Weekend in Perthshire Scotland

Weekend in Perthshire Scotland

Travel in Perthshire Scotland in 2012

Dundarach Hotel

This blog is posted in two parts.

They have an annual theatre festival in the village of Pitlochry in Perthshire, Scotland. My husband and I decided to take a long weekend, see a few shows and explore Perthshire. The Scottish countryside is renowned for it’s beauty. It’s a combination of mountains and forests with streams and rivers that feed into their salmon filled lochs. The natural environment is a big part of the attraction to Scotland, but that’s not all. There are castles aplenty, scenic drives, walks, museums, views, craft shops, whisky and beer tastings and stone circles to see and do. But just hanging around a pretty town like Pitlochry, enjoying local produce and listening Scottish accents was also on our agenda. Apparently Scottish and Irish accents are the ones we most love to listen to.

Old Mill Inn Pitlochry

The – Pitlochry Festival Theatre – began in 1951 and the show was initially housed in a tent. Today they have a proper theatre which is located right next to the Tummel River. It has large windows with views of the river and you can relax in their cafe with a glass of wine and a snack, or have a three course meal before a show.

Try to avoid visiting July and August when the Scottish schools are on holiday and the town is heaving with humans. The theatre has a group of actors who mix and match roles in their various productions. We chose to see – 39 Steps – and – Communicating Doors. My husband booked our tickets on-line. Tickets were £28 each.

Queens View – Loch Tummel and Glencoe Mountains

We had lots of time to get from Aberdeen to Pitlochry as we weren’t traveling far, so we set our Tom Tom to shortest route as opposed to fastest route. That way we could take in a few little villages en route. Visit Scotland – have brown road signs that clearly show the local – scenic drives, which is handy if you want to see more than a highway. The trip from Aberdeen to Pitlochry took around 2 and 1/2 hours. We booked a Chevy Spark on-line with – Enterprise Rent a Car. The car cost £55 incl VAT for 3 days. On this occasion my husband skipped the £10 per day insurance. We travelled about 250 – 300 miles and petrol bill for the weekend was £30. The Tom Tom was our own.

Hydro Electric scheme at Loch Faskally

We checked into – Dundarach Hotel – in Pitlochry just after lunch. There was time in hand to go walkabout and collect our tickets before we got ready for the theatre. The Dundarach Hotel cost £100 per night for two of us. We normally would go for cheaper accommodation but there wasn’t much available. This is a popular event and advance booking to get bargains is a prerequisite. You can try – Late RoomsBooking.com, Farm Stay UK, Scottish Independant HostelsHostelling Scotland – for links to accommodation.

Pitlochry Fish Ladder

At the Pitlochry Theatre Festival ticket office we discovered that, not one, but two cast members had been hospitalised. Gasp. They cancelled one of our evening shows but juggled a matinee performance of – Little Shop of Horrors – for us instead. We thought we would book a meal at the in-house restaurant but also discovered the restaurant was booked up a year in advance, so that took care of that idea.

What to do and see in Pitlochry? It’s very, very touristy. Lots of tour buses pass through and hoardes of people with back packs, bum bags and cameras roam the streets. Pitlochry is free of mega development and retains a quaint old village charm. Lovely old granite stone cottages line the streets and it’s all postcard pretty. Walking around the village and then relaxing with a cup of tea with a slice of local cake is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Try – Hetties Tearoom.

Inside Pitlochry theatre
Dundarach Hotel

The canny Scots use their natural geology to their advantage and have created hydro electric schemes all over the country. There is one such scheme at Loch Faskally.  And that’s not all, to preserve their salmon numbers, they have incorporated a ‘fish ladder‘ so salmon can swim upstream to spawn. We visited Loch Faskally and saw the hydro electric scheme. The mechanics are interesting and the loch has not been spoiled with an ugly industrial building but rather a subtle arrangement in keeping with the local area. The fish ladder is more a sort of tunnel beneath some steps that the fish can swim through. They have a viewing area where you can watch and count the salmon as they swim past but they were shy when we tried to see them.

