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There and Back Again

Wow Experiences

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 26 June 2015 | Views [411]


  • With some of the world's tallest and flashiest buildings you feel like you're in a science fiction movie. The silver needle like Burj Khalifa soars 850m into the clouds.  At over $150 each for a tour we decided to stand back and look at it.
  •  Staying in the Arabian Courtyard Hotel in the old town gave us a better sense of being a local. We noticed lots of Indian people and found out that they are 80% of the population.
  •  Dubai Museum was over the road so we ducked in for a quick tour - it gave a good sense of early Dubai.
  • The 30 cent journey on the small flat bottomed ferry boat across the 'creek' to the Spice Souk. The huge array of colourful and heady perfume of the spices such as frankincense, myrrh. We succumbed and  bought  vanilla sticks to take home and gourmet dates to munch on.
  • The ride on the city sightseeing bus, took us to the more touristy areas including  the beach area, the Palm islands, Atlantis Hotel ending up at the Dubai Mall.
  •  This shopping centre aims to fulfill even the most wealthy and their consumer desires. The Mall had a huge indoor aquarium, a waterfall and hundreds of specialty shops. We decided to have lunch at Paul's Boulangerie, a French inspired restaurant with great food.
  • Next? The desert of course.  A 4 wheel drive, up, over and down huge desert sand dunes, spinning out - a heart in your mouth, Dakar rally experience. We then arrived at an oasis in the desert. Lots of food - BBQ meat, salads and loukemedes dessert. After a dazzling performance of belly dancing, we arrived back at the hotel at 10.30pm.

London Surprises

  • A family connection to William Blake encouraged us to do a guided walk through the back streets of London. Not only did we see places connected with William but also where Jimmy Hendrix lived - next door to where Handel lived; Savoy Hills Lane where Bob Dylan made a music video "Subterranean Homesick Blues" in 1967. William was a fighter for truth, human rights as well as a poet and artist, an outstanding person.
  • The village atmosphere of Marylebone - pubs, exclusive shops and great cafes.
  • Feeling homesick after hearing magpies singing and the Australian bush at the excellent Australian  Indigenous Exhibition at The British Museum.
  • Meandering around  the  West Highgate Cemetery on the guided walk.
  • Pubs are compulsory and sampling beer especially Guinness on tap helped us on our way.
  • Another guided walk with Paul and Eva which gave Susan an insight to her great great aunt Ruth Elizabeth Steel who ran girls' schools around London and a boarding house in Bloomsbury.
  • Discovering the Riblat Gallery in the British Library - famous authors' notebooks/folios -  (Shakespeare,  Bronte,  Dickens, Austen, Hardy); musicians' manuscripts -  Mozart, Bach, Beatles; ancient maps; sacred texts; da Vinci notebook, Magna Carta. Real treasures.


  • Ducks on ponds, thatched roofs, English breakfasts, rambling walks through green fields and quaint villages, beer and pubs; Broadway Tower (visited by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti)


  • Seaside town of Blakeney with its delightful small cottages all nestled together (including the smallest cottage in England); the vast expanse of marshes; colourful candy striped shacks on the beach in Wells next the Sea.
  • Tracking down sacred sites for the Stanley ( Susan's family) ancestors in Norwich - drinking fountain built 1850's and ancient gate to the city.


Turkey - Istanbul and Dalyan

  • The many crossings of the Galata Bridge with the fishermen trying their luck; the glittering blue of the  Bosphorus;  the sheer beauty and serenity of the Blue Mosque; the awe inspiring Aga Sophia; exquisite and mesmerizing Islamic art; heady aromas of the spice market; Turkish coffee; the richness and exuberance of the Topkapi Palace.
  • An evening stroll along the jubilant  Istiklal Boulevard to Taksim Square with Turkish ice cream and and a ride on the nostalgic tram.
  • The call to prayer which awoke us each morning  and then throughout the day continued to centre us and keep us mindful.
  • Being watched over by the Lycian Tombs of Dalyan - ever present, ever knowing.
  • The  incredible fresh, cheap, local food available in the many markets. And the many restaurants which used this wonderful produce to provide scrumptious meals.
  • The dedicated young English volunteer at Captain June's Turtle Sanctuary.
  • Trying not to buy everything at the Koycgzis Market - fruit and vegetables straight from the farm sold by the hard working farmers; the women in their colourful scarves and flowery skirts.
  • Driving into the mountains to arrive at Yesil Vadi restaurant set near a fast flowing, icy cold, crystal clear stream and eating the freshest tastiest trout you'll ever eat. Thanks Susan Taylor!
  • Our final night on the patio of the Sunset Special House overlooking the Aegean Sea and blue tinged distant islands; the luminous sky changing colour as the sun slowly set. Magical. Matched by home cooked food and then a performance by 3 Irish musicians. A memorable evening. And then as we left the owner gave Susan Taylor a handful of eggs from his hens.
  • It was a rainy day when we decided to try the local mud baths and hot thermal springs. As we sank  into the gluey mud we wondered what lay beneath as our feet found stones and other hard objects - what were they? Fortunately the thermal springs were warm and  comforting. Our skin did feel good afterwards, maybe it was all worthwhile. The large bowl of fresh orange juice also helped.
  • The Turkish Bath - being exfoliated, pummelled and then drenched by many basins of hot water by our burly Turkish masseurs was invigorating but maybe once is enough.
  • Just lazing around in our Villa Ruby in Dalyan.
  • Exploring the ancient alleyways of the old medieval walled town on Rhodes including the Street of Knights, Jewish Quarter and Synagogue; Muslim Library.
  • The tomato festival in Ortaca where we didn't see one tomato but did have fun looking at the market which included clothing, bed linen, toys, towels, food and lots more. In the middle of shopping the national anthem played and everyone stood very still, a group of teenagers started singing the anthem - we were quite impressed.



