About Jonny Scott Blair

Jonny Scott Blair

Jonny Blair is a self confessed traveling nomad. He sees every day as an adventure. Since leaving behind his home town of Bangor in Northern Ireland ten years ago he has traveled to all seven continents, working his way through various jobs and funding it all with hard work and an appetite for travel. His website Don’t Stop Living, a lifestyle of travel' contains over 1,000 stories and tips from his journeys round the globe. He wants to show others how easy it is to travel the world, give them some ideas and encourage them to do the same but most of all he aims to constantly live a lifestyle of travel. He is currently based in Hong Kong and on Twitter @jonnyblair.


Latest Posts by Jonny Scott Blair

A List of Must Do Activities in New Zealand

July 29, 2015 by  

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Backpacking in New Zealand: Top 20 Memories

I’ve been to New Zealand twice and both times to this disconnected country were enchanting, exhilarating, non-stop and yet over far too quickly.  New Zealand was the first country in Oceania that I visited, some two years before I even landed in Australia.  Both times, I traveled alone, often without purpose. It might be one of the furthest countries away from your hometown (as it was for me) but this list will hopefully convince you that it’s worth investing in some flights to New Zealand. It’s a country just aching to be visited by everyone. Here’s my personal top 20, though a top 100 could easily have been concocted.

“You’ll never see the end of the road when you’re travelling with me ” – Neil Finn (Crowded House).

Bungy Jumping in Auckland, North Island

I had just checked into my hotel in Auckland, jet lagged to the hilt and was asked if I fancied going on a bus tour of Auckland the next day, including the option to do a bungy jump. Why not?

Bungy Jumping off Auckland Harbour bridge in 2007

Breathtaking and transformative at best.

Bungy jumping in Auckland

Glow Worms Trek, Franz Josef Township, South Island

On my second visit to New Zealand, I headed to the west side of the South Island and ended up in Franz Josef for a few nights where I met some fellow travelers who joined me on a glow worm trek. Into the night, we headed with torches through the rain to catch evening shots of glow worms.

Climbing Mount Maunganui, North Island

Steve, Flavia and I walking up Mount Manganui

Mount Maunganui was a highlight as you can see from the views.

Amazing views from the top of Mount Manganui

“Sometimes you need to turn the wrong way round” – Neil Finn

Amazing views from the top of Mount Manganui

Palmerston North “Suicide Capital Tour”, North Island

Most people go backpacking in New Zealand to stay happy and tick off stuff on their Phuket List.  Palmerston North was once described by Basil Fawlty as “the suicide capital of New Zealand” so I made a beeline for it.

Touring the suicide capital of Palmerston North

Touring the suicide capital of Palmerston North

As I dandered through the town centre of Palmerston North, I realized how much I loved it. It’s a great city full of colour and vibrance and off the standard travelers list. Basil Fawlty might have been cool, but he was wrong.

“Dust from a distant sun will shower over everyone” – Neil Finn

A colourful building in Palmerston North

A colourful building in Palmerston North

Waihi Gold Mines, North Island

Together with friends Steve and Flavia, we drove to explore the Waihi Gold Mines, which was a real treat. On a road in the middle of nowhere are these massive mines and loads of information and machinery to go with it.

A massive truck at Waihi Gold Mines.

“Either side of the world, chase the sun. Pay the maximum rate to feel so lonesome.” – Neil Finn

Amazing views at Waihi Gold Mines.

Amazing views at Waihi Gold Mines.

The Other Belfast

I boarded a local bus in Christchurch bound for Belfast and on the bus a guy from Belfast (the New Zealand one) notices my Northern Ireland football shirt. It turns out he has family from Londonderry and spent some time in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland!

Even cooler, after explaining to me some sights to see in Belfast, Sam invited me into his pub for a beer – Robbie’s Bar – where we posed with the Belfast flag! The other one.

Sam and I in Robbie's Bar, Belfast, New Zealand

Running with the Unicorns, Wellington, North Island

Have you ever been to Wellington? Yes. Have you ever been to Mighty Mighty nightclub? Yes. Have you ever gone running with unicorns? Yes. Truly bizarre but in a nightclub that has a table tennis table on the dancefloor (with no winner – just hit the ball as you circle) you run around and around with a bunch of people dressed as unicorns. Yes, really.

