5 of the best holidays in Norway – chosen by locals

Islands, rivers, mountains and villages: holiday destinations from those in the know

UBC Vancouver

Surrounded by lush rain forest, the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC) protrudes into the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Point Grey peninsula is given over to the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, an area of Pacific red cedar. Some 34 trails meander for over 50 kilometres through this park. When hiking here, you wouldn’t believe you are only half an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. These trails are popular with dog walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers, but their presence won’t detract from the sense of tranquility that prevails. Birdwatchers may see blue herons and will definitely hear woodpeckers hammering away.

The Museum of Anthropology is an Arthur Erickson-designed museum that is located on the cliffs of Point Grey, overlooking English Bay and the North Shore Mountains. It is probably Canada’s most memorable museum, housing one of the world’s finest and most colourful displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art. Inside the soaring glass and concrete structure of the Great Hall, with its 14-metre high windows that allow natural illumination to flood into the interior, you will see the totem poles, feast dishes, and canoes of the Gitxsan, Haida, and Coast Salish peoples amongst others. The museum also features the world’s largest collection of works by acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid, including his most famous sculpture “The Raven and the First Men”. The award-winning Koerner Gallery within the museum houses a collection of European ceramics unique to North America. The museum also has around 15,000 objects from around the world that are accessible to the public in the Visible Storage Galleries. This is a unique way of displaying artifacts that invites the comparing and contrasting of objects from different cultures around the world, without visitors touching the exhibits, which are held in glass drawers.

Extract from the book – 10 Traveller’s Tales

Robben Island

Once on the island everyone has to get on a bus and be escorted around the island before visiting the prison. The most poignant place is the house of Robert Sobukwe the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress. Sobukwe was in solitary confinement and wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone – however he did give secret hand signals to other prisoners when he was outside – he held dirt in his hand and let it trickle through his fingers as a gesture of solidarity. His little yellow house is by the guard-dog kennels. Visitors also see the quarry where the prisoners worked.

Ex-prisoners or ex-wardens conduct the prison tours – they show you Nelson Mandela’s cell, the exercise yard, and the dormitory style accommodation with the daily prison diet written on a board for all to see.

Extract from – Ten Traveller’s Tales

Cape Town

No matter how many times I gazed at Table Mountain, rested on the Atlantic beaches, or savoured the food at one of the many restaurants at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, I could never really escape the history of Cape Town. Robben Island, the Slave Lodge on Wale Street, and the Bo Kaap district all lead you back to a dark past, a past that adds a certain zest to any visit here. There’s a reason for everything here and this intriguing past makes Cape Town a must-visit city.

Book well in advance for your trip to Robben Island especially in the summer holidays when there can be a wait of two weeks before there’s a free spot. Try and get to the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront early to board the boat as the best seats are on the top deck with the views of Table Mountain especially eye-catching.

Extract from – Ten Traveller’s Tales

Travel Poetry – 1

I have decided to try a new genre called Travel Poetry – I hope you like it.

Small squads of tourists heading to the palace in Kadriorg Park, each with a different photo to take,

It is a mini-Versailles according to the locals.

The President’s pink house is there for all to see

cyclists,

sunbathers,

walkers,

chatterers on seats,

duck watchers,

beautiful blondes dressed in black without a hair out of place even in the breeze, sitting at cafes drinking lattes and being seen.

Trams dropping off tourists who ask is this the right place?

Lawns,

trees,

pathways,

shade and,

bright, bright sunlight illuminating the other half of my bench.

People asking is he writing about us?

No.

Fountains playing that same endless game,

gardens reflecting in ponds, and

parents pushing strollers

This is Kadriorg Park.

 

Delos

This is an excerpt from the book Travels through History : 9 Greek Islands , newly available on Amazon.

Delos is the reason the Cyclades have their name. The other islands in the Cyclades form a circle around Delos. Delos is a sacred island and the reason for that is Zeus.

 

On a more human level, the earliest inhabitants of Delos in the middle of the third millennium BCE built their homes on top of the hill called Kynthos, so they would have an early warning of any approaching invaders. A thousand years later the Mycenaeans settled by the sea. No records exist of when the Apollonian sanctuary began, but by the time the Ionians colonised the island in 1000 BCE Delos was already a cult centre. Hellenes from all over the Greek world gathered on Delos to worship Apollo the god of light, harmony, and balance, and Artemis the moon-goddess. As Delos became more prosperous through the next few hundred years, the Athenians gradually increased their influence, culminating in a decree in 426 BCE that stated no one could give birth or die on Delos. Eventually, this resulted in the entire population moving to the small neighbouring island of Rinia and further afield.

Delos rebounded once it came within the Roman sphere of influence. The Romans made Delos a free port in 167 BCE and its wealth soared in the second and first centuries BCE, as the island became the centre of commercial activity in the eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, this wealth and friendliness with Rome alerted local despots and pirates to the treasures on the island and Delos was plundered twice in the first century BCE, first in 88 BCE by Mithridates, King of Pontus and then in 69 BCE by the pirate Athenodorus. The island never really recovered from these losses.    

Today, few people live permanently on Delos. There are no hotels on the island and no boats or yachts are supposed to moor there overnight. Ferry boats can come to Delos from Tinos, Naxos, and Mykonos, so it is best to arrive early.

After paying the entrance fee, grab a free map, and head into the site. On the map, I followed the Blue Line around until it intersected with the Brown Line, which I followed to the Stadium Quarter. I retraced my steps and then continued on the Blue Line. I retraced my steps again and followed the Green Line to the Theatre Quarter. All this took about four hours. This is a big sight and take plenty of water with you on your journey around.

The first open area is called the Agora of the Competaliasts, who were Roman merchants who worshipped the Lares Competales, the gods or guardian spirits of crossroads. There are two small temples dedicated to Hermes here. The path continues to The Sacred Way, formed between two porticos, which leads to the Propulaea, the main gateway to the Sanctuary of Apollo. The first features in this area include The Agora of the Delians, The Temple of the Athenians and the Poros Templethe. There’s also the Oikos of the Naxians (people from the island of Naxos) and the base of a huge marble base of a colossal statue of Apollo dedicated by the Naxians around 600 BCE. An oikos is a treasury where the offerings given by the people of Naxos were placed for safekeeping. Nearby, there are five further treasuries where the offerings of other cities were kept. These treasuries are close to the Bouleuterion, the Prytaneion, and the Ekklesiasterion used as assembly rooms for the deputies, dignitaries, and citizens respectively. All these different buildings/areas are shown in detail on the map, but walking around, there are so many walls and parts of columns scattered around that occasionally it’s difficult to discern where one temple or building ends and another begins. Even though there are no restricted areas in this part of the site, visitors are not allowed to walk on the walls to get their bearings.

If you’d like to read more, the book Travels through History : 9 Greek Islands is newly available on Amazon.

Caledonian cruising: a boating break in scenic Scotland

A novice sailor finds herself at the helm of a 43ft motor launch cruising up the Caledonian Canal to Loch Ness, fuelled by single malts, mountain views and hearty meals