Wandering Wives – Shark Bay

Author: , January 6th, 2016

Shell Beach

At the most westerly point of Australia, just below the tropic of Capricorn, lies UNESCO listed Shark Bay. The pristine coast is a haven for all kinds of wildlife with humpback whales, rays, sharks, sea turtles and dugongs spotted in the waters. Still not over a childhood obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sian was particularly excited at the prospect of seeing a turtle.

We headed up the thin cape of land next to shark bay in the hope of seeing some exciting wildlife. Our first stop was at Hamelin pool; our guide book explained that the stromatolites in the water were unmissable. The stumpy coral like formations are made of bacteria almost identical to organisms that existed 3500 million years ago. These organisms are responsible for creating our current atmosphere by using photosynthesis and paving the way for more complex life forms. The revered stumps were about as interesting to look at as they were to learn about and had us considering turning to creationism to avoid spending any more time with them.

We continued up the peninsula in the hope of spotting something more interesting than a stromatolite. As we progressed into the wilderness the rain began to pour from the sky in biblical proportions. It was clearly a sign from someone about something. Maybe the stromatolite Gods were sending us a message about waterproof trousers. Or perhaps Splinter was trying to communicate with Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello. We didn’t know, so we decided to just keep driving until we came across another sign. Like an Ark or something.

Our next stop was Shell Beach, one of only two beaches in the world made entirely of shells. The beach covers over 100 km of coast line and even in the rain it is stunning. Shells cover the entire beach and crunch under foot as you walk on them. When you pick them up to examine them you can see all of the minute details and flecks of colour in the tiny shells…read more on Wandering Wives 

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Wandering Wives – Hill Tribes Of Vietnam

Author: , December 16th, 2015

Sapa mist

Anyone visiting the north of Vietnam should visit Sapa. The journey to Lao Cai on the overnight sleeper train is an adventure in itself. Then an hour long bus ride along twisting mountainous roads, up into a higher altitude above and beyond the clouds. To say the views are breath taking would be an understatement.

Sapa is close to the Chinese border and populated with ethnic minority tribes who have lived and worked on the land for centuries. The awe inspiring landscapes are perfect for getting back to nature and trekking is a popular activity in Sapa. The mountains have been sculpted into terraces for growing rice which are spread out in to the distance as far as the eye can see.

The Black H’Mong women lead treks up into the mountains, where you can visit villages, see traditional houses and even experience a home stay in the mountains. The women are industrious and resourceful, they make clothes and souvenirs which they sell to tourists during the trek. Most backpackers leave with at least one bracelet, but many end up purchasing scarves, bags, wall hangings and place mats.

Trekking in the heat over rough terrain can be arduous and the Black H’Mong ladies put everyone else to shame. Wearing full tribal dress and flip flops, carrying their items for sale and often with a baby strapped to their back, they sprint up and down like mountain goats. They have little formal education but most speak  excellent English and will chat about home life and their children…read more on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Bath At Christmas

Author: , December 12th, 2015

Christmas markets Bath

The city of Bath is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year but during Christmas the UNESCO world heritage listed site is a real treat. Throughout December one of Bath’s main attractions, Bath Abbey, is flanked by more than 180 Christmas Market chalets which line the surrounding streets. Festive tours of the church are available and carol singers are strategically placed around every corner. The stunning Georgian architecture in the city seems even more pleasing than usual when smothered in liberal amounts of festive cheer. Visiting Bath at Christmas is a quintessentially British experience and one which we highly recommend. A few days of shopping at the Christmas markets makes an ideal festive break and there are plenty of excellent quality hotels to choose from in the city. We stayed at Grove Lodge, where we lived the high life, experiencing all the trappings of upper class Georgian living.

