Way back in 1995 my friends and I took an old MG Montego on a road trip from Scotland to Chamonix in the French Alps which also happened to be my first holiday abroad. I wrote about it a few years ago – The Spirit of Adventure. My abiding memory of that trip was taking a hike up the mountains to see my first ever glacier. I was expecting it to look pristine and white, not covered in rocks and debris so initially asked my friend where the glacier was before he pointed out that everything in front of me was a glacier! You can understand my confusion, this is the photo I subsequently took:
Wind forward to the Summer of 2017 where I had the pleasure of spending a few months living in France including a couple of trips to Chamonix. First time was with a friend for a few days and we went up to the highest point a cable car can – the Aiguille du Midi (which was too expensive for the John Conners of 1995 to afford) – and I was hoping once again to catch sight of this amazing glacier I’d seen over 20 years before. Turns out I should have looked at a map – the glacier was on the next set of mountains over. But it was pretty spectacular nonetheless!
A few weeks later I returned and this time I had a better of idea of the glacier I’d originally seen – I reckoned it was the mighty Mer de Glace. So I figured out how to hike there and one morning that’s exactly what I did. Rather than being a lazy tourist and taking the funicular railway to the top I walked – starting straight up a ski slope (those things are pretty steep and relentless to walk up). And after a couple of hours I found myself in truly spectacular scenery.
It was shortly after I was in for a bit of a shock. Turns out the glacier has receded dramatically over the 22 years since I’d been. To the point where there are signs on the cliff as you go down showing you where it was in a given year.
I couldn’t help but feel sad – upset if I’m honest – to see such a dramatic difference in such a short space of time (22 years really isn’t long at all). The sheer volume of ice that’s melted just boggles the mind, but it wasn’t until I finally got around to scanning in the negatives of my photos from 1995 that I was really able to compare the before and after as it just happens that I’d taken pretty much the exact same photo 22 years apart (I’m nothing if not consistent).
The photos were taken at around the same time of year and it’s pretty clear that the rock and green line is significantly further from the glacier than it used to be. When you multiply that by how long the glacier is, that’s a hell of a lot of ice that’s no longer there. When you look at a photo like those above and see the difference it’s pretty unsettling. But when you walk there and see it with your own eyes and remember what it looked like before, it really does bring it home to you how our planet is warming. We live on a beautiful planet, but it’s fragile.
A couple of generations from now that glacier will be entirely gone. Enjoy it while you can.
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks driving from Colorado to Las Vegas and back in a circular route taking in some of America’s most impressive national parks (covering 2500 miles in the process). Not only was the scenery scarcely believable (it was like being in a different country every day), but the people were incredibly friendly and generous everywhere I went and the food – despite stereotypes to the contrary – was superb, and healthy too.
The general route follows (usually a couple of days exploring in each place) and I’d highly recommend you give it a go – we could have easily spent 2 weeks in each park!
- Flew to Denver airport
- Drove to the Rocky Mountain National Park
- A long drive (via some scenic stops) to Canyonlands National Park
- An amazingly scenic drive to Bryce Canyon (what a place!)
- A few days in Vegas (which I wouldn’t recommend to be honest)
- Next up, the meteor crater near Flagstaff (wanted to go since I was a kid)
- The relatively short hop to the Grand Canyon (yes, it’s as stunning as everyone says)
- Then onto the south of Lake Powell and the famous Horsehoe Bend
- Heading east to Mesa Verde National Park
- Through Rio Grande National Forest towards…
- Great Sand Dunes National Park – completely unexpected sand dunes!
- Finally back to Denver and off home!
My favourite US state is definitely Utah as it has some incredible roads, scenery and every day was jaw dropping! I had a drone that I flew for some aerial shots when I could (they’re banned in National Parks). Anyway, some random photos of the trip follow – enjoy!
First food in the US – pancakes!
The views of the Rocky Mountains
I wanted a sporty 4×4, I got this!
Random stopping place by a frozen lake
Mountains and Ice
Some very very red rock!
Our cabin near Moab, Utah
Incredible views everywhere you look
Not even in the park, just at the road side!
Nice place for a team photo!
The first of many impossibly straight roads
Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands
A teenager not even looking at the view!
Admiring the view
It’s a long way down!
A day of straight roads in Utah
Yep, a very straight road
Amazing the things you find at the side of the road
A cliché I know!
One of many Mesas – all spectacular!
An arch at the Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park views
Lots of deer around to avoid!
Bryce Canyon – spectacular!
A cheesy selfie in Bryce Canyon
Can’t get enough of Bryce Canyon
I could spend weeks hiking around Bryce Canyon!
Getting some gas…
More spectacular roads
The entrance to Zion National Park – It’s big!
