Category Archives: Travel

Iceland in December: arriving in white

There are a few things that described to us as otherworldly. Arriving in Iceland feels like falling down the rabbit hole.

The flight from Charles de Gaulle was characterised by a world covered in white blankets of thick cloud. We got the tiniest glimpse of Scotland, but save for this one moment are lead to believe that we left the world far behind. Descending into Keflavik airport in Iceland came as a bit of a shock. Partly it’s because the flight felt so short (it is only 3 hours), but mostly it is because we didn’t realise that the white blanket below us was no longer clouds – it was the earth coming up to meet us. A very white, very snowy earth.

Edge of Iceland

We spent the night in Reykjavik at the Icelandair Hotel Natura, which we highly recommend. The hotel offers guests free bus passes you can use throughout Reykjavik and the service is sharp and warm.

Reykjavik is often touted as the small-town-feel capital of Iceland, with tonnes of charm and walk-able streets. We absolutely found this to be true and loved the friendly vibe of the place. If you’re a beer enthusiast, visit the Micro Bar in Austurstræti (click for map). Francois would tell you to get the Gæðingur Brugghús hoppy red ale, which was his favourite of the night 😉 You can see what else he tasted on Untappd.

In the next post – our first day on tour doing the golden circle and its sites.

Bus stop selfie

Cold selfie at the bus stop in front of our hotel.

We

Tagged , , , , , , ,

A slow intro to Iceland

I love making lists. I love being able to tick things off those lists even more, especially when those things are places and experiences from the bucket list.

In December 2014, we spent a week in Iceland. A land of jagged edges and rough landscapes, sprawling countrysides of softly snow-covered lava fields, freezing winds and blissfully warm hot springs. A land of gorgeous contradictions.

We joined a very well structured tour from Authentic Scandinavia, starting in Reykjavik. The tour follows the southeastern coast of the island over the course of a week. The local guide is very knowledgeable and as South Africa doesn’t offer many opportunities for driving in ice, this was the best way for us to travel.

Summarising the experience in one post will result in an essay of epic proportions, so I plan on sharing the tour and our solo day in Reykjavik bit by bit. More to come soon 🙂

The area of Iceland this tour covers.

The area of Iceland this tour covers.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Pre-flight entertainment for the whole family

How family friendly facilities can make airport waits a hell of a lot easier

A guest post by Emily Taylor

I’ve probably been in transportation terminals rife with the cries of restless kids more times than I can count. Not that I don’t have a soft spot for children, because I do; but that doesn’t make the constant barrages of their whines and wails any less annoying.

Family in airport with bags and trolley

Which is why it’s great to learn that many major airports the world over are now integrating child-friendly facilities to their overall services. In the US, Chicago’s O’Hare International has a reputation for being one of the busiest airports in the country. With that many flyers coming in and out of its terminals, things could no doubt get too loud – or even downright frightening – for kids. Thankfully, the airport has a special play area designed to keep them preoccupied as they wait for their flights. O’Hare has a playground called Kids on the Fly that features interactive exhibits showcasing many facets of how airplanes work given in a fun and informative manner. I remember how I was easily marveled by these kinds of easy-to-digest information when I was younger; and I have no doubt kids nowadays get a kick out of them just as much as I used to.

Heading over to the UK, London’s flagship Heathrow Airport is undergoing a lot of major renovations, most notably an expansion of Terminal 2 – soon to be called the Queen’s Terminal upon completion – as detailed in a report by airport parking service site Parking4less. Along with the expected larger floor space to accommodate more people, Terminal 2 will also open a John Lewis outlet – allegedly the smallest yet of the department store chain brand. As per John Lewis’ usual wares, this outlet will include items for kids and toddlers. Just as well, the nearby Terminal 3 also houses the Jetterz Kids Club Lounge, which should keep the children preoccupied with books, toys, and video games.

