"My ramblings" MikeBird's Profile

I've been a member of VT since Sept 2007 and over these past few years I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to some fantastic places usually with my wife and family but occasionally on my own or with colleagues for work.

What follows however is a brief catalogue of some of our travel experiences. I hope you find these short descriptions interesting. For more details of most of the places follow the links.

Camping in France
For many years when our children were young we took them on summer camping trips to France. We loved it. We always took our own tent and looked for the smaller, farm based, sites that are dotted all over the country( see my France pages for more details ). We preferred to go south of the Loire because we found the weather to be usually sunnier and warmer though not always drier.
As the children became more used to travelling, and we discovered how invaluable long story tapes are to keeping the peace, we managed to go further afield with them. Eventually we took a grand tour into Switzerland and Italy but I think we all agreed that the campsites in France were more in keeping with what we wanted; quieter, rural and interesting. The photo shows the views over the Tarn valley taken from our campsite which had a swimming pool, refrigerators and a sheltered communal area with an open fire facility. It was miles from anywhere but we enjoyed the fresh air, clear skies and the rural atmosphere.

Self catering holidays

More recently as our children have got older we've tended to hire accommodation that is either off the beaten track or will provide a different sort of experience from what we are used to.

In Canada, August 2005, we stayed in two different places both wooden chalets but organised differently. The first near Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia was part of a retreat, the second further south near Bridgewater was a family holiday home rented out for the week.

The week around Christmas 2006 we spent in a rented 3 bedroomed house a short walk from the village of Brtonigla in the Croatian province of Istria. It was our first family Christmas overseas.

North Cyprus in October 2007; we stayed in a fantastic 18th century old Monastery with a wonderful walled garden. There was even a swimming pool.

In Denmark , August 2008, we had a small fisherman's cottage overlooking the Bay.

Paris, February 2009; we stayed in a high rise apartment block, near the River Seine and with a fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower.

Our family summer holiday in 2009 was spent in Crete, Greece where we booked two different accommodations; one for each of the two weeks. Both were in village locations; the first a small renovated Cretan house in the narrow streets, the second a newly built villa on the edge of the authentic cluster of old stone housing.

The week around New Year 2010 was spent with my family where we all squeezed into a small apartment in the heart of the ancient city of Siracuse in Sicily, Italy.


My wife and I worked in Botswana for several years back in the 1980's. We loved our work and we really enjoyed exploring this wonderful country.
Given that it's such a long time ago now that we were there ( and we've not managed to return there in all these years - owing to the expense of parenthood) I don't feel qualified to provide many tips or advice but I have written a travelogue giving a little insight to my work and life in the village of Moshupa.

I met my wife whilst working in the second school located at Otse. I might do another travelogue to pick up the story ......

I've really enjoyed reading the accounts of other travellers and oh how it makes us so nostalgic. Our top places in Botswana would be the Okavango - the mekoro trips are just brilliant in August, Chobe at Christmas time - watching Elephants on the flood plain is a cherished memory and the lesser known places like Nata - birdwatching on the Salt-pans, the hills at Shoshong and the huge village of Mochudi. If you've read the McCall-Smith Ladies Detective agency stories you'll have had a really accurate insight into the country and the hearts and minds of its people. Those books really brought the place back to us.

My wife and I are keen birdwatchers and I've chosen the image of a Pied Barbet for my photo because it reminds me of our garden when these birds - they're no bigger than a small dove - used to visit in search of fruit. They particularly liked our Strawberries and the Pawpaws.

Thanks to the African Bird Club and Augusto Faustino for the super photo of the barbet. If you want to see more images of birds from across the whole of Africa then I suggest you visit: African Bird Club .

St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla

When I was a University student back in the mid 1970s I was fortunate enough to spend 7 weeks doing my summer project in these islands. I was studying Geology and Zoology and I spent a lot of my time snorkelling around different inshore habitats so that I could build up a picture of the marine environment in which a local limestone had been formed.
I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to do something like that. Even at the time I think I realised it really was a trip of a lifetime!
Again reading other people's accounts of these islands has helped me recall my adventures there. Highlights of my visit include walking up to the summit of Mt Liamuiga on St Kitts, seeing huge Manta rays effortlessly gliding through water, the sheer variety of life on the coral reef, our day trip to Nevis - a real getaway-from-it-all type place and the unforgettable schooner ride to Anguilla when the crew member fell overboard ( yes they did go back to fetch him).
How can you ever forget such experiences and is it not surprising that I just love exploring new places.

