RINGS ROUND THE WORLD

One Family taking a year out to travel the world, take photos, write about it, give hints, tell you about their trials and tribulations and of course have fun!

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Brazil

Brazil

VISITING FROM: 05/01/11 —

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Sprawling across half of South America, Brazil has captivated travelers for at least 500 years. Powdery white-sand beaches, lined with palm trees and fronting a deep blue Atlantic, stretch for more than 7000km. Dotting this coastline are tropical islands, music-filled metropolisesand enchanting colonial towns. Inland, Brazil offers dazzling sights of a different flavor: majestic waterfalls, red-rock canyons, and crystal-clear rivers – all just a small part of the natural beauty. Its larger and more famous attractions are the Amazon and the Pantanal, the pair hosting some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet. Wildlife-watching is simply astounding here, as is the opportunity for adventure – though you needn’t go to the jungle to find it. Kayaking, rafting, trekking, snorkeling and surfing are just a few ways to spend a sun-drenched afternoon in nearly any region in Brazil.

Some of the world’s most exciting cities lie inside of Brazil’s borders, and travelers need not come to Carnaval to experience the music, dance and revelry that pack so many calendar nights. Given the country’s innumerable charms, the only drawback to traveling in Brazil is a logistical (and financial) one: you simply won’t want to leave.

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1 Herman Fontyn commented on 24/05/11

It would be nice and warm for you in Brazil.  It is winter now in Tassie, a daytime temperature of 14 degrees and some times frost at night time.  Enjoy the rest of your trip.  Keep in touch.  Love you

Uraguay

Uraguay

VISITING FROM: 31/12/10 —

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Well, somebody let the cat out of the bag. Uruguay used to be South America’s best-kept secret, with a handful of Argentines, Brazilians, Chileans and non–South Americans in the know popping in to enjoy the pristine beaches, the atmospheric cities, the huge steaks and the happening nightlife. Then the peso crashed, the place became a whole lot more affordable and people got curious. They came, loved it and went back home to tell their friends. Who came, loved it and went back home to tell their friends.

Which is not to suggest that the place is being overrun. The main drawcards, like Colonia del Sacramento,Punta del Este and Montevideo, have long been set up for tourists, and are dealing with their newfound popularity well. Other destinations, such as Punta del Diablo and Maldonado, retain their charm but are no longer the undiscovered gems they once were. Elsewhere, in the interior (gaucho centralTacuarembó, for example) and the river towns, and particularly in the non-summer months, there’s still a pretty good chance that you’ll be the only gringo in town.

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Argentina

Argentina

VISITING FROM: 16/12/10 —

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The secret is out: with its gorgeous landscapes, cosmopolitan cities and lively culture, Argentina is a traveler’s paradise. It stretches almost 3500km from Bolivia to the tip of South America, encompasses a wide array of geography and climates, and is almost the size of India. Nature-lovers can traverse the Patagonian steppe, climb South America’s highest peak, walk among thousands of penguins and witness the world’s most amazing waterfalls and of course eat giant size steaks till the cows come home .

Hikers can sample the stunning scenery of the lush Lake District – with its glorious lakes and white-tipped mountains – and revel inPatagonia’s glacier-carved landscapes and painted Andean deserts. City slickers will adore fabulous Buenos Aires, full of opportunities to learn Spanish, watch fútbol(soccer), dance the sexy tango and interact with dynamic and beautiful porteños(Buenos Aires locals). You’ll be out shopping for designer clothes at affordable prices and eating the world’s best steaks every day while partying at nightclubs all night long.

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1 eoghan commented on 05/02/11

Hey!!!!
Hi dis is Eoghan from seamount, those pics look class,u know when ur back

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2 una williams commented on 16/01/11

Well Feb will be here before we know it,will be great to see you all again,hope your all well…xxx

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3 Tim Gordon commented on 02/01/11

nearly looks as good as Belmont…...

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Chile

Chile

VISITING FROM: 22/11/10 —

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Spindly Chile stretches 4300km – over half the continent – from the driest desert in the world (near San Pedro de Atacama) to massive glacial fields in the Patagonian south . Filling up the in-between are volcanoes, geysers, beaches, lakes, rivers, valleys , dusty towns and countless islands. Slenderness gives Chile the intimacy of a backyard (albeit one fenced between the Andes and the Pacific).

With easy infrastructure ( only one main road ) , spectacular sights and very hospitable hosts, the hardest part is choosing an itinerary. Consider the sweeping desert solitude, craggy summits and the lush forests of the fjords. Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the isolated Isla Robinson Crusoe offer extracontinental exploits.

But don’t forget that Chile is as much about character as it is setting. Its far-flung location fires the imagination and has been known to make poets out of barmen, dreamers out of presidents and friends out of strangers. A few wrong turns and detours and you too will be part of this tightly woven family who barbecues on Sunday. Don’t forget to bring an extra bottle of red to the long, lazy dinners that await.

 

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1 Inti commented on 13/12/10

Hello Eric and Family
was a real pleasure take some beers with you and know about your family and you adventure , i hope to do something like that some time, your success its for me like a sample, that can be done, thanks.

If you need something, just tell me, I would be very happy to help in your travel

You have a very nice family a lot of greetings for them, my better wish for your travel and keep strong.

may be in some time, i will contact you again for help for my own adventure :D hahaha

PD: Your Family’s web is absolutly great!, Congrats, you people can teach me to make that kind of website to, ahhahaha

Greetings,
Inti Alejandro Cortés Aguirre.
Santiago - Chile.

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New Zealand

New Zealand

VISITING FROM: 16/11/10 —

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There’s a reason the sun shines on New Zealand before anywhere else – every new day in Aotearoa is something to cherish! Small, remote and thinly populated, yes, but NZ punches well above its weight with its outlandish scenery, fabulous festivals, superb food and wine, and magical outdoor experiences.

Equally impressive is NZ’s potent, mainstream Maori culture. This is a country that recognises and celebrates its indigenous people – the world is a kinder, gentler, more respectful place down here! And while the fanfare surrounding the Lord of the Rings trilogy is waning, visiting the real-life Middle-earth still has a geeky allure - LOTR director Peter Jackson's filmmaking prowess still holds Wellington (aka ‘Wellywood’) in its thrall.

