For us Dominica immediately takes a place in the Top 3 favourite countries we have ever visited, along with (in no particular order) Iceland and Fiji. We have now visited 3 islands in the Caribbean including Barbados and Antigua and as beautiful as their beaches are, Dominica will definitely be remembered as our favourite Caribbean island.
Visiting Dominica during times of Covid has meant we have had a different experience than most visitors to this lovely Island. During our time here England has locked down and many other countries have put in curfews, tiers and other measures to try and manage the virus. Here in Dominica however we were in one of the safest countries in the world; looking at covid stats Dominica was 199 out of 220 countries in term of covid risk and it has been managed very well here. At the time of writing there have only been 121 cases throughout the pandamic and no deaths. We were therefore not only visiting an absolutely beautiful island, but also currently one of the safest places in the world!
One of the problems of writing a travel blog, is that it’s a snapshot in time. New buildings will be built and some, such as those damaged in hurricanes, will be bulldozed – landscapes can change and a view of any place can be skewed by the size of the crowds. When visiting a bar or restaurant you don’t want to be the only ones there, because other people add to the ambience, but you also don’t want it to be crowded, or to have to queue. However having some fantastic beaches and snorkelling waters entirely to yourselves is a whole different matter. Absolutely beautiful. One thing’s for sure, thanks to the COVID pandemic, very few will ever see Dominica the way we saw it!
Now I know we’re getting very much into niche territory here, but I LOVE cricket. Days out with my besties Churchie and Tone always feature sunshine, alcohol, and laughter, all in huge quantities. Best not to mention our boy’s away trip to Bristol, where it rained for 4 days solid and we never even got to close to the cricket ground, let alone see any cricket. Usually, it’s all about sunshine, alcohol, and fun, and sometimes we even get to enjoy what happens ON the field lol. Actually, whether we’re supporting Hampshire or England, both teams have an excellent record of winning when we’re watching 🙂 These days out with the boys, whatever the weather, are always amongst the highlights of my year, I love ’em!
Where do you start when talking about Barbados, or Bim as it is affectionately known by the locals? The beaches right? It’s all about the beaches. Well I imagine that for many people, that’s all it’s about. And why not? They’re spectacular, picture postcard scenes featuring palm trees, gorgeous sunsets, white sands and the loveliest shades of crystal clear blue water we have ever seen.
One absolutely fantastic thing about the beaches here, is that there are NO private beaches. I imagine it’s a law long since passed by the government, who incidentally managed to place their headquaters right next to the best beach. The result is no matter who you are, be that a rich corporation running a 5-star resort or two, or a multi-millionaire Bajan pop-princess snagging the best real estate on the island (One Sandy Lane) you cannot buy the stretch of beach between you and the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Barbados is NOT in the Caribbean Sea, contrary to popular belief, but is still considered to be part of the Caribbean region.
As many of you know who have followed our social media know we have been in Barbados for the past month. Although never originally on our travel plans, we decided to come here quite last minute from Turkey. This was our first trip where we had been subject to strict quarantine laws including a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to arrival and a period of isolation before a second test. Once the negative result was received then we were free to explore the island.
How do you follow a blog on a place as unique and exciting as Cappadocia? Well, in short, with great difficulty. Well, if your next stop is Istanbul anyway. We rounded off our tour of Turkey with a visit to the vast metroplis, official population 15,190,000, though unofficially some say up to 24,000,000. We took a night bus from Cappadocia with Metro Bus, and with stops it was a 12-hour trip, arriving at 7.30am. As bus trips go it was ok and we managed to get some sleep and there were a few comfort breaks on the way. It cost 100 Turkish lira or £10.
The weather was normal for November, but with every passing day and with every mile we moved northwards, the climate grew colder, and wetter. In 4 of the 5 days we were there, it rained pretty much non-stop. This did, as you can imagine put some limitations on what we could do, however we were lucky in the first couple of days to have some sunshine and to see a few of the must-see tourist highlights, each of them sadly a little disappointing in their own way.
