Avid Traveller, scotland, TravelWatchNews

Calum Glenny Wanders through his hometown of Gourock, Scotland

Gourock, a charming coastal town in Scotland, is the subject of this travel blog, where author Calum Glenny takes us on an exciting journey of his hometown. The adventure begins at Kempock Street’s transport terminus – home to both Farmers Market and Pierhead Gardens, with historical landmarks that offer visitors an immersive experience into Gourock’s past.

Sculture Art

As we move along Kempock Street, our guide introduces us to bars like Cleats or Buckleys and Cafe Continental, serving delicious food options for all tastes! We also learn about local spirits, including Shipyard Gin and future releases from Ardgowan Distillery- making it clear why so many people love living here! With its rich history, modern amenities, and friendly locals, there is something special waiting around every corner in Gourock!

The blog provides insight into the Granny Kempock Stone, a Neolithic relic shrouded in mystery. It also recommends food shops such as Aulds The Bakers Made In Italy and Wildfire for those looking to indulge their taste buds. For fashion enthusiasts, boutiques like Straps Alexa Blu Reds Footwear offer unique styles that can’t be found elsewhere. Other attractions include gift stores Coorie In Seagull Gallery showcasing local artisans’ work while takeaways Chinese Indian restaurants offer delicious cuisine options, including Nicos Pizzeria. With so much on offer, this town has something for everyone!

Gourock is a town that offers convenience at every turn – from hairdressers and convenience stores to dry cleaning services. But beyond these practical amenities lies something extraordinary: the Gourock Outdoor Pool, which holds claim as Scotland’s oldest heated swimming pool! This historic landmark dates back centuries and remains an iconic attraction for locals and visitors alike. Additionally, nearby stands another treasure in honor of those who fought bravely during wartime- The Gourock War Memorial. Last but certainly not least is what many consider one of Gourrocks most stunning features; its promenade overlooking the river, where you can catch glimpses of yachts sailing by while also spotting wildlife, such as seals or porpoises frolicking about in their natural habitat.

Gourock has a rich history and culture that can be explored through its various landmarks such as Cragburn Gate flats, Spinnaker Hotel or Ashton Stores. The author suggests taking advantage of the town’s picturesque views by walking along its waterfront towards Royal Gourock Yacht Club & McInroys Point, which offer access to Dunoon via Western Ferries or Argyll Ferries, respectively. Along this journey, readers will discover numerous local shops, restaurants & bars that make up an integral part of what makes Gourock unique.

The author invites readers to explore Gourock and promises that a stroll through its streets will bring joy despite not being as warm as Barbados or Frigiliana. They urge us all to give this town an opportunity for ourselves.

It is important to note that the synopsis herein draws from the excerpt and may not cover all aspects or sections of the original blog post.

Full Article of Gourock, Scotland >>> PDF

More from this Author, see The Advid Traveller Guides 

The Advid Traveler is a partner of Rogues Guides, a project of Rogues in Paradise.


Avid Traveller, Bordeaux, rogues in paradise, Slavery, TravelWatchNews

My dentist regularly has a go at me for my preference for red wine, black coffee and dark Barbados rum. So what links this blog apart from my dentist?

The barbaric slave triangle is the short answer. Bordeaux, the geographically closest port to the Caribbean and Africa, was in all logic, a strategic place for the unfortunate trade. The book Rogues in Paradise refers to this in the story of folk artist Woolly Hewitt. His DNA heritage dates back to the 1600s, with the French in Dahoney, now called Benin. “In 1851, the French negotiated a treaty with King Gezo to discourage the British move into Benin. It did not succeed, as the British soon imposed a naval blockade on the ports to force an end to the slave trade. The British signed a treaty with King Gezo that, in theory, ended the export of slaves from Port Dahomey. Britain abolished the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, but several African ports continued to supply slaves to other countries for some time after. There were many tussles between the French, English, and other Europeans over the years, but Dahomey remained a French colony until independence on August 1, 1960. The French language and customs persist to this day.

french slave trade

In the dark history of slavery, French ships transported 1,381,000 Africans to the New World during the transatlantic trade from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. There are memories of this inhuman period in Bordeauxs’ Musée d’Aquitaine

Image Source https://slaveryandremembrance.org/articles/article/?id=A0097
More on British slavery and African heritage>>>

 

New Opportunity

While looking for a short-haul destination to visit, the opportunity of flying Easyjet to Bordeaux direct from Glasgow cropped up.

In the period between booking and travel, the civil unrest in France dominated news headlines throughout the world. The senseless killing of Nahel Merzouk, a French Algerian teenager, by a French police officer on a Parisian housing estate shocked the world and created a powder keg society in France. Undoubtedly various radical factions piggybacked on the outrage being felt across the nation and stoked the fires resulting in nights of violence and civil disobedience. Fellow passengers on our flight were apprehensive about what to expect despite the violence being reported in the newscasts as contained within certain areas of the main cities of Paris, Marseille, Metz, and Bordeaux.

Thankfully we were right not to be too concerned and yes there were signs of some vandalism – numerous smashed shop windows – but no violence!

Moving on!  

premium bordeaux red wine- AngelusWhat red wine lover wouldn’t visit this famed wine-growing region. Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in south west France. It’s known for its gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th and 19th century mansions and impressive art museums such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. Impressive gardens follow the meandering river and quays. The Place de la Bourse, which hosts the Three Graces fountain, overlooks the Miroir d’Eau which can be described as a mysterious reflecting pool but quite simply, kids and adults love running through it when it’s hot!

If you’re looking for a French city destination, then Bordeaux comes as a highly recommended alternative to Paris, Nice and Marseille. With easy access to terrific foodie experiences and friendly people, it’s also not too challenging to meander the city sites on foot. A short break can open up the very best of Bordeaux and the surrounding area.

Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport is the nearby international airport. Flights from the UK and across Europe are affordable and from the UK take between ninety minutes and just over two hours, dependent on UK departure airport. The region also has impressive rail links connecting commuters to the rest of France and across Europe. Bordeaux St Jean is the main rail station and the TGV, the high-speed train to Paris takes less than two hours. Many travelers also take the 200km train to San Sebastián in Spain. I’ve not done that trip yet but it’s on the list!

Located virtually halfway between Madrid and Paris, Bordeaux makes for the perfect pit stop between the capital cities of Spain and France.

Bordeaux – famous for what? 

What is Bourdoux famous for

Bordeaux is probably most famous for its wine, especially red wine. The city is also home to a surprising abundance of Haussmannian architecture, making it a sunny alternative to Paris. The area surrounding Bordeaux consists of endless vineyards and medieval towns, making it easy to explore during the sunnier months.

Bordeaux Wine Museums

There are two museums dedicated entirely to wine in Bordeaux. Travel reviews and tourists talk about the new, trendy and interactive Cité du Vin but there’s also a second wine museum which is far more traditional. The Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux can be found in the historic Chartrons district of the city and costs as little as €10 to enter. Situated within the former wine cellar of the wine merchant for Louis XV, this museum comes complete with a very welcoming and complimentary wine tasting at your visit’s conclusion.

I didn’t make it but for those visiting the Cité du Vin this also comes complete with a complimentary wine tasting. Tickets are available to purchase on the day but in the summer months it’s recommend to buy your ‘billet’ in advance to beat the queues.

A top tip if you’re planning to see various Bordeaux museums and attractions, then it might be worth investing in the Bordeaux City Pass although it really depends on demand and season.

Chartrons District

I found Chartrons to be charming and intimate. The district is full of cobbled lanes and beautiful historic homes. I’d recommend you take a look at the Chartrons Temple, Notre Dame Street, and the little eateries of Les Halles des Chartrons.

Bordeaux Cathedral

Bourdeax Cathederal

 Can easily be described as one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in France,  it is really worth visiting to take in this 11th-century sight. Officially known as the Primatial Cathedral of St Andre of Bordeaux it’s surprisingly free to enter and to walk around.

The largest reflective pool in the world

Located on Place de la Bourse, the Miroir d’Eau is the largest reflective pool in the world. This remarkable water feature is 3450 metres squared and was created in 2006 from granite slabs. Locals told me that the best time to visit the Miroir d’Eau is at sunset when stunning colours dance across the sky or at night when the city lights reflect perfectly. Don’t forget your camera or phone!