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1 lisa commented on 09/12/10

Hi Elizabeth ,

We would love some pictures of hot water beach . We got great ones on the day but the disappeared never to return ! Can you mail them to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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2 Elizabeth Skytte commented on 08/12/10

Hi there
I just found out that you do not have many pictures from NZ. We have e few from the Hot Beach. Do you wont them?
Lots of gretings
Elizabeth + family

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Tazmania

Tazmania

VISITING FROM: 24/10/10 —

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Just as well Tasmania has so many great hiking trails, wild surfing opportunities and mountains to climb, because with all the delicious gourmet produce you'll be scoffing there, you'll need the exercise! Just be sure to make time for exploring its rich history and hanging out with the local wombats too...

Forever the butt of mainland jokes, Tasmania has shrugged off the stigma of its isolation – the whole world seems to be discovering the physically dazzling, unique and accessible island. Suitably impressed, and a tad sheepish, the rest of Australia has finally stopped laughing and started visiting. ‘Tassie’ (as it’s affectionately known) has it all: vast, uninhabited slabs of wilderness, swimming at Seven Mile Beach, bountiful wildlife in Narawntapu National Park, gourmet food and wine in the Tamar Valley, a thriving arts scene and new-found urban cool.

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1 Lee Warren commented on 24/08/11

Have just visted Herman and Elise at Bowen, and he mentioned your lovely family and your travels.  He was wondering if you were back in Ireland yet and your journey may have finished.  You met Herman in his vw camper on your travels in Australia.  I know that he would be interested in hearing from you all and of your travels.

Regards,

Lee Warren

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Austraila

Austraila

VISITING FROM: 13/10/10 — 31/10/10

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Sure it's got deadly spiders, snakes and sharks, but they don't stop people from coming here. Australia is a big , big country , as big your imagination will allow so kick back and grab a six pack while you map your journey . From the prehistoric gorges of Kakadu National Park, to the white sails of the Sydney Opera House, lose yourself in the bush or camp along the east coast where the sea is with you all the way , explore the labyrinthine laneways of culture-rich Melbourne or be humbled by red desert sunsets over Uluru. Turn south to visit hundred year old giants that loom large in the forests of Tasmania or take on Sydney, a heady mix of surf, sun, money and sex, and you'll soon realise Australia is a place to be discovered

There are ancient Aboriginal cultures, dazzling salt pans, secretive reptiles, rough-cut canyons and pristine gorges. Some Australians simply go walkabout, traversing national parks filled with such devilish critters as koalas, sugar gliders and knee-high wallabies. Others whiz through world heritage rainforests on mountain bikes or apply ropes to their limbs, chalk to their hands, truly skimpy shorts to their nether regions and scale lofty summits like bronze-backed insects. And some simply launch themselves into the sky with parachutes attached to their backs.

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1 Lisa-Nicole Dunne commented on 30/10/10

Hey Guys
the adventure continues. Fair play sounds great. Loved Byron Bay. Check out watego beach. My friend got married there it’s nice. Al and I stayed down the end of Byron in lovely apts. Where to next in Oz? Are you just doing East Coast? I spent months there 10 years ago as was so much fun.
Enjoy Tasmania.
Eric next time online with a few mins check out the website I’ve attached. It’s a viral element of a campaign Unicef launched as part of our goal to raise eur 1m from 1m people just giving a euro. This vid we created as a bit of Fun to emphasise importance of each n every euro. Send onto a few friends if you can.
Daniel is doing great getting so big-he’d pass for 6/7 months and he’s not even 4. Adoring the time with him he’s a dote. Can’t wait for you guys to meet him when u get back. Sophie growing up so quick too. She’s in scoil Iosa now and delighted. Anyway u all look great and no doubt it’s a year to remember and cherish forever. Keep having fun. X Lisa Alan Sophie and Daniel x x

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2 Tony Hadley commented on 23/10/10

Gold! Gold! Always believe in your soulllll! Hope all is going well on the trip. Here in Sligo for the Bank Holiday enjoying a few drinks with our Stag Party host, Pat Henry. Have a great time! Mike

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3 Linda Logan commented on 06/10/10

Well Holy Moses ! You’re all having the time of your lives. How on earth will you settle down after this…...its giving me the wander lust!!!  Hope to be able to chat to you on skype soon just let me know when you can.
Axel and Elka look soooo healthy and gorgeous….. their eyes blend in with the oceans. Great photos.  Need more photos of you and Eric , Axel will be able to take them but you’re both looking great.  The monkey pics look great.  Very much look forward to chatting with you.
Love and Kisses and Hugs and stuff.
Lindy Lou xxxxxxxxx

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Indonesia

Indonesia

VISITING FROM: 06/09/10 — 16/08/10

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From city slickers to country bumpkins, from terraced padi fields to white rimmed beaches, this vast archipelago is waiting to be explored. Heady scents, vivid colours, dramatic vistas and diverse cultures mix and spin to the point of exhaustion, their potent brew leaving your senses reeling and craving more .

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Rippling across the equator for nearly 5000km, Indonesia encompasses more than 17,000 islands, two-thirds of which are inhabited and richly layered with character. Some of these are so remote that a journey rather then a quick visit are the only way to get there . 

Indonesia’s cities are in a constant state of evolution, where dense populations, technology and construction live together . But most of the archipelago’s territory remains unexplored, concealing a wealth of cultures and a myriad of landscapes. Oceanic rice fields and ancient sultanates in Java are humbled by haunting volcanic cones. Maluku’s alabaster beaches and desert islands remain pristine while the tourist trail heads elsewhere to places like Gili or Lombox .The jungles of SumatraKalimantanand Papua are zoological wonders, revealing impish monkeys, stoic sun bears, leopards, orang-utans and remarkable marsupials.

This welcoming land await and rewards all those that enter .