Walk to the Emerald Pools at Zion National Park
Upper Emerald Pool, Zion National Park
This is my hero pose
Yet more roads!
Arguing in Vegas (for the camera)
Excalibur Hotel, Las Vegas
Some flower show in Vegas
New York New York by night
More pancakes for John!
Couldn’t go to Vegas and not see a show!
When in Vegas, go to the laundrette
About to hit the gym in the Trump Hotel, Las Vegas
Hoover Dam – not as impressive after seeing all the national parks
Another straight road!
Meteor Crater, Arizona
Always wanted to see this meteor crater since I was a kid
Meteor Crater from above (and far away)
Another straight road!
The Grand Canyon!
James getting some Zen at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon at sunset
Random rocks near Lake Powell
A boy and his drone
No safety ropes at Horseshoe Bend!
Great Sand Dunes Park
Some friends and I went to Chamonix this year for 4 days of snowboarding and skiing. Turns out it’s not the cheapest of resorts if you like a few heavy nights out (as we did) but the conditions were very good considering the comparative lack of snow on previous years. Beautiful scenery in the shadow of Mont Blanc too as I’m sure you’ll agree!
A View Down The Valley
Almost Above The Clouds
About To Descend Into The Clouds
Me Having A Seat
Phil and Gaz Posing
The View Below Into The Clouds
A Life Size Audi Made From Ice!
Team Photo In The Clouds
Resting On Bean Bags After A Tough Day
It’s Always Sunny Above The Clouds
Watching A Freeride Competition
Classic Temperature Inversion
Ben, Phil And Gaz
Such Amazing Scenery
Taking It All In
Team Photo With Mont Blanc In The Back
Lovely Scenery Above Chamonix
High Wire Walking in Chamonix
Enjoying Hot Chocolate With Brandy
The Mont Blanc Glacier
I’ve watched the Tour de France on TV for probably 20 years and have driven up and down the insane mountain climbs they go up and power down, always marvelling at what I believe to be the toughest endurance sport on Earth. While Lance Armstrong may now be a disgraced rider that doesn’t detract from how much I’ve loved and love the sport (and even knowing the performance enhancing drugs he took I still loved watching him power up climbs and take the races by the scruff of the neck back in the day – great entertainment). So to hear it was coming to Yorkshire and pretty much past my house I couldn’t wait to see it!
That day came yesterday and the first stage passed Addingham (a couple of miles away and so a short walk) and the second through Silsden, the village in which I live. To say it was an amazing experience would be to massively understate things. Watching it on Eurosport as I’ve done over the years but see all the places I’ve spent the past 15 years of my life was awesome, and to see these guys shooting past at incredible speed in the flesh was a dream come true for me. Even better was seeing just how many people had turned out to watch – people were EVERYWHERE! The people and countryside of Yorkshire did us proud.
I took a few photos, but you really needed to be there to feel the atmosphere and appreciate just what amazing athletes these guys are!
Some roadside Tour decoration
Blocks to ward off rogue campers
A huge crowd waiting in Addingham
The peleton powering through Addingham!
A sea of people walking home
This is where we watched from
Day two – Silsden!
One of many floats passing by
Didn’t catch any goodies
Billy waiting for the bikers
Waiting for action
The peleton FLYING past at over 30mph
Gone in a flash!
Cornwall seems to be turning into my second home as I was only there back in July. However I had some time to take off and figured we’d head back down to Watergate Bay to see what it’s like off-season (summary, the restaurant are shut on week evenings and there are less people, but it’s still great). Also, the dog loves running on the beach and the prospect of there being even less people was most appealing! So without further ado, here are a few photos that summarise the trip!
Billy Making Sure He Isn’t Left At Home
A Dog That Isn’t Mine!
Coffee Time With The Dog
Me, Him And Coffee
Sunny Cornwall In November
Dog = Run
Billy Looking Out To Sea
My Sun Bathing Dog
Big Beach, Small Dog
Teaching Billy To Drive 1
Teaching Billy To Drive 2
Admiring The View
Dog On Bed = Good
A Dog’s Eye View
We Love Beach Walking
A Trademark Dispute?
The Dog Waiting On The Wife
Still A Lazy Beast
Morning Coffee Run
I Do Miss The Coast
3 Cornish Pasty Shops
They Also Do Steak
Billy, Master Of His Domain!
Me And Him
I Love Those Skies
A Beach Panorama
Another Deserted Beach
Manly Pose Number 27
In what seems to be turning into an annual tradition we took the dog to Watergate Bay in Cornwall for a week of beach running, eating and lazing around. Warning – there are a lot of photos of my dog that follow!
The First Day Was Misty
A Wet Lhasa Apso
Dogs Allowed At The Table
Morning Cliff Walk
Breakfast At 15
Lap, Dog, Coffee, Her
Lap, Dog, Coffee, Me
A Beach To Ourselves
The Catch Of The Day!
