Just under two hours north of the populous tourist city of Fuengirola lies a city on the edge of a cliff.
Twisty roads that sit below mountaintop mansions bring you on a breathtaking journey to the summit of the region of Andalusia.
The town’s suburbs and industrial area would make you think that you’re in a typical uninteresting city, until you venture towards the far side of Ronda.
At it’s centrepiece stands one of the most impressive bridge structures that I have ever seen. Puente Neuvo took 35 years to build and was completed in 1793.
Standing at the edge of the cliff and looking down, I felt like I was on the set of Lord of the Rings. The sheer depth of the drop is hard to capture on camera.
Amazingly, there are old derelict houses built into the cliff face and dotted along the gorge’s deep basin.
The homes and apartments that line the cliff’s edge have balconies that are suspended out over the edge. If you drop something, it’s gone. I wouldn’t recommend these residences to somebody with a tendency to sleep walk.
The westerly facing cliff edge enjoys spectacular views of the valley below and the mountains in the distance.
On our drive back towards the coast, we were treated by a spectacular sunset that met us like a raging fire in the sky.
If you also suffer from cabin fever while staying at a holiday resort, rent a car and venture north. Andalusia’s rich history means that there is a mix of Celtic, Roman and Moorish influence to be found in the architecture of many of the region’s cities.
Some cities are far more than a collection of buildings. I know this seems like a strange comment to make, but very few cities truly have a spirit that’s immediately evident.
I can only list a handful of cities that exude an energy that you can only miss if you happen to enter the city limits in a box.
For a city of it’s size, Vancouver has a pace of life that feels almost village like. People just don’t seem to be in a rush. Perhaps it’s a combination of the famous Canadian friendliness and the Pacific Coast that dictates a pace that you would sooner expect on a sleepy Island.
My first experience of this was on the Skytrain as we travelled from the Airport into the city. There was something very civilised about the experience, despite the busy time of the day.
When we took a bus later that day, I noticed that everybody thanked the bus driver, even if they exited from the back of the bus well out of earshot of the driver.
The local geography with its network of islands and inlets has resulted in many seaplane companies operating out of the area. We didn’t avail of one of these trips, but it certainly seems like an interesting way to see South Western BC.
Gastown is the original downtown core of what would later become known as Vancouver. Today the Steam Clock is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
Perhaps the most striking and appealing thing about Vancouver is that even though you’re in a large city, you’re always surrounded by easy access to nature. From downtown you can see the snow capped mountains from virtually anywhere.
Stanley Park is by far one of the most impressive urban parks that I have ever encountered. As you venture down the harbour by the marina and into Stanley Park, it feels like you have left the city completely.
A trip to Vancouver would be incomplete without making your way to the peak of Grouse Mountain. For the exercise addict, you can go on foot, or take the somewhat pricey cable car to the top.
Once at the top there’s a chance that you’ll be rewarded by spectacular views. I say chance, because Vancouver is known for clouds and rain. Unfortunately I didn’t get to take photos of the breathtaking view that you would experience on a clear day.
Grouse Mountain is home to two Grizzly Bears that were rescued after becoming orphaned. This gives an opportunity to capture photographs of an animal that you don’t want to encounter at this distance in the wild.
As Vancouver is often the start and endpoint of a visit to BC, it’s well worth taking a few days to really appreciate the city.
As we approached in our rented Renault Kangoo, which was our home for two weeks, a sea of floating icebergs came into view like a mirage.
Some sights are so awe inspiring that it just takes a little time to process what you’re actually looking at, much like when a child sees something for the first time and stares.
Jökulsárlón is located along Iceland’s Golden Circle, on the South East Coast of the island.
As chunks of ice make their way down the unpronounceable Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, they end up floating in a lagoon.
We arrived late in the afternoon and decided to camp beside the lagoon for the night. Due to the fact that it was June, we benefited from Midnight Sun which made us want to go for walks in the middle of the night.
It’s a strange sensation when 1am looks much like 1pm. At first this can be very disorienting for your sleep patterns, but it gives you much more time in your day to explore.
Late in the evening swarms of Arctic Terns, a bird native to the Arctic Circle, would gather overhead in search of fish, diving opportunistically between the icebergs.
At about 2am there was a slight change in lighting, but it looked more like 3pm on a winter’s evening rather than anything that resembled a sunset. Still, the change in light made for very dramatic effects as the sun hit the ice from a different angle.
There is a bridge located just down stream from the lagoon, making for perfect shelter from the cold arctic wind, while still providing an amazing vantage point for photography from underneath it.