 

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1 barbara särlöv commented on 03/10/10

Dear Lisa,Eric,Axel and Elka!
What a lovely inspiration you are all of you! You made our short trip to Bali and Gili so memorable and full of joy! What an adventure to go around the world and explore together! So many dream, so few dare! Back in Sweden where Autumn is in full “bloom”...Cold and windy…We miss Bali allready! Im back to housewife bliss with dirty laundry, cleaning and cooking AND Flying AND giving healing….Women do it all with a smile…. Have mentioned your blog to our advertisement staff at SAS so, who knows, they might contact you for an interview! Wouldnt that be great? Next stop….
OPRAH WINFREY!!!! WOW! Sorry, i was carried away for a while….
But you never know, sky is the limit! For you guys, there are no boundaries! Take care and do let us know how you are doing,ok?
Big Hug from
Michael and Barbara Särlöv from Sweden

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2 Mark Fitzsimons commented on 29/03/10

Eoin showed me your website, and it looks great. Fair play to you for getting out of Malahide and doing a trip like this. Let me know when you are in Cambodia (or even better, when you plan to be), as I am planning to try to drag Vinnie over there for a short holiday, so might as well try to cross paths with you guys for a pint.

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Singapore

Singapore

VISITING FROM: 03/09/10 —

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A strange brew of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures, a rich social stew that’s anything but boring. Sure, the graffiti-free trains run on time, traffic jams are nonexistent and everyone looks clean-cut and wholesome, but who needs pollution, poverty and chaos?

Singapore’s mouthwatering food is the number one drawcard. Pull up a pew at a hawker centre, crack open a Tiger beer and immerse yourself in a munificent range of Asian delights; heavy on the flavour, light on the wallet. Want to splurge? Singapore delivers Southeast Asia’s best shopping and innovative, stylish restaurants, plus a swathe of top-notch hotels. Top of the tree is Raffles, a timeless symbol of colonial opulence.

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1 Portmarnock furnishings commented on 27/09/10

Hi Lisa , Delighted to see your travelling going so well so far !
Just wondered could you send me the name of the curtain Fitter you mentioned ...might have some work for him .. Thanks
Gerry & gang in Portmarnock furnishings

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Malaysia

Malaysia

VISITING FROM: 19/08/10 — 06/08/10

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Malaysia is a beauty of a country, cleaved in half by the South China Sea. The peninsula is a multicultural buffet of Malay, Chinese and Indian flavours while Borneo hosts a wild jungle smorgasbord of orang-utans, granite peaks and remote tribes. Within and throughout these two very different regions are an impressive variety of microcosms ranging from the space-age high-rises of Kuala Lumpur to the smiling longhouse villages of Sarawak and the calm, powdery beaches of the Perhentian Islands. The crystal clear waters and stunning under water life makes this a fantastic place to simply snorkle or go deeper , whatever way it's high on the list of places to visit .

And did we mention the food? Malaysia (particularly along the peninsular west coast) has one of the best assortments of delicious cuisines in the world.Start with Chinese–Malay 'Nonya' fare, move on to Indian banana leaf curries, Chinese buffets, spicy Malay food stalls and even some impressive Western food. Yet despite all the pockets of ethnicities, religions, landscapes and the sometimes-great distances between them, the beauty of Malaysia lies in the fusion of it all, into a country that is one of the safest, most stable and easiest to manage in Southeast Asia.

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1 matthew caird commented on 06/10/10

Hia Axel!

My mum loves those orang utangs!
We have miss murphy this year. Jennifer left and went to sutton park. I play for malahide united now. I hope you join when you get back.
My baby sister Emilie is getting very big.

PLEASE e mail me back soon!!!
From Matthew Caird

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Thailand

Thailand

VISITING FROM: 28/07/10 — 19/08/10

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First introductions are made in Bangkok, a modern behemoth of screaming traffic, gleaming shopping centres and international sensibilities interwoven with devout Buddhism. Chiang Mai, the country's bohemian centre, is where the unique and precise elements of Thai culture become a classroom, for cooking courses and language lessons; while climbing into the mountain ranges around Mae Hong Son you'll find stupa-studded peaks and villages of post-Stone Age cultures. Sliding down the coastal tail are the evergreen limestone islands of Ko Tao and Kho Phi Phi Don, filled with tall palms angling over pearlescent sand. Thailand's beaches are stunning, hedonistic and mythic among residents of northern latitudes.

People come here as miners: first perhaps for the uniquely Western concept of R&R. And while they toast themselves to a bronze hue on the sandy beaches, they find in the daily rhythm of Thailand a tranquillity that isn't confined to vacation time. The northeast is a region better suited for homestays and teaching gigs than quick souvenir snapshots: here, you can dive deep into the Thai psyche, emerging with a tolerance for searingly spicy food and a mastery of this strange tonal language. Welcome to a life-altering experience disguised as a holiday.

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1 Una Williams commented on 15/06/10

Hi guys,the thing I love most about your photos is that they are pure and raw, no photo shop here lol, as much as I love photo shop myself,its a real gift to be able to capture the world as you guys have and very enjoyable to see. China sounds great and looks great too.Things are good here we got a bit of sun at last,went to the beach today no Lobsters or Clams though lol, kids had a ball,Josip is in Croatia at the mo but says hi to you all. I’m busy with my photos also and enjoying every min of it.,you can view them on my FB page sometime. Well you guys look well and happy,its like you have fallen in love all over again,how amazing is that..lol Its great to popin here every so often,its a captivating site keep up the great work and will be in touch again soon,big hugs, love Una xxx

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Philippines

Philippines

VISITING FROM: 12/07/10 — 30/07/10

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The second-largest archipelago in the world, with over 7000 tropical islands, the Philippines is one of the great treasures of Southeast Asia. Often overlooked by travellers because of its location on the ‘wrong’ side of the South China Sea, the Philippines rewards those who go the extra distance to reach it.

And because it's off the beaten path, the Philippines is a great place to escape the hordes who descend on other parts of Southeast Asia. First and foremost, the Philippines is a place of natural wonders – a string of coral-fringed islands strewn across a vast expanse of the western Pacific. Below sea level, the Philippines boasts some of the world's best diving and snorkelling, including wreck diving around Coron and swimming with the whale sharks off Donsol. Above sea level, it has a fantastic landscape with wonders enough to stagger even the most jaded traveller: the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, Banaue & the Rice Terraces and fascinating reminders of the islands' history in places such as Samar & Leyte and Vigan. And if you're after palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, try laidback Sipalay or flat-out party town Boracay.

