Would you like my window seat?

We are 36,000ft in the air and the announcement comes over the tannoy:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, if you look out to the left side of the aircraft, there is a brilliant view of the Austrian Alps”.

I’m that person on a plane who is happy to give up their window seat. It’s not that I don’t want to see the views. I really do, but looking out of the airplane that high up as it’s tilting is guaranteed to do two things: make me panic and make me throw up.

Wandering Beeb is the opposite. He’s quite happy looking out of the window and taking photos, snapping away and telling me all about what he can see below.

I’m not the greatest on planes anyway – I tend to think that they only stay up in the air based on the power of wishful thinking, so anything that reminds me of how high up we are is a bit ‘no no’.

On this particular flight, however, I really want to see the Alps. I’ve looked out of the windows on purpose once before, as we headed into Vegas. It was night time and we were flying in over the strip. Instead of paying for a helicopter ride, we were able to see the whole of the strip as the plane made its approach to the runway. I was persuaded to take in the view after much discussion and whilst it made me feel quite sick, I was really glad for the experience.

This time, as the Alps passed below us, I took the decision to look out without any cajoling or discussion. It was beautiful. The line of the mountains and the colours of the sky were stunning. I manage to peek out long enough to see the snow-capped tips of the mountains against the horizon and to pass my phone to Wandering Beeb to take a couple of shots.

A big achievement for me, despite feeling a mixture of vertigo, sickness and fear. A beautiful site and a proud moment. Something to remember the next time I’m eager to pass up that window seat.

Emerald Lake

Avoiding visitors to Emerald Lake in Canada

It’s in all of the travel pictures – stunning, calm, serene emerald waters, but what is Emerald Lake really like?

On our road trip around parts of Canada, we took some time to visit Emerald Lake as a stop off en route towards our next location.

The view from the path at Emerald Lake

The first thing that struck us about this place was the different approach it had taken towards visitors to the lake. Many of the other places we had stopped at were full of cars, visitors and camping vans, parked up as close as possible to the edge of the water. Whilst this is great for getting a viewing spot, it’s not so great for trying to find a calm, quiet place to absorb the beauty of the view. Some of the places we visited were busier than their town centres!

Emerald Lake differed in this respect, as cars were not allowed over the small wooden bridge towards the accommodation. Instead, a car park and shuttle bus was provided to support people too and from the cabins. This resulted in the lake being a little less crowded – not that it wasn’t busy (it certainly was), but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the places we visited (Lake Louise we’re looking at you!).

Not too busy along the shore of the lake...

The trip over the little bridge was also quite exciting, it made the lake feel a little more hidden and cut off from the rest of the world.

The cabins felt like little hide-aways set in stunning scenery

We were staying in one of the cabins alongside the lake and they were beautiful! Looking out of the window, past the balcony (yes we had a little balcony!), the colours of the lake were so vivid, even from a distance. The rooms were basic but fairly spacious and included a little log fire which would be lovely in colder weather. They were beautifully designed to blend in with the blue skies and green waters.

The main lodge was a great place to hang out in the evenings – a mixture of pool, beer, TV and music made sure that we were all well entertained (one night a little girl jumped on the piano and she was incredible!).

The path around the lake is the jewel in the crown when visiting Emerald Lake. We only did the lake circuit (you can head up to the basin for more stunning views) but it was one of the most memorable walks of our trip. The lake trail is around 5km and is a fairly easy walk in most places – although there are some muddy, forest parts which would be challenging for someone with accessibility needs.

The last of the canoes on the lake

The start of the path takes you out on to a gravel path and as soon as you get past the first couple of yards, most of the visitors to Emerald Lake fade away. We only saw one or two other people for the rest of the walk – this was brilliant as the escape from the crowds left us feeling much more immersed in nature.

The first half of the walk keeps you close to the shoreline on a gravel path and gives a close-up view of the path the glacier follows as it melts down to the lake. Whilst making our way around the lake, a fire helicopter made numerous visits, filling up the water bucket on the way to a nearby forest fire.

Helicopter filling up the water bucket to battle a nearby forest fire

The wooden bridge at the far end of the lake marked the start of the return journey. The path ran through a forest area for most of the walk home, giving very different views. This was my favourite part of the walk as it was fairly dense and almost had a jungle-like feel to it.

Part of the lake trail at Emerald Lake

Staying on the lake is an excellent idea if you want to grab some photos that don’t include 20 other visitors. Once everyone goes home, you get a much more natural experience of the environment.

Evenings by the lake were beautiful, particularly once most day visitors had gone home. We were lucky enough to find a pier without anyone around and sat looking out on to the lake in silence, admiring the colours and stillness in the early evening.

Zombie Girl and Wandering Beeb at Emerald Lake

From the Banks of the Danube River

An alternative view of Budapest

Whilst in Budapest, one of the main things that we wanted to do was to spend some time on the Danube. As Europe’s second longest river, we wanted to take some time to explore properly.

The River Danube

We had travelled to Budapest with a group of us, but had split up for the night to allow some time for the other two people in our travelling party to have a romantic meal out. Therefore, we found ourselves hopping on board a night boat to take a stunning trip down the Danube before meeting back up with our group for a trip to the ruin pubs.

Shoes on the river Danube

The day before we had strolled down the riverbank in the Pest side of the City to take a look at the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial. Sixty pairs of shoes, made from iron are lined up on the river side to commemorate the massive loss of life of 3,500 people (mostly Jewish people) who were shot in 1945. After being told to remove their shoes and being shot, their bodies fell into the river, being swept away by the current. It’s a terrible reminder of the worst of humanity and seeing sixty pairs of shoes lined up along the river gives a sense of the scale of the atrocity.

Sculpture memorial for thee lives lost in 1945

The nighttime boat ride was a very different view as we passed the Hungarian Parliament buildings. Brightly shining against the dark night, it was an imposing building, full of grandeur and twinkling lights.

Hungarian Parliament buildings

Chain bridge was magnificent to see in the dark and the sounds of the water rushing past us added to the experience. Illuminated gargoyles standing out in the darkness created a gothic edge to the views.

Gargoyles rising out of the darkness

It was a beautiful way to see a different view of the city and travelling by river always feels much more exciting and exotic than by road.

Have you visited Budapest? What were your favourite experiences?

The Terracotta Army

Every now and again, there is an opportunity to see something spectacular closer to home than you would expect. For 2000 years, the army stood underground in China, protecting the First Emperor in the afterlife. Now, parts of the army are on tour across museum exhibits and we went along to Liverpool to catch a glimpse.

Firstly, I have to say that my expectations were a little too high. In my head, I’d imagined a room full of the army statues, all lined up and impressive. Obviously this wasn’t the case and the actual exhibit only contained about six of the statues. After getting over my disappointment and unrealistic expectations (that took a while!) I dived into the exhibit to look at the statues.

Amazingly, each statue is different, with unique facial features and clothing. Chariots and horses were also part of the life-size army, each recreated as accurately as possible. I was amazed to see small terracotta animals too – pigs, dogs and cats – all part of the army.

Seeing the figures from the army is something that doesn’t happen all the time – in fact it has been 10 years since the last time the army visited the U.K.

Wandering round the exhibit and learning more about China’s history made me want to add China to my list for future travel. With such an interesting history and culture, I’d love to experience it first hand.

Tickets are available for the exhibition here.