I have long believed that when travelling you should only do those things that you enjoy when you are at home. As such, I feel entirely liberated from visiting fine art galleries, places of historical import and museums – all of which I will find boring. Instead I do things in new countries that I love doing at home – eating good food, hiking, running, and enjoying modern art. So this week I wanted to share some of the more weird and wonderful art sites I have found in my travels…
You arrive at Hakone via a complicated set of small trains up into the hills from the coast between Tokyo and Kyoto. It appears complicated as you have to transfer from Japan Rail to a private rail line, but you can find out more here. We combined visiting the sculpture park with a stay at the very traditional Hakone-Ginyu Ryokan with a traditional hot onsen on the terrace and they served us an amazing 20 course dinner in our suite.
The sculpture park was one of my favourite places in Japan, and particularly seeing the kids clamber on some of the kid friendly sculptures.
Few people know about this museum, which is situated on an island about 15k downriver from Bratislava. It is a reason to visit Slovakia! You can cycle there, take a boat, or take a bus and walk a few km (which I did). More details here. Bratislava is also a lovely town to visit for a couple of days, but Danubiana was absolutely the highlight
The highlight here is the worlds largest sculpture made of television sets – 3000 of them. It is a bit tricky to get here without a car, so I took two buses. Vilnius is also a lovely town for a wander around so worth spending the weekend if coming from London.
I have lived outside of New Zealand most of my adult life. At no point did I decide to live ‘overseas’ it just sort of happened. First, to try a couple of years working in Australia. Then I thought it would be sensible to do my MBA in the US. And then I met a lovely french guy on a bus in Peru and he wasn’t wild about living in NZ. 19 years later, here we are in London, and I only managed to live at ‘home’ for one year in 2004. It doesn’t matter how long I stay away, Aotearoa is home. I still get a thrill when I fly over the Auckland harbour on my way in, and shed a tear when I fly out over the Manukau harbour. Feelings I never get when I land at Heathrow. There really is no place like home….. In spite of having the amazing opportunity to travel the world, and loving my life in London, I still make sure I spend at least a month a year in NZ, ideally in the glorious outdoors. I can’t do justice in NZ in just one post, so forgive me if this is a multipart series covering my favourite places to be and things to do in Aotearoa……
First post of the series – Go to Glenorchy!
I know most people recommend Queenstown as one of NZ’s highlights. I can’t deny that it is a town of great restaurants, stunning views, nice hotels and good burgers. However, it is wildly overcrowded, traffic is slower than London, and I don’t come to NZ for nice restaurants (plenty of those in London and Paris)! So, I always recommend that people head up to Glenorchy instead. Glenorchy is a very quiet little town after 4pm and before 10 am. In between these times there is a bit of hustle and bustle as jet boaters and kayakers come to town, but if you are heading off to the bush during the day you don’t see any of these people. My favourite things to do in Glenorchy are….(note if you think trail runners and hikers are bonkers, then probably not worth reading any further….)
Run the Routeburn up to Harris Saddle/TarahakaWhakatipu or further up to Signal Hill if have the stamina
This is one of my favourite 4-5 hour runs in NZ. And you don’t have to run all the uphills. On a fine day you can see out towards Milford and down into the Hollyford Valley. While the track is more overcrowded than I like, it is deservedly so given the views. And running it is a good way of avoiding the crowds, as you can run past them, and you don’t have to sleep with them snoring in the huts next to you at night. Take plenty of clothes to change into if the weather turns, and you can stop in at Harris Shelter for somewhere warm to eat lunch. If you want to walk it, that is entirely do-able to from the Routeburn Road end in 8-9 hours return
Hike/Tramp overnight up to Earnslaw Burn
This track isn’t particularly runable – it is very rocky and rooty, and even with my hardcore kiwi mates we didn’t go much faster than 2-3km per hour. Once you get to the tree line, you have amazing views to the glacier and icefall on Mount Earnslaw. Plan on 2-3 hours to get up there. I would recommend taking a tent and spending the night
Climb Mount Earnslaw/PIKIRAKATAHI
So, I haven’t done this one recently, but it is a great climb. You need crampons, rope and ice axes, and if you don’t know what to do with those things, then either skip it or hire a guide. This climb has one of my favourite bush huts in NZ, made with corrugated iron, and bunks made out of wood and hessian sacks. It also wins my award for the most energetic mice – they ran across my legs all night, to take running jumps to try and jump out to the feedbags hanging from the ceiling…. then you would hear them slide down the side of the bag, hit the floor, squeak, and then run up the bunks again. Mice aside, it is a great climb – it can be done in a full day from the hut, with the hut being a few hours walk in from the Rees Valley (best if you have a landrover so you don’t have to walk from Muddy Creek carpark)
Run up the Greenstone and back down the Caples
This is possible as one very long day, or with an overnight stop in one of the huts. I didn’t quite have the energy to do the loop this year as had beaten up legs after weeks of running – so I ran up and back the Caples one day (about 50k return) and a decent amount up the Greenstone the next day (about 30k return). Both are beautiful and different. The trails are eminently runable, there are plenty of huts and lots of fresh water.