Of course, any traveller who has been here will tell you that it's the people and their culture that makes the Philippines unique. Long poised at the centre of Southeast Asian trade, colonised by a succession of world powers, the Philippines is a vivid tapestry that reflects its varied cultural inheritance. And despite the poverty that afflicts much of the nation, the Filipinos themselves are among the most ebullient and easygoing people anywhere. The Philippines truly qualifies as one of the last great frontiers in Southeast Asian travel. Cross whichever ocean you need to and see for yourself.

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1 Primavesi Family commented on 13/08/10

Hi there Ring Family,

Still remember us? We´ve met in Camiguin Island in Phils. We´ve been reading your Blogs and enjoying watching your Photo Gallery, its so Awesome and amazing to see all the places you´ve visited. And we´re glad that we met you Guys in your World Tour.
Kim is extending her regards to Axel. Take care and have a nice journey =)

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2 David Evans commented on 05/08/10

Yo, when are you going to post your pics of Ballyfermot? Your blog is amazing. Your clan are amazing. Take care of yourselves out there and remember, DON’T TRUST WHITEY!

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Japan

Japan

VISITING FROM: 01/07/10 — 14/07/10

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When you hear the word 'Japan', what do you think of? Does your mind fill with images of ancient temples or futuristic cities? Do you see visions of mist-shrouded hills or lightning-fast bullet trains? Do you think of suit-clad businessmen or kimono-clad geisha?

Whatever image you have of Japan, it's probably accurate, because it's all there. But you may also have some misconceptions about Japan. For example, many people believe that Japan is one of the world's most expensive countries. In fact, it's cheaper to travel in Japan than in much of North America, Western Europe and parts of Oceania. Others think that Japan is impenetrable or even downright difficult. The fact is, Japan is one of the easiest countries in which to travel. It is, simply put, a place that will remind you why you started travelling in the first place.

If traditional culture is your thing, you can spend weeks in cities such as Kyoto and Nara, gorging yourself on temples, shrines, kabuki, ō (stylised dance-drama), tea ceremonies and museums packed with treasures from Japan's rich artistic heritage. If modern culture and technology is your thing, Japan's cities are an absolute wonderland - an easy peek into the future of the human race, complete with trend-setting cafés and fabulous restaurants. Outside the cities, you'll find natural wonders the length and breadth of the archipelago. From the coral reefs of Okinawa to the ski-resort of Niseko, Japan has more than enough natural wonders to compete with its cultural treasures. Then there's the food: whether it's impossibly fresh sushi in Tokyo, perfectly battered tempura in Kyoto, or a hearty bowl of rāmen in Osaka, if you like eating you're going to love Japan.

But for many visitors, the real highlight of their visit to Japan is the gracious hospitality of the Japanese themselves. Whatever your image of Japan, it probably exists somewhere on the archipelago - and it's just waiting for you to discover it!

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1 una williams commented on 31/07/10

Hi guys,just back from Medugorje after a month,it was amazing but hard work with the kid.We traveled around a bit and caught up with some old friends, some photos are up on my FB page if you get min. Luka was enjoying looking at your travels and the photos with me just now,he says hi to Axel.I am getting ready to put a book of my early work together I have all my old negs black and white and color slide,should be fun….
You guys must be away 6 months now are you homesick yet I was after only a month but the only thing I did not miss was the Irish weather.We popped down to the beach today it was lovely for all of 5 mins then it rained grrr,kids managed to collect more shells anyway lol…Joshua is potty training at the mo,not fun but very funny….hope you are all well big hugs Una xxx

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2 Maria and Kiko commented on 27/07/10

where are you guys? we are in kyoto?
Is there any change we see each other?

Maria and kiko

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3 Michelle Long commented on 26/07/10

Hi Axel it’s Michelle.  What is your favourite country so far?  Looking forward to seeing you in second class and hearing all about your great adventures.

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4 Una Williams commented on 15/06/10

Love this photo…

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China

China

VISITING FROM: 01/06/10 — 17/06/10

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Eagerly assuming its place among the world’s top travel destinations, even more so since Beijing took centre stage at the 2008 Olympics, China is an epic adventure. From the wide open and empty panoramas of Tibet to the push and shove of Shànghǎi, from the volcanic dishes of Sìchuān to beer by the bag in seaside Qīngdǎo, a journey through this colossus of a country is a mesmerising encounter with the most populous and perhaps most culturally idiosyncratic nation on earth.

The sheer diversity of China's terrain takes you from noisy cities fizzing with energy to isolated mountain-top Ming-Dynasty villages where you can hear a pin drop. Pǔdōng's ambitious skyline is a triumphant statement, but it couldn't be further from the worldly renunciation acted out in Tibet's distant monasteries.

Curator of the world's oldest continuous civilisation, China will have you bumping into history at every turn. But it's not just a museum of imperial relics: the frisson of development that has left China's coastline glittering with some of the world's most up-to-the-minute cities propels the land on with a forward-thinking dynamism.

And it's the people – unavoidable in their immense numbers – who provide the ceaseless drama and entertainment. Loud, garrulous and quick thinking, you'll see the Chinese squeezing onto dangerous-looking buses, walking in pyjamas around Shànghǎi or inviting each other to sit down to some of the most varied cuisine in the world. Animated by a palpable sense of pride, the Chinese are revelling in their country's ascendency. Everyone is talking about China, so why not find out what all the fuss is about?

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1 lisa commented on 10/07/10

Hi Aoibhe , Will be in the Philippines on the 12th July .....if all goes to plan !!

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2 aoibhe commented on 20/06/10

Hi guys I was just wondering if you’ve gone to the philipeans or when you’ll be going.
AOIBHE :-D

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3 Erin Moore commented on 14/06/10

Hi Axel, its Erin .sorry about the mssage that was saying silly stuff .if you even got it . the other mssage was did you go to the great wall of china if you did how long did you walk for. when I went to the great wall of china I walked 6 miles.I hope you are having a good time . from erin .

