Category Archives: Travel

Cuba Round Up

What photo takes you right back to Cuba?

Trinidad Plaza MayorCuba’s architecture was a highlight for us and the colonial Plaza Mayor in Trinidad was a great example

How much does it cost to travel in Cuba?

Excluding our return flights from the UK, we spent £3,165 during our 45 days in Cuba – a daily average of £70.35 for two people (remarkably close to our two year trip budget!). The Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is pegged to the US dollar and the average exchange rate that we got in April/May 2016 was CUC$1 = £0.73.

We took the majority of our money in cash – either GBP or Euros are exchanged everywhere, US dollars have a 10% exchange surcharge so I wouldn’t recommend carrying those. Some money exchanges rejected notes which had writing on or were torn, but in the end we had them all accepted – the offices in more touristy cities (Havana, Trinidad) seemed to be less fussy. At the end of the trip we had to withdraw some cash on our credit card and discovered that Cuban ATMs don’t accept Mastercard (I think Visa is fine) and so we had to get an over the counter cash advance which was charged to our card in US dollars and hence was subject to the 10% surcharge.

Cuba expenses pie chart

Cuba budget info

  • We stayed in casa particulars (guesthouses) for every night of our stay, except one night spent in the shelter on Pico Turquino. The rate was a pretty consistent CUC$25 per night (room only) across the country except in Havana and Varadero where we paid CUC$30).
  • It’s not really possible to exist solely on street food in Cuba and so, in addition to taking breakfast in our casa particular (CUC$5 each) we often had dinner there as well which cost CUC$8-10 each. Restaurant meals were comparably priced though Havana was often much more expensive and we found that high prices rarely translated into high quality.
  • We found both the Viazul and Cubanacan intercity bus services to be a comfortable and reasonably priced way to get around the country.
  • Within cities we tended to walk everywhere so the relatively high spend for local transportation is taxis to and from bus stations which we found to be quite expensive (possibly because the scarcity of cars pushes up the price but no doubt we were charged tourist prices as well). This category also contains a few day trips that we took by taxi as there was no public transport option available.
  • Visas – we paid CUC$25 each to extend our 30 day tourist card (included in the cost of our flight) for another month.

Summarise Cuba in three words.

  • Dilapidated – from the buildings to the classic cars, it seems like a lot of Cuba has been barely maintained since the Revolution in 1959
  • Rum – made from the sugar cane which generated early wealth for Cuba, the national drink is everywhere and the base of many a cocktail!
  • Music – upbeat and very danceable, Cuba’s musical heritage is rich

You really know you’re in Cuba when…

.. your taxi is a 30 year old Russian model that needs a jump start!

What one item should you definitely pack when going to Cuba?

Plenty of patience for all the queues you’ll have to wait in – to exchange money, in shops, at the bus station…

Cars and transport of Cuba: a photo essay

Before we arrived in Cuba we wondered how common the classic 1940s and ’50s American cars would be, given that the newest would be 57 years old by now and their maintenance would have been severely hampered by post-Revolution trade embargoes. The fuel shortages during the Special Period of the 1990s meant many vehicles sat unused as people took to bicycles and public transport.

However, we soon learned that the resourceful Cubans have worked miracles to keep so many of them running, their tough life evident in a patchwork of dints, bumps, scrapes, makeshift repairs and resprays which only added to the charm, and complemented the dilapidation of their surroundings.

Classic American 1950s green Ford, Camagüey, Cuba

The thing we noticed most was the size of the classic American cars – they’re huge!

Close up of the rear light cluster, green Ford, Camagüey

The modest tail fin puts this Ford in the mid to late 1950s, when pointed tailfins and chrome were the futuristic fashion – America was in the Space Race with the USSR at the time

White 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Coupe

At first glance, this de-badged 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Coupe looked abandoned

Bright red and white interior of the white 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Coupe

But its bright red interior and new seats mean someone’s looking after it and it’s slowly being restored

Green 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan sitting on stilts and covered in dust

Unlike this 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan, which is how I imagined I would see a lot of the cars in Cuba; up on stilts, patiently waiting for its owner’s fortunes to change

1921 Ford Model T, Trinidad

The oldest car we saw was this 1921 Ford Model T Touring which sadly doesn’t work anymore and sits in the back of a pottery factory in Trinidad

Big black Lincoln Premiere, Varadero

The largest ‘sedan’ we saw was this monstrous late 1950s Lincoln Premiere – even the 2-door version sits 6 people!

