Friday, 28 December 2012

A Passion For Travel - 6 Questions

Travel Writier Graham Ettridge - In The Peak District, England

I have recently entered a competition with a travel magazine.  The challenge set was to answer 6 questions about travel.  I found the challenge rather interesting and thought provoking, so thought I would share my response on here. 

The six questions were:

1) Which country have you completely fallen in love with?
2) Tell us a little about why you fell in love with this country.
3) Tell us a little about your most memorable travel moment.
4) What would be the best piece of travel advice you could offer?
5) Who would be your dream travelling companion and why?
6) What is your dream destination and why?

My answers to these questions are:

1) Which country have you completely fallen in love with?
This is a hard question because I have fallen in love with so many countries for so many reasons.  If I really have to choose one country it would have to be England.  I know I am a little biased because I live here, but I have travelled the world yet still fall in love with England each time I visit its many spectacular locations.  Sometimes we become complacent with what is on our doorstep, and forget that to travel doesn't necessarily mean having to go by air or sea, it may simply be stepping outside your garden gate and visiting a different town or city.

2) Tell us a little about why you fell in love with this country.
England is diverse with its scenery, it has an abundance of history, and is world renowned for its culture.  As England is my homeland, I feel obliged to substantiate my answer and provide some evidence so that the reader isn't left with a feeling that I am cheating. 

Exhibit #1: The Coast
Being a small island, England has a lot of coastline.  A coastline that provides the perfect haven for sun seekers during the summer and paths for walkers all year round. 

Whether you enjoy an ice cream on a scorching hot day or a flask of tea on a cold and windy day, you can always find your solace on an English beach.  Surrounding the beach are the cliffs.  The cliffs are abundant with wildlife and the whole area takes on a new character when the sun begins to set.

Early morning swims, lazy sunseeking days and romantic evenings.  The English coastline has many things to offer.

Exhibit #2: London

London is an eclectic mix of the old and the new.  A cosmopolitan city that is stooped in history yet is the forefront of moderness. You can be wandering around a 1065 castle one moment and observing the skyline from a 2012 skyscraper the next moment.

Exhibit #3: The Cotswolds

Measuring approximately 25 miles by 90 miles, the Costwolds is a region of gentle hillsides and sleepy historic towns in the South West of England.  A region that many consider to be Quintessentially English.  It has the most dreamlike country pubs with roaring fireplaces, delicious comforting homemade food at can be washed down with a pint of Real Ale, and you can always find a local who will be willing to tell you a tale from yesteryear.  The scenery is breathtaking and has the most amazing walks. 


Exhibit #4: William Shakespeare and Stratford Upon Avon

William Shakespeare's birth place. Well I confess, this is my birth town also, so it must be great.  However the honest reason that I have included Stratford Upon Avon as a piece of evidence is that this is one of the literary hubs of the world.  William Shakespeare is at the forefront of literature, and to have the opportunity to come to this town and wander along the same street that Shakespeare would have walked along and to walk around the house that this literary god was born in, is a lifetime opportunity.  Simply being here fills you with an urge to pick up a pen and release the poet or writer from within.

Exhibit #5: The Lake District, Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.

There are so many locations around England that I could focus on to justify the reason why I am in love with it, none better than the Lake District.  A complete contrast from the hustle and bustle of London and Stratford Upon Avon, yet still exploding with culture and amazing scenery.  This time the scenery is very green and rugged.  A strong constitution and a sturdy pair of walking boots are definitely required here.  There are some of the most breathtaking views in the world to be had once you have beaten the challenge of the climb up to the top of the mountain peaks.  Then at the end of a tiring day, you find yourself in a quaint pub that was once frequented by the likes of:

The poet William Wordsworth -
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze....."

and the author Beatrix Potter -


Exhibit #6: Oxford, JRR Tolkien and C.S.Lewis

Oxford is where I spend many of my Saturday or Sunday afternoons.  Wandering the streets and admiring the architecture under the watchful eyes of the Oxford gargoyles or enjoying a hearty lunch washed down with a pint of real ale or a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oxford is famous for being a University Town, but also holds many other treasures.  One of my favourite places to visit is a little pub called "The Eagle and Child".  Not only is it a typical English pub serving great food and drink, but it also beholds one very important fact.  This pub used to be the meeting place of JRR Tolkien and C S Lewis as they wrote their famous stories (The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia).  They would read and critique each others work, and would discuss their plots.  I wonder if they had any idea how much each of their works would influence children and adults for many generations to come?


Exhibit #7: Stonehenge

A leap back in time, perhaps even to 3000BC, and you would see the birth of this mystical structure.  Today it still stands and still holds many unanswered questions.  When you walk around the stones, it is impossible not to feel a presence.  A feeling of being closer to nature, being close to the ancients, being closer to the solar system.  Equalled in fascination, only by such structures as the pyramids of Egypt and the Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Exhibit #8: England's Forests

Anybody who knows me, knows that I am completely obsessed by the beauty and magic of forests and woodlands.  England has an abundance of forests that each have their own distinct character, yet each are equally enchanting.  If you are willing to wake up early on a cold and misty morning, you will have the fortune of observing the most mystical sights... Rich in colour and blessed with wildlife.  Just be sure to keep the noise down as you don't want to disturb the pixies and goblins.