Of course we’re all different, we have our own likes and dislikes, but I think if you were to add visiting this place to your bucket list, especially having a trip in a hot air balloon, and made it happen, we don’t think anyone would be disappointed!
This could make many a person’s Top Ten, and as overused as the word may be, we think it’s awesome! A 7-hour bus ride from our previous destination, Eğirdir, for a fiver each (50tl), we found the long journey to be totally worth it. A unique landscape, and I don’t think I have the vocabulary to do it justice; so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Below however is a summary of our experiences here.
A bit of Turkish we have learned; the symbol above the g makes it a silent letter, so this place is pronounced something like Ay-a-deer, and not Agadoo as Carol was fond of saying. We reached Eğirdir from Antalya using a bus which cost a grand total of £2.50 each and took around 3 hours to reach via Isparta. We had never heard of the place before; however, we headed for Eğirdir on John and Sharon’s recommendation as a place for just pure relaxation; some calm away from the Antalya storm! oh and because it is somewhat cooler than Antalya.
There is very little to do here, there is no nightlife, no entertainment, and I highly recommend it. What there is in abundance here is natural beauty. If like we did, you stay in Yeşilada you are surrounded by it, literally in every direction. Yeşilada is an island promontory, connected to the mainland by a manmade causeway, but essentially you are situated in the middle of a huge lake surrounded by beautiful mountains.
We spent 3 hours at Pamukkale through an organised tour but as it is unique we decided it deserved a page of its own.
Due to tectonic, rather than volcanic activity there are many hot springs in this area. The water is calcium rich and as it trickles down the mountain side it forms calcium ridges filled with azure blue water. As a tourist attraction it doubles up with Hierapolis; a world UNESCO heritage site which is adjacent to Pamukkale and includes the Tomb of the Apostle. If ancient history is your thing you would definitely be in your element here!
Our trip was never going to be a hundred mile an hour dash across the globe. It was always intended to include some downtime, a little r&r as we wound down from the stresses of modern life.
Antalya provided the perfect spot for this. We had a couple of days where we chose to just sit and read a book, and another couple where we had plans, but rain stopped play. And boy when it does rain here, it doesn’t half rain!
I long since realised that having a great time has very little to do with the where, and a great deal to do with the ‘who with’.
Circa 1985, pub ticketing was introduced in my home town of Gosport for special occasions such as Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.
Everybody knew about it, except of course me and my friends.
No ticket. No entry.
No entry to our usual haunts such as The Star or The George and Dragon. So, The Wiltshire Lamb and The Royal Arms here we come.
Are they Gosport’s best pubs? Not by a million miles. Did we still have a great time? Hell yeah!
The beer was as good, and cheaper. The company was even better. I was with my usual crowd, plus a few new people, just in different venues.
The venue mattered not one bit. The company I kept was everything.
And so it goes for my 1 year of travel. Hopefully around the globe. In reality wherever is open and will let us in.
It’s little to do with the locations, and everything to do with the people.
My nomination for extraordinary person #1 is my wife Carol.
Sure, many people are at least as happily married as we are, but what I find extraordinary is that she has volunteered to be with me pretty much 24/7/365!
365 days during which most couples will actually have a great deal of time apart. When either of you are at work, when you individually spend time with your own friends, when you do your own thing.
Not on our travels.
Pretty much together 24/7/365.
And Carol has volunteered to live in each other’s pockets, for a year, with me!
Thank you baby 😊
My nomination for extraordinary person #2, is my mother-in-law, Chrissie.
In the months preceding our departure we made good use of websites such as eBay and Facebook buy and sell. We reduced clutter, lessened the volume of things we’d have to move, and added a few quid to the travel savings pot. We sold bikes, guitars, cabinets, barbecues, games and toys etc.
Everything else would have to go into storage.