Asia’s airports have also gotten in on the act, with Hong Kong International’s play area being one of the best in the world. The SkyPlaza at Terminal 2 has a section called the Aviation Discovery Center which has various fun activities for kids and adults alike, including motion rides, games that teach about the finer points of aviation, and even flight simulators. SkyPlaza also has the 4D Extreme Screen Cinema, a 300-seater movie theatre which features the largest 3D projection screen in the whole continent. Finally, the entertainment facility is also home to iSports, an area for sports enthusiasts whose simulators for basketball, football, skiing, and more should be more than enough to accommodate the young ones’ seemingly never-ending supply of energy.

For me, a complete flight experience is one that includes services designed to entertain people even as they wait in between flights. This is especially necessary for families who may have a hard time keeping their kids well-behaved for too long. Given that, to have these services cater not just to adults but to children as well is definitely something that every airport should consider.

Author bio:
Emily Taylor was inspired to be a backpacker by her dad’s amusing travel stories from India. At present, she’s having the time of her life experiencing Oriental cultures. She spends most of her time abroad checking out airports, having rural roadtrips and trying an unusual amount of street food, all while avoiding mosquito bites. Once her glory days as a travel nut is over or when her dollars run out (whichever comes first), she plans to build her own family. But she’d honestly love to keep right on traveling – even with little kids in tow.

Tagged , , ,

A cold Easter in the Free State

As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent the long weekend away from home visiting the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands national park in the Free State. Other than gushing about the beauty and complaining about the bitter cold, I thought I’d share my five tips from the weekend.Yes, and some (mostly HDR ’cause I’m a little obsessed at the moment) photos.

  1. If you’re visiting Clarens (which you should!), don’t pay R60 for a pretentious breakfast. Go to the Roter Hahn Bierstube Und Deli and enjoy a very wide choice of German beers with an even better meal.
  2. Pack lots of blankets. Then another one. Also, a hot water bottle.
  3. Take a good single malt with, it fights off the cold.
  4. If you’re camping in a spot that doesn’t get a lot of sun, stay in bed ’till the sun hits your tent.
  5. Visit the vulture restaurant on the Oribi loop drive. Maybe you’ll have better luck than we did and see some of these amazing birds.

 

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2014. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Golden Gate in HDR

image

image

We’re spending the Easter weekend in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Stunning mountains and freezing temperatures are the first two things that come to mind. These two panorama images, taken on my HTC One, were a spur of the moment experimentation with HDR. I’m quite happy with the results.

Full report back at a later stage (when not posting from my phone and dependent on patches of signal).

UPDATE: Photos and a few tips in the next post.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

And all was well

At the end of my week in London in 2012, I visited the Warner Bros. studio tour of the making of Harry Potter. This was by far my most anticipated experience of the trip. If you’re a Potterhead and have the chance, this should definitely be on your bucket list! Get the audio-guide (narrated by Tom Felton) and immerse yourself for a few hours in the wonderful world of film and magic. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. There are a lot of them, so keep scrolling!

Sets and set details

Costumes

Props and portraits

Artwork and odds & ends

 

Scale models

Hogwarts model

This is the crème de la crème of the experience. The entire model has miniature torches and lights simulating people passing in front of them. To appreciate the full-scale of the model, I’ve added a photo from the Daily Mail to the bottom of this post from their article on the model of Hogwarts. The lighting in the room where the model is kept cycles through a few phases, simulating night and day, showing  the model in all its immense glory.

From the Daily Mail article: Proud: Jose Granell, model supervisor, is pictured with the model of Hogwarts Castle. It has been used for every one of the Harry Potter films.

From the Daily Mail article: Proud: Jose Granell, model supervisor, is pictured with the model of Hogwarts Castle. It has been used for every one of the Harry Potter films.

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

Tagged , , , , ,

London in October

In October 2012, I spent eight days in a surprisingly sunny London. I was actually there to work with the Waggener Edstrom London team, but I made sure to have some extra time to explore the city and tick off an item from my (unpublished) bucket list. I arrived on a bright Saturday morning, ready to take on the city.

