Martin.

IMG_4494Verdict: apres in Kicking Horse is a crate of beers in the hot tub – so chilled, I loved it! Meanwhile in Banff it’s a 10 minute walk into the centre of town where you can find some great food and bars if you’re interested….essentially you can find much the same in Banff as in Val Thorens. It’s up to you the extent to which you make the most of the amenities.

THE SNOW

Canada

The aim of this trip was to board as many double black diamond chutes and bowls (AKA crazy black runs for us Europeans) as we could in the week, working our way from Kicking Horse back to Banff. We weren’t disappointed.

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Different kind of flying

We went the second week in January and the slopes were practically empty, it was unbelievable. No queuing for lifts, no queuing for lunch.  The terrain was impressive – vast pistes lined by thick alpine forest amongst which live numerous grizzly bears…thankfully I met a friendly one!

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The steep alpine terrain was perfect for off piste. A constant booming of avalanche blasts by the snow patrol (not the band!) gave us the reassurance (and the odd startle factor!) that we were pretty safe despite having all the necessary equipment.

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In Kicking Horse you can get a gondola from the base of the mountain to the very top which in January temperatures is a massive plus! You’re also guaranteed to make new friends during the journey up as everyone is incredibly friendly.

The resorts we visited while based in Banff (Sunshine and Lake Louise) offered a wider network of pistes and in general were more beginner friendly. There were plenty of blue and green runs that take you cruising through the forest and are suitable for beginners. In fact, if the slopes are always as quiet as they were a couple of weeks ago then I’d much rather learn to master skiing or snowboarding in Canada than on one of Europe’s packed pistes.

As for the snow itself, during our visit we got a fresh dump of powder on arrival although it was limited thereafter.

France

The three valleys essentially make up one of the world’s largest lift-linked ski areas. The whole region is incredibly well connected via a huge network of gondolas, chair lifts and bubbles.

There are a huge variety of runs to satisfy all levels of skier and snowboarder. If you’re based in Val Thorens then the 3 valley lift pass gives you access to the pistes in Meribel and Courcheval as well so there’s a huge amount to explore and a lot of lifts and pistes to make your way up and down to get to the far reaches of the area.

Compared to Canada it is a lot busier. Mornings are definitely the best time to explore although if you’re heading off piste then generally it’s a lot quieter.

At lifts you’ll have to jostle with a cocktail of snow seekers – stay calm and inch yourself towards the lift, you will make it! This trip it wasn’t too bad but during school holidays you’ll need to stand your ground!

We had incredibly good weather for the end of January – sunshine nearly everyday offered good visibility. But by far the best day came at the end when, following a day of snowfall, the off piste was unreal. I headed out with a guide (Matt from Prosneige – such a cool guy!) and haven’t ever experienced snow so soft, powdery and deep!

Verdict: Canada is known for some of the world’s best snow and off piste and I had the most amazing time, especially exploring with 3 other snowboarders. However, this year for the snow Val Thorens just tipped it thanks to some mid-week snowfall – I subsequently experienced my best day ever of off piste (and possibly the best day of my life!!) – it was INSANE!!!!!

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The best day! Boarding with the Prosneige guys

 

Wherever you choose to visit, you’ll have an amazing time.

Remember, GET OUT THERE AND LOVE LIFE!

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Iceland 🇮🇸 ⛄️

Hello everyone, Sorry I haven’t posted a blog for ages. I’ve been jetting around Europe with my day job and also recently headed up to Aberdeen to surprise a brilliant…

Hello everyone,

Sorry I haven’t posted a blog for ages. I’ve been jetting around Europe with my day job and also recently headed up to Aberdeen to surprise a brilliant young man called Finlay. It was a magical moment as part of BAMagic 

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I’m also writing a travel piece on the top 10 cities to visit in Europe. You’ll be able to see that in one of the National newspapers soon.  Hope you’ll find it useful.

In the meantime, if you’ve ever considered a short visit to Iceland then check out the blog below written by Kay Burley for the Mail on Sunday. Looks awesome.

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You can fly with me from London or British Airways also fly from London City

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Spectacular views of Iceland as I flew into Keflavik airport with British Airways.  Jonny says sit on the right of the aircraft for the best views.  He was right!

 

Iceland is on everyone’s bucket list.  Or at least that’s how it appears.  Every time I mentioned I’d spent a few glorious days in this curious country I was met with:  ‘I’ve always wanted to go there.’ Followed swiftly by: ‘Did you see the Northern Lights?’

The answer is, yes I did.  Sort of.  But, there really is so much more to Iceland than looking upwards.

Whale watching, Icelandic-horse riding, snowmobiling, all terrain vehicle tours, caving… They’re all available for the more energetic traveller. Or, for visitors more like me, there’s absolutely breathtaking scenery enjoyed from the sanctuary of the tranquil Blue Lagoon!