Bordeaux history

There is no shortage of history staring you in the face. Some of the best architecture and historical sites in the city include the turreted Porte Cailhau (highlighted later in the blog) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Open-top Bus City Tour

Join the open-top bus tour (Visi Tour Bordeaux) and get your city bearings while experiencing many amazing sights such as :

Monument Auz Girondins
Place de La Bourse
Miroir d’eau
Porte Cailhau
Gross Cloche
Palais de Justice
Palais Rohan
Jardin Public
Cite du Vin

A bargain at €16 per person for a seventy-minute tour with full commentary.

Local Cuisine

All that walking works up an appetite as well as a thirst. Wine aside, there are a million gastronomic reasons to visit Bordeaux and the surrounding area. French cuisine has it all from savory dishes that melt in your mouth to sweets, there are excellent bistros, cafés and restaurants.

Our experience was simply outstanding:

Homie’s Kitchen

36 Rue des Ayres, Bordeaux

Homies Litchen in bordeaux
Just off the main shopping street of Rue Sainte Catherine we found Homie’s. The best brunch we’ve had so far on our travels. Good coffee and hard to choose from the great food options on the menu. We all opted for different options (Shakahouka, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royal and exceptional hash browns) and couldn’t fault any of them. I also ordered a detox smoothie which was delicious. Our host Paul was excellent, he spoke fluent English and helped guide us through the menu.

Homie means – a best friend for life, yes, but it’s more than that, it’s family. We returned here twice before our visit to Bordeaux came to an end.

Le Bouchon Bordelaise

2 Rue Courbin, Bordeaux

We were looking forward to our dinner here but given it was a set menu we were a bit apprehensive as to what might be served by the chefs Frédéric Vigouroux, Etienne, Matthéo, Lino and not forgetting Souleman. Our research proved correct and we were certainly not disappointed. On Le Bouchon Bordelaise set menu there is a choice of  4 courses (5 if you opt for the cheese which we did) or 6 courses. All our courses were absolutely delicious – creative, tasty and very well presented. We also opted to add in the wine pairing. A fairly eclectic mix of mainly white wine to match the food, but red with our main course. Most of the wines came from the nearby Bergerac region. The restaurant is fairly small, most tables were reserved and staff coped really well with a busy night. This superb restaurant is run by Fanny and her front of house team, Manon and Melissa, who took time to explain what we were being served and how the wine paired with it. Fanny makes sure she welcomes and interacts with everyone. A remarkable meal which will not be forgotten and ideally finished off with coffee, Laballe Vieille Reserve Armagnac or Menthe Pastille, a mint digestive.

If you want a local cuisine experience and trust leaving your options with the chef, this cannot be more highly recommended.

Le Petit Commerce

22 Rue de Parlement, Saint Pierre.

We visited this restaurant as it has a reputation for being one of the best seafood restaurants in Bordeaux. Little else on the menu bar fresh, local and seasonal seafood. We visited twice, once with friends for dinner and once on our own for lunch. It was fabulous and a true treat for the tastebuds. Everything we had – crab, smoked salmon, lemon sole, sardines, mussels and hake – was tremendous. I’m told their desserts are also superb but never made it that far. The wine list covers all tastes but try not to mix up the American cocktail when asking for a Cafe Americano.

Well worth the two visits. 

Bistrot à huitres “Chez Jean-Mi”

Marché des Capucins, PI. des Gross Capucins.

A great bar/restaurant within the Marche des Capucins, it is very busy at the weekends, note – get there before 1100 otherwise you will have to queue. The oysters are just incredible, take advantage of the packages on offer such as 6 oysters and white wine for €9.50. Eat while you watch the locals buying their market produce or just chill and enjoy the atmosphere. We also ordered 6 large crevettes which again were delicious. It’s also worth a slow wander around the market stalls. The fresh fish, vegetables, herbs and meat on offer is really impressive.

A local institution not to be missed!

La Maison du Glacier

1 Pal e St Pierre.

Another institution is the ice cream parlour, La Maison du Glacier. You will have to queue but that gives you time to choose from the endless list of ice cream and sorbet flavours. Just sublime, especially on a hot summer day. The rum & raisin and peanut ice cream were fabulous while the cassis and melon sorbets a truly wonderful combination.

Berthus

15 Rue des Bahuiters.

Berthus

On our last night we wandered the Bordeaux streets, nothing booked and a lot of restaurants are closed on Sunday and Monday. Berthus was open so we had a look, oh no, another set menu. This time called ‘Seasonal’ but to be honest it looked good. A rather uninspiring front door, don’t be fooled by the three bar stools at the entrance. This is the kitchen and there are many tables upstairs in a couple of nice dining areas. From the word go, our host Alex really looked after us. The seasonal menu at an astonishing €25 a head was just wonderful. Despite my earlier reservations the food was excellent, very simple and very tasty.

Value for money this restaurant is up there with the best and no wonder it has a Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Award.

Bordeaux Luxury

Similar to Paris, Bordeaux undoubtedly has its fair share of stunning hotels and luxury accommodations. The best hotels in Bordeaux include the 18th century Villa Reale which offers self-catering apartments and the chic Hotel Burdigala which is named in homage to the Roman name for Bordeaux. The four star Hotel de Seze situated in the heart of the historic old town also offers great accommodation. Although not luxurious, our accommodation was the recently opened Staycity Aparthotel. Compact but modern, well-equipped rooms, ideally located and catered for our every need. Recommend unless you’re looking to spoil yourself.

Porte Cailhau

Porte Cailhau

My travelling companions (Janis & Jim) were mightily impressed with the Disney -esq Porte Cailhau. When Bordeaux was a walled city this was the grand gateway to the city. It’s highly recommended to view this very impressive 14th-century architecture early in the morning when the sunlight shines through the gateway and illuminates all in its path. 

Grosse Cloche (Big Bell)

Rue Saint-James

Grosse Cloche 

This huge 7800kg iron bell’s home in a giant medieval belfry stands on the St. Eloi passage within an impressive archway. In the Middle Ages it was a gate into the city centre. The bell was interred in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Featuring in the city’s coat of arms the tower was built in the 12th century with the large bell being added in the 15th century.

The bell was regularly used throughout the Middle Ages, its purpose made clear from its inscription which reads,
“I call to arms, I announce the days, I give the hours, I chase the storm, I ring the holidays, and I cry out for fire”.

A very central location and great to use as a landmark to get your bearings. With beautiful historic streets around it containing some fantastic boulangeries, bars and bistros.

Regional day trips and other events 

Whether you want to visit stunning beaches, swim in the sea, or sample some fantastic local wine, there are numerous trips on offer from Bordeaux. Some recommended day trips include: Arcachon town, Dune du Pilat – Europe’s largest sand dune, and Saint-Émilion – the medieval city.

Cycling Wine Tour

Cycling

Rustic Wine Tours
8 Rue André Loiseau, 33330, Saint-Émilion.

Prior to visiting the stunning old town of St Emilion we booked up with Rustic Vine Tours for a full day wine tour using electric assisted bikes, taking in some incredible rolling countryside and vineyards. The electric assistance was simple to use and very welcome on the steep inclines on our tour. Our group of 6 visited Château Bernateau and Chateau St Georges while enjoying St Emilion wine tastings and a picnic lunch. This gave us time to introduce ourselves and chat to our cycling companions, Matt & Jennifer from California. Our day concluded with a walking tour of St Emilion itself which is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site. Our tour guide Nicolas Floret was not just an expert on the theatre and decorum attached to French wine drinking but also very well versed in local history of battlefields and the surrounding villages. At the last moment Nicolas went out of his way to take us to a local family producer of Cremant de Bordeaux. This is a fantastic AOC classified sparkling white made similarly to champagne but in the heart of Bordeaux and recognised since April 1990, this comes from a longstanding tradition in the region of producing top rated sparkling wines, dating back as far as the 19th century.

cycling through the country

This is a day not to be missed and one which I will certainly repeat when I return.

We will also seek out Nicolas as our guide!

Arcachon

Arcachon is a beach town fifty minutes and fifty five kilometres by train from Bordeaux St Jean station. This popular seaside resort has a mild climate and the longest and sandiest coast (200 kilometres) on the Atlantic, running all the way to Biarritz.

The coast is known as France’s Côte d’Argent (‘the Silver Coast’). It originated as a popular destination for people from Bordeaux to escape the city heat at weekends but has since been developed into one of the most popular and attractive seaside destinations in France.

There are four main beaches in Arcachon, the Plage Pereire, Plage des Abatilles, Plage d’Arcachon and Plage d’Eyrac. Just a few kilometres away is also the stunning Plage du Moulleau with great restaurants, situated virtually on the sand, and an olde world carousel.