You can take in a – whiskey tasting – and tour at the home of Bells at – Blair Atholl Distillery.  A basic tour costs around £6. Moulin Inn have a brewerey where you can see a local micro brewer make – Braveheart Ale. The tour is free and I am told you get a complimentary bottle of ale after the tour.

Next week in – Part 2 – I deal with Blair Castle, Loch Tay, Loch Tummel and the towns of Kenmore and Portingall.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in Thailand in 2007

Thailand is a three part article. Part 2 – follows next week and Part 3 the week after.

Buddhist shrine on street in Bangkok

People come back from Thailand raving about the place. I have friends who visit Thailand annually. One guy loves the gentle natured people and heads straight out to the rural areas to rough it in the villages. Another goes over to lounge in the sun and shop, shop, shop. And yet another goes over to have as much sex as he can. (more on that later) Clearly Thailand is a mixed bag of holiday opportunities. Nineteen million people visited Thailand in 2011 and 55% of visitors are return visitors.

After hearing countless stories, I wanted to see what Thailand was like for myself. Thailand is an affordable place to visit. You can have a luxury beach holiday, eat out every night and still have plenty money to spare for massages and shopping. What’s not to like?

Ladyboys in Patong

If we are visiting somewhere exotic for the first time, we prefer to do a package holiday. We found a package deal on-line with Flight Centre but having visited Thailand, I can honestly say that it’s possible, and probably cheaper, to put your own holiday together. Our trip started in Bangkok. From there we went to Phuket where we spent a week at a swanky beach side resort. Next we went up to Chang Mai for a last few days before heading back to Bangkok and home again. The deal included airport transfers and all flights in Thailand. The tour gave us a feel of the north where Chang Mai is located, the middle where Bangkok is and the south where Phuket is situated.

I was looking forward to seeing Bangkok. I’d heard it was a bustling city and is a cultural and shopping mecca. Bustling doesn’t come close to describing Bangkok. It’s home to 12 million people. Getting from the airport to our hotel took forever in a taxi. Traffic frequently grinds to a halt leaving the city gridlocked. Not a great way to spend a holiday. The city has come up with genius ways to commute such as a skytrain, scooter taxi, underground train, tuk tuk, cycling, river boats and ferries, and of course there are the usual forms of transport such as bus, train and catching a taxi. A small warning regarding tuk tuks or taxis. Get your hotel to book and confirm the price to avoid being ripped off.

Golden Buddha Bangkok

My first bit of advice is to take the airport rail link to get to town. It’s faster and at least it moves. The same applies for your return trip to the airport. The very last thing you want is to be stuck in traffic and miss a flight. Standards and quality of accommodation vary considerably. Many establishments are not unmindful of the fact that men come to Thailand to meet prostitutes and have very strict rules about who can visit your room. Generally the cheaper places and guest houses are more forgiving than hotels in that respect.

Traffic in Bangkok

We did a city tour of Bangkok taking in the Grand Palace in the Old City, a floating market, a couple of wats (more on them later) and a general drive through the city. We would have liked to go walkabout in China Town but sadly the traffic made it impossible to fit in the full itinerary. My advice would be to hire a bicycle and visit the key attractions yourself. However, I have to say that we didn’t always find street names and resorted to counting roads and making notes of landmarks so we could find our way back to our hotel.

Beach resort hotel Phuket

Thais are well known for their friendly and sweet dispositions and they really do smile a lot. Souvenir T-Shirts brandish slogans such as – “Thailand – the land of smiles.” Don’t be surprised if a couple of Thais join your table at one of the food markets. They love to interact with ‘farang’ or foreigners, but for all their friendliness, they don’t speak much English and asking for a meal to be cooked in a certain way or for directions is probably a waste of time. Do make a note of some key Thai words to help you communicate in Thailand. The Thais will love it.

Now, although I am glad we visited Bangkok, it’s not the sort of place I would go back to. Too many people, getting about is a nightmare, air pollution is 3 times acceptable levels, noise pollution is also above accepted safe levels, it’s hot as hell and humid to boot.

