February 1st 2019: Fly from Goa to Mumbai for the Indian Derby.
February 4th 2019: Return to Goa with more money than I left with thanks to a 15/1 winner in the last race.
March 24th 2019: I double book the Goa to Mumbai leg of my flight to the the UK due to my Jet Airways flight for that part of the route being cancelled.
I originally made the through trip booking of Goa-Mumbai-Heathrow on 25th of December (a Christmas present to myself) but in a short space of time it became evident that my booking was in jeopardy as Jet Airways were in serious financial trouble and by this date only had around 30 of it's fleet of 113 planes airborne. At least with the replacement flight to Mumbai secured I would be in the right place to get an onward connection.
April 14th 2019: I eventually succumb to pressure and purchase a second flight from Goa to London after Jet Airways cancel all international flights.
At this point Jet Airways are down to 7 planes and my £250.00 one way trip has risen to over £1,000 with at that point no chance of any refund. I book with Etihad arriving in London only 45 minutes after my original scheduled time. From thereon in it is business as usual.
p.s. I was eventually to get a full refund from Jet Airways when they ceased to operate a few weeks later.
May 2nd 2019: Fly from Goa to London via Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.
My excessive ticket payment begins to pay off in a convoluted way. At Mumbai where I have an eleven hour stop-over, the check-in for my flight is not due to open for another four hours so I am told to use the first class lounge area. In addition, at check-in I asked for both legs of the onward flights to be aisle seats. The server was more interested in trying to sell me extra leg room (emergency exit) seats at $110.00 though. I declined but he already had the first seat allocation completed. Realising his mistake he put me in the middle of the row on the second leg but this I changed in Abu Dhabi and again was offered extra leg room (emergency exit), but this time without any request for money so I ended up with extra legroom on both flights with no cost.
May 3rd 2019: Arrive at Heathrow early morning and stay overnight in Greater London after a nights rugby at Twickenham.
May 4th 2019: Early morning make my way to West Sussex to attend the 2019 opening of Goodwood races.
My current post retirement good fortune continues with a god bet on an 8/1 winner in the first race. I was never going to leave the course losing after that. I stay overnight in Pulborough.
May 5th 2019: Transfer to The Arora Hotel in Crawley where I stay overnight in preparation for the next day's flight to Boston.
May 6th 2019: Take the 16:10 flight from London to to Boston (pics) in the USA.
It was on the plane of my carrier Norwegian Air that I tasted the best fillet steak of my life. That may sound like an exaggeration considering some of the places I've been but it's not. The rest of the meal was very average but the meat...benicimo.
Boston is wonderful, steeped in beauty and history. Perfect for a three day stopover. I stay in the central Chinatown area.
May 7th 2019: Go sightseeing.
Early morning around the harbour, up through the central park area which is like a miniature Hyde Park complete with a lake, check out Cheers Bar (which for the record bears little resemblance to the TV show version except the native American at the door and the steps from the street outside down to the entrance - the show was filmed in a studio in LA), back to my hotel where I get roped into "The Freedom Trail" tour. Overdid the walking though and ended up with blisters on my feet that didn't heal until a week or so later.
May 8th 2019: Go to Harvard University to check it out before returning to Cheers.
May 9th 2019: Take a morning coach to New York City (arriving early afternoon).
I take the subway downtown and spend the night at The Bitter End - early musical stomping ground of Bob Dylan and Lady Ga Ga to name a few.
In the evening I go to Times Square then back to the park in Union Square where it's a hive of activity with chess tournaments, buskers and rappers.
May 11th 2019: Go downtown to One World Trade Center (pics) then walk to the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. With blisters on my feet from the last few days I head for Greenwich Village where I put my feet up in a bar in preparation for what's to follow.
Beer is good medicine for blisters.
Not that I have any problem with gays or plastic surgery but I found our gay female tour guide/driver somewhat over the top when it came to her opinions on both. She had recently had a double mastectomy leaving her previously 38D chest flat. To accentuate the point she bathed topless showing off her scars as a message to others that what she was and had done was OK. There was no reason for the procedure other than (to use her own words) "being a boy born in a girls body she had no use for breasts".
