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Pete and Elaine's Travels

Hello all,
Welcome to our Travel page.
This is where we will try to keep a record of our travels beginning in 2011
-we will update it as often as we have time! Of course we are not continuously travelling, we come home after each journey!!!

Our first itinerary ;-
20th January to 23rd January, San Francisco
23rd January to 19th February, touring north and south islands of New Zealand
19th February fly to Sydney, Australia where we will be staying until 25th February,
26th February, land at Heathrow airport

Second journey;-
We took the caravan through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, when we did lots of walking, sight seeing, painting and reading.

Third itinerary;-
To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary, on Wednesday September 7th 2011, we fly direct to China, with a short stopover in Dubai. On arrival in Beijing, we join the tour with Wendy Wu, spending the next month travelling the length and breadth of China.
We finish off the holiday with a couple of days in Dubai, returning home on October 7th.

Fourth journey;-
29th January to 16th February, South Africa
16th February to 20th February, Zambia

fifth journey:-
USA, September 4th to October 7th 2012

sixth journey:-
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flying January 19th 2013

Seventh journey:-
India and Nepal, flying November 21st and returning December 5th

Eighth journey
Chile, flying January 22nd and returning 4th February

Ninth journey
Namibia, flying on July 24th and returning on August 11th

10th journey
would you believe it, the 10th and off to Western Australia on July 6th finishing off in Singapore on the way back

And so to the 11th adventure, Secret Lapland, January 20th to Monday 25th January 2016

Well unbelievably the twelfth journey, we fly 18th March to Myanmar via Bangkok, and cruise on the Irrawaddy until April 3rd

And onto journey 13, from October 7th to October 18th, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Journey 14 begins on Monday 6th March, 2017 when we travel to Southern India.

Now Journey 15, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,
May 14th to May 22nd 2017

Diary Entries

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

And so to Vilnius, a very different place to the previous two capital cities we have visited and it is much more spread out.

Lithuania itself has had a tumulus existence. It was once part of Poland and still retains the hearty Polish cuisine.

It has suffered from occupation by the Germans and the Russians and many people were lost in the wars. Today there are 700,000 people living in the capital city.
The country achieved Independence and EU citizenship in the same year with Iceland being the first country to recognise its Independence.
Immediately after gaining independence, the Soviet regime sent in its troops but they eventually left in August 1993. Indeed of all of the Baltic states, this country is the most nervous of the possibility of Russian invasion. Vilnius itself is very close to the Russian border and it has in 2015, taken the step of reintroducing compulsory conscription to the army of of its young people.

Vilnius itself has seen a very high growth rate in the last ten years with many large international companies making investments here. Skyscrapers are becoming the norm for the construction of these companies. The city has the world's fastest internet speed.

Unfortunately it also has developed an alcohol problem, particularly in the cities and in particular in the Old Town of Vilnius.

Nevertheless, the city is increasing its status in the world. The Tv programme 'War and Peace' was largely filmed here rather than in St Petersburg because it was much cheaper. Whole streets were shut for filming and shopkeepers reimbursed for their closure to avoid them walking through scene sets. Other scenes were filmed in Runsdale Palace in Latvia.

Our bus took us on a city tour this morning, taking us to the sights situated in the Oder area of the city. We did manage to take a look into St Peters church as one of the many masses of the day had just finished. The many churches were packed and we joined the church of St Anne's to see the children dressed in white party gear for their first communion. There was such a pride in the family.

The sky was bright blue. Fifty percent of the year it either snows or rains. There are only 1800 hours of sunshine and we had two days of those! We were very lucky as it meant that we could wander at leisure.

We passed the Radisson Blu hotel where we should have stayed but didn't. In soviet times, this was the only hotel where foreigners could stay. Apparently when the soviets left, and the hotel was reconstructed, 100s of microphones were found hidden in the walls.

On March 11th, 1990, the country became independent, the first republic to separate from the USSR, yet within it it had its own breakaway state.
One bizarre place was the Uzupis area, just a suburb but one which declared itself an independent republic. It was once a very neglected area but it is now a rather bohemian art centre. It has its own parliament and its own currency and laws. A bit like Cornwall would be I suppose.

The bus dropped us off at the only existing gate of the defence wall, the Gate of Dawn and from here we wandered the streets to see the fine historic buildings. We wandered through one of the Jewish quarters. There was little left to see as what the nazis didn't destroy, was destroyed by the soviets. 58,000 Jews lived here and only 2000 survived.