Despite the fact that it was June when we visited, night time temperatures would hit 2 or 3 degrees Celsius.
Close to the bridge, the icebergs hit a dam of melting ice, breaking into even smaller pieces which eventually make their way down onto the beach.
Popularly known as ‘Diamond Beach’, it’s black sand is littered with chunks of ice that survive for surprisingly long periods of time thanks to low summer temperatures and the cold North Atlantic.
As I write these words, I realise that this article doesn’t even come close to doing the experience of actually being there justice. It’s hard to describe the feeling of standing somewhere that your wildest dreams would have great difficulty to conjure.
Down by the shoreline, the waves crash into the ice, making for spectacular photo opportunities.
A six hour drive from Reykjavik, this wonder of the world is easily accessible and well worth the drive. In fact, visiting Iceland and not visiting Jökulsárlón should almost qualify as a criminal offence.
London is often described as being a collection of small villages, each defined by it’s own unique character.
If this is true then my favourite of those villages is Covent Garden. Loved by both visitors and London residents alike, it’s streets are always full of life.
Any time I visit London I try to find an excuse to come here. In my opinion it’s home to some of London’s finest restaurants and most character rich pubs.
On frosty winter nights, the warm tones of the street lighting against the backdrop of the clear dark sky produce a cozy ambience that’s simply delightful.
Covent Garden tube station can be very crowded, and the lift to street level can feel a little claustrophobic. If you feel up to it, the 193 step staircase is quite the experience. The alternative is to get off at Leicester Square station which is just a short walk away.
The area feels almost like a refuge from the rush of London life. Not because it’s not busy, it always is, but rather because the pace of life seems to decrease as you enter Covent Gaden.
“London opens to you like a novel itself…. It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, door, passsage, door. Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand”
– Anna Quindlen
As you walk through the Covent Garden of today it’s hard to imagine that it was once an area that was rife with prostitution in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It’s far more famous for having been a fruit, vegetable and flower market. Long before that, in the 1500s, it was the vegetable garden of Westminster Abbey, then known as ‘Convent Garden’.
I frequently travel to London for business, and when I’m booked on a late flight home I can’t think of a nicer part of London to relax in after a long day of work.
Whatever your reason for visiting London, I would highly recommend a visit to Covent Garden.
If you’ve been to Manhattan, you’ll likely understand what I mean by the phrase ‘Magnetic Streets’. There is an energy that draws you outside, no matter how tired you are or how late in the evening it is.
I’ve often arrived after an eight hour flight, tired and knowing full well that I should go to bed, but simply being unable to. For street photography enthusiasts there is never a boring moment. Even if you don’t like photography, you’ll want to sample the madness.
There are few places on earth where you really never know what you’ll hear or see while walking down the street. I really believe that this city will either feed you with energy or drive you crazy.
Even if you have no sense of direction, Manhattan’s grid like and sequentially numbered Avenues and Streets will make navigation simple. This rule starts to get fuzzy as you head further downtown, particularly south of the Flat Iron District. As you make your way further down towards Greenwich Village and Tribeca, the streets become more snake like and lose their logical ordering.
There are corners of Manhattan that are far removed from the skyscrapers and madness of Midtown. One of my favourite areas for street photography is Hell’s Kitchen. The moody lighting, small restaurants and stepped access apartments make for perfect photography conditions.
There are moments when you look up to the sky at night in the city and instantly get transported to the scene of a Marvel Comic or a Batman movie. There’s something about how the bright lights interact with the clouds that paints a picture that simply oozes character.
I would highly recommend taking the Subway out to Brooklyn and walking back to Manhattan over the famous Brooklyn Bridge. Just before sunset is a particularly good time to do this as you’ll be rewarded by amazing views of the downtown Manhattan skyline with all the tones of the photography golden hour.
The bridge itself is well laid out in terms of pedestrian foot traffic and a dedicated cycling lane. Don’t wander over into the cycling section unless you want to be yelled at by one of the locals.
When the bridge ends you’ll find yourself in the wonderful Seaport District, a hidden gem that many visitors to NYC will never encounter. There are beautiful views of the bridge and many wonderful little streets that have a unique character that feels much more compact than what people would normally expect in Manhattan.
I personally like to stay away from Times Square, but it is a must for first time visitors. Locals tend to avoid it like the plague and as a regular visitor to NYC I can relate to that logic. Still, it won’t disappoint from a photography point of view.
The towers of glass and concrete have the tendency to make you feel truly small, yet empower you at the same time. You can’t help but notice the opportunity, but also the other side of the coin, the harsh reality of not making it in NYC.
