Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cuba, Andalusia & Lisbon

From Stockholm, Seattle & Snowdonia late last year to three Spanish, or should I say Iberian, destinations this year, taking into account my first visit to Portugal.

That trip was actually to attend NOS Alive festival in Lisbon - headlined this year by Radiohead, Pixies and Arcade Fire - which I reviewed for Huffington Post.

The other two were week-long holidays in proper sunburn-inducing temperatures. It hit 40 degrees in Seville when we visited last month, with the temperatures thankfully cooling slightly in Cadiz on the southern coast.

Either way I found both cities to be very welcoming and laid-back and housing some impressive historical sites, including Seville's Alcázar and Plaza de España, and Cadiz's epic cathedral.

Seville's AlcázarPlaza de España, Seville

Cadiz Cathedral

I have to say I more enjoyed my time in these Andalusian cities than I did in Barcelona - less sprawling and a lot more chilled in atmosphere. My experience can be summed up by two animal-themed incidents that occurred in both cities, which I wrote about on my other personal blog (link).

Can also recommend probably the best restaurant I've visited in Spain - Cadiz's Taberna El Tio de la Tiza, serving fantastic portions of fresh local fish in a concealed square (my Tripadvisor review).

Cuba, on the other hand, was a completely different kettle of fish.

Like many Westerners have recently been doing we wanted to visit now before the country becomes too Americanised, relations with the US having recently thawed.

While its crumbling colonial architecture and 1950s cars made Havana very atmospheric, and everything was pretty cheap even with the weak pound, it also presented many frustrating obstacles too, from the often lax approach to service to making it as difficult as possible for you to get online - don't bother is the lesson we learned.

However the photo opportunities were endless, which is a boon if you've a quality camera and a good eye for composition. Some of my better snaps, including one that's probably my favourite taken in the last five years:

Havana man (c) Kris Griffiths

Like Andalusia I'm glad that I finally visited and experienced the place, but unlike Andalusia I won't be heading back in a hurry.

If I ever do, though, I'd like to find that bloke in the straw hat and thank him for letting me take his picture.

Full Cuba gallery, incl shots from Mexico City stopover, here.

All photos in this post (c) Kris Griffiths

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stockholm, Seattle & Snowdonia

As I've not posted for a while I thought I'd pool into one round-up my alliterative last three destination visits, which were for both business and pleasure.

The first was a family hol in Stockholm for the first time, my only other visit to Sweden having been a day trip to Malmo ten years previously while staying in Copenhagen.

This time we did a house swap with a family residing on Lidingo island, not far from the city centre, and spent our time visiting the star tourist spots Skansen open-air museum and the 17th century Vasa warship that sunk on her maiden voyage, both fairly absorbing.

A lot of the rest of our time was spent trying to find pubs that served beer for less than £6 a pint, and on one day I stole away to watch Stockholm's finest football team 'AIK' destroy Elfsborg. With match tickets about £14, less than half of most EPL prices, it was one of the few inexpensive things on offer there.

AIK Stockholm v Elfsborg (c) Kris Griffiths

Next was my first visit to Seattle, to undertake the long overdue Twin Peaks pilgrimage that I'd successfully pitched to Rough Guides (full article with pics here). As the cult TV series I watched religiously as a teenager had last year announced its comeback with David Lynch back at the helm I basically rewatched the whole two seasons and resolved that the time had come to finally visit the filming locations, situated around that coastal corner of Washington State, before it returns to our screens next year.

I'd always wanted to visit Seattle even if I wasn't a TP enthusiast, having been a Nirvana fan since the early 90s and a craft beer lover since the noughties, and there aren't many better place to visit in the U.S for the latter.

Hendrix statue

Mount Rainier

The Pine Box bar

Also had a great time at the Experience Music Project museum, where I immersed myself in the permanent Nirvana exhibition, played on several guitars exhibited and even recorded a live version of Purple Haze by local boy Jimi Hendrix, playing drums this time while a random American bloke I bumped into did the vocals and guitarwork. 

KurtCobain bench (c) Kris Griffiths
Kurt Cobain bench, Viretta Park

Finally, after successfully climbing Coniston Old Man in the Lake District last year I decided I wanted to go one higher with Wales' tallest mountain Snowdon, which I ascended with Welsh sherpa mate Vaughan, who as a recent Iron Man contestant was far fitter than me and left me lagging for much of the ascent, particularly near the summit when I was on my last legs. Unfortunately it wasn't the best day for it either, with the upper half of the mountain above the clouds so zero visibility and the cafe at the top stuffed with other climbers so no chance for a cuppa before getting back down.

Snowdon (c) Kris Griffiths

Snowdon (c) Kris Griffiths

While there we also gave 'Zip World' - the longest zip line in Europe - a try in Blaenau Ffestiniog and hung out in nearby coastal towns Criccieth and Porthmadog, as well as the Italian-style village Portmeirion. 

Zip Blaenau Ffestiniog (c) Kris Griffiths

Zip Blaenau Ffestiniog (c) Kris Griffiths

That trip alone just went to show that, despite it being a relatively small country, there's still so much to see and do in the land of my fathers, with Caernarfon and Anglesey next on the list. 

But it's also been nice to mix things up with the continent and across the Atlantic. My next destination is Havana, Cuba, next month, which is as close as I will ever have been to South America, the only continent I've left to visit (bar Antarctica of course, which someone always says when I say that).

More of my travel shots at Flickr account. My article on visiting Snowdonia at

[all above photos (c) Kris Griffiths]