Plage du Moulleau

About ten kilometres south of Arcachon sits the second largest lake in France called the Lac de Cazaux but the most popular attraction in the area is found a few kilometres to the south-west.

A fifty minute cycle on a dedicated cycle path from Arcachon station takes you through some really impressive beach side districts of outer Arcachon to the  ‘Dune du Pilat’.  The largest sand dune in Europe, at more than 110 metres high. It is about 3km long, and very steep. If you can only imagine it, think ten times higher than your thoughts …. it’s huge!!

Plage du Moulleau

You can climb directly up the sand to the top or use the 154 stairs to take in the stunning views which are simply ‘magnifique’.

Arcachon, with its town, beaches, lake and sand dune is a fantastic experience and with a one way train ticket from Bordeaux at €10, a relatively inexpensive adventure.

A day out I guarantee you will not forget.

World Heritage Site

Since 2007, 40% of Bordeaux’s surface area, located around the Port de La Lune, is now listed as world heritage sites. Unesco identifies  Bordeaux as “an inhabited historic city, an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble, created in the age of the Enlightenment, whose values continued up to the first half of the 20th century, with more protected buildings than any other French city except Paris”.

Paris to Bordeaux

Many comparisons are made between Paris and Bordeaux and due to the outbreak of war the French National Government has relocated several times to Bordeaux. At the start of the France and Prussia war (1870) the Government temporarily relocated from Paris. This happened again during World War 1 and very briefly during the Second World War when Paris fell to Hitler’s Germany.

My main comparison is simply that the people of Bordeaux are friendly, welcoming and accommodating. I found this a complete contrast to my experience of Paris and enhanced my view of the French public.

Tour de France

tour de francew

During our visit Bordeaux hosted the finish of the 7th stage of the Tour de France (Mont-de Marsan to Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux). This was the first time since 2010 the city has hosted the historic race and it wasn’t going to let it go by without a bang!

The leading riders arrived to tens of thousands of fans lining the left bank’s 2 kilometre boulevard. Prior to this the the Tour’s partners put on a show, handing out thousands of promotional gifts to surprise the waiting fans. Several huge tv screens showed the riders approach and commentators whipped the crowd into a frenzy. With helicopters overhead in the hot sun, the atmosphere and tension was incredible! Then the peloton passed by about 55km per hour! Caught on camera to replay again and again. A brilliant experience and an amazing party atmosphere.

What is the best time to visit Bordeaux?

Though Bordeaux is beautiful to visit at any time of the year (indeed it’s the city that Parisians say they’d most like to live in, if they weren’t based in Paris), there are better times of the year to visit than others. For example, the winter is the quiet season while summer sees the most tourists. If you want to enjoy the best of the weather with lower prices, then visit in late spring or early autumn. Visit between May and November and you’ll also be able to enjoy the vines in their full glory.

How many days should I spend in Bordeaux?

The exact number of days you should stay in Bordeaux is entirely dependant on your travel schedule and what you wish to see when in the city. However, a good balance is a long weekend as this allows you to experience the ambiance of the city, as well as many of the major attractions and some hidden gems along the way.

On my return I will have at least three night in Bordeaux, two nights in St Emilion and if spring or summer at least four nights somewhere near the Arcachon beaches.

Au revoir

Well it’s all over, what welcoming people and a great city visit with trips to the countryside and coast thrown in. A highly recommended city break.

Having arrived with media coverage of riots and demonstrations, we saw nothing that caused unease. Certainly, high profile ‘armed’ policing patrols were frequent and highly visible but no issues at all.

Whether it was sampling the local drink Lillet, the elusive but splendid sparkling Cremant du Bordeaux, some wonderful red wines, the locally farmed oysters, candles (small locally baked cakes), shopping in Rue Saint Catherine or just wandering about the beautiful streets and taking in the historic sights, Bordeaux and the surrounding area was ‘parfait’!

Summary Video

About

Calum Glenny Avid Traveller

 

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s Avid Traveller
In association with RoguesinParadise

Rogues Travel Guides and The Book:
RoguesinParadise

The Real Story of Barbados

 

 

More about The Avid Traveller and Rogues Guides


Avid Traveller, New York Travel Blog, rogues in paradise

My recent travel blogs have all been written about warmer climates or my visits happened to coincide with the summer months. This New York Travel Blog is a  departure as I delve into history and style of New York City!

New York Travel Blog - Panoramic viewof the City

In this latest travel blog I head across the ‘pond’ to the east coast of America and my first ever visit (5 days) to New York in early Spring. Early planning ensured a trip to Broadway, a view of the Statue of Liberty, a walk round Manhattan’s iconic buildings and a sunny afternoon along the remarkable reclaimed rail line and now a public park called High Line.

So the question is!
Is it New York, New York City, the Big Apple or simply NYC amongst a host of other names?

The answer is all of the above and with over 8 million of a population it is the United States’ most populous city. It’s also the most densely populated city in the US with the population crammed into 300 square miles (778 km2). Located in the most southern tip of the State of New York, the city also has over 58 million people living within 250 miles (400 km) of its boundaries. Due to its size, its importance in business, politics, research & technology, fashion, sport and being home to the United Nations Headquarters, New York is regularly described as the capital of the world.

History – How it all began.

New York City traces its origins to a 1624 Dutch trading post founded on the southern tip of Manhattan Island and named New Amsterdam. In 1664 it was renamed New York by the British after Charles II – King of England gave the land to his brother, the Duke of York.

In 1673 the Dutch regained the land for 15 months renaming it New Orange. The English took the land back again a year later and the city has been continuously named New York from then on. Since 1790 it has been the United States’ largest city and previously (1785 – 1790) was the capital of the United States.

The city flag is a vertical tricolour in blue, white, and orange, some also have the City seal in the white centre. The design is derived from the flag of the Dutch Republic as used in New Amsterdam in 1625.

Why The Big Apple

This nickname originated in the 1920s when journalist John J. Fitz Gerald, referenced the term used by African American stable hands in New Orleans. He wrote a New York Morning Telegraph article about the many horse races and racecourses in and around New York. He noted that the jockeys and trainers who aspired to race on New York City tracks all referred to the significant money prizes as the ‘Big Apple’. At the time the prize money was the biggest and best around, where winning would change their lives forever.

The term was later reinvented in the 1970s by the New York tourist authorities.

New York Tartan Week

Arriving in New York just after Tartan week was disappointing however, on day one I didn’t expect to see people still wearing kilts on 5th Avenue. America is home to around six million people of Scottish descent. It seems they celebrate just as enthusiastically as any other diaspora, although remember, no matter where you are in the world too much Scotch Whisky may give you a very sore head. In New York, Tartan Week rivals St Patricks Day. Unfortunately, we missed the last of three Tartan Week performances by our local band, The Laurette’s by a day!

Arrival – Day 1

Accommodation – Hotel Kixby 45 West 35th Street.

Situated in the heart of New York City’s vibrant Herald Square in Midtown West just off 5th Avenue. One of the newest independent boutique hotels in Herald Square, minutes from the city’s favourite attractions such as the Theatre District, the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Madison Square Gardens, Macy’s, Penn Station, Grand Central Station and Times Square.

On first impression the hotel easily blends past and present with inspiring design, vintage influence and local art. The 195 guest rooms and suites mirror the relaxed sophistication of the New York City lifestyle, with compact but well layed out interiors that reflect its unique heritage and present day New York.

Black Tap’s Lot 15 is the bar and cocktail lounge connected with the hotel, it’s bursting with the charm of old-world New York City. Decorated in black and gold, a nice place to enjoy a drink especially the locally named Manhattan cocktail which originated in the late 1800s on Manhattan Island. Traditionally, it consists of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a dash of angostura bitters.

Empire State building NYCUnfortunately the hotel’s Lookup Rooftop Bar only opens July to September. It is a highly recommended though as it provides breathtaking views of the Empire State Building, it looks so close, just ‘Lookup’ and take in the spectacular sight. The positive is you can still access the terrace even when the bar is closed.

Iconic Buildings – Self Walking Tour

Empire State Building
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Rockefeller Plaza
Radio City
The Chrysler Building
Grand Central Station
Vanderbilt Building
Macy’s original flagship store
The Flatiron Building

Looking to view the top iconic buildings in Manhattan we decided on a self walking tour. Our walk took nearly 3 1/2 hours and we managed to see nine magnificent sights and develop sore feet as well as very strained necks from looking high up into the skies above!

