Ventiane – it’s grandeur is slipping

“Like many French colonial cities, Vientiane is characterised by broad, often leafy boulevards, a riverside promenade, creaking colonial mansions painted in sun-bleached tropical hues and mod 1960’s era villas with large gardens dripping in bougainvillea. The city is dotted with rustic wats and traditional homes, coconut palms and tamarind trees, beer shacks and French cafes. Mix that with a sedentary pace of life and the allure of the place is understood.”(


“From its sleepy tuk-tuk drivers to its cafe society and affordable spas, this former French trading post is languid to say the least. Eminently walkable, the historic old quarter of Vientiane (ວຽງຈັນ) beguiles with glittering temples, lunging naga (river serpent) statues, wandering Buddhist monks, and boulevards lined with frangipani and tamarind.  Meanwhile, with most of its old French villas now stylishly reincarnated into restaurants and small hotels, Vientiane is achieving an unprecedented level of panache.” (Lonely Planet)

Sounds lovely and romantic, chic and oh so French.  The reality is different.  Very different. It’s chaotic and grungy – like any third world city – and the pavements are for cars to park on, not for foot traffic.  Makes walking a bit precarious as cars vie for space on the roads, coming perilously close to each other and to any humans who are walking by.  The Laos, no doubt are adept at negotiating the traffic and the pathway, for the visitor it’s a bit more unnerving.  It’s also less picturesque than the above description suggests.  The broad leafy boulevards are just wide roads with a hundred and one tiny shopfronts with rubbish piling around them.  They’re not shops in the Western sense (though there are an increasing number of ’boutiques’), some merely a space whose aluminium roller door is open; many look like garages.  But to be fair, you can find some wonderful little eateries – places that sell one or two food items – duck wonton noodle soup or baguette sandwiches – as well as many cafes selling a range of Lao and the entire gamut of international food: French (naturally), Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish and even Russian.   And then there are a surprising number of wine shops, full of wonderful (and very expensive) French wines.  In Vientiane the biggest decision of the day is what to eat.   Spoilt for choice, we try everything – or at least make a good attempt.  

There are no supermarkets or department stores.  There is now one mall/shopping centre but it only has the usual market tat.  The big brands have yet to come here.  Interestingly though there are ATMs and travel agencies everywhere, almost as though everyone wants to get the hell out of the place.

Strangely it has a very Chinese feel to it; I suspect that many of the hotels are Chinese owned, hence the Chinese aesthetic – tacky.  Service is not their strong point, though most of the Laos do smile and greet you and despite often not understanding what you’re saying, they do try and get you what you need.

It’s a funny place, with really not a lot to see or do. I’m over Wats and palaces and the National Museum is a travesty (mainly due to a lack of funds and a lack of conservation skills).  The upside is that with little  to do or see (there are only three main streets) there is time to just kick back and relax, to read a book and enjoy a glass of French Chablis or indulge in massages which are so plentiful and cheap.

The reality of Vientiane
A beautiful old grand house falling apart
Still inhabited apartment blocks
Not actually on Champs-Élysées
Outside Le Silapa – an excellent French restaurant


Fine (Thai) dining in Bangkok

High end dining in foreign countries can be tricky.  Reading reviews is of no help – there’s always an equal balance between those who loved it and those who thought it was over priced, over-hyped and not worthwhile.  Make up your own mind.

I had wanted to eat at Nahm for a long time.  I’ve been a fan of David Thompson ever since he first came onto the Sydney food scene, way back when.  My sister gave me a copy of his first cookbook back in the early 90s and it has become one of my favourite recipe books.  I’ve learnt a great deal from those recipes but I’ve also enjoyed the experience of eating at his earlier restaurants, Sailors Thai and for more causal bites, the Sailors Cantina.  I also jump at any opportunity to make a booking when he arrives in Sydney a guest chef at the likes of the Bentley Bar.  Rare treats.  So I was not surprisingly very excited about the prospect of eating at Nahm (I’d also read and seen interviews with him in Bangkok talking about what it’s like to be a white person cooking high end Thai food: the Thais don’t like it – something to do with grandmothers and eggs.

