Posts Tagged ‘young travellers’

Mystics & Healing: Bath & Stonehenge

Monday, August 8th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

Like many an Antipodean in London it’s taken me awhile to get out of the city and visit the UK’s sights.

I’ve travelled to the Continent many a time, but until now have failed to explore my own backyard.

Two of my new favourite spots are Bath and Stonehenge in Somerset, South West England.

The Roman Baths is a well-preserved Roman site once used as a public bathing house and now a key tourist attraction at the centre of the town it gives its name to - Bath.

The Great Bath

The Great Bath

The thermal pools and a fascinating museum are housed within a beautiful Victorian reception hall.

At the heart of the building is the Sacred Spring. The 46°C water rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 litres every day and has been doing this for thousands of years.

In Roman times a great Temple was built next to the spring in 60-70 AD dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva, a deity with healing powers.

However, it was the Celts who first discovered the scared site, building a shrine to the goddess Sulis before the Roman temple was constructed.

In Roman times, visitors would throw offerings to the gods or curses into the thermal waters - about 130 curse tablets have been found many related to thieves who stole of clothes while visitors were bathing.

The Terrace is lined with statues of Roman Governors, Emperors & military leaders.

The Terrace is lined with statues of Roman Governors, Emperors & military leaders.

Aside from worship, people came to the baths to relax and treat a variety of ailments.

Sadly you can’t take a dip in the water these days because of high lead levels (thanks to the original working pipes) and the risk of infections.

Oh, and the lovely green colour is caused by algae that grows in sunlight.

Now it’s time to head further back in history to a strange and mystical past.

Located near Salisbury in the Wiltshire countryside, Stonehenge is found in the most unlike of locations

Driving up the A303 motorway I caught my first glimpse of the famous landmark, standing in a large paddock surrounded by rolling green pastures filled with grazing sheep.

Despite the masses of tourists, Stonehenge remains a spooky and impressive sight - you can forget ever finding me there at night time!

Spooky Stuff in Stonehenge

Spooky Stuff in Stonehenge

This ancient monument dates from 3,700 to 1,600 BC. The tallest stone is 7.3m high and weighs over 45 tonnes! That sure is some heaving lifting!

The origins of Stonehenge are shrouded in mystery. The significance of its alignment with the rising and setting of the sun has puzzled many a scholar -was it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or a ancient calendar?

An even more fundamental, but no less intriguing question is how exactly did the prehistoric Britons move the massive bluestones across land and sea from West Wales to their current resting place in the West of England?

So what are you waiting for! Get off your butts and check out what England and the UK have to offer!

If you want to explore Bath, Stonehenge and much, much more check out these Topdeck trips.

Stonehenge & Bath Day Trip

Celtic Trail 2011

Britain and Ireland Explorer

The Madness of The Edinburgh Festival with Diane Spencer

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

Which festival combines a grand military showcase with music, theatre, fireworks, comedy and the bizarre? None other than the Edinburgh Festival!

Made up of 12 different festivals including the Military Tattoo, International Festival and Fringe, Edinburgh is world’s largest cultural event.

During festivities the city’s main street, the Royal Mile, becomes a Mecca for performers as every bar, restaurant and available space is transformed into a venue for arts of all kinds.

On the back of a 4 star review at last year’s Fringe, British (and one time Kiwi) comedian Diane Spencer will be entertaining the crowds with her latest hilarious (and sometimes shocking) offering - All-pervading Madness.

Topdeck sat down with Di to chat about her experiences in Edinburgh…

How many times have you performed at Fringe?

This is my third annual visit in a row - third time’s a charm they say too. This year better pull something special out!

What makes the Edinburgh Festival so unique?

It’s the largest arts festival in the world, in the hilliest place in the world, which means that you get a fair amount of walking in. Though I wonder how disabled access friendly it is. There are lots of steps and I’ve seen some muscular dudes in wheelchairs pushing the “long way” round up slopes.