Since the late 1800s Manhattan’s skyline has been shaped and developed into today’s picture postcard view. Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the world’s tallest buildings were still being built in Manhattan and it certainly challenges the rest of the world in skyscraper architecture. These include the Art Deco masterpieces that remain part of the city’s iconic skyline, probably the most well known being the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Plaza and the Chrysler Building. To this day and despite other buildings throughout the world having passed them by in height terms, these New York icons are as popular as ever and remain worldwide attractions.

Paying a visit to at least one viewing platform is a must. At the Rockefeller Centre we took the forty three second lift to the sixty seventh floor to ’Top of the Rock’ and took in the magnificent 360 degrees views across the city. Simply breathtaking views.

Grand Central Station
As you will also see on these walking tours, Manhattan’s renowned architecture is not only about skyscrapers. Intricate planning and building control over the years have helped create buildings such as Grand Central Station. This stunning sight sits with high-rise buildings all around it, with the main facade, a Roman triumphal arch, seen as the gateway to New York City. A wander inside the various levels of the station is highly recommended.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a stunning neo-gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral tucked away amongst the modern buildings of Midtown Manhattan. Building commenced in 1858 and although situated across from the Rockefeller Centre and Radio City, it couldn’t be more different in style and design. It is the largest gothic Catholic cathedral in North America and is also known as America’s Parish Church. An international historic marble landmark as well as a fully functioning church that opens its doors to more than 5 million visitors each year.

The original Macy’s Building on Herald Square was its flagship store and covers an entire block, limited to only nine stories high. Architecturally, it is a stand out and grand history staring right back at you! The old wooden escalator on the Broadway side just oozes class and tradition. Built in 1902, Macy’s was the first building in the world to have an escalator.

Standing proud on Broadway and 5th Avenue is the unique wedge shaped Flatiron Building. Tourists gather all day long in the oasis which is Madison Garden park opposite or at outside tables on nearby street cafes just to photograph or simply gaze in awe at this sight!

St Patrick’s Cathedral

There are various self-guided walking tours which take you to the most famous buildings in Manhattan, most importantly you can dictate your own pace.

Dinner – The Harold

1271 Broadway On 32nd Street between Broadway & 6th Avenue.

The Harold
We stumbled across The Harold Bar & Restaurant whilst finishing our iconic building walking tour. We were a bit jaded after an 8 hour flight and a long walk however we had dinner seated at the bar, where the food and service by bar tender Evelyn Jack were great. Would recommend visiting this restaurant at any time of day even just to have a refreshment and watch Evelyn mix cocktails in her own imitable style.

Day 2 – The High Line

West 30th Street, West side Manhattan.

This is a remarkable public park built on a historic freight rail line running 30 feet above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, it also provides fantastic views of the Hudson River and New York City skyline. Local residents successfully petitioned to save the line from demolition with the public space opening in 2009. It opens daily between 0700 and 2200 hours when visitors can walk the 1.5 miles (30 -40 mins) and experience nature in the city, some cool artwork and stunning city views.

A wonderful walk through this area of Manhattan and away from the hussle of the city streets below.

A stress lowering and relaxing experience in what is a very busy city.

Vessel – 20 Hudson Yards, Manhattan

 

Vessel

On approach to the High Line we literally stumbled across this very strange but interesting architectural piece at Hudson Yards. What I can only describe as a bronze spiral staircase which is a relatively new City landmark. Designed by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the structure rises 16 stories and consists of 2,500 steps, and 80 viewing platforms.

Vessel is the main attraction at the Hudson Yards Public Square and when open to the public it will the provide incredible views of the city, the Hudson and surrounding area.

Lunch – Chelsea Market

75 9th Avenue (between 15th & 16th St)

Standing a short walk from the end (or start) of High Line on 10th Avenue is the 1850s old bakery (where Oreos were invented) which now houses the impressive Chelsea Market. I usually try and avoid markets but the sound and smells of the food hall came calling!

The building also hosts a shopping mall, offices and a television production facility and the complex takes up an entire city block.

This gem is always listed in the top attractions or lists of things to do in New York. Once you take a stroll through the market you will understand why. Meal times can be exceptionally busy but there are some fantastic options to choose from.

The place was packed out on our visit and the queue at Los Tacos No. 1 was very long, however it did move fairly quickly. Being so busy we opportunistically grabbed two bar stools at an adjacent bar which didn’t appear to have a name! I now know it’s called Mayhem.

This turned out a real winner as the New York speciality sandwiches (Dragon & Binger Jnr) we had for lunch were outstanding. A couple of glasses of rose wine while watching the world go by was just what the Doctor ordered after walking 15 thousand steps before lunch! A gem of a find in a bustling market, watching the excitement of both adults and kids line up for tacos was amusing!

Mayhem only serves food Wednesday to Sunday so be aware plus if you’re in line for tacos you can order a take away drink while waiting!

Washington Arch

Washington Square North.

The Washington Arch is an impressive marble arch standing proud on the edge of Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village. The arch commemorates the 1789 inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States. Washington was sworn in on the balcony of New York City’s old City Hall during the city’s period as the first capital of the United States.

Washington Arch

Washington Arch with a modern day Yellow Taxi

Day 3

Breakfast – Jack’s Wife Frida Soho, 226 Lafayette St.

Jack’s Wife Frida

Best described as very tasty South African Israeli Jewish Grandmother Cuisine. The menu tells the story of Jack and Frida and how it all began. There are five restaurants throughout the city. The Soho restaurant is a great spot for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. The interesting menu provides delightful options and I’m sure you’ll love what you order. The fresh cantaloupe juice was just incredible. A must try when in NYC.

Staten Island Ferry

Whitehill Terminal, Whitehill St.

Staten Island Ferry

Along with thousands of other tourists we boarded the free Staten Island ferry taking in the stunning New York coastline as we sailed on the iconic orange ferry. Absolutely the best way to see New York Harbour, the Statue of Liberty and a very impressive Manhattan skyline. On clear days you can see the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance.

Staten Island Ferry

Top tip is to disembark at Staten Island (mandatory) and immediately catch the return service to Manhattan. The ferries depart every 30 minutes (on the hour and half hour) and the sail takes about 25 minutes, this quick turnaround can easily be done and all free!

The Double Bridge Walk

After the Staten Island Ferry we headed for our second round trip of the day. This time it was walking across the East River on Brooklyn Bridge, a quick lunch at Time Out Market and then a walk back across Manhattan Bridge. Both bridge walks took about 20 minutes and provided incredible views of the rivers and city skyline. Brooklyn Bridge was far more impressive to walk but very crowded while Manhattan Bridge had very few people on the walkway.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

 

The Brooklyn Bridge as it’s been known since 1915 was the first suspension bridge to use steel for its cable wire and spans the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Opened in 1883 it was the first fixed crossing of the East River and at the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world. The busiest bridge for tourists by far with impressive stone arches.

Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

The Manhattan Bridge connects Chinatown and Downtown Brooklyn. The bridge pioneered the use of “two-dimensional” slender steel towers and supports seven lanes of vehicular traffic, four train lines, a pedestrian walkway and a separate bikeway. It was completed in 1909 due to the overcrowding of the Brooklyn Bridge and it is the youngest of the three East River suspension bridges. The Chinatown entrance to the bridge has an elaborate stone portal and broad plaza. Walking on the bridge can be extremely noisy with a constant rattling on rail joints and braking from the trains.

Manhattan Bridge stone portal

Manhattan Bridge stone portal

Bar 54 – 135 West 45th Street.

A truly unforgettable setting 54 floors up in New York City’s highest rooftop bar at the Hyatt Centric, Times Square where you can take in some of the best views in Manhattan and enjoy some slightly expensive cocktails, fine wines and food. Unfortunately, the window booths can only be reserved for three persons or more.

Perched above the city, Bar 54 is an unforgettable location, we visited for drinks and small plates before going to the theatre.

Source RooftopGuide

Reservations are a must and you will be asked to show your reservation on several occasions before you are actually allowed into the hotel lift. Rather an excessive feel to the security checks, especially when there were several free tables in the venue. Maybe something for Hyatt to think about!

Moulin Rouge – The Musical

The Al Hirschfeld Theatre – 
302 West 45th St between 8th Avenue & 9th Avenue.