Colourful bicycle taxis lined up in Bici-taxis in Camagüey

Many people took to cycling as their mode of transport in during the economic crisis known as the Special Period and “bici-taxis” or bicycle taxis are still a popular form of employment and transport today. They typically have a simple roof providing shelter from the sun and the rain, but we loved the unique design and colourful artwork on these bici-taxis in Camagüey

CoCo Taxi, Havana

Slightly larger than a bici-taxi and unique to Cuba are CoCo-taxis, small motorised vehicles that get their name because they resemble the shape of a coconut

Viazul bus, Cuba

We’ve written about a few of our public transport experiences, such as taking a bench-seat passenger truck from Baracoa to Moa, a Pontiac colectivo from Moa to Holguin, and a ‘camion’ or converted truck which was pretty much standing room only! For the longer distances we usually used the Viazul coaches for the comfort of the seats and the air conditioning (which was a bit too cold sometimes, even for me!). There’s a rival service called Cubanacan which runs between Havana, Viñales and Trinidad and we’d recommend them as their pick-up and drop-off locations are more central than the Viazul stations

We made use of private taxis for bus station transfers and the odd half-day excursion. Typically they’d be Ladas which were pretty common on the roads of every Cuban city we visited. I’d say about half of them had been modified, sporting huge drain-pipe or even sewer-pipe sized exhausts!

3 1970's Lada cars parked in a street in Camagüey

Lovely examples of the more original, unmodified Ladas we saw. From front to back, I think they’re an AvtoVAZ VAZ-2103 (exported from Serbia as the Lada 1500); It’s precursor and first AvtoVAZ car the VAZ-2101 (Lada 1200/1300); and the yellow one at the back is likely an earlier revision still, as it more closely resembles the car the other 2 are based on, the Fiat 124. 3 generations in a street!

Russian Kamaz truck, Camagüey

Familiar to us from our travels in Russia is the Russian brand Kamaz. We saw plenty of their trucks on the main roads

There are mechanical garage services like we have here in the UK, but we also saw a bit of roadside maintenance being carried out in the street too..

Inside the boot of a classic 1950's American car in Old Havana, propped open and full of tools

An advantage of a huge car is the boot can hold all the tools for an owner’s workshop, like this one in a back street in Havana’s Old Town

Resprayed

We also saw a couple of chassis that had been stripped and resprayed, though I’m not sure this particular shade was one of the manufacture’s original swatches..

The result of the restorations are amazing – even though we were in Cuba for 6 weeks, we never tired of looking at them and we never saw two cars exactly alike either..

Metallic Blue 1950's Chevrolet Bel Air

A 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air 2-door Hardtop in a lovely metallic baby-blue

Metallic red 1950's Chevrolet

And a slightly newer Bel Air Sport Sedan from 1957. Chevrolet was the most common marque of classic car we saw in Cuba, which isn’t surprising given how popular they were in 50s and 60s America

Unsurprisingly, the cars in the best condition were to be found nearest the tourist money in Havana and Varadero. We found that the main road along the Varadero peninsula was ideal for classic car spotting..

Bright Pink Pontiac, Varadero

A two-tone pink and white Pontiac

Blue 1950's Mercedes-Benz W120

There were very few non-American classics from the 1950s, but we did spot this Mercedes-Benz W120

Oldsmobile 98 Second Generation, Holguin

We spotted this near pristine Oldsmobile 98 sitting in a back street in Holguin. It looked even better when the sun came out!

Ford Fairlane 500

I really liked seeing the whitewall tyres, and they’re a lovely complement to the paintwork on this beautiful Ford Fairlane 500

Line of classic cars in San Martin, Havana

And speaking of paintwork, there was always a line up of gleaming, vibrant motorcars at the end of Parque Central opposite the Gran Teatro de la Habana

Sunset on the Malecón

Havana’s Malecón was another great place to spot cars as it’s on the itinerary of all the classic car tours

Curiousities of Cuba

All countries have their peculiarities, little things that make us smile, frown or both at the same time. Noticing them is one of the things that, on good days, makes travel fun. On less good days they might make us want to pack up and go home where everything makes sense and buying a bottle of water or a stamp really will just take a minute. Here are some of the curiosities we found during our travels in Cuba.

