From an early age and looking up at the millions of stars in amazement I have had an interest in astronomy.
Many people, myself included, visit places all around the world to see the natural wonders, take photos and appreciate nature at its best. In places such as Natural Parks, Rain Forests and the mountain ranges. So what’s the difference to looking out across the landscape to looking up at The Moon? The answer is so simple: The distance to our moon is hundreds of thousands of miles whilst the galaxies and nebula can be millions of light years.
The Moon, planets, stars, nebula and galaxies in the night sky are just as much a part of the natural wonders of this world. Unlike say visiting the Peak District which can be easily reached in a small car exploring the Lunar landscape takes a little more effort and money.
You don’t need a Saturn V and billions in cash to be amazed at the universe, a small telescope can do the trick from your own back garden and gives a wow factor that’s well worth the money spent. I won’t go into the details of what telescope to buy as there are many web sites and You Tube videos that do this already.
The wow factor of looking at the mountains and craters on the moon, seeing the cloud bands and moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, the phases of Venus, seeing a distant galaxy, new stars just born in the Orion Nebula and the thousands of stars inside a globular cluster.
The biggest draw backs of this hobby: The British weather, light polluted skies and resisting the temptation to spend more money to buy bigger and better gear for that better view.
After the recent flights to Los Angeles and Sydney I’m no longer a Blue but rather a Bronze Member of the British Airways Executive Club. I now have a real membership card, the Blue Membership card is a virtual one on the BA app, and a couple of rather nice luggage tags.
Every time you book a flight with BA you earn a number of tier points. The number you get varies on the following: How far you are flying, What class of cabin you fly in and the flexibility of the ticket. The more tier points you collect during your membership year the higher up in the Executive Club you climb.
So what does being a Bronze Member mean? Well I can now use priority business check in, free reservations of seats 7 days before the flight rather than 24hrs and a higher priority when boarding the aircraft even if I book World Traveller [Economy]. As a Bronze Member you also get 25% more AVIOS loyalty points to spend on flights, upgrades or in flight purchases if flying European short haul.
The most important benefit of all, I get to pretend to be Royalty whilst still being a peasant….
Tied with the USA one of the other places I’ve always wanted to visit was Australia. Originally planned in November 2018 I was going to fly out to see family who had emigrated there several years ago. Unfortunately due to conflicting dates of travel – my cousin would be flying to Europe more or less the same time (give or take a few hours due to time zones) I would have been taking off for Australia.
The dates for Oz were put back a few months to January 2019 and the height of the summer in the southern hemisphere. The flights were booked and plenty of factor 50 suncream was ordered. It also coincided with a record breaking heatwave that featured on the news most nights.
The obvious sights were of course Sydney Opera House and the Harbour bridge. Like the recent trip to LA I researched the places to go and how to get there before I travelled so on arrival I knew one of the first things to buy was an Opal card.
The Opal card was probably one of the best things I have bought whilst away, free to buy and then pre-load it with a balance to travel. Tap on and off the bus, train and even the ferry. A daily spend limit of AU$15 and AU$60 a week gave excellent value as all trips after hitting these limits were free.
First lesson of the Australian summer – it is hot, very hot. Even on a cloudy day with a breeze it could be anywhere between 30˚C and 38˚C, even at 5am it was around 25˚C. The only two times you were not covered in sweat was 1) in a good air conditioned room 2) in the shower or sea (and there’s sharks in the sea).
During the stay I decided to jump on an internal flight to Adelaide for a couple of days to visit other family members who traveled out a few days before. I got to see some of the sites of the city and meet up with some more friends who also emigrated there some time ago.
Australia is a vast country, with many wonderful sights and attractions such as the Harbour bridge and the opera house. I enjoyed having lunch / dinner at the restaurants on the Circular Quays watching the ferries and ocean liners come and go.
When I go back to visit again I would probably go when it was not the height of summer or try to time it so its not one of the hottest summers on record….
For my first trip to the USA I chose LA as my destination. Having seen so many films and TV shows based around the city I’d always wanted to go from an early age. Finally I got around to booking and actually going.
Staying on Vine Street in Hollywood, I wanted to be close to the studio’s such as Paramount, Universal, etc as well as the famous Hollywood sign and the ‘Walk of Fame’. I also intended to visit the beach at Santa Monica, Malibu Beach and ‘Gorn Rock’ which is a rock formation where many TV shows & films have been filmed including Star Trek, Big Bang Theory, and many more.
Unfortunately the first night I was there a shooting occurred which resulted in the deaths of several young people in a night club, as well as a police officer first on scene. The following morning a wild fire started around the same area which destroyed a large number of homes, killed many people who were trying to escape or defend their property.
As not to wonder into the danger area I decided it would be best to re-arrange travelling to certain places or not visit them at all. Malibu and Gorn Rock was dropped, whilst Griffiths Park and the observatory were postponed by a few days till the small fire there had been put out. If I didn’t see them this time round on the grand scale of things it was no loss, I could always come back another time.
Overall I really enjoyed the trip to LA, I completed most of the things I’ve always wanted to do: Stay in Hollywood, see the Hollywood sign, visit Paramount, find “my” star on the walk of fame, Universal Studios, visit Santa Monica and generally explore the city and experience the cultural differences between the UK and US. I now know in the US ground floor is floor 1 where as in the UK its called ‘Ground’ and a 5c (Nickel) coin is bigger than a 10c (Dime) coin, not to mention all the bank notes (bills) are the same size.
The whole point of travelling to other countries is to experience the differences and learn about them. It gives us better understanding of the world and appreciation of it.
Would I come back to LA again? Yes, definitely. Watch this space…
As Facebook seems to reduce the quality of the videos posted to its site to the extent that they are only just viewable, I have decided to place the pictures and videos of my travels direct to the web. The videos will be hosted on YouTube as they can be played back at the original resolution and frame rate that they were recorded at (4K 60FPS).
The site will be updated slowly as I have spare time so don’t expect daily / weekly or even monthly updates!