In the afternoon, we drove out to Trakaii Castle or the Island Castle as it is known. It is a very picturesque place, sitting splendidly on the diminutive Lake Galve.
Like everywhere else, it has had a very troubled history and been extensively restored.

The village was interesting. The houses were built of wood and were the homes of the Karaite, a puritanical Jewish splinter. They survived the nazis when the head of its movement convinced them that they were not Jews and so were exempted from the holocaust.

And so that visit completed our holiday to these Baltic gems. We have been very impressed with how these three countries have progressed and gone through a process of reconstruction since Independence and since they joined the EU.
E presence of NATO groups and the flights of NATO aircraft overhead were a constant reminder of the threats surrounding them. Let us hope and pray that they continue to prosper as to lose their Independence would be such a backward step!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

We set off today for the journey to our last destination, Vilnius.

The countryside doesn't change. There are flat fields and here gone is the barrenness of the winter countryside still prevalent in Estonia. The ten degrees of the north have long given way to temperatures in the mid twenties.
The grass and tees are green and the spring flowers are much in evidence.

Our journey today has been broken by a long visit to Rundale Palace, still in Latvia. It is a fabulous place, known as the Versailles of the country. It was designed by the architect of the Hermitage, St Catherine's Palace and Peterhof in St Petersburg. There is gold leaf, marble and stucco decoration everywhere.
Like other places it has a sad history. It was given by Catherine the Great to her favourite duke, who in her death fell out of favour and was sent to Siberia for twenty years.We set off today for the journey to our last destination, Vilnius.

The countryside doesn't change. There are flat fields and here gone is the barrenness of the winter countryside still prevalent in Estonia. The ten degrees of the north have long given way to temperatures in the mid twenties.
The grass and tees are green and the spring flowers are much in evidence.

Our journey today has been broken by a long visit to Rundale Palace, still in Latvia. It is a fabulous place, known as the Versailles of the country. It was designed by the architect of the Hermitage, St Catherine's Palace and Peterhof in St Petersburg. There is gold leaf, marble and stucco decoration everywhere.
Like other places it has a sad history. It was given by Catherine the Great to her favourite duke, who on her death fell out of favour and was sent to Siberia for twenty two years.
When he returned, the building was finished. The family were compensated for their loss of ownership by today's value of thirty two billion dollars.
...... it fell into German and Russian hands, where it became a school, an army barracks and a hospital.
It was handed over to the Russian state in 1972 who began the long process of restoring it. After Independence, the Latvian state finished the job and the building and its gardens are fabulous.

Another stop at the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania on our route has been fascinating.
In 1831, the Lithuanians staged an uprising against the Russians, who vastly outnumbered them. Many were killed. Many fled leaving the dead behind them. In order to preserve their memory, a wooden cross was left for each person and so built up a mound of crosses, now numbering in excess of 200,000. The soviet regime did not approve of anything not russianified and kept removing the crosses, and still the people kept returning the crosses under the noses of the guard of KGB officers who encircled and patrolled the perimeter in order to prevent the people from returning. All to no avail. Today, there are crosses from all over the world.
What a way to defy the aggressors.

Also of interest in these parts is the business of amber ware. Although there are no mines here, the fine, small stones washed up on the beaches are collected and made into delicate articles of jewellery.
That's enterprise for you

Friday, 19 May 2017

Location: Riga, Latvia

Riga is a lovely place to visit, much bigger than Tallinn but with its own identity. Today, it has a population of 700,000 and much of the buildings are new, as the city was virtually destroyed in the war. It is another World Heritage Centreand is a lively bustling place. Traffic is fairly heavy with its drivers being reputedly the worst in the world. It is a party place which we discovered on our evening visit when we went out to dinner. Some young people's groups are now chaperoned as they drink heavily and then get into their cars to drive home! It is also a stag night destination.

Evidence of the nazi and subsequent Russian occupation is everywhere and the guides take great pains to explain what these people must have gone through in the various periods of repression.

Old Riga is a mixture of architectural styles.
The art nouveau district was particularly surprising with its elegant buildings decorated with coloured tiles an sculptures and low relief.
The centre of the old city itself is a joy to wander around. The gloriously fine sunshine enhanced the lovely buildings on our morning guided tour, taking in the Dome Cathedral, the Blackheads house, the Palace and many more. Two street brass instrumentalists showed enterprise, much to great hilarity, when each group of nationals appear, they played a tune from the particular country....and so we heartily sang a rendering of Rule Britannia!