Greenie making a domation at a temple

The highest market prices were in Bangkok. I saw items I had bought in Bangkok selling for far less in Chang Mai. In some areas the prostitution is in your face. You can’t walk down the street without girls and ladyboys coming on to you. My advice. Spend the minimum time in Bangkok and head up to Chang Mai. It’s inland and much cooler. It has a laid back bohemian vibe. Chang Mai is smaller and you can walk about without getting lost. And you buy everything for much less than in Bangkok. They have a red light scene in Chang Mai but it’s more discreet.

In – Part 2 – next week you can read about temples, food, prostitution and Chang Mai. In – Part 3 – the week after I talk about shopping, markets and give some tips of Thailand.

Coral Island

Read about other destinations in the Greenie Travel archives – here.



Travel in Ireland in 2010

Village of Cong in Connemara area

I’ve written our Irish road-trip in three parts. Next week and the week after I will continue the series.

You hang out from the top of Blarney castle to kiss the stone

We’ve seen a fair amount of England and Scotland. And a bit of Wales. But we hadn’t been to Ireland. Ireland is right next door to Great Britain but somehow, we just never got there. First, we considered doing a canal boat holiday but decided against it as the canalised area is small and wouldn’t allow us to see much of Ireland. On advice from a few people we chose to do a driving trip around Ireland. Turns out that’s what most people do. It was important for us to see both Northern Ireland and
The Republic of Ireland.

Loyalist area Derry

Northern Ireland – is part of Great Britain, has pound sterling (£) as currency, they fly the Union Jack and are subject the all the protocol that eminates from the United Kingdom.

The Republic of Ireland – is a member of the European Union, their money is the Euro (€), their flag is the tricolour and they have their own goverment, parliament and rules.

Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland are two different countries. I did not know that and when you travel from north to south there are no border posts.

Aftermath of a car bomb

We did this trip in 2010 and it was painfully obvious Ireland was having a financial melt down. The owners of the guest houses we stayed in were furious with their finance minister and government for getting the Irish people into such a mess. The newspapers were lampooning Irish politicians. We heard all about the boom era when the – Celtic Tiger – loomed large. On our road trip we saw big fancy country houses, the sort you see in American soap operas – except they were abandoned. Clearly people had over extended themselves and were unable to continue with their lavish lifstyles.

Loyalist wall mural Derry

And -‘The Troubles’ although mostly over – are not forgotten. We couldn’t help but notice buildings that had been ravaged by bomb blasts and boarded up. They stood in sharp contrast right next to buildings that had been re-built and restored. This was more evident in Belfast and Derry (Londonderry).

The reason Derry (Londonderry) has two names is a hangover from Loyalists (Northern Ireland) who are pro Britain and call it Londonderry and the Republicans (The Republic of Ireland) who are pro independance and call it Derry.

We saw kerbstones painted red, white and blue in Loyalist communities. And just two blocks away kerbstones were painted orange, green and white in Republican neighbourhoods. A car bomb exploded outside a furniture shop in Derry while we were there, but the damage was contained. And to be fair, these incidents are rare today. I think the reason the tensions don’t erupt as much anymore is testament to the will of the Irish people. They really want to move on from their difficult past.

Celtic crosses on Aran Island

I was fascinated by the history of the Irish people and found the similarities between the displaced people of Ireland not unsimilar to what happened in my home country South Africa. The Loyalists, mostly Catholics, are the indigenous people of Ireland. They were displaced by the Republicans, mostly Protestants, who were British settlers.

Medieval crockery for banquet at Bunratty Castle

We learned that a million Irish people died of starvation in the – Great -Famine – while food was being exported across to Britain. Horrific. Over a million Irish people emigrated from Ireland to avoid certain death and many Americans have strong links to Ireland.

We encountered lots of Americans at the breakfast tables in the guesthouses. On our night out at Bunratty Castle we met people from just about every American state. Americans come over to explore their roots and do much what we did, a mad dash across Ireland. Nearly every president of the USA has Irish ancestry. America played a part in the liberation of Ireland from Britain. Read more about Irish American presidents here

Giants Causeway in Antrim

In – Part 2 – I chat about people, best time to visit, planning a road trip, Belfast and Derry and in – Part 3  – t talk about what to do inDublin, Galway, Aran Islands, Kerry, Cork and mention the Druids.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in India in 2006

The ubiquitous Tuk Tuk

India blog is a 3 part series. Next week I will post Part 2 and the week after Part 3.