  1. Classic cars really are everywhere and really are used by normal people though a fair few have had immaculate overhauls and are now used as tourist taxis. For general range we loved wandering the streets of Holguin, but for a parade of museum worthy beauties check out the main street in Varadero or Parque Central in Havana.
    Classic carHavana’s Malecon is another great place for classic car spotting
  2. Cuba operates a dual currency system with the convertible peso (CUC) which is pegged to the US dollar, and the national peso (MN) of which there are 25 in each CUC. As far as we can tell this dual system results in three things – first to extract extra money from foreigners, second to make scamming said foreigners particularly easy (the notes for the two currencies look very similar and both are commonly refered to as ‘peso’), third to create inequalities in the society between those who have CUCs (usually those who work in the tourist industry) and those who don’t. It was much more confusing than other countries we’ve visited which run two currencies (Cambodia and Uzbekistan spring to mind where the US dollar is commonly used alongside the national currency). In Cuba we carried two purses to try to minimise any mistakes. As you can tell we’re pretty critical of the dual currency system which seemed to have only downsides.
    BanknotesPoster showing convertible peso notes on the left and national pesos on the right – similar, no? The easiest way we found to tell them apart was that the CUCs have pictures of monuments and the MN notes have pictures of historic figures.
  3. Women of all ages and shapes tend to dress in head-to-toe lycra, or if they work in an office or have a uniform they wear an extremely short tight skirt and fishnet tights, again regardless of age or size.
  4. Queues are an inevitable part of life for Cubans and even as a tourist you should get used to it. Many things take longer than it seems they ought to including money exchange (all notes are scrutinised meticulously and counted at least three times), and shops will hold a queue at the door if they think there are too many people inside. Note that the queue is not a line and the correct etiquette is to ask ‘el ultimo?’ (the last?) when you arrive then you only need to remember who is directly before you.
    Queuing in CubaWaiting in the ‘outside’ queue of the money exchange office in Baracoa before being admitted to the ‘inside’ queue and finally a very slow cashier
  5. Shops are very strange – local (national peso) shops selling dry goods etc are very cheap and look extremely sparsely stocked (there’s a chain called Ideal Market which always made us laugh because it definitely doesn’t look to be ideally stocked), CUC shops seem better stocked but are still very limited in their selection (we more than once had to go to three shops to find a 5L bottle of water). Although a limited range of basics (rice, beans, sugar, veg, etc.) are cheap, anything slightly ‘luxury’ is expensive (e.g. crisps, toiletries).
    National peso shopA national peso shop
  6. Acrylic nails are a big thing among Cuba’s women and we often saw ladies sporting unfeasibly long nails decorated with flashy bright designs and studded with fake jewels.
  7. Ice cream parlours are very popular and unbelievably cheap (so much so that we couldn’t believe that prices were in national pesos the first time we went). They are nice cafes or outdoor patios with table service – one scoop of ice cream will generally cost about 3 pesos so that a slice of cake with two scoops might be around £0.20! It’s not quite Italian gelato but the ice cream’s pretty nice. A very affordable and addictive afternoon pit stop!
    Cake and ice creamCake, two scoops of ice cream, sauce and a swirl of marshmallow fluff – not bad for £0.20!
  8. Weekly fumigation of all buildings is mandatory in Cuban cities and we often saw men in what looked like military fatigues carrying around engines with long smoking pipes. On the plus side it means that it is very unusual to see mosquitoes (in the cities anyway) and it’s not necessary to use repellant. On the other hand we were concerned about the potential adverse health effects of the insecticide settling inside homes for all residents, but especially for the fumigation teams who for the most part didn’t even wear masks never mind full hazmat suits.
  9. If you buy anything from a national peso shop or stand then the best you will be offered for carrying is a small piece of paper or cardboard to hold the food if it is intended to be eaten straightaway and might be messy (e.g. pizza, cake). For fruit and veg or even bread from the bakery you need to take your own shopping bag. We saw carrier bags hanging to dry on washing lines and even washed a couple ourselves!
    No bags at the bakeryBread bun and jam tart lunch in Santiago carried away from the bakery in hand