Anyway (totally distracted) - the city of Edinburgh is also beautiful, historic - there’s the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and because this festival operates at many tiers, you can usually find something to meet your budget. You can splash out and go see loads of famous comedians in big beautiful venues or you can plunder through the free Fringe programme. It’s really unique because it’s so large, there’s something for everyone.

Best Edinburgh Fest experience?

That day I got my first four star review. My Mum sent me the text all in capitals with the word “FANTASTIC!” She was really proud, I was so chuffed. It was lovely - because that’s like an end of year exam, or a job appraisal. You’ve been working so hard all year and then you get examined!

Worst Edinburgh Fest experience?

A couple of boys stole my phone and purse from my bag when I was onstage. It was such a violating feeling. Then to have to go to the police station, cancel all my cards, and it was raining of course. You just have to keep an eye on things.

What have been some of your festival highlights?

I’ve seen so many brilliant performances from a variety of sources - some in the theatre, but once, I was walking up the Royal Mile, it was oddly a quiet time of night, and suddenly the sky exploded in fireworks and I sort of just fell in love with the feeling and stood there on the street just being the happiest person on the planet.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform?

I enjoy Asher Treleaven, an Aussie Comic. Also like vintage diva Lili La Scala. The Boy with Tape on his Face has a new show too, and he’s a Kiwi. I’ll definitely catch Carey Marx’s new show - I’ve sort of made it a tradition to see his show each year. Oo, and Nick Helm, he’s always good fun.

Where do you go to get a bite to eat?

For the ultimate steak, but obviously at a price, you have to go to the Scotsman Hotel brasserie. Proper HUGE bit of

cow. In terms of amazing coffee - the Wellington Coffee house on George Street. They also do really nice warm scones with jam and clotted cream.

What are your must-see sights in Edinburgh?

Just by walking around this beautiful city you come across really interesting and wonderful items. I did take a trip into the Edinburgh Dungeons one year - that was gruesome but fun.

Why should people come and see you?

Because I am hilariously funny, silly, rude, naughty and funny AGAIN. Also this year I won an award, the Chortle Best Newcomer 2011, and then this show, which I’m performing at Edinburgh now, was nominated for “Best Comedy (Emerging)” at the Adelaide Fringe Awards. So I’m funny now!

Tell us a joke….

I’ll have to invoice you for that if I do.

If you’d like to get in on the Edinburgh action join us on our Tattoo & Festival trip departing 26 August and get 20% off!

Diane Spencer: All-pervading Madness

Venue: Gilded Balloon

Dates: 3-28 Aug (no show on the 16th)

Time: 5.45pm

Why would you go to Venice?

Friday, July 29th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

“Four days in Venice, isn’t that a little long?”

“Well, it’s more like three days, four nights…”

“You know it’s full of tourists, locals who will scam you and it smells, right?!”

And that is how one conversation went when I told an acquaintance we were off on a summer holiday to the famous Floating City. Had we overestimated the time we’d need? Was it going to be one big stinking hot mess? What had we gotten ourselves into?!

Luckily for us, said acquaintance couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the moment I first stepped foot in Cannaregio, the northernmost of Venice’s six historic districts, I was in love.

Ahhh, Venice

Ahhh, Venice

It was well after 11pm when we dropped out luggage at the hotel and despite the fun of budget airline travel we were ready to hit Venice’s cobbled streets!

But before we could go anywhere I was in desperate need of a gelato and thankfully (dangerously) there was an amazing gelato shop right at the door of our hotel *bliss*.

We had arrived in town on the eve of Festa del Redentore (more about that later) so the streets were fairly deserted as we strolled over the famous canals for the first time.

However, come the morning the city was buzzing.

Traffic Jam: Venice Style

Traffic Jam: Venice Style

Travellers of all ages and all nationalities wandered up at down the streets while men opened their stalls selling souvenirs and replicas of traditional Venetian masks and Murano glass.