Interestingly, the reviews on TripAdvisor were on the whole, not positive and then again there was that whole hype about eating at a restaurant that had been named World # 1 (now knocked back to #2).   But I had asked some people who are foodies what their experience of Nahm was and they advised that we go – that it was an experience not worth missing.

Whilst browsing the best places to eat in Bangkok I also came across the Issaya Siamese Club.  This place got very good reviews so I uhmed and ahhed about which place to go to and then decided to book the Issaya.  Also they were very prompt in their reply, which Nahm wasn’t.  The other thing that made me wonder about Nahm is that it seemed very formal – in the Como Hotel – and had a strict dress code.  I was planning to travel very light – no heels or silk dresses.

I was also considering Bo.Lan.  Again this place resonated with me because of their use of sustainable ingredients and the fact that both chefs Bo (Duangporn Songivsava ) and Lan (Dylan Jones) who are a husband and wife team had worked with David Thompson – Jones back in Sydney and Bo in London.  I’d also seen an interview with them and was impressed with their attitude to food and Thai culture. Bo is a native Thai and has been presented with the inaugural award for Asia’s Best Female Chef, as part of The 50 Best Restaurants in Asia Awards 2013.

So I was tossing up.  Finally, I decided that my husband’s birthday would be celebrated with lunch at Issaya and then we would have dinner at Nahm just before leaving Bangkok.  And then I thought, what the hell, here we are in Bangkok with some of the best Thai fine dining restaurants in the world, we’d be crazy not to try them all, so I booked Bo.Lan as well.  And so glad I did.  While the Issaya Club made my heart sing – such a joyous experience in a gorgeous setting – Bo.Lan’s food was sensational. 

It strikes me as very odd that the most negative reviews came from Asian people.  Theyir comments generally were that you can get the same food at street stalls much cheaper.  I think that they not only miss the point – you just don’t get this calibre of food on the streets – but there seems to be reluctance to pay for high end Asian food (barring Chinese).  Whist most of these people would not bat an eyelid at paying exorbitant prices for Italian or French food (some of it very ho hum), somehow paying the same for Thai is unthinkable. Plus, I don’t think they fully appreciate what constitutes a fine dining experience – it’s not just the setting and the great attentive service, it’s the play of ingredients, of textures and tastes; its taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary that sings in your mouth, scintillates your taste buds and keeps you wondering how the hell they did it. Worth every penny (or baht) in my book. 

So although I’ve yet to eat at Nahm I have packed my heels and silk dress and look forward to the experience. Meanwhile, I can thoroughly recommend splurging out on the food and wine at both the Issaya and Bo.Lan.

Eating our way around Bangkok

Our visit to Bangkok was primarily to eat:  at street stalls, markets and high end restaurants.  One of the joys of being in Bangkok is that there seems to be someone cooking something at even turn.  Down the little alleys and side streets, along the tiny canal walkways, at the many markets and along the main streets. And then there are all the food malls with their more up-market offerings – essentially the same but also more expansive and encompassing a greater range of international food.  These food malls seem to the place of choice for locals – clean, exotic and, importantly, air-conditioned.  We steared clear of these – they’re jut too busy – but we did find ourselves one day sitting at an oyster bar at the very up-scale Paragon food court, enjoying a glass of champagne with a section of very fine oysters from around the world.  This was a bit of  treat for us in lieu of my birthday non-dinner.  It felt very much like sitting at the oyster bar at David Jones in Sydney – a nice little interlude whilst shopping. The interesting thing at this place was the clientele, not just the well-to-do tourists eating lobster from Maine but also a group of young boys (they looked like students) who were were tucking into a range of dishes accompanied by glasses of coke.  We chatted a while with a nice Japanese couple – he had been living in Bangkok for 8 years and was showing his friend around.  He was stumped about the white wine selection and was about to agree to an Australian wine when I strongly suggested he choose something else (it was a very poor Australian wine at a very high price and there was a much better American Chardonnay and French Chablis on the menu).  He tasted the wine and was very grateful and hence the conversation began.