  10. Bars and cafes with long opening hours often stop serving for an hour at the end of the afternoon. We came across this twice, if you already have a drink then you can stay at your table but they won’t serve anything else during the hour. We couldn’t work out if it was to give the staff a rest or to cash up the till partway through the day or some other less obvious reason. I was especially confused when we tried to go to an ice cream cafe in Moron and asked if it was closed and the waitress kept repeating ‘no, it’s not closed’ but then wouldn’t serve us!
  11. Payphones are common in Cuba and we often saw people using them.
    Payphones
  12. Cuba was one of the most difficult countries we’ve visited for internet access. Basically internet is tightly regulated though we as far as we could tell no websites were blocked. Major squares and big hotels have wi-fi available but you need to buy access cards to log on. These cost CUC$3 (£2.10) each for one hour’s access and so we decided to pretty much live without internet for our stay and actually it wasn’t so bad – even Andrew managed! One thing I missed was the ability to go on Tripadvisor to check restaurant reviews as finding good food wasn’t easy. Locals seem to mostly use the internet for video calls and in the evenings the squares are full of families crowding around a smartphone or tablet.
    Internet usage in CubaCubans using the public wi-fi in a square in Camagüey
  13. In much the same way that Geordies will greet you with ‘all right?’ (or more likely ‘alreet?’), Cubans ask ‘todo bien?’ – literally ‘all good?’
  14. Cuba is a country without advertising, instead walls and billboards display countless portraits of Che Guevara and propaganda messages – sort of like political motivation posters. In recent years, Cubans have been able to sell property but there aren’t any estate agents, instead we saw lots of hand written ‘this house is for sale’ notices pinned up as we walked the streets.
    Political murals in CubaPolitical murals in Cuba (clockwise from top left): the ever present Che; national symbols; “Youth is only a moment, but contains a spark that leads into the heart forever”
  15. Hostels don’t exist in Cuba and the impression we get is that the lower end hotels don’t offer very good value for money. So unless you can afford a five star resort (and want the insulation from the outside world that brings), the best places to stay are casas particular – state licensed guesthouses. We found them to be friendly and good value for money – standards of cleanliness are high and every room came with hot water and AC though some of the beds were less comfortable than I would have liked.
    Casa particular signsCasa particulars are easy to spot as they display this blue symbol outside. There always seemed to be far more available than the number of tourists that we saw around town
  16. Despite the fact that there are A LOT of tourists, surprisingly few people speak English. Several of the casas where we stayed didn’t speak any English so it’s a good idea to practice your Spanish before you visit or prepare for conversations by dictionary.
  17. As not much development has happened since the late 1950s many architectural features which elsewhere might have been lost are still there to see in Cuba . Although much of it is in a poor state of repair many buildings (including several of the casas where we stayed) still have beautiful early 20th century tiled floors and ridiculously high ceilings.
    Tiled floorsBeautiful tiled floors in our casa in Santa Clara
  18. In several of the restaurants where we ate, when the waiting staff came to set the table they lifted the paper napkins from the tray with tongs before placing them in front of us. It tickled me to think that there was any possibility that the napkin had never been touched by human hand – sadly we never saw the tray-loading taking place so can’t confirm that they’re removed from the packet and placed on the tray with tongs as well – somehow I doubt it…
  19. Although much of the country is at least nominally Catholic as you might expect from an ex-Spanish colony, if you know what to look for it’s easy to spot signs of Santeria, the religion which is a fusion of Catholic saint worship and African animism. This arose when the the large slave population had to at least put up a pretence of being Christian. Initiates have to dress all in white for one year and the representations of saints/gods are not hard to find.
    Santeria altarOne morning at breakfast we noticed that a Santeria altar had appeared in the living room of our casa in Varadero – you can see the representations of the gods in front of the bright pots
  20. Music is ever present in Cuba. Bici-taxis often have a stereo rigged up and it’s common to hear loud music wafting out of houses as you walk the streets.

