Monday, 27 May 2013

Monday photo - 27th May

As darkness began to fall, the rain finally ceased as we approached the monumental Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon. Gently removing our shoes at the top of the broad entrance stairs, we stepped onto cool marble, wet feet softly slapping. The thin layer of water coating the smooth floor threw sparkling reflections around us, and although I'm sure the pagoda is beautiful at any time, the rain made it seem that we were surrounded with gold in every direction, reaching both into the sky and deep inside the ground. It was an experience that I'll never forget. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Monday photo - 20th May

One of my favourite excursions during a trip to Turkey a number of years ago was visiting the Lycian rock tombs in Dalyan. Cut high into the rock, their weathered facades still display the soft variety of natural colours found within the cliffs, the placement over the river a testament to the skill of the carvers, over two thousands years ago. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Secret gardens, marching bands and steep streets: Dubrovnik's many charms

After a day walking the walls and viewing the town from above, we spent our remaining days in Dubrovnik at ground level. Easter bank holiday was upon us, and with an improvement in the weather, the streets were buzzing with outdoor restaurants, church bells ringing and even a display by the city's marching band.

We often found ourselves drifting towards the harbour, watching the waves lap against the moored boats and enjoying the gentle sea breeze as cats peered out of cracks in the stone and approached visitors, hoping for a snack.

Dubrovnik boasts a number of small museums and old building open for public viewing, including the beautiful and secluded gardens tucked inside a monastery - a peaceful respite from the lively heart of the old town. With only the odd bird and the aromatic smell of a variety of plants for company, it was the ideal location to close my eyes and soak up a little sun.

In the evenings, we climbed steps to softly-lit churches, sought out new viewpoints and stuffed ourselves full with a variety of food. The trip was relaxing and slow-paced, five days the perfect amount of time to explore this beautiful city before heading back home to the rain and snow. 


Friday, 10 May 2013

Exploring Dubrovnik's walled Old Town

After a seemingly never-ending winter, April had finally arrived in the UK with snow still fluttering around on the brisk, damp air. The skewed weather system, caused by a weather front in the wrong position, was affecting the whole of Europe. Including Croatia, where we'd optimistically booked an Easter break a few months earlier in search of some spring sun.

Alas, the forecast wasn't looking great, and we arrived in Dubrovnik to rain showers (which still didn't stop us from grabbing gelato on the way to our hostel, however...). Although the rain came down in earnest during our first night, the skies cleared the following morning and despite not being as warm as usual for the time of year, we could feel the cold finally leaving our bones.

Dubrovnik is an incredibly beautiful city, and I wasn't surprised to hear that the streets are packed with visitors during the peak summer months. Thankfully, the prolonged winter appeared to have kept crowds at bay, and we were able to wander the narrow roads and waterside paths freely. We were staying inside the old town, a labyrinth of steep alleys and tightly-packed houses encased within thick, imposing stone walls. Knee-jarring steps fanned out from the central streets, rising higher to reveal stunning churches, supporting arches and more cats than I've ever seen in one place before. The muted stone glowed in patches of sunlight, everything topped off with distinctive red brick roofs.

We were keen to make the most of the blue skies, and made our way towards the entrance of the walls, seeking an even loftier view. Lasting a good couple of hours (depending on how many times you stop), the complete circuit of the walls is worth every penny and a definite 'must-do' when visiting the city. We alternated between looking out at waves crashing against the stone, the water a rich turquoise, and turning inwards to a second sea, this time of red brick and tall bell towers. The small details were most captivating - houses that seemed to be held up by very little, bronze figurines striking the hour, small guard towers and wafting music from a music school below.

We came back down just as a brief shower started, taking refuge in a nearby cafe for a much-needed lunch before setting out once more to a small fortress just outside of the city walls boasting lovely views both along the coastline and towards the city, a fresh cone of gelato firmly in hand.