During December Christmas markets seem to pop up all over the place. High streets across the UK are transformed into tiny villages with wooden cabins selling all kinds of festive treats. Although, not all Christmas markets are created equally and some towns offer nothing more than a row of sheds covered in tinsel. Mulled wine, festive gifts, Christmas decorations and for some unknown reason German sausages are the staple goods on sale. Bath, we are pleased to say, is one of the places that hits the festive nail right on the head. The great thing about the Bath Christmas Market is the emphasis they place on local traders and their produce. Rather than shipping in vendors with merchandise from across Europe, the city of Bath have decided to keep things local. You can buy locally produced cheese from the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. You can shop for gifts with local craft makers like Felt So Good and get a much needed sugar rush from The Bath Waffle Co. There are locally brewed beverages from Bath Ales and Severn Cider. You can even celebrate Christmas in style by visiting the pop up gin bar from local distillers Bath Gin. With all of the excellent local produce on offer we were happy to overlook the obligatory German sausage stall.

One of Baths greatest tourist attractions is No1 Royal Crescent, a beautifully restored 18th century town house. The house is crammed with original features, period furniture and interesting artefacts. During the festive period No1 Royal Crescent is decked out in style for a Georgian Christmas, complete with traditional decorations in the grand hall way and a sumptuous feast laid out in the dining room. If you have ever watched a Downton Abbey Christmas special this is everything your dreams are made of and you will not be disappointed…continued with pictures on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – A Parisian Christmas

Author: , December 9th, 2015

Wandering Wives Christmas

Paris at Christmas time is simply wonderful, there is no better time to visit the city. During the biting cold of December the French capital is warmed under the glow of a million twinkly Christmas lights. The city of love is a great place to stock up on Christmas presents, romance your special one or simply fill your belly with buckets of mulled wine and hot chocolate.

During the festive period, Paris has a break from being the European capital of chic and instead covers itself in sparkles and lights. It’s a bit like that cool girl in the office who doesn’t speak to anyone all year then gets drunk and comes to the Christmas party wrapped in tinsel and wearing a santa hat. She belts out Mariah Carey on karaoke and everyone surprises themselves by actually loving her. In December, Paris is that girl and guess what? We love her!

In Paris at Christmas fancy boutiques and designer stores adorn their facades with lights and baubles. Christmas trees take over pavements and Vin Chaud (hot wine) replaces coffee as the drink of choice. After spending last Christmas in the heat of Queensland, we found wandering the Christmassy streets of Paris an utter delight. Even the iconic Eiffel Tower had a huge Christmas bauble hanging from its middle. Albeit a giant Shepard Fairey Obey bauble, but a Christmas bauble none the less.

The festive marchés de Noel (Christmas markets) are spread along the length of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.These are the largest Christmas Markets we have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Hundreds of wooden cabins line the iconic street selling everything from woollen socks to Russian dolls, French cheese and Bavarian sausages

We wandered up and down, taking our time and enjoying the sights and smells of Christmas. We set up camp in the food and drink area and enjoyed a few too many glasses of Vin Chaud. On our first evening in Paris we walked the entire length of the marchés de Noel and somehow we kept getting drawn back to it each night of our trip. It was cheesy and chintzy and everything France usually is not, but we loved its Christmassy charm and feel good factor…continued with more pictures on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Over Packers Anonymous

Author: , December 3rd, 2015

Backpacking

Unfortunately, when packing for any trip, my motto has always been “Give me a bag and I shall fill it.” I should have this phrase tattooed on my body as a permanent reminder of my over packing urges. It is also highly likely this phrase will be inscribed on my tomb stone and eulogised by friends and family upon my passing. Every trip I have ever taken, I have over packed for it. I regularly pay excess baggage at the airport for no other reason than that I had space in my bag so I packed an extra jumper, pair of shoes, dumbbell, kayak or other unneeded item.

