Sunday, 26 October 2014

New Additions To The List: Part 6

It has been around 18 months since I made any changes to my list of candidate World Wonders, and rather a lot has happened since then. As time has gone on, my list has become more and more fixed; now two-thirds of the way through, it's possible that this could be my final amendment. But probably not.

Anyway, let's cut the waffle. The following are the new additions to the list, or the ones I have considered but rejected. It should be said that rather a lot has been considered in the last 18 months, and the below ones represent only the most heavily pondered, i.e. if they didn't make it, they came pretty damn close to being given the thumbs up.

1. The Baha'i Gardens in Haifa, Israel: ACCEPTED.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Home For Good - And Future Plans

Danielle and I got home, after ten months of travelling, last week. It’s been a busy week. In that time, we have found and moved into a new (rented) flat, bought a (banger of a) car, and attended my cousin’s wedding in Strathpeffer (in the Pavilion). Danielle has secured short-term work, and is looking for something longer term, and has started a part-time Masters. I am waiting for offshore work. The process of settling in has begun. The travels are over.

But the Wonder hunting has not.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Days 536 to 538: Cancun finale

Cancun is a ghastly place, that I'd usually avoid at all costs. Except at these costs - £419.90 for two people to fly from Cancun to London Gatwick. Just over £200 each to fly around ten hours. Not bad, hence Cancun is the setting for the end of our travels.

Days 532 and 533: Tulum and Merida

Perhaps as we roll into the last week of our travels after ten months we've become jaded. But both Tulum and Merida, highly rated by the Lonely Planet, failed to excite us at all. Both seemed shabby and nondescript. They weren't awful by any measures, just with a sense of "Is this it?"

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Days 525 to 531: Palenque and Flores and lots of buses

When the ancient Maya rulers of Palenque and Tikal, were building their cities and kingdoms, they weren't thinking about people like myself and Danielle. Palenque and Tikal were both built in the jungle, and after everything went downhill, they were lost there too, for centuries. In the meantime, the Spanish popped by and took over everything and built a bunch of colonial cities, entirely unaware of these lost jungle cities. In 1810, modern Mexico squared up to Spain, cracked its knuckles, and had a couple of years of war before Spain said "Alright, go on," and gave Mexico independence. Guatemala followed suit about a decade later. The ruins of both Maya cities were discovered, explored, and to some degree excavated. Both became tourist sites and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Great - but they were still in the jungle, and both Mexico and Guatemala have had better things to do than build vast straight flat motorways direct from their capital cities to the ruins. Meaning that unless you're willing to shell out rather a lot on flights to the local airports, the only practical method of getting to either location is buses. Hours and hours and hours of buses. Bumpy buses, old buses, little buses, uncomfortable buses, hot and cold buses, winding paths, hills up and down, and inevitably many delays: Palenque and Tikal by road are missions to get to. Maya civilisation - next time build your empires on some nice flat plains, please.

Days 521 to 525: San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristobal de las Casas: what a long name for a place. As far as I can tell, the name is a fusion of the Spanish for St Christopher, possibly named after a church in the town, with the "de las Casas" being named after some 16th Century priest called Bartolome de las Casas, who did the radical move back then of suggesting that the natives were, you know, not all that bad and shouldn't be mistreated so much. Very nice, but it's a shame that the local Maya name hasn't caught on - Jovel. Short and punchy, and with a far more apt meaning - "the place in the clouds".

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Days 517 to 520: Puebla and Oaxaca.

Our visit to Puebla was just overnight, and so pretty fleeting. A couple of hours south of Mexico City, it was a whole world away from the capital's intensity. With the nation's tallest cathedral at the heart, the city of Puebla had a small town feel, and the streets were lined with quaint colourful buildings.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Day Scotland: The Independence Vote

Today is rather an important day in Scotland: the people there are voting whether or not to make the country fully independent. I'm currently in Mexico, and will be in Guatemala tomorrow (my blog will soon be catching up with all this) and so am missing what is a very exciting - or for some, worrying, I guess - day for the country. Fortunately, my mother has kindly voted on my behalf, with a proxy vote - thanks mum.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Days 511 to 516: Mexico City

Mexico City is sinking. When the Spanish came in 1519 and dethroned the Aztecs, they settled on taking over the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, dismantling it and building Mexico City in a style more to their suiting. In this manner, the small colonial capital grew. But there was a problem. Cathedrals and palaces and other such large stone buildings are heavy, and Tenochtitlan was situated in a swamp. The modern day consequences of this are very visible in even just a casual wander around the city.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Days 501 to 505: San Francisco

"Wake up!" My happy sleep was disrupted by Danielle. She was in a mild state of tizzy. "I think I've felt an earthquake!" she said.

I tried to process this. "Uh... Don't be ridiculous. San Francisco gets these all the time. It's no big deal. Go back to sleep."