People with blue hair and we are running with unicorns

Interislander Ferry, South to North Island

The best way to travel within the two islands of New Zealand is on the Interislander ferry between Picton and Wellington. Having spent a brave length of time working on the ferries in England, France and the Channel Islands, this was dreamlike journey.

South Westland Salmon Farm, South Island

Fishing is significant in New Zealand and in the remote south west corner of the South Island, I visited a salmon farm. Yes, a custom built indoor pool where they make sure there were salmon in reproduction to be caught and sold.

Touring the salmon farm in the south island

Seeing the Kiwi Bird, Rotorua, North Island

I visited the Kiwi bird in a special enclosure on the edge of Rotorua with travelers I met on the road. No photos inside of course and they are nocturnal.

Kiwi Centre - Backpacking in Rotorua, New Zealand

Paragliding over Queenstown, South Island

Queenstown is the world home of the bungy jump — I felt like a bit of Paragliding was needed when I traveled through Queenstown!

Paragliding over Queenstown, New Zealand

Pohutu Geysir, North Island

This is the most prominent geysir in the volcanic area.

Touring geysirs in volcanic Rotorua

Hamilton Gardens, North Island

Sometimes you just want to sit in nature, write and have a cup of tea. After the madness of Sky Diving and Bungy Jumping, I spent a couple of days in Hamilton. It was here where I relaxed by Hamilton Gardens.

Backpacking in Hamilton New Zealand

Sky Diving in Lake Taupo, North Island

Ahhh yes, the day I sky dived over Lake Taupo. I remember all the details of a mad day in Taupo.  So worth doing – consider it a transformative travel experience at best.

Sky diving over Taupo, North Island

Tamaki Maori Village, Tamaki, North Island

This country is Aotearoa in Maori, not New Zealand. The natives were here long before the British came in and it’s highly important to know and respect their culture. I headed to the Tamaki Maori Village in the North Island for a Maori performance and some Hangi food. It was another fantastic memory where they make me perform a dance and ritual in an old school custom built Maori Village by a fire. I was leader of my pack and got a souvenir to keep.

Franz Josef Glacier Hike, South Island

The Franz Josef Glacier Day Hike was brilliant and strange at the same time but oh so very beautiful every step of the way.

On the glacier hike on an icy cold day in Franz Josef in 2010

Zorbing, Rotorua, North Island

Zorbing (rolling down the hill in a huge ball) is a fun and exhilarating thing to do.

Jonny Blair zorbing in New Zealand

New Zealand micronations – Theocratic Unitary States of Holy Gearlist

– 4 Micronations – I’m very keen to check out the 4 Micronations that border or have bordered New Zealand:

1. Soviet Socialist Union of the Wakatipu (no longer active but the location is still there)
2. The Republic of Frigus
3. The Republic of Meropis
4. Theocratic Unitary States of Holy Gearlist (no longer active but the location is still there)

The boot at the Gumboot Manor

The boot at the Gumboot Manor, Taihape, New Zealand

People always ask me if I prefer the South Island or the North Island, but I think that’s unfair on Stewart Island, which is the real south island. The truth is that while the South Island is beautiful, the North Island held more interest for me — travel for me is more about meeting people than it is about hiking mountains. Yes, the South Island has better scenery but my best moments from this country remain in the north.

The Ever So Quaint Town of Hampshire England

July 24, 2015 by  

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Backpacking in England: Top 5 Sights in Hampshire

When I look back at my time living in Bournemouth, I have fond memories of my travels to nearby parts of England. Most of these places I have yet to write about and so here we are.. I toured Devon, Hampshire, Sussex, Dorset and much further afield, sometimes on football trips, other times on my own. Here are five cool things to check out in Hampshire, the county that borders Dorset.

The New Forest

I toured the New Forest frequently over a six year period of my life where I was based in the south of England. I loved the natural appeal of it. You can go for walks through the forest and search for beavers, you can spend a night in pet-friendly holiday cottages in Hampshire and you can ride a donkey at Brockenhurst, feed a pony or have a pint of English bitter in a local country pub. Hampshire is as traditionally English as they come.

Feeding a pony in the New Forest

Feeding a pony in the New Forest

The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

In the city of Portsmouth near the docks, you can head to the impressive Spinnaker Tower. It almost looks like it should be in Dubai with its design.

Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth

This tower was opened in 2005 and has just done a deal to be re-named the Emirates Spinnaker Tower.

View from the top of Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

View from the top of Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth.

The Red Lion Pub, Southampton

I’ve had many nights out in Southampton over the years especially when I managed the rock band the Waves years ago. I used to love the pub life in Southampton but a true stand out is the Red Lion Pub. This pub not only is the oldest pub in England, but it has a talking parrot! Apparently there is a resident ghost of an ex-barmaid too and lots of interesting facts on the walls to read.

The famous Red Lion pub in Southampton

The famous Red Lion pub in Southampton

Fratton Park, Portsmouth

Home of the 2008 FA Cup winners (and losing finalists in 2010), Fratton Park is the best football stadium in Hampshire. The team here, Portsmouth FC are nicknamed “Pompey” and they enjoyed 7 seasons in the top flight before being relegated. They have had a fall from grace and now play in Division Four (League Two) but their fans remain some of the best supporters in England.

They have a big rivalry with fellow south coast team S**thampton and a mini rivalry with my own team, AFC Bournemouth.

Former Capital of England, Winchester

No trip to Hampshire can be complete without visiting Winchester, the former capital city of England. Winchester is a beautiful and iconic English county town. My first memories of Winchester were with my family on a holiday in the late 80s where we had pizza by the river and won a pub quiz and stayed in a country style B and B!

The pretty river in idyllic Winchester, Hampshire

The pretty river in idyllic Winchester, Hampshire. As well as once being the capital of England, Winchester is commonly described as the ancient capital of Wessex – its charming streets show no sign of aging and the Buttercross monument is as pristine as ever.

A serious fire in the city in 1141, during the Route of Winchester accelerated its decline as a powerful city in the country but the legacy remains and it’s a top notch spot. It’s still off the backpacking trail too as there doesn’t seem to be a hostel in town. I hope you enjoyed this quick fire top 5 for Hampshire.

 

Welcome to the Historic Borough of Poole in England

July 12, 2015 by  

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Backpacking in England: Top 5 Sights in Poole, Dorset

Truth be told, I have spent a lot of my adult life in England and each time I return, I love to tour new parts and revisit old haunts. In the last year, I went through Liverpool, Birmingham, Windsor, Sunderland, Christchurch and London and also delved into the Empire of Austenasia.

I spent the best part of 6 years living and working in Bournemouth and Poole. For me, Poole and Bournemouth go hand in hand – the two towns are linked, to the point where the border at “County Gates” goes un-noticed. One house on one side of the road is in Poole, the other is in the Mouth.

The entrance sign to Poole at Westbourne, County Gates (This photo was taken from Bournemouth)

The entrance sign to Poole at Westbourne, County Gates (note: this shot was taken from Bournemouth). Poole isn’t written about much in travel magazines or blogs, so here is a quick top 5 guide to start you off in this traditional English coastal town.

Poole Park

Spectacularly unknown to travelers yet frequented by locals, Poole Park is a relaxing place to enjoy walks or indulge in sport. Bizarrely there used to be a zoo here featuring a Himalayan Black Bear (OK so that closed in the 1990s). Nowadays, the facilities in Poole Park include children’s play areas, tennis courts, a bowling green and of course a massive lake.

Poole Park - the lake

Poole Town Cricket Club have their cricket field and pavilion inside the park grounds. Water sport activities mostly sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, rowing and model yacht racing take place on the lake, typically in summer.

Sandbanks

In an area renowned for state-of-the-art housing, Sandbanks is a good spot for a tourist as well. It is a small peninsula by the coast. In the summer, the cove and bay here also has windsurfers on it and the strip of swanky houses and beaches looks magnificent from above.

You can play crazy golf or eat in a range of restaurants and bars on the Sandbanks Strip. It’s not quite Vegas, but it’s the spot of choice for famous football managers like Harry Redknapp and Tony Pulis. Its reputation is well known, which is why Sandbanks has the fourth highest land value in the world by area. I’ve had a few sneaky pints in Sandbanks over the years but yet to meet anyone famous.