Me And The Little Fella
One Of Many Jellyfish
Profile Of Billy
We Drink A Lot Of Coffee
The Incredible Jumping Dog
A Jutting Peninsula
Nice Dog Walking Day
Did I Say He Loves To Run?
Our Giant Lhasa Apso
Last Coffee Of The Holiday
Long time readers will know I’m obsessed with luggage. Whenever I see a shop that sells luggage I stand and look at it, imagining it being grabbed by its owner at baggage reclaim in some far-flung part of the world. Oh the adventures it would have being thrown into a taxi and driven to a secluded getaway in a tropical paradise, a beautiful city, a historic town, student accommodation in a new place. If only someone would buy it from this shop and give it the life it deserves… But I digress.
Following a period of a lot of flying I wrote John’s Guide To Travelling With Hand Luggage Only and at the time was a big fan of those cases that have wheels for wheeling around an airport. Large enough to fit a few days clothes and yet small enough to stow safely in the overhead compartment of a plane. I recently spent a few months working several days a week in London and initially used my favourite piece of hand luggage for the job. But soon I realised that while it was great when flying to New York, it wasn’t so good in the following scenario:
- Travelling 3 hours on a train in the morning and fitting neatly in the overhead compartment, some of which are smaller than others.
- Jumping on the London underground, fighting through busy crowds on the way to various offices without getting caught in people’s feet and not being awkward when carried up and down stairs.
- Going back to the hotel via the London underground (see above).
- After unpacking at the hotel acting as a day bag for the rest of the week in an office – so not being as large and unwieldy when fighting through those crowds (see above).
- Looking cool, hip and not too business-like (London is full of annoyingly good-looking youngsters).
- Travelling home for 3 hours on a train (see above).
My hand luggage bag was too rigid to be carried on the shoulder over distance (the best way to battle through crowds) and didn’t compress when I took all the clothes out of it – so continuing to be no fun to carry on the shoulder. I began to do some research and after a while came across a type of bag known as an “overnight bag”. Such bags are soft, worn over the shoulder, can be stuffed full of assorted paraphernalia, come in a variety of rather cool designs (and some uncool ones) and it seemed like the perfect bag design for my travel needs. They’re basically large messenger bags and lots of hipsters wear those – what’s not to like?
In the end I settled on the Weird Fish Hopton Overnight Bag. It looks something like this (pictured here with a regulation Lhasa Apso for size comparison):
Let me first note that I paid for the bag myself so I speak only as a happy customer. Also note that any free luggage will be gratefully received (did I mention I’m obsessed with luggage?). I looked at and tried other bags but in the end the combination of the following features put this bag over the finish line:
- You can stuff loads of things in it and it swallows them easily. Put a couple of things in and it seems like a much smaller bag, taking up no space at all. Ideal for travelling or use as a day bag – it’s like a shape shifter.
- Nice thick, adjustable strap and nice, thick shoulder pad. Too many of these bags have thin, poorly designed straps that aren’t much use when it’s stuffed full of laptops, clothes and washing kit. They’re often too long and when you want to shorten it the shoulder pad doesn’t actually fit over your shoulder. A heavy bag hanging down your knees is a bitch to carry – that’s not a problem here.
- It’s flexible. Rigid bags that hold their shape mean no matter how empty or full it is, it’ll always sit in a fixed position on you when it’s on your shoulder. This isn’t great when it’s only got a laptop in it – it’ll be too bulky and you’ll knock into people on the tube and spend all the time being apologised to (even though it’s you who owe them an apology). A flexible bag shapes around your body no matter how full it is – you can pick through crowds like a ninja!
- A couple of external pockets that actually close for easy-to-reach storage. Pockets are great, there’s no sense having to fish around inside the main bag when you have pockets. Some bags, though, have magnetic clips to hold the pockets closed – except they never stay closed. Proper push studs or straps are a must (this bag has the former).
- It’s brown. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but all cool luggage has to be brown. Black is for “suits”, brown for everyone else. Just like shoes.
You can see a series of photos below explaining the various design features that make it a winner for a multi-day business trip to London:
Over The Shoulder
Handy Pockets That Close
It Can Be Carried In The Hand Too
A Chunky Shoulder Strap And Pad
It Also Carries Small Dogs
If you’re thinking of taking a business trip to London – heck even a non-work weekend trip to London – then you owe it to yourself to invest in the proper luggage. I don’t want to see a photo of an overnight bag on a website, in a shop or a magazine. I want to see it slung over your shoulder while you attend a board meeting, sip cocktails in a posh bar, check into your 5 star hotel (the usual Presidential Suite), sit in a sushi restaurant munching on raw tuna, get thrown out of a strip club and run away from the paparazzi into the night. Because that’s what quality luggage is for!
