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The Other Spanish Steps - Dubrovnik

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In the Old Town of Dubrovnik, tucked away from the Stradun, or main street which runs from the  Pilé Gate with its nearby Franciscan Monastery at one end of the town to the Plôce Gate at the other, stand a set of stairs reminiscent of Rome's Spanish Steps.

I shouldn't have been surprised, for this is a corner of Rome in Dubrovnik. The steps were deigned by the Roman architect Pietro Passalasqua in the 18th C. Fortunately, there are not as many steps as in Rome, and they were far less crowded.

At their top stand the Jesuit Church of St Ignatius, dating from 1658, modelled after the Jesuit mother church in Rome, Chiesa del Gesu. It is a simple, sparse, elegant church, and holds Dubrovnik's oldest bell (1355).


Another point of note: from the top of the stairs, turn left into a lane running along the wall, walk right along the lane, and follow the sign pointing to cold drinks. Climb through a hole in the wall, and you'll be rewarded with a cafe (appropriately named Bûza, …

You Know You're In Hong Kong....

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You know you're in Hong Kong, when the street are made of stairs, and stalls fill the narrow lane ways.
When the streets are crowded with shoppers, and signs in Cantonese hang over the footpath.
When mini vans replace buses because the streets are so narrow and steep, and every shop you pass offers a bargain too good to refuse.
Hong Kong. One of my favourite places to visit.



10 Photos of One Day in Bruges

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Bruges, Brugges, Brugge? I saw the town spelt many ways, as many as the languages spoke here. As always when travelling, never enough time - but here are some suggestions of 10 things to see and do, which will at least hopefully inspire a visit.




i) Explore Her Canals

To walk along her canals is to discover the medieval heart of Bruges. The town grew on trade, and her waterways gave her access to trading ports.

Now the canals are lines with gracious houses and picturesque bridges; white swans drifts by, and the sun plays upon the water. Boat tours (with a commentary in multiple languages, naturally) offer an ideal way to see this town from the water.




ii) Visit Sint-Janshospitaal

Dating from the 12th century, Sint-Janshospitaal is Europe’s oldest preserved hospital, and was still being used up until 1978. Now it is a museum of the world of medieval medicine, with even the apothecary and herb garden remaining.

And not to be missed: 6 masterpieces from the most famous of the Flemmish Primitiv…

Umbrellas in Pietrasanta

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I knew I would love Pietrasanta as soon as the train pulled into the station. My train was crowded with holiday makers journeying to the Cinque Terra; my daughter and I were the only ones to alight.
One platform, two tracks. The land of Tuscany spreading around us.

Perfect.





I've always equated trains with holidays. I rarely catch trains (or any public transport) when I'm at home, for the service is simply shocking. Much easier to drive. Trains are for finding Assisi, being stranded somewhere unknown in Japan, or speeding away from Paris to find delights such as Bruges or ponder the paradox of time in Mont St. Michel.




Umbrellas, too, seem to be part of my recent travels. I never take one with me, yet I found them in a revolution in Hong Kong, and now hundreds of them hung above the streets of Pietrasanta, giving some welcome shade from the scorching summer sun.





Pietrasanta is a small Tuscan town, hidden from most tourists as the best places usually are. The old town is pedest…

10 Things To See in Hoi An - in Photos

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Hoi An, Vietnam - a UNESCO listed city, stunning countryside, gentle people. Fantastic food, a French influence, unique buildings, shopping, rivers, beaches and gentle rice paddies. What is not to love here?
Here are some things I found in a recent visit, beyond those listed in the guidebooks.




The Thu Bon River runs through the centre of Hoi An dividing the Old Town from newer developments. Yet the countryside itself is full of rivers and waterways - they are life blood of this area, which has for centuries used them for trading.



China Beach was a popular retreat for Allied soldiers during the Vietnam War. These large baskets are traditional fishing boats - the shape meant they were not classified as boats, and so the owners avoid paying tax. (As a side note, I found the beaches a bit boring. But then I'm Australian, and incredibly spoilt in that way.)




Escape to the countryside, away from the crowds of tourists. Rice paddies stretch in all directions, fed by the many rivers. Rema…

Some Things Not To Miss In Prague - In Photos

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I've yet to meet anyone who didn't enjoy Prague. Not only is the city stunningly beautiful, it's walkable, has fantastic food, and I found something delightful to find at every turn.

Yet I had trouble relating what I read in the guidebook to what I saw around me. I read and walked in two different worlds. Perhaps because there was so much to see; perhaps because I kept getting distracted by things which books and blogs failed to mention.



An important thing to savour in Prague is the food. The food in the first restaurant I tried was delicious (recommendation of the stewardess on the flight); I can't imagine anyone eating badly here. From duck to boar to fish; steins of beer, local wine, street food, soups, desserts, cakes, coffee; enjoy!



The area around the castle is a world of on it's own; simply from reading I never quite appreciated how seperate the castle was to the town. I arrived just on opening - this gave me ample time to see the place before it became clu…

The Mud of Rotorua

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Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

I stood in the midst of a barren lunar landscape. The whole earth seemed to be bubbling and steaming. Pools of bubbling mud were all around, and sulphurous fumes filled the air. Many of the rocks were stained yellow.


At dawn I'd watched as the boat navigated New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. Yesterday had passed circling Mount White, watching the volcano's steam and smoke rise into the air. Now the boat had docked at Mount Maunganui, home to perhaps the best beach in NZ. From my deck I could see the trails winding up The Mount as the little calls often call it. I like the Maori, Macao, which translates as ‘caught by the dawn’. Unlike Mount White, this volcano is extinct, and several historical pa sites (or villages) have been built here.

Rotorua is an active volcanic area. In the town itself, geysers and steam erupt in back yards; houses occasionally disappear. At first the stench of sulphur tainted everything, but soon I barely noticed it. The pools are of …