Broadway is awash with musicals and theatre productions, our theatre was originally the Martin Beck Theatre. Designed in Moorish and Byzantine styles, it opened in 1924 seating 1,404 people across two levels. Both the Theatre frontage and the interior are New York landmarks.

Moulin Rouge officially opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on 25 July, 2019.

Baz Luhrmann’s movie is a favourite in my house and the show expertly brought it to life onstage, the musical certainly hits the mark. The show combines all the glitz and grandeur of the cabaret club inspired by the windmill venue in Paris. A real celebration of truth, beauty, freedom and love! To quote the movie it’s “A story about time, a story about a place, a story about the people. But above all things, a story about love”.

The amazing theatre set, costumes, talented singing and dancing were worth it. The music from Talking Heads, Annie Lennox, Adele to Rihanna was very well produced, so relevant and at times very funny which added laughter to the show. This musical does not disappoint!

I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting New York. It was one of the highlights of our trip. The musical doesn’t win 10 Tony awards for nothing!

Day 4

Breakfast – Toast Cafe 968 6th Avenue.

This busy food venue is handily located a short walk from the Kixby Hotel, from its name we thought it was a cafe and although there is a seating area on the upper level, it mainly offers a large selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner take away options, appealing to many travellers is a hot & cold food buffet serving various national cuisines. You name it, they will most probably have it.

On our ‘chill’ day, I dropped by to pick up a light breakfast to have on the hotel rooftop terrace. I ended up trying their magnificent freshly squeezed healthy juices.

In life it’s hard to beat having breakfast on a bar stool in the April sunshine staring at the Empire State Building!

Central Park

Central Park

A view from Central Park.

Central Park stretches from North 110th St to Central Park South (59th St) and from Central Park West (8th Avenue) to 5th Avenue.

It is an urban park and is the fifth largest park in the city. Claimed to be the most visited urban park in the United States, with an estimated 42 million visitors annually and also the most filmed location in the world. It has it all – nature, sport, history, education and restaurant/cafes.

In 1853 civic philanthropists and leaders agreed to build a park to provide locals with green space, moving New York City to a world class destination. Funds were soon raised to purchase the land which was previously rocky and swampy and home to small farms and settlements.

Now a stunning location and well worth a wander through especially in the sunshine. It is certainly the alter ego of the busy streets of Manhattan.

Evening Skyline

Monarch Rooftop 71 W 35th St.

As it was Saturday night we decided to reserve two standing only places at this rooftop bar. On arrival we confirmed we had a reservation. We were asked exactly what time did we reserve our places. Even on showing an email booking confirmation we were classed as ‘walk-ins’. Initial perceptions should have made us think twice but we wanted to give it a chance. Then came a demand for identification from the two doormen. They were very abrasive and made absolutely no eye contact. It was as if they were doing us a favour allowing us access! A drink each later and after taking in what was a relatively poor skyline view we left but not before being ‘ordered’ to stay in a particular spot for the lift. Found this quite funny as we were the only people leaving. Maybe they should adopt the NYPD motto of CPR – Courtesy, Professionalism & Respect!

Quite possibly a place to avoid.

Day 5

After a late check out from the Kixby Hotel we set off on a slow stroll to Ground Zero. Stopping on the way for brunch.

Brunch – Westville 88, 7th Avenue.

A great priced central restaurant, which has branches throughout the city. Offers a wide selection of food including vegetarian, vegan with meat options. Packed out at 1100 on a Saturday morning. Colin our waiter was great for advice, sitting sipping a Mimosa and eating fabulous food on 7th Avenue in the morning sun on our last day set us up perfectly.

Pit stop – Greenwich Tavern 399 Greenwich St.

While walking in the heat towards Ground Zero a pit stop was required. The Greenwich Tavern was jumping and a beer sitting in the sun and warm April breeze certainly helped recharge the batteries. Staff (Elani) were brilliant even though it was so busy. Great place for a chilled beer in Greenwich!

Ground Zero – National September 11 Memorial & Museum 180 Greenwich St.

Ground Zero
Source: Viator

The World Trade Centre site and Memorial is often referred to as ‘Ground Zero’. The original World Trade Centre complex stood on the site until it was destroyed in the September 11 Twin Towers terrorist attacks of 2001, which killed 2,977 people, and not to be forgotten the memorial also remembers the 1993 bombing which killed 6 people.

Having worked in the world of counter terrorism, this really brought it home to me what the continued challenges aim to stop!

They are truly fitting and stunning monuments of reflection and respect, just seeing the thousands of names brings tears to your eyes. Thankfully these very impressive memorials will undoubtedly keep the memory alive of those brave souls who lost their lives and also those families affected by it. So hard to comprehend that this is in the middle of New York City and why extremists would want to commit such an atrocity.

The visit is a real somber moment but very worthwhile to pay respects.

Oculus – 185 Greenwich St.

The Oculus
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_Calatrava

Right next to Ground Zero stands the mightily impressive Oculus, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Despite its stunning looks, it’s also a transportation hub serving over one million people every week. I understand it is supposed to resemble a dove leaving a child’s hands. However, so close to where the Twin Towers stood I thought it was an angel’s wings. Another stunning and thought provoking reflection on the atrocity of 9/11.

If you’re at the 9/11 monuments you cannot miss this!

It’s a wrap! Or should it be ‘I’m leaving today’!

Well we have come to the end of a 5 day New York City break. A fabulous experience, the ability and opportunity to walk the sights in near perfect weather was a huge bonus. Walking 12.5 miles (20 kilometres) a day does take its toll on you, so our second last day was spent sitting in the sun in Central Park which undoubtedly recharged our batteries and topped off a wonderful experience.

New York is certainly the ‘City that doesn’t sleep’ with its 24 hour hustle and bustle. Once acclimatised you only notice the sirens, car horns and people’s voices when they reduce dramatically, normally between 0200 and 0400 in the morning. The quietness of the streets may then awaken you!

A highly recommended City break.

To conclude, Alicia Keys lyrics say it all for me in the chorus of her ‘Empire State of Mind’ song.

‘In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
there’s nothin’ you can’t do
now you’re in New York
these streets will make you feel brand new
big lights will inspire you

let’s hear it for …… New York!’

Calum Glenny Avid Traveller

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’

In Association with Rogues Guide by  Rogues in Paradise

Grab Free Sample Chapters of The  book – The Real Story of Barbados


Avid Traveller, barbados, caribbean culture and heritage tourism, go local, rogues in paradise, TravelWatchNews

Go Local in Barbados is the latest blog by  Avid Traveller, Calum Glenny Calum has recently produced numerous travel guides for Europe, North America, Oceania and now revisits Barbados in the Caribbean while escaping the Scottish winter weather.

Calum’s travel review highlights local people, mainly vendors who despite the pause to business created by Covid have burst back onto the scene. The highly successful vaccination programme delivered to the Barbados population by Major David Clarke is also acknowledged.

Miami Beach & Janelle Natural Fruit Drinks

Go local in Barbados
GoLocal with  Dancing Moon Cruises from Miami Beach

Calum first visits Janelle at her pop up stand near Miami/Enterprise Beach. Sampling her chilled homemade natural juices on the beach sent the taste buds tingling. Calum highlights the intriguing combinations of local flavours available and links the theory behind making the natural juice drinks to a London family who have taken the idea from Barbados to London and set up their own business, OTC Beverages making Caribbean natural fruit juice drinks in the UK.

Calum then moves onto the lady Alison who makes the most delicious fish cakes from the back of her old white car adjacent to the Enterprise Beach Facility. Alison is a delight to speak to and often has several people waiting on her mouth watering produce and hot sauce.

Next is an early morning visit to Brighton Farmers Market for the best breakfast sausage and egg cutter from Liam’s Cottage Meats stand. Calum’s favourite take away breakfast on the island.

locals and tourist at Brighton Market

While at the market Calum also samples Neil’s superb fish pate and to go with his sausage breakfast, a lovely coffee from Pilebucks.

After breakfast Calum checks out and makes a purchase at the hand crafted jewellery stand of Kimberley White at Summergems. Kimberley is a talented young local jeweller.

On a sightseeing drive North, Calum bumps into the gregarious Andrew Kellman. Andrew’s local knowledge very quickly becomes apparent, and all of a sudden, the chance encounter leads to an unofficial tour of the stunning sights at Cove Bay and Little Bay. A very worthwhile and educating 45-minute, unplanned tour, including links to Tenerife and Billy Ocean!