After lunch, in the afternoon, we did the hour long canal tour before going to the Museum of Occupation and the Fabulously gilded Russian Orthodox Church.

It is worth a night time visit as the place comes alive with youngsters and musicians of all kinds.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Location: Parnu, Estonia

Today we travel south to Riga.
We stopped off for lunch at a spa town called Parmu . On the outskirts are the old traditional houses but most of the town had to be rebuilt as the Russians bombed the area in 1944, even though at the time there was only a civilian population.
Today wealthy Russians and Finns come for the beach and the spa facilities in the short summer.

We cross into Latvia here although because of the Schengen Agreement, there is little to demarcate the border.
The landscape is much the same, flat, agricultural and pine forest. The road follows the coast although you cannot see the sea from the road. Much of the small villages and their ports were destroyed by the Russians and then rebuilt to ship the wood away from the extensive pine forests.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

We enjoyed the short drive to the state owned Lahemas National Park today. It is a landscape of Baltic flint, peat bogs and vast forests.
Dotted here and there are small villages and historic Manor Houses. We visited the lovely Palmse Manor House and the Sagadi Manor House before going for a most delicious lunch at the Vihla Manor House.
Most of the houses are wooden and were built or taken over by the Russians. After the war, the Russians nationalised all of the property. The owners were put in flats where the rent was minimal. Space was rationed, with a single person gettingba one room flat.
As the natural resources belonged to the state, gas and electricity were virtually free
Our last stop was to Kasmu a fishing village on a lovely little bay, very picturesque but a hard life in the inter months particularly.
We visited a fascinating museum run by a family who still live in the building.
According to legend the godfather of the village was a captain called Kasper. He escaped a shipwreck in the bay, and so built a chapel here, so the place was called the village of the Captains. Most of the captains on the north coast were from this village. Today there are a hundred people living here, none of whom are fishermen. Most of the fish have gone from here. The disappearance was said to be due to the coming of the Russian military and vessels. Their sonar killed off much of the fish but also, going out by boat was greatly discouraged and banned fishing as it was thought by the Russians to be an escape route!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

We explored the wonderful Tallinn by coach this morning and then on foot taking in the World Heritage Site of the Old Town. Although only eight degrees, the sky was bright blue, just perfect to set off the coloured walls of the town.

Some of the city walls with its 26 defence towers are intact and encompass some of the best preserved medieval buildings in Europe.
Many of the buildings date back to the 1200s. We browsed through the world's oldest pharmacy which houses a small museum and which can be found in the beautiful Town Hall Square.

We stopped in the oldest coffee house for coffee with homemade chocolates accompanied by a taste of vana, the local liqueur. With virtually no grapes grown in this climate, most of the wines and liqueurs are made from berries and fruit.

This was a lovely place to spend a day and we were fortunate that the hotel was within walking distance of the Old Town. And not much traffic to negotiate into the bargain!

Just excellent.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Location: Bengelurup, India

It is already 37 degrees and it is early morning as we leave Mysore on the last leg of the journey. The people are waiting for rain as last year there was only ten per cent of the rainfall in the monsoon. Drinking water will be rationed in April and May, the summer months. This will not apply to Mysore as there are plenty of rivers around. If farmers divert from rice growing to vegetable crops, they will get a water subsidy from the government.
Even the amusement parks have closed down because of lack of water. Yet the hotels don't seem to be affected. At the moment...

There was some water in the River Kaveri as we crossed one of the 200 year old bridges to get to the island which is the site of many battles against the British.

First stop was Darin Daulat Bagh, the summer garden palace of Tipu Sultan, the region's king. Built in 1784, it is rich in carvings and murals. Each of ithebpalace's sides have three arched openings. In the centre is a pillared verandah, convered with murals restored in 1855. One side shows scenes of battle and the other scenes from the court. Unusually there is a scene depicting the women smoking the hukkah pipes. There were also scenes of the rajah in howdahs on top of their elephants. The murals were first painted onto cotton which was then fixed onto the walls. They are in remarkable condition and very detailed giving such an insight into what was going on at the time.
The woodwork was carved and elegantly painted in richly coloured floral designs whilst the ceilings had touches of gold leaf.
Indians consider this metal auspicious and believe that wearing gold ornaments would ensure a long life. Traditionally motifs from nature are used in carvings. Some local mines in Karnataka were repositories of some of the largest gold deposits in the country. Due to the high price of gold, craftsmen mastered techniques of beating gold into gold leaf to turn into jewellery, some exquisite.
A lovely place to visit and also of interest was a small exhibition of drawings and paintings made by the British at the time.

