P is for Photos
There’s a hole in my life. I have lost all photographic evidence from several amazing places I’ve had the privilege of visiting.
I’m ok up until 2007 – before then, photos were usually printed after trips. And I’m ok from 2015 when I finally got my act together. But, in between – a void – nothing. I can account for a few gaps – in Jordan in 2010, I turned on my camera to take a photo at the Dead Sea – and deleted everything from the previous few days – Petra, Wadi Rum, Madaba…. I cried for an hour. In 2012, In Laos, the camera fell into the Nam Song river – we’ve just a few photos from Luang Prebang.
Apart from those two cases, the rest I blame on technology – photos saved onto laptops that died and were dumped, memory cards that must have been wiped. I’m regularly told – ‘Ah – they’ll turn up – they must be somewhere’. But I don’t think so. So I’ve nothing for Newfoundland, Wyoming, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Sri Lanka, Krakow, Mosel Valley, Black Forest, Ravenna…. I’ll have to go back!
And speaking of photos – something else has cropped up. Since starting this blog, our ‘capsule’ travel wardrobe is beginning to show up rather frequently!! It never mattered until I started putting up photos because no one ever saw them. I’m just saying it in case you’ve noticed!! I want you to know that I know!! (Of course, now that I’ve drawn attention to it, you’re going to examine everything I wear from now on!!!)
Someone buy that guy a t-shirt!!!
And before he seeks revenge….!!
(My favourite t-shirt should have its own passport!)
(P – first published Sept 8th, 2019)
Q is for Quetzal!
No – I wasn’t stuck … I’ve been to Quebec and Queens and I’ve tasted quail (and quiche!!)! But I’m lucky to have had the privilege of spotting what must be one of the most beautiful birds on the planet.
The Resplendent Quetzal is actually the national bird of Guatemala and they’ve named their currency unit the Quetzal. But its easier to find the elusive and threatened bird in Costa Rica where there’s been a effort to protect habitats in national and private parks.
The bird with its brilliant reds and iridescent greens is surprisingly well camouflaged in the forests. The males are more brightly coloured and during the mating season they grow 2 very long tail feathers. The birds were revered by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs who used the tail feathers in headdresses.
It was early morning in the cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica (2017) and we were coming to the end of our escorted tour without success. Of course we’d seen lots of birds on the trail but everyone in the small group was hoping for a glimpse of the Quetzal. I don’t know who spotted him first – but it was just great – such excitement!!! Word spread quickly and other visitors arrived. No one spoke. It was one of those very special moments.
All I had was my phone and I took this photo through the guide’s telescope. I decided that morning to buy a camera.
(Q – first published Sept 18th, 2019)
R is for RYANAIR
No – this isn’t a diatribe against staff conditions, or customer relations, or a certain chief executive’s massive bonus. Its not even about the baggage policy which nobody I know has mastered to anyone’s advantage bar the airline itself!
No indeed – this is a positive story about the impact of a budget airline on the population of a small island nation (so please don’t pull out your carbon footprint calculator for this one!!)
By the late 70’s /early 80’s, we Irish were beginning to spread our wings for reasons other than emigration – we were beginning to discover the universe! Package tours dominated the scene of course, particularly to Spain. But destinations like Greece were opening up – warm, exotic and cheap as chips once you arrived….
And therein lay the crux! In order to get there, we first of all had to get off our own beautiful island. We had a national airline and some international carriers were operating out of Dublin and Shannon airports. Honestly though, no one could really afford to fly from here – it wasn’t the ‘done thing’.
So when I headed to Egypt in ’81 and Greece in ’82, there was no question of flying to London to make the connection. Such a flight would have cost me around £200 I’d say – (about €450 today allowing for inflation). No – getting to London meant traveling by boat from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales, taking a train to London, and staying overnight with relatives before heading to the airport (one didn’t really stay in hotels in London now that I think about it!!). Such a trip cost about £40 – £50. The bus from Holyhead to London was worse – but cheaper still! Remember Magic Bus anyone??