It’s fairly easy to spot the authentic stuff – they are usually found in dedicated stores and have price tags that reflect the quality.

With nowhere in particular in mind we made our way slowly into the middle of the island.

I would recommend spending at least one day getting totally lost, wandering up and down the thousands of small alley ways that sprawl across the city.

They are also a great escape from the crowds and the hot summer sun.

Making our way into the heart of Venice, we followed the official (and handmade) signs showing the way to Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge and were joined by an ever increasing number of fellow travellers.

The square is massive and in the blazing midday sun we were grateful for the shade from the shop front canopies.

Chilling in Piazza San Marco

Chilling in Piazza San Marco

If you’re tired of walking, or fancy doing some sightseeing from the water, the best way to get around is by waterbuses (vaporetti).

That night after take a rather long detour on a vaporetti we found ourselves on the island of Dorsoduro right in the middle of Festa del Redentore celebrations.

Hundreds of tables filled with big Italian families ran the length of the canal looking out across to the city centre. They feasted on giant plates of local food (it smelt so good!) and glasses of wine. Grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles and cousins singing, dancing and gossiping the evening away, waiting for the main event – the fireworks!

And what a display!

For at least 45 minutes pyrotechnics took over the city. Colours lit up the night sky and booming explosions echoed around the ancient street – if you didn’t know better you’d swear it was a war zone!

Festa del Redentore = Fireworks!

Festa del Redentore = Fireworks!

The following day we tried a bit of island hopping, Venice style. First stop, Murano.

Famous for its glasswork, the island was largely empty on the Sunday we stopped by.

Still, there were plenty of opportunities to pick up pieces of jewellery and take in the sights.

It was a recommendation from a colleague that proved to be one of my trip highlights - the island of Burano

Every Venetian lagoon seems to be famous for something, and in Burano’s case it is lacework and rainbow coloured buildings – my kind of place!

The first thing you see when getting off the boat is a rather frightful looking wailing woman – no idea what she represents, but it can’t be nice.

Why is she so upset?

Why is she so upset?

Thankfully your eye is quickly caught by the brilliant red building to your left and from there you can’t help but smile at the array of pinks, blues, yellows and oranges of the town.

The Rainbow Island or Burano

The Rainbow Island or Burano

Oh, and I also ate the best pizza I have had in my whole life! Cheese, mushroom, artichoke and prosciutto – delish!

Simply the Best Pizza Ever!

Simply the Best Pizza Ever!

Venetians are a lovely people – very friendly and helpful.

Despite the extraordinary lack of Italian language skills in our group we managed to get by.

As long as you can point and say hello, please and thank you you’ll be fine in this largely English speaking (or at least understanding) place.

Our final day was spent catching up on all the little things we had missed – a last stop here, a last stop there.

St Mark’s Basilica was one such destination and there in the July sun we joined a surprisingly fast moving queue to enter the 11th century church.

St Mark's Basilica

St Mark's Basilica

Many European churches still enforce a traditional dress code meaning men and women must cover their shoulders & knees.

I specially brought a church-suitable dress with me, but if you forget to wear appropriate attire it isn’t such a big deal as the staff will provide you with lovely papery shawls to wrap around you.

Be careful of the men on the door though – they are more like nightclub bouncers than church ushers grabbing visitors showing too much skin as they walk passed.

While it lacks the grandeur and quiet spiritual aura of St Peter’s in Rome, the interior and exterior are stunning nonetheless.

So how do you put the perfect finishing touch on a perfect holiday in Venice? With a gondola ride of course!

That's Amore - Gondola Time

That's Amore - Gondola Time

Lying back in our luxury boat it was hard not to feel like royalty gliding through the narrow canals the vaporetti can’t reach, our gondolier filling us in with bits and pieces of local history.

And that was it - what more can I say? We ate, drank and sweated our way through this magnificent island, cameras always at the ready.