We’ve done similar lists for China and Japan, as well as tips for travelling in Bangladesh.

Two Years of Travel in Pictures: Julie’s favourite photos of our trip (Uzbekistan to Brussels)

The final instalment of my favourite photos of our trip! Part 1 covered Latvia to Thailand, and part 2 from Kuala Lumpur to China.

Inside Chorsu BazaarI added a fisheye lens to my camera kit in Uzbekistan. Inside the dome of Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent was the perfect place to give it a trial run

Rows upon rows of fresh produce, like this one of potatoesPotato sellers perched on a bench in Tashkent’s Chorsu Bazaar

Uzbeki lady touristsI got chatting to this group of ladies after I took this sneaky photo and found out that they were visiting Tashkent from the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon

Looking through the entrance of Barak Khan MedressaLooking out through the entrance of Barak Khan Medressa to Khast Imom Square, Tashkent

Dome detailOne of my abiding memories of Uzbekistan is the colour blue, from the turquoise of the mosques to the clear blue skies

Laghman noodle soupLaghman noodle soup with a round non bread and a side of the ubiquitous tomato and cucumber salad was a favourite lunch during our time in Uzbekistan

Registan at nightThe Registan in Samarkand was jaw-droppingly beautiful by day and by night

Sunrise in SamarkandA bright orange sunrise seen over the rooftops of Samarkand

Jo photographing mausoleum at Shah-i-ZindaThe second time that Jo joined us on the trip was in Uzbekistan. Here she’s photographing one of the mausoleums at Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand

Stick insect on tiles at Shah-i-ZindaA bright green stick insect on the vibrant tiles of a mausoleum at Shah-i-Zinda

Samarkand cemeteryUzbek gravestones feature portraits of the deceased. We enjoyed wandering through the cemetery in Samarkand and practicing our Cyrillic transliteration skills

Char Minar, BukharaChar Minar in Bukhara was the gatehouse of a long-gone 19th century medressa

Knitting stallholder in Tosh-hovli PalaceThe souvenir stalls in Khiva offered lots of thick woollen socks, often made by the stallholder like this lady inside the Tosh-hovli Palace

Uzbek dancerWhen we ascended the watchtower of the Kuhna Ark in Khiva to watch the sun set over the city we were surprised to find a music video being shot and spent as much time taking photos of the dancer as of the historic buildings

Moynaq boat cemeteryThe ship cemetery at Moynoq which used to sit on the edge of the Aral Sea really brought home the environmental tragedy caused by the Soviet Union’s irrigation projects in the area to increase cotton production. Moynoq was a thriving fishing town at the edge of the lake in 1960 but is now 150km away from the still retreating water

Silk vendor at Margilon BazaarVendor of traditional Uzbek silks at Margilon Bazaar in the Fergana Valley

Jeans stall at Margilon BazaarThe Uzbek people were some of the friendliest we came across and we spent a lot of time saying hello and answering questions at the enormous Margilon Bazaar

Pigeons in flightPigeons frightened by a cat outside Yeni Cami in Istanbul

Blue Mosque interiorMagnificent interior of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Jewellery in Grand BazaarNecklaces for sale in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Tiled interior of Rustem Pasha MosqueA man begins his afternoon prayer in the Rustem Pasha Mosque

Lokum shopWe couldn’t resist the Turkish Delight shops in Istanbul

Andrew in Istanbul Museum of Modern ArtAndrew getting a different view of “Bring Yourself to Me” by Handan Boruteçene in Istanbul Modern

Basilica CisternThe huge Basilica Cistern in Istanbul lay forgotten for almost a hundred years after the Ottoman Conquest

Topkapi Sarayi on a rainy dayThis photograph really captures the day that we visited the Topkapi Sarayi, the former palace of the Ottoman sultans in Istanbul – rainy and grey

In a Turkish playparkWhen Steph, Tom and Olly visited us in Istanbul we got to see the local playgrounds and behave like big kids!

Passengers feeding gulls from the ferry to the Princes' IslandsPassengers on the ferry to the Princes’ Islands feeding gulls

Haghia SophiaThe iconic Haghia Sophia stands in the centre of Istanbul and dominates its skyline. Its dome rises 56m above the floor and looks much smaller than it actually is from below

VallettaMalta’s traditional architecture is very distinctive and nowhere more so than in the capital city Valletta with its golden limestone, narrow streets and wooden covered balconies

Looking back towards the start of the walk at Dingli Cliffs. Not bad for a day in NovemberLooking back towards the start of the walk at Dingli Cliffs. Not bad for a day in November

Prickly pearThe prickly pear grows throughout the Maltese countryside and the fruit is both eaten and used to make a liqueur

The defence command and situation room in the Lascaris War RoomsThe Lascaris War Rooms were a fascinating insight into WWII history

Beer and crisps on the beachA can of beer and a packet of crisps on Għadira beach after a long day’s walk around the northern coastline

Church detail at Addolorata CemeteryRoofline of the church at the Addolorata Cemetery in Paola, Malta

Mdina street lampsStreet lamps in the twisting streets of Mdina, the fortress city in the centre of Malta

