/ postcards

Welcome to the travel section of bubblebeach. This is the space reserved as an area dedicated to the many places in this world that have had a rich effect on me.  I enjoy travelling, I get a huge kick from airports, train stations and any where that leads to the unknown.   Its important to travel. Enjoy!

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – I was in Riyadh as a young child, my father worked there and so I had the oppurtunity to travel to the middle east from a very young age (4 upwards to around 12). This was an invaluable experience and has taught me many of life’s lessons. Many of my childhood memories from Saudi Arabia are happy ones and I felt very welcome in such a beautiful country. Should I be lucky enough to travel back one day, I’d love to visit the apartments, friends, swimming pools, shopping areas & endless desert I left behind sadly when the first war in the gulf began in 1992.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico – We visited Mexico as a 21st birthday gift, I know. fantastic! My beautiful girlfriend (now wife) treated us to a summer break in the most relaxed place on earth. We were staying in an all-inclusive resort which consequently resulted in us both putting on a stone in weight before returning. The people in Mexico are very welcoming and are the happiest bunch I’ve met. It was 2 weeks spent under a scorching Caribbean sun, dipping in the ocean every day, sailing across the ocean in catamarans, swimming with dolphins, sipping corona and cocktails every night.

Havana, Cuba – A two week break in Cuba allowed us to travel into the timeless city of Havana. I had spent a year polishing up on my spanish after a brief time in the Yucatan coast of Mexico wishing I could converse in this beautiful language. There are a few things I need to mention about Havana, The music you will hear at every street corner and restaurant making you dance, the smell of cigars and petroleum that are all around you everywhere you go and the constant pestering by locals who are constantly looking to earn a quick dollar.   As a city there is nowhere else like it; Mojitos, Daquiris, Crystal beer, Montecristo and Cohiba cigars, Che Guevara murals around every corner and the picturesque Malecon.

Arizona, USADuring my time as a music minister for a youth ministry based in Glasgow I was able to travel to Arizona for a lifeteen conference. Arizona itself is an extremely dry, hot place. The desert surrounding Sedona and Nevada is exactly as it looks in the movies, desolate, dry and full of cacti. Phoenix is like any city, bustling with people and built up with skyscrapers and rotating restaurants, however the road out to Sedona was amazing. On a road trip we passed through deserts full of Saguaro Cacti and sipped cold Corona with lime wherever we stopped. Paradise!

Islay, Scotland – We visited this wonderful island in the spring of 2011, my wife and I decided to travel around the island sampling whisky and camping.   We did this all by bicycle to be on the open road and to take in as much of the outdoors as possible.  It was fantastic.  We visited almost all the distilleries and had a tour of each (with accompanying dram – this made the cycling more fun).   The people on Islay were a great friendly bunch and often were quick to give a wave as they passed on the roads.   We were extremely lucky with the weather on this trip and had three days of glorious hebridean sunshine, which I understand is quite rare.  for more see here

Barra, Scotland – A fleeting visit over to the Outer Hebrides on a camping and cycling adventure with Joni and Amélie.  We arrived late off the ferry and had one day to travel the entire island, it was fun and we were absolutely amazed with the beauty of the place.   The beaches were worth the trip and we spent some time at the airport (on the beach) and managed to catch a plane take off.   A mysteriously silent and beautifully wild island.  Would love to go back and visit Vatersay next time.   More here. . 

Arran, ScotlandWe visited Arran and had unfortunate weather, it rained heavily for the entire day and we were forced to travel the island by public bus.   We sat (the only passengers) on the bus and the driver took us around the island and gave us a quick tour, we could see nothing.    In 2013 as I took up road cycling, my friend and work colleague Alasdair decided to cycle the island, and thankfully we were graced with some fantastic dry sunny weather on that day.   A beautiful island that does indeed live up to its name ‘Scotland in Miniature’.  More here. 