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Blue Lagoon is heaven on earth

The lagoon is a spa that was created from a nearby geothermal power plant – almost all of Iceland’s hot water is generated from the earth’s core – and has been developed into one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.

I visited on an absolutely freezing November day and the tentative sub-zero steps from the main building to the water’s edge took my breath away, but the shivers quickly melted as I eased into the 100 degree biothermal lagoon.  The waters are said to work wonders for the skin and in addition a silica mud mask is a must. I was a little embarrassed about wallowing around sporting the brilliant white mask, but everyone else in the lagoon was doing the same!

Steam gently rising from the crystal clear waters was so relaxing I wanted to stay submerged forever, so I compromised and treated myself to a half hour in-water massage.  Floating on a yoga mat in scenic surroundings while having my shoulders manfully manipulated by a brilliant masseur will, without doubt, be a life memory for me.

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The lagoon is heated by a geothermal power plant.  As is 95% of Iceland homes.

Of course I wanted photos too but was worried about keeping my phone dry. I shouldn’t have been. There are plenty of staff who will take a souvenir snap on an iPad and email them to you – free of charge.

If you’re planning a trip to the lagoon then go early would be my strong advice. It does become very busy later in the day. I went at 9am by shuttle bus, around 50 minutes from Reykjavik, and had the waters almost to myself for an hour or so.

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Any road trip offers spectacular views of the countryside.  Locals say if you’re lost in a forest in Iceland – stand up.  Vikings cut down 99% of trees!

If you only have a few days to spare then travelling by bus is an excellent way to get around the country.  Less than a third of a million people live in Iceland with around 120,000 in Reykjavik. However, business is booming and after the challenges of the financial crisis brought the country to its knees, its rebuilding quickly and tourists are flocking there. Two million visited this year and that number is predicted to grow by 40% in 2018, so go soon.

Hotels in Reykjavik – the Smoke City – cater for all wallets, though be aware that Iceland is relatively expensive.  A G&T cost me £14 and supper for us more than £100. Do not buy bottled water.  Tap water is excellent. And free!

The new harbour is a bustling part of town and there’s a strong party scene if that’s your thing.  Restaurants are plentiful and there’s lots of fabulous food to choose from, including a ‘world famous’ hot dog stand where tourists and locals alike queue around the block.

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Reykjavik is a functional rather than beautiful city…

Architecture in the capital is not so much of a draw if I’m being brutally honest, but nevertheless I enjoyed strolling around the small city and a two-hour walking tour conducted by a local historian, was informative and fun.  However, I wanted to see much more than geothermal swimming pools even if Ryan Gosling and the cast of the Game of Thrones had been seen wallowing in one of the outdoor public baths while I was there.  So, I left behind the heated pavements of the capital – no necessity to shovel away snow- for a Golden Circle Tour of Geysers and waterfalls.

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Hot, old geysers everywhere

The scenery is second to none.  Hot, old Geysers putting on a regular show are a popular stop for tourists. In addition, visit Pingvellir, a picturesque world heritage national park which sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of two tectonic plates and is the site of the oldest parliament in the world.

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Pingvellir is a world heritage site where tectonic plates collide

Not my thing, but it’s also said to be one of the best spots for diving in Iceland.  I preferred to visit the Gulfoss waterfall where the power of nature sees chocolate milk-coloured water flowing at 2,000 cubic metres per second.  Don’t stand too near the edge though.  Some have, with fatal consequences.

Gulfoss waterfall is chocolate milk coloured.  Jonny described it as Nesquik on tap.  Wish I’d thought of that.  Perfect description

Of course, I couldn’t not mention the Northern Lights.  Tour operators are certainly geared up for the spectacular phenomenon and on a daily basis they measure magnetic activity to proffer reasonable predictions on what might happen on any given night.  Be prepared though to stand in the freezing cold for a long time waiting for Mother Nature to put on a show.  I was in the United States in August waiting with eager anticipation as a total eclipse was promised. The moon nibbled at the sun, the second it had been predicted to, right on cue.  That doesn’t happen with the Northern Lights.  There’s a lot of looking up towards an inky-black sky in eager anticipation.  It was absolutely freezing the night I was there and just when I could no longer feel my toes and thought I needed to call it an evening and seek refuge in the warmth of the tour bus, the magic came.

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There they are, but be prepared to stand for hours in the cold waiting for the magic to happen

However, it doesn’t always, so build in time to make sure you can boast to your friends back home that you saw the Lights.  My tip would be try early in your visit and if you’re unlucky the first night then you have options.

So, in summary, if the most you knew about Iceland previously was that it was home to an unpronounceable volcano that caused airport chaos around Europe back in 2010 then now’s the time to visit this stunning part of the world.

The phrase locals used to me time and again was:  Take nothing from us and leave nothing behind.  I think I may have left a little part of my heart there.  I’ll definitely be heading back soon to find it…

In the meantime, if you visit before me, could you please visit the square outside the parliament building and just check on how my snowman is doing?