Following a miserably cold and wet Winter which was preceded by a miserably cold and wet Summer my good lady and I decided we needed a bit of sunshine. We didn’t want to fly long haul and we didn’t want to spend a fortune. In fact our criteria was “the hottest, cheapest place we can find”. And that turned out to be Lanzarote.
It’s a bit of a British holiday destination but where we were staying, Costa Teguise, is pretty quiet at this time of year and not full of drunken teenagers making a lot of noise (we’re a bit old for that sort of thing these days). Anyway, we pretty much got what we wanted and a few photos follow! I think it’s fair to say we drank a lot of coffee.
Leaving on a jet plane
Fresh and tasty olives
The best calzone I’ve ever had!
The first of many sugar packets
No dog washing?!
First beer of the day!
Foreign fizzy drinks
Cappuccino and cream?
Again, what’s with no dogs?
A weather vane I assume
Look out for the cactus
Another novelty sugar packet
My good lady drinking red wine
I also drink red wine
Even more novelty sugar
I drink a lot of coffee
That’s me on a sunny beach!
Palm trees disturbing my view
Another fancy coffee
Yet another fancy coffee
A fish sculpture, pretty cool
The right shirt for the beach
Pretty big sculpture
Out for a walk
A proper shirt for drinking cocktails (a long island ice tea)
A cock tail
Rachael and some sangria
Pain au chocolate and coffee
Brownie and ice cream
On the beach
Ok, I drink a lot of coffee!
Rachael also drinks coffee
A curious fridge magnet
I’m always on my phone…
One of many cats
A white russian with cream
Police line, do not cross!
I’ve spent the past month or so trotting back and forth to London and have been rather enjoying myself. Since I take photos everywhere I go I’ve been taking lots of pictures. However looking at them, they’re not exactly what your average London visitor photographs. No sights, no London Eye, no House of Parliament. No, they seem mostly of food. Not sure what that says about me, but here’s a random assortment of pictures from London! I’m sure I’ll add more to this album over the coming weeks.
It’s a Hotel Bed
About To Raid The Mini Bar
A Shopping Centre By Shepherds Bush
Dinner, Railway Style
They Only Come Out In The Day
I Like Pret
Red Tiles In The Customer Kitchen
The Sandwich Box Opens Wrong
Do Not Let This Guy In The Building
7am Breakfast On The Train
Sunrise In Leeds
The Full Pret Lunch
St Pancras Roof
Stand On The Right
Singing In The Rain (The Musical)
A Long Island Ice Tea
A Drunk Pitcher Of Sangria
Hotel Corridors Go On For Ever
The Awesome Kings Cross Roof
Power On The Train
What better way to spend a rare sunny weekend in Yorkshire than camping with friends and dog in the Yorkshire Dales near Aysgarth? Since I couldn’t think of any other way that’s exactly what we spent the weekend doing and as you’ll see from the photos we had a fantastic time! And Billy, our dog, turned out to be the perfect camping companion. Chilled out and enjoying hanging around with great people (and me). 🙂
Bread and Butter
Medium Rare Steak
Individually Fried Chips
First Team Photo
Apple Crumble Creme Brulee
Gins and Tonics
First Morning of Camping
The Local Restaurant
Not A Food Motivated Dog
Jenga – A Steady Hand Required
Anca About To Destroy
Rachael With A Steady Hand
Having Fun Walking In The Dales
Lower Aysgarth Falls And Me (And Billy)
The Team At Aysgarth Falls
Chin Up Billy!
Trying Not To Fall In
A Photo Of A Photo Being Taken 1
Lost Again? Nah!
A Photo Of A Photo Being Taken 2
Billy Isn’t Bothered By Waterfalls
Smiling For The Camera
The Girls And Aysgarth Falls
The Water Is That-a-Way
Me And My Dog
Me On My Mountain Bike Again!
Even More Biking
Anca Waiting For The Stragglers
Race Race Race!
Nice Little Village
Andreea About To Fall Off
Do NOT Feed This Chubby Cat!
The Chasing Pack
A Footpath You Want To Follow
A Photo Of A Tractor
A Quiet Road
Billy Gets The Girls
Superb Camping Food
British Summer Time?
Another Team Photo – In A Car Park
Billy Admiring Another Waterfall
Getting Our Tea And Coffee Fix
A Coffee Fix
Billy Sniffing For Food
Laughing At Hardraw Force
Andreaa At England’s Highest Single Drop Waterfall
Anca And The Waterfall
My Hero Pose
The Point Of Impact
Count The Layers
The Girls (And Billy)
A Sheep Close Up
One Sheep And His Horse
The Flowerpot Man
Billy Sleeping It Off