Tag Archives: Travel Tips

A Trip To Greenwich

The Queens House, Greenwich

A few weeks’ ago I spent a few night in Greenwich with my Brother as part of his belated birthday gift. We had such a good time I thought I’d share a few snaps.

If you ask me, the most important thing about Greenwich is that it’s the original site of the Royal Observatory, and that’s precisely what formed the basis of our trip – my brother and I are a little space obsessive so the idea of spending a day exploring the home of British space study was too delicious to pass up. We paid due homage to the meridian line too, of course, but whiled away several hours getting to know the Summer night skies in the Planetarium (it’s well worth a trip). We just missed the new exhibition for Astronomy Photographer of the Year but  I did pick up a planisphere which I’m very happy about. Cross your fingers for clear skies, guys!

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Since we wanted to see so many shows, it worked out cheaper for us to sign up as members of the Royal  Museums of Greenwich. That also gave us access to the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House and the Maritime Museum for 12 months. On this trip we only got to check out the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark but that’s great as it just means we can go back to Greenwich in the future to see the other museums and enjoy the planetarium some more…

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The Cutty Sark was pretty cool too, but is about as interesting as you can expect a tea clipper to be for a coffee drinker. What was more interesting is the little area around the Cutty Sark which had a little food market and other bits and bobs plus beneath the ship in the café area was a collection of the coolest/strangest Ship Mascots I’ve ever seen. Apparently it’s the biggest collection in the world…

I really like this Armless King. “Tis but a flesh wound”

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I must admit I was charmed by Greenwich – it doesn’t have the same heavy bustle as London but it has that quaint, cultured atmosphere that always leaves you feeling like you’ve had a really refreshing weekend away.

Have you visited? Do you have any recommendations for our next trip there?

Kitty

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Ethical Everest : Is It Possible? 

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the spirit of adventure burning in me – whether that be the desire to dive coral reefs, wander slowly around ancient ruins or lose myself among the wilderness. I have a deep respect for this planet, so adventure is sometimes a conundrum for me – how do you visit places without damaging them or putting them at risk? How do you really leave only footprints, take only photographs?

Carbon footprints, destruction of animal and plant-life, exploitation of local people and cultures… all of these things are real concerns for me when travelling.

Lately Mr K and I have been taken with the idea of trekking to Everest Basecamp. The subject of much news coverage in recent years, there has been a real, important discussion about the ethics (and safety) of climbing Everest and I wonder whether it’s even possible to tackle this peak (entirely, or to basecamp) in a responsible, respectful way. If you need to frame the issue, the 2015 documentary Sherpa (Jennifer Peedom) is very insightful.

The Sherpa community are crucial support lines for anyone climbing Everest – they have the skill and experience (and the acclimatisation) to deal with sticky situations at tricky altitudes. This expertise is sometimes used for setting up camp and sometimes for hauling non-essential luggage and luxuries for the tired mountaineers. You might say they are responsible for the survival of visitors, which to me indicates they should be treated with utmost respect (and paid accordingly). There’s no denying that a Sherpa’s income is, in comparison with the local average, life-changing. But so is the risk. Nobody should have to face death for the sake of carrying someone’s television up a mountain.

Aside from being used as a glorified donkey, Sherpa are also entrusted with leading groups of climbers to the summit of Everest – and often nipping back-and-forth from camp to camp, fetching Oxygen and assisting poorly mountaineers. All the while putting themselves at immense risk, spending much time away from their families.

The Nepalese government have vowed in past years to tighten up restrictions on climbers with insufficient physical skill or experience to safely scale Everest – and rightly so – however a popular Western attitude that Money = Ability means that many aspiring climbers can prove they’ve tackled some other monstrous peaks, thus gaining access to Everest. It doesn’t mean they didn’t get excessive physical support at those times though. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not to be compared with climbing K2. Although it’s a step in the right direction, it still somehow seems irresponsible to expect a Sherpa to risk their lives for a potentially incapable, unprepared climber.

My solution? If you’re not fit enough to carry your own kit & oxygen… you’re not fit enough to climb Everest. Or walk to Basecamp.
If you’re not honest or responsible enough to acknowledge that you’re suffering altitude sickness, or any other conditions (like toothache, or a cough), you’re not ready to tackle the climb.

On the flipside, for experienced and genuinely capable climbers, the Sherpa community benefits greatly from the tourism factor of Everest – where respectfully conducted. Where the other main income sources are tourist tea-houses and farming, being a mountain guide is an attractive prospect in Nepal. The guides earn good money, and the streams of tourists coming in to view the mountain or enjoy less physical treks in the lower Himalayas spend welcome money in the community.