Bellini, gelato, pizza and spaghetti. Fireworks, bridges, canals and history. The list goes on!

Venice, you surprised me. I didn’t expect to love you this much!

Arrivederci Venezia!

Arrivederci Venezia!

Want to see Venice for yourself? Here are a few of the Topdeck trips that take in this amazing city!

Venice Carnival

Pronto Italia 2011

Gondolas Go North 2011

Eastern Express 2011

Seven Ways to Spend Your Summer

Friday, July 15th, 2011

By Kara Segedin

Moping around the office on dismal grey London day (isn’t it supposed to be summer already?) I was wishing for some ruby slippers so I could click my heels together and say ‘I wish I was on the Med, I wish I was on the Med!”

A girl can dream, can’t she?

So I settled for the next best thing - picking the brains of Topdeck’s travel experts for some daydream inspiration!

So here goes - the London Topdeck Team’s ‘7 Suggestions for Summer’….

Sailing in Croatia

Eat, swim, tan, sleep, party and repeat.

Sign up for the ‘Pomalo’ way of life - the Dalmatian philosophy of relax, take your time and have fun. Why hurry, there’s no rush!

Where else in the world can you sit around drinking cup after cup of coffee for hours on end, simply watching the day stroll by.

Fantastic fresh food can be found all along the coast – pizza and seafood to Germanic meals and ice cream!

The best way to take in all the Adriatic has to offer is aboard a sail boat! Visit all the top island destinations including Korcula, Hvar and Mljet as well as the coastal cities of Split and Dubrovnik.

Eat, drink and sunbath until the heat gets the better of you. Finish by rolling into the clear blue waters then dry off and start all over again!

Eat Your Way Through Italy

From gelato in Venice, pizza in Rome, steak in Florence and al fresco dining and wine tasting in Tuscany, Italy is a foodie’s paradise. You’ll be pressed to find a better setting for your meals!

Originally from Naples, the world famous pizza is served throughout the country. Your mission is to find the best!

Pizza in Venice

Adrenalin in Austria

Try sky-diving, mountain biking or white-water rafting in one of the Europe’s most beautiful settings.

Austria’s famous Tyrol region has adventure activities abound.

For the slightly less adventurous hire a mountain bike and explore at your own pace.

Shot Vodka in Russia

Toast the Tsars and Commissars from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It’s your chance to get behind the Iron Curtain - checkout Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. Oh, and make sure you sample the local vodka & caviar!

Star-spotting in the French Riviera

The Côte d’Azur is dripping with glitz and glamour. Yachts, casinos and super cars - live like the rich and famous on the Mediterranean.

The Jolie-Pitts, Johnny Depp, Bono & Elton John are just some of the A-List stars who have holiday homes in this coastal resort.

Get lazy on the beach and stroll the promenades by day then try your luck at the casinos of Monaco at night!

Don Your Lederhosen for Oktoberfest

Steins, pretzels and pork knuckles. Some 6 million litres of beer will be served during the celebrations in 16 beer tents over a 103 acre site. Get your fill at Europe’s biggest festival!

Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest was first held to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. All of Munich was invited to festivities held on fields in front of the city gates called the Theresienwiese – known locally as ‘Wies’n’.

Besides the beer and Bavarian treats, there is a fairground and state-of-the-art rides and roller coasters.

Party Day and Night in Mykonos

The most cosmopolitan of the Greek Islands, Mykonos is a 24 hour party-people paradise! Groove to beach beats with the beautiful people on this amazing island.

Also, there’s plenty of relaxing, eating and shopping to be done when you need to recharge your batteries.

Get in the mood with a romantic sunset of the windmills of ‘little Venice’ or head out to the nearby island of Delos – the birthplace of the sun god Apollo.

Petra, Jordan: The Real Indiana Jones Adventure

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Topdeck Travel’s festival manager, Amelia Lawrence, gets all Indiana Jones in Jordan’s famous historical city of Petra.

