Our first stop…Johannesberg, South Africa

We hopped off our plane in Johannesburg on the morning of December 26th, the day after Christmas.

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The entrance to the Apartheid Museum

In the months leading up to our trip people would always warn us to be careful and safe, more so than other trips we have gone on. People are usually afraid of the unknown or locations they don’t usually travel to. But yes, when we travel, safety is always a top priority. When we arrived, we decided to take an Uber to our hotel. The drive would take about 30 minutes from the airport and this was our first experience in South Africa. There is a lot of poverty and unemployment in South Africa, just something to be aware of as a tourist. Halfway to our hotel there was a boy that looked like he could have been 12, sitting on the side of the road. His clothes were worn. Our driver stopped the car and said he was going to get out and help the boy, we said sure. Now at this point Charlene looked over at me a little concerned with all the warnings we had heard. The driver went into his car trunk and pulled a bag of food out and handed it to the boy that was sitting along the side of the road. He came back into the car and said the boy was there when he drove by before and looked hungry. I will remember this for quite a long time, it was a quick lesson on the issues that some black South Africans confront every day.

We arrived at our hotel, African Pride Melrose Arch. The hotel wasn’t downtown and was almost like a gated community with little shops and restaurants. You will find that there are gates/wire gates on most hotels and properties in Johannesburg. The hotel was really nice/clean and we ended up staying there for a couple of nights while we toured the area. 

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Soweto

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A shanty town

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Our tour bus

The next day we had a day tour, to see some of the important tourist/historical sites in Johannesburg. The name of the company was Felleng Tours, they picked us up from our hotel for a full day tour. We visited Soweto which was the region that the apartheid/white government set aside specifically for black residents. Soweto is the largest black population of its kind in the country.  There were many people selling unique arts and crafts. We stopped at Regina Mundi church which was significant because black people were able to organize their movement inside as meetings in public places were banned. We also visited the Soweto shanty towns, this is the region in which there is a lot of poverty. You never get a grasp for the wealth inequality that exists in the world until you visit. I would say that for me visiting this area was eye opening. I’ve obviously heard that these regions exist but to visit them and see it with my own eyes and socialize with the people was something very different.

We visited the colourful Orlando towers, I didn’t dare go bungee jumping though. That is also where we had a bbq lunch, which we really enjoyed.

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The Soweto Towers

Later in the day we stopped at Mandela House/ Mandela national museum which was extremely busy with tourists but well worth the wait. There were important photos, documents inside which is one of the things you obviously need to experience if you are there. We finished our tour day by visiting the Apartheid museum. The museum was very well done. It showed the true history of the country and the struggles of blacks during the apartheid era in South Africa. To enter the museum they give you a card, to enter as a black person or a white person to illustrate what it was life in the apartheid era.  As me and my wife are an interracial couple, we entered our assigned door. I sent a picture to my mother with me and Charlene entering the museum and she said wow, this is still happening down there and I had to tell her that we were actually at the apartheid museum but decided to take a picture :). That picture is at the top of the page.

 

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The line up to get into Mandela House

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Nelson Mandela’s office

After three days in Johannesberg we drove to the Airport to get to our next destination…the Drakensberg mountains. 

The Glasgow Necropolis

The Glasgow Necropolis

The Glasgow Necropolis

Just outside the heart of Glasgow is an old Victorian cemetery. I’d say it took us about 30 minutes or so to walk there from downtown. I’m always looking for free or lost cost activities to do while on vacation because costs really add up after a while. The Glasgow Necropolis reminded me of one of those graveyards you would see in an old horror movie but obviously since we visited during the daytime we were able to fully appreciate the craftsmanship of the headstones and enjoy a nice walk. Continue reading

5 things to do in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is an old city with lots to see. We stayed for about 5 days and drove in from the Isle of Skye on the west side of Scotland. Tourism thrives here and the people of the city are extremely friendly.  Here are 5 things to do on your next visit to Edinburgh.

1. Calton Hill 

For those days that you would just like to go for a walk and relax while on vacation I highly suggest visiting Calton Hill. While it takes a bit of energy to get to the top of the hill, the views are magnificent. The hill overlooks the city and seems to be a common place for locals and tourists to enjoy themselves. We spent part an afternoon here and enjoyed some sunshine.

The  view from Calton Hill

The view from Calton Hill

Overlooking the city

Overlooking the city

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St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, England

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St. Michael’s Mount

I fell in love with this little island castle.  It was a rather unique experience to walk across the stone footpath to the island surrounded by Mount’s Bay.  In order to truly experience this fascinating castle you need to plan for a whole afternoon.  If you come during low tide you can walk across to the castle, if you come during high tide you have to take a boat across.  As the tide comes in the stone footpath disappears under the water.

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A day at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, this is a must see castle (featured in the first film).  If you are a fan of history, this is a must see castle.  If you are a fan of castles, this is definitely a must see castle.  I mean really, need I say more… let me introduce you to the beautiful Alnwick Castle.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

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An English Castle with a Moat… Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

If there is one thing you will notice while visiting the United Kingdom….. Castles, Castles, and more Castles!

I was reading an article last week that said there were over 700 castles in Whales alone. I was baffled by this, since I’ve only seen a small fraction of them.
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The Medieval Appeal of the Prague Castle

St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

Prague Castle is the Castle located on the hill. It is close to the city centre and a must visit if you are staying in Prague.  The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and built sometime in the 800’s. It is OLD to put it bluntly. I love all things medieval, maybe it is an appreciation for the buildings and craftsmanship of that time. Have a look at this door we found within the castle, could we find something so unique in this day and age?!?! Continue reading

Iconic Sites of London

Tower Bridge on the River Thames, a drizzly day that showcases the beautiful blue and gold highlights on the bridge.  Hop on the river cruise to really appreciate the view.

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A day at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich Germany

One of the things that I came to enjoy while visiting Germany was touring their castles and palaces. There are many of them and they are very grand and detailed. While we were in Munich we decided to spend a day visiting the Nymphenburg Palace. The grounds require a lot of walking if you want to see everything, so leave yourself lots of time and wear walking shoes.

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La Ville-Lumière: Paris

La Ville-Lumière.. the City of Light

Stay at a hotel that is close to the subway or in the heart of Paris.  Our hotel was close to the Gare de Nord train/subway station.  Check your bags and hop on the subway explore.  Our first walk in the city of Paris brought us to this interesting photo opportunity…

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