My Travel Blog - 2012

December 2012 Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
October 2012 Kraków, POLAND
September 2012 Dubrovnik, CROATIA
May 2012 Blue Ridge Mountains, Los Angeles and Las Vegas
March 2012 Istanbul, TURKEY


December 2012 - Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 

I am back in Dubai again this time staying at the Arabian Courtyard Hotel just across the road from the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort in the oldest part of Dubai.

View of museum and fort from my hotel window

A dhow (traditional boat) sits on top of the
underground section of the Dubai Museum

Type of house once used by inhabitants of the Gulf coast

Small boat used for transporting people across the creek

Wind towers (windcatchers) are a common feature
on buildings in this historic area of the city

Foundations of the Wall of Old Dubai built
~1800 A.D. from coral stones and gypsum

The Al Shandagah Watch-Tower

The Dubai Heritage Village

In Dubai even the bus shelters have air conditioning

The Textile Souk is shaded by an ornate wooden roof

The Spice Souk is located in Deira on the other side of the Creek

The Gold Souk is only a short walk from the Spice Souk

Station where you can get an Abra (water taxi)
to cross the Creek from Bur Dubai to Deira

Abra route map

Crossing the Creek in a traditional boat - cost 1 Dirham

Cruise boat with restaurant

Atlantis Palm Hotel viewed from the monorail
connecting the Palm Jumeirah to the mainland

Aquaventure water park as seen from the monorail

Rock breakwater on the seaward facing
encircling crescent of the Palm Jumeirah

Burj Al Arab a luxury hotel built to resemble a ships sail

I went on a desert safari which started out by driving over sand dunes (Dune Bashing) in a Toyota Land Cruiser before visiting a Bedouin camp where amoungst other activities you can experience a short camel ride. Food was provided in the evening however whereas it was over 30oC in Dubai during the day it can get quite chilly out in the desert at night.

One of the camels at the Bedouin camp

Falcons were traditionally used to hunt for food in winter

Last time I was in Dubai back in November 2011 I had an overnight stay at the Al Manzil Hotel in the new downtown area which has the Burj Khalifa as its centerpiece.


October 2012 - Kraków, POLAND 

I arrived in Kraków late afternoon and took the free shuttle bus to the small railway station (Kraków Balice) at the airport. There was a train already waiting and in just 20 minutes I had reached Kraków's central railway station (Kraków Glowny). From here it was only a 5-minute walk to Hotel Wyspiański where I was staying. Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland and its imposing medieval fortifications consisted of a wall spiked with numerous towers surrounded by a moat. However, in 1806 the Austrian emperor ordered the demolition of the outdated and crumbling walls which together with the levelled moat were replaced with parkland that still encircles the Old Town (Stare Miasto) today. Fortunately the main city gate and three adjacent towers built into the walls survived together with one of the best preserved barbicans in Europe. There are also some fine examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture to be found in the Old Town.

Kraków Główny

Kraków Główny the central railway station

St. Florian's Gate

St. Florian's Gate and its adjoining towers
are all that remains of the old city walls

Relief depicting Saint Florian on the gate tower

The Barbican a fortified outpost and gateway
was once connected to the city defence walls

The remaining walls have been restored with a covered gallery
that contains a display depicting the history of the fortifications

Digital reconstruction of the city fortifications around 1650

Foundations of the old city defence walls

Rynek Główny the largest medieval market square in Europe

The old Cloth Hall located in market square has been
a centre of trade in Kraków for hundreds of years

This Tower is all that remains of the old Town Hall

Model illustrating the original Town hall

Courtyard of the Collegium Maius which is the
oldest surviving university building in Poland

Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral

16th century Renaissance inner courtyard of Wawel Castle

I visited the old salt mine at Wieliczka which is located about 10 kilometres from Kraków. You need to allow about 3 hours for the guided tour which involves a 2½ kilometre walk through some of the oldest part of the mine. The route into the mine is down a wooden staircase and seems to go on forever. The rock salt which makes up the interior of the mine is grey in colour due to small amounts of impurities. It originated from the evaporation of an ocean millions of years ago. After the tour a lift brings you to the surface and you end up inside another building a short distance from where you entered the mine.

