This isn’t a Bucket List – it’s a retrospective rating of places already visited. They are rated, purely subjectively of course, on how they’d rank on my Bucket List had I known beforehand what they were like.
Anything 5 star and I’m very happy I got to see it. 1 star and who’d give a fat rat’s arse at missing it.
A rat hole can rate highly and, conversely, perfectly pleasant places not so highly. White sandy beaches with pristine water generically may rate 5 stars but there are any number of places like that around the world so any one of them is not a must-see on its own. Whereas there are some confronting destinations that can rate highly; the confrontation may be part of the attraction as may some unique, compelling characteristic of the place. I am thinking of Giza in particular. Modern Giza is your stereotypical rat hole. Filthy, noisy and decrepit. But, the experience of how the locals live is a worthwhile, sobering experience that makes me grateful for how lucky I am, and then there’s the pyramids and the sphinx. Any discomfort, physical or mental, is of no consequence when you see them. Unquestionably they should be very high up on anybody’s Bucket List.
Although it doesn't show in the photos, a shared characteristic of a lot of these places was the frequent crushing crowds. Many are tourist hot spots and it shows - shoulder-to-shoulder humanity for a lot of the time. Exploring the Scottish highlands, a circuit of Tasmania or lazing in a lodge on a remote Canadian lake are now on my must-dos as a consequence.
Along with London, Paris and New York it’s one of those iconic cities that every practised world traveller visits isn’t it? It contains a vast array of treasures from several centuries, it’s fascinating, easy to get around and with few negatives. So why not 5 stars? I’m being harsh on Rome only because the other Italian destinations, from the wonders of Florence to the oh-so-Italian Cinque Terre rate a bit higher.
I’ve been to Rome twice and would happily go again. OK, for anyone who hasn't been to Rome, consider it 5 stars for your own Bucket List.
More than Amalfi, any visit should include the neraby Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Hurculaneum. The iconic, winding coast road, postcard villages, history, volcano, Italian stylishness - bellissimo! Get me a plane ticket, hire me a Ducati and see if Sophia Loren has got some free time.
Utterly charming Monterosso and Manarola, the best alternatives of the 5 lands, or the lovely nearby Porto Venere were for me how life by the coast should be in Italy.
Italy is the epicentre of European culture and Florence is the cultural capital of Italy. A head-trip back through to the Renaissance, and inspirational in that it shows the creativity that humans are capable of, particularly historically when those with the money invested in art and architecture whereas the present day rampaging tycoons are simply driven by greed and self interest.
Simply stunning. On the Grand Canal on a sunny day with the water lapping against grand, fading old palaces, basilicas, pavilions and hotels and I could almost hear opera in my head. The maze of back canals and alleyways, the piazzas and courtyards, it’s a city to explore on foot and by water too if you’re happy to spend the money and look like a total tourist in a gondola. Or take a ferry to the outer islands.
Croatia rates higher as the sum of all of its parts - all destinations combined plus the drives in between being more enjoyable than any one individual destination. Green, forested valleys and mountains, open spaces - I enjoyed the drive between destinations perhaps more than the destinations themselves. An overall rating for the Croatia we saw would be 4 stars.
Pristine waterways set in a forested national park. I’m happy I saw it, but for experiencing Mother Nature, a Tierra Del Fuego pampas, Yosemite or a hot spring on a Japanese mountain sound a lot more compelling to me.
If you don’t get to see Split rest assured you can shuffle off this mortal coil untroubled by any thoughts that your life was less than it could’ve been because you’d never seen it. Diocletian's Palace however deserves 3 stars.
Pleasant, charming, easygoing but Hvar wouldn't prompt me to fly round the world to reach it as the ultimate destination. It's perfectly fine as one component of the whole of the Dalmatian coast.
Dubrovnik is nice - from the intriguing old Dubrovnik to the clean and green newer Dubrovnik. I won't give it 4 stars because Rome is 4 stars and it isn't up there with Rome.
Munich's OK. OK is a 2 star rating. Maybe if we'd had more time there I could rate it higher but I have no burning desire to go back.
Constantinople. The Cinderella to Cairo as the ugly sister. Both get 5 stars from me but for entirely different reasons. Istanbul has embraced modernity while looking after its history, Egypt's ancient treasures were threatened by Islamist nut jobs. Istanbul is clean and functional. Cairo is filthy and dysfunctional. Ironically, Turkey is now facing up to a religiously idealogical prime minister while Egypt is shooting and jailing their zealots. Get to Istanbul before the nutters turn it into another Cairo.
A compulsory pilgrimage for any Aussie or Kiwi visiting Turkey, I defy any of them not to get misty at Anzac Cove or Lone Pine. The nearby Cannakale and Troy are interesting but supplementary.
Stop for a look if you're driving past, see what the Greeks used to be capable of and then continue on your way.
It's a stop-over between destinations, it's not a desination in itself.