When visiting the archaeological wonder of Petra, right in the heart of Jordan, it is impossible to not feel a bit like Indiana Jones. In fact, even before going through the entrance gates, I was tempted to buy a “genuine” Indiana hat from the Indiana Jones Gift Shop, right on Petra’s doorstep! Don’t call me Junior indeed!

To get into Petra requires a walk through a long, narrow gorge called al-Siq, which just adds to the drama of the approach. The gaping pink hued chasm looms over visitors, emphasising the natural beauty of this area. As you get closer to the end of the one kilometre gorge the excitement builds all around; some tourists walk slowly to eke out the process, other break into a run to reach their final destination. And that destination is the Treasury, or Al Khazneh.

Al Khazneh

Al Khazneh

The Treasury is Petra’s most famous, and most impressive, building. Carved directly into the sandstone rock face it is truly an archaeological and architectural wonder. Even the most blasé travellers would find it hard to remain unimpressed by this phenomenal building. And its location at the very end of al-Siq means that the beauty of the building is only increased by the dramatic first glimpse you catch of it, through a dark split in the sandstone, just like Indiana himself!

However, there is so much more on offer in Petra. The city gradually unfolds, boasting more and more amazing buildings, tombs and temples built into the sheet sandstone rock faces.

A climb of (only) 600 or so steps takes visitors up to the Monastery, or Ad Deir, a monumental building measuring 50 metres wide by 45 metres high, which is open for tourist to climb in, on and around at their leisure. Lookout points nearby give stunning views over the valleys and cliffs which make up this historical marvel. There are tombs upon tombs, towers and temples, and several sacrificial altars with breathtaking views of the city.

At the end of a long day, we headed back to al-Siq to make our way out of Petra, still wishing we had more time to see the rest of what this amazing city had to offer.

It was as the archaeological site was closing down that we experienced the biggest rush of the day: a chance to take our photos at the Treasury with absolutely no other tourists around. Just us, this amazing building and a lone tourist humming the Indiana Jones theme song.

For more information about Topdeck’s trips to Jordan, visit

Egyptian Adventures

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Guest travel blogger Emma Flynn shares her recent journey to Egypt with Topdeck.

I’ve been so excited about visiting Egypt for a very long time. In fact its been about 11 years or so of dreaming! Finally, At the beginning of May, after three false starts over the past 11 years, I finally realised my dreams and travelled to this amazing country.

We’ve all seen the news reports on Egypt and the revolution. I had followed the news intently, praying everything would settle down so I could travel. It did and at the beginning of April, Topdeck started operating in Egypt again after a 2 month break. I was so happy. I figured that if Topdeck were operating their trips, it was safe to travel again.

We arrived a couple of days before our tour started, and on our first day we ventured out into Cairo by ourselves. It was certainly a culture shock. Jumping into a taxi and out into the Cairo rush hour traffic was an eye opening (or tightly closed!) experience in itself. As we wandered around in the controlled chaos of Cairo, nervousness and apprehension soon melted away as we came across numerous friendly people in the street, and even walked through Tahrir Square (the scene of the January revolution), which was full of people going about their daily lives.

Our next day we were up early (the first of what would become a recurring theme!) to take the Topdeck optional excursion to Alexandria. On arrival we met our passionately Egyptian guide, Jimmy, who showed us the key sites, including the site of the famous lighthouse, the catacombs, and the new library.

Having met our trip leader the night before after returning from Alexandria, the tour began. The Egyptian museum in Cairo gave us our first taste of the ancient civilization. Most of the relics found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb are now here in the museum. It was amazing to see the jewels and possessions of the boy king. Things range from his leather shoes, jewellery, beds, under ware and even and ancient form of contraception so only his royal wife would bare him a child! The other highlight was the mummy room. In my opinion, it was well worth the additional 100 LE just to see 3000 year old people still with hair, teeth, eyelashes and fingernails!