Vittoriosa churchStormy clouds behind St Lawrence’s Church, Vittoriosa

Salt pans on GozoThe fantastic Segway tour that we took on Gozo went past the natural salt pans on the north-west coast

Traditional fishing basketTraditional fishing baskets are still used by Maltese fishermen who let them down and mark the spot, collecting them several hours later

Crater on Mt EtnaIt was eerie to see steam rising from vents in the snowy Monte Barbagallo crater of Mt Etna

Drying salt codBaccala, or salt cod, is a typical regional ingredient in Sicily. In Catania’s fish market we saw it drying in the sun

Interior, Santuario della Madonna delle LacrimeLooking up inside the conical Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime in Siracusa. We nicknamed it the ‘Cone of Shame’

Temple of VulcanoTemple of Vulcano at Agrigento where we spent an unexpectedly cold and slightly snowy New Year’s Eve

Banyan treeFantastic banyan trees in Giardino Garibaldi, Palermo

SpritzSpritz o’clock became a late afternoon institution during our stay in Sicily where the refreshing cocktail is served with complimentary bar snacks

View from La Rocca, CefaluViews up the coast from the former fortress atop La Rocca over Cefalù, Sicily

Monreale CathedralThe mosaics inside Monreale Cathedral tell stories from the bible to assist in medieval times when the vast majority of the population were illiterate

Trees in Palermo's botanical gardenSculptural Silk floss trees from South America in the Botanical Garden in Palermo

Stanze al GenioThe rather unlikely sounding tile collection of Stanze al Genio in Palermo ended up being one of our favourite sights in Sicily. We dreamt about starting our own collection in an attempt to make our own home so beautiful

Fontanelle Cemetery skullsLocals leave offerings for skulls in the Fontanelle Cemetery in Naples

216On one of the rare sunny days of our fortnight in Naples we spent exploring the house and grounds of the nearby Reggia di Caserta

Andrew in curved corridor of the dome of St Peter's BasilicaWe climbed to the cupola atop the dome of St Peter’s Basilica for views across Rome but hadn’t expected the staircase to be inside the sloping walls of the dome itself

Dome gallery, St Peter's Basilica, Vatican CityEntering the base of the dome at St Peter’s Basilica was an unexpected treat for the vertiginous view to the floor of the church

ColosseumLooking down into the Colosseum from the third tier trying to reimagine ancient Roman times

Dome of St Peter's Basilica through the keyholeThe view through the keyhole of the Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta was surprising in its perfection even when we knew what to expect

Piramide, RomeA pyramid in Rome? Yes really! It was built in around 12BC as the tomb of Gaius Cestius

Rome metro trainThere’s a lot of graffiti in Italy. Most of it is fairly unsightly tags but occasionally it is well enough done that it improves whatever it is sprayed onto, like this line B metro train in Rome

Synagogue, RomeThe main synagogue in Rome stands imposingly above the River Tiber

Baptistry carving detail, PisaThe leaning Tower of Pisa is part of a complex known as the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles). The Baptistry has incredible acoustics which are demonstrated every half hour by the guard who stands in the centre of the room and sings a few notes which resonate for so long that he can create chords with his own voice!

Camposanto MonumentaleThe Camposanto Monumentale cemetery in Pisa is slowly being restored after being damaged by bombing in WWII

Swiss AlpsWe loved catching up with our friends Heidi and Olivier in Switzerland and once again admiring the spectacular scenery of their home country

Stained glass window of bridge in LuzernSunlight streaming through the stained glass window of a tiny chapel on Spreuerbrücke in Luzern

CERN monument‘Wandering the immeasurable’ by Gayle Hermick stands outside the visitor centre at CERN and is inscribed with major discoveries in physics in the language that they were made

Sunset, Aix-en-ProvenceThe sun goes down behind the tree lined Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence

Interior, Carcassonne cathedralInside the diminutive Basilique Saint-Nazaire in the medieval La Cité, Carcassonne

La Cite, CarcassonneCarcassonne’s medieval walled fortress town, La Cité

Church of the JacobinsReflections inside Toulouse’s Church of the Jacobins

Salon des VinsThe bread, cheese and wine in France was just as good as we’d expected

Cathedral spires, Luxembourg CityLuxembourg’s Notre-Dame Cathedral has three spires, each different from the others

Smokers outside Centraal StationSmokers outside the ornate Centraal Station in Amsterdam