London has tonnes and tonnes of sites to see, museums to visit, and pubs to explore. I managed to see a lot taking into consideration that I only had the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend I arrived, and the evenings after work.

My first point of business was to buy a local UK sim card. After getting lost all over the show in Europe in April (with a husband to navigate), I thought I’d place my trust in the Google. The second point of business was an Oyster card. Clearly I had my priorities sorted out, and I strongly recommend that you do this as well if you’re unfamiliar with the city.

After checking into the hotel, I set out to “pursue that flighty temptress, adventure”, only to realise nothing has opened yet. After waiting around, a little tired from the long flight, things started looking up and I managed to visit the Jubilee market, Trafalgar square, the National Gallery (amazing!), the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. I joined a Swede who stayed in the hostel with me, and we had a fantastic Indian dinner in Brick lane.

On Sunday I checked into the Charing Cross hotel, and ticked Tower bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the Tate modern (holy crap, when can I go back?), Millennium bridge, St. Paul’s cathedral and Camden town off my list.

My week nights were filled with random pubs, amazing restaurants, and revisiting some of the sites I’d already seen to take a few photos of them at night. My last visit before departing London the following Saturday, was the National Portrait gallery and the very bright M&M’s World in Leicester square.

There is one other element that I’m saving for a post of its own, one that deserved taking a Friday afternoon off and going all the way to Watford. “To be continued…

Reflecting on London

M & Ms World, Leicester square

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

Tagged , , , , ,

Budgeting for Europe

In April 2012, we spent 22 days in Italy, France and the Netherlands. One of the toughest things to budget for was the average amount of spending money we’ll need per day. Bookings flights, hotels and car rentals before-hand meant that these costs were already accounted for. We also managed to book a great number of attractions online. What we were left with, are general day-to-day, cost of living expenses.

We are currently in the preparation phase for our next trip, and it seems that we’re again down to the cost of living expenses. This time we are however armed with the knowledge learned from our previous trip, and I would like to share some of it here. As a traveler, I know how hard it is to find accurate information on this.

When we arrived in Italy last year, our biggest shocks were how much things cost when converted to South African Rand. We quickly learned that this is the wrong way to approach purchases. Instead we took the spending money  we had, and worked out a daily allowance for the duration of our trip. To check ourserlves, we took notes of every single item we bought each day, and made sure that the average spend throughout our trip did not exceed the initial daily budget we had set.

Here is a short breakdown of what our average daily costs were, with a brief description of typical items bought. I’ve broken these down into two sections: costs with and without a rental car. The cost for the rental car is not included here, but associated costs like tolls, petrol and parking have been factored in.

In total, our average came to €74.83 per day for two people.

A summary of our expenses in Italy, France and the Netherlands in April 2012. Click the image for a bigger version.

A summary of our expenses in Italy, France and the Netherlands in April 2012. Click the image for a bigger version.

WITHOUT A RENTAL CAR

Eight days in Venice, Assisi and Rome | €78.74 per day for two people
Water taxis in Venice, souvenirs, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, pasta, canned goods, butter and other spreads, yoghurt and breakfast cereals, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), entrance to museums and basilicas, Pompeii entrance fee and maps for Pompeii and Assisi, guided tour of the Vatican with audio-guides, bus and metro guidebooks in Rome, five-day metro passes in Rome, eating out for dinner at reasonably priced restaurants, coffee at cafés.

Six days in Lyon, Paris and Amsterdam | 74.64 per day for two people
Metro passes for Paris and Amsterdam, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), artwork and souvenirs, entrance to museums and the Eiffel tower, dinner out in Paris, coffee at cafés.