I tend to favour the little food places (to call them cafes is a bit of a stretch) that serve a limited range of dishes, with plastic chairs and formica topped tables, the kitchen right there in front of you, lots of noise, steam and generally no English.  It’s  a matter of pointing.  One of them around the corner from where were were staying became our local breakfast haunt – pork noodle soup and an iced coffee.  We then found a great little stall in a nearby side street that had a small selection of traditional Thai food.  We had no idea what they were but pointed to them and had them with rice.  They were excellent.  Then there was another stall that served a very fragrant spicy soup, usually full of offal (especially pork kidney) but I think the owner sized us up and just put in a small sample and gave us more duck. We were grateful.

We tried to sample all we could but could only eat so much (more’s the pity).  It was great fun going to markets and not knowing what/how to eat and having the locals help. At Or Tor Kor market (q fresh food and wholesale market where my of the restauranteurs go) we wandered the aisles marvelling at all the produce – so much beautifully fresh fish and seafood, the range of exotic fruits (which stall holders kindly allowed us to sample) and all the varied and many curry pastes and bases.  It was a bit like being in heaven for me and I discovered an exotic fruit that has become my favourite (although I’ve only seen it in Bangkok).  It’s called Bouea burmanica – Marian plum -and is the colour of an apricot and the shape of a  tamarillo (and about the same size) with bright green leaves similar to an orange.  The stall holders peel the skin away and deftly remove the inside stone stone so that you’re left with a whole peeled and stoned fruit. And it tastes like a cross between a mango and a mangosteen – two of my favourite fruits.  Mangosteens used to be what I considered the king of fruits but they’ve just been knocked off their perch by these wondrous fruits. They’re sublime. I am now (in Laos) constantly on the lookout for them.

Marian plums


Street food stall

Camping holidays

I used to go camping a lot  – many years ago that was what you did either for long Easter breaks or in the summer holidays or sometimes just for a weekend.  My family used to go camping around Lake Eildon (in Victoria).  Back in those days you could just go bush, find a nice spot and set up camp.  We would generally camp near a river (stream actually) and my uncle would fish for trout.  He taught me how to fish.  Mostly I got the fly tangled in a tree but sometimes I caught fish.  I liked the solitariness of fishing in a stream, just walking along and casting.  Whether or not I caught a fish was beside the point, it was really just an activity. If I did catch a fish I would have to unhook it and then clean and scale it.  All part of the process. Even putting live worms onto the hook was OK.  But I was a kid then.  Not sure that I could do that now.

When we were young we used to travel all the way up from Melbourne to Hervey Bay in Qld (some 2,000+ miles) in the September school holidays. 5 of us (3 kids in the back) in a Holden station wagon fully laden with tent and camp beds and food and god only knows what else. We didn’t pay attention to the preparations, we were just keen to get on the road. It was a long, long journey and my dad would drive pretty much non-stop, fuelled up on coke (as in coca-cola) and ‘no-doze’.  He would stop by the roadside in the early hours of the morning for a couple of hours’ sleep and then would drive on again.  We’d usually stop in Brisbane overnight with some relatives and then be back on our way.  I remember how long and flat that journey was – nothing to see but the occasional billboard and lots of telegraph poles.  We’d count them (out of boredom) and we would play hangman and noughts and crosses and I spy.