We carried onto the nearby Srirangapattana Fort still on the island, which is now a ruin. A town has built up inside the ramparts. Part of the wall has been knocked down to allow vehicles to get inside the ramparts as the gates themselves are too narrow.
This was the site of several battles between Tipu Sultan known as the Tiger of Mysore, and the British. The British finally stormed the citadel in 1799 consolidating their power in Southern India.
Although in ruins, there are still places of interest:
...the stone marking the spot where the reamains of Tipu Sultan were found.
...Watergate, known as the hidden gate through which the British stormed
...Jamaica Masjid Mosque
...the ruins of Lal Mahal Palace which is still being excavated
...the concrete bunkers used to store the gunpowder
...and the ramparts themselves are intact in some places

From here we carried on the long drive to Bengeluru, our final stop. We stopped at a school to give out pencils , had a brief walk through some paddy fields and stopped at a KFC for a snack, another first experience for us!

Our final hotel is lovely, the Meridian and we could be anywhere in the world if it were not for the hooting outside from some of the five million cars in the city. Indeed there are ten million people here. It is the capital of Karnataka and is a huge industrial cosmopolitan city, 1000 feet above sea level.

And so this will be the last entry for this adventure.

Hindus believe that gods enter their homes and lives as guests so should be made welcome. Indeed we have received a warm welcome, smiles and respect from everyone, who have treated us like honoured guests. We have been privileged to see how the people live and feel that India is a must see place. As long as you go with an open mind and are prepared to learn and accept a very different culture, it will be a most fantastic and unforgettable experience.

A word of warning to would be travellers, please do not use Saga as your travel agent, it's organisation leaves a lot to be desired!!

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Recent Messages

From Mike and Anne
Hi glad your holiday is going well. Enjoying reading your blog interesting as ever. Looking on the bright side a 'dry' March will help with the medication xx
Response: Dry and searing heat, but much better than rain although there was a terrific downpour in the night. Hope all,is well
From Sister
Maybe it is really me, accompanying you surreptitiously to keep an eye on you. I have never been called 'scary' before, even by students. X
Response: Mmm, how do you know that!!
From sister
Looking forward, as always, to accompanying you on your journey. XX
Response: We have an Aunty Dotty look alike with us in the group, mannerisms the lot! How scary is that!!!!!!
From Sister
Delighted to be back on my vicarious travels. Sounds fascinating already. XX
Response: It all seems a bit surreal to be standing in these historic places dating back to the first century BC!
From Kathy & Ken
So jealous - looks like you had another amazing adventure x
Response: Keep stashing away the money whilst you work!!!!!
From Angela and Gilbert
What an experience, can't wait to view the pictures
Response: It was indeed! Now waiting at Bangkok airport for the flight home
From KB
Hola parents,