Highlands, Scotland – A place I constantly return to, lying at the base of the Cairngorm mountains and home to many childhood trips up into the highlands in hired and often unreliable cars. Weather in Aviemore is extreme at best: either blistering hot or subzero. A town centre that makes you feel like an idiot if you’re not sporting the latest Gore-tex or Berghaus. Glenmore Lodge is now 60 years old and is often where i stay w hen I travel up to Aviemore – I actually had my Stag party in Aviemore before getting married in 2008.

Taize, France – We travelled to Taize on a pilgrimage from my high school. Its an amazing life changing ecumenical community in the southern regions of France. Set up by Brother Roger (a saintly figure) who was an exceptionally peaceful man. The place itself is based round the main church which has 3 services per day: Morning Prayer, afternoon prayer & evening prayer. These services are all sung in 4 part harmony in most languages to accommodate the 5000 young people that travel there every year, all through the year.

Paris, France – For my girlfriend’s 21st birthday I booked a trip to Paris. We went a few days after her birthday in March, it was a great time to visit the city (even if it rained the whole time). A friend of ours was just back and was an invaluable help to the planning of the break. For a 4 day break we managed to cram all of the sights in; Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Montmartre and Moulin Rouge, The Lourve, Musee d’Orsay, Boat ride down the Seine. As it was a birthday trip we took loads of cool arty black and white pictures with a camera before they all went digital – yes we used a spool. It was a great trip though I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the food all that much. Will go back one day I think.

Valetta, Malta – We visited Malta with my girlfriend’s parents, it was the first holiday abroad I had been on since Cyprus after our time in the Middle East. A great trip it turned out to be. We visited some of the crystal clear blue lagoons around the island and sampled some delicious food. On my mother in law’s request we travelled up the mountain of stairs into Valetta where we wondered around in the scorching heat eating Ice cream.

Limassol, Cyprus – Upon leaving Saudi Arabia we stopped for 2 weeks in Cyprus – we landed in Larnaca and had a taxi ride from a guy called Steve that had the pleasure to taxi around Julio Inglesias on his last trip to Cyprus. He was really happy about this, as was my mum. Spending a week in Limassol at the Pefkos hotel near the beach was paradise – then the second week we spent in Paphos which was much more remote and gave my brother and I the chance to stay up all night playing computer games with the family we were staying with. Beautiful country and friendly locals, Its the greek way.

Sidari, Crete – Sidari was exactly what we wanted on our first real trip away abroad ourselves, it was a quiet little Greek hideaway with a busy art of town within walking distance. I think it was this trip that possibly made me fall in love with Greece, the speed of life, the food, the people and obviously the weather. As an Island I liked Crete, It seemed small enough to be friendly and large enough that you could spend a while exploring.

Gouves, Corfu – We travelled to Gouves the year after Crete and to be honest we were a little disappointed when we returned, we had a great holiday there and seen lots of Corfu, ate like kings & queens, basked in the sun etc etc. It just didn’t seem as friendly or as clean as Crete. The fact that our apartments were quite a bit away from anything never really bothered us then, we walked in and out to the tavernas at night, sometimes even hired bicycles and took 2 wheeled transport in.

Kefalos, Kos – Probably the best place in the world I have been, the main reason I keep going back. This little Greek fishing village on the island of Kos is the ideal hideaway. Its also where I got engaged and where we then travelled for our honeymoon. Relaxing surroundings, amazing food & drink, Since visiting Kos i have the dream that one day I will live there in a small flat near the ocean. I hope this dream comes true! More here

Medugorje, Croatia – We travelled in a pilgrimage to Medugorje with friends from the youth ministry we were involved in. It was a long trip with a bus journey that split both the journey and the countries up; every 50 or so miles there would be a passport check as we passed from Bosnia to Croatia and back to Bosnia. We Arrived in Medugorje in the middle of the night went straight to bed. The village itself is a beautiful quaint little place that has incredible surroundings including the statue of the risen Christ.

Seville, Spain – Being lucky enough to work at something I enjoy allows me to travel sometimes – this trip to Womex 2007 was exactly that. A colleague and I caught the plane to Malaga in late September and then the train with other members of the Scottish music crew into Sevilla. It was really a working trip but much time was spent in and around the main part of the city and the old town. I managed to get away for bits of sight seeing and made Mass on the Sunday morning before leaving to come home again. Food and drink was great and people were friendly – Speaking Spanish on this trip really helped us.