  • The first impression on entering the Petit Palais is the sense of space and light. Thanks to Betty Churcher we made sure we went to this gallery, especially to see Girls on the Seine and The Sleepers.
  • Being overwhelmed by the Van Gogh paintings in Musee D'Orsay - including a self portrait, Bedroom in Arles, portrait of Dr Gachet. His paintings impact physically and emotionally.
  • The Louis Rooms in the Louvre - gold, chandeliers, sheer opulence; Winged Victory still stands at the top of a flight of stairs; huge dramatic paintings of Delacroix. Annoying people with selfie sticks.
  • Branly Museum which features art and culture of indigenous people of the world. The Australian section was small but impressive. Many visitors were drawn to the more modern art work including Lena Nyadbi whose beautiful piece decorates the roof of the museum positioned to be seen from the Eiffel
  • While walking along Boulevard St Michele we came upon a footpath market which included small booths selling cheeses, pastries, jewellery, clothes, shoes and after trying some French nougat we just had to buy some.
  • After looking through the Albert Khan Museum we spent about an hour exploring his vast garden. It had a Japanese section, huge ponds, a stream, small bridges, hills and French school children running along the paths having a ball.



  • For 8 days we pretended we were Italian aristocrats living in our beautiful 18th century palazzo Villa LeMura.  With 7 bedrooms on one level and many more in the tower we could have had all our families and friends staying here. With plenty of fresh air we could swim in the pool or explore  the four acres of gardens, parks and olive groves. We often lost each other in the many sitting rooms. Each morning we gazed at the decorated ceiling of our bedroom, as the sun entered the room different parts would light up demanding our attention. Although it had 3 kitchens we mainly used the yellow 'outside kitchen' and ate outside on the patio overlooking the garden. And one night we were all entranced by a display of fireflies flittering through the garden.
  • Our beautiful hilltop town  Panicale was a 20 minute ascent. From our first entry through the ancient gate (Porta Fiorentina, used when arriving from Florence, and Porta Perugina used when arriving from Perugia) we felt part of the community. We were always warmly welcomed to the bars, restaurants, grocery shops. Although little Italian or English was spoken the women in the 3 main grocers were generous in their samples of local cheese and cured meats. How could we resist buying anything? We were puzzled by the salt less bread but after some research found out that bread from these regions is traditionally made without salt. ( google it and find out).
  • The hilltop towns we visited were all slightly different. Spello (with its winding streets and floral displays); Bevagna (a Middle Ages town with Knights); Montefalco and lunch at Corrocone; Montecchiello and lunch on the patio overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany; Montepulciano with fabulous leather shops and more breathtaking views. Check out this site for more information.   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/9446311/Umbrias-medieval-hill-towns-Spello-Montefalco-and-Bevagna.html
  • The walk to Paciano guided by Joel took us along the ridge, down sun dappled, tree lined tracks and then through someone's backyard. Fortunately no one was home as we had to climb over the high spiked fence to get back to the road. It must have been siesta time because when we entered the town of Paciano we didn't see one single person. Fortunately we found our way to the recommended restaurant for some great pizza.
  • Sitting on the patio of Il Casale restaurant, watching the sunset (again) and eating food sourced from the surrounding area   http://www.ristoranteilcasale.it/eng/index.html. It seems we had many magic moments eating incredible food while watching the sun set over a dramatic scene.


Thanks to Joel and Angela for encouraging us to go with the flow.


Tags: dubai, london surprises, panicale, paris, umbria

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