In those days the tents were huge, heavy canvas things with wooden poles – usually one in the middle of the tent and eyelets that had to be threaded around the corner poles.  Our tent didn’t have a floor.  But we had those old camp beds.  I suspect they were really army cots. And no sleeping bags – mum always brought plenty of blankets and sheets.  We camped right on the foreshore: crowded with tents so close to each other that you could barely move between them; as kids we didn’t care. It was exciting to be able to wake up early to the sound of the pounding surf and go and swim – at 6am!  I think we lived in the water.  Evening times were magical too, with the ending of daylight and the descending quiet  – distant chatter and occasional raised voices of kids and adults – and the preparation of food and smell of sausages and chops cooking.  I don’t think I ever appreciated the effort that went into that exercise. Our main activity as kids was playing on the beach and reading.  We always sought out the local second hand bookstore  and spent many hours lying around reading.  It was simple but blissful.  Not a care in the world.

When we camped in the bush there were usually a group of adults and I remember fondly how at night, in our tent we would hear the adults talking and singing around the fire and playing cards. When you’re camping there’s really nothing to do – walks, cards, books, swimming. I don’t think we were ever bored.

As a young adult I once travelled all the way along the east coast of Australia from Warrnambool to Darwin, camping along the way. Sometimes just stopping at a beach for a night or two and other times in little campsites in a little tent with not many provisions or accessories.

More recently I’ve had camping trips to the Snowy River and a number of canoe trips, packing our canoe with everything we needed and finding a nice place to stop.  Sadly, now there are so many restrictions on where you can camp and you can no longer  just go bush.  You have to be in a designated camping ground.  These can be horrid and don’t appeal to me.  One time we canoed to a lovely little spot and set up our little tent only to find the next day a helicopter circling around and then the water police coming to tell us that we couldn’t camp there – too dangerous:  a branch might fall.  Despite our pleas that we were well aware of the risks, we were moved on.  And so we packed everything into our canoe (the water police watched to make sure we left) and paddled to another place.  Again the next day a ranger came and told us we couldn’t camp there.  We explained that the camp site was way too full and besides, we didn’t have much stuff with us and would take all our rubbish away with us, that we had already been moved on and were only there for another day.  The ranger relented and so we spent a gloriously quiet time by the water, doing very little – eating, drinking, reading, swimming.

But for a number of years now we haven’t camped.  Instead our holidays have become more exotic, travelling to various places in Asia – India, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali – or to Europe, Morocco, and more recently to the UK.

This year for our anniversary we decided to go camping.  Our daughter and her girlfriend had been camping to Seal Rocks (Myall Lakes) and stayed at a place called Camp Treachery (!) with lovely vast camping spots and gorgeous beaches. A couple of other people I know said they’d also been there and thought the place was perfect.  So off we went.

My daughter had bought a big tent – large enough to stand up in which was a first for us – so we borrowed that and planned our meals, bought our provisions, packed the car and off we went. We took everything that we thought we needed (including some nice champagne and champagne glasses) and my daughter’s double blow up mattress, sheets and pillows, chairs, a hammock, our Weber as well as one of those little portable butane burners which used to be only in the Asian shops, but can now be found in the mainstream supermarkets. We even took coffee and a camping coffee plunger. Luxury.

But of course, despite making careful lists and pre-prepping dressings, marinades and rubs, there were things we forgot.  Main one being a salad bowl. How to make salad without a salad bowl.  The small cereal bowls we took were too small.  So my creative problem-solving skills came to the fore.  I mixed everything in a plastic bag, added the dressing and voila! Problem solved.

We arrived on Friday afternoon – although we meant to leave at 10am to get here by 2pm there were, inevitably, last minute things to take care of.  I decided I wanted to take our hammock, which necessitated the search for some extra ropes.  And then there were the last minute food purchases – some coriander, fresh fruit etc.  But finally we were on the road and arrived soon after 3pm.  All good; time for a swim once we’d found a good spot to set up the tent and camp site and then we could settle in and have a G&T before making dinner.  What we hadn’t factored in was the setting up of a tent we had never used.  Fraught, to say the least.  I think it took us nearly an hour to figure it out.  The instructions were vague (and I suspect translated from Chinese – never a good thing).  But at last we were done and the tent was up, the bed inflated and made up and our food stuffs and drinks packed in ice.  And so to dinner – seared salmon with a tomato, pomegranate and roasted lemon salad. I had roasted the lemons at home as well as the pomegranate dressing and the chilli-lime salt for the salmon.  Simple and perfect. And then there was nothing to do but sit around the fire and drink red wine. No wifi, no service = no phones, no iPads.  Blissfully relaxing.