Run up the Rees Valley
Without question my favourite hike/run in the area is up the Rees Valley. If you have a couple of days head up to the Dart hut and if weather permits head up the Cascade saddle to see the glacier. Fingers crossed the Dart Valley will be open sometime soon, and then you will be able to hike out down that valley, otherwise you will need to exit back the way you came. If you don’t have tonnes of time, the Rees Valley is a most excellent day run to get to Shelter Rock hut and come back down (about 40k return). Totally stunning!
There are lots and lots more terrific walks in the area, I have just highlighted my favourites. The doc guys are amazing so will guide you to something that is in your capability range if you ask them
Go funyaking and jet boating!!!
Yes, its cheesy, but its a lot of fun. Our friends at Ngai Tahu Tourism run a slick and deservedly profitable operation sending tourists up the river in jet boats and then making you paddle your way back down again in inflatable kayaks. It is way more fun than it sounds. And it stops at beautiful Cockburn for lunch, where you can paddle up the side stream to see the stunning rock formations. Insiders tip – go for a walk before lunch up to the look out.
If you are going off trail or to less used trails, please register with the local Dept of Conservation office in case you get lost.
Best coffee is at the GYC, but annoyingly they won’t make skinny coffees – they have decided their customers are wrong. Their scones are good though
There is a perfectly acceptable and enormous burger and chips on offer at the local pub. It ain’t flash but it is pretty good
There are a few places to stay. If you are on a budget the Doc camping grounds are super cheap. Last time we rented a nice house on bookabach with a hot tub! Otherwise further around the lake you can stay at Kinloch Lodge.
Wherever you stay, make sure to stock up on food and everything you need before heading up to Glenorchy – while you can find everything you need in town it is expensive.
Georgia is stunning! The Caucasus mountains, the black sea and some amazing orthodox architecture. The people are friendly and relatively modern. The food is amazing. I can’t believe more people don’t come to Georgia. I loved it and can’t wait to go back. My recommendations for Georgia
Head to the Kazbeg and climb up to Tsminda Sameba
It is a thrilling, albeit rough, ride up the Georgian Military Highway, almost to the border with Russia to reach the Kazbeg, a sleepy mountain village in the shadow of Mt Kazbeg. On the way, you pass the gorgeous Ananuri fortress, which is worth a visit.
Once in Kazbeg, you can climb up to the spectacular orthodox church – Tsminda Sameba at 2200m. These Georgians take their religion pretty seriously, and none of the 80 year old villagers think anything of walking up 1000 metres to go to a service. The Russians actually built a cable car up here in the 80s, and the locals promptly destroyed it – you can’t see any evidence that it was ever there. Don’t expect any respite when you sweatily arrive at the church either. Like most orthodox churches in this part of the world, there are no seats. Only lazy people need to sit down to hear a sermon for two hours, good orthodox christians are happy to stand up.
The church is spectacular, but the setting more so. If you have time, I would recommend staying a few days and getting some hiking in, and perhaps climb Mt Kazbeg (5047m)
Visit davit gareja
Davit Gareja is a collection of old cave monasteries right on the border with Azerbaijan. So close to the border in fact, that I decided to go for a walk in Azerbaijan, as I hadn’t technically visited at this point. Getting there is easy from Tbilisi, though we did run into a very NZ like traffic jam on the way there
6000 monks were killed here when the monastery was sacked by Shah Abbas in 1615. The monasteries never fully recovered but there are still monks living there today.