Rooftop winch on a canal houseAmsterdam’s canal houses were built with a pulley projecting from the gable to more easily move goods to the upper floors and they are still in use today

National Monument, Dam SquareNational Monument and Royal Palace in Dam Square, Amsterdam

'Tolerance' by Alaniz‘Tolerance’ by Alaniz is one of the artworks featured in Amsterdam’s Street Art Museum

RijksmuseumLooking down the pond in Museumplein towards the Rijksmuseum

TulipsWe got up early to catch the dew on the tulips at Keukenhof Garden before meeting up with Dan, Clare, Scott and Emma

Windmills at Zaanse SchansAll of the windmills at Zaanse Schans village are working, milling items as diverse as logs, spices and dyes for paint!

Fairground ridesA funfair was squeezed into Dam Square for the King’s Day celebrations

Tulip fieldWe enjoyed cycling through the colourful bulb fields of the Netherlands

European Parliament, BrusselsThe European Parliament in Brussels

Atomium detailThe Atomium was built for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958 but its architecture still looks futuristic

Two Years of Travel in Pictures: Julie’s favourite photos of our trip (Kuala Lumpur to China)

I really enjoyed reviewing my photos and picking out the best ones. Part 1 covered the first 11 months of the trip up to Thailand. Here’s part two of three…

Petronas TowersLooking up one of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

93Yellow-billed Stork at Kuala Lumpur Bird Park

Flower vendor, DhakaA flower vendor relaxes on his stall in Hindu Street, Dhaka

Sadarghat boat terminalBoats jostle for position beside the Rocket Steamer at Sadarghat Boat Terminal in Dhaka

Street food vendor, SadrghatStreet food vendors sell snacks at Sadarghat Boat Terminal

Mr Colin's tea standMr Colin’s tea stand in Khulna. He was so chuffed to have foreigners drinking his tea and taking his photo that when we went back later in the week he wanted us to show the photo to his friend!

20140322-170030.jpgShait Gumbad (Sixty Dome) Mosque at Bagerhat actually has 81 domes, but 60 pillars. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates from the 15th century

Bangladeshi busBangladeshi buses are a colourful but scary way to travel through the country, crammed with people and luggage and driven by seemingly suicidal drivers

Forest floor, SundarbansRoots sticking up from the floor of the forest in the Sundarbans National Park

ButterflyWe didn’t see any tigers, but there was plenty of other wildlife on view in the Sundarbans National Park in Bangladesh

Street restaurant kitchenBangladeshi food is cheap, satisfying and delicious, many of the country’s restaurants have the ‘kitchen’ outside in the street

Govinda Temple, PuthiaBeautifully proportioned Govinda Temple at Puthia

Chicken seller, RajshahiChicken seller in the New Market, Rajshahi

WatchersAs foreigners we were curiosities wherever we went in Bangladesh, here we are being watched through a hole in a wall at Sona Masjid

Sunrise at PaharpurMisty sunrise behind the stupa ruins at Paharpur

Fruit seller, RajshahiA greengrocer hangs grapes from his stall in the market at Dinajpur

Tea plantationA peaceful tea plantation near Srimongol

Water buffalosLife in the waterways near Srimongol

Fishmonger, SrimongolA fishmonger proudly displays his wares in Srimongol

111Adverts line the street on election day in Sonargaon outside Dhaka

Gardens by the BayThe Gardens by the Bay at Singapore Marina are dominated by the huge SuperTree structures which are lit at night

Singapore Art MuseumA family plays with the sound produced by pots of soil: “Sound of the Earth” by Chen Sai Hua Kuan at the Singapore Art Museum

Takayama float festivalThe Daikokutai team ready themselves to move their float at the Takayama Spring Float Festival

Parade ornamentPhoenix topping a box to be carried in procession during the Takayama Spring Float Festival

20140424-174759.jpgCherry blossom in Kanazawa Castle Park

Noh masksA display of masks at the Kanazawa Noh Museum

Theatre interiorInside the traditional Kureha-Za theatre at Museum Meiji-Mura

Rest house along the Old Post RoadRest house along the Nakasendo, or old post road, between Magome and Tsumago

Matsumoto CastleMatsumoto Castle is the oldest wooden castle in Japan

20140515-111529.jpgJapanese Macaque eating pussy willows at Kamikochi in the Japanese Alps. The monkeys are also known to bathe in natural hot springs