Our travel budget is definitely not what I’d call generous, possibly not even ‘comfortable’ but Carol is the world’s leading expert in finding a bargain, so I have faith we can do this. Even so, the thought of having regular outgoings in the form of storage fees was quite worrying; it was definitely an expense we could do without.
Enter Chrissie, who has given us an entire room of her house to store our beds/clothes/furniture in. For free! This will save us a small fortune.
This means that one day, we’ll be able to put a roof over our heads in some faraway land, when otherwise we may have been broke, due to large parts of our savings being spent on storage.
On top of that, she has allowed us to redirect our mail to her address for the duration of our travels, and is informing us of important looking mail she receives, and when necessary opens our mail, photographing it and sending us the pictures. An extremely valuable service. Thank you Chrissie x
On to extraordinary people #3 and #4.
John and Shazza.
Sharon is my friend and colleague, John her partner. Back in the old days, when we used to actually have to go into the office to do our work, Sharon and I were in the same team. We used to have our lunch breaks at the same time too, and we’d often walk up the road together to Waitrose to grab a sandwich and a free coffee, and sometimes we’d stop in Lidl and stock up Sharon’s wine cellar for the weekend. Exciting stuff! It involved some heavy lifting, and I was glad to be able to help and carry the gallons of wine back to the office or her car. 😉
We moved teams, at the same time, so stayed working together. After a while I stayed in the new team, whilst Sharon moved back to re-join the old team. We did similar work, often overlapping in subject matter, so managed to stay in touch workwise.
We no longer worked together, but the exciting lunchtime jaunts to Waitrose and Lidl etc. continued. Sometimes we went to the pub as part of a crowd of friendly workmates, but usually only if it was someone’s birthday, leaving do, or Christmas.
The work crowd, including Sue (Gatty) Ann, Deb, Caz and Trudy all enjoyed a social occasion together, so we arranged to do it more frequently and began going for lunch together at least once a month, usually on the Friday after pay day. At Sue’s suggestion we called this the monthly ‘nosh’. I proper belly laughed when Sue used the word ‘nosh’, but to explain why I’d have to make this an 18 rated blog. Maybe another time…
What did Sharon and I talk about during all those lunchtimes? Well, mostly my forthcoming year-off and associated travel plans. Every day. Every single day. “We’ve booked up our flights to South Africa” I would tell her excitedly “And some accommodation in Kruger National Park” “We’ve got a hire car sorted, flights on to Port Elizabeth from where we’re going to drive to Cape Town”
Every day I would add some details of our plans and what we’d actually managed to book. South Africa onto Brazil (via Angola), Copacabana, Ipanema, El Christo Redentor, Iguazú Falls, Argentina, Perú, Costa Rica, Belize, New Zealand, Vietnam…
She would often tell me to shut-up, and say that she really wasn’t interested. She sometimes resorted to putting her fingers in her ears and saying “la, la,la, not listening”
For 2 years this went on. Probably two very long years from Sharon’s point of view.
It was getting closer to August 1st 2020, the start of our gap year, when COVID showed its ugly face and changed everything.
First the flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth was cancelled, due to a South African government imposed travel ban. So everything to do with South Africa was cancelled. What followed was months of wrangling with every company we’d given money to, trying to arrange refunds for everything. It was bloody hard work and very tiring. It’s not like we actually wanted to cancel anything, it was forced upon us.
We’d have to make new plans.
We’d follow World News, government advice, and view COVID statistics from around the globe. Our travel insurance was already in place, but it’s invalidated if you travel somewhere against government advice. We needed to know which countries our government allowed us to visit, and which countries were allowing foreigners, especially British people in.
It was a very small list of countries available to us. Iceland was on the list, so we arranged to go there. And then it wasn’t on the list. More plans cancelled.
I’d already arranged with my employer to delay my year off. Put it back 2 months. We made the same arrangement with the landlord of our rented property. We’d even managed to arrange an extension on our lease cars. We’re not the kind of people to mess anyone around, our word is our bond.
