Posted by: travelrat | May 20, 2018


You may have noticed that, over the last few weeks, the ‘Sunday Budget’ has been missing. This is because Ailsa, at isn’t posting the ‘Travel Theme’ challenge any more; maybe she found her backpack, and is travelling again?

All is not lost, though. I recently came upon Ben Huberman’s The Daily Post, where he puts up a challenge every week. The good thing is, your post may be just a picture, or pictures. This week’s challenge is Liquid. So, here goes … Ben’s at

Liquid 1

Liquid 2

And, my favourite liquid:

Liquid 3

Posted by: travelrat | May 17, 2018

Travel With … or Without … a Camera?


I came across this sign about six years ago, in Adelaide. The web address led me to the site of Canon cameras … in which, since I’ve always used Nikons, I didn’t really take much interest. They did have a point; phone cameras in those days didn’t take very high quality pictures … or, mine didn’t, anyway. But, it did come in handy when you came upon something snappable, and didn’t have a camera handy.

By and large, though, I thought as most photographers did. Using your phone to take photographs was like putting your dirty plates in the microwave, and expecting it to wash them.

Not any more.

The built-in cameras on phones these days can take pictures just as good as a conventional camera can. At least, so they say. My phone at the moment is probably the only one in the free world that doesn’t take pictures. (and, unlike my last one, it doesn’t play The Ride of the Valkyries when I get a call, either) But, I do have a tablet, which I occasionally use to take pictures, which I can almost instantly upload to Instagram when I’m on the move.

That took a bit of getting used to, as well. Watching people waving computers, instead of cameras around, I mean. It seems that some folk have abandoned cameras altogether, and rely solely on their phones or tablets for pictures.

Which isn’t a problem, really. As a wise friend once said, it doesn’t really matter how you take the photo; the picture is the thing. ‘If someone bakes you a nice cake’ he said ‘you don’t ask what kind of oven they used’

As long as they don’t jump in front of me, waving their device around, while I’m trying to take a picture.


I took this with my tablet; I think as good as a pic taken with a conventional camera?


Posted by: travelrat | May 15, 2018



Vienna: 28th March 2018

‘Each stranger arriving at Vienna will be asked by a police officer, as soon as the train reaches the terminus, for his travelling pass, for which a certificate will be handed him, which binds him to enquire after the pass at the Police Office (Spenglergasse No. 264) within the twenty-four hours’  (George Bradshaw 1853)

On our way to Vienna, we passed through Slovakia. I don’t think we can count it among ‘countries visited’ because we didn’t go ashore … or even stop.  Times have changed since Bradshaw’s day; nobody demanded travelling passes, or issued any certificates.

Our City Tour of Vienna, where we arrived about midday was a little rushed; too much information in too short a time, I thought. The salient point was the Naschmarkt … it means ‘tasting market’, and that’s just what you do; we tasted pancakes with apricot jam. We also tasted cheese, which was excellent and had some wine, which fell into the category ‘Not bad, but I wouldn’t cross town especially to look for it’. Then followed a rather confusing medley of ornate and stately buildings, most of them designed, inhabited or at least associated with the great and the good of Austria.

The Hofburg

At the Hofburg Palace, we got a little peep into the stables of the Spanish Riding School. You’d need to book well in advance, (and, presumably, pay a pretty fair wedge) to get into the School itself, and see the horses in action. But, we did see one of the horses, peering over the stable door.

We finished the tour at St Stephen’s Cathedral … a bit disappointing inside, but Gothic and imposing on the outside …  although it was partially covered in scaffolding.

Maybe it’s unfair to make a judgement on so short a visit, but my reading in the past (mainly novels!!) gave me the impression that it was a sort of ‘if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ sort of place … and I didn’t really see anything to contradict that impression.

Carriage, Vienna

That evening, at dinner, one of the choices for dessert was the famed Sachertorte. Really, it’s just chocolate sponge cake, coated with chocolate and with an apricot jam filling; very nice, but I just don’t see what all the hype was about.


Posted by: travelrat | May 10, 2018

Selfies and Stuff

I have often said that, if I ever murder anyone, the victim will probably be clutching a selfie stick. I first had this thought at the Salto de Petrohue last year, when, due to the narrowness of the walkway, I found it very hard to get a decent shot of the falls, and the Fuji-like Mount Osorno beyond, without someone waving these pesky things about. The oft-repeated advice to ‘clear your viewfinder’ took much longer, and I nearly missed the coach!

Now, people who know me will almost certainly call me out on this … because I have one. However, I prefer to call it an ‘extension wand’, and use it mainly to get my GoPro into places other cameras cannot reach.

But, I do … very occasionally … take selfies. Long before the word was coined, there was the one of the reflection of myself in a bus window, with a Sydney street scene beyond. Then, there were the ‘deliberate’ ones, of my reflection in the Ombrière in Marseilles, and at the ‘Mall’s Balls’ in Adelaide.

And, here’s the latest one. I don’t know how I did it; in fact, I don’t even remember taking the picture. I was using my tablet, and may have inadvertently pressed a button without intending to.

But, it does prove one thing. Despite anything the guide books say to the contrary … the Danube IS blue … sometimes!!


Posted by: travelrat | May 8, 2018

Budapest Video

St Stephen's Cathedral

Budapest: 27th March 2018

One of the disadvantages of cruising, be it ocean or river, is that you don’t really spend long enough at your ports of call to really get into the place. It’s best to treat it as a sort of sampler; if you like the place, you can maybe plan to come back and have a deeper visit at a later date. It also carries, though, a sort of corresponding advantage. If you don’t like the place, you’re out of it in a few hours, and haven’t wasted the whole holiday.