Around the world in taxi cabs

We’ve caught taxis in most places around the world, an experience that is unique to each locale. In India the taxis are quaint old fashioned Ambassadors but you can also hire drivers with more ‘modern’ vehicles. Doesn’t really make a difference because the experience is hair-raising either way. And noisy. Indian drivers beep their horns all the time. I think its because no one really bothers to obey the road rules (if indeed there are any) so drivers are constantly making their presence known by way of their loud horn. But maybe its also a male macho thing (“my horn’s bigger/louder than yours”?). Similarly in Vietnam, but there it appears to be some logic to the madness and because people don’t drive fast, they seem to be able to cope with negotiating cross roads etc without lights and passing by. It still makes me incredibly anxious – I can’t bear to look out the windows, I have to occupy myself by reading or doing something. Either that or taking a chill pill (does help). In Malaysia its much more ‘civilised’ and organised but even so, drivers pay little attention to lanes: a 3 lane highway can easily become 5 and I’ve even seen drivers driving on the shoulder in order to bypass traffic. Still, I felt relatively safe in taxis in Malaysia. In London, one of the things I wanted to do (as well as riding on the top of a London bus) was take one of those traditional black cabs. They’re very different from our Aussie cabs: roomy in the back – enough room to put your suitcases in with you or to fit 6 people: 3 on the backseat and 3 on the pull down seat opposite. Plus they have individual settings for air con and music. Now that’s civilised. One of the things I noticed was the protocol of getting into a cab. You hail one, and then you talk to the driver about where you want to go through the front left side window, and only then do you get in. Here in Australia, you just jump in the cab and say where you want to go. I always sit in the back – I don’t think that in London people sit in the front. In Singapore we were amazed that you couldn’t just flag down a taxi. You have to wait at a designated taxi pick-up place. One time we saw a taxi stop at the lights and ran across 3 lanes of traffic and jumped in. The taxi driver was horrified. You just don’t do that there. He gabbled on and on about how we couldn’t just jump in. Finally I asked him if he didn’t want the fare and and should we get out? Eventually he clamed down and explained that it was illegal for him to pick up people in that manner and he could be fined. We found that very strange indeed. So regulated. But that’s Singapore. People queue and they never venture beyond that white line. Oh the freedom of being in Australia where you simply hail an empty cab and just hop in.

Parisian hospitality

So often I have heard people complain  that Parisians – more generally, French – are rude and inhospitable; up themselves. I’ve not encountered this. In fact I’ve been pleasantly surprised and delighted with how friendly and customer service savvy they are. You can’t enter a shop or department store or indeed any section of a store or a cafe, bar or bistro without people saying hello. Bonjour Madame. So nice. And they look you in the eye and are all too happy to engage with you no matter what your level of French or their English. And there’s always a friendly bonjour, merci, au revoir at the end. I love the French. They don’t make me feel like an outsider; they make we feel welcome. I only wish I could speak the language fluently. I would so love to be able to banter and converse with them. They have a sense of fun – a joie de vivre.

Back in London I found myself saying “Bonjour monsieur” etc only to realise I was in a different country now and nobody really greeted you or cared. Somehow saying bonjour/bonsoir monsieur/madame has a nice ring to it.  Its not just ‘hello’ its an acknowledgement.  But I can’t imagine anyone in Australia saying “good day madam”.  Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  So vive la France!