May 13th 2019: Drive to Washington DC via Philadelphia.
Quick stop at Philadelphia to see the Rocky Bilbao statue and a few monuments.
May 14th 2019: Take a bike tour of Washington in the morning and visit a few museums in the afternoon.
May 15th 2019: Drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachian Mountain Range in Virginia where we stop for a photo shoot at Shenandoah National Park. We stay overnight at at Wytheville about an hour from the Tennessee border.
Visited the Country Music Hall Of Fame before hitting Broadway which is the main street where all the music bars are.
May 17th 2019: Drive to Memphis Tennessee.
Did the obligatory tour of Elvis Presley's former mansion Graceland (pics) before going downtown to Sun Studios (pics) and finished off with a walk down Beale Street where all the action is. In the evening we went for a meal at a rib joint. This was to be the only proper meal out of the whole trip.
Eat all sorts of weird stuff like gumbo soup and jambalaya before going on a Voodoo Tour in the night. The meal which promised to be the best of the trip was aborted early due to bad planning by our tour guide.
Two nights before our arrival on the main street a guy had an argument with his girlfriend and killed her by shooting her in the face.
May 19th 2019: New Orleans at leisure.
Take the riverboat cruise in the afternoon and finish off with a few drinks downtown including 100% proof hand grenades.
May 20th 2019: Go on a Louisiana swamp tour to see alligators and the likes in the morning then spend the whole day driving to our overnight stay fifty miles West of Houston.
Spend the afternoon visiting Mission Concepción, the scene of The Alamo and then the River Walk that took in a few drinks on route.
Our tour guide/driver got lost which resulted in a hundred mile detour and we arrive just in time to go to the caves to see the bats in their thousands coming out to get food at sundown.
On route to Santa Fe we stop at Roswell - also in New Mexico (alleged site of UFOs) and visit the UFO museum.
Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the USA where we check out the oldest house and oldest church in the USA before having a meal in a local restaurant.
The day was basically all travelling. When we arrived at camp there was still evidence of snow from the day before and the surrounding mountain tops were still covered. The night saw the temperature drop to freezing point. The cowboy landscape was a good precursor for Grand Canyon.
Arriving late afternoon we almost immediately joined our Navajo guide who took us on a tour ending with sleeping overnight in a really hot mud hut on the reservation which was a blessing after the previous night's zero degrees in a tent.
Did a trek into the Canyon in the afternoon before a planned pizza meal on the rim of the canyon to watch the sunset. By that time it had gone cold and there wasn't going to be a sunset of note so we had an early night shortly after when it started to rain.
May 27th 2019: Grand Canyon early exit.
It rained all through the night and in the morning the snow was teeming down so we left a day early and stayed at Days Inn in Kingman, a town on the way to Las Vegas.
May 28th 2019: Drive to Las Vegas via a quick stop at Hoover Dam.
Stay for two nights at the Alexis Hotel ten minutes walk from the strip. In the evening we rent a party bus for a good blow out. The trip finishes at Bellagio Hotel where we watch the fountain show.
May 29th 2019: Las Vegas at leisure.
Passed the time on the strip in the day before going to The Mirage Hotel to see the Cirque du Soliel show of The Beatles Love.
Right from the first night I had a bad feeling about gambling so other than losing $44.00 the first night (and that took an hour and a half) I didn't have another bet.
May 30th 2019: Drive through Death Valley in California.
Other than being a desolate wasteland which at it's lowest point is 280 feet below sea level and officially being deemed the hottest place on the planet it has nothing to offer. It's kind've surreal to be in the hottest place on earth and see snow topped mountains in the distance.
May 31st 2019: Drive to Yosemite National Park in California.
Our accommodation had an indoor pool and a (really) hot tub which was a luxury for our last two nights.
June 1st 2019: Yosemite National Park at leisure.