The entrance to the salt mine at Wieliczka

Chandelier with crystals made from purified rock salt

Figures carved out of a wall of rock salt


September 2012 - Dubrovnik, CROATIA 

I am on holiday staying near the old walled city of Dubrovnik. To avoid the crowds and the midday heat it is best to visit Dubrovnik early in the morning. A good viewpoint for the old city and surrounding area is from the summit of Mount Srđ easily accessible by cable car. For a closer view of the city there is a walkway along the top of the walls which takes about an hour to complete. The Placa or Stradun which is the main street of Dubrovnik is unusually wide for such an old city. The explanation is that originally the city was separated into two parts by the sea before the narrow channel was filled in and paved over to become the Placa.


View of Dubrovnik from Mount Srđ

Walkway on top of the walls of Dubrovnik

The seaward defences make use of the high coastal cliff

The Minčeta Tower

The Minčeta Tower is the highest point of the walls

On the walls of Dubrovnik

The Placa or Stradun is the main street of Dubrovnik

Steps from the Placa lead to the city walls

Onofrio's Fountain

Onofrio's Fountain

The Rector's Palace with loggia supported by columns

Semi-capital depicting Asclepius the god of medicine

Market in the centre of Dubrovnik where
you can sample the local produce

Cats feeding in the centre of Dubrovnik

The Ploče Gate

The Ploče Gate

The old port of Dubrovnik from which there is a frequent
ferry service to the nearby island of Lokrum

St. John Fortress protected the entrance to the port
(picture taken from the ferry to Lokrum)

Peacocks roam freely on Lokrum

"Maximillian's Tower" built by the Austrians in the centre of an old
Napoleonic fortress located at the highest point of the island

Rita near the beach just down the road from Grand Hotel Park

Steps from the promenade lead down to the sea

We visited the small city of Mostar located in Bosnia and Herzegovina which is a 2 hour drive from Dubrovnik although it took half an hour to get through the border crossing from Croatia. The city was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who guarded the 16th century Bridge that was destroyed in 1993 during the conflict following the dissolution of Yugoslavia. However, the bridge has now been rebuilt to its original design.

Mostar bridge

The reconstructed 16th century Ottoman bridge in Mostar

Mostar bridge

Crafts shop

Shop selling traditional crafts made from copper in the Old Bazaar


Blue Ridge Mountains, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon 

I am back in the United States of America again and have visited or driven through 11 States. The first weekend I stayed at Blowing Rock a small town located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The name of the town comes from the nearby so called 'Blowing Rock' an immense cliff overhanging Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below. A perpetual wind blowing up onto the Rock from the valley below is said to cause snow to fall upside down. Fortunately it was not snowing while I was there. Other nearby attractions include Grandfather Mountain (5,946 feet / 1,818 m) the highest peak in the Blue Ridge range and the 'Chimney Rock' is about 2 hours drive away.

The Blowing Rock

The Blowing Rock

Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway
traverses Grandfather Mountain's boulder field

Lichen growing on boulders

Umbilicaria mammulata

The lichen Umbilicaria mammulata (Rock Tripe)
growing on boulders near Linn Cove Viaduct

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

A paved road leads to one of Grandfather Mountain's
several peaks and the 'Mile-high Swinging Bridge'

The 'Mile-high Swinging Bridge'

Linville Peak on Grandfather Mountain

The 'Chimney Rock' in North Carolina

A series of steps leads to the top of 'Chimney Rock'

View of Lake Lure from the top of 'Chimney Rock'

I spent the second weekend in Los Angeles staying at the Metro Plaza Hotel only a 5 minute walk from Union Station. I took a FlyAway bus from the airport to Union Station - cost only $7 payable by credit card. The bus drops off at the back of Union Station so you have to walk through the station to get to the hotel. The hotel was conveniently located near the historic district of El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Chinatown. It was also easy to get to Hollywood Highland from Union Station using the Metro Red Line (cost $1-50).