Heritage accommodation

I visited India in 2006. Although it could have been 1706. Almost every place I have visited has been somewhat affected by modern trends. People wear jeans, eat McDonald’s and watch American programmes on TV. Not in India. Despite many years of British occupation and rule, and Indians have taken on some English customs to be sure, India is still a country wrapped up in it’s own culture and ancient rituals. Women continue to dress in traditional clothing, curries are eaten by Indians every single day and Bollywood sagas are preferred to American box office movies.

Indigo coloured buildings in Jodhpur
Snake charmers

India is the seventh largest country in the world and has over a billion people, the second largest population after China. I was warned before I went to India that I would be captivated by the colourful people and rich history – but –  that I must also be prepared for poverty on a scale I would not be able to anticipate. Hey, I come from South Africa, please, I’ve seen poverty. Well actually I hadn’t seen anything like I saw in India. And it is hard to take in. On arrival at Delhi airport I saw squatter settlements right next to the airport. I stepped over rows of women sleeping next to each other on pieces of cardboard in the toilets. I talk about my arrival and departure in – this – blog post and you may want to read it before heading for India.

India is pretty much divided into the north and the south. The northern people are fairer, have straighter hair, eat red tomato based curries and meat. North Indian women wear salwaar and kameez. In the south, people are darker, have curlier hair, eat yellow curries with coconut and rice. They are predominantly vegetarian, but they do eat some seafood. South Indian women wear saris.

Frescoed building

India is a hellava hot country. In summer, average temperatures are between 30’C and 40’C, but can nudge up well into the forties. The best time to visit is during the cooler months from November to March. Make sure you avoid the monsoon which arrives late May. I travelled mid season and I found it hot and humid. Big Indian cities are polluted and the combination of muggy heat and smog made me feel grubby. All I wanted was to wash and wash. My tip is to pack light cotton clothing and make sure you have wet wipes and toilet paper with you at all times. Many of the toilets are a hole in the ground and toilet paper is not always provided. You get used to it after a while.

Local pharmacy
Sikh Temple

I did the trip with a tour group – Imaginative Traveller – and I would recommend that anyone visiting India for the first time do the same. Con artists and pick pockets are everywhere. Beggars can surround and overwhelm you in a flash and make venturing out unbearable. Forty four percent of the population live on less that $1 a day so it’s to be expected. On top of that, Indian people are inquisitive and super friendly. They love to speak English. At times I felt like an A list celebrity as people flocked around me to ask my name and hang on to me. For more statistics on India hit – this link.

Doing the tour with a group meant we had a guide who looked after us and knew the dodgy areas or people. Our group was safe for the most part but we did have a woman who lost her bag on a train. One of the porters brought her luggage onto our train and she turned her back to find a locker. Within seconds the porter had nicked her bag complete with passport, cash, medication, the lot.

And a week after we boarded that train there were bomb blasts right where we had been. Read more here.

Next week in – Part 2 – I will discuss food, shopping and the Golden Triangle and the following week in – Part 3 – I talk about temples, holy animals and the caste system.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

One of these porters stole this woman’s bag minutes after I took this pic




Travel in Greece in 2002


Before he met me, my husband would take his annual holiday in Greece, every single year, for nearly a decade. He’s not alone. There are plenty Grecophiles who migrate to the same island and the same hotel, to hopefully have the same experience, again and again. For Europeans Greece is a go-to destination where sun is guaranteed and the landscape is vastly different from the grey skies and rain soaked fields.

Waiting for the next ferry

We went to Greece a few years after it joined the Eurozone. We heard that Euro status had pushed prices up. We heard right. Overnight a cup of coffee that would have been say $1 in Drachma became $3 in Euro. And that translated into all areas, meals, scooter hire and accommodation. Before Greece had been a value destination, now it costs the same as a trip to most Western European countries.

Ferry arriving at Ios island

It’s always so interesting to write about our older holidays and how many changes can occur in just a few years. Greece is in economic crisis right now and may well have to revert to the Drachma. Will the old prices return? Who knows?