Sandbanks from above

Sandbanks from above

Poole Harbour and Poole Quay

I used to work on the cross channel ferries that run from Poole to St. Peter Port in Guernsey, St. Malo in France and Cherbourg. Poole harbour is massive and includes the main ferry terminal as well as the place for smaller boats and yachts at Poole Quay.

Poole Quay

Poole Quay is great for a pub crawl and sunset watching. Friends Neil, Jody and I enjoyed an epic pub crawl there now over ten years ago.

Jody Casey Neil Macey and Jonny Blair in Poole in 2004

Boat owners dock here and stay the night in the harbour and have a few beers. There’s a guide for solo cruisers for those wanting to check about anchoring their boats or yachts in and around Poole.

Poole Harbour

Poole Town Centre

There’s something traditionally English about Poole town centre and it feels like the genuine article. Old poky pubs, Falkland square, greasy chippies and a few prominent buildings such as Poole Guildhall and Churches.

Falkland Square, Poole

Falkland Square, Poole & Poole Guildhall

Poole Guildhall

Brownsea Island

Back in 2008, I headed on a boat to Brownsea Island, which is a nature reserve island off the coast of Poole. It was actually meant to be a meeting for the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club. But it turned into a bit of sightseeing as we toured the island, met some peacocks, had a drink and visited the church.

Getting the Brownsea Island ferry

Getting the Brownsea Island ferry

Brownsea Island is controlled by the National Trust and is one of very few islands in the UK that you have pay to enter. After getting the ferry off, you’ll have to pay the island fee. No passport stamps though – you’re still in England!

Brownsea Island ferry terminal

Brownsea Island ferry terminal

Animal Spotting at the Serengeti National Park

July 7, 2015 by  

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lions serengeti

If you haven’t bee on a safari, it’s magical, especially in East Africa where animals are in abundance. I went on a safari in Tanzania with Shadows of Africa through the Serengeti National Park and truth be told, the Serengeti is one of the most famous jungles and national parks in the world. Having already seen Tarangire National Park, it was time to drive through Ngorongoro Crater and into the Serengeti.

After a restful sleep at the Osupoku Lodge, we headed out on jeeps with our guide Timo and headed to the Serengeti National Park, which passes through the Ngorongoro Crater National Park to get to the other side.  Once inside the Crater, it was a misty drive up before it eventually cleared in the Serengeti. We saw some giraffes on the way and of course, those dreamy African views and skies that take you to another world.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

First giraffe of the day on route to the Serengeti

Above, the first giraffe of the day en route to the Serengeti. At the entrance, there is a small walking trail offering decent views and introductions to the park.  After registering our jeep, it was time for some animal watching before the sun would sink for the day and animal spotting we did, from giraffes and leopards to hyenas and lions.

The Serengeti goes on for miles - it's huge!

The Serengeti goes on for miles, covering some 15,000 square kilometres. Learning about the animals is not quite as fascinating as seeing them, but background knowledge only adds to the experience. Did you know that a hyena was a scavenger?

Our jeep in the Serengeti

Our jeep in the Serengeti. Must brings include a notepad, binoculars, water and camera gear with zoom lenses of course.

Our first hyena spotting

Our first hyena spotting. My personal highlight from the first day in the Serengeti was seeing leopards in a tree with a Thompson’s Gazelle they had hunted down.

Leopards in a tree

We also saw lots of Wildebeests, of which there are over a million here.

3 of a million wildebeests

3 of a million wildebeests. There were some other real surprises too, including spotting a cheetah hiding in the dense grass, below.

Can you spot the Cheetah??

Can you spot the Cheetah??

Animal spotting was becoming a competitive game of banter between my colleagues Annette, Raymond and myself.  I must admit, I’m not very good at it. During the trip, I once confused a cow for a boar and also claimed I saw 5 leopards in a tree. When we pulled over to check, it turned out it was just branches and leaves! My phantom leopards had scarpered. Other animals of note on Day 1 included ostriches and tons of tropical birds.

An ostrich in the Serengeti

An ostrich in the Serengeti

One of many birds from  day 1

It had been a tremendous introduction to the Serengeti and Timo drove us through the rough and tough roads to our campsite for the evening. The sun was just setting on the way to our base and we passed by hyenas and lions again en route.