Its easy hiking around the many caves, and worthwhile going the hiking to check out the frescos (although be on the look out for snakes)
wander around tblisi and eat a lot
Georgian food is good! So good in fact, that whenever I travel to a former Soviet Republic I check to see if they have a Georgian restaurant and make a point of going to eat there. My favourites are Khinkali (meat dumplings), Kachapuri (cheese bread) and Mastnis Supi (yogurt soup). They sound heavy to eat, and they are, but Georgians are masters at spices and herbs, so the food is delicious!!!!
To counter the calorie intake from all the good food, I would suggest taking in the sites of Tbilisi to get your step count up. I really enjoyed the new Tsminda Sameba in Tbilisi (yup same name as above, it means Holy Trinity), wandering round the old town to visit the little old orthodox churches, and enjoying the huge stalinist monstrosities in the new town.
I only had 5 days in Georgia and getting public transport was going to be slow! So, I used a local agent to provide transport and an english speaking guide (a groovy young feminist called Tamuna). It was about $150 per day just for me, and both the guide and the driver were fab. They also entertained me with lots of local music. I booked this through http://www.georgicatravel.ge. If you were time pressured, you could do everything above in a long weekend. If you had more time you could go to Svaneti and the black sea
I stayed at the Radisson on points. It was fine. Being cheap, I made sure I made a packed lunch and snacks to take with me from the very good breakfast buffet
Ladies don’t forget a headscarf or a hoody if you want to see the inside of the churches
I never understood why people wanted to go on Safari. Surely it was just like going to the zoo, but perhaps a bigger zoo with fences that were more spread out. What was the point of spending huge wads of cash to go to a zoo? But after the first safari drive that we ever went on, we were totally hooked. We had a magical experience and got to see two lions mating (no rude jokes please!!). Since then we have been going whenever we could summon up the cash
where to go on Safari
You can go on Safari all over Africa. South Africa is terrific for self organised safaris, it is good value, the food and wine are amazing, and you can drive yourself everywhere! I would highly recommended Kruger for Safari virgins and there are tonnes of good places to stay. Namibia is also good, very safe and easy to drive around. Kenya and Tanzania are good too, particularly in the Masai Mara, where you are almost guaranteed to see the big five in your first hour on a safari truck. However, the downside is that Kenya and Tanzania are crowded with cheap package tourists, so while you are watching the cheetah kill the gazelle, sixteen other safari trucks drive up to watch it too. So, if you can afford it, I would highly recommend visiting Botswana at least once. The wildlife is as good as anywhere, but you will likely be the only people you see on your safari drives and that makes it a magical experience.
For a control freak like me, a safari is the perfect holiday! The daily routine is fixed – get up for coffee and a snack, drive for three hours, come back for a huge breakfast, sleep for three hours, eat a huge lunch, nap again, drive for three more hours, eat a huge dinner. And it is utterly utterly relaxing to have nothing to think about apart from what sundowner drink you want on the truck that evening. The animals, also, are totally outside of your control. You can’t dictate what you will see when. Of course the rangers are world class, so you can let them know what you are more interested in seeing, but the leopards aren’t going to turn up where you want them to, so you have to be patient.
There are lots of good places to stay in Botswana, some cheaper, some outrageous. My most memorable experience is our stay at Chiefs Camp on Mombo Island. It was incredible. I was going more upmarket than usual as had hubby in tow, together with his parents. We had gifted them a trip to celebrate their 70th birthdays. While the lodge was divine and the food was good, it was Mombo and the cats that really stole my heart. Some memorable moments….
Watching a leopard kill an impala
Ok, so I know it is gruesome, and I did use to struggle to understand why people actually sought out ‘kills’ on safari drives (I never had). But it was fascinating, visceral and thrilling to watch a lone and hungry leopard take down an impala. We would have missed it entirely if our guide hadn’t noticed the assembled audience of baboons checking out the action (hoping the leopard would do the work and they could steal the impala afterwards). The whole process took at least half an hour and it was enthralling
Following a pack of wild dogs
In over twenty safaris, I have only seen wild dog once. There are apparently less than 1500 adults still alive in Africa, and they are common on the menu for Lions. It was a real treat to find this pack waking up from their afternoon naps (they are tough to spot as they blend into the grass very well), have a few yawns and then head off to go hunting
getting to follow the same animals over a few dayS
The interesting thing about staying in the same place for a few days is you get to see the same animals more than once. My favourite occurrence of this was two young male lions. We met them one evening, and they were hungry and grumpy….. you can see they were hungry by the size of their stomachs! And then we found them again the next morning, and they had obviously found something tasty for a midnight snack as the tummy was bursting.