Tourism is the number one source of income for Greece and in the height of season – July and August – Greece is more hell than heaven. Unless hanging out with hoards of bright red, drunk or hung over Europeans is your idea of fun. The best time to visit Greece is mid to low season. If that’s not possible then avoid the tourist hot spots and seek out remote areas of Greece. There are places in Greece where time has stood still.


Much of the tourism industry shuts down after low season. Ferry services dwindle, restaurants and accommodations close as many islanders head back to the mainland for winter. You don’t want to visit Greece too close to the end of the season or you could struggle to have a holiday at all.

I always say this and it’s true. No matter how much time you budget, you never have enough time to explore a country. A person can’t see and do it all. You have to prioritise and accept your lot or you can run yourself ragged and ruin your holiday. Athens is probably your arrival destination and a good vantage point for seeing the mainland. So allow a couple of days there.

Sailing off Skopelos island

Greece has over 60 inhabited islands in the Ionian, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. The northern islands are greener and cooler. The southern islands are hotter with less vegetation. Ideally a couple of days in say the Sporades Islands and a couple in The Cyclades islands will give you a chance to experience the diversity.

Most common mode of travel – run down scooters

If you book in advance – make sure you factor in ferry times and allow plenty time for tardy services. We missed our ferry to Skiathos when our bus from the airport broke down. And the next hydrofoil that came only had one seat. We waited nearly half a day to finally get to the island.

Next week in – Part 2 – I talk about food for vegetarians and wine, scooters and getting about. And the week after in – Part 3 – I discuss  sailing, the islands and Athens.

Naxos town

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Buenos Aries

Buenos Aries

Travel in Buenos Aries Argentina in 2004

Falklands war veterans protesting

The first backdrop to this trip was that South Africa had been the victim of an alleged move done by bankers at Deutche Bank around 2002 that caused the value of the South African Rand to drop substantially. Read more here. Long haul holidays were out of reach for most of us.

Waldorf Hotel

Although South Africa had recovered somewhat at the time we went to Argentina, the problems over there were far worse. They were at the mercy of  bank loans they were unable to replay.

The Peso had devalued even more than our currency and Argentina became an affordable destination. Argentina is the same latitude as South Africa – and just across the ocean – so many South Africans jumped at the chance to be able to afford to travel.

Rose Palace

It’s always interesting to look back. At that time, no-one seemed particularly concerned that these two countries had been so hard hit by greedy bankers – and loans that created massive debt. However, now that rogue banking practices are affecting first world countries and the European Union is in crisis – suddenly there are calls for investigations and criminal charges to be laid against bankers. Debt is handled with kid gloves to ensure the survival of indebted countries.

The other background theme to this week long break was mass protests. Unions and various groups took to the streets banging – pots and pans – making a noise – against unemployment. Read more here. While we were in Argentina it was the turn of Argentine soldiers from the – Falklands War – who were protesting. They had tents in the central square and wanted people to know they felt betrayed by their government. 


I’m in the UK right now where they have been commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war. It doesn’t seem right to commemorate a war. A mourning for losses on both sides is more appropriate. I felt for these Falklands soldiers when I was there.

Flea market in Recoletta area

However, on a lighter note, and moving on to our holiday in Argentina. We flew – Malaysia Airlines. I have to say the flight and service were excellent. Our deal was a week at the – Waldorf Hotel – including airport shuttle service. The Waldorf was having an upgrade at the time we stayed and somehow a pipe burst and we ended up having to move rooms. But the hotel was central and comfortable. Meals were good. To be honest I just wanted to set foot in South America. Anywhere would have been fine.

Once there, we knew we wanted to do our usual walkabout the city, take in the popular attractions and get a sense of who the locals were, how they lived, what they ate . . .  that sort of thing. Here are a few handy links to help decide what you want to do – Trip AdvisorLonely Planeteasy BA and wiki travel.

Avenue 9th July – the widest road I have ever seen

Part 2 – of this blog series deals with what to do and in – Part 3 – I give ideas for day trips, eating and a link to safety tips.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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