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4 Maria and Kiko commented on 12/06/10

Hi family. Remember us? We met somewhere in the Middle East, you were crossing to Lebanon and us back to Jordan. We travelling one year to look for food and you four to enjoy!:) We hadn’t been here yet, but we’re have this website is incredible…congratulations. And as we can see everything is going really fine until now…cool. We’re now in Malaysia…and it would be great if we could meet again somewhere over the world. As we could see you’ll be crossing to Japan almost at the same time we arrive in China… but we’ll keep on coming here to see if we’ll have the chance to meet in the future. We hope so. Enjoy your time, see you soon. Maria and Kiko (the portuguese eating the world)

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5 lisa commented on 05/06/10

Hi Guys , We have been trying to skype you but can’t get through .......email us when you are free for a chat !! XX Axel

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6 Darren and Aoibhe commented on 20/03/10

hi, us again we can’t wait for you to come back to Malahide and when you come to Portmarnock to visit your granny. We all miss you so much. We hope you enjoy/enjoyed all the different and some tropical places. As well as some sun. Darren is wondering did you get a new tan better than your other one? Me (Aoibhe) and Darren think you are so lucky because you are missing school and you are probale having so much fun seeing from the pictures. By the way the pictures are class and most places are really pretty.when you go to China the roofs are sort of flat so you might be able to climb on them! we miss the times you went crazy!
When are you coming home? it feels like you’ve been gone two years now!
we wonder what your doing now? Have fun
see you when you get back to Ireland!
DARREN AND AOIBHE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!zzzzzzzzzzzzzz1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!MISS YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

VISITING FROM: 11/05/10 — 18/05/10

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When the noted writer Sir Arthur C Clarke made his home in Sri Lanka in 1956, he claimed the island jewel of the Indian Ocean was the best place in the world from which to view the universe. Concealed in the sky-high imagery of this teardrop-shaped nation, he recognised an amazing diversity for somewhere so compact.

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Fringing the coasts is an array of gently arcing golden-sand beaches, now making a comeback after the devastation wreaked by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Zoom closer to spy the giant tanks (artificial reservoirs) built by the first Sinhalese rulers around the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Pollonaruwa. In the Hill Country, a layer of cotton wool clouds obscures the view, mirroring the misty mornings travellers often experience in this area of waterfalls and verdant tea plantations.

To the northwest, a gossamer-thin land bridge almost connects fragile Sri Lanka to the modern juggernaut that is India. Two and a half decades of civil war reinforces this bridge to Tamil Nadu is as much cultural as geographic.

Irrespective of their cultural background, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim locals will welcome you with pride. Pride in their criminally underrated cuisine, pride in their national parks and wildlife, and – especially – pride in their national cricket team. Whether you're a humble three-wheeler jockey or a British-trained lawyer or doctor, the sport that frequently stops the nation is always worthy of discussion. How will the boys do in the upcoming series against New Zealand? Will the country be ready to host the World Cup in 2011? And have you seen how much that opening batsman from Kandy is earning in the new Indian Premier League?

Faced with funding a war and weathering a global financial crisis, Sri Lanka's proud population has been doing it tough for a few years. But equipped with a stellar combination of scenery, culture and history, a growing focus on sustainable tourism and (hopefully) a more settled society, Sri Lanka is firmly back on the radar for curious travellers seeking unique experiences.

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1 Richard Rodgers commented on 25/02/11

Since we were talkng this morning Eric I looked up your blog. This is the first ‘port of call’ as it were since you happened to mention Sri Lanka. Christ, I’m impressed. And since I’ve been invited there….........

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2 Mila and Leon Ring commented on 16/06/10

Hi Axel and Elka,

Got your postcard the other day from Syria (took a long time to get here !!), anyhow hope you are both well, looks you are having a great time. Love your photos in Sri Lanka, looks like a place we would love to visit to chillax !! Weather is great over here at the moment which is good. My two top teeth our now wobbly (my mum says she is not looking forward to them falling out as she is scared of the gopher teeth that are going to arrive).  Met your Nana Margaret the other day we are going to send over a parcel of goodies for you when she visits you guys in July, any requests please let us know ??? We are off to France next Friday so we are looking forward to that !! When we get back it is full steam ahead with La Sirena, so looking forward to eating some Burrito’s with you when you get back !!! Say hello to A&E
Lots of love Mila & Leon XXXX

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3 Caroline commented on 02/06/10

hi guys .. it all looks so amazing , life seems to be good on the road….
All fine in dull Dublin, life moving at its normal pace ... but the sun is shinning today so happy days….

enjoy
Caroline, Rob & Oscar

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4 lisa commented on 29/05/10

Pretty serious is right . Have to say we found the locals of the south really easy going , well educated and pretty unscathed by the war . I know a lot of the problems were north of Colombo . Saying that there is still heavy security in and out of the main temples , airports and at any public gathering event there are a good few armed police . The southern population of the island are still trying to rebuild their lives after the Tsunami and that disaster is much more raw in their heads then the war up north . Hopefully , they will have a chance at peace and the country can start to rebuild itself .

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5 itchybollix commented on 23/05/10

howdy.  just noticed you’s are in sri lanka and i remembered watching this report on channel 4 news (on the left of the link) on friday.  it’s about 10 minutes long and not to bring a downer on things it’s pretty nasty, but it’s got to be aired.  on a funnier note; ronan keating - it’s true what we always said -  he is a ****! gerry ryan and ronan keating ate my hamster.


http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/international_politics/sri+lanka+option/3652687

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6 Janice Witcombe (nee Reilly) commented on 20/05/10

Wow, you are so brave but look at what you are experiencing.  Sri Lanka looks and sounds amazing - beats Malahide on a grey, May Thursday!  My kids are 17 and 9 so we have missed the boat on “doing a Ring” but it’s great to enjoy it vicariously.  Stay safe and have fun x

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Bangalore, India

Bangalore, India

VISITING FROM: 06/05/10 — 29/05/10

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Rebranded Bengaluru in November 2006, the city more commonly known as Bangalore is not an obvious charmer. The crazy traffic, associated pollution and creaking infrastructure of this IT boom town will fast drive you demented.