Budapest falls into the first category; somewhere we’d like to spend a little longer. Even though our visit was only a little longer than the accompanying video!

Music: “Airship Serenity” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


Posted by: travelrat | May 3, 2018

River Cruising

River Cruise 2

We’ve cruised on some of the world’s great rivers; the Nile, Australia’s Murray and China’s Yangtze … and, most recently, on the Danube and the Rhine. They’re as different to each other as river cruising is to ocean cruising; there’s just no comparison.

Even the boats are different. The Murray Princess was a stern-wheel paddle boat, the Egyptian boats have internal paddle wheels, and were reputed to be able to sail on a heavy dew. Our European boat had external, steerable pods; whether or not this is general, I can’t say.

One thing most of the European boats have in common is they’re mainly low, slim and long ships, carrying no more than 100-150 passengers. They’re restricted in height because of the bridges they have to negotiate, and in beam because of the locks they frequently encounter.

One main difference between the river and ocean cruises is that the river cruises are fairly port-intensive. There’s usually a stop every day, and often, the day’s excursion is included in your fare. Also, there’s plenty of time in which to do your own thing, or maybe take part in some of the ‘optional extra’ excursions on offer.

The rest of the time, you can just sit on the deck, or in the lounge, and watch the scenery glide past. You can even sit in your own cabin, for all cabins have windows.

Another difference is that it’s not such a disaster if you miss your ship. It might be possible to get a train or a bus to your next stop. Indeed, one guide told us how he’d once put his clients in a taxi, and they caught the ship at the next lock, only about 5 kilometres away.

Our cruise on the Travelmarvel Jewel started at Budapest, and sailed all the way to Amsterdam. Before 1992, this wouldn’t have been possible, for, on that date, the Rhine-Main-Danube canal was completed, and, for the first time, boats could sail over the watershed dividing the Danube from the Rhine/Main.

So, we’re going to see a lot of places, and experience a lot of things. I was expecting a sort of water-borne ‘If today is Tuesday, this must be Brussels’ coach tour. But, things happened at far too leisurely a pace for that.

River Cruise 1

Posted by: travelrat | May 1, 2018

Budapest Slide Show

Budapest Panorama

Budapest: 27th March 2018

A useful thing to have on the cruise was the ‘Vox boxes’ loaned to each passenger. I’ve written about these before; it’s a little radio receiver, with an earpiece, and the guide talks into the transmitter in his or her normal voice.

It means you don’t have to cluster around the guide, straining to hear what is said … and, more importantly for me is I can wander round looking for good photographic viewpoints, and still hear the commentary.

I also look for angles which exclude beer-bellies, baseball caps and selfie sticks; all things which spoil many a good travel photograph.

I think I found them here?

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Posted by: travelrat | April 26, 2018

The Peruvian Hat

Chullo 2

Just about everywhere you go in Peru, you’ll find a stall selling knitwear. It’s good quality stuff, too, usually handmade, from alpaca wool, and dyed in bright colours. The item that most visitors by to take home is the chullo, that woollen hat with earflaps, which is great for keeping the cold out, especially in the heights of the Andes.

No, I didn’t buy one. I have plenty of watch caps, woolly hats, toques or Benny hats … call them what you will … even a fake-fur Russian style hat for when it gets really cold. Also, I suspect I’d look a bit of a plonker in one.

But, I did come away with one. While we were waiting for our flight home at Lima Airport, a lady approached with a clipboard, and asked us if we minded answering a few questions for a survey collecting visitors’ impressions of Peru.

Well, we didn’t have much else to do, and, at the end of it, she rewarded us with a keyring with a miniature chullo on the fob. And, as a reminder of our stay in Peru, this now hangs on my backpack.

Chullo 1

Posted by: travelrat | April 24, 2018

Exploring Budapest

MS Travelmarvel Jewel, Budapest

Budapest: 27th March 2018

This morning, we did the City Tour. It was rather rushed, for our ship sailed at 12.30, and we wished we could have stayed longer. Nevertheless, we did see Heroes Square, with its imposing statuary.

Heroes Square

We also saw the Parliament Building, which we’d seen lit up on our short cruise the previous night, and of which they’re rightly proud.  The architect of the Margaret Bridge, which stands slightly upstream, said the views of the building from his bridge was the best he’d ever seen.

We also admired the St. Mathias church, from both outside and inside. This church was rebuilt in 1866 for the coronation of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1867.

We’ve already met Elisabeth … better known as ‘Sisi’, when we visited her palace in Corfu last year. We heard a lot more about her life and times here; it seems she loved Hungary, and the Hungarians loved her. They’ve named one of the bridges across the Danube in her honour. However, we heard a totally different view of her in Austria, later!

We took in the views of the city from the nearby Fishermen’s Bastion. This was designed by the same architect who designed St Mathias Church, and was named after the fishermen once responsible for the defence of this stretch of the river. In its present form, though, it has nothing to do with defence, and is just a lookout giving a superb panorama of the Danube far below.

Fishermen's Bastion

Equally good are the views from the former Royal Palace, next door to which lies the President’s house, guarded by immaculately uniformed and immobile soldiers. These buildings can be seen from the ship … and so, they also gave a super view of it.

Guard at the Presidential Palace

Posted by: travelrat | April 20, 2018

Sacred Valley Slide Show

The Sacred Valley

‘If I had the words to describe what I see, I wouldn’t need to take pictures’

I haven’t been able to find out who wrote these words, but, whoever it was is probably better with words than I am. So, here are some pictures from Peru’s Sacred Valley.

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