There’s more on my Instagram feed…

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Marrakech 🇲🇦 🌴

Marrakesh, where East meets West in an assault on the senses that will leave you totally spellbound by its Moroccan magic. Here are my top 10 tips for enjoying Marrakesh…

Marrakesh, where East meets West in an assault on the senses that will leave you totally spellbound by its Moroccan magic. Here are my top 10 tips for enjoying Marrakesh to the max.

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1. Getting around  🚗 🐪 🚶

From the airport, take the No19 bus into central Marrakesh or jump in a taxi.  Be sure to agree the fare with one of the hoard of drivers swarming around the exit before you start your journey.  To get to the Medina pay around 70 Dirham. An organised transfer is likely to be around double the cost.

Travelling around the Medina:  When you first arrive finding your Riad can be a challenge. Locals will happily help – for a price.  Set your price and don’t be a pushover 😉  If all you need are directions, then I found market stall owners to be very happy to steer you the right way.

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2. 

Stay in a Riad! 🏠

Staying in a Riad in the centre of Marrakesh is more like a home than a hotel.  Outside the front door its all hustle and bustle but inside you’re enveloped by an oasis of tranquility and calm.

Riads are a traditional Moroccan house centred around a courtyard. Originally home to the Medina’s wealthiest residents, today they’re provide comfortable and classy accommodation for the likes of you and I.

They’re easy to book online ahead of your trip with sites like Booking.com.  Or just rock up and knock on some rather ornate doors to find yourself a room.

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3. Get lost 😳 🗺 

At some point as you meander through the Medina, you’ll realise you’re completely and utterly lost. Don’t panic, it’s part of the experience!  Just remember you’re never far from the main square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) or a helpful local to point you in the right direction.  The Medina is full of others like you and I – tourists desperately trying to look like locals yet failing miserably…all part of the fun! 😆

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4. Know your price 💰

Exploring the souks, the labyrinth of market stalls in the Medina, is a must.  From carpets to camels, you’d be amazed what’s on offer for sale, but you’ll have to barter hard for everything!

Three top tips are: Know the conversion rate, what you’re willing to pay and be prepared to walk away.  If there’s profit in it for the stallholder they won’t let you, trust me. Don’t feel embarrassed to go in at 10% of the asking price – they can be very brazen.

 

5. Don’t fold under pressure ✌️

We all like a bargain but, don’t feel as though you must buy something.  Be respectful of locals’ time and upfront with your intentions. Good manners cost nothing.  Just be polite.

‘Just looking’, ‘no more money’, ‘the suitcase is full’… you get the idea.

 

6. Feeling hot, hot hot 🐪 ☀️

Marrakesh is sweltering in the heat of the day so its best to explore early morning and later in the evening. Suncream is an absolute must. A hat and sunglasses are also a good idea.  Donning these will also deter at least a few of the mobile salesmen from trying to flog you ‘genuine’ Gucci glasses and a Rolex to match. 😉 😎

 

7. What to wear 👖 👚 👟

Western dress is widely accepted but do respect the muslim culture. Female tourists, don’t need to cover their hair and you can dress casually including jeans. Be sure to cover your legs, midriff and cleavage though if you want to visit the many mosques or museums.

More generally, loose clothing will help with the heat and don’t be too flashy.  Dressing modestly is a smart idea when it comes to bartering for a bargain. 💪  You’ll be navigating tiny alleyways and uneven streets so I’d also recommend  flip flops, sandals or trainers, you get the gist.

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8. Pap with permission 📷 💥

Every turn offers a perfect photo op in Marrakesh, but make sure you know the rules. Everything is a transaction and if you want photos of locals and their merchandise, it’s likely they’ll want money for the privilege. In my experience, buying something first keeps everyone happy.

Performers are more than happy to pose but will rightly ask for a couple of Dirham (dh) in their hat – remember this is their main source of income!

 

9. Beware of pickpockets 👀

It’s easy to be mesmerised by the sights and sounds of a bustling backstreet.  Always be aware of your belongings.  Open pockets, mobile phones and expensive sunglasses are an easy target.

 

10. Tipping 🤝 💵

Having asked a number of locals on my trips, I’ve come to a rough guideline on tipping:

  • Waiters in cafes/restaurants – 5dh
  • Upmarket restaurants – 10-15%
  • Porters – 20 dh
  • Taxi drivers – feel free to top up the agreed price as an extra thank you!

 

BONUS TIP: smile 😁

Moroccans have a fantastic sense of humour, are warm and friendly and are always happy to help.  If you are not interested in what they’re offering a smile and a “non merci” goes a long way (even if you have to say it 5 times 😉).

Speak to the locals, engage with them and ask for their advice. At the eating places and Riads I’ve visited and stayed in, the best advice has always come from the insiders…the locals!

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HAVE A FAB TRIP!!

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