Calum then moves to Oistins where on a Friday night, the Fish Fry sends the town into party mode!  Oistins is a historic town of Barbados as it was the scene of the planned  Barbados Civil War; a war that ended without a shot as the leader retired to the tavern to write what became the charter of Barbados. Way ahead of its time, it laid out rights and a form of self goverment unheard of in the region.

Oistins bay
Oistins Bay where the civil war that wasn’t almost happened.  See story in Rogues

Calum highlights his favourite restaurant, Chillin & Grillin in Oistins Bay Gardens. Food, service and location for people watching is second to none thanks to Lana who is assisted by Shonte, Phillip, and Allan, among others

rogues in paradise celebrating Bajan culture
In a previous trip Calum met local author Ian R. Clayton who gave him an advance copy of his unpublished book Rogues in Paradise.

He says Ian’s Book is fascinating. It is funny and solemn and guaranteed to amuse and enrich the reader’s knowledge of Barbados. Calum notes that with every visit, he recognises similar characters (rogues) when wandering the island. Calum’s theory that ‘The people make Barbados and Barbados is its people!’ is confirmed in Rogues in Paradise.

Concluding, Calum mentions the respect shown on the island to all people, whether locals or visitors. One incident In Barbados stands out as a prime example and shows Bajan people at their very best!

Video Summary

Author

Calum Glenny Avid Traveller

 

Calum Glenny- The Avid Traveller

See the full blog ar https://barbados.org/blog/barbados-local-guides-experiences


Avid Traveller, rogues in paradise, TravelWatchNews

Bora Bora Island Paradise

The journey

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video

Twenty five minute taxi journey from Gourock to Glasgow Airport. An hour flight from Glasgow to London, eleven hours flight London to San Francisco, eight hours flight from San Francisco to Tahiti and finally a 50 minute island hop flight from Tahiti to our Bora Bora island paradise!

BoraBora-airport

Oh and a 20 minute boat trip from the airport island to Vaitape Quay on the main island, then a 10 minute coastal drive to our destination. Nearly 10,000 miles from Gourock!

What a journey, ten hours behind the UK but thankfully it was broken up by celebrating my Mother’s special birthday in California and a short stay in Tahiti. On the Tahiti to Bora Bora flight I picked up a tip to sit on the left of the aircraft as this provides some incredible views of the islands and the approach to Bora Bora Airport.

bungalo sand dunes

On arrival by boat our host at Hititini Bungalow had arranged for her father Maurice and mother Emilie to collect us. Both were very welcoming and kind, allowing us a visit to a nearby supermarket for supplies prior to the short drive to our beach front accommodation. The short journey was an education with commentary in a mix of French, English and Tahitian by Maurice. More on that later!

Bora Bora Island Paradise – Background

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video

Palm Trees on Bay
History states that in 1769, Captain James Cook was the first visitor to Bora Bora. The British explorer was on a South Pacific mission when he stumbled upon this island paradise but records state that the islands were first sighted by Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen in 1722. These islands were later claimed as dependencies of Tahiti within the protectorate by France in 1847 and became part of the French colony in 1880. French is freely spoken throughout the islands as well as Tahitian. Some useful words and phrases are provided further on in this blog.

What’s in a name

Locals pronounce the island’s name differently from most tourists. In Tahitian dialect, they pronounce the letter ‘B’ as ‘P’, so perhaps it should be Pora Pora. You will see both being used on signs across the island.

Bora Bora Island Overview

Bora Bora Map
Virtually half way between the United States and Australia, Bora Bora sits 727 metres above sea level and is a small piece of paradise in the South Pacific. Once a US military supply base and now known amongst many other things for its precious black pearls. The island comprises of 3 villages, Anau, Faanui and Vaitape. With Vaitape being the main village situated on the western part of the island.

There are about 8,800 residents on the island and it has essential businesses like banks, a post office, restaurants, cafés, a hospital, and an impressive new school/university. Most Sundays in Vaitape, there is a market selling goods such as clothes, jewellery and other local delicacies and trinkets.

The ‘Caldera’ and Volcano

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video

Mount Pahia

This ‘caldera’ is essentially a large depression formed some 7 million years ago, when a volcano erupted and collapsed into the Pacific Ocean. It now forms part of the Leeward Islands in French Polynesia. Thanks to its secluded beauty, chilled vibe, and sumptuous spa culture it has fast become a romantic or honeymoon destination. At the centre of the island are the green rainforest peaks of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu.

Many people hike the extinct volcanoes, although for me it was a stunning backdrop to lazy days in the sun and in the deep-blue lagoon which surrounds the main island. White sand ringed islands (motus) surround the main island. From the air they look simply magical.

The deep blue waters and coral reefs are teaming with tropical fish and sting rays, spotted daily from our beach bungalow and nearby is the spectacular Matira beach, claimed to be the most beautiful in the world. If you’re a snorkeller, scuba diver, paraglider or into any other active sports this place is the destination for you!

sting ray gliding over the sand

The entire island extends to 18 miles making it too small for decent public transport. However, there are rental cars, bikes, two-seater buggies for hire or you can walk. Or be even more adventurous and rent a motorboat to explore the lagoon. The island has only one main road that runs along the shoreline so getting lost is not an option.

Accommodation – Bungalow Hititini

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video

Much research discovered the fantastic Hititini Bungalow situated on Matira Point. It is small, spotlessly clean and has absolutely everything you need on your travels. The private beach was simply amazing with stunning views and a white sandbank that leads down to the crystal clear water.

Brora Bora Hititini Bungalow Accommodation

Owners Moeata and Christophe are very kind and pleasant hosts, they are great to tap into for local knowledge and advice. They spend a lot of time with you on arrival explaining what is available in the bungalow. Moeata surprised us on our arrival with bowls of papaya and coconut and a coconut to drink. A quick lesson on how to open it and we were sitting on the terrace with our fresh fruit and drinking from a coconut staring at the stunning view across the lagoon. Just sublime! Moeata and Christophe make you feel special and very welcome in Bora Bora. No wonder they consistently score 5/5 on traveller reviews!

the bay - sand and sea

If I was to pick a very slight issue it would be the lack of storage in the bungalow for luggage. We had travelled via San Francisco so had large cases with clothes for cold and warm weather. We managed but the bungalow is definitely set up for the lighter traveller and let’s be honest, you don’t need a lot of clothes in Bora Bora but you do in a cold San Francisco, so we were caught between a rock and a hard place!

Beach and ocean view from the Bora bora Paradise Bungalo

There is a convenience store just across the road from the bungalow selling essentials, fresh bread and delicious pastries every day. The Lucky House restaurant and take away is next door and offers excellent local food and great pizza cooked to perfection in their pizza oven. More on the Lucky House later!

Just a short road walk or slightly longer beach walk is the Bora Bora Beach Club, again more on that later!

There is very limited and unreliable public transport and it is a 10/15 minute drive to the shops on Viatape from the bungalow. Hititini is all about peace, quiet and ultimately location – which is absolutely perfect.

Bora Bora Beach Club Restaurant

Bora Bora Beach Club

Situated 5 mins walk by road or 10 minutes via the white sand beach this bar/restaurant sits right on Matira beach which is a stunning location. Sitting sipping a cold Hinano beer and watching the sunset simply must be done. This is where we sampled the Vin de Tahiti – Rosé Nacarat which is a Tahitian produced dry rose wine. With such a French influence in the region no wonder they are producing good wines.

The Beach Club serves great food for lunch and dinner with ever changing views across the beach. Tapas and a happy hour are available between 4 and 6pm. On several visits our server Kailo was very pleasant and extremely attentive. As well as serving dining customers, Kailo found time to mix some great Mojito and Pina Colada cocktails which we sipped while watching sting rays and reef sharks gently glide by in the shallow waters in front.

A highly recommended stop off point after walking round the crescent shaped Matira Beach. Or book your table via the restaurant Facebook site with live entertainment playing on a Friday evening.

We booked to see Boussai, a French reggae band on the final night of their Pacific tour. It was a really good night with the venue full to capacity and locals enjoying the opportunity to party. Life must be hard for the band touring the South Pacific Islands!

Lucky House- Fare Manuia Restaurant

Lucky House – Fare Manuia Restaurant

Locally known as ‘Lucky’s’ and situated steps from Bungalow Hititini. We visited for lunch and despite only six tables being occupied some of the waiting staff seemed a bit overwhelmed. However, I will say the food was really good. We shared a caesar salad and a pizza which I must say were very tasty!

