Visit the Reichstag

Driven by recent political history, a key tenet of modern German democracy is openness. Indeed. the design of the refurbishment of the Reichstag building allows for views down into the debating chamber of the Bundestag.

Originally built in 1894 the Reichstag was burnt down in 1933 and remained largely a ruin until German reunification in the 1990s. A free visit to the dome can be arranged by booking online in advance.

If you don’t manage to book before you arrive in Berlin, there is a kiosk on the south side of Scheidemannstraße which may have tickets available.

Full details: Visit the Reichstag building


America’s Dead Sea

If you fancy a swim in the Dead Sea without the travel or the expense and you live in the USA, you could always try the California equivalent.

No water flows out of Mono Lake so, over the years, the basin has become extremely rich in salts and minerals scoured from the surrounding hills. This high concentration of minerals is responsible for the simultaneously weird and wonderfully beautiful structures that are found in and around the lake.

Those found above water were actually created underwater, before the levels fell due to water extraction in recent years.

Rich in all sorts of essential minerals, a swim is bracing in winter months, refreshing in the summer and must surely be healthy at whatever time of year you visit.

We were there in the summer and swam from the South car park. Bring appropriate footwear as the shore and lake bottom is rocky. Swimming goggles will prevent your eyes being stung by the high salt content of the water and fresh water for a post swim rinse is also a must.

One thing that might put you off partaking of the waters are the clouds of small flies that hover perpetually over the water at the edge of the lake. Remarkably, they completely avoid people. When we swam from the Navy Beach area, we were not bothered by them at all.

A number of activities are organised by the Mono Lake Committee

Details: Mono Lake

Mono Lake, California
Mono Lake, California


Views of St Paul’s

Probably the most iconic photograph of St Paul’s Cathedral was taken by Herbert Mason on the night of 29 December 1940.

The image shows the dome of St Paul’s amongst the devastation of a bombing raid in the early hours of the morning. Surrounded by search light beams, fire and thick black smoke the image of the dome became a symbol of survival and suffering.

Original photograph: Daily Mail anniversary report

The image above shows the same dome in a much more modern context, reflected in the windows of the shopping centre at One New Change. One New Change has another claim to fame. Take the lift to the top floor of a building so ultra modern, it upset Prince Charles and you will be rewarded with a view over the rooftops to St Paul’s and the River Thames.

More information: Roof Terrace at One New Change

St Paul’s is a particularly striking building, situated on a slight hill and thankfully protected from many of the excessively high buildings that have come to dominate the London skyline in recent years. It is one of those buildings that is ever changing while still remaining the same.

It changes to suit the season and the light and the weather. It is a joy up close and beautiful from afar. The most famous of Wren’s designs it is always worth the time spent.

Details: St Paul’s Cathedral

Gaping Gill – the winch meet

The tallest unbroken waterfall in England is actually underground.

Fell Beck, a stream that flows down the slopes of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, eventually plunges 98 metres down the main shaft of Gaping Ghyll. If you do decide to visit, please make sure you take care not to follow it by accident.

If you would like to safely explore what happens to the water as it disappears into the main chamber of Gaping Gill, plan your visit around the May or August Bank Holiday. Around the May Bank Holiday, Bradford Pothole Club set up a winch above the shaft, divert the flow of the stream and provide a thrill seekers ride into the bowels of the earth.

A similar arrangement is offered by the Craven Pothole Club around the August Bank Holiday.

The main chamber of Gaping Gill, at nearly 100 metres high, is the biggest underground cavern in the UK. A laser survey has shown that it is indeed capable of living up to the reputation it has to be big enough to contain York Minster. It might, however, be quite a squeeze getting it in down the main shaft.

There are other routes into the main chamber all of which require a reasonable level of skill, stamina and fitness. These routes should never be attempted without proper training and supervision.

The winch route, however, is suitable for anyone from 7 years upwards.

More details on Gaping Gill

The Wall Street Bull

You might expect that the Charging Bull statue in New York, recognised worldwide as a symbol of Wall Street, was a specially commissioned piece of sculpture. I always thought it was funded by the New York Stock Exchange or the City of New York.

Visiting Tower Bridge when the roadway lifts

The magnificent example of Victorian engineering that is Tower Bridge in London is always an impressive site.

Staten Island Ferry

The Manhattan skyline is recognised all over the world.

The rooftops of Amsterdam

There are two vantage points you really shouldn’t miss out on when visiting Amsterdam.

Southwark Cathedral – a hidden gem

Having walked past Southwark Cathedral many, many times I had never been inside. Until yesterday.


What to do on a dull day in Amsterdam

Find something colourful. In Amsterdam, it’s quite likely to be a bicycle…