You look like are having a fab time. Just catching up on your blog. Keep safe xx
Response: Hello babbie
Am trying to get blog up to date, wifi very iffy, hope you had a good easter
From Sue Brockwell
Happy Easter. Sounds a fascinating hol. Now in Isle of Man. House with lovely views out to sea. Drive across island and lunch out next plan. X
Response: Ooh, we liked the Isle of Man, it was like going back in timehope the sun shines for you. It has been forty plus degrees here and feels hotter!
From Sister
Fascinating. Look forward to seeing the photographs. I think I would have been annoyed at being kept back because I was a girl, though. That would have gone against the grain. However, we have to respect cultural differences if we are visitors! XX
Response: Fascinating is the right word to use. Something to see at every turn
From Sue and Les
We are having a BBQ tonight a bit nearer home in the illustrious Padstow. We now have full family complement so not a dull moment. Glad you are having a great time. We are enjoying reading the updates.
Response: I hope it's Aussie style BBQ with plenty of steak and fish. Hope the weather is staying kind for you all, you must be well into the school holidays by now, looking forward to seeing you when we get home.
From JB
Brilliant story on 29th July Mother; did Nana never teach you not to get in cars with strangers (particularly naked ones)!
Response: Nan never knew any naked men I am sure!! I can just imaging her comment!!!! And
Well, I wouldn't have minded but he was over seventy and every inch of skin was a chocolate brown colour! When he got out of the car when we got to dad, his comment' I hope you don't mind your wife travelling in a car with a naked man' Father's comment..'No'
You will be pleased to know that your father has tried to outdo you with the hobo look, as he refused to shave, except he didn't look suave, just a slim version of Santa Claus in the making. Once it got hot, it started to itch and it all came off!!!!'no staying power
From Sandra/Dave
Pleased to read you are enjoying yourselves. Nipped round to yours, everything fine, lawn green and neatly trimmed. Weather here not good at the moment, rained most of yesterday, slightly better today. X
Response: Ouch, rain not good, we are now in the heat, 35 degrees, this has been quite an adventure with lots of stories to tell!!! Off,East tomorrow, we are finding that Australia doen't like yahoo so we are finding it difficult to get and send emails. Thank you so much for popping round to the house.
From Anne & Mike
Enjoying your blog. Glad your having a good time xx
Response: Hello both, tried to ring you before we came away but I guess you had not returned from your travels..hope you had a great time. We are now in Exmouth, wifi very difficult, am sitting in the visitors centre with 30 mins free wifi, will try to update blog when I can, all good here, have had a problem with a broken windscreen, stone from a road train didn't like us, all taped up, trying to get to Broome to sort it out...britz tried to send us to the nearest repair place which was 500 miles from here in the other direction! Just going to book a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, they are trying to get us to go snorkelling but we wouldn't look cool with the woggle under our arms as we are not that confident swimmers
From Lynne
Looks like you are having a great time. It all sounds amazing. We look forward to reading some more! Continue to enjoy x it was lovely to see Christine and Charles We had a good catch up xx
Response: Are your jaws aching then???
You would also like it here! Just finished the first leg of the holiday, now for the northern bit and the heat. Ironic to be away in the British heatwave!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating. Interesting that Elaine's ancestors may have been among the earliest emigrants-albeit compulsory ones. XX
Response: I think compulsory might have been right, dodgy stock as Pete says!!
From Clare & Mart
Enjoy!! xx
Response: A fab place, you would both love this lifestyle. We'll let you know what the Motorhome holds in store for us!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating! Hope you find a woolly jumper shop! XX
Response: Yep, entrance to fish river canyon sold a fleece, weather now much warmer!!!!!!
From sister
Was there no room in your luggage allowance for me to curl up in a suitcase? Lovely to follow your travels again, anyway. XX
Response: Sorry, no room. It looks as if we shall have some splendid places to visit in the coming days.
From Mollie and Lindsay
Congratulations Elaine and Pete.
What a marvellous account of our wonderful holiday in India and Nepal. Greatly appreciated.
Tummy back to normal at last.
Many thanks for your hard work.
Mollie and Lindsay
Response: Nice to know that it brought back memories, mostly good ones I hope
From Doris
Glad to be back to my vicarious travelling-always fascinating and instructive. XX
Response: Vicarious might be the right word, this is a fascinating place...and tomorrow we leave India and are off to Nepal
From Barbara Keen
Hi Elaine& Pete

Read your log today, and it is a very good reminder of all we did and what we saw during our adventure.

Best Wishes Barbara&Reg Keen.xx
hope I got it right then!
From Sister
Hope the Cambodians are celebrating Pete's birthday in a traditional manner-whatever that may be. Happy Birthday! XXX
Response: Nope they do not celebrate birthdays, but the group have remembered him, very kind of them!
From Mike and Anne
Happy Birthday Pete don't let your advancing years spoil the rest of your holiday! Enjoy:-)
Response: Thank you both, he's had many comments on his advancing years, let's hope there are many more! Hope you are not too snowed in And all is well. Very hot indeed here, will be a shock to get home!!
From sister
Hope you bought me a North Face coat for £35- a nice long one preferably! XXXX
Response: Sorry can't carry more than one, had enough trouble haggling for that one
From Sister
Particularly enjoying the usual vicarious travel as it is snowy and icy here. Thank goodness for online groceries! Fascinating, as usual. I am sure I could have curled up small in your luggage. XXXX
Response: This holiday is again very different as we knew it would be .. The biggest surprise is the food which is delicious.. Many extra pounds will be gained I fear. So no online ordering for us when we get back.