More recent travels 2007 -09

Since joining VT in September 2007 I've been in the incredibly lucky situation to have had holidays with my family in North Cyprus, Egypt, Wales , Germany, Denmark , Crete, Greece and most recently in Sicily.
We've also had short breaks in Kent, Boulogne, Woodbridge, Paris and most recently Gloucestershire.

My wife and I often think how fortunate we've been to have had these opportunities to visit such interesting and often beautiful places.

In addition to holidays I've also been very lucky to visit overseas in connection with my work. I don't usually get much time off on such trips but I try to find a bit of space to find somewhere of interest. Most recently I'm involved in a project in Bangladesh and a few years ago now I attended a conference in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

I'm slowly trying to add to my tips so please visit these pages if you want to find out more.

VT meets

July 2009: I have just attended my first VT meet. I took my wife along as well and although she's not a member of VT she really enjoyed the event which was the first treasure hunt around London organised by the wonderful Jo104. It was a great day out and terrific fun. Thanks to all of my new VT friends for making it all so enjoyable.
In the team we have Durfun, myself, Roggeveen and toonsarah. The photo was taken for one of the clues on the SouthBank.

September 2010:
I was unable to take part in the second London treasure hunt but joined a small but hardy group for the Sunday when we took advantage of the London Open House scheme that enables visitors to access buildings and sites that are normally restricted from the public. Once again Jo104 was the organiser and she did a terrific job in sorting out a route that took in a synagogue, a drapers house, a church bell ringing demonstration and a georgian town house. Thanks once again to Jo for arranging the event.

Sadness and sorrow enters my life

On Saturday 10th July 2010 my wife and I were travelling in Norfolk on the A47 en route to one of the Broads for some bird watching and lazing about. We were treating ourselves to a weekend away. It turned out to be our last as on the busy road a heavy lorry collided with our car from behind and my wife was killed instantly. I escaped unhurt. Five other vehicles were involved but fortunately without fatality.

People say that we ( our 3 children and I), seem to be coping well with our loss even though we know that Liz was irreplaceable. She truly was a remarkable woman with whom I am immensely proud to have shared 25 wonderful years of my life. Her legacy will live on through her children, her work at the University and in the local church community and now, through donations to the Canon Collins Trust, to Masters level students in Malawi. I have to stay positive because Liz always had so much vitality that she wouldn't have wanted me to withdraw and be miserable and so I'm trying to adapt and re-build a life without my dear Liz. The friends I am gathering through VT will be part of that process. I know I will continue to have short-lived periods of deep sadness for months, and possibly years to come, but I must learn to acknowledge this if I am to be strong in myself, for my children and our wider family.
Thank you VT for being there.

Update September 2011:
The trial of the lorry driver has now taken place in Norwich and last week he was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment, 5 years disqualification and will need to re-take the extended licence in order to drive an HGV vehicle. I am very satisfied with this sentence but in no way do I feel that we have won. There are no winners in this case.

I wanted the driver to agree to be cross examined in the witness box but he decided against it because he knew he had no reasonable defence. You see there was evidence of him having sent two text messages about an hour prior to the crash. There was no proven evidence that he was texting at the point of the collision. But as he was on cruise control, doing 6mph more than the lorry's legal limit, and with no braking or deviation from the straight course when he ploughed into us and 2 other vehicles, we are left making up our own conclusion as to why he wasn't paying attention to the road when everyone else managed to see the hazard and slow down to avoid it. It didn't take the jury long to make their decision - just 50 minutes to return the guilty verdict of causing death by dangerous driving.

We later heard that just 2 months prior to the crash he had been caught driving the very same lorry whilst talking on a mobile phone. He clearly failed to learn any lessons from that experience.

So my plea to everyone out there reading this - please don't use your phone whilst driving. It's illegal in the UK and it can lead to fatal accidents and perhaps long prison sentences.

  • Intro Updated Sep 15, 2011
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