Went hiking to both the Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls (pics). The is a middle waterfall too called Vernal Falls but that was on a different trail so it wasn't possible to trek to due to time restrictions. The three and a half mile trek to the top nearly killed me.
I had a falling out with our guide and wanted to clear my head so went to the bar at our dinner meeting point two hours early. The result was that I got blind drunk. First time I could remember drinking with the sole intention of getting drunk since I was a youth.
On route we are dropped off on the side of the Golden Gate Bridge and walk across it to the other side. I have a few drinks and a last meal at Fisherman's Wharf with Ray, Adrien and Nafisa who I'd met on the trip.
All in all the road trip across the USA was fantastic, marred only by our guide's lack of foresight and in general doing things that she wanted to do as opposed to what was best for the group. But mostly her refusing to listen or take advice.
Returned to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch and tried unsuccessfully to get tickets for the sold out Alcatraz Tours.
June 5th 2019: Finally got to visit Alcatraz having secured a ticket the previous day.
June 6th 2019: Take a late afternoon flight to Manchester.
June 7th 2019: Arrive in Manchester late morning then take a coach to visit family in Wales.
June 15th 2019: Take a day trip to Bath Horse Races.
Following a few healthy wins in the run-up to Bath I was only gambling with the previous week's profit so it was impossible for me to lose. I had only selected two bankers before the racing began and they were in the fourth and six races. Ironically, due to rain two races were abandoned. The fourth an the sixth.
June 17th 2019: Take an early afternoon flight to Jersey.
June 23rd 2019: Take an early flight Gatwick and onward to Denpasar in Bali via Doha on a British Airways/Quatar partnership flight.
An almost disaster if ever. Getting to London was fine but, after waiting six hours for my connection to Doha I was one of the last to board in the last group. Upon seeing that I had no onward flights to take me out of Bali I was refused onto the plane until I could provide an onward ticket. To add to my woes, there was a gliche in my mobile and was unable to obtain any Internet. In the end I had to use a staff member's mobile to book a flight from Bali to Phuket on the 15th of August (a week earlier than I intended but I was under pressure). With no wi-fi on my phone I still had no access to the ticket when I arrived in Bali but at least I was on the plane. The "no wi-fi" gliche was resolved in Doha and rest of the journey was problem free.
June 24th 2019: Arrive mid evening in Bali.
My usual room as well as the ground floor one I'd requested were being renovated so I had to settle for a smaller one. As it happened this was a good move because come the 16th there was a 6.2 magnitude earthquake.
July 15th 2019: Go to immigration for the first of three visits to apply for a 30 day visa extension.
July 16th 2019: I was rocked out of my slumber at around 08:30 to the rumbling of a 6.2 (5.7 according to some reports) magnitude earthquake. This was apparently one of several over the last 24 hours in the general area of Bali but in honestly I was unaware of the earlier ones, presumably because their epicentres were further away. This one was 54 miles South West.
July 22nd 2019: Go to immigration for second of three visits.
July 22nd 2019: Ride to Tanah Lot to visit the temple and in general be a tourist.
July 24th 2019: I was again disturbed from my slumber by an earthquake but this time only a 5.1 magnitude. On saying that the epicenter was in the same region as the one on the 16th so they're getting closer.
August 1st 2019: Go to immigration for my final visit and to pick up my passport with visa extension.
August 15th 2019: Fly to Phuket via Bangkok.
September 6th 2019: Go to immigration and extend my Thai Visa until October 13th.
I also book my flight to Goa for October the 12th. The following days see me booking the rest of my flights to take in the UK and Russia.
October 1st 2019: My upcoming Oman Air flight to London is cancelled. I re-book with Etihad but keep the return leg as was with Oman Air.
October 8th 2019: I cancel the remaining Oman Air flight from to London. I re-book again with Etihad.
