It’s certainly the time of the year to start doing reviews of the year and my trip, and so I thought I’d get the ‘negative’ out of the way first. It’s inevitable in any trip that there are aspects that don’t live up to your expectations or disappoint you in some ways, and although it does no good at all to harp on these aspects, I think it makes little sense to ignore them all together either. So, without much ado, here we go!
- Jerusalem’s Old City
Whilst there was no doubt that I was in an incredibly special place when exploring the winding alleys and passageways of Jerusalem’s Old City, I cannot honestly say I enjoyed it. I will admit to having a heavy cold on the first few days there which is when I explored the old city, but nevertheless I was, not for the first time, overwhelmed by the throngs of tourists I encountered. I felt like I was in a battle to move about in there, which for me really was a large negative. Okay, it’s not reasonable to expect to have the place to yourself, and I was a tourist as much as anyone visiting, but I was left feeling like I was fighting to get anywhere.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Which I have mentioned before on the blog. Jerusalem is justifiably a pilgrimage site for many different religious groups, and everyone wants to go there. And for the experience simply of seeing that, people hiking the Mount of Olives, exploring the Via Delarosa, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount (actually, getting up there suddenly there were barely any people and I felt somewhat free!) – seeing the droves of people I guess IS part of the experience. But still it’s just too much. Well, it was for me, especially on my first venture in there. There are also gigantic tour groups and all the restaurants charge excessively within the city walls. But hey, I certainly feel that there is no city in the world like Jerusalem. It is epic, monolithic and utterly unique. I also found that the Israel Museum and Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum and monument), both well away from the Old City and less frequented, were, for me, more rewarding as a visitor.
- Missing the Quinta da Regaleira
The essential day trip from Lisbon, unless you are staying there that is, is the town and surrounds of Sintra. There are a number of palaces worth visiting in this mountainous area, and we took a tour there – we saw the Sintra Palace, the Pena Palace and had a number of other stops on the way back to Lisbon.
Which would have been perfect, except there was one place I had seen photos of, well in fact it was one photo of a well with spiral staircases down to the bottom, in the Quinta da Regaleira, which I was extremely keen to see. But this wasn’t on the tour sadly, and so despite seeing some amazing places and getting within a couple of metres of Benjamin Netanyahu, I felt a bit disappointed after the tour. But hey – such is life. I don’t have a strong desire to return to Portugal, but if I did, this obviously would be numero uno on my list.
- Cramming too Much in
I am considering, down the line, doing a sort of dissection of the trip as a blog, and I think I would be pointing to this as the main issue. Just constant moving, having big lists of things to see and being worried if I didn’t get everything done on said list that I had missed out. This also goes back to me wondering if I was travelling purely for the blog at times. Look, I took a lot of photos and I saw a heck of a lot of stuff. But if I had only seen 70% of what I did, would I be disappointed? Maybe, but as I did see that extra 30% I can say I shouldn’t be.
- Dubai and Istanbul Airports
Firstly, Istanbul Airport is heated to around 28 degrees I think it was. In that area. It was basically winter outside, low to mid-teens, and most places people were coming from were also cold. So, it begs the question why would you heat your airport to such a temperature as to make it necessary to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt? I’m not kidding, I took a nap there and unzipped the bottom of my pants (you know the kind that can turn into shorts).
Both are busy and large, and it seems always a long walk from one gate to another, we must have walked 1.5 km in Dubai to transfer if not more. Dubai could be cooled down a little too now that I think about it. And the prices in that airport – my goodness me! Who would have thought paying for the flight could be the cheaper aspect of the journey?
Some airports I don’t mind transferring through – the main one that springs to mind is Changi (Singapore) but the main airport at Kuala Lumpur (KLIA1) isn’t too bad either. Don’t get me wrong, Dubai is shiny and both it and Istanbul (the NEW airport) have a lot to buy duty free (if you’re a sucker I should add as it’s not cheap!) but wow! They are not comfortable places.
- Lack of Train Journeys!
Ahhh, the big one! I took a train in Uzbekistan, one in Spain, two in Portugal (outside metros of course) and that’s about it. The longest journey was a disappointing five and a half hours between Barcelona and Seville. So using air travel a lot does let you cram more in, but see my point above somewhere about cramming! Cramming is no good in the Louvre, in Jerusalem’s Old City and, I now realise, in one’s itinerary.
The trains all clicked over 200 km/h at some point in their journeys, and they were all interesting trips in their own way. The Uzbek train I think might have hit 300 km/h, and the train to Seville was one of the most comfortable I can remember. Plus free wifi in Portugal was good, at least from Lisbon to Porto. It didn’t really work on the way back so, you know, less good.
As frequent readers of the blog would know, I am an avid fan of train travel, and train journeys that are measured in days rather than hours don’t bother me much – quite the opposite in fact. Sadly, I am not seeing a lot of scope for train journeys heading into 2020…
So what can I say? Really, that’s a pretty small list all said. And nearly half of it is things I wish I’d done rather bad experiences. Next week I will turn to the highlights of the trip, in a far more positive spin! Thanks as always for reading, take care – this is, I believe, my final post for 2019. So I will see you NEXT year (ie later in the week) for my next post! May the Journey Never End!