Pre sunset in the Serengeti

Pre sunset in the Serengeti

We had completed Day 1 of our Serengeti adventure and we retired to our luxury tents for a nights sleep while wild hyenas and gazelles roamed outside.

camping in serengeti

Cheers! Raymond and I enjoying beers on our first night  in The Serengeti, Tanzania

 

* I was on safari in Africa as a guest on a media tour with Shadows of Africa.

 

London’s Camden Town & Primrose Hill Market

June 30, 2015 by  

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“In Camden Town, I’ll meet you down by the Underground” – Suggs

Canals of London in and around Camden.

Canals of London in and around Camden, a burb in northern London where hipsters and music buffs hang their hats.

James and Neil walking through Camden Town, London, England

James and the famous “Millwall Neil” walking through Camden Town, London, England

When I lived in London many years ago, I used to love exploring different nooks and crannies of the English capital city. After a bit of a breakdown while staying in Bournemouth, I was reunited with my friends James and the famous “Millwall Neil” yet again in May 2015 so we decided on a day out with a difference.  After a bus from Bournemouth to London, I met Neil at Chalk Farm and we planned a day out with a difference – Primrose Hill Market, Camden Town, the Canals of London, Cycling from Bank to Chalk Farm and a visit to St. Martin’s College!

1. Primrose Hill Festival
First up we headed for some street food at the Primrose Hill Festival which was really lively with food markets, kiddies amusements and a dog show.

The markets at Primrose Hill, London

The markets at Primrose Hill, London

It was a hot Sunday and a one day event here at Primrose Hill in London. There were loads of food stalls. I grabbed an English pork sausage roll, Neil grabbed some Paella and we ate relaxing in the park with a view over London. James joined us and we decided to hit up Camden Town. Thousands of people attended the mini festival.

Lovely day at the park in Primrose Hill, London

Lovely day at the park in Primrose Hill, London

2. Backpacking in Camden Town
Camden Town is a hippy place and I’ve been a few times. I’ve always loved it. I’ve watched rock gigs here in the Barfly and Koko down the years, I’ve had some good days out in the nearest thing London gets to Christiania, the hippy Freetown which borders Denmark.

Camden Town, London, England

Camden Town, London, England

I like the vibe in hippy Camden. By day it rocks a hippy sunshine beat and you can smell the wafting marijuana in the air. At night it pumps out a rock n roll beat with the odd bit of sleaze out on the streets. If you have been to Camden at night, you will know that London call girls come out at night and you can feel the sexy drugged up vibe in the air! But we were here to enjoy the sunshine and chill out!

Camden Market by day

Camden Market by day

By day we simply toured the market area on foot, browsed in a few hippy shops and markets and made our way through the busy streets. It was a Sunday – it’s important to note that the London tube closes at Camden Town (and sometimes Mornington Crescent too) on Sundays due to the traffic. Sundays are the most popular day to go to Camden.

Hippy vibe in Camden Town

Hippy vibe in Camden Town

3. Canals of London
On our day out in the city we toured the canals of London. You might be surprised to learn that London has canals. They are actually much nicer to the ones in Venice and Amsterdam in my opinion. We walked part of the way and then cycled some of the way.

Camden Lock in London

Camden Lock in London

Kayakers on the canals in London

Kayakers on the canals in London

Our walk took us past Camden Lock, some kayakers and two Wetherspoons pubs (which we resisted). We saw Hampstead Road Lock and also headed through a busy food market. Not quite the engineering gem as the Panama Canal (A man, a plan, a canal, Panama) but a really cool place to walk along.

The canals of London

The canals of London

4. Cycling from Old Street to Chalk Farm
We headed to collect a friend’s bike from a posh Japanese shop in Old Street. James and I grabbed a bottle of Dr. Pepper each and the three of us decided to hire bikes and cycle it back to Chalk Farm.

JJ's posh bike shop at Old Street

A posh bike shop at Old Street

5. Muriel Street
On the cycle back to Chalk Farm from Old Street we passed a ton of notable places. There was the prison on Pentonville Road of course, about 4 streets on the Monopoly Board and then there was Muriel Street! Named after my Mum of course. I actually totally forgot we visited Muriel Street until I started writing this post and the memory came back.