Barcelona, Spain – January 2011 was a great year for visiting cities in Europe for us, we planned our three day trip to Barcelona coming after our visit to Rome.  A wonderful place and jam packed full of interesting people.   We were blown away by the market place off the track from Las Ramblas, I think it was La Boqueria?  Also we were fortunate to be able to not only visit the Camp Nou but to also witness a game first hand; FC Barcelona Vs Malaga.  Barcelona won, obviously!  There is no way of returning from this beautiful city with the mention of Antoni Gaudi – his work is everywhere.  We enjoyed in particular; Casa Mila, Casa Batillio and the Sagrada Famillia.   I would say Barcelona is quite a modern city and has become globalised in ways I didn’t expect – I suppose coming straight from the ancient city of Rome, this was always going to be the case.

Milan, Italy – We decided to visit Milan after finding cheap flights to Bergamo (which in itself is a beautiful place). A very expensive and classy city as you would imagine with it being the fashion capitol of the world Milan is full of very well dressed people. One of the things that strike you in Milan is the part of the day after work and before dinner when all the Milanese visit local bars where they have a Campari or Espresso before heading home for dinner. A great custom.   We travelled into Bergamo for the day which was around 1 hr train ride from Milan. The town of Bergamo is split into citta-alto and citta-basso, high and low basically. The high part is like old cobbled Italy with great restaurants serving super food and wine, whereas the low part is the main residential part where people live and work.

Turin, Italy – In September 2010, I had the opportunity to attend the ACESS! conference for the European Music Council Youth Project.  This was a chance to work on a manifesto to support youth music projects all over Europe.   It was a fantastic trip and resulted in making lots of interesting friends from all over the globe.  The city itself is surrounded by the Swiss Alps, this makes the flight extremely breath-taking and beautiful (both on take off and on landing).   I had some time to myself at either end of the conference so I had a chance to take in some of the city.  It was mostly at night when I would wander around Turin – sampling coffee, red wine, campari and pasta dishes.   I also managed to visit the stadium and see Juventus Vs Bari on the final day.   A wonderful italian city full of winding streets and cloistered piazzas.  Whats not to like! More info here

Rome, Italy – We visited Rome in January 2011 on a trip just after New Year.  It was a great time to see the city and we were very lucky with the weather, it was sunny and dry the entire time we wandered the streets, taking in the sights, enjoying the coffee and photographing every building we past.   The trip into Vatican City could easily taken our whole trip – we loved spending time in St. Peter’s square, rushing through the Vatican museums to reach the Raphael rooms and the breathtaking Sistine Chapel.   On our final two days we managed to spend some time in and around the Colosseum, which was an incredible structure that leaves you feeling quite emotional as you exit. 

Dublin, Ireland – No doubt about it, the best pizza I have ever eaten is from this place (see pic). Its called Di Fontaines and belongs to Huey Morgan (of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals). A delicious pepperoni pizza I had and it was simply unforgettable. Dublin is an expensive city to live, eat, drink and shop in. We were there for a weekend and managed to do all the usual things like visit the Guinness factory and sample the great black nectar at the bar on the top floor. I was quite upset by a tourist who thought it was acceptable to ask for some black currant cordial to pollute the perfect black glass he had been given. disgust! Another memorable moment in Dublin was the multi coloured doorways that are around the city, a good way to brighten up a street using a tin of gloss.

