A short drive north of San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument. Most of the redwood trees in the monument are between 500 and 800 years old. The oldest is at least 1,200 years old. It’s such a beautiful place to visit. We hired a car and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge stopping off at Stinson Beach for some sea air. The perfect day out!
I was a bit nervous about filming in Iran because it’s a strict Muslim country and I’d read that you can be arrested for photographing government buildings. It turns out I needn’t have worried because my enduring memory of Tehran will be it’s friendly people. And I’m not just saying that to be nice, I really mean it. The people in Tehran were warm, welcoming, helpful, smiley and just incredibly lovely. It reaffirmed to me something I already knew. All of us on this planet are essentially the same. Despite our differences in religion, colour, gender and sexuality the vast majority of us want each other to be happy. I know this might sound simplistic, but I’ve spent years travelling the globe and meeting different people and, despite what the headlines, media and politicians would have us believe, I think we are all connected by the common desire to live in a safe, peaceful and loving world.
In this video I visit Golestan Palace, one of Tehran’s popular tourist sights, and the Grand Bazaar which is popular with locals and tourists. I’d heard that the driving in Iran could be hair-raising but it wasn’t too scary!
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia and it’s home to the Petronas Towers which are the tallest twin towers in the world. They were completed in 1996 and were the tallest buildings in the world for six years. The architecture is fabulous and I particularly love the pinnacles at the top of each tower. The spire, mast ball and ring ball on each tower collectively weighs 176 tons! The view from the top of the Petronas Towers is stunning.
I spent the day in Los Angeles with my friends Zoe and Stuart. We started off with a fitness class (very LA!) then took a road trip to Santa Monica, Venice Beach and through Topanga Canyon. I asked them to make a sensible contribution to my LA vlog and they did the opposite! I love the big blue horizon of the Pacific shore 🙂
I had twenty-four hours in Bahrain and one of the best places to soak up the local atmosphere is the Manama Souq. It wasn’t too long before we were lost in a maze of streets looking for the Spice Market!
It’s an eight hour time change between London and America’s west coast so it’s very easy to be sleepless in Seattle! I’m so tired I’m struggling to string a sentence together. A quick walk up the road from my hotel, past the beautiful Elliot Bay, is the world’s first Starbucks. I’m going to get some coffee…
My friend Miriam lives in Manhattan so whenever I visit New York I always try to see her. Miriam used to live in London (that’s where I met her) she’s a writer and an ex-journalist and she encouraged me to write my first novel Purple. After a quick change I take a shortcut through Grand Central Station (one of my favourite buildings) to meet her for pizza. Seems like everyone in Manhattan is short of time. A New York minute is an instant. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.
I’m airline cabin crew (flight attendant if you’re American) and this is one of my favourite ways to deal with jet lag. A Hong Kong foot massage! Reflexology helps to relieve tension and treat illness. I don’t know the exact science but I do know that it makes me feel great. After sixteen hours on my feet it’s the perfect recovery. This was my first video and that’s why it’s filmed in portrait instead of landscape. Danny Boyle isn’t shaking in his shoes just yet 😉
Goodbye, bye-bye, goodbye, bye-bye…keep smiling…repeat 300 times. It usually takes ten minutes for everyone to disembark a jumbo jet.
I’ve been doing this long haul flying job for twenty-four years and i sometimes wonder how many people i’ve said goodbye to. I must have said goodbye to tens of thousands of people from all over the planet. Some of them couldn’t speak English. Most of them smile and nod in response. Many of them say goodbye to me. Occasionally i get a high five or a handshake. A few frazzled souls look straight through me but who can blame them.
No matter what the adverts promise, it’s not a joyful experience jetting long haul, especially in economy. The noise, the cramped conditions, the lack of control. At best it’s bewildering and disorientating. A man who’d been staring out the window for hours once asked me, “What’s that grey area we’re flying over?” It was the wing. Despite the conditions, I’ve only ever witnessed one incident of air rage. Because complete strangers can be packed like hotdogs into a tin can and remain polite for fourteen hours i have hope.
A couple of weeks ago, after all the goodbyes, i found myself in New York City on a twenty-four hour layover. Perfect timing because my good friend Paul was attending his United States citizenship ceremony and i’d been invited. I met Paul, his wife Miriam and her parents on a windy street in Manhattan at seven thirty the following morning and queued politely with countless others. Crotchety security personnel, X-ray machines and body scanners temporarily transported me back to work, but once inside i was relieved when a happy official handed me my own USA flag. I wondered if attendees at a United Kingdom citizenship ceremony would be handed a Union flag and decided they probably wouldn’t. In the UK Scotland is planning a vote on independence and we could end up going our separate ways.
It took a while to get started because of paperwork and formalities. Friends and family sat behind the two-hundred-or-so citizens-to-be and conversed in whispers, a bit like a theatre audience waiting for the lights to go down. It fascinated me that those about to take the pledge of allegiance came from fifty different countries: Bali, New Zealand, Ireland and Iran to name a few. It would be trite to mock the God Bless America sing-along part of the ceremony, so i won’t, but i will admit to finding it schmaltzy.
Other moments were surprisingly moving. The bits that moved me weren’t obvious. They were unofficial. They were the smiles passed between family members and loved ones. The hugs, kisses and cheers that signified the end of a long road. A road which could have resulted in separation. I even spied a gay couple, loved-up and radiant with relief, who could now look forward to the rest of their lives together. According to Miriam and Paul the road to a USA passport is strewn with doubts, worry, exams and paperwork.
I left the government building thinking about those who are separated by more than geographical borders. Religion, war, hatred, bigotry and daft bureaucracy to name a few. I read recently that it will take an alien invasion for the people of Planet Earth to unite, but i’m wondering if we can wait that long. Why don’t our world leaders get together and arrange Planet Earth Citizenship? In the name of love I think it’s what we need. If those in power can’t organise world peace then i’ll have to cross my fingers for a magical intervention. I’m imagining a Purple storm that circles the planet in minutes and steals everyone aged eighteen to sixty-five.
Wanna sign up for Planet Earth Citizenship? The only requirements are love and an email address! See the box top left 🙂