Posted by: travelrat | April 27, 2015

Reed Flute Caves

EL Reed Flute Caves_copy

Guilin: 20th May 2014

We made a couple of calls on the way to the airport to catch our flight to Shanghai. First, we went to the Pearl Museum, where they told us about the cultivation of freshwater and saltwater pearls. And, of course, it was more than a museum. There’s a gift shop, too. My advice here is to leave your credit cards on the coach. I didn’t … but, hopefully, the purchases we made will enable us to cross Broome off the list for next time we visit Australia.

Then … more steps! Sometimes, I think you must have to climb steps to visit every tourist attraction in China. These ones led to the Reed Flute Caves, so called because of the reeds from which flutes were made, which once grew here.

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Inside were more steps … up and down … which led to imposing limestone formations and underground lakes. A particular attraction is called ‘Shanghai Skyline’, which does resemble a city skyline under the light.

On the way to the airport, we passed a brown sign, pointing the way to Xanadu! And, ‘Alph, the sacred river’ could have run under any of these limestone mountains.

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Posted by: travelrat | April 24, 2015

Guadeloupe

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Guadeloupe 14h March 2015

 

We were looking forward to Guadeloupe, as we’d already had a foretaste with the excellent TV series Death in Paradise. In the event, we didn’t do much but laze around the hotel. There’s plenty of stuff on offer, but it’s mainly fairly energetic, and, after yesterday, we didn’t really feel like any of it. We weren’t too sure about how to get there either, for our hotel is well away from a lot of the fun stuff.  Maybe, if we’d inquired, we might have found something might be organised from the hotel. But, really, we just wanted a quiet, relaxing day.

It’s probably a regular port of call for Costa Cruises … the Costa Fortuna sailed the previous night; today, we were able to watch the arrival of the Costa Magica, and our own ship, the Costa Mediterranea, would arrive the following morning.

'Costa Magica' at Guadeloupe

The hotel was located on the Point de Verdure, but there’s not much ‘verdure’ around these days. There’s still a faint marshy smell around, for this was once a mangrove swamp. Not much of it remains, though. Although there are still some plants alive, most of it is a jungle of bleached-white skeletal stems. I passed a sewage outlet pipe in my wanderings; maybe this has something to do with it?

Mostly, the area is given over to hotels and a casino — I did venture out to look for batteries for my MP3 player, but searched in vain for a supermarket.

But, in the midst of it all was a simple wooden shack, where one of the local craftsmen sold his wares — hats and novelties made from woven palm fronds.

Although we weren’t too impressed with the little we saw … apart from the hotel’s beach, we did understand there’s much more to see and do. Next time, though, we’ll stay somewhere more central for a longer time, and rent a car or something.

And, we’ll look for a better flight than the bum-numbing XL Airways.

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Posted by: travelrat | April 17, 2015

ESTA

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Let me say at the start that this is in no way a rant about the ‘System’, but rather advice for non-US citizens planning a cruise which calls at a port in the United States.

To enter the United States, you need a visa … or, an ESTA … the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. You can apply for this online, at https://esta/cbp.dhs.gov In England, it costs £14, and it would be easy to think that spending that amount for a four-hour excursion wasn’t really worth it, and you’d stay on the ship.

But, it doesn’t work like that … you still need ESTA!! The reason is, on arrival at Miami, whether disembarking, going on an excursion or just remaining aboard, you MUST get off the ship and go through the formalities, while the authorities ‘clear’ the ship.

And, you need to print out the confirmation. Several people got caught out here, for nowhere in the documentation received from the cruise line or the State Department did it specifically state this … or if it did, it’s buried deep in the small print somewhere. But, I printed it out anyway, but not everyone did. So, there was quite a scramble for printers before boarding in Guadeloupe. One lady was even refused permission to board the cruise because she couldn’t get a printout in time.

In actual fact, the immigration procedure was not the hassle I’d feared; we passed through fairly painlessly. But, when we returned from our excursion, we had to wait 45 minutes before being allowed to re-board the ship, for the authorities were still ‘clearing’ it.

Bottom line … Get that ESTA and print it out. And, I have to say, the airboat ride through the Everglades to see the alligators made it well worth it!  

Posted by: travelrat | April 15, 2015

Li River Video

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With all the to-ing and fro-ing lately, and trying to sort out a mountain of ‘cruise stuff’ in between, I nearly forgot I still have some posts to make from the China trip last year. Last time … it seems years ago … I put up video of the cormorant fishing. Here it is again, tacked on to the footage of the Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo.

As you can see, the weather wasn’t the best, but I think it added a certain atmosphere to the film.

Posted by: travelrat | April 13, 2015

The Flight Out

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Crawley: 12th March 2015

 

We started the trip here, in a pleasant corner of Surrey at a hotel called ‘The Little Foxes’ near Gatwick Airport. We selected this one because we had an early start, and, for a very modest fee,  they would look after our car while we were away.

 

In fact, the hotel itself – pleasant as it is – seems to be situated in the midst of a vast car park. So, there’s not much to do around here except to walk around said car park. Walking down the road is not advised, because it’s rather busy, and there’s no footway.

 

However, it probably wasn’t a good idea to start the trip proper on Friday 13th! The short flight to Paris, by EasyJet, went fairly well, and the XL Airways flight to Guadeloupe took off only half an hour late. But, it wasn’t the most pleasant flight I’ve ever been on. XL Airways is essentially a budget line, most of which are alright for short European hops, but doesn’t really provide the level of comfort you’d expect on a transatlantic flight.

 

It’s like comparing a National Express coach with the bus I’d ride into town; I certainly wouldn’t like to ride to Edinburgh in the latter. However, the main attraction of this package was the extremely low price; it would seem Flights and Packages, the operators, picked the least expensive deals they could find.

 

The meal provided wasn’t the best ever, either. Just pasta in a herby tomato sauce, that I could have whipped up myself for less than a pound.

 

When we arrived at Guadeloupe, the wheels really came off. The Costa Fortuna was sailing that night, and passengers for that had been told to put labels with the ship’s name on their suitcases , so their luggage could be identified, and sent directly to the ship. But, they took everything with a Costa label.

 

So, we had to wait in the bus for nearly an hour for everyone to be reunited with their luggage, and the bus to get on its way. But, when we reached the airport exit, we found the barrier down, and the security guy gone home for the night … but soon, the Costa rep summoned a few friends, and dealt with it by the application of a little ‘brute force and ignorance’!

Posted by: travelrat | April 11, 2015

Back Home Again

Guadeloupe to Trieste in 29 days! I’ll start posting about it as soon as I’ve dealt with the backlog of washing, email, gardening …. etc. etc.

Posted by: travelrat | March 31, 2015

Tenerife

After six days… land, sunshine and WiFi. I think I’ve got my will to live back!

Posted by: travelrat | March 24, 2015

St Maarten

Back at St Maarten. Will be offline for a week till we get to Tenerife.

Posted by: travelrat | March 21, 2015

Bahamas

Enjoying a great kebab and a beer at Least Med, Port Lucaya in the Bahamas

Posted by: travelrat | March 16, 2015

Still in Contact

Quick hello from Sint Maarten. Just been underwater in the semi-submersible

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