Magnificent Mountains of Springdale Utah and # Vegas Strong in Nevada

What to say about about Springdale, Utah? A small town in the shadow of the giant mountain ranges of Zion National Park it was originally settled in 1862 by Mormon farming communities fleeing flooding in nearby Northrop. It was they who named the canyon Zion.  At last count (2016) it had a population of 570.  Continue reading “Magnificent Mountains of Springdale Utah and # Vegas Strong in Nevada”

Colorado: Alpine Perfection and Dining in Denver

This part of the world couldn’t be more different to New York! The people are chatty and friendly, joshing one another and new arrivals equally. It all started with the train ride from the plane to luggage collection…yes, this airport is so huge you have to take a bus to get to luggage collection, and then, if you are hiring a car you get another bus that takes you put to the car hire section. In terms of size it’s the largest in the States 33,531 acres to be exact. It also has some cool conspiracy theories attached to it https://www.buzzfeed.com/rickysans/the-mysterious-conspiracy-theories-surrounding-the-denver-ai?utm_term=.bc0KA1pRw#.ahzZal2Bq  but sadly I didn’t get to see any of the creepy murals.

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Serendipity and Heaven

We woke early on the morning of the chimp trek because ideally one wants to be on the trail early, around 6am. Unlike Gorilla’s, whose sheer size and weight makes spending the night in a tree unlikely if not fatal (we heard of one Silverback who’d died falling out of a tree) the chimps build themselves nests high up in the branches and spend the afternoons in the tree tops sunning themselves, so the best time to see them closer to the ground is in the mornings when they come down to forage. We’d just got on the road when our guides Sam and Moses got a call to say the Chimp guide, a gent by the lofty name of Everest, was stuck. He’d been going to ride with another two tourists but he’d just discovered that their car had broken down the night before. We turned around immediately and about half a mile down the road we picked up Everest, Cyril and Yang.  Everest was born and raised in Rwanda, Cyril was from the States now working for a few months in Rwanda and Yang is Chinese but studying and working in the States for the last couple of years.

So we set out, 3 couples in the group, following Everest who was talking to trackers ahead. We’d come to find chimp’s in the trees but, what we didn’t expect was the sheer colour and variety of the flora and fauna that nestled beneath the tree canopy.  Brilliantly coloured fungi clung to rocks, beautiful orchids peeped between branches or nestled in valleys, butterflies flitted past while we stepped carefully around dark streams of giant ants…I felt like Alice through the looking glass, peering at one rather bold caterpillar I found myself looking for his pipe.  Everest had to plead with us “come, we need to find the chimps. Pictures later.”

 

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Rwanda : no easy answers

Before this trip all I knew about Rwanda was that there had been a horrendous genocide years ago and, they had silver back gorillas. I vividly recall watching with horror the “ethnic civil war” that erupted in this beautiful country. The simplified media view at the time was ethnic tensions that had exploded….I thought to myself , how can a country or its people ever recover from this ??? Impossible!

The scale of the genocide, the way in which ordinary people,  neighbours, co workers and even friends slaughtered one another was (and remains largely) inconceivable to me. So when our guide collected us from Kigali airport around 1pm and suggested we first stop at The Memorial Remembrance and Learning Centre in Kigali I jumped at the opportunity to try to better understand what happened in 1994. http://www.kgm.rw

It’s a beautiful memorial reminiscent of the Holocaust Museum in Nuremberg in that it serves not only to show respect for those murdered but also implores us not to forget, to learn from our past atrocities. Entrance is free and they offer audio tours, books etc, the cost of which goes towards maintaining the centre and of course they welcome donations.  Interned here are the bodies of 250 000 victims of the genocide, allowing them a final resting place and those who mourn them a place to find what solace they can.  The children’s room tries to pay its respects by giving a personal face to some of the children slaughtered placing their photos above information such as name, age, favourite foods and playthings. The Memorial rightly places this atrocity in the greater context of world events and shares other acts of genocide and politicides that have occurred in history. Continue reading “Rwanda : no easy answers”

Berlin: Sony Centre, The Berlin Wall and The Tiergarten

3 days is definitely not long enough to really experience a city with as much history and as complex and cosmopolitan as Berlin but it was enough time to make me keen to go back for more. Our accommodation was perfect. We were staying in Potsdamer Platz on the 12th floor (an elevator, no stairs thank goodness!) in one of seven blocks making up the Sony Centre with its beautifully designed buildings, a mix of residential apartments and offices tower above with The Sony store; Starbucks etc below along with a plethora of pubs and restaurants their table and chairs spilling out to encircle a little fountain.   This is all enclosed with a domed roof of steel and glass, open above the buildings and on the sides but covering the centre courtyard itself. Continue reading “Berlin: Sony Centre, The Berlin Wall and The Tiergarten”

Cologne: Cathedrals and Chocolate

A 5 hour trip by train transports us from Munich to Cologne. This time our apartment was far more what I am familiar with when staying in Europe. An old building with a narrow winding staircase. Puff puff, pant pant, we lugged our luggage up, assisted by some kindly German chap who noticed us struggling to get into, as it turns out, the wrong apartment. Continue reading “Cologne: Cathedrals and Chocolate”

The English Gardens and Mullings on Munich

Saturday in Munich dawned bright and beautiful, perfect for a run through The English Gardens. Created in 1789 and with an area of 3.7 km2 it is larger than Central Park ! Continue reading “The English Gardens and Mullings on Munich”

Salzburg is so pretty, oh so pretty ….

Some of us have to work even while travelling. Lucky for us not Ann nor I. So we left Pierre to his business meeting and set out to find the Radius Tour office at the station. Our group was large so we were divided between 2 tour guides; an Aussie, with a loud voice and a dog called Bernie and a lovely Spanish lass called Lucia. I was hoping we would be in Bernies group. Ann, having just realised that Salzburg was in another country  (Austria,…but you knew that of course), was hoping that the fact she had left her passport back at the apartment wasn’t going to be a problem. It wasn’t. And, while we ended up in Lucia’s group, she turned out to be warm, funny and very well informed. ..plus Bernie travelled on the same train so I  got to scratch him behind his silky little ears anyway.

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Nuremberg: Terror and Redemption

We set off fairly early to meet the tour to Nuremberg at the station all bundled in our beanies and gloves. Nuremberg has a long and complex history; the site of both the former Nazi rally ground and the Nuremberg trials where some of the worst perpetrators in the Nazi regime were held accountable for their crimes against humanity. The bus journey took us out onto the highway and through Bavaria with its fields and fields of asparagus and hops. As you might have guessed Bavaria is an agricultural district and the largest hop growing region in the world – and when it comes to hops the Bavarians know what they’re doing, they should, they’ve been doing this since the 8th century. ¾ of the crops are exported, the remainder is used to supply the 1300 breweries in Germany, half of which are located in the Bavarian districts.

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Munich – Bavarian Beer

Our welcome to Munich began even before we disembarked the plane. “Ladies and gentlemen” said the voice over the intercom as people shuffled restlessly in the aisles, “I don’t know if you have heard but we are experiencing a strike at the moment that affects security, baggage handling and the fire personnel. As a result many flights have been cancelled and you may experience some delays….”

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