Paris – a city of contradictions

Paris is a a magnificent city – romantic and grand. It’s because of all the neo-classical buildings. Napoleon commissioned Georges-Eugène Haussmann to rebuild the city – a massive public works program that included the demolition of crowded and unhealthy medieval neighborhoods, the building of wide avenues, parks and squares, the construction of new sewers, fountains and aqueducts. Haussmann was a genius. When you stand at the centre and overlook all the boulevards you have to be in awe at just how remarkable this man’s vision was, particularly when you think of what the dirty and infested city was like before. Boulevarde Huassmann with its grand stores – Galaries Lafayette and Au Printempts are shopping meccas. Still, I wish that some of the places such as the original Marais and Les Halles still exisited though I’m sure that the residents were delighted with the clean up (despite the huge resistance at the time).

As I walk around all the grand palaces and museums, the opulence is astonishing. Makes London look a bit like a poor relative. It’s opulent on a grand scale. Haussmann’s conception of Paris was a paradise for the bourgeoisie. No wonder the peasants revolted.

It was we were heading out to the airport on our way back to London that a very different side of Paris emerged: graffiti covered every surface of wall space; the backs of houses looked derelict and what I at first mistook for rubbish dumps turned out to be slum dwellings, structures built around twigs and put together with old mattresses, cardboard and other bits and pieces. The only reason I could tell they weren’t simply piles of rubbish is that most of them had some sort of pipe coming from the top – no doubt a crudely made chimney for cooking. I saw a small boy climbing on the high wire fence that was only a metre or so in front of the dwellings; and some washing hanging on the bare branches of trees. And refuse.Everywhere refuse. Signs of life. Like the slums of Bombay except there they would be picking through each and every piece of discarded rubbish to sell and trade to make a living. How do these people survive? On the streets of Paris, as in London, Edinburgh and even Sydney, there were homeless people sleeping on the streets (many with dogs who seemed to be better cared for than their owners). It seems to have become common for people to fall out of the system. The homeless are increasingly everywhere. It its always such a shock to see them in the streets where metres away are the grand magazines: Au Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, Au Bon Marche and La Samaritan. In Sydney it’s the same; you’ll find them on the corners next to David Jones and Westfield (Sydney’s answer to high end shopping). Perhaps they think that those who have spent an excess of dollars on needless indulgences will feel conpelled to throw them some coins.

The seamier side of a city is as interesting as its grand centre and somehow more honest and revealing. I read reviews of people advising against staying in Rue St Denis.  I have to disagree.  I love this place – its full of life: a vast array of types, nationalities and cultures.  I’ve never felt unsafe here (we stayed here some many years ago and felt that we were in the heart of the city).  Sure there are prostitutes and drugs and its seedy but isn’t that what a city is all about?  I’ve never been bothered or harassed – or propositioned – and I’ve enjoyed the energy day and night.  Its colourful and exotic.  As a tourist I think its as charming as its grand neoclassical counterpart.  Both form part of the texture of the experience of a city.




The journey south

Our journey is coming to an end. We’re on our way back to London. We left Duffus (north east of Inverness on the Moray Firth) yesterday midday and drove down to Gattonside in the Scottish Borders. It was a long and slow five hour drive with the usual detour around Edinburgh (not knowing where we were going). This morning we got up early in order to get to London at a reasonable time – hopefully before dark (4pm) and the rush hour traffic. Yesterday the peaks of the mountains were covered in snow. This morning a layer of frost covered everything. It was zero degrees – freezing; even the cows were huddled together. The sheep were just barely visible, blending into the frost covered ground. Mist hung low as did the sun which was blindingly bright making it difficult to drive.

We had figured six hours would get us to London but we’ve been on the road for an hour and a half and have only just crossed the border into England. We’ve done 100 miles and still have over 300 to go. The journey is made slow due to queues of cars behind trucks and slow farmers on single lane roads. That and the visibility difficulties due to the blinding sun. But it’s a pretty journey with the road going through the centre of villages with narrow streets and lovely old buildings. The car has finally warmed up and the water in the windscreen wipers thawed. Our iPod is plugged in and we’ve resolved to simply enjoy the trip – the only pressing need is to get the car back before the hire place closes. Negotiating London traffic will be another matter but hopefully the lovely google map lady will assist. By the time we return our car we would have covered over 2000 miles. Quite a journey.

