Never Go Back?

I read a blog post recently which posed the question "Do you ever return to a destination?", and it started me thinking about places I've been to more than once, and my motivation for going back.

I've got a pretty poor record on this.  I am regularly heard to say "I'll definitely be back" at the end of a visit, but rarely make good on the pledge.

If I'm going to try and rationalise what I do, it's probably along the lines that if I haven't particularly enjoyed a place, why would I go back, and if I have really enjoyed a place I worry that a second visit won't be as good, and will somehow 'cancel out' the memories of the first visit.  If I do somehow manage to visit a place twice, there is a pretty good chance I'll revisit several times.

So where have I been more than once, a few places come to mