Landscape

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The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle tour is Iceland’s bestselling tour, created in mind for those who want a quick summary of the country (if that is even possible) and is pretty much known as the tourist’s abbreviated version of Iceland. It’s essentially a 300km loop around the south of Iceland, a well-trodden day excursion that is the staple of many tour companies. This time, I chose to do it with Iceland Horizons and done, to my surprised delight, by David himself who happens to be the owner of the business. We found him articulate, wry, interesting and an absolute brilliant guide who answered all of our questions more thoughtfully than his own prime minister...

Heat in the Granite City

Yet another train journey, in a pale, pale imitation of Paul Theroux’s penchant for them. Only that this left me with an aching bum (never mind the rather nice countryside obscured greatly by fog that lined the North Sea east coast of Scotland), and a lingering bit of train feebleness (read: motion sickness). It was however, fantastically quiet in the Quiet Coach – that’s not really the norm by the way – and I tried to pacify myself by bringing a large book to lug around in the hopes that some academic distance might be gained in recompense for taking a day trip when it seemed just unnecessary. “Did you...

Out of Skye

In many ways we were anxious to retrace our route back to Invergarry to finally see the landscape in the daylight, and take in all that we missed on the way up to Skye. The car was frosted over and we realised that for much of the day temperatures would hover at -3 to -1 deg under the deceptively sunny skies. In many ways, we weren’t disappointed. Skye’s Cuillin Hills (its Himalaya lowland equivalent) dominated the Southern landscape as we headed towards Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye bridge. I alternated between marvelling loudly at the hills and protesting in fright as TC wrestled with slow vans, Royal Mail trucks...

Skye unravelled

The morning in Portree began with a frenzied photo-taking session of the harbour from the room window. Sated with Charlotte’s vanilla plums and the generous breakfast a little later, Bill proceeded to tell us that hordes of tourists queue up in front of their door, taking photos of the harbour. “The second game we play is figuring out where they come from,” he smiled in glee. Breakfast was heavy, and we were soon on our way once more. A855 towards Staffin from Portree is a single carriageway (and at times a single road!), and an RBS truck and other larger vehicles hilariously overtook our leisurely romp in the Vectra as they looked in...

The stop in Lake Bled

We woke the next morning to discover that the ceiling had not caved in on us despite the large strip of paint hanging down from it. As it turned out, the same strip of paint was still hanging from the ceiling the day we left Slovenia. I guess paint in Slovenia must be pretty strong stuff. A quick breakfast, and we were off on our way to the old town, waylaid only by the lure of a large toiletry store. As we soon discovered, Ljubljana is actually very walkable and it is nearly impossible to get lost walking around. In the middle of the old town, we found a Christmas...

Alcohol, Lakes and Myths

I did not understand a word, but loosened my death grip on the ubiquitous Lonely Planet Scandinavian Europe guide. When the group of middle-aged Finnish women grew increasingly boisterous as we neared Savonlinna (Finland’s major town of the Southeastern Lake District) on a dawdling and rickety regional train that connected us from Parikkala to Savonlinna Kauppatori, I reckoned it must and would be a place where room for regret is not permitted. The womens’ impromptu singing suddenly took a turn for the folksy (at least I think it was!), and then Olavinlinna Castle moved into view. Choric exclamations followed, and one woman in particular sang something that did appear to...