Union Station in downtown LA

The Metro Plaza Hotel just across the road from Olvera Street

Olvera Street with its colourful market stalls

Avila Adobe the oldest house in Los Angeles built around 1818

The old Plaza Fire House (1884) has been restored
and converted into a museum

City Hall (1928) - the Daily Planet building in Superman

Interior of the Bradbury Building used as one of the
settings in the the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner

The Hollywood Sign viewed from the walkway of the
Babylon Gate in the Hollywood and Highland center

Grauman's Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hand and foot prints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Ripley's 'Believe It or Not' Odditorium

My final destination before returning home was Las Vegas. From Las Vegas I went on a coach trip to visit the Grand Canyon which also included taking a helicopter to the bottom of the canyon and boat ride on the Colorado River.

Reconstruction of the old Las Vegas adobe Mormon Fort

The Deuce bus runs from Fremont Street to
the south end of the Strip and back again

Replica of the Statue of Liberty on the Las Vegas Strip

The Venetian hotel and casino resort complete with gondoliers

Half size replica of the Eiffel Tower

Looking down from the observation deck in the
Eiffel Tower at 460 feet


Bellagio fountains from the observation deck

The Fremont Street Experience located in Downtown Las Vegas

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia)

A forest of Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia)
on the way to the Grand Canyon

View from Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon SkyWalk

The Grand Canyon SkyWalk has a glass floor
3,600 feet above the Colorado River

Eagle point

Eagle Point on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon

Eagle rock


Colorado river

There was a good view of the Colorado River from the helicopter

On the Colorado River

Hoover Dam of the Colorado River


March 2012 - Istanbul, TURKEY 

There is plenty to see in this historical city. I stayed at The President Hotel (Best Western) located in the old part of the city and close to the tram stop at Beyazit. The trams are very easy to use just buy a token (jeton) from a Jetonmatik machine to get through the turnstile leading to the platform. I took the metro from the airport getting off at Zeytinburnu, the 6th stop and then took the Eminönü tram to Beyazit. The total cost was only 4 TL for two jetons. From Beyazit it is two tram stops to get to Sultanahmet Square the site of the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople. Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Basillica Cistern all surround Sultanahmet Square and Topkapi Palace is only five minutes’ walk away.


Tokens from a jetonmatik allow you to use trams or the metro

Hotel sign

Direction sign for my hotel by the tram stop at Beyazit

View from hotel

View of the Sea of Marmara from the hotel balcony

The Hippodrome

Two obelisks and the Serpentine Column are the only surviving
monuments from the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople


The retaining wall at the southern end of the Hippodrome

The serpent column

The Serpentine Column

Base of the serpent column

The racetrack of the ancient Hippodrome was about
two metres below the present ground level

Blue mosque

The Blue Mosque


The interior tiled walls of the Blue Mosque

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern was an underground water storage facility


Inside the Basilica Cistern


At the far end of the Cistern two Medusa heads probably
taken from a nymphaeum were used as column bases

Topkapi Palace

The entrance to Topkapi Palace


Courtyard inside the Harem at Topkapi Palace


Courtyard of the Queen Mother


From the palace you can see the remains
of the seaward facing defensive walls


Cats in the palace grounds seem well fed

The aqueduct built by Valens

The aqueduct built (or restored) by Valens to bridge the valley
between the third and fourth hills of Constantinople

Theodosian walls

The Theodosian walls protected the city from attack by land

Gate of Charisius

The city gate where Mehmed II first entered the
conquered city is not far from Chora Church

Kariye museum

Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi)


Byzantine mosaic inside Chora Church


A trader outside Chora Church

Spice Bazaar

Inside the Spice Bazaar


A good selection of spices for sale


The Grand Bazaar is the oldest covered market in the world

To get a spectacular panoramic view of the old city cross the Galata Bridge by foot or tram and visit the Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) open daily from 09.00 in the morning. An elevator takes visitors to the 7th floor and then there are two flights of stairs to the observation balcony.


Panoramic view of the old city from the Galata Tower


Galata Bridge as seen from the Galata Tower


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