Safaris are expensive. Shop around. Going direct to the lodge is often not cheaper as they have to guarantee not to undercut the agents they use. See if a UK outfit with a bundled flight offer is cheaper. Also don’t move between lodges too much as it takes time away from seeing the wildlife and the internal flights are expensive
Don’t expect to take decent photos with your iPhone or digital camera. It just won’t happen. We had a decent canon digital SLR (EOS 5) but more importantly rented a serious kick arse zoom lens for the week. It was worth it. The lens would have cost $10,000 to buy, but we rented it for $400 (with hefty insurance). If you like photography definitely consider renting at least one decent lens
The trip got off to an auspicious start. I was on an Lufthansa flight from Munich to Addis Ababa with a stopover in Khartoum. As I tried to disembark in Khartoum, the hostess blocked my exit and double checked my boarding card. “Are you sure you want to get off here?????, I am ok if you want to stay on until Addis, as I really don’t think it is safe for you here!!!!”. In her defence there were only about 10 other people getting off and they all looked like wealthy local business men!!! Sudan definitely has a reputation, but it was probably one of the most interesting and friendly places I have been, and there was lots to see. Highlights of the trip were!
Pyramids of Meroe
Meroe has more pyramids than Egypt! And I didn’t see a single tourist the whole time I was there. I barely saw any people, just the guardian, and an opportunistic young boy who wanted to sell me some jewellery. I actually bought some too as wanted to applaud his entrepreneurialism. I had a glorious two days wandering up and down the ruins here. The light was magnificent in the evening and the morning, and it was a totally different experience to seeing the pyramids in Egypt. Blissful solitude, just me, the sand, and the pyramids which were tombs to the Nubian Kings and Queens.
I treated myself to a night at the tented camp at Meroe. I was the only guest. Apparently they occasionally get Italian tour groups http://www.italtoursudan.com/en/. The food was great (enough for four people), but it wasn’t cheap. Worth staying though, as unless you have your own camping gear, this is the only place near to the pyramids, and they are worth seeing at sunrise and sunset
Whirling Dervishes at Omdurman on Friday
Head to the Sheikh Hamad-al Nil Tomb in Omdurman to see the whirling Dervishes – Sufi Muslims who wear patchwork robes and dance to the beat of drums twirling and stamping their feet until they go into a trance. Apparently the dancing helps them communicate with Allah.
I had a blast here talking to locals, enjoying the ambiance. No-one bothered me, though a few of the women came for a chat.
This lady here really wanted her photo taken, so I obliged.
Temples at Naqa
These temples are the largest archaeological sites outside of Meroe, and are still being excavated. It is a bit like going to luxor, but before it was excavated and without any tourists. I had all of the temples around Naqa entirely to myself, and the only humans I saw were goat herders sleeping under the trees. I am not sure I would make a special trip to see these, but they were lovely, and they were en route to Meroe
The best (and only) place I would ever stay in Khartoum is the acropole. http://acropolekhartoum.com These guys were amazing, they sorted out my visa, had a fixer at the airport to help me navigate immigration and they sorted out a driver and all the permits tourists require to take me to Meroe. It ain’t flash, and it isn’t that cheap either, but it is good. They also serve a decent dinner, where you will meet lots of other crusty travellers, archaeologists and aid workers.
There are no ATM or credit card processing in Sudan. Take cash! lots of it! I ran into an american couple who had had an accident, and they were stuck without anyway of paying their hospital bill, and they couldn’t leave the country without payment. Eventually they worked out a solution of wiring money to the foreign account of a third party and getting cash – but it was complicated and took weeks!
Its hot here! really hot! As I was travelling alone with a male driver, I started off wearing a headscarf and sitting in the back seat of the car. I gave up on the headscarf on day 2, and moved to the front seat (closer to the aircon) after a bout of heat stroke of day 1. Would still bring light loose clothes and keep your legs and upper arms covered.