More than the famous Roman site with its impressive amphitheatre and Library of Celsus, the countryside is open vistas arond Selcuk overlooked by its grand fortress and fringing mountain ranges where Mt Koressos holds the shrine of the House of the Virgin Mary. Shrine-shmine, but it's a pretty site at the end of a scenic drive so it's worth a visit.
A pleasant town and waterfront but it's just a base from which to visit Ephesus and Samos.
Interesting geologically because of its spectacular travertine terraces and intriguing historically through its ancient, sprawling necropolis and ruins. Disappointing in that its covered by fat, underclad eastern Europeans. It's worth the inland diversion from the coast. It's not worth an entire trip on its own.
A very enjoyable day trip - but not a life's ambition.
Multiple stages of a colourful history set in solid stone - a history buff's dream. Watch out for the African women flogging trinkets down by the harbour - those bitches know how to rip off a trusting white boy.
Lovely, charming, brown but picturesque tourist magnet. One of the less famous Greek islands would perhaps be a better option but it's still pretty good.
I don't care that this place is a bit too twee for the cynics amongst us. It is spectacular and beautiful and we all loved it.
Sprawling, cosmopolitan, a bit ragged in parts these days but it rates highly for any number of reasons.
Dirt, dust, garbage, poverty, desperation, crowds, noise, shambolic disarray. The Egyptian Museum, the pyramids, sphinx and the souqs. Do not miss it.
The pyramid fields of Egypt stretch along the desert fringes from Saqqara where the greenery suddenly gives way to sand in a distinct line. The Red Pyramid, Bent Pyramid, Stepped Pyramid, the eroded pyramids at Dashur. There's no point in just seeing the really big pyramids at Giza when the others are able to be seen with a drive down to the Memphis area.
If you're in Egypt you're there to see ancient Egypt or you're there because you enjoy squalor. If it's because of the history then why on earth would you miss the temples at Karnak and Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and the Temple Of Hatshepsut? Why would you do that? You wouldn't.
The Nile is a transport option between those destinations that are the reason for visiting Egypt. But it's the best transport option - a leisurely paced way to view the country in comfort. I'd rate it higher but in practice it's a means to an end and it's not the purpose for visiting.
The Temple Of Horus, while not as huge as the monuments at Luxor and Karnak, is in amazingly good condition. You can feel ancient history at such places where it's a bit more of a strain when looking at exhibits in a museum.
Pleasant enough, particularly when compared to Cairo. The cascades below the dam are explorable by boat through a maze of boulders and exposed rock for a worthwhile diversion to the real purpose of being there - going to Abu Simbel.
Impressive - both the temples and the efforts taken to move them from being submerged by the waters of the lake formed by the High Dam. Less impressive - the unbelievable fuckwittery of Victorian-era vandals who carved their names into the statues.
Sinai sits between Egypt and Jordan so is typically transited more than visited. It's mountains and deserts are starkly beautiful and could justify a trip on their own. I rate it a 1 star because the shit-hole also known as Nuweiba was so appalling it has affected my judgement of the entire peninsular.
Neat, friendly and a good introduction to Jordan, but it's just a place to wash off the grime of Egypt and it serves as an entree to the treats to come with Wadi Rum and Petra.
Go all native - tie a keffiyeh around your head, stay overnight in a Bedouin tent amongst the spectacular desert escarpments and dunes and smoke a shisha around a fire (WTF do they get the wood from?) Wonderful.
OMG! FMD! WTF! Such exclamations may not make it into the glossy tourist brochures but believe me they are appropriate. Outfuckingstanding.
A mostly scenic drive, with Madaba and the Dead Sea being worthwhile stop-offs, but they are not the reasons for visiting Jordan.
The thing with Amman is that it's not a particular stand out in any way apart from the fact it is not squalid, it is not filthy, it is not dysfunctional and it is not in disrepair. It seemed to have an easygoing atmosphere and it's not doing it a disservice to state simply that it seems reasonably pleasant.
Along with Palmyra the most sprawling collection of ruined Roman structures. A lot more accessible than Palmyra with the restoration efforts being more in evidence too, and both sites make you wonder at the industriousness and initiative of the Romans. Don't miss the nearby Ajloun fortress for an islamic take on masonry.
Impressive Roman ruins in impressively good condition. If you don't want to see impressive Roman ruins don't go there.
Old Damascus is living history and for a few days we were living in amongst it – the oldest, continuously inhabited city. It gets the maximum star rating because there’s now no chance of ever going back and we were grateful we managed to experience it before the entire country turned to custard.
If deserts and sprawling ancient ruins are your thing this place is well worth the long drive. There's fuckall else to see, and hopefully, once the ISIS scum bags are eventually disposed of, there'll be something left to see.
Koh Samui is a place to go to unwind, sit by a hotel pool with a marguerita and de-stress. The island is being rapidly over-developed for tourism and is losing its charm. It is by no means a must-see-before-I-die destination.