After the museum we headed out to the last remaining wonder of the Ancient world, the Giza pyramids. We were lucky enough to be able to go inside the small pyramid. This experience alone was worth going to Egypt for!

From Cairo we headed south to Aswan to meet our boat to cruise to Luxor.

Egypt wasn’t all about the tombs and temples however. In Aswan we did get to relax by taking a felucca down the Nile, sailing past Elephantine and Kitchener islands on our way to a Nubian Village, including a stop for a dip in the Nile! We didn’t sail straight to the village, but stopped about 20-30 minutes away to climb on to a camel to take us in the rest of the way. Being on the Nile was so peaceful and relaxing, and we got to spend 3 nights aboard a 4-star cruiser. So in between all the sites we could take a dip in the pool on the sun deck, or if we were still feeling energetic, a game of ping pong.

There were a few early mornings… We were up early to visit Abu Simbel, up early to take a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings, up early to miss the heat of the sun! So many early mornings, but so very worth it!

My favourite day was probably also the busiest day! We visited the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple, Karnak and Luxor temples. We were very lucky to have visited at a time when there were not many other tourists around. It felt sometimes like we were the only people in the temple. Our Egyptologist for the day was a local called Sam. Sam seemed to have an undying love for the Ancient Egyptians. While most of us melted in the 40 something degree heat, Sam scribbled away on his clip board explaining to us the meaning of the Heiroglyphs we were looking at and drawing us a family tree of the Pharaoh’s, so we knew who’s tombs we were looking at.

Egypt was mind blowing. Never had I been on a holiday where everything was bigger and better than I had imagined. We visited (almost) every major tomb and temple across the country, but for me there were some places that stood out more than others, however the experiences will stay with me forever.

Sunbake, swim, party, sleep, repeat!

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Croatia Sailing - A day in the life of a Topdeck passenger.

By Liana Szwajlyk

Let me set the scene; waves subtly lapping against the boat, the sun high in the sky with that warm touch on your skin for ultimate relaxation, and you – lounging on deck with your new mates, followed by a dip in the sea, then onto explore a new island. Yes, I am talking about Croatia Sailing with Topdeck.

This could be your day….

9:00AM9:00am: The smell of fresh sea air, the sound of water gently lapping against the boat, the Adriatic gleaming under the waking sun....time for a delicious brekkie cooked by your onboard crew!

The smell of fresh sea air, the sound of water gently lapping against the boat, the Adriatic gleaming under the waking sun.

9:30AMCheck out that view...WOW! Now time for a delicious brekkie cooked by your on board crew!

Check out that water...WOW! Now time for a delicious brekkie prepared by your on board crew!

11:00AM A morning full of card playing with new friends, followed by a refreshing dip in the sea and sunbaking on deck. This afternoon’s destination: UNESCO World Heritage City, Dubrovnik.

A morning full of card playing with new friends, followed by a refreshing dip in the sea and sunbaking on deck. This afternoon’s destination: UNESCO World Heritage City, Dubrovnik.

3:00PMThe sun painting the water a deep jade, time to dock in Dubrovnik.

The sun painting the water a deep jade, time to dock in Dubrovnik.

3:30PMAncient fortress walls surround the Old Town, inside which, gleaming marble streets are lined with Baroque style buildings.

Ancient fortress walls surround the Old Town, inside which, gleaming marble streets are lined with Baroque style buildings. Head for the 'Place', or main square.

4:00PMWith plenty of free time to soak up the atmosphere of this stunning city, why not savour an espresso in one of many cafes? Or why not explore the back streets and alleyways, which offer countless surprises.

With plenty of free time to soak up the atmosphere of this stunning city, why not explore Dubrovnik's back streets and alleyways, which offer countless surprises. Or savour an espresso in one of the many cafes?

5:00PMDubrovnik's walls are the most intact and impressive in the Adriatic. These walls were built over hundreds of years at the end of the Middle Ages and measure more than 2km in length and stand between 5m and 25m in height, depending on which part you are looking at.