Muriel Street, London

Muriel Street, London

6. St. Martin’s College
The Pulp hit “Common People” in 1995 was where I first heard of the famous St. Martin’s College in London. Millwall Neil was there on that “oh Melbourne it’s going to be a long night” experience in Melbourne in Australia, also back in 2010. We had now done another full circle by cycling to St. Martin’s College.

“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge, she studied sculpture at St. Martin’s College” – Jarvis Cocker (again)

At St. Martin's College finally - 20 years after the Pulp hit

At St. Martin’s College finally – 20 years after the Pulp hit

Now I was actually outside St. Martin’s College – we went in for a quick look, drank some water and James and Neil asked me for a rendition of the Pulp song, 20 years on.

Chilling on the grass at St. Martin's College

Chilling on the grass at St. Martin’s College

7. Pub for Non-Alcoholic Beck’s
We heard there was football on so Neil, James and I decided to go down the pub. I opted for a non alcoholic Beck’s which was ridiculously more expensive than their pints of real beer. Ah well. At least I was staying alcohol free for 12 weeks. We watched the Arsenal v. Man United match which finished 1-1 and I remarked that next season I’d be watching AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League.

Back to a pub in Camden for a beer (non alcoholic)

Back to a pub in Camden for a beer (non alcoholic)

Food wise we opted for greasy kebabs and I headed back to Neil’s to sleep after a long day. This was a great day out and hopefully the first of many more unusual lads days out. We used to drink 12 pints a day and visit 6 rock clubs. Now we tour posh bike shops, drink alcohol free beer and cycle through London.

James outside a guitar shop in Camden Town

James and Millwall Neil outside a guitar shop in Camden Town

And that was that. I was knackered so had a decent night sleep, which reminded me again of the Beatles song I’m Only Sleeping and even weirder as Suggs did a cover version of that and I toured Abbey Road the next day!  We end as we began with Suggs.

“In Camden Town we’ll walk there as the sun goes down” – Suggs

Taking in the Culture & History of Mahdia Tunisia

June 29, 2015 by  

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Welcome to Tunisia, in all honesty, I see it as a dirty, over-rated and disorganised nation, so much so that our friends there and couchsurfing hosts also admit it, and dream of escaping their native land to earn money abroad. After enjoying the wonders of Monastir, the chaos of Tunis, the history of Carthage, the inland appeal of Kairouan and the touristic Sidi Bou Said, we headed on a train on the east coast, south to the town of Mahdia.

Backpacking in Tunisia: Top 5 Sights in Mahdia

To visit Mahdia, you can easily do it as a day trip! To get to Mahdia from Teboulba (or Monastir/Sousse) I recommend taking the train and handily Mahdia is the last stop on the line.

Once you arrive at the train station in Mahdia, everything is walkable. Mahdia is actually on a peninsula with juts out into the Mediterannean Sea. Although you are in Africa, you could just as easily mistake it for Greece, Italy or Montenegro. Work your way through this easy seven sights then get on the next train or bus out.

Mosque of Mustapha Hamza: Mosques become a way of life when you backpack through Islamic countries and Tunisian towns and cities are no different. The Call to Prayer rings out eloquently for sunset and there are a few first class Mosques in Mahdia to check out. Starting with the green, white and biege coloured Mosque of Mustapha Hamza.

The Mosque of Mustapha Hamza was built in 1722 during the Turkish times and sits opposite the main square and on the edge of a dirty cobbled market street.

Mosque of Mustapha Hamza

Mosque of Mustapha Hamza

Borj el Kebir (Fortress): Right by the sea sits the ancient Borj el Kebir fortress.

Borj el Kebir Fortress, Mahdia

Borj el Kebir Fortress, Mahdia

Borj el Kebir Fortress, Mahdia

Borj el Kebir Fortress, Mahdia

Place du Caire: Place du Caire is an outdoor main square in the town which is full of trees and has a few tea shops and restaurants….though eerily quiet when we were there with just a few kids playing football.

Place du Caire, Mahdia

Place du Caire, Mahdia

Grande Mosquee: the main Mosque may not be as obvious as the Mustapha Hamza Mosque but it’s definitely the most important one for Muslims. It doesn’t actually look like a Mosque from the outside!

