Sunday Special – Oxford, UK

One of the regrets I had when I was on my big trip was that I never made it Oxford, England. I spent a week in the London area and it is only 92 km / 57 miles away with frequent train service. I easily could have spent a day there (or more). Well, another reason to go back to the UK, one of my favourite countries to visit. 

Dating back to the time of the Saxons (around the 8th century, CE) Oxford grew as an important military center. Over the centuries it was not a dull place – invasions, religious growth, epidemics, martyrs, civil war, industrial growth, and of course the founding the well-known educational institution of Oxford University and it’s 38 colleges within the city centre.

Today Oxford seems to shine as city with old-world charm with its array of beautiful architecture. Noteworthy buildings include Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower, Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, University Church, and much more. Other areas of interest include Hertford Bridge (a.k.a. Bridge of Sighs), the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens, and the oldest covered market in England: Oxford Covered Market.  Add museums, cafes, theatre, bars, and nightlife it seems it will certainly keep you busy. Oh and don’t forget that Oxford was the location for various scenes from the Harry Potter movies. 


The Great Hall at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, England. This hall was replicated in a studio for use in the Harry Potter films. – Photo credit: Victorperramon, Christ Church Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0


Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England – Photo credit: Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States, Hertford Bridge, CC BY 2.0


Aerial panorama of Oxford, England – Photo credit: Chensiyuan, 1 oxford aerial panorama 2016, CC BY-SA 4.0


Day Trippin’ – Macau

During my trip to Hong Kong I made a one day sojourn to Macau which is located about 64 km / 40 miles east of Hong Kong on the Pearl River Delta. A bridge is currently being built that will link the two cities by road. Though presently the most direct route is via ferry. There are two ferry terminals:

  1. China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon
  2. Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island

The second is the one I opted for. I was originally going to go via China Ferry Terminal as I was staying in TST, however, according to Google Maps there was not way to get there via foot or transit. Hmmm. I opted to take the MTR to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal which was very easy to get to.  Later I learned you can get  to the terminal in TST  via foot through Harbour City Mall. Go figure.

Once I arrived at the ferry terminal it was easy to go and buy my (economy class) ticket. The next departure was with Turbo Jet so that is who I went with. The whole process was easy and smooth. I had remembered to bring my passport so I was good to go! The high speed ferry is only for foot passengers (they assign seats) and it motored on at quite a clip. At times it was a bit rocky but I managed. 50 minutes later I was in Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (the official name). From the ferry terminal I stopped at an ATM to get some Macau patacas then caught the public bus to the historic centre.


St Dominic’s Church, Macau

Since Macau was a former Portuguese colony for centuries (until 1999) there is a number of colonial style buildings in area that have been maintained very well. It adds a European feel to that area of the city. Macau is also popular as a resort and gambling destination. Numerous casinos can be found that, with their sheer size and excess, gives Las Vegas hotels a run for its money. This also means that there are tourists galore! Especially as the day progressed. In fact there were too many people for my liking. Macau is the most densely populated area in the world (650,000+ residents in a 30.5 sq km / 11.8 sq mile area) and then add tourists – well it makes for a crowded place! This that left me not admiring Macau as much as I thought I would.  All the sights were jammed with people. I did find a few less crowed streets and a nice park for a short reprieve. In the end I left rather early (5:30pm ferry) as I was getting annoyed with the massive hustle and bustle. I did enjoy seeing Macau’s architecture, both colonial and modern (and the egg tarts) though the masses took its toll on my wanderings. I think Macau and I need a do-over. Include an overnight stay and wander in the mornings and evenings and then relax at a restaurant or cafe during the day. Yeah, Macau, let’s have a do-over one day.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World


The Ruins of St Paul / Ruinas Sao Paulo (before the crowds got really heavy)

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The Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino



Sunday Special – The Pantheon, Rome

I decided to round out letter “P” with an ancient landmark in the Eternal City – Rome’s Pantheon. This remarkable building has some interesting details, as one may expect from the best-preserved ancient Roman building within Rome. The current building was completed around 125 CE, during Emperor Hadrian’s reign. Two previous incarnations of the building existed prior, at the very same site. The first one was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 25 – 27 BCE yet burnt down in 80 CE.  It was rebuilt during the time of Domitian, was struck by lightning in 110 CE and subsequently burnt down as well. Initially built as a pagan temple it has been used as a Christian church since 608 CE (Saint Mary and the Martyrs). Having been in continuous use since it was built has aided in its ongoing survival.

One of the most striking features of the Pantheon is its incredible dome. It is the largest unsupported dome in the world. A large circular hole or oculus marks the top which is its primary source of natural light. A unique feature of this oculus is that only on a equinox (April 21) during noon does the light enter at such an angle that it hits a metal grille thus bathing the courtyard with light. Another aspect of dome is that the distance from the floor to its top is equal to the dome’s diameter. 

The Pantheon is open to visitors most everyday (closed on several holidays) and there is no fee to visit. Guided tours do have a fee involved. Tours or visits to walk around are not allowed during mass. Although I have walked past and admired the outside of the Pantheon many years ago I regret that I did not go inside. In my defense I was merely 21 years old and did not know much about it. I guess I will have to return to Rome soon.


The Pantheon interior and oculus – Photo credit: Tomi Mäkitalo, Pantheon – panoramio (15), CC BY-SA 3.0


Rome’s Pantheon at night – Photo credit: o2ma, Roma-pantheonnotte, CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday Special – Estonia

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Cliffs at Saaremaa Island, Estonia – Photo credit: Margus6, Varahommik ja Panga pank, CC BY-SA 3.0

This small Baltic country of Estonia has history that goes back for centuries and centuries with a Finno-Ugric language ancestry.  Throughout these times the Estonian’s faced German, Danish, Swedish and Russian control. In 1918 they became an independent nation but were forced into the Soviet Union in 1940. 1989 they demanded independence and gained it officially in 1991, with much credit going to their peaceful Singing Revolution of the 1980s. In 2004 they joined the European Union and switched to the euro in 2011. Today it is a tourism hot spot with plenty to offer. 

  • Capital city of Tallinn boasts an outstanding Old Town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight
  • Experience “White Nights” from May through July when the sun barely sets
  • Take in the Suur and Väike Taevaskoda (Small and Large Heaven’s Hall) along the Ahja River for some hiking and seeing some caves
  • The Lahemaa National Park on the northern coast is filled with beautiful landscape and perhaps you will see moose, foxes and other animals
  • The south’s Soomaa National Park showcases a primeval forest and quiet nature
  • Get your adrenaline flowing with activities such as repelling, rafting, ATV rentals, go-karting and even a precarious walk along the ledge of Tallinn’s TV Tower 
  • Visit any of Estonia’s plentiful islands, many just a quick ferry ride away
  • Take in all forms of popular music at any number of clubs offering rock, jazz, alternative, electronic and more. Music festivals are popular as well.
  • Admire the architecture of old in the many lighthouses, manor houses, churches, castles, and forts throughout the country

Katariina Passage in Tallinn’s Old Town – Photo credit: -jkb-, Tallinn Katariina Käik, CC BY-SA 3.0


Panorama of Tallinn’s walled Old Town – Photo credit: Ivar Leidus, Tallinn Toompea Upper Old Town 2013, CC BY-SA 3.0 EE