Dubrovnik's walls were built over hundreds of years at the end of the Middle Ages and measure more than 2km in length....time for some exercise!

5:30PMScale these famed walls for superb views over both the city and surrounding scenery and coastline. Not to be missed!

Scale these famed walls for superb views over both the city and surrounding scenery and coastline. Not to be missed!


Followed the signs that point to cold water, along the walls of Dubrovnik. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you come across a small hole in the castle walls. Through the hole leads you to cool cliffside hangout - a secret little bar!

6:30PMTake a plunge in the crystal clear waters below, kick back with a cocktail & nibbles or perch atop the rocks to watch the ships dreamily pass by at sunset. Truly blissful!

Take a plunge in the crystal clear waters below, kick back with a cocktail & nibbles or perch atop the rocks to watch the ships dreamily pass by at sunset. Truly blissful!

8:00PMThe Old Town at night is certainly as beautiful as it is during the day. It’s the perfect place to unwind with a glass of local wine!

The Old Town at night is certainly as beautiful as it is during the day. It’s the perfect place to unwind with a glass of local wine & incredible view!

9:00PMVenture off the worn cobblestone path and check out the small local seafood restaurants for dinner. Dalmation squid ink risotto – highly recommended!

Venture off the worn cobblestone path and check out the small local seafood restaurants for dinner. Dalmation squid ink risotto – highly recommended!

11:00PMA few ‘bucket’ style cocktails in a funky alleyway bar, anyone?

A few ‘bucket’ style cocktails in a funky alleyway bar, anyone?

5:00AMBack to the boat in time to catch the first sunrise views - tomorrow, Mljet and new horizons. That's what travelling is all about!

Back to the boat in time to catch the first sunrise views - tomorrow, Mljet and new horizons. That's what travelling is all about!

Topdeck Croatia Sailing - Sale on now, save up to 20%

Running with (or away from) the bulls!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Topdeck’s travel blogger, Liana Szwajlyk, relives her first-ever (and only!) Pamplona experience.

Singing erupts from a sea of white and red. Viva San Fermin!! It’s 8.00am. The first rocket focuses my attention, a second signals the bulls are on their way. The sea is now moving. Slow at first but running, turning, now faster as the hooves descend.

“Why am I here?” This was the thought going through my mind as I prepared for the enierro, the famous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The night before, I’d been cruising Pamplona’s bars, fuelled with Sangria induced bravado. “I’m a pretty fast runner” I thought. I could outrun a bull or two. “What the hell, I’ll give it a go.”

A few sleepless hours later, there I was standing – knees shaking – on Santo Domingo Road for what could have very well been the last day of my life. Waiting impatiently with a few hundred adrenaline seekers, my stomach churns and I now realise what actual fear feels like.

8.00 am: The sharp shot of the first cannon sounds. Some run already. Having absorbed the advice of every ‘expert’ I’ve talked to, I hold firm - until the second cannon. The crowd’s nervous tension is released as they take off.

People are yelling and hollering; it seems I’m one of them. As I start into a full-out sprint, I have a horrifying realisation: I can run only as fast as the people in front of me. At this moment, self-preservation takes over, and I switch from a running-in-sheer-terror tactic to a run-push, run-push strategy – focussing on nothing but the next step in front of me.

The roar of the crowd grows louder and the ground shakes as the bulls hurtle along the course. They’re coming. People manically scramble to save their skins. As I look to my left I realise I’m now running with the bulls, rather than away from them…

The next five minutes are a blur until the third rocket sounds.

The enceirro is over!

Happy to be alive and happy to be alive…did I say that twice?

As the bulls continued course (and are way out of sight), I decide that I’ve had enough adventure for one day and leave to share my war stories over many more glasses….well perhaps jugs, of Sangria!

Relief and celebration!!

Check out Topdeck’s 4 Day Pamplona Hotel trip and 7 Day Picador package.