For the record the Oman Air flights I booked with a company called mytrip.com. As they could not offer a realistic alternative flight to meet my time schedule I simply asked for a refund of the cancelled Goa to London flight but they insisted they would not refund the cost of the cancelled flight only. Mytrip.com are advertised as being IATA certified but this is not true. The IATA certification only applies to the airlines they handle bookings for.
October 12th 2019: Fly Phuket to Goa via Delhi (Indigo).
October 17th 2109: Fly from Goa to London Heathrow via Bengaluru and Abu Dhabi (Etihad).
October 18th 2019: Arrive early morning in London.
Go to the Russian visa office where I apply for a visa then spend the rest of the day sightseeing atthe usual places.
October 18th 2019: Take the late evening flight to Jersey.
October 27th 2019: Take the evening flight from Jersey to London.
October 28th 2019: Take the early morning flight from London to St Petersburg.
October 29th 2019: My first real introduction to St Petersburg.
October 31st 2019: Take an early afternoon flight from St Petersburg to Moscow by Podeba air.
November 1st 2019: I spend the day being a tourist.
Later I stopped into St Basil's Cathedral (pics) partially to see inside it and partially to get out of the snow before taking a walk to get a feel for Moscow. After leaving I spent two hours queuing to gain entry to the Kremlin Armoury Museum (pics) and Cathedral Square (pics)
It the evening I experience what I refer to as one of those "wow" experiences which is something that one minute it's not there and the next it is, and the only thing that comes to mind is "wow". Having walked from my hotel down Tverskaya Street to Revolution Square (pics). upon entering the gateway to Revolution Square I was hit with the vision of Gum (pics) department store on the left, the Kremlin complex and Lenin's Mausoleum on the right and immediately if front of me St Basil's Cathedral (the one in all the tour photo's of Moscow) all lit up in the early evening darkness to maximum effect.
Early evening I have a last meal and few drinks in Varenichnaya No 1 restaurant which had become my local whilst in the city.
November 5th 2019: Mid-day I fly from Moscow to London Luton.
From there I take a coach to Newport where I stay until leaving for Goa.
November 9th 2019: Take an early afternoon coach from Newport to Heathrow and then a flight to Goa via Etihad Airways.
November 10th 2019: Arrive back in Goa just in time for last drinks in my local.
December 2nd 2019: Book flights and hotel for 15 nights in Bali over Christmas.
December 18th 2019: Take the early evening flight from Goa to Bali via Hyderabad, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
December 19th 2019: Arrive late afternoon at my Bali hotel in Kuta.
I'd forgotten until I arrived just how many people here knew me until I was greeted like a returning war hero by the local vendors on the beach.
December 20th 2019: Lazy day on the beach.
December 21st 2019: Ditto. I have no intention of doing anything on this trip
December 22nd 2019: Rain at last.
I was beginning to think the rainy season sunshine only weather was pissing me off for the hell of it when just as I got back to my hotel from the beach it started lashing down.
December 23rd 2019: Rain free day.
December 24th 2019: I see Christmas in at Max Warung which was predictably jumping.
December 25th 2019: Christmas Day.
As it was Christmas I had a few (too many) beers on the beach before dinner. Christmas dinner consists of surf’n’turf (rib eye steak, prawns and calamari) at The Pad.
Christmas night was quiet. No live music at Max Warung and Kuta was basically like a ghost town. A little evening rain just to make me think of Europe.
December 27th 2019: Rainy day.
Nothing of note happened but rain is good for thinking. I finally decided to ditch my expensive Nikon D7200 camera that I've never been comfortable with since buying it in Saigon in 2016, unlike my HTC U11 phone/camera that has exceeded all my expectations (much better than iPhone for photo's).
December 31st 2019: Take the early morning ferry to Gili Trawangan.
I stay at the up market Oceano Jambuluwuk Resort in the North of the island.
January 1st 2020: Take the afternoon boat back to Bali.
January 3rd: Christmas 2020; Take an early afternoon flight to Goa via Kuala Lumpur and Chennai.
January 4th: Arrive early morning in Goa.
(now available to read on-line in it's entirety).