BackpackersThe last time I went backpacking, I took a 70 litre backpack with a 15 litre detachable day sack. After a week in India I sent some things back home and got rid of some unneeded junk (sleeping bag, extra shirt, bike wheel, anchor etc). Oddly enough I literally felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Although with the extra space in my bag and the afore mentioned life motto, it was only a matter of time until my luggage filled up again. Of course I needed the new Beer Saigon vest, four different novels and the emergency jar of peanut butter. Why carry one guide book when you can have three? I even bought two extra bags whilst on my travels which I often used in unison with the others. Essentially I was carrying around 100 litres of junk with me every time I moved places. But this time things will be different. This time I have a plan!…read more on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Stranded Roadside In India

Author: , November 30th, 2015

Indian cart

The journey from Orchha to Agra was a long one. We travelled on dusty roads through areas which our driver proclaimed were unsafe to stop. I am not sure how long we had been driving for when we got a flat tyre. Our driver pulled into the side of the road and set to work on fixing the flat. We decided to get out of the car to stretch our legs and were told to get back in, guard our bags and not let anyone see us. A little shocked we did as we were told, he fixed the flat and we continued on our journey. As we drove he told us how we were travelling through ‘bandit country‘ and how everyone here had guns and it was not safe to stop anywhere. We gazed out of the windows at the passing colourful trucks and arid landscape, thankful of our lucky escape.

The scenery rolled by through the afternoon until our peace was once again disturbed by the familiar thud-thud-thudding of a flat tyre on a gravel road. Our second flat of the day was much more traumatic than the first. We stopped opposite some kind of truck stop and the driver got out to assess the situation. We now had three working India Biketyres and two flats. He jacked up the car and took the damaged wheel off. Then he went over the road to chat to some local men at the truck stop, which was now looking more like a trailer park. The hard faced, gap toothed locals emerged to look at us. Children at first, then men. We smiled but tried not to encourage them, fearing for our safety and wondering if we were still in ‘bandit country.’ Our driver came back and told us he had to go to the next town to fix the tyre. He locked the doors, told us to stay in the car, pushed his mobile phone and the car keys through the open window then before we realised what was happening he was gone. He jumped on a truck with our flat tyre and left us on the side of the road, with three wheels and a jack. We quickly wound up the window.

Then the men came. Young men, old men, teenagers and middle aged men, around 25 of them in total. They surrounded our vehicle and began to circle us. They prowled around the car, pointing, looking, leering at us. Some started blowing kisses and knocking on the window. One of them tried the door handle and laughed as he realised it was locked. The pack continued to circle us, shouting to us, blowing kisses, trying to open the doors. Then the car began to move, they were pushing it from side to side laughing at us as we cowered inside. We were frozen in fear by what was unfolding, unable to speak or move. Seeing the mobile phone we decided to call for help, but we quickly realised we had no idea of our actual location to notify the police. The only other number we had was our drivers, and it was his phone we had. We contemplated putting the keys in the ignition and driving the car off its jack. We had no idea how far away the next town was or if a car with three wheels would even move. Our only weapon was a Swiss army knife which was somewhere at the bottom of my backpack. We knew it was only a matter of time before they tipped the car or smashed a window to get to us…read more on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Morlaix A Fairytale Town

Author: , November 28th, 2015

Morlaix street

The old French town of Morlaix is one of the most picturesque places we have ever visited. Nestled between the foothills of the Monts d’Arrée national park and the towns beautiful estuary, Morlaix is a charming mix of ancient buildings and cobbled lane ways, just waiting to be explored. The whole town sits under the watchful eye of a large viaduct, framing its spires and roof tops and further adding to its photographic appeal.

We explored the maze of cobbled lane ways and stumbled across tiny French patisseries and creperies hiding out of sight. We found ourselves wandering for hours, pressing our faces up against the windows of bakeries and marvelling at the old world charm. Poking our heads into cute little shops selling Breton biscuits and traditional French dress. When we stumbled across a bicycle outside a shop, we half expected its owner to arrive wearing a Breton top, carrying a baguette, with a string of onions around his neck. Sadly he did not, but even without the stereotypical native, Morlaix is the quintessential French town… read more on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Autumn In Brittany

Author: , November 21st, 2015

French abandoned house

Brittany lies in the north-west corner of France and has a climate similar to the UK. So along with driving rain and biting wind, autumn in the region can bring some truly stunning days. Vivid landscapes full of colour are waiting around every corner. Fallen conkers and amber leaves make up an ever changing blanket on the ground. Lush grassy hills play hide and seek in the haze of foggy mornings as coats and scarves come out of hiding.