However, even though locals rarely sing Bengaluru's praises as a tourist destination, it's not a dead loss. There are a handful of interesting sights, the climate is benevolent, the city's reputation for green spaces is well deserved, and the youthful energy and imagination (not to mention disposable income) of the ITocracy fuels a progressive dining, drinking and shopping scene – one of the best in India, in fact.

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Delhi, India

Delhi, India

VISITING FROM: 02/05/10 — 16/03/10

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Delhi – with its tenacious touts and crush of mechanical and human traffic – can be downright confronting and confounding for the first-time visitor. But don’t let petulant first impressions muddy the plus points of this truly multidimensional metropolis. Scratch beyond the gritty surface and you’ll swiftly discover that India’s capital is sprinkled with glittering gems: captivating ancient monuments, magnificent museums, a vivacious performing-arts scene and some of the subcontinent’s yummiest places to eat.

A vibrant melting pot, you'll hear a jumble of vernaculars spoken in Delhi, the most common being Hindi, English, Punjabi and Urdu. In terms of its layout, Delhi encapsulates two very different worlds, the 'old' and the 'new', each presenting deliciously different experiences. Spacious New Delhi was built as the imperial capital of India by the British; rambunctious Old Delhi served as the capital of Islamic India. Visitors can easily dip into both, spending half the day immersing themselves in history at the dramatic Red Fort, Jama Masjid and medieval-flavoured bazaars of Old Delhi, and the other half reviving themselves over frothy cappuccinos or frosty cocktails at one of New Delhi's swanky cafés and bars. Furthermore, Delhi's recent global cuisine revolution means that hungry travellers can now feast on everything from meaty Mughlai curries and plump South Indian idlis (rice cakes), to crispy wood-fired pizzas and squishy sashimi.

For those here to catch a flight home there are some glorious last-minute shopping opportunities, with handicrafts from all around India – a real blessing if you regret not buying that twinkling mirrorwork bedspread in Rajasthan or striking Madhubani painting in Bihar.

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Goa, India

Goa, India

VISITING FROM: 21/04/10 — 13/04/10

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Swaying palms, white sands and sparkling waters: the three essential elements that attract 2 million visitors annually to Goa’s balmy shores are plentiful in this tiny, glorious slice of India hugging the country’s western coastline and bounded by the Arabian Sea.

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A solitary Portuguese outpost in India for almost 500 years, the influence of colonial rule can still be seen everywhere: in the exquisite, crumbling architecture; in the East-meets-West cuisine which combines coconut milk, palm vinegar and chillies with the refined flavours of Lisbon; in the melancholy strains of fado that still waft occasionally on the bougainvillea-scented breeze; and in the siesta-saturated joie de vivre that Goans themselves call susegad.

Nowhere else in India will you find the laid-back languidness of a Goan lunchtime, the easy charms of its people or the soothing serenity of a day on its beaches. Here in Goa, a herd of water buffalo will greet you at breakfast; a lily-covered lake might provide the scenery for your morning walk; a sea eagle will be your afternoon companion along a deserted stretch of pristine beach; a gorgeously spice-laden vindalho (vindaloo) might make your evening repast and a fiery glass of cashew-palm feni liquor your bedtime tonic.

But there's far more to discover here than the exquisite pleasure of warm sand between your toes. Pep up your stay with a wander around a vanilla-scented spice plantation, stroll the bird-filled banks of the state's gentle rivers, poke around centuries-old cathedrals, and venture out to white-water waterfalls.

All is not perfect in paradise, however, and Goa has problems aplenty – the state's environment, in particular, is sorely taxed. Nevertheless, with a slowly growing group of environmentalists and ecofriendly individuals on the scene, the picture remains relatively rosy for this most magical of miniature states. So, come, minimise your impact as much as possible, and unwind to the swaying palms and Portuguese rhythms of Goa's still-irresistible charms.

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Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan, India

VISITING FROM: 27/03/10 — 29/03/10

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From the cackle of its colour-charged cities to the luminous splendour of its sun-kissed desert, Rajasthan is romantic India wrapped in gaudy royal robes. Here the fearsome Rajput warrior clans ruled with gilt-edged swords, plundered wealth and blood-thick chivalrous codes.

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A vast and wonder-laced state with treasures more sublime than those of fable, the Land of the Kings paints a bold image. Compiling a must-see list in Rajasthan can cripple the fussy traveller: Meherangarh looming over bright blue Jodhpur, the giant gold sandcastle at Jaisalmer, the palaces and pageantry of Udaipur, Pushkar's reverent yet carnival charm, the storybook whimsy of Bundi and the havelis (traditional, ornately decorated residences) sprinkled through Shekhawati – see them all, and you'll see a month fly by faster than the express bound for Pakistan. Like a microcosm of Mother India, there's also abundant wildlife and warm people, glitz and camels, soulful music, glittering saris, tottering turbans and a surprisingly rich cuisine.

Yet Rajasthan's largely rural population has grown tired of its own backward-looking image. Jaipur, the dusty pink capital, has rapidly become a fast-paced, modern Indian city, and literacy has made a rapid rise in the region. While the land is invariably harsh and droughts are a constant menace, imaginations are now fixed firmly on the future.

The state is diagonally divided into the hilly southeastern region and the barren northwestern Great Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan – now accessible via train. The highest point is reached at the pleasant hill station of Mt Abu.

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Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

VISITING FROM: 20/03/10 — 10/03/10

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Amman is a modern Arab city rather than one of the great cultural centres of the Middle East; it has never rivalled Damascus or Cairo as a grand Islamic city of antiquity. For those arriving from Syria or Egypt it can, depending on your perspective, feel either refreshingly or disappointingly modern and Westernised.

Residents talk openly of two Ammans. Conservative and Islamic in its sympathies, Eastern Amman (which includes downtown) is home to the urbanised poor, with vast suburban Palestinian refugee camps on its fringe. Western Amman is a world apart, with leafy residential districts, trendy cafés and bars, and impressive art galleries. It's impossible to gain a full understanding of Amman, or even Jordan, without visiting both areas.

