At the start of a new year, when travel hopes look not much better than most of last year, the Lockdown Luggage Labels continue…
Q is for Qatar, a small, hot, and dusty country that I passed through briefly. I found the people very friendly, and I would like to explore a bit more some day.
Q is also for Queenstown in New Zealand. This small town promotes itself as ‘the adventure capital of New Zealand’ and the availability of outdoor activities is prominent everywhere. I passed on the bungee jumping and sky-diving, but some of the local bush walks are pure enjoyment. The town seems to be getting a bit crowded (for NZ!) and you can get most activities in other places too, but Queenstown is certainly worth a visit.
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P is for Paro (in Bhutan). I have visited this reclusive and wonderful country several times, and it never fails to intrigue me. This is a shot of the dzong (fort) in Paro, taken from the College of Education, and not far from the airport which is the single point of entry to the country. These formidable dzongs are scattered throughout the country and function as administrative, cultural, and religious centres. Fabulously, they are all different, traditionally constructed without using any written-down plan, and with no nails – all the timbers are jointed. Like all official buildings in Bhutan, the colours and the architectural style conform to the same patterns, and they are stunning edifices in the landscape.
P is also for Petra, in the desert of southern Jordan. This is a classic view of the Treasury as you emerge from the tall, very narrow gorge (the Siq) that allows entrance to the site, (check out the Indiana Jones film!) Incredibly, this settlement (there are other buildings carved from the rock nearby) was ‘lost’ for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered in 1812. In my view, I have only seen two locations, built by humans, where the reality far surpasses even the amazing images seen in the media, and Petra is one of them.
O is for Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Some of you may have seen this location, even if you are not aware you have, because it is the site of the classic scene in the first James Bond film, Dr No, when Ursula Andress emerges from the sea to meet Sean Connery for the first time. (I climbed the waterfall 🙂
O is also for Oldenburg, a town in northern Germany that I have visited a couple of times to work with colleagues at the university there. It feels to me that it has a lovely mid-European ambience and I look forward to visiting again after this pandemic is over.
We are now half-way through the alphabet and starting the second leg of our lockdown luggage labels tour.
N is for Nepal. I have been to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, several times, the last visit when the city was surrounded by Maoist guerillas seeking to bring down the government. This area of Patan is instantly recognisable by the distinctive traditional buildings, although many have since been damaged by a major earthquake.
N is also for the Netherlands. This photo was taken during a beautiful winter trip with colleagues. We worked in Amsterdam, but stayed in the lovely town of Hoorn.
M is for the Maldives. This archipelago is normally regarded as a rather exclusive destination, especially for honeymooners, but you get a very different perspective when your visit is work-related. Although our workshop was on a single island, we visited a couple of other islands to gather field evidence. I went walking one lunch-time while the others in the group had a siesta, and I met these two boys on the beach. They automatically assumed that everyone in the world is an islander. Their first words were, “Which island are you from, Mr?” I love it!
M is also for Monaco. We went there to celebrate a significant birthday of my wife. It was novel, warm, and exotic, but it is such a small country that we soon felt the need to spill over into neighbouring France. It was worth visiting though, even if just to tick-off one of Europe’s smallest countries.
L is for Lìonal. One thing that this period of constrained travel opportunities has demonstrated is that there are wonderful, beautiful, and exotic locations within walking distance of home. This bird hide at a local nature reserve owned by our local Community Land Trust is one of my favourite locations to visit. The name Lìonal derives from the Old Norse for ‘the place where flax is grown’. How things change.
L is also for London. I have a very equivocal relationship with London. There are undoubtedly lots of interesting things to see, and I enjoy brief visits, but there are too many people and too little space, and Picadilly Circus is internationally emblematic for this. My visits tend to be quick raids, in-and-out, with much activity in between. Much like Somerled. 🙂
This is to remind you that these “Lockdown luggage labels” were started by me to reminisce about travel, people and places during these difficult time that travel is restricted. Continuing my journey through the alphabet:
K is for Kilimanjaro – Sixteen years ago last summer I fulfilled a long-held ambition and travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Don’t let anyone fool you, it was just as hard as you might imagine! Finally, the view from the top was spectacular, and spectacularly short, because the cold did not encourage you to linger. But, I did it!
K is also for Krakow. My last holiday was a trip to Poland, staying in the centre of Krakow. I don’t know what I expected, but it was a wonderful city, full of things to see and do, places to eat and drink. Very open and full of historical stories. I would certainly go back.
J is for Japan. I only visited Japan relatively recently, and both the hospitality and the culture of the people strongly impressed me. I don’t think that I have been to any other place that is so completely different, yet with so many underlying similarities. Fortunately I was able to travel through the countryside with my hosts, and the images I saw left a lasting impression.
J is also for Jerusalem, that I visited more than forty years ago. So many of the place names were familiar to me from biblical stories, and the depth of the history was both thought-provoking and awe inspiring. So many different civilisations and cultures piled on to of each other over millennia. Definitely worth visiting again.
I is for Inverness. There was a period in time when I was across in Inverness with UHI business almost every week. Fortunately, we mostly use videoconferencing for those meetings these days, and the UHI was WELL ahead of the curve in using this technology for education. It took me a long while to get to like Inverness, mainly because I associate it with cold, early mornings in the railway station travelling between Aberdeen and Lewis. Nowadays, I am looking forward to being able to travel to Inverness again and have a drink in the Castle Tavern with my friends.
I is also for Iceland. My work has taken me to Iceland many times, and I have a great fondness for both the country and the people. I have travelled around lots of locations in Iceland, but one of my favourite places is at Thingvellir, which is both the site of one of the earliest Parliaments in the world, and also the site of the place where the mid-ocean ridge emerged on land. On one side is the European tectonic plate, and on the other side the North American plate, and they are still moving further apart, creating more new land in Iceland.
H is for the Hagia Sophia, the magnificent mosque in Istanbul. It is indicative of the multiple histories of the region that this building was once also a Christian cathedral, and at the time of my visit it was a secular national monument (although I see discussions online that some people want to re-consecrate this as a mosque again). In any eventuality, it is an awe-inspiring celebration of architecture and culture, and an iconic image of Istanbul.
H is also for Hanoi. I loved my brief visit to Hanoi, and got up early one morning to avoid the heat and high humidity to wander around with my camera. Almost everything seems to take place on the street, including this barber ‘shop’ and, like many oriental cities, the hustle and vivacity of life seems absolutely everywhere. It would love to explore more of this country.