A Travel Calendar – Images from 2016
When you’re continuously planning for future travels, it’s easy for recent journeys to fade into the background, so today I’m taking a brief stroll down 2016’s memory lane.
Looking back at last year, there were some incredible travel experiences. I was privileged to be the guest of astrotourism pioneers Azimuth, at the Calar Alto Observatory in Almeria. I took my first ocean cruise, weaving along the majesterial Norwegian Fjords in unexpectedly clement weather, and experienced the festive traditions of the Netherlands on an impromptu trip to Utrecht.
And then there was that unique road trip on the Pacific north-west coast of Canada with long-time friend Kathryn from Travel With Kat.
Here’s my selection of 12 monthly photographs, and it’s a motley crew of images chosen to reflect a variety of travel moments, near and far from home.
January: Pigeon near River Itchen
I know, it kind of rhymes, right?! Some people don’t like pigeons, so apologies to anyone who has pigeon-specific ornithophobia, but I’ve always quite liked them. I love this shot, taken on my Panasonic Lumix FZ72 bridge camera. I was on a cobweb-busting early January walk along the nearest river to me, the Itchen in Hampshire, when I heard some rustling above me. It took me a while to spot the pigeon, and even longer to get the shot, as it was rarely still. I’d gone out expecting to see swans, ducks and coots, but not a berry-picking pigeon up in the shrubbery.
February: Young Couple Gazing out to Sea, Dorset Coast
This was taken just outside one of my favourite local eateries, the Cliffhanger Cafe in Highcliffe, Dorset. It’s in a spectacular setting (the clue is in the name), with stunning views across the sea and to the Isle of Wight. I’d just finished lunch and was heading back to car. It was overcast and late in the afternoon, and even being by the sea there wouldn’t ordinarily have been much to note or capture. But I noticed the couple in a moment of contemplation, and couldn’t resist taking this shot. I’ve taken most of the colour out, which I think better reflects the mood of the picture.
March: Keyhaven Salt Marsh
Either side of Lymington River lies a large area of coastal marshland and mudflats, providing a hugely important habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife. It’s a treasure of a landscape, and at 15 minutes from my parents’ place, I’m a regular visitor. It’s fascinating to observe the intricate patterns formed by the vegetation and water, and from a photographic point of view I think there’s even more of interest than a wider-scale shot might give. The above image was taken on my mobile phone, and I look forward to my next visit and seeing how much more I can capture with my main camera.
April: Calar Alto Observatory, Almería
Last April I was honoured to spend a few hours at the Calar Alto site with Javier and Victor from Azimuth, an astrotourism and outreach team collaborating with the Observatory. What I had least expected to see that day was a very large lorry parked up alongside the largest of the astronomical domes. Not because the mountain road up to the top is dangerous (it isn’t, although the drive was exhilarating) – no, I just couldn’t figure why it would be there. It turns out there was a film company there on location, with full crew and equipment, in the midst of a movie shoot. I guess when you work in science, and funding is eternally challenging, multiple income streams is the way to go.
May: Walkabout in Camden Town
Towards the end of April/beginning of May, a couple of thousand rock fans, often tattooed, pierced and bearded (and that’s just the women, boom boom) descend upon Camden Town for the annual Desertfest music festival. I thoroughly enjoy myself when I go, but last year I found a gap in the music schedule to go a-wandering through the boho, buzzing streets around the main music venues. It was one of those gloriously sunny spring weekends that brought the hordes out to play. These two young ladies caught my eye and I didn’t even have to pay them to take their photo.
June: Black Bears in British Columbia
“If you go down to the beach today, you’re sure of a big surprise”. That was definitely the case when I went bear watching with Travel With Kat, during our incredible RV (motorhome) road trip along the Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island in Canada. I had no idea just how many bears we’d see, turning over huge boulders as if they were made out of papier-mâché, and largely ignoring us. Photographing them was a challenge in itself, not only were they scurrying around most uncooperatively, but we were frantically (and almost futiley) trying to keep a steady hand whilst bobbing about in a Zodiac boat. This chappie kindly stood and glanced up for just long enough for me to take a snap.
July: Red Sky at Night, Barton-On-Sea
I spend a lot of time with friends and family in the New Forest and surrounding area. This summer evening I’d noticed the sky beginning to glow with vivid ochre and purple hues as the sun sank towards the horizon. I made it to the coast with enough time to spend a good half hour watching the shades deepen and the clouds twist and twirl around, forming an impressive multi-layered patchwork of shapes in the sky. A great pity I only had my phone with me, as I know the camera would have picked up so much more of the very intricate detail.
August: Solarsphere Astronomy and Music Festival, Wales
Solarsphere is a unique fusion festival combining stargazing, expert talks and music, held in on a small farm on the outskirts of Builth Wells. It takes place on the nearest weekend to the Perseid meteor shower and I went along as a guest of an astronomer friend. With all 3 of my most favourite things featuring (travel, astronomy and music for those who haven’t sussed it), I couldn’t help but have a most wonderful weekend. It’s a small, family-friendly festival with several stands featuring everything from observing equipment to colourful trinkets. These cosmic ladies were taking care of the music sales among other things, and were too bright and groovy to ignore!
September: Stavanger’s Geopark, Norway
Stavanger was the final port on my Norwegian cruise in September, and there’s a lot to see here apart from the pretty harbour. I was so caught up in exploring the Fishermen’s Cottages and the colourful buildings of Øvre Holmegate that I ran out of time to visit the Petroleum Museum properly – but I thought I’d pop in and pick up a few information leaflets. As I neared the museum, I was surprised to find this innovative play and activity area. Using waste materials and technology from the oil industry, the Geopark is an eye-catching example of modern urban development.
October: A Welcome Homecoming, London Suburbs
Everybody, meet Ink – my best friend’s cat. My friend lives near Heathrow and I quite often stop over before or after a trip. Ink has only been a family member for a few months, but in that short time I’ve seen the bond that’s developed between them. It reminds me that no matter how much fun I’m having overseas, or how fascinating travel can be, sometimes coming home brings its own blessings.
November: Speelklok Museum, Netherlands
What would you do with 4 hours’ free time in the Netherlands? I chose to stop at Utrecht on my way back from an overnight business trip. It was the day of the Sinterklaas Parade, a prelude to the December festivities, and we all got rather caught up in the razzle dazzle on the streets. I spent the last hour nipping along canals and into side streets, looking for points of interest, and my final find was the Speelklok Mechanical Music Museum. Many of the instruments in the museum still work and this ornate beauty is a typical example of a traditional Dutch street organ.
December: Festive Displays in Dorset
And now for one of life’s simple pleasures – for me, at least. A few weeks back I wrote about my Christmas Lights walking tour with PlanetPass. The grandeur and scale of the capital’s decorations is impressive, but one of my favourite, and more low-key things to do in December is to wander around local garden centres. I just love their seasonal displays, with their mixture of cute, classy and kitch. Another big plus (and a great emergency fallback) is that you can usually find something for everyone if you’re lacking in time or gift inspiration. At Stewarts in Christchurch, these mistletoe mooses (I think they be mooses!) made me smile.
So those are a few of my calendar moments of 2016, and there are enough memories and images for dozens more. Which reminds me….2017 really does have to be the year I sort my photographs out!