There is a small pool in the venue which was used by kids while we were there. Great way to keep the kids occupied! Despite the haphazard service I do recommend a visit!

Bloody Marys Cabana

Bloody Mary’s
Povai Bay, Bora Bora
+689 40 67 69 10

From Bungalow Hititini take a quick 25 minute walk towards Viatape past the Tsnuami Refuge Zone and Bloody Mary’s is situated opposite a small pontoon and beach. Bloody Mary’s opened in 1979 and has developed a bit of a reputation as an institution on the island, all tourists and to be fair locals regularly flock there. It brands itself a restaurant, yacht club and bar. It’s styled as a large Tiki hut bar & grill with a sand floor, a souvenir shop and a celebrity wall of fame from past visitors.

bloody mary totem pole

We visited for lunch on a tropical rainy day. There is a huge selection of cocktails and drinks available, following the venue’s name we ordered the Absolute Bloody Mary.

Finally the perfect drink in paradise

It was good and I did enjoy it but found it too heavy to drink with my meal so ordered a Hinano beer and rose wine to go with our fish tacos and grilled chicken wraps. Portion sizes were enormous and to be honest one of the meals could easily have

been shared. Next time we will do it Spanish style and share a dish. The kitchen like many other on the island closes at 2pm and reopens at 6pm so keep that in mind if visiting.

It’s a very open venue with outside toilets which are quite quirky as are the half dozen chickens that frequently walk through clucking away. If only they knew what was on the menu!

Definitely worth a visit if you’re nearby or mooring your yacht off the Yacht Club.

Restaurant Les Délices De Bora Bora
Centre Ville, Viatape, 98730

This restaurant was discovered during our research, while a local resident confirmed our thoughts on their reputation for very well prepared and presented fresh local fish and attentive and hospitable staff.

When we booked by email we requested their pick up service for what was a 15 minute drive and far better than a 90 minute walk on the dark roads without pavements. A lot of places on the island offer a pick up service as taxis are expensive.

Right on time Jean picked us up and transported us to the restaurant.

les Delice exotic cominations

We chose our mains from a very interesting menu with a fair selection of fish and meat options. Ahead of ordering we were presented with a dish of what I thought was a strange combination – fresh coconut and black olives soaked in olive oil. Initially, I was very hesitant but the fresh coconut in olive oil was outstanding.

Next up was a complimentary appetiser of light fish pate on crisp toast bread – really tasty.

For our mains we sampled parrot fish wrapped in banana leaf with green beans & steamed rice and mussels in garlic cream with frites. Portion sizes were perfect and both dishes were delicious and highly recommended.

A shared sweet of banana flambé, roasted nuts and local vanilla ice cream followed. It was incredible and so moorish, I didn’t want it to end or to share!

After coffee we settled up and Jean immediately appeared back to drive us home.

Arc En Ciel

During the drive he mentioned that Les Delice was a family business and that they also own Arc En Ciel which sells black pearls. We arranged with Jean to pick us up the following morning for transportation to the shop where we were assured the best deals are available. You can read more about the black pearls later. Les Delice is undoubtedly one of the best places we’ve been to in Bora Bora. It’s not only tourists that the restaurant attracts but mostly locals which is a very good sign. I suggest it’s definitely a place to try during a stay.

Saint James
Helen’s Bay Centre
10 min slow walk from Vaitape +689 40 67 64 62

st.James restaurant
Considered by many (locals included) as the best restaurant on Bora Bora’s main island, St. James is hidden in the back of a Vaitape shopping centre right on the water. Consisting of a sand bar, sundeck and restaurant it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also houses Mahana Store which sells clothing and accessories from local artists and brands. Something to keep the ladies browsing while the boys drink a Hinano beer.

We visited for lunch and chose from the tapas menu thinking they would be smaller portions! The small charcuterie board was delicious, consisting of a healthy portion of Serrano ham, Pave Lyonnais (salami type) & gherkins. Jumbo shrimp tempura with sweet chilli sauce & guacamole followed plus spicy falafel. Food was delicious and sitting on the edge of the water looking out across the bay to where the cruise ships drop anchor is delightful. It was very warm but thankfully with a cooling breeze.

Unapologetically French, really good food, exceptional choice of wine and a wide range of cigars. Great sand bar with huge choice of cocktails. An attraction for both tourists and locals which speaks volumes. We will be back!

Tama’a Maitai – linked to Maitai Polynesia Hotel.

tama-a-maitai restaurant
We visited three times between lunch and dinner as the location is simply stunning and about a 3 minute walk from Bungalow Hititini. It’s also very quiet and after a busy day in the sun provides tranquillity with fabulous food.

maitai hotelIt’s essentially the beach restaurant of the Maitai Polynesia hotel but anybody can walk-in to the restaurant.

There is an open kitchen, so diners can watch their dinner being cooked or you can simply sip your cocktail and gaze past the hotel water bungalows out to the lagoon. The cocktail selection is excellent (Pineapple daiquiri is recommended) and food to match. Try the chicken curry with coconut milk, the spicy beef stir fry (very salty) or the fish kebab. The light salads are great at lunch with the locally caught prawn salad the star.

On the occasions we visited there was a strong wind (warm) so we ate under the huge straw roof and were protected from the breeze by a canopy, there are plenty of tables outside if the wind is lighter. If it’s peace and quiet, good food and a relaxing drink you’re looking for then look no further, this ticks all the boxes.

Matira Beach

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video

One of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Like a never-ending swimming pool. Great for paddle boarding or watching the sting rays and fish swimming by!

Matira Beach, Bora Bora

Maitai Beach is the largest public access beach in Bora Bora making it extremely popular with visitors. The water is crystal-clear and the sand is soft although watch out for the patches of coral. The beach is adjacent to some hotels, shops, bars/restaurants and road side stalls so it’s a convenient place to spend a day. Tourists and locals speak very highly of the beach and area. They highlight the incredibly blue water and how the shoreline is rarely ever crowded making it the perfect place for some rest and relaxation. If you don’t have time to spend a whole day at the beach, many say the sunsets are certainly worth a visit.

You’ll find the beach about 5 miles south of Vaitape or a two minute walk from Bungalow Hititini. Bicycle travel to the beach is best (unless it rains). If you have a hire car, parking is available adjacent to Snack Matira cafe.

Speaking of transport, limited taxis are available on the island but recommended drivers are:
Taxi Loma +689 87 27 49 36
Taxi Alex +689 89 22 79 17 or +689 89 50 98 41
or book on email: matehaalalexandre@gmail.com

Bora Bora Paradise Island Adventures

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video
Drive, Scooter, Cycle or Walk around the Island

I’d thoroughly recommend circumnavigating the island. Avis Car Hire provide a map buts there’s only one circular coastal road so you definitely won’t get lost.

To drive it takes 45 minutes with no stops. To cycle, the road around the main island is 18 miles and mostly flat. It takes about 2 hours to bike but take time to include a stop for lunch, a visit to Matira Beach, hiking to see WWII cannons, and snorkelling. I’d guess that a walk around the island would take about 3-4 hours depending on pace and weather.

I also guarantee that there is no way you won’t stop to take in the views or have a quick dip or snorkel. We stopped a couple of times and snorkelled with shoals of blue, yellow and black fish just before the village of Faanui on the North West coast looking out towards the airport on Moto Mute.

adventures In Paradise Bora Bora

It’s worthy noting that the unlit roads on Bora Bora can be dark at night and there are no pavements. Make sure your phone is charged and use your torch where appropriate.

Avis Car hire is two minutes walk from Hititini bungalow or you can book directly online. Staff are very accommodating and one staff member even stopped to offer us a lift when we were sheltering from a tropical downpour. Well done sir (bravo monsieur) for such a simple polite gesture.

When we rented our vehicle we dealt with Willsea who was great. We walked in but you can pre-book your hire on: https://apps.apple.com/fr/app/Bora-explorer/id146828304

Pirogue tour by Bora Lagoonarium

Lagoonarium

Bora Lagoonarium offers a Pirogue tour. A Pirogue is a a long, narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk, pretty standard water transport on the islands.

Pick up is at 0830 and the day starts with a visit to Coral Gardens where you will see stingrays, grey/black tip sharks and if you’re lucky leopard rays and mantra rays. Next on the aqua agenda is the Lagoonarium where if you’re bold enough you can swim with reef sharks and watch turtles, rays and a huge amount and variation of fish.