I am not the only one who liked Sudan, check out this guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/09/-sp-sudans-tourist-gems-pyramids-gaddafi-bin-laden
I was quite torn about visiting Guatemala! While the pictures looked beguiling, I was taking my mum, dad and husband on a trip around central America, and was worried about their safety. A legitimate concern given the violent crime rates are the highest in Latin America (which is a high bar to begin with). My dad too is a stubborn hardy kiwi bloke who contrarily seeks out dangerous situations. Case in point, when I asked him not to walk up Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua (as apparently it was a hot spot for tourist muggings). He promptly went up there the next morning before breakfast. I told him he might have been robbed, and he proudly told me he took no money so they couldn’t rob him. Note to non frequent travellers – you really want to make sure you have some money for people to steal from you, at least $20 if not $50! I am not joking!….. better they steal $50 from you than get pissed off and shoot you as you have nothing for them. Anyway, parental frustrations and concerns aside, Guatemala was the highlight of that trip for us all. The only other thing to note is there are more gringos here than I typically like to see on holiday, so make sure you time your visits to places to avoid them as much as possible!
Visiting the villages around Atitlan
Be smart, as there are quite a few tourists in Panajachel, so go and find the villages which are less visited. There are lovely places to eat, and hugely photogenic local ladies to take pictures of. The air is clean and it is is stunningly beautiful on the lake. We went to Santa Cruz, San Marcos and San Pedro and enjoyed wandering around.
Stayed at Hotel Posada Don Rodrigo in Panajachel, but there are tonnes of good options in Atitlan, eat anywhere as it is a bit of a gringo paradise
Head to Tikal to see the ruins
Make sure you stay the night, as the flights from Guatemala city land en masse in the morning and then there are swarms of people all over the ruins (we made the mistake of being on the plane with the swarms). Frances Ford Coppola has a famous hotel nearby if you feel like going glam https://www.thefamilycoppolaresorts.com/en/la-lancha/location.
The ruins are amazing, and if you are fit and ok with ditching your guide there is some terrific hiking. While you are out there definitely pop over the border to Belize and see the ruins of Caracol and Xunantunich (a regret of mine that we didn’t as I ended up flying in 3 years later to see these)
go to the market in chichicastenango
Yes this was a tourist nightmare, overrun with gringos by 10 am. However, if you want to see the locals, then stay the night, get up at 6am to watch them set up and get the hell out before the hordes arrive at 10 am on their buses. We really enjoyed having breakfast at one of the stalls and chatting with the locals
Hang out with the gringos in Antigua
Antigua really is lovely! There is really nothing to do here except eat! We whiled away plenty of hours drinking decent coffee and eating cake…. it is just one of those things you do when you have been travelling and haven’t had a decent coffee or anything yummy to eat for a few weeks. Thats why places like Antigua suck you in and you get stuck doing nothing but energetically finding new coffee and cake places every day :-). There are some nice things to see between the cake shops, so take your camera with you. The plaza Mayor, Arco de Santa Catalina, Cathedral San Jose and Convento de las Capuchinas are all lovely!
Stayed at the uber luxurious Palacio de Dona Leonor. It was beautiful and enormous. Not my normal travelling style, but it was a gift for Ma and Pa for their 60th birthdays. Eat anywhere with cake!
Reading back on this post it seems that visiting Guatemala is a bit like going on safari. You want to be up and out between 6-10am and then again perhaps in the late afternoon. But you want to avoid the middle of the day, when the gringos are at their most active. It really is worth the early mornings
I prebooked almost everything in Guatemala as was keen to look after Ma and Pa. Elizabeth Bell came highly recommended, but charged a premium. Things did work like clock work. You can contact her at www.antiguatours.net. If I was going by myself I would probably use local buses
Guatemala City is one of the dodgiest places in Latin America. Antigua is less than an hour from the airport in a car, so there is no reason to stay in the City. We were amused by how many carpet and plastic stores had armed guards!
