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I wanted to like Dubai, I really did.  So many people had told me how amazing it was that I thought it would be a case of love at first sight.  The exotic souks, the fragrant smells, the shopping, an ancient culture intertwined with the ultra-modern world all sounded so enticing.

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Unfortunately, to me, it turned out to be like one of those really disappointing ‘must see’ Hollywood Blockbusters.  You’ve heard all the hype, read the reviews, marvelled at its accumulation of accolades and been mesmerised by the glossy trailer all in HD and vivid colour.  You just can’t wait to get there and immerse yourself in it, only to quickly come to the realisation that you would have been better off staying at home and watched a repeat of Lethal Weapon on TV.

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Whether it’s the excitement of the buskers along the Strand in London, alfresco dining at some swank café on a Parisian street, the sweet stench of the ‘Coffee’ shops in Amsterdam or the hustle and bustle of the Hawkers markets in the evening at the Marina in Singapore, all cities have their own vibe, a collective energy that sets them apart and distinguishes from all the rest.  And that’s what I found missing in Dubai.  Under its sparkly veneer of ultra-modern shopping centres and high-rises there was….. nothing, a  city of indifference, seemingly devoid of soul, of energy, lacking in enthusiasm, with no sense of purpose where few people smiled and even fewer laughed.

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A final few photos from our cycling adventure through Holland and a mixed bag at that.  A life size version of Noah’s Ark (that actually floats and tours around the country), wild horses, practice bombs from WWII and more ‘out there’ buildings.   I hope we get the opportunity to get back there again someday and explore more of this amazing country.

 

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 I love the way photography can inspire you to do great things. I took this shot one evening while out strolling by myself. When I reviewed it on the camera’s LCD I thought how nice it would be, to be sitting quietly in some far away land, under the trees by a quayside on a warm summer evening with a nice wine watching the evening unfold.

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Then I thought ooh, ooh, hang on a minute that’s me, I’m there. So I legged it down the quay and did just that 🙂

 

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Our decision to do a cycling tour through the Netherlands came about after must discussion and toing and froing, the details of which I won’t bore you with. In essence, I had always wanted to do a long distance extended cycling tour and my wife, well she wasn’t that keen (and by that I mean she would rather have pulled out her nasal hairs one by one with tweezers).

_EBT5156Anyway as a compromise (for our first cycling adventure at any rate) we settled on a bike and barge tour. Now I’m sure there are seasoned cyclists out there who are rolling their eyes at this point thinking “Oh you’ve got to be kidding….. an organized tour? …. how very droll!” But an organized tour offered a lot of benefits for us first timers, especially as we only had a couple of weeks.

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For a start we didn’t have to worry about any of the logistics. Our bikes were taken care of so we didn’t have to agonise over whether to take our own, hire or buy some over there.

Our accommodation and meals were taken care of which meant we didn’t waste time finding somewhere to stay at the end of each day and we didn’t have to carry all our worldly goods with us.

Someone else had already worked out the best and most scenic routes each day which saved us all that planning.

_DSC5728We had backup the whole time, which was reassuring seeing we had never ridden in Europe before support so it was nice to know that if we had a problem help was only a phone call away.

We used Boat Bike Tours http://www.boatbiketours.com/ and could highly recommend them though there are hundreds of similar setups out there which I’m sure are just as good.

So what were the Pros and Cons

Well on the Pro side, there are all of the above. We turned up, settled into our cabin and were set to go.

The food was superb (pretty important point after riding all day), the barge well equipped and the staff extremely helpful. Everything was extremely well organized and punctual (must be a dutch thing) if they said we were casting off at 5:00pm, you can bet we caste off at 5:00pm 🙂 P1020476

Good company. With everyone being pretty much around the same age (let’s say mature to be kind) and sharing an interest in cycling and travelling it was the perfect formula to form friendships and encourage conversation (the wine didn’t hurt either).

You got to skip the boring bits and you had all the benefits of a canal cruise.

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Even though the daily rides were planned you didn’t ride as a group. We rode by ourselves most of the time occasionally meeting up with others in the group for coffee or lunch. This suited us right to the ground as it meant we could ride at our own pace and stop when and where we wanted. One day after spending the morning riding through some stunning coastal areas neither of us were overly enthused about the 20kms ride back to the barge through what promised to be (after the morning’s ride) some pretty ordinary scenery… so we opted for a long lunch, found a railway station and threw the bikes on the train and were happily sitting on the sundeck of the barge, wine in hand, when the others started rolling in.

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For sightseeing cycling allows you to travel at a perfect pace. Fast enough to cover plenty of ground yet slow enough to allow you to savour the sights, sounds and smells. Beats the hell out of tearing up the road in a car or a bus.

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As for the Cons, well there really weren’t any!   Some might complain the cabins were small (well they were at the budget end where we were), but you were only in them to get changed or to sleep so we didn’t find it a big deal (besides I work on a mine site and at least these cabins had a window and a view).

It’s probably more expensive than doing it yourself, I say probably because that’s going to depend on how long you’re going for. If you only have a week or so I’d say that they’re good value. If you have longer than that then I’d definitely look at doing myself.

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From a photography point of view it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to sit up on the sundeck of an evening as the barge cruised to the next location but unfortunately that’s when the meals were served and the briefing for the next day’s ride took place……. just not enough hours in the day 😦

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So how was our first cycle adventure? In a word – AWESOME. Next time hopefully we’ll have more time and will head out on our own. My advice, if you’ve thought you might like to do a bike trip, then bike and barge is a great way to give it a try.

 

 

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Photos from an afternoon stroll around the perth CBD a couple of weeks ago

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Only found out about these gardens when we saw them from the train on our way to somewhere else. Had to stop and check them. Never did get to where we were originally going 🙂

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