Where to go to get away from it all!
Here are a few of my favorite places....the kind of places that you an go to in your mind when you close your eyes and want to get away from it all! These are not necessarily in order of my favorites but I have numbered them for ease.
1. The Ark, Kenya
Many years ago, we spent a night at the Ark in the Abedares in Kenya. It was a wonderful exeperience. The Ark is a wooden hotel on stilts (built in the shape of an ark) overlooking a watering-hole. It has the feeling of an exclusive Country Club as there are only a few guests. You dine with your fellow guests and watch from the veranda as animals come and go to the watering-hole. For once, we were the ones in the cage and the animals were free to roam about!
It was a very peaceful place with a lovely sedate pace of life. When you retire to bed, you can set the game alarm if you want to be woken up when something interesting comes to the watering-hole in the night. We set ours and were duly awoken in the dead of the night to see some elephants. There was a beautiful stillness about the night as we stood there wrapped in some blankets in our pajamas quietly watching the elephants go about their business.
We sipped some tea and whispered to our fellow guests. A cheeky bush baby decided to help himself (or herself!) to the tea when we put the cup down. All in all a very lovely place and somewhere where you can really get away from it all.
2. Enontekio, Lapland
A few years back we took our two daughters to Lapland. We packed lots of activities into the 2 day trip including driving skidoos, ice fishing, reindeer sleigh rides, dog sleigh rides and of course visiting the main man himself - Santa.
The most magical moment was waiting in the forest for our turn on the dog sleigh ride. We huddled around an open bonfire, drinking hot chocolate, wondering in amazment at the grey light (it was 10am and still quite dark). The dogs were eagerly barking before each run (they obviously enjoyed their work, once the sleigh took off, the barking stopped and they ran as fast as they could).
The fire crackled and with the snow all around, it was very still and quiet. One of the ladies with us started to sing Silent Night. Others joined in and eventually everyone was quietly singing.
It was a spontaneous act that has left a magical and everlasting impression on me.
3. Cruising in the Panama Canal
We reached the canal locks (the Gatun lock) very early in the morning. Even still, many people were up and about to see the ship pass through the lock. It was a little misty.
We marvelled at the precision of the event. There were only a few inches each side of the ship. Special 'trains' tethered ropes to the ship and pulled her through. It was a slow process. Ships queued up to pass through.
Once through and into the Gatun lake, we anchored for a while to wait our turn to continue on through the canal. While anchored, we were at the level of the surrounding treetops. We could see and hear animals in the canopy. There were monkeys calling and birds flying about.
It was beautiful to see the magnificance of nature all around us, coupled with the great human feat of engineering.
4. Balloon flight over the Masai Mara
It was a misty morning in the Masai Mara. They told us that the balloons needed to fly very early due to air currents so we were up with the lark. It was very interesting to watch as the two balloons were inflated.
We boarded (about 12 people to a basket) and gently lifted off with burners flaring. Once we had reached our 'cruising' height, our balloon pilot turned off the burners. It was simply magical floating over the reserve with wildebeast, zebra and many other animals grazing below. So peaceful.
We passed over a small hill with a pride of lions lazing on top. Cameras all snapped, we moved on a little. "Can everyone please sit down, we are about to land," the pilot announced. Hang on, didn't we just fly over some lions a minute ago, and we're landing now?
We obediently sat. We came in a little hard and the basket tipped over onto its side and was dragged along for a few yards by the momentum. "Watch out for the gnu poo," the pilot exclaimed. Great!
Once landed and having checked that the lions hadn't ventured over, we relaxed and headed over to the chase vehicles, where breakfast was set up with eggs, omelettes, etc and champagne.
Now there's a breakfast I won't forget too easily!
5. Rome - the eternal city
I love Rome. There are so many things to see, every corner you turn yields a new fabulous site. When there one year, we climbed up the dome in St Peter's basilica. A strange and quirky winding staircase, but well worth the climb - what a view.
On another occasion, we took to the hills beside the Colesseum to while away a few hours and it was very pleasant and peaceful.
6. Walking on the beach in Mombasa
After a couple of weeks treking around safari parks and moving from place to place, it was wonderful to settle down for a few days on the beach at Mombasa.
The beach has beautiful white sand and it gently slopes out into the water giving a very safe bathing place.
For the few days tht we were there, we took long leisurely strolls along the beach each evening. Our room was right on the beach - you could literally step out the door onto the sand.
The pace of life ran a little more slowly there.
7. The Giza plateau
No matter how many times you go there, the pyramids will always command respect. Their sheer size and majesty never fail to impress.
The plateau commands a good view of Cairo (but is generally hazy), and we are always surprised by the proximity of the city to the pyramids.
In days gone by, people used to routinely climb up the pyramids (and in fact, many had picnics on top!). Nowadays however, this is strictly forbidden and there are guards on the spot to ensure everyone follows the rules. Of course, if you know the right person, you could still get an opportunity to climb up.
Definitely worth venturing inside the Great pyramid (if only for the grand gallery), but if that's not possible (due to restrictions on the numbers these days), then try one of the other pyramids which are also very interesting inside.
8 Boating on the river Shannon
The river Shannon is the largest river in Ireland. It is very unspoit and in good weather is a beautiful spot. You can hire cruisers on the Shannon for 1 or more days if you want to travel up or down and sleep onboard.
We have a small boat that we take out on the river sometimes (so my husband can fish!). Once away from the towns, mother nature takes over. There are swans, moorhens, herons, cormorants and many other birds, dragon flies, fish of several types and lots of other wildlife.
It is beautiful to quietly glide along on the boat, listening to the birds and letting the world float by.
9. At home in my own back garden!
I love to travel, but I also love to get back home. My husband has spent a lot of time working on our garden, and it is very pleasant to sit out in the garden on a sunny summer's day.
From our garden, we can hear and enjoy many many birds some of whom sing beautifully. It's also lovely to watch the children playing. The wind chimes tinkle in the soft breeze and the water in the pond gentle trickles and bubbles.
One of my most favorite places!