Exhibit #9: Castles

Whether you are male or female, young or old, you cannot fail to fall in love with the castles that are strewn around England's countryside, towns and cities.  A stark reminder of the battles that took place over the centuries, and a source of fairytale dreams.  Climbing the old stone spiral staircases to the battlements, wandering through the large kitchens and dining halls.  Hearing stories of Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses, marriages and murders, feasts and battles, all tied up in a mixture of facts and fables.

Exhibit #10:

The People.  England has been blessed with a sense of humour, a sense of irony, and the ability to laugh out loud when they fall over.    You can travel just a short distance and discover a different accent/dialect.  English people love to queue and love to talk about the weather.  Most conversations are usually started with at least one comment about the amount of rain or lack of rain for "the time of year".  However, one of the most special things about the people of England nowadays is the diversity of ethnic origins and religions that live side by side.  Where ever you are from, what ever your background is, you are made to feel welcome.

3) Tell us a little about your most memorable travel moment.

It was a hot and sticky afternoon and our small group were making our way along the River Negro (a  tributary of the Amazon River) in Brazil.  After a couple of hours we stopped for a short break.  Being in a group is reassuring in such difficult and challenging terrain, but sometimes it is hard to fully appreciate your surroundings when others are with you.  So, rather than heading towards the river bank with the others, I decided to stay in my canoe and head a short distance further up river, so that I could be alone for a few minutes. 

Once I was out of sight and sound of the rest of the group, I rested my oar on top of the canoe and floated motionless.  I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the rain forest, the trickling of the river, the dripping of the raindrops on the leaves of the overhanging trees, the croaking of thousands of frogs, the melancholic calls of the howler monkey, the buzz of the mosquitoes and other mysterious insects, the occasional splash of a fish leaping from the water to escape prowling underwater predators, the shrieking of the birds flying above the canopy of the trees.  It was truly symphonic with mother nature leading the orchestra with her baton.

I slowly opened my eyes to see several pairs of caimen eyes protruding from the surface of the water.  Over to my left hand side, I caught a glimpse of a small capuchin monkey leaning from a branch to pick a piece of fallen fruit from the river.

I then heard a rustling noise coming from the river bank in the distance.  I slowly turned to catch a faint glimpse of a Tapir appearing from the bushes.  She stood there in front of me long enough for me to unzip the pocket of my jacket and pull out my camera.  She allowed me to take several photographs before she turned round and vanished back into the thick of the undergrowth.

 It was at this moment that the memories of my childhood came rushing back to me.  Memories of dreaming about being an explorer, dreaming of canoeing through the Amazon surrounded by crocodiles, snakes and insects.  This was a moment that I had always dreamt of, but never in my life actually believed would really happen.  I sat there in my canoe for another twenty minutes, savouring every second.  I wanted to mentally record the sights, sounds and smells so that I could relive them over and over again once I returned back home to England.  This truly was my most memorable travel moment.  I knew that I would go on many more adventures, but none could ever come close to the moment that I lived my childhood dream.

4) What would be the best piece of travel advice you could offer?
Research where you are going before you go.  The trip can be so much more enjoyable if you understand a little about the history, the politics, the cultures; customs, and local attractions.  It often opens up a whole new avenue of things to do and places to visit whilst you are there.  Even learning about some of the lesser known local delicacies can be useful.  I also think it is a good idea to research and learn some of the language to enable greet people and say "please" and "thank you".  You will be amazed at how friendly locals become if you even make an effort to say something in their language.

5) Who would be your dream travelling companion and why?
This is a difficult question.  There are so many nature gurus that inspire me, whether it be researchers, TV presenters, travel writers or photographers.  My dream companions would be wildlife photographers Jonathon and Angela Scott.  I have watched them many times on TV and read so many of their books, their articles in magazines and newspapers, and most of all, I have been intoxicated by their ability to take the most breathtaking wildlife photographs.

6) What is your dream destination and why?
My dream destination is to visit an area like Mondika in Africa.  Somewhere wild and untouched by humans. Somewhere as far away from the rat race as possible, yet full of life and energy.   I dream of learning more about our natural habitats and our primates.  I often think about that moment when I would find myself sat deep in the undergrowth, face to face with a Silverback Gorilla.  That moment when our lives, that are so different, become one.   

Well, there are my answers.  I would be really interested in finding out what your answers would be to these six questions.  So, please drop me a message or send me a link to your answers.

Graham x


Nina Fenner said...

Well written, I really enjoyed reading it. I particularly loved the 'why England is special' bit. I grew up near Stratford/the Cotswolds, it is truly a beautiful area, and now that I live in Devon I think Devon is very special too. The coastline in particular never ceases to take my breath away. Great photos, thanks for sharing, Nina

Graham Ettridge said...

Thank you Nina. It ended up being an easy choice. I am always blown away by the locations I visit around the world, but I just think we are so fortunate in England to have so many amazing locations, so much history, so much breathtaking landscape and so much culture. I agree with you about Devon. I have so many happy memories of camping in Devon and enjoying the coastline. Graham :)

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Cocaine Princess said...

I love this post and the questions that came with it. Perhaps I'm biased too but England is truly a magical little gem.....and not to mention David Beckham I hear has moved back!!!

Cocaine Princess said...

I love this post and the questions that came with it. Perhaps I'm biased too but England is truly a magical little gem.....and not to mention David Beckham I hear has moved back!!!

Graham Ettridge said...

Hey Princess, I really honestly feel that there are so many amazing things about England. Even though I have special memories from everywhere I travel, I am still glad that I live here. So many wonderful places all on my doorstep. :) x

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