When you visit New York, don’t expect to get much sleep. My grandfather once told me that he visited The Big Apple as a young man with a group of his colleagues. Manhattan must have been very different back then, but what he told me still applies to this day. He said that there’s no need to sleep, you won’t want to and there’s plenty of time for that when you get back home.
There are some villages that look like they have been artificially built just to allow a photographer to take great pictures. A sort of model settlement where nothing looks out of place and everything has been considered right down to the last detail.
One such village is Cordes-sur-Ciel in Occitanie, Southern France. Perched on a hill like many of the beautiful villages of Provence, this one is a true hidden gem.
Located approximately 80km North East of Toulouse, Cordes-sur-Ciel litteraly translates to ‘Ropes in the Sky’.
Although it’s reasonably easily accessible, the village is a little off the beaten track. Small medieval cobble streets await you in a setting that’s straight out of a painting.
The village itself isn’t car friendly, and that’s part of the charm. There’s plenty of parking at the bottom of the hill and it’s only a short stroll up to the village. You can enjoy a coffee on the terrace at the top of the village where you can watch sleepy village life pass you by.
There’s something about Provence that makes you question the pace of life that you normally operate at. The South of France reminds you that coffee is best drank sitting down and anything less than a two hour lunch break is sacrilegious.
In fact, there’s something existential about spending a week or two living like the locals do. Sip some wine, enjoy the wonderful food and remember to go for a ‘petite sieste’.
If you enjoy photography, you will have stumbled upon photography heaven in this village. You could almost close your eyes, shoot randomly in all directions and still obtain some great pictures.
In my opinion, one of the greatest tragedies is when people say that they have visited France, but what they really mean is that they have been to Paris. As nice as the capital is, you haven’t truly experienced France until you have set your eyes upon the villages and countryside of one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
If you’ve never been to Canada, the raw beauty and feeling of freedom is hard to describe. As a visitor from Europe, you don’t grasp the size of the country until you get in your car and try to cover some ground.
And that we did….
What better vehicle to explore the Canadian Back Country with than a 2019 Jeep Wrangler with just 46km on the clock?
Even with British Columbia’s gas prices, or petrol as we say on this side of the pond, this machine wasn’t the cheapest vehicle to run. When you don’t know if you’ll have a road surface though it makes you glad you didn’t rent a Clio.
Range anxiety is real. If I have one tip for you when driving in the Canadian Back Country, it’s never to leave your fuel tank go below 50%. The next gas station could be 300km away and with no cellphone coverage to speak of outside of towns, you don’t want to get stranded.
Located near the famous Lake Louise is the much lesser known, but in my opinion superior Moraine Lake. If you prefer being able to take a photo without 20 people jumping into your frame then this is the place to go instead.
Wanting to experience a real adventure, we decided to rent a tent. I’ve always wanted to pack a tent into a 4×4 and camp in the North American wilderness. Now we just had to make sure that we didn’t get eaten by a Bear or a Mountain Lion.
Armed with Bear spray every time we left the tent, we made the woods our home. There’s nothing quite like truly being in the middle of nowhere.
Seemingly Jasper wasn’t remote enough for us, so we headed further West…
Located five hours west of Williams Lake is the beautiful Bella Coola Valley. To give you an idea of how remote this area is, it’s a 14 hour drive from Vancouver.
The only way to get there by road is via Heckman Pass. It’s also known as the Freedom Road and it’s not hard to understand why. The Canadian Government didn’t build it, the people of the Bella Coola Valley did. This made Bella Coola accessible by road where as before you could only get there by sea.
Don’t expect tarmac surfacing, or a safety barrier. This road is not for the faint hearted. Rumour has it that many tourists drive down there every year and choose to take the ferry back as they refuse to drive back via this road. We did, but we made sure not to look down while close to the edge…
Once you’ve made your way down the seemingly endless road, you’ll be rewarded by truly spectacular views. The Bella Coola Valley is located in the Great Bear Rain Forest, home to many types of wildlife including the enigmatic Kermode Bear.
We came across a wonderful local tour guide organisation called Copper Sun Tours. One of the guides, himself a native Nuxalk person, was kind enough to welcome us to the site of one of the many ancient Petroglyphs in the Bella Coola Valley.
Our guide treated us to a story telling extravaganza that we will never forget.
This remote community, 450 KM west of Williams Lake on Highway 2o gained a special place in our hearts. To say that it was memorable just doesn’t do it justice. If you ever get the opportunity to make this difficult trip, please do, you won’t regret it.