• J.B.E.McNally

Finding inspiration during holiday travels

Updated: Mar 8, 2018

One of the major contributors to my landing on Jack and his heritage was the travel I did to the Baltic States almost ten years ago now. In particular, Vilniua, Lithuania, a country steeped in history for over a thousand years but not much prior to that.


We visited the magnificant Trakai Castle, the ghosts of the KGB past, Vilnius old town where the remains of Vilnius castle and the Cathedral stand majestic above the new town.


The inspiration gleaned from this history steeped land moved me to create my first story. A story I hope readers will enjoy and be inspired by.


In this blog I present some of my favourite holiday destinations, all of which are embroiled in tremendous tales of people who sacrificed all for their homeland. There might even be a clue to Jack's next adventure.


Please feel free to comment on my favourites or add your favourites to the blog.


Yours in Travel

J.B.E.



I could write about New York all day. My first trip late last year showed its living and breathing culture all of its own. And Paris, the romanticism of the most glorious place on earth my favourite European metropolis. And no travelog would be complete without London. My whole family has connections. Children who lived and worked there. Our lives changed by the city and people we love.


So why not go into detail about these special places? No reason, its just that my top three inspirational destinations happen to be down below. Iceland. Positano. Moscow. Destinations that Jack, Agnetha and Danny would feel home in whether on assignment or vacation. So be on the lookout for them when you travel to thes glorious parts of our planet.


1. Iceland


Iceland is a land of volcanoes and glaciers, lava fields and green pastures, boiling thermal springs and ice-cold rivers teeming with salmon. This unspoiled demi-paradise is also home to a very old and sophisticated culture. The northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavik was founded in 874 when Ingolfur Arnarson threw wood pillars into the sea, vowing to settle where the pillars washed ashore. Today, Iceland is an international center of commerce and home to one of the most technologically sophisticated societies in the world.


Reykjavik


Reykjavik is the gateway to Iceland's natural wonders, which range from ice fields to thermal pools. The island is in a continual process of transformation much like its society, which blends Nordic tradition with sophisticated technology.





Hallgrímskirkja


The columns are long hexagonal faces which can only b seen four faces at a time and are dedicated to the nature of crystallised lava that form in hexagons and represent the DNA of this marvellous land.

This magnificent Lutheran cathedral is the epitome of minimlistic worship and the antithesis of the ornate. The houses of worship you would find in Italy, England and Paris.


Blue Lagoon


One of Iceland's hottest destinations, this stunning outdoor geothermal spa offers steamy mineral-rich water, a boon for the skin and certain skin conditions, that's fed by the excess underground water drawn by Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant.





Akureyri


The town is your gateway to the famous "Land of Fire and Ice" - Iceland's dramatic landscape of volcanic craters, extinct lava lakes and majestic waterfalls.

Visitors to Akureyri have a hard time grasping the fact that the town lies just below the Arctic Circle. The climate here is temperate: flower boxes fill the windows of houses, and trees line the neat, well-tended avenues. Thanks to that mild climate, Akureyri's Botanical Gardens provide a home for over 2,000 species of flora from around the world - all surviving without greenhouses. No wonder Icelanders refer to Akureyri as the most pleasant town on the entire island.


Godafoss WaterfallGodafoss Waterfall


The 'Waterfall of the Gods' is one of Iceland's most beautiful and popular attractions. The rushing glacial waters of the Skjalfandafljot River its carved canyon





Ísafjördur

The town of Ísafjördur is the municipal centre of the West Fjords peninsula. The West Fjords are Iceland's least populated region, with 9,600 inhabitants in the area of 9,520 km. Isafjördur (population 3,500) formerly one of Iceland's main trading posts, was granted municipal status in 1886. Some of Iceland's oldest and best-preserved buildings, dating from the 18th century, are located in Ísafjördur. The town is still predominantly a fishing centre. A vigorous and varied cultural and artistic scene flourishes in the town as well. Mountains surround Ísafjördur on the three sides and the sea on the other. The ancient settlement site of Eyri downtown is enclosed by the narrow Skutulsfjördur fjord, which shelters the harbour in all weathers.