I am spending the bank holiday in our house in France. Our second home here is in a wonderful sleepy village, surrounded by baking fields of sunflowers in the summertime, and the biggest thing that is likely to happen when we are here is a gathering of hearty eighty year olds on the village petanque field right outside our front door. Coming here for a holiday is like putting on a warm and familiar pair of flannel pyjamas. Our routines are comfortable and effortless, from popping down to get a morning croissant at the bakery, to driving to the local market town to see our butcher. The smells, sights and experiences from here are clearly etched in my memories and bring me comfort even when I am not here. It has made me think about places in the world I have visited that have left similar indelible impressions on me. Places I felt incredibly comfortable and would like to go back to to spend some more time. So, this week, I am going to share with you a few of the special places in the world that I can’t wait to (or already have) revisit (ed). Amazing places which fed my soul (and most likely my belly), and that I would highly recommend you put on your to do list. Today – Ethiopia! There are lots and lots of things to do in Ethiopia, including hiking in the Simiens and seeing the Danakil Depression, but my favourite places are…..
visit Bet Giyorgis Church, Lalibela at Dawn
Lalibela is a relatively sleepy high altitude town surrounded by small mud hut villages with a surprising surfeit of ‘barack obama’ gift stores. The town is famous for the most incredible rock hewn churches. Unlike normal churches where rock is excavated and a church is built, here they have dug the churches out of the ground! It is hard to describe without seeing them. For those of you who have been to Petra, think that but 10 times more impressive. I have vivid memories of visiting the church at 6am to hear the amazing chanting from the white robed monks. The music was haunting, the smell from the incense pervasive, and sight of the worshippers in the dawn chill is indelibly etched on my brain. Spend a few days in Lalibela to visit all the churches but also head out to Yemrehanna Kristos which is a beautiful chocolate box church in a cavern about an hour or so from Lalibela. I loved Lalibela and can’t wait to go back (stayed at Tukul Village, picked up a decent guide on arrival at the airport)
Do the dawn procession in Axum
Axum is apparently the home of the Arc of the Covenant at the Cathedral of Tsion Maryam, though no one ever gets to see it. Apparently it is so sacred only the guardian gets to see it, and that job passes down when the guardian dies. The Cathedral is worth a visit but isn’t wildly interesting. There are also some extremely famous stelae (pillars), which are mildly interesting and the reason most people come to town. Axum town itself is a boring strip of poorly built glass and concrete buildings with none of the charm of Lalibela. So, why come? Two reasons, a) it is the gateway to the Tigrai – more on that later, and b) the Wednesday procession at dawn where pilgrims walk around town paying homage to the churches. We joined in, (sporting the obligatory big white scarfs) and it was a wonderful experience…… (stayed at Sabean Hotel which was basic but fine, and hired a guide and driver from Dawit tours – firstname.lastname@example.org)
Climb to the monasteries in the Tigrai
If you have a head for heights and are comfortable rock climbing in bare feet, definitely hike up to Abuna Yemata. I bowed out as am petrified of heights, but my feisty companion Tamara made it up with some rope and some help.
If you have a penis, definitely head to Debre Damo. Again, this is a rope climbing effort, but sadly only men are allowed to visit (apparently women aren’t clean or holy enough)
I did make it to Debre Maryam Korkor, which was at 2,500 metres. I thought I was climbing well until I was overtaken by three nuns who were in their seventies, bare foot, and carrying all their food and water – very humbling!!!! While up there, pop round the corner to visit the monk at Abba Daniel Korkor (he had the most amazing face)
(Stay at Gheralta Lodge in the Hawzien region if you can penetrate their useless reservation system, we hired a driver and a guide as there is very little public transport anywhere in the Tigrai. Dawit from covenant tours sorted this for us too)
Some additional tips!
Apparently the attendants on Ethiopian are often asked if there will be food in Ethiopia. Yes there definitely is food! and the food is actually pretty good, provided you stick to the vegetarian. The goat and the chickens were the toughest things I have ever eaten. However, injera (ethiopian bread made with teff) and vegetarian food is pretty delicious. Favourites are shiro wat, kik wat and shira tegamino!
Addis is a crap hole! the hotels are overpriced, its dirty, and the taxi drivers are what you would expect in Africa. Get in, get out as fast as you can
The kids here have been ruined by overly generous foreigners. If you stop your car in the middle of nowhere to pee, you will be overrun by kids within three minutes. Pee quick! Apparently kids don’t bother to go to school in some places as they don’t want to miss out on begging from foreigners
Ethiopia is extremely traditional. Neither Fish nor Teddy (our driver and guide) thought women could drive a car. After much persuasion Fish did let me take the 4wd for a spin around the desert and he was most impressed that I knew how to use reverse! Ladies – keep your expectations for equality low!