Tomorrow will be another early start – Eurostar to Paris at 7.55am. We have to be at St Pancras Station half an hour earlier which means leaving our digs in London at 6.45am. Yikes. Once upon a time I left home at 7.00am every weekday to go to work. These days I have to set an alarm to be out of bed before 9.30 in order to make it down for breakfast. I’m looking forward to being in our apartment in Paris where we can fend for ourselves and there are no schedules for breakfast. And a sleep in. Then again, there is so much to do and see that sleeping in would be a waste of holiday time. I’ll save that for when we’re back home.

2014-12-03 10.23.27

Tartan – chintzy?

We’re staying in a lovely little hotel on the Isle of Skye. Well, let me qualify ‘lovely’. It’s a really nice, homey and comfortable place with friendly and attentive staff but it’s twee. There is tartan everywhere: the carpet is tartan, the sofas are covered in tartan (I’ve been informed that it’s check but isn’t that what tartan is essentially? The definition of tartan is:  a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials eg, carpet) and even the curtains in some rooms are tartan (fortunately in our room the curtains were chintz).  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike tartan but I think there’s a place for it – like picnic rugs and kilts and at a stretch throw rugs. The dark green and navy tartan on the stairs just looked weird.

Then there are all these quaint little touches like plates on the walls. Even in the bathroom. Why? What’s the point of putting plates on the walls? Flying ducks I understand, but plates?  They weren’t even particularly decorative or interesting – just standard old fashioned crockery).

Our room is smaller than the size of the bathroom of the place we last stayed at – barely enough room for the bed, a wardrobe, dressing table (!) and two side tables but only one chair. Cramped is an understatement. As for the bathroom, suffice to say that two people can not be in it at the same time and the toilet seat has to be put down to use as an extra surface to put toiletries on.

Still, when you’re travelling you make do. And it is comfortable enough; the sheets are crisp and white and the duvet is big and down filled and there are local toiletries in the bathroom and nice china cups and saucers and a good selection of teas, coffee and hot chocolate with a bonus of shortbread biscuits and a small bottle of the local whisky on arrival. And the bar with an open fire is just a short stumble down the tartan stairs.



The Isle of Skye

Sitting in front of an open fire in our quaint little hotel on the Isle of Sky. Once again, it’s been an amazing journey traveling from Oban to Tyndrum, past Ben Nevis and Glen Coe to Ballachulish then Fort William, past Loch Linnhe and Loch Locky to Invergarry and on past the majestic Five Sisters and Loch Alsh to Kye of Lochalsh and then finally crossing the bridge to the Isle of Skye (whew!). We’ve been blessed with good weather. We were warned that if it were cloudy/misty then we wouldn’t see much – which would be a shame as the whole point of being on Skye is to experience it’s stunning beauty.

But the gods have been smiling on us and so far the weather has been relatively mild (by Scottish standards) and we’ve had clear blue days and even sunshine. When it’s rained we’ve blissfully been indoors.
Tonight we took a pre-prandial walk. So dark. There are no street lights; the only light coming from the windows of houses  scattered about. We can just make out the mists on the mountains and the dark waters and it’s so still and quiet. The only sound is our feet crunching on the road and the lapping of water nearby.
And it’s only 6 o’clock. It takes some getting used to night falling so early – it still surprises me when I realise it’s not yet 5 o’clock and it feels like night time. Here on Skye there’s nothing to do. We sit by the fire and drink red wine and whiskies and read. A self imposed exile and a time to recharge and enjoy being on holidays in an unfamiliar territory and nothing to do. Bliss.