There have been a few A to Zs doing the rounds recently so when I was tagged by Lucy from On The Luce to take part in the ‘My A to Z of Travel’ meme I got stuck in.  I didn’t realise how much pleasure it would bring and had a lovely time going through photographs and pondering travels trips past….

Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Age you went on your first international trip:

Long, long ago in the 80s! I was 19 and it was my first trip away without parents – destination Ibiza.  I went with a girlfriend and we danced the nights away to disco and Motown in a heady haze of Barcadi and Coke at the Ku Club – long before Ibiza became the club hub and DJ mecca it is now.  We ran out of money two days before the end of the holiday but managed to get by on winnings from a limbo dancing competition.  Needs must.

Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

First choice would be a for a gin and tonic with ice and a slice over a beer.  However, a nice cold, ice cold Tiger – best enjoyed when the sun is high and it’s steaming hot will do nicely – especially when sat at a busy bar in SE Asia with nothing to do but watch the world go by.

Cuisine (favourite):

Prawns with ginger and lemongrass

Destinations, favourite, least favorite and why:

Difficult one as I love so many different places for so many reasons – how can you compare Namibia’s stunning landscapes with the smiling faces of the Vietnamese or the heritage and history of the UK; all very different reasons for these destinations being favourites.

Least favourite – I don’t have one; there’s always something worthwhile to be found everywhere – if you look for it.

Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Favourite mode of transportation:

I still find it exciting to fly and love turning up at the airport because it means I’m striking out and I’m on my way – once I’ve got through the queue at check-in that is, oh and then passport control, ah and then there’s the queue for security. Hmm.  Then again Train travel gives a great view of the scenery slipping by and a close up on local life without all that airport hassle.  I actually don’t mind how I get there so long as I get there.

Greatest feeling while travelling:

Not knowing what’s around the next corner – the excitement and anticipation of exploring a new place…

Hottest place you’ve travelled to:

Cairo in August was pretty hot – we spent a lot of time in the Museum where the air-con was on full blast to protect all the mummies.  Asia also gets pretty hot but with a humid heat which makes my hair double in size.  Never a good look.

The Sphinx

Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

We were staying in Hoi An, Vietnam and over the road from the hotel was a row of small establishments selling food, laundry services and drinks.  Every time we left the hotel the owners would rush out and call hello, wave and beckon us in.  They were so smiley and welcoming that eventually we gave in stopped for a drink. They were totally lovely, the service impeccable, and we learned loads about the Vietnamese way of life.  The place was gleaming and the family were attentive and gracious  – one day we stayed for a meal – absolutely delicious, authentic and one of the best we had on our trip.

Journey that took the longest:

A short flight from Spain which should have taken a couple of hours.  We were delayed six hours and then diverted to Manchester for a coach journey back to Gatwick which took another three hours.  Other than that the flight back from Saigon last week was 13 hours – although I managed to sleep for six of them…

Keepsake from your travels:

Photographs. Lots. A visual memory bank of my travels, they’re not brilliant but they mean a lot to me and the odd one or two aren’t bad.  I also like to buy some local art or handicraft from a market or street seller – ‘spend a few dollars and spread a little happiness’.  One of the quirkiest things I bought was a bracelet made from an old fork in a Havana market.

Funky Fork Jewellery

Let-down sight, why and where:

I’m easily pleased and positively enthusiastic about everywhere I visit so can’t actually put my finger on any major let-downs.  Cairo was noisy, dusty and dirty and I picked up  a tummy bug the morning we flew home but the pyramids themselves were pretty spectacular.

Moment where you fell in love with travel:

New York.  It was my first non-beachy type trip and we walked marathons, necks craned skywards, soaking it all up. I loved the buzz of the city; the museums, Central Park, and wondering through Greenwich Village.  And the sights – so many of them; The Statue of Liberty, Twin Towers, Empire State – I could have stayed there a month and realised I’d never be happy just lazing by a pool again.  What’s the point in travelling to another country just to lie down and go to sleep?  There’s so much world out there to discover and I want to go and see as much as I can.  I do still like a bit of beach though, now and then!

Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Samode Palace in Jaipur Rajasthan – absolutely magicalThe Enchantment of Samode Palace

Samode’s stunning entrance

Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

I need a whole new A to Z for this one!  Basically, everything. The view, that dog over there, the woman by the gate, the trees, the food, doorways, windows, traffic, the buzz of the bees, the sunset, street-life, signs, menus, the market.  Life.

Passport stamps, how many and from where?

My passport’s a bit battered and bent now – the gold writing has completely rubbed off on the front and I’m heartily sick of the mug shot inside.  Stamps include India, Vietnam, Thailand, USA, Canada, Brazil, Montenegro, Croatia, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritius.  Bring back the old-style dark blue, hard cover British passports – so much nicer.

Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

A zebra walked into a bar.  Seriously.   We were staying at Rostock Ritz in Namibia – not strictly an attraction but ‘the only Ritz in the world surrounded by rock and dessert’ – and were having a drink in the bar with the owner Kücki.  Being almost completely sober we couldn’t believe our eyes when a zebra walked in and proceeded to eat ice from the bar top.  Kücki had reared the orphan zebra Maya and she followed him around the place vying for attention with his two dogs Rocky and Pippi.

A zebra walked into a bar – Rostock Ritz

Recommended sight, event or experience:

Waking up on a junk surrounded by the limestone karsts of Halong Bay, Vietnam and watching the sun rise over the water as the mists cleared.

Mystical Halong Bay,Vietnam

Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Experiences, usually.  Things I might never get the chance to see or do again.

Touristy thing you’ve done:

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a professional tourist!  As well as seeing the touristy sights and attractions I also like to try some of the local dishes – haggis in Scotland, bagels in New York, Ostrich in Namibia!

Unforgettable travel memory:

Just one?   We’d been out on a wildlife tour of the Namib desert and had seen nothing but endless sand dunes and sky for around three hours. We suddenly peaked the crest of a dune and came unexpectedly face to face with the Atlantic ocean hugging the apricot sands.  Truly an unforgettable moment.

Namib Desert. Photo credit: www.namibia-tours-safaris.com

Visas, how many and for where?

Three; India, Cambodia and Vietnam

Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Too many to mention…

X: eXcellent view and from where?:

Another Namibia moment here – the view across the Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei.  This is a dried up clay pan.  It once flooded which allowed Acacia and Camel Thorn trees to thrive; the water then dried up and so did the trees – so dry in fact that they were preserved.  The blackened 900 year old trees look stunning silhouetted against the white clay pan floor with a backdrop of spectacularly high sand dunes.   The area doesn’t look very big in this picture but if you look closely you’ll see some people to the left of the tree on the far right which gives an idea of the vastness.

Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia

Years spent traveling?:

I’ve yearned to travel more since that New York trip in 1996.  The travel opportunities really opened up for me when I started working in events about eight years ago.

Zealous sports fans and where?:

Welsh rugby fans are so passionate about their team – especially when England is the opposition.  To hear tens of thousands of Welshmen singing Bread of Heaven gives me goose bumps and I have to join in despite my non-Welshness.

I look forward to enjoying more ‘My A to Z of Travel’ as I hand over to:

Mags at The Smart Girl’s Travel Guide 

Emme at Roamancing

Cynthia at Hapidayz

Zoë at The Quirky Traveller

Monica at The Travel Hack