WITH A RENTAL CAR

Five days driving from Rome to Florence via Pisa, Florence to Genoa, and Genoa to Turin (Italy) | €94.30 per day for two people
Single use bus tickets, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), toll for use of all highways, diesel to refuel the rental before returning it, guidebook to the Ufizzi gallery, entrance to Medici chapel, cold & flu medicine, lunch and occasional coffee at cafés.
Note: These costs also include a dinner out for my birthday, as well as two birthday presents for me: a leather jacket and a pair of leather gloves.

Three days driving from Chambery to Chamonix, Chamonix to Bourg-en-Bresse, Bourg-en-Bresse to Lyon | 36.66 per day for two people
A taxi between train stations in Turin, a small amount of groceries, entrance to monasteries and cathedrals, two bundles of washing at a laundromat 🙂

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eurotrip 2012: Everything in one place

Eurotrip 2012: The route (click for more detail)

Reliving our trip in April digitally over the last few months has been amazing. Sometimes I wish I’d taken more photos and other times I wish I had spent less time behind my camera. Either way, I have loved capturing the trip here.

I’ve summarised the posts below in chronological order of events, with the photo galleries  (for those days where I could just not get around to writing) below the story of our trip. I hope this helps ease navigating the month long trip! Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eurotrip 2012: Highlights from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

27 – 30 APRIL: AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
THE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THREE DAYS IN AMSTERDAM

Continued from part 14: Day four in Paris

As with most things in life, all good things must eventually come to an end. I’ve been putting off writing this post (for a month, I know!), as I feel that it will finally conclude a trip I’m not quite ready to forget.

The entrance to Pension de Laurier. Photo from http://www.hostelworld.com

We depart the beautifully wet city of Paris on an early morning train to Amsterdam. The owner of Pension de Laurier, the B&B we will be staying at, kindly smsed us details explaining which trams to take to get there safely. Of all the train stations we’ve arrived at over the last four weeks, Centraal Stasie seems to have been the most confusing one to decipher. It cost two journeys back to the station in order to get tickets for the bus and tram system, but finally we succeed.

Arriving at Pension de Laurier could not have been more different from our Parisian “hotel” experience. It felt like arriving home to a place of love. We showered and felt 1000 times better for it, ready to take on the city of Amsterdam.

After Venice, Amsterdam seemed a breeze to navigate. The streets were easy to understand and the entire city if amazingly beautiful. I truly feel as though I would be able to live there, if ever I wanted to leave the sunny “velde” of South Africa behind.

We had so much planned for Amsterdam, but after so many museums, beautiful parks, exciting roadtrips and historical sites; we were completely touristed-out. We spent our last three days in Europe being far less industrious and far more relaxed. We also stopped taking notes of what we did every day, so I am recalling the highlights from memory!

1. Walking to the Van Gogh Museum and instead of going in, enjoying a picnic of cheese, fresh bread and champagne on the lawn in front of the museum.

Picnic on the lawn in front of the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, Museumplein, Amsterdam

Boerenkaas with black truffle

2. Shopping in De 9 Straatjes area. The shops here are quaint and small and intimate and awesome!

3. Sharing a serving of fresh ‘frittes’ with Francois in De Dam Plein, watching the “kermis”.

4. Finding a cheese shop with amazing fresh breads down the road from where we were staying.

5. Discovering that Burger King was running a promotion 🙂

6. Walking through the Westermarkt market on Sunday.

7. Marvelling at the very Dutch, very lopsided architecture.

8. Enjoying the rest of Amsterdam, in gloriously sunny weather.

9. And of course, being in Amsterdam on 30 April 2012 for Koninginnedag!

Koninginnedag 2012 by Antonio Olmedo

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
Koninginnedag 2012 by Antonio Olmedo.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

Tagged , , , , , ,
The Afrikaans Challenge

Learning a language in a year. How hard can it be?

rockthatfrock

It's all about remixing...

Get Locally

Experience Travel - Vienna At Its Best

maplove

Just another WordPress.com site

See Thru' Lens

What I See (Mostly Thru My BlackBerry)

adrian alim

be back soon

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

%d bloggers like this: