Things You Should See With Your Own Eyes

Until I got married, believe it or not, despite flying more times that I'd been on a train, I'd never actually done a proper holiday - the type where you aren't going to see someone you've known forever/related to that just happens to live somewhere you don't. The problems with having a multinational family! 

That type of travel generally means that you sit on the beach or in their garden 99% of the time and while I went to Andalucia, I've never been to Grenada or Seville, ditto trips to Germany, Switzerland and Paris. So now, when we travel I want to try and see everything that everyone tries to tell you you HAVE to see in person. Some are great, some are a bit disappointing in the age of digital cameras and the internet showing us the whole world. All that said, some of the things I've seen on my travels took my breath away and are nothing like as good on film as they are when you see them.. 

The Blue Grotto - Capri, Italy

Yes its a tourist trap, but it's one that is kind of worth it. Outside the grotto the boatmen jostle each other trying to get into the sea cave, but once inside the entire world turns a brilliant cerulean blue. There is a small entrance to the sea (its so small you have to lay flat in the boat to enter) and a small hole in the roof providing the only light. This, bouncing off the white sand of the cave, is what makes it so very blue. My photos do no justice to how lovely it is, seven years on it still makes me beam just remembering it. 

The Forbidden City - Beijing, China

Beijing was incredible to visit, and the Forbidden City was a big part of this. It is HUGE, and nothing prepares you for its scale. One of the few things that survived the Cultural Revolution's "destruction of the four olds" along with the Terracotta Warriors. Europe has palaces and castles but nothing prepares you for the epic scale of this place - bigger than Disneyland, Vatican City or Pompeii. Not something I think I will ever forget.

Upper New York Bay - New York, USA

The pictures you always seem to see looking out over water of New York are the Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges, the lower Manhattan skyline and Liberty Island. They are fantastic, but seeing them in person rather than in a photograph didn't blow my mind like this. These two pictures are part of the amazing view over the mouth of the Hudson River.

This view, as we saw it from the top of One World Trade, was nothing short of mind blowing. Like the Forbidden City, I was unprepared for the reality of the scale. The boat heading right toward the camera is the Staten Island Ferry, which according to the internet is about 91 meters long. The Harbour is much larger than I imagined and as cool as looking out the other way at the city and the skyscrapers were, I was much more enthralled by this view. Liberty, always imagined as huge, looks like a micro machine in the context of everything around it. I could have looked at this for hours.

The Garden of the Fugitives - Pompeii, Italy

Ok, short history/context lesson. The day the volcano went up, people pretty much ran for it. No boats have been found, and written accounts from that day suggest that everyone headed away from the volcano (to the north of the city) toward the bay (in the south), got in to every available boat and escaped. Not everyone made it, not least I'm guessing because of not enough boats. Where they found "bodies" in the excavations of Pompeii, they filled the voids left in the volcanic deposits with plaster, to give exact body forms of the victims. Some are in museums, some are left where they were found. TThe Garden of the Fugitives is one such place. At the very edge of the city, furthest away from the volcano, many people sheltered hoping to survive. Their casts are on show, and just above that, on the old south wall of the city, is one hell of a view.

From this point, you have a fantastic overview of the whole of the excavated city. Beyond this huge site, in the distance, you can still clearly see the thing that caused all the trouble in the first place, Vesuvius, still looming large. While you can see it well from pretty much everywhere, here you can see it behind the whole city, which lays sprawling out infront of you.

The Bund - Shanghai, China

The Bund is a large walkway along the edge of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, on the edges of what was the international district. Shanghai was the home of all the international interests in China, so as you walk along the river, at your back are the kind of buildings you find alongside rivers in pretty much every European city. Along the Bund are what were once old banks that could be plucked right from Paris, the old telegraph office and the old British Consulate, which looks like it could sit happily on Trafalgar Square. On the other side of the river is Pudong district.

Talk about your contrasts. Pudong is the financial center of Shanghai and is home to not only the famous Pearl building (I'm sure you can guess which one that is in the photo) but also the Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower and Jin Mao Tower, all supertall skyscrapers. The World Financial Centre is the second tallest in the world, and its the only place in the world that has three so close together, Being on the Bund is somewhat like standing in between the past and the future, and its wonderful lit up at sunset.

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