Ryanair started up in 1984 and began competing with Aer Lingus and British Airways for the Irish-English routes. Then in 1990, it relaunched itself as a European low budget airline and the rest, as they say, is history!
We were skeptical and mocking at first but once we realised that the planes would stay in the sky, we were off!
For all its faults – and yes, they are many – Ryanair opened up opportunities for us that our parents could never have imagined. We now think nothing of hopping off to European destinations for weekend breaks. We are flying to places unheard of in the 80’s – Krakow, Bergamo, Porto – and we’re over and back to England all the time.
It works both ways of course and has made us accessible too, bring tourists and immigrants from all over Europe to our shores.
And what of my boat/bus ticket for £39 in 1982? In July 2019, I flew to London with Ryanair for €44 return!
(R – first published Nov 2nd, 2019)
S is for Standing on THAT Corner!
Parents are an embarrassment to their kids – that’s just a fact of life. But there’s no rule stating that we can’t take malicious pleasure in it on occasion!
In 2007 we drove Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. One early morning, the road brought us through Winslow, Arizona. Long past its hay day, the town achieved fame in 1972 with the Eagle’s hit single ‘Take it Easy’. And there it was – THE corner! The statue of a young guy in his jeans and boots casually standing with his guitar was not yet surrounded by the dozens of daily visitors! There was absolutely nobody about. As we parked and walked to the corner, the song was being quietly piped from somewhere close by. What could we do??!!! We stood on that corner and sang away in our tuneless voices as our teenager squirmed in disgust and embarrassment.
We didn’t linger for long – the Mother Road was calling and we had many miles to travel. But it was one of those feel good moments that always bring a smile – at least to two of us!
♫ Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
Its a girl my lord in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me ♪♪
(Mother and son, August 2007. Notice the reflection of a flatbed ford in the window?)
Take it easy y’all!!
(S – first published Nov 28th, 2019)
T is for Tent
It must be January – radio and TV commercials for holidays, flights, travel expos – and camping. There was an ad on the radio this morning promoting air tents that can be set up in minutes ….. Now that brought me back…..
I can still remember the excitement of heading off on our first real camping trip. Barry, I’ve just about forgiven you for pawning that horror of a tent off on your little brother all those years ago.
In true boyscout style, the poles had been colour coded with masking tape. It was downhill from there. Two of the original poles had vanished and been replaced with pipes that never quite fitted but still had to be wrestled into the frame. There was a massive hole in one corner that had to be bandaged with plastic bags and tape every day.
We didn’t travel light – the Renault was packed from floor to roof in both back seat and boot.
It took at least 2 hours to unpack and erect the tent and about 90 minutes to pull camp.
That summer of 1986, we went to Italy for 6 weeks. Thinking back, I reckon we pitched tent 14 times, grappling with ill fitting poles inside the canvas in sweltering heat. We got faster at packing the car but never mastered that tent!
(En route to Italy, July 1986)
I don’t know where we got the money to buy a new tent the following year but even back then, we reckoned life was too short to face another summer with that monstrosity. Over the next few years our camping skills evolved into quite a slick operation. We bought a 2 man tent which meant we had something handy for the transit nights instead of putting up the big tent. We bought a nice picnic table, 2 cool loungers, matching ice boxes…. we had it mastered!
And then along came baby!!
Car seat, buggy, travel cot, clothes, toys ……
Time for a roof box!
Our camping holidays were rejuvenated on several occasions over the following years – various tents, caravan, trailer tent, RV…..
To this day, my favourite trips are self drive and without a doubt that’s a throw back to the freedom of those wonderful camping holidays.
Its been a while but I don’t think our camping years are behind us – I look forward to heading back to Lazise on Lake Garda or maybe the northern Spanish coast. Can I face pitching a tent again? Well… maybe I’ll have a look at these poleless options before deciding!
Wow…. look how far we have come!!!…….
(Glamping in Tanzania, 2006)
(T – first published Jan 21st, 2020)
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