The city's character has been indelibly altered by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and, more recently, 100, 000 Iraqi refugees, most of whom are highly educated and have pushed the boundaries of a cultural life that had been kept under close rein by Islamic conservatives. Along with a young generation of Jordanians, these immigrants have helped to make Amman a tolerant and outward-looking city.

Don't come to the nation's captial with expectations of medieval souqs and bazaars, or wonderful mosques of Islam's grand architectural heritage. Do come to Amman to catch a glimpse of a modern Arab city, embracing an international and culturally diverse vision of the future. Whether you're in the urbane western suburbs, or the earthy, kinetic chaos of downtown, the welcome you'll receive is sure to be warm.

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1 lisa commented on 15/05/10

Hi Charis ,

Hope you are keeping well . How is school ....are you getting lots of homework ?

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2 lisa commented on 15/05/10

Hi Mathew ,

How are you getting on with your new baby sister .... Is she good ?
Axel would love to skype you if you have a skype account ?
XX

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3 charis waller commented on 14/04/10

hi axel and famliy youre photo’s are very good
from charis and famliy

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4 matthew caird commented on 12/04/10

Hi Axel, I got a new baby sister!!!!! I got your postcard today, your trip looks great. We look at your website to see where you are. We went back to school today, I will bring in your card tomorrow. Did you love the ruins and the desert? Was it fun being like Indiana Jones? That’s all for now,Matthew Caird and all the family

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Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon

VISITING FROM: 14/03/10 — 08/03/10

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What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster. If you're in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there's no tomorrow.

If you're standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it's a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you're with Beirut's Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you're with its handful of Jews, it's about hiding your true identity. Here you'll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you're in one of Beirut's southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it's a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you'll swear it can't be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you'll find that you've never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.

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Palmyra, Syria

Palmyra, Syria

VISITING FROM: 12/03/10 — 04/03/10

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Palmyra is Syria’s star tourist attraction and one of the world’s most splendid historical sites. Known to the locals as Tadmor (its ancient Semitic name), Palmyra’s intriguing history, along with the profusion of colonnades, temple remains and funerary towers, in a mesmerising desert oasis setting, renders visitors speechless.

The ruins, dating largely to the 2nd century AD, cover some 50 hectares and have been extensively excavated and restored. Nevertheless, archaeologists continually make new finds. In 1994, for instance, Belgian archaeologists stumbled across Roman tombs southeast of the Temple of Bel. The new town has grown around the ruins, especially towards the west, and now has more than 40, 000 inhabitants who survive on agriculture, trade and tourism.

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1 Caroline Mc commented on 24/03/10

Hi guys ...
it all looks so exicting ! and the pics are just great ...  hope you are having a wonderful time

cx

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2 una Williams commented on 13/03/10

Well all I can say is WOWWWWWand love the photos amazing…..wish I was there….will make a point of doing so in the future…. thanks u guys ......

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Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

VISITING FROM: 11/03/10 — 14/03/10

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The village that has sprung up around Petra is Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses), formerly known as Elji but now named after the valley it follows. It's a patchy mass of hotels, restaurants and shops stretching about 5km down from 'Ain Musa to the main entrance of Petra.

After the signing of Jordan's peace agreement with Israel & the Palestinian Territories in 1994, Wadi Musa became a boom tourist town, transformed almost overnight from a small town with few visitors and a traditional Bedouin society to a sprawling competitive place overrun by visitors laden with cash. Large numbers of Israelis began to visit, along with other tourists, encouraged by moves towards peace in the region. Some locals have coped with these changes better than others.

Many locals are aware of tourists flocking to Petra with big wallets and little time and this is one of the few places in Jordan where you'll get consistently overcharged.

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1 Una commented on 22/03/10

Love all your photos….Una xx

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Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

VISITING FROM: 11/03/10 — 14/03/10

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The village that has sprung up around Petra is Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses), formerly known as Elji but now named after the valley it follows. It's a patchy mass of hotels, restaurants and shops stretching about 5km down from 'Ain Musa to the main entrance of Petra and a real tourist trap . The beauty is in the canyons so unless you are planning a dig a few days stay is all that is needed.

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After the signing of Jordan's peace agreement with Israel & the Palestinian Territories in 1994, Wadi Musa became a boom tourist town, transformed almost overnight from a small town with few visitors and a traditional Bedouin society to a sprawling competitive place overrun by visitors laden with cash. Large numbers of Israelis began to visit, along with other tourists, encouraged by moves towards peace in the region. Some locals have coped with these changes better than others.

Many locals are aware of tourists flocking to Petra with big wallets and little time and this is one of the few places in Jordan where you'll get consistently overcharged.

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Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria

VISITING FROM: 01/03/10 — 12/03/10

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Legend has it that on a journey from Mecca, the Prophet Mohammed cast his gaze from the mountainside onto Damascus but refused to enter the city because he wanted to enter paradise only once – when he died. In a place that vies for the title of the world’s oldest continually inhabited city, this is but one of thousands of stories.

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With its position as the first stop for travellers from the east, and with the Barada River flowing down freely from the mountains where the Prophet stood, Damascus has always been a coveted capital. The machinations of those wishing to claim the city as their own is as fascinating as the wealth of architecture and culture they left behind, with Damascus collecting the calling cards of myriad civilisations. There is hardly a city in the world that has packed so much history into such a small space as the Old City. Thankfully, the Old City is still the Damascus that sustains the romantic notion of the Orient, filled with bazaars and blind alleys, minarets, mosques and fountain courtyards, street-cart vendors and coffeehouses.

While the Barada may not flow as it once did, today Damascus is finding a new spring of life. Boutique hotels now flourish in delightful old Damascene addresses, restaurants refine what is one of the world's most complex cuisines, and art galleries are riding an incoming tide of creativity. There is a new modern sophistication in the city, but for those looking for the Damascus of countless stories, it's still right where it's always been.