But, as we all know, with tourism comes trash – and Westerners often forget that to the locals, Everest is a sacred place. Reports in past years have shown huge amounts of rubbish and human waste left at Everest camps, forcing the Indian army to execute a cleanup mission. How terribly disrespectful to litter in a place of worship – imagine the outrage – food packets, water bottles and faeces left in a Church, or at Lourdes. Diabolical!

Much of the time, you’re partly reliant on tour operators to be up-front and honest about their approach to employee wellbeing and their clean-up policy… and basically their overall goodness and dedication to preserving the integrity of such a beautiful place.

Recently I spoke with a Nepali “ex-Sherpa” and Himalayan Mountain Rescue team member who had spent several years on Everest, he spoke positively about the impact of responsible and respectful tourists on Everest. He was of the opinion that there are some Nepali trek operators who plan ethical, local-friendly trips in the area – and the key is to book locally, through a guide who will be taking you (or at least through a company who can tell you the name of your dedicated guide). Tip well, mentally prepare as you physically prepare, do your share of the slog, and be honest about your condition and ability.

My conclusion? I’m inclined to believe what the locals tell me, and hope they say what they think.
I don’t see throwing money at a feat as a true accomplishment – did you really climb Everest if you were carried there? If you’re clued up, physically able and genuinely have a lust to visit, then you can do the trip successfully without harming anyone. If you look for shortcuts (be it money, time or effort driven) someone/something is going to get hurt.
I suppose in an entirely different way, I will find out  the coming months as we plan our own ethically-driven trip to Nepal.
Stay tuned for that, and please share any opinions, insights or experience on this type of trip – everything helps!

Kitty

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Travel | How to Always Have a Trip Planned

Plan Multiple Trips

The post-travel blues are a real thing, and if you’ve got adventure in your heart you’ll understand how it can affect your happiness levels when you don’t have a trip to look forward to.
That’s why I wanted to share my tips on how to always have a trip planned – big or small – and how it won’t necessarily break the bank to make a few different travel arrangements every year.

For budget, book early.
The budget airlines like easyjet, ryanair and jet2 release their flights way in advance – and to get the lowest fare, you have to book as soon as possible.
Sometimes you can get flights for under £20 to amazing places even if you’re not sure whether you’re actually able to go. I always book these flights anyway. £20 isn’t that much really – and usually if you’re savvy you can get a hotel to compliment the flight for a reasonable price if you book late. 

For long-haul, 12 weeks is sweet.
If you’re booking a longer flight, with airlines like Delta, Emirates and Virgin then the sweet spot is 12 weeks before travel. You’ll have to pay it all off up front, but you’ll usually get the best price reduction too. Any closer to travel, they’ll assume you have to go – and there’s a premium. Any further from travel, and the prices haven’t dropped to entice people yet.

Be Flexible on Destination.
If you have your heart set on a place that’s popular, you might end up paying more than you need to for a lovely break. Some of the nicest trips I’ve taken have been ones based on picking the cheapest available option for my departure date.
Try using Icelolly for some inspiration on where the cheapest destinations might be when you want to travel – then hone in on your preferences when you have an idea on cost.
This also includes not always looking overseas – you can get great rail & hotel deals in the UK too!

So, how do you always have a trip booked? 
It’s simple really – plan 12 months ahead. Each year, we decide whether we’re doing a few small trips or one big trip and a few long weekends. It’s totally down to you, but this’ll help you point your searches in the right direction.

For example in 2016 Mr K and I already know we’re visiting Santorini, but we can slip in a trip or two in my parents’ motorhome (they’ll be touring Italy) and his parents’ motorhome (they’ll be in Portugal). We can work on making these trips fit with bank holidays etc to save as many work holidays as possible, and hopefully have 10 days stateside toward the end of the year. Hey… it’s hard to kick Memphis.

We also recently invested in a tent. Not very glamorous, but sometimes when life gets too much, and we need a bit of air, we can throw the camping gear and bikes into the car, drive until we’re far enough away from our problems, and pitch up to relax.

We also keep a travel pot – a few hundred pounds set aside to secure those voyages that “just come up”. How often have you seen a groupon getaway that looks amazing but it’s just before payday?
How about finding super cheap flights to Paris, but having to forego the trip because of hotel costs?

So this is how we keep ourselves globe trotting, even when saving for a house, even when we’ve just come back from a megatrip. Even when we’re supposed to be behaving.

Do you have any tips for ensuring you get away?

Kitty

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