For many years I had promised myself the pleasure of exploring the beautiful Danube river. It was a river I had known since a tiny child because of my parents’ love for the immortal waltz by Johann Strauss – The Blue Danube, along with all the other wonderful romantic waltzes for which he is justly famous. So when a significant birthday was to arrive we decided that this is what we would give ourselves!
Tigers are a passion of mine and when Global Tiger Day approaches my thoughts turn to India their natural habitat - as well of course in other countries in Asia, but India has my attention because of my close connection.
KLR as we call Kumarakom Lake Resort sent a comfortable car to Cochin Airport and we arrived as the sun had set to a most enthusiastic warm welcome. Truly a home from home in a heritage villa with its own courtyard pool. We spent three weeks as indeed we had in 2014 and it provided the joy of comfort, beauty, tranquillity, good food, swimming in warm water and lovely service. We were happy people and I recommend the place strongly. The Yoga is also very popular and it is a beautifully wedding and special function venue. But we just swam, watched birds, read copiously, and interacted with friendly Staff and Management. ....and relaxed!
On 2nd January we flew to Nagpur for the start of our official visit as guests of the MP State Tourism department. We were met with a warm welcome and were able to have tea with our good friend Aditya Dhanwatay whose family own the excellent Tiger Trails at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. We had visited there last year and it is an easy drive from Nagpur. This time however we set off for Pench. This was the first time we had visited Pench and it had much enjoyment in store for us. Being once again in an Indian wildlife park is always a joy for us and Pench did not disappoint. We were guests of the new wildlife resort of Tathastu and made very welcome. Indeed, it is the first time we have stayed in a cave......ah! But this cave comes with air conditioning and all expected comfort and ensuite shower room and lovely beds!!!!
We had a dinner with the lovely Sonal Kapoor who founded the wonderful charity Protsahan to help educate and nurture girl children who are totally disadvantaged. She does wonderful work and is so committed and courageous. We first met in February five years ago and we visited one of her centres in extreme west of Delhi.
This young lady from Delhi is working with such commitment and courage in a difficult field and achieving hugely. I have enormous affection for her and respect her greatly.
We arrived in Mumbai on 23rd December and enjoyed the Emirates flight from Glasgow to Dubai. I was not however impressed with the second flight from Dubai to Mumbai and we arrived late. It was with a jaundiced eye therefore I viewed Mumbai's Chatrapathi Shivaji airport. Let us say the airport is good....I had not seen this new one before. However the sheer incompetence of the minion handing out the mandatory landing form to be then signed was disgraceful. Hitherto these forms were handed out on the flight and one had time to fill it in neatly sitting in the airline seat...no more it seems. So tired harassed arrival passengers then have to grapple with finding a surface on which to fill out the form accurately. We are used to it, you should have heard the impression it made on first time arrivals.....said one 'if this is what the rest of this trip is going to be like....you can keep India, I won't recommend it....'
We visited Crete on a press trip in the third week of October and were enchanted. The weather was warm and sunny and we had the opportunity to see a lot of eastern Crete having flown into Heraklion. We were centred at Agios Nikolaos which is a lovely town with beaches, a lake, smart shops, nice restaurants and heritage. Crete is a lovely island and indeed cradle of western civilisation with so much to see and learn from, and we long to return in the Spring for the famous spring flowers and all the fresh blossoms and colours of spring.