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Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo, Syria

VISITING FROM: 25/02/10 — 28/02/10

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While Damascus was always the ‘holy’ city, the seat of rulers and wary of foreigners, Aleppo (or Halab as it is known), Syria’s second city, has been one of commerce since Roman times. While both cities claim the title of ‘oldest continually inhabited city in the world’, it’s in Aleppo that the legacy of history feels more immediate.

Aleppo today retains that air of an Arabian bazaar city, with people going about business as they have done for centuries. The streets speak a rhythm of sounds – from horse-drawn carts over cobblestones to the more frenetic pace of donkey-riding couriers, still the fastest way through the atmospheric, labyrinthine souq that's fragrant with olive soap, exotic spices, roasting coffee and succulent grilled shwarma.

While Aleppo may not bustle as it did when it was a key stop on the Silk Road, the relative lack of big investment has actually done the city a favour. The World Heritage–listed Old City was saved from irreparable damage by not succumbing to modernisation. Today it is without doubt a fragile treasure, but a new breed of local investors and entrepreneurs have been wisely spending money to immaculately restore some old city treasures. A plan is in place to restore all of the historic buildings in the Old City – still a thriving centre with more than 100, 000 residents. This new wave of preservation has brought boutique hotels and restaurants and has not only saved some classic buildings, but has also given the visitor a real feel for the city as it once was.

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1 darren, amy, aoibhe commented on 20/03/10

Hi Axel we were looking at your pictures.  Hope you are having a great time.  The countries look amazing.  We miss you the army man on the road. 

Do you have skype. Darren has skype at his house now. If you do we could skype some time.

We are playing football, rugby and our bikes and scooters and skake boards. Karl Murphy fot a new dog called Molly.  It is a labrador and it’s black.  It is 11 weeks old now.  Darren spotted smoke coming from the Ryan’s car.  He ran and got Joe the Dad.  The electrics in the back door panel was where the smoke came from.  The tow truck came and took it away.  Everyone was safe and they now have a newer car.  It is warm and sunny playing out now.  Darren is writing a war story. He reads every night Michael Morpugo is his favourite author now.

Have a great time on your adventure.  Enjoy your trip. We will keep in contact with you.

Darren,

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2 sharon commented on 16/03/10

Hey guys!  You look like you’re having an amazing time!  You lucky ducks..nothing special to report…stay cool xx

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Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

VISITING FROM: 20/02/10 — 22/02/10

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Those troglodytes sure knew what they were doing when they decided to lay down their hats and call Cappadocia home. Deep in the heart of the country, they settled within the lunar-like landscape and burrowed their houses and churches into stone cliffs and their cities underground. In so doing, they provided a still-cogent example of the simplicity and sense of living at one with nature rather than imposing upon it.

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These days the cave dwellers are predominantly tourists staying in cave hotels who have been drawn to this part of Turkey by its surreal scenery, wealth of ancient churches and unparalleled opportunities for adventure activities. Where else can you float over the fairy chimneys in a hot-air balloon in the morning, admire Byzantine frescoes in the afternoon and sample fine food and wine at night? Let alone take a spectacular hike through a rose-tinted gorge, indulge in a frenzy of shopping at a covered bazaar dating from Ottoman times and see dervishes whirl in an atmospheric caravanserai. It's this mix of attractions that makes Cappadocia such a compelling tourist destination – there truly is something here for everyone.

Let's be clear, though. The true joy of Cappadocia doesn't come courtesy of its wealth of boutique hotels, its spectacular sunsets, its world-class hiking or its warm and welcoming locals. Instead, it stems from the fact that life still follows a village rhythm here, far removed from the wannabe jet-set lifestyle of the Mediterranean tourist resorts or the marvellous mayhem of İstanbul. This is a place to enjoy at your own pace.

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1 Aodh commented on 04/04/10

Love the evil eye tree!

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2 una williams commented on 30/03/10

The photos just keep getting better and better you guys….will catch up with you later dashin out just now…..

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3 Darrell, Berni & Buí commented on 29/03/10

Brilliant set of pics. Getting a real sense of what you guys are experiencing.  Elka looks particularly happy! What she eating? Take care and keep living the dream!

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4 Catherine Kearney commented on 25/03/10

Hi Everyone,  It all looks so fantastic. I am really enjoying reading about your travels and seeing all the photos.  Good to see all of you looking so well and happy.  Keep up the good work it’s really interesting for those of us stuck at home…

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5 Una commented on 22/03/10

Love this photo very much….The way its lit is beautiful…keep up the good work….

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Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

VISITING FROM: 15/02/10 — 19/02/10

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Istanbul is hot. And we’re not talking about the weather. These days, there are more happening restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs around town than there are exquisite Ottoman mosques (and that’s a lot). The international fashion and design press have been talking up İstanbul ad nauseam, but the most significant thing about the accolade ‘World’s Hippest City’ is that İstanbullus themselves have come believe it.

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The creeping sense of decrepitude that had fallen like a pall over their once-all-powerful home town has vanished, replaced by a sense of energy and innovation not seen since the days of Süleyman the Magnificent.

The city’s over-abundance of important historic buildings and exciting new art galleries and museums provides visitors with more than enough to see during the day, but it’s at night that the place swings into high-velocity, mega-stylish action. Locals are flocking to see and be seen at an ever-growing array of bars, clubs and restaurants, bringing with them an infectious sense of joie de vivre and a discerning ability to judge these places on their standard of service, drinks, music and food as well as their position in the what’s-hot-and-what’s-not stakes.

That’s not to say that the locals are turning their backs on much-loved city institutions such as the rakı-soaked meyhane (tavern) or tranquil çay bahçesi (tea garden), because they wouldn’t dream of doing anything so foolish. They know, after all, that such institutions are one of the reasons that their home is – and always has been – rightfully dubbed the ‘City of the World’s Desire’.

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1 Aodh O'Byrne commented on 04/04/10

Hi Eric. Great reading your comments. I went to Istanbul a couple of years ago myself and it’s definitely one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited. And yes, very cool place too! It’s one of those places that I really felt I could live in. Will certainly go back one of these days. Maybe in summer, as I was there in spring and it was pretty cold at night. I’d love to sit in one of those very trendy designer bars on the 14th floor of some building overlooking the Golden Horn on a hot summer’s night!

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This way round!