The front entrance to the Grande Mosquee in Mahdia, Tunisia

The front entrance to the Grande Mosquee in Mahdia, Tunisia, which is located near the Place du Caire, a few simple easy steps down. The Grande Mosquee is housed inside a courtyard, beyond the outer walls. No photos in the Mosquee part, but the courtyard is fine.

The courtyard of the Grande Mosquee

The courtyard of the Grande Mosquee

Mahdia Medina: probably the easiest tongue twister of all time is the Medina in Mahdia. It’s also a very small Medina. A few poky streets, once you enter the entrance arch to the city and some scattered restaurants, carpet shops and general stores.

The entrance arch to the Medina in Mahdia.

Through the Medina in Mahdia

Through the Medina in Mahdia

Cafe Sidi Salem: After touring the town’s main sights, it was time for an afternoon coffee to watch the sunset. Cafe Sidi Salem is recommended as it sits right on the sea and has great views. It’s about a 3 minute walk from both the Borj el Kebir and the Grande Mosquee.

Sunset at Cafe Sidi Salem in Mahdia, Tunisia

Sunset at Cafe Sidi Salem in Mahdia, Tunisia

Avenue 7 Novembre: this sweeping avenue runs alongside the Mediterranean Sea and makes a perfect place for a leisurely stroll.

Views along Avenue 7 Novembre

Views along Avenue 7 Novembre

As well as these seven easy sights, there are also of course beaches, restaurants and even a Hammam in Mahdia Medina so I’d say it’s worth at least a day trip or if you want a lonely night away from tourists and locals.

A Hammam in Mahdia Medina

A Hammam in Mahdia Medina

You might have guessed that Mahdia was not the most inspiring town of my travels so far and despite the fact we toured most of it, we didn’t feel there was anything special here.

 

 

 

The post Backpacking in Tunisia: Top 7 Sights in Mahdia appeared first on Don’t Stop Living.

Meet Tunisia’s Blue and White Village of Sidi Bou Said

June 2, 2015 by  

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Backpacking in Tunisia: Touring The Blue and White Charm of Sidi Bou Said

On my most recent trip to Tunisia, I landed in more obvious resorts like Tunis, Carthage and Kairouan first, however we also made it to the less traveled destinations of Mahdia, Sousse, Teboulba and Monastir. But, it was the colors of the charming Sidi Bou Said that will probably live longest in my memory from our time in Tunisia.

Unlike the chaotic buzz of Tunis, Sidi Bou Said is a quiet village you can get to via TGM train from Tunis, a mere 5-10 minute walk from the Clock Tower on Habib Bourguiba Avenue. The train station is known as TGM Marine Station or Tunis North (which can be confusing as its more East than it ever will be North). TGM stands for Tunis – Goulette – Marsa and on this line, you’ll get off at the station called Sidi Bou Said and head up the hill to the village.

Here are the top 10 sights once you reach this oh so very blue village of Sidi Bou Said

Sidi Bou Said Marina – the harbour glistens over the Mediterranean on the east coast of Tunisia and the sun sinks its head reflecting off boats. Some of these boats are owned by rich people, some are wooden boats which are often used by escaping Africans heading to Italy and the promised land of Europe. Take in the views!

Admiring the Marina at Sidi Bou Said

Sidi Bou Said Beach – Tunisian beaches may not have the cleanliness, golden sands or blue waters of the Caribbean and the South China Seas, but they certainly attract tourists and locals alike in the Summer months.

Beach and Marina at Sidi Bou Said

Beach and Marina at Sidi Bou Said

Sidi Bou Said Art Gallery - the art gallery in Sidi Bou Said provides a mix of African and European art, given its French influence.

Art Gallery in Sidi Bou Said.

Art Gallery in Sidi Bou Said

Blue and White Buildings – the sublime mix of these two colors is what sets this place apart from other cities, towns and villages in Tunisia. Wander the narrow streets and get lost — everything is blue and white.

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Village Mosque - there are quite a few Mosques in and around Sidi Bou Said and on your walk through the narrow streets, you’ll see the village Mosque, nonchalantly nestled in beside a few houses.

Village Mosque

Village Mosque

Kahoua el Alia Cafe – there are a few cafes in Sidi Bou Said – there’s a charming on on the top of a hill called Kahoua el Alia Cafe and also Cafe Sidi Chabanne which offers scintillating views. Below, enjoying an afternoon snack and drink in Sidi Bou Said.

