"Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
Two years ago, I was driving from Melbourne to Noosa Heads in a rented Mitsubishi Outlander (horrible car. Turning circle of a dead moose), and I stopped in Canberra for an afternoon. While there, I visited Parliament House, the fantastic modern building that houses, surprisingly enough, Australia's Parliament. It's incredible. The roof has grass on it and I spent a while lying down, chilling out and watching the flag flutter above me.
Like most government towns, Canberra was pretty quiet over the Christmas break, which was great for going around the building and wandering around the city. Good times -- and happy New Year!
The light quality, even late into the Latvian evening, is glorious in Riga. My camera says this was 9.30pm, although it could have been 10.30 since I probably didn't reset the time coming from the UK. I'd arrived earlier that afternoon, and trundled out to the end of one of the tram lines to see what there was out there (answer: a thoroughly pleasant northern European city with some Happy Soviet Buildings, some wooden houses and a lot of trees).
Coming back into town and wandering around to find somewhere for dinner -- late, since flying always makes me incredibly un-hungry -- I wandered up Brivibas iela to this monument. As I enjoyed pelmeni for dinner, I read about the Latvian War of Independence for the first time. Fought between 1918 and 1920, the war resulted in an independent Latvian state -- and this monument. Independent Latvia lasted until 1940, shortly after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Operation Barbarossa resulted in Latvia's German occupation, followed by the Soviet return that was completed by 1945.
Latvia itself remembers this period in the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which is well worth a visit and stands on the main Hanseatic square in Riga. There's a 2.2MB PDF that the museum produces that's a very good read for those of us interested in history and international relations.
Mac users may well be staring confusedly at their screen right now! This four-leafed clover sign is technically called St John's Arms or, under Unicode, the "Place of Interest sign". Outside Scandinavia and northern Europe, you'll see it on a Mac keyboard as the Command key.
This particular sign is as seen on the Swedish roadside.
Málaga always gets a dreadful press in the UK. People think it rhymes with "lager", for a start, and that it's swarming with northern European package tourists resembling bipedal lobsters who come down for a week of sun, grease and beer.
Actually, it has an awful lot to recommend it. Cleverly, Spain has managed to keep the tourists penned up in their own little areas, like Torremolinos near Malaga (in the same way that Stansted is near London, or Islip is near New York), so the city itself is remarkably unspoilt.
There's the lovely old baroque cathedral, for a start, and its Alcazaba hillside fortress sits above the city with views over the sea and the cathedral. The old Roman amphitheatre is well worth a visit, as is the Picasso museum -- we went in the quiet moonlit evening and it was spectacular. There's also a proper bull ring, and a really lovely main pedestrian shopping avenue, lined with stone and trees, with truly amazing shoe shops, of all things. And the local tapas, in the places where they don't speak any English at all, is incredible. I spent a long weekend there in February 2006 and barely scratched the surface. It's so cheap to get to, as well!
(Just don't fly Iberia. Even if you have oneworld miles. Trust me on this one.)
When I flew from London to New York in 2005, I lived quite close to London City airport, so it made sense to take advantage of the £100 cheaper flight on Swiss from City to Geneva, connecting to the UN Shuttle to New York. I love LCY's tiny airport, twenty minutes away from my flat even before the Docklands Light Railway went all the way there, and the short check-in time and the tight connection in Geneva meant that I probably saved time as well as money.
The tiny Avro RJ-100, though, is possibly my least favourite airliner ever, mainly because of its low roof, but the high wing meant that I got some great shots of the countryside as we flew.