There is a logical progression here from my last post about favourite things – it lead me onto thinking about favourite places. (And also about how unlikely it is that anything I write here has a logical progression at all!)
If I had a TARDIS and could whisk myself away anywhere where would I go? And could I come back yesterday so I don’t use up all my holiday allowance! There are so many places I want to go, so many places I’ll probably never see but there are also places that I could revisit for ever.
For a ‘proper’ holiday – Santorini is the destination of choice. My friend and I discovered this small but very gorgeous Greek island some years ago by asking a travel agent for a destination with good food, beaches and lots of photographic inspiration – oh – and no oiks and no kids clubs! After a little discussion on the exact classification of an oik she delivered the perfect solution and off we went (should really say I have no problem with children except that I can’t eat a whole one…).
It is the most beautiful place – although prone to earthquakes and with an active volcano – and you will have seen it in films even if you didn’t know. It was also on all the ads and TV inserts for the Athens Olympics. I can still remember the actual shock when I came to the edge of the caldera for the first time and saw the deep turquoise sea at the foot of the cliffs within the crescent of the island. All the classic views of white houses tumbling down huge cliffs are Santorini and there are volcanic beaches (you can pick up pumice on the beach – saves a fortune in Boots!), thousands of churches, a ghost town – I can’t explain it, you just have to go and see for yourself.
In contrast Scotland has many of my favourite places – probably after taking lots of childhood summer holidays on the west coast. Hard to choose – there’s Dunure with the castle ruins, not one of the big famous glamorous castles but good nonetheless or the Brig O’Doon and the auld kirk in Alloway close by Robert Burns’ birthplace – both featured in The Ballad of Tam o’Shanter – or any beach with a view of Ailsa Craig.
If I have to pick one Scottish place it would be Threave Castle – it’s a Douglas stronghold so a bit of the old family estates! It’s now just a ruined tower on an island in the River Dee and it takes a bit of effort to get there – no parking in the neat and tidy car park and waving your NT cards at the accessible entrance for this one. You walk about a mile or so through the fields through a selection of gates held closed by great big rocks hung on chains. Great excercise for the old bingo wings! Once you reach the river you ring a bell and one of the castle custodians will come over in their boat to take you to the island and the castle. After all that exertion there’s (quite rightly) no cafe or shop – just the castle and any amount of wonderful peace and quiet.
Venice was a surprise – it actually looked like the paintings! I didn’t really think it could… So many people said – oh Venice – it smells, its soooo expensive and really touristy – well, sorry but I don’t care. It smelled no worse than any other city and better than most. It was only expensive if you wanted it to be – we knowingly had very, very expensive coffee at Cafe Florian in St Marks Square (with additional charges for the orchestra!) just because we could but we also ate well and reasonably, and even had funds for shopping. So much more to see than we had time for and I want to go back in winter as well as summer. One day I’ll go for Carnevale…
(Yes of course I bought shoes – it was Italy, it would have been rude not to!)
There seems to be a water theme developing – typical Piscean – but finishing with something definitely inland and rather closer to home – or where home was for a long time. I used to live very close to the Angel of the North and passed it at least twice a day. It is the most imposing and strangely comforting sight – if you’ve never got up close and personal to the Angel then do if you get the chance. Saying that it has the wingspan of a jumbo jet means nothing until you are walking under the wings. It always felt like home when I saw it.
Sometimes there is nowhere finer to be than sitting on the feet of an Angel in the sunshine.