Coffee and crepes in Sidi Bou Said

Coffee and crepes in Sidi Bou Said

Sidi Bou Said Market – on the walk through the village and up the hill, veer off to the left to find a market. You can find hand made products, ceramics and miniatures of the houses in Sidi Bou Said.

Ceramics in the market at Sidi Bou Said

Ceramics in the market at Sidi Bou Said

Local House – take a guided tour of one of the houses – they’re charming and worth meandering through…

Stunning Views - there are a few fantastic viewpoints in Sidi Bou Said. If you walk all the way through the village, up and down again on the other side facing the beach, you’ll get a good viewpoint. Some of the cafes get packed around sunset and offer fabulous views as well.

Cafe for sunset with great views

Cafe for sunset with great views

Town Mosque – all the sights above can be found up and down streets of Sidi Bou Said, but this Mosque is the town Mosque and away from the tourist trail. It’s easy to spot though since it sits on the roundabout near the train station. Take your shoes off and go inside – non Muslims too. I was unable to find any official names of these Mosques on leaflets, outside or by asking people.

The town Mosque in Sidi Bou Said

The town Mosque in Sidi Bou Said 

Kuwait City’s Simple But Comfy Ibis Salmiya Hotel

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After six years, it was time to head back towards Asia. A new country beckoned on the way though and I plumped for Kuwait. Bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait is a small country in the Middle East which doesn’t attract as many tourists as it should. I made it a priority to spend a few days here and enjoy the sights of the city.

It should be no surprise to learn that Kuwait is a rich country: rich in culture, rich in oil. Thanks to the oil reserves in Kuwait, the standard of living is extremely high. Kuwait is a thriving country and has pristine streets, state of the art buildings and flashy hotels.

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The Middle East sun shoots down and bakes this place like a furnace. For planning purposes, take note: it was over 50 degrees C one day that I was there but it’s a dry heat without a lot of humidity. I decided to stay in two different parts of the capital city, Kuwait City – Salmiya and Sharq.

I opted for Hotel Ibis Salmiya in the Salmiya part of Kuwait City, not too far from the airport. This was a perfect place for my first night in Kuwait and here are five cool things I loved about this hotel.

Gulf Location: Salmiya is in the east part of Kuwait City and enjoys a coastline on the Gulf. The Ibis Salmiya Hotel is on Salem Al Mubarak Street, which is only one street away from the seafront Arabian Gulf Street.

A Mosque near the Ibis Hotel Salmiya, Kuwait.

A Mosque near the Ibis Hotel Salmiya, Kuwait.

You can walk along the promenade in the vast heat, visit the restaurants, cafes and shops nearby as well as the Scientific Centre and some attractive Mosques. The location of the Ibis Salmiya is perfect for those that want to visit Kuwait but escape the big city buzz that the downtown part of Kuwait City provides. It’s a perfect place to relax and even better was that my room had a view overlooking the Gulf, hazy as it was that day.

The splendid view of the Gulf from my room at Ibis Hotel Salmiya

Fast Wi-Fi: the Wi-Fi in the rooms, and reception in the Ibis Salmiya is reliable and fast, one of the fastest connections I have experienced on my travels. I was able to sit in my room admiring the views, while writing articles and sipping on a cuppa tea. I

Cosy Rooms: A double with water, tea, coffee, a safe and a comfortable bed — nothing extravagant but a nice 3 star+ hotel in a convenient location. Not exactly luxury but accessible to all.

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Extended Breakfast: one of the biggest surprises was the breakfast at the Hotel Ibis Salmiya. Not only is it a buffet from 4am to 12 noon (8 hours of breakfast to suit everyone’s time frames), but the selection is vast. Think: cereal, tropical fruit, orange juice, yoghurt, coffee, tea, croissants, fruit, cheese, meat slices, olives, beans, toast, egg and beef.

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The Hotel Ibis Salmiya has pleasant staff and is extremely welcoming. Some final photos from the balcony, lounge, internet area and around the Ibis Salmiya Hotel.

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Details:

SALEM AL MUBARAK STREET
PO BOX 36442
24755 – SALMIYA,
KUWAIT
(+965)25734247
(+965)25761233
Email: H5970-RE@ACCOR.COM

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