Lunch is next on a private motu (island). The spread includes rice salad, raw fish in coconut milk, grilled chicken or fish, po’e (Polynesian pudding), taro (a tuber but not a potato), ipo uto (bread made with coconut milk), banana fritters, local seasonal fruit and plenty of mineral water. After lunch there is a quick tour of some of the nearby islands, transport back to the mainland about 3pm and a return to your accommodation.

Self Drive Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour

Recommended by a neighbour, but unfortunately we could not participate, was the speedy jet ski experience on the famous Bora Bora lagoon. According to our neighbour the ‘adrenaline and culture filling’ jet ski tour is just exhilarating; the impressive turquoise waters and island views were stunning, while snorkelling to explore the coral reef opened up the busy under water seascape. They were chaperoned by a licensed jet ski instructor, who regularly stopped during the tour to allow photo opportunities and point out sights of interest. Comes as a highly recommended experience and well worth the money.

Local Area Produce

Vaitape Shoping- Bora Home Galeria

Within the main road area in Vaitape and near the harbour there are several shops and supermarkets. The shops tend to sell T-shirts, dresses and tourist gifts. One shop that caught our attention was Bora Home Galeria. It was impressive and sold locally produced items, unique ornaments, jewellery and modern paintings. This was totally different from the other shops in the local area. The hand printed Polynesian dresses were very impressive, slightly on the expensive side but you’ repaying for exclusive items. Worth a visit even just to window shop! Lots of German tourists from a visiting cruise ship did just that while we were making a purchase. The owner was delighted we spoke English as he was struggling with his German.

Bora Bora Black Pearls

Bora Bora Black Pears
Polonesia Culture Center- https://polynesia.com/blog/the-original-tahitian-black-pearl

The Bora Bora black pearl is a symbol of exotic luxury and decadence, renowned the world over. Known as poerava (black pearl) in French Polynesia, these prized jewels are a favourite keepsake of visitors to Bora Bora. They are produced by black-lipped oysters, which thrive in waters surrounding Bora Bora and the other French Polynesian islands.

In the past Bora Bora pearls were considered to be the rarest and most valuable cultured pearls in the world. Still the pearls with the most intrigue and value, but the pearl farming market has brought their world ranking down in terms of rarity and unfortunately value.

I suggest you do some research before buying and always ask for a discount and a certificate of authentication. It’s also useful to obtain some prior knowledge about grades of pearls. Find out important facts about differences in colour, shape, weight and size. Variations in pricing exist between places that sell pearls so shop around first and make it fun, remember you are making a purchase that should be enjoyed for many years.

Various local outlets in Bora Bora sell black pearls, below are a few:

The Farm – Advertises top quality Tahiti pearls. Some of the jewelry is made in- house. It’s located just north of the Hotel Bora Bora (tel. 700 675).

Matira Pearls – Sells black pearls and local fashions. Located between the Intercontinental Le Moana Resort and Hotel Le Maitai Polynesia (tel.677 914).

Tahia Pearl Boutiques – You can choose from two Tahia Pearl Boutiques on Bora Bora. The first is at the Four Seasons hotel, the other is on the Circle Island Road at the centre of Vaitape.

Arc En Ciel – in my limited comprehension of French translation I thought I heard that this place was called Red Bull but it translates to Rainbow! The store is next to Les Delice restaurant and displays a wide variety of black pearls in a private showroom with the owner, Wendy being a Pearl Expert Graduate from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). When we visited we spoke with Melanie and her trainee Taina. We were provided with an interesting briefing on how the precious black pearls are produced. Story board below:

black peral tahiti culture

We then checked out a good selection of pearls in a range of prices. We set two items aside, went for lunch at Saint James restaurant just along the coast, then visited three other black pearl shops to compare prices.

We realised that our initial offer from Melanie was in fact a very good deal and went ahead with our purchase. Melanie also explained the tax refund process at Bora Bora Airport and provided us with our certificate of authentication. A good afternoon out in Vaitape. Remember if you call or email there is a free shuttle pick up and drop off for the shop.

http://www.arcencielborabora.com/web/

Tahitian Wine

Tahiti is one of the world’s least-known wine regions. As unlikely as it might seem, wine is produced on this tropical island, albeit in small amounts.

Tahiti’s only winemaker is Dominique Auroy, who highlights the similarity between the soils there and in Burgundy, France. However, the climate is exceptionally different from anywhere in mainland France.

Tahiti wine is certainly worth a try, there are four varieties — three whites and a rosé: Blanc de Corail, Blanc Moelleux, Clos du Recif (white white made from red grapes), and Rosé Nacarat (blend of white and red grapes).

These wines are available at most restaurants or supermarkets and cost on average the equivalent of £8 a glass or £40 a bottle in a decent restaurant, much less at a supermarket.

In addition to wine, Tahiti also produces good quality beer, from malt imported from New Zealand and France. It is brewed in Papeete, the Tahitian capital, and is sold under the Hinano label.

Spoken Language

French and Tahitian are the main languages spoken on the island, though most locals have an excellent basic command of English. The majority of visitors to Bora Bora are American, Japanese or European.

The following are some essential Tahitian words and phrases. If it helps, sing the words like the locals!

  • Hello – Ia Orana (yo-rah-nah)
  • Welcome – Maeva (mah-yeh-vah)
  • Thank you – Maururu (mah-roo-roo)
  • Man – Tane (tah-nay)
  • Woman – Vahine (vah-he-nay)
  • Child – T amarii (tah-ma-ree-ee)
  • Bye/See you later – Nana (nah-nah)
  • Cheers / To your health – Manuia (mah-nwee-ah)
  • Good – Maitai (my-tie)
  • Yes–E(ay)
  • No – Aita (eye-tah)
  • Morning – Poipoi (poy-poy)
  • Evening – Ahiahi (ah-hee-ah-hee)
  • Island – Motu (moh-too)
  • Look – A hi’o (ah-hee-oh)
  • Ocean – Moana (mo-ah-nah)
  • How are you? – Maita’i oe? (may-tay oh-ay)
  • I am fine – Maita’i roa (may-tay ro-ah)
  • What? – Eaha? (ey-ah-hah)
  • Why? – No te aha? (noh-tay ah-hah)
  • No problem – Aita pe’a pe’a (eye-tah pay-ah pay-ah)
  • Bread – Faraoa (fah-rah-o-ah)
  • Water – Pape (pa-pay)
  • Pearl – Poe (po-ay)
  • Black pearl – Poerava (po-ay ra-vah)
  • Flower – Tiare (tee-ah-ray)
  • Beer – Pia (pee-ah)
  • Let’s go – Haere tatou (ha-ay-ray tah-taw)

It’s worth learning some basic phrases, the locals will really appreciate your efforts. Everyone on the island acknowledges you in some way on a daily basis, even the young kids, and always with huge smiles.

Time Flies By in Bora Bora

Unfortunately, it’s over in a flash!

Travel 10,000 miles and I believe you have the right to expect a really good experience. I can assure you despite jet lag, monsoon rain and some language challenges (as I struggle with French) Bora Bora is a truly tropical paradise with stunning scenery and beaches. The main island sits within white sandy motus (small islands) and a stunning turquoise lagoon protected by an outer coral reef. It is a popular luxury resort destination but with the advent of sites like Airbnb it opens up to a wider market and those who want privacy as well as flexible budget options. Bungalow Hititini and our hosts Moeata and Christophe certainly exceeded all expectations and come very highly recommended!

The memory of my visit will last forever, and I have promised a return, hopefully sometime soon. One factor that jumps out at me is how accommodating and friendly the locals are. Ironically they think we are lucky having the means to visit the island but thinking about it, they are most certainly the lucky ones with their wealth derived from climate, culture and lifestyle.

To the next lucky local who says hello or welcome I say:

Mauruuru Bora Bora
E hoi mai iau faahou i u nei
Mauruuru – (Thank you Bora Bora, I really hope to come back soon!)

Nana (nah-nah) – See you later!

Video of Rogues Guide to Bora Bora By Calum

The Journey | Background | Volcano  | Accommodation | Restaurants | Adventure | Video


Calum Glenny
Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’

In association with the Rogues Guide by Rogues in Paradise

Rogues in paradise is the upcoming book on the History of the People of Barbados. The island was named by the Portuguese navigator Pedro A.Camposbecause of the magnificent Bearded fig trees that were abundant on the island. It means “the bearded one” in Portuguese. The Spanish also occupied Barbados for some time before it was claimed by the British.