It was now late September. We knew that next week we’d be away, starting our travels, but with just a few days to go before we set-off, and after a solid two years of planning, we had no idea when we were going exactly, or where.
I had gone out one afternoon to collect some Icelandic currency I had ordered, I had the radio on in the car and on the news as I drove back from town came the announcement The UK government has just added Iceland to the list of countries it advises against all bar essential travel.
We had planned to visit Iceland with our friend Ginny; we were devastated that yet more plans had to be cancelled. Ginny told us Turkey was open, and that she could personally recommend Kalkan. We looked into it a bit, not having previously heard of the town, we liked what we saw and we booked our flights immediately.
I sent a message to Sharon. I knew that her partner John had a property in Turkey, and as a result they visited the country as frequently as COVID would allow.
“Hey Shazza, you know I’ve been boring you to death for 2 years with our travel plans, and that all our plans have been cancelled, well guess where we’re going now?”
“You got it, Turkey!”
“As you know the place, we were wondering what recommendations you had, if any”
Shazza replied that she and John were currently in Turkey, and when we were going to arrive? The dates tallied up, we were going to all be there at the same time, albeit a 4 hour drive away.
We arranged to meet.
After a leisurely drive through beautiful mountainous scenery, we arrived in Antalya from Kalkan.
John had told us Antalya is a huge city, “You’ll never find us, so let me know when you’re in the city, tell me where you are and I’ll come and meet you.”
We found the address ourselves, and looked around the building trying to see how to get into the block of flats. We looked up at the balconies and sitting there reading a book, was a familiar figure. Shazza!
She came and let us in, and showed us our room. After a long drive we had very kindly been offered to stay the night. We readily agreed as for one thing it meant we could all have a drink, always good!
In the evening we went out for a meal with John, Sharon and a couple of their friends Phil and Semra. Semra is Turkish, Phil Welsh, and they have been married 36 or 37 years. Having a native talker/bilinguist amongst us was a great help in terms of the service we received.
We walked from the restaurant to a large bar-filled public square and Semra’s smile and flirty attitude made sure we got served quickly. She was relentless, twirling her hair and batting her eyelashes at the waiters and after one exchange in Turkish she turned round and told us all with a twinkle in her eye, that the waiter, an innocent looking 22 year old, would be her new lover! After a couple of drinks, Phil and Semra wished us well on our journey and headed for home. We headed for the next bar. Barrels.
The drinks were now in full flow, and continued once we’d all got back to John and Shazza’s and sat in their ‘Turkish Lounge’ out on the balcony.
On Sunday afternoon, after the Saturday night out, once the hangovers had worn off and we had successfully rehydrated, we announced we’d be leaving by about 4pm in order to get hire car back by 9pm.
By now, we’d spent time with John on only 3 occasions in our entire lives. The first being some months beforehand at a wedding reception of mine and Shazza’s colleagues Deb and Matthew.
“Before you go” said John “Here, have the keys to my apartment” “We’ll be going back to the UK in a few days, so when you’re done with Kalkan, you’re more than welcome to come and use the flat for as long as you like”
Proper “mi casa, su casa” stuff.
Not only that, but he made us a picnic to take with us on our drive back to Kalkan. We stopped off at a lovely place with a fantastic view and enjoyed the much needed food and drink.
As a result of John and Sharon’s extraordinary generosity, I am writing this whilst sat on their sofa, in Antalya where we will stay for the next few days.
Thank you John and Sharon.
This brings me on to Extraordinary People 5# & 6# the aforementioned Phil and Semra. We met them both with John and Shazza when we met up in Antalya during our first visit. Since we have returned we have met up with them both twice; first time for a dinner in the football stadium and yesterday also for coffee and a cake. They have both been amazingly helpful with advice around Turkey and our travels and have been great company – all from a lovely couple we had only met once before – Thank you so much for everything and we really hope to keep in touch.