Autumn in Brittany is about woodland walks through crisp undergrowth and evenings spent by a crackling fire. The colours of autumn breathe life into their surroundings as everyone enjoys the last days of sunshine before winter arrives. Pumpkins are carved, soups are made, slippers are rediscovered and butternut squash becomes part of everyday vocabulary one again. Autumn is bright, vibrant youthful and wondrous.

Or at least that’s what our Instagram feed would have you believe. Leaves on the ground, check. Huge scarf, check. Average pumpkin in the dark, check. Cute dog walking selfie, check. The reality is often very far from the truth. Yes we have been carving pumpkins and walking a dog in a scarf (us not him), but what the selfies don’t reveal is the truth behind them.

It rains 95% of the time and lighting a fire is one of the skills our generation have lost. Most of the leaf strewn pathways are brown and sludgy and very slippery. The grass is always wet and merely glancing in its direction will render your jeans soaked to the knees for the rest of the day. Carving a pumpkin is hard, trying to cut a butternut squash requires so much skill it should be an Olympic event. The super cute giant scarf is actually super itchy and a massive trip hazard. The dog has diarrhoea and shat on his own lead the other day…read more on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Crashing An Indian Wedding

Author: , November 19th, 2015

Indian Wedding

When we arrived in Orchha it was late and we had trouble finding a room. Wondering if there was a census, holy day, festival or son of God being born in a stable near by, we eventually found a dank, desolate, 200 Rupee room that was available. Knowing from our past escapades that beggars can’t be choosers, we took the room.

We had travelled a whole day in the car and wanted nothing more than to sleep but the thumping music and lights from whatever parade was happening outside put pay to that. Mildly motivated by the stench of our room we decided to venture out into the streets to see what was happening.

Indian wedding horse“It is wedding season in Orchha!” We were told by our hotelier. He further explained, it was a sacred or lucky day to get married and over 200 weddings had happened in the town that day. We saw several grooms paraded through the streets on horseback followed by a procession of wedding guests. Many of these elaborate parades included large carts and vehicles wired to suspicious looking generators. These carried impressive displays of flashing fairground lights and blared out traditional Indian rave music with a thumping bass line. We were carried through the streets in a wave of festival atmosphere, dancing and cheering along with the locals.

We stopped outside a large restaurant with no roof and tried to sneak a look at the wedding reception being held there. We were quickly surrounded by children who for some strange reason wanted our autographs. Next came their parents, who rather than asking us to leave, took us by the hand and dragged us into the wedding reception…read more on Wandering Wives

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Wandering Wives – Armistice Day In Northern France

Author: , November 12th, 2015

We spent Armistice Day in the small Breton village of La Feuillee in northern France. In the UK the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is a sombre event, filled with military aplomb. It begins promptly at 11:00 with a silence to commemorate the fallen. Most cities hold large memorial services at their cenotaphs and poppies are worn as a mark of respect. We experienced a similar atmosphere watching the ANZAC parade in Australia. In France, Armistice Day is more of a celebration than a memorial. The French have a public holiday and celebrate their freedom and liberation.

We walked into the village at around 10:50 not entirely sure what to expect and hoping we weren’t late. Our first port of call was the war memorial, which had been adorned with tricolours. On our way towards it we noticed most other people were walking in the opposite direction so we turned on our heels and followed them. We reached the council offices and saw a group of people were gathered outside. We were unsure if we were in the right place as people were calling out to one another, children were shouting and playing, no one seemed to be respecting or remembering anything.

We stood back from the crowd and observed, still trying to work out if we had accidentally arrived at a birthday party or school outing. At 11:00 the church bells rang, our backs stiffened and our heads bowed, ready to contemplate the sacrifice of the fallen. It soon became clear we were the only ones observing the silence. The French villagers continued calling to one another, greeting each other with kisses and chatting. Cars were still arriving and late comers continued to walk up the road from the village with no sense of urgency. We decided to break our silence with a debate about GMT. Perhaps the service was at 12:00 in France due to the time difference. The church bells rang again and it looked like something was happening. It would appear that the French start their commemoration at 11:10, being fashionably late as ever…read more on Wandering Wives

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