Shrine reflectionShrine reflected in the moat of a burial mound in Nara

Temple roofThe traditionally constructed roof of Kongobuji temple, Koyasan

Jizos with apronsJizos with aprons in the Okunoin Cemetery, Koyasan

Yabusame archer taking out the final target at full speedA Yabusame archer takes out the final target at full speed

Sun through maple leavesJapan was much greener than we’d expected with plenty of beautiful countryside and well tended gardens

Mountaintop monument, MiyajimaMonument on top of Mt Misen, Miyajima

Wisteria canopy at Kawachi Fuji GardenWisteria blossoms gently waving in the breeze at Kawachi Fuji Garden

From the ferry to YakushimaFeeling blue. Kyushu island coastline from the ferry to Yakushima

On the trail to Jomon SugiAndrew with our hostel friends and fellow hikers, Brian and Claudia, on the trail to Jomon Sugi, the largest cedar tree ever found in Japan which is estimated to be over 2000 years old

Resting hikersHikers rest on the riverbed below the trail to Jomon Sugi

Lee Ufan, Naoshima‘Relatum-Point, Line, Plane’ by Lee Ufan stands at the entrance to his museum on Naoshima

Sushi conveyor beltConveyor belt sushi in Kobe, lots of fun

Kyoto rice paddy reflectionsClouds reflected in rice paddies on the outskirts of Kyoto

Temple gardenGarden at Shoren-in temple, Kyoto

20140619-205819-75499618.jpgBright red gates line the path up the mountain at Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Recreating the zen gardenWe spent a fascinated hour watching the gardeners at Ginkakuji Temple recreating the zen garden

Sacred treeA rope encircles a Yorishiro or sacred object, in this case a tree, at Kurama-dera

Lake SaikoLake Saiko is one of the Five Lakes around Mt Fuji

Observation deck at Mori Art MuseumTokyo Tower from the observation deck of the Mori Art Museum

20140707-144505-53105880.jpgFishmongers sawing up frozen tuna at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo

Tsukiji Market‘Unicorn’ fish for sale at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo

20140711-212637-77197767.jpgLooking 350m down from Tokyo Skytree

Stepping stonesSunlight shining across rounded stepping stones in Koshikawa Korakuen Garden in Tokyo

Shinto weddingTraditional Shinto wedding procession at the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo

Bowl of ramenJapanese food is famed for being light and healthy, but a bowl of ramen noodles with extra braised pork is satisfyingly rich and hearty

20140721-224958-82198318.jpgA man rests under the trees near Beomeosa temple in Busan

Seokbulsa temple carvingsCliffside carvings of the Buddha at Seokbulsa Temple, Busan

Lotus flowerLotus flower, Gyeongju

Bulguksa TempleColourful carvings in the eaves of Bulguksa Temple near Gyeongju

Traditional Korean breakfastA Korean breakfast of abalone rice porridge, fish and kimchi at our guesthouse in Hahoe Folk Village

Looking out over the DMZ towards North KoreaVisiting the de-militarised zone (DMZ) which divides Korea was an eerie experience after learning some of the history of the conflict

Sunset over SeoulSunset over Seoul from the edge of Namsan Park

Mung bean pancake stallMung bean pancake stall in Gwangjang Market, Seoul

Andrew and the Bund BullAndrew and the Bund Bull in the old banking district of Shanghai

The Mountain-in-View TowerThe Mountain-in-View Tower, Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou

Bonsai treeBonsai tree, Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou

SketchbookSketchbook with a drawing of the Hall of Distant Fragrance, Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou

Duck headsDuck heads and chillis on a street food stall in Hangzhou – no we didn’t try them…

Nanjing Massacre MemorialMirrored wall in the garden of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial

Stairway to Dr Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum, Nanjing, ChinaView up the stairway to Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum near Nanjing. Considered the founding father of modern China, he’s a very popular guy

Yellow Crane Tower roof tile detailYellow Crane Tower roof tile detail, Wuhan

Hankou railway station waiting roomHankou railway station waiting room. The newer stations on China’s high speed rail network look more like airports to us

Queueing for glass plank pathQueueing for the glass plank path on Tianmen mountain, Zhangjiajie

Cable car, Zhangjiajie National ParkThe cable car line to Huangshizhai runs between the rock pillars, Zhangjiajie National Park

Oil lampsOil lamps burning at Aidao Nunnery, Chengdu