Prague, Czech Republic – We’ve just returned from a few days break in the beautiful city of Prague.   We spent most of the time wandering the winding streets around the Old Town and the Charles Bridge.    What a fascinating city with buildings that seem to contain something different to stare at every time you look at them, whether its the colour of the actual paintwork or masonry, the ornamental iron work, graffiti, or simply the shape or design of the building its truly fascinating.    We enjoyed the beer, the food, the toy museum, and the unique shops and streets.   I even woke up around 6am on the final day to get some photographs of the dawn breaking.  More here

Warsaw, Poland – A real contrast of a city, complete mixture of old and new.   The wide roads of the modern side of the city meet the and narrow cobbles of the old town and ‘new town’.   We spent five days and managed to see most of the excellent sights including the Zoo, and the nearby park Lazienki Park.   I even managed to catch a glimpse of the President of Finland as he placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Saxon Park.   We loved the city, and the food, the beer and the vodka.   Personal favourites were the Zubrowka, Chopin and the Cherry Wisinowka, and Walnut Wisinowka.   Joni was pregnant on this trip so not too much Vodka for her.    Some photographs from the trip here on my flickr. 

Wroclaw, Poland – The second city I have visited in Poland, and I couldn’t help but compare it to Warsaw.   A beautiful selection of squares around the old part of town, some beautiful architecture and areas around the University and I had the opportunity to take free bicycle hire from the hotel I was staying in so I made my way along the river and over to the cathedral, the Japanese Gardens and back along.   The weather was spectacular and I managed to make the most of my final day after the European Music Conference that I was attending.

Gdansk, Poland – We had a difficult year, between various family things, moving house and all the things that come with that.   We decided to head to Gdansk and take Joni’s parents with us, they had been fantastic and supportive throughout the year and we wanted to say Thanks, but also because they’d mentioned they’d like to visit Poland.   So, we took the two kids and the inlaws.   It was the first time I’d ever used Air B&B and I must say, it was a success.   The people we rented the apartment from were more than accommodating and helpful before we arrived and as we left in the taxi they booked for us.    As a city, it felt much smaller than Warsaw, although we only stayed in Gdansk itself and never ventured to the other two parts of the 3City.   We  went to Oliwa for the day, visited the WWII Museum on its opening day and did most of the main sites.

Riga, Latvia – Another wonderful trip to a European Music Council forum, this time on Access to Digital Music.   Even through the conference was a little bit behind the times in terms of content, I liked the city and managed to get to meet some great new people and also catch up with some old faces.    Riga is a small city full of beautiful people, old style building and ornate architecture. Some of the city really reminded me of Prague and Warsaw, and the beer was fantastic too.    We also had the pleasure of visiting Cesis, and taking part in a Medieval feast in the 15th Century castle grounds.   More photographs here. 

Frankfurt, Germany – It was absolutely freezing in Frankfurt, we arrived at around 2 or 3am in the morning and walked to our hotel through frozen streets and a blizzard type wind with no snow (Probably too cold to snow). The city itself was good, it sometimes receives a bad reputation for being very uptight due to it having a huge financial district. I never really noticed this side of Frankfurt. I noticed that it was completely desolate with no tourists or locals, they all seem to travel back home in the winter and only work in Frankfurt. Also the local Apflel Weinn (Apple Wine) is worth sampling.

Berlin, Germany – We visited Berlin for a friend’s Stag doo in January 2009, It was bitter cold but we still managed to brave the winter to visit some of the sites during the marathon partying. Its the most liberal city I have visited and shows great differences throughout the city. The most obvious thing about Berlin for me was the great public rail service and the fact that it never stops -trains throughout the entire night bringing the Berlinners / Scots back from night clubs.

Cologne, Germany – This trip was really a tour for the music ministry, we were asked to play at a Christian Conference in Cologne and I was asked to be a speaker on the importance of leading a good music ministry in the Catholic Church. The trip was great and it was good to see another part of Germany. We visited Cologne, and Heidleberg. The Cathedral (Döm) that I played in the ministry in was absolutely mind blowing – It was so large and over-powering, It actually felt like one of the famous scenes in Lord of the Rings where there are orcs chasing the hobbits along a huge passageway.

Talinn, Estonia – In September 2011 another opportunity to travel with my job arrived, this time to Estonia to present the youth music projects I have been involved in working on: this presentation was on “Teaching Informal music using technology”.   It was part of the European Music Council (EMC) and meant I could catch with some of the friends I had made the previous year.  The city was quite small in terms of what I was expecting but completely beautiful.  There were cobble streets, turrets, excellent coffee houses, large squares full of exciting people.  For more see here