So many natural wonders surround Ísafjördur the capital of Icelands Westfjord country. Here are but a few.


Vigur Island


Just over a mile long and 450 yards wide, the island boasts Iceland's only windmill, Europe's smallest post office and 80,000 puffins. Enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages at one of the island's few homes.






Flateyri Village


Located on a beautiful fjord and surrounded by magnificent mountains, the small fishing village of Flateyri dates back to 1790 and became a major whaling centre during the 19th century.






2. Positano



The Ancient Romans built a number of sumptuous villas on the coast of Positano, the ruins of which can be seen in the vicinity of the Church dell'Assunta. It is believed that the town, the original nucleus of which developed around a Benedictine abbey, was founded in the 9th century.

Positano was a port of the Amalfi Republic in medieval times and prospered during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the town had fallen on hard times. More than half the population emigrated, mostly to America.


Positano was a relatively poor fishing village during the first half of the twentieth century. It began to attract large numbers of tourists in the 1950s, especially after John Steinbeck published his essay about Positano in Harper's Bazaar in May 1953: "Positano bites deep", Steinbeck wrote. "It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone."



One of the major drawcards, apart from the magnificent Mediterranean beaches is the church of Santa Maria Assunta features a dome made of majolica tiles as well as a thirteenth-century Byzantine icon of a black Madonna. According to local legend, the icon had been stolen from Byzantium and was being transported by pirates across the Mediterranean. A terrible storm had blown up in the waters opposite Positano and the frightened sailors heard a voice on board saying "Posa, posa!" ("Put down! Put down!"). The precious icon was unloaded and carried to the fishing village and the storm abated.


Hotel Buca di Bacco


The beautiful Hotel Buca di Bacco, nestled amongst churches and an old worldly village, spreads its wings right to the Mediterranean shoreline like the Albatross.

It is pure indulgence well worthy of one of the most stunning coastlines on earth.

Much history lays hidden in the halls, corridors and early twentieth century rooms. John Steinbeck, Yehudi Menuhin, Prince Rainier of Monaco, are but a few of the return visitors to this historical lodging amongst the most relaxing and glorious settings in the World.


3. Moscow


Visited during the same year as Lithuania, Moscow was a surprise (and very large) gem on a trip to Russia largely motivated by our St Petersburg stay. Whilst utterly magnificent with its ornate churches and palaces, 365 in all (didn’t get to cover the whole lot), its great hospitality and Vodka and champagne cocktails and the magnificent River Neva, Moscow was indeed the shining highlight of Russia, for me anyway.


Firstly, the monstrous things.



Sixteen lane highways, Extra wide footpaths, extra wide platforms. A city of twelve million people, whose infrastructure copes remarkably well. You don’t feel like your space is being invaded. Plenty of room for all. Unlike some of the busy European cities.





And then, the beauty. Untold beauty.


Who would have thought that a city's underground railway system could be classified within a segment on beauty. One hundred and eighty-two stations each one a mini-museum on its own. Stalin's gift to Moscow in the 30s. His concept of having the biggest and the best his legacy.

Moscow’s underground transit system is

now more than 80 years old and carries up to 9 million passengers through more than 200 stations every day. Most of the architecture and decor was built decades ago, meant to be a showcase for Soviet artists, ideals, and icons. The system is now modernizing, in part, preparing for the 2018 World Cup, which will be hosted in Russia.

Just three of the most stunning railway systems in the world


An interior view shows Komsomolskaya metro station on the Koltsevaya (Circle) line

• An interior view shows Mendeleyevskaya metro station

• Otradnoye metro station





The parks and gardens in and around Moscow are magnificent and belie the concrete Jungle persona that westerners would like to overlay on the real Moscow.



Vorontsovsky park


And Last but by no means least the hospitality of the people of Moscow. Everyone to a person would bend over backwards to help when they knew you were visiting. Tourism is a big industry for Russia and since Peristroika in the early 90s great opportunities have arisen for Muscovites to help drag them out of poverty.


On that note whilst we visited one of the most beautiful cities in the world there remains great poverty and most Westerners are steered clear of that. However, with such a beautiful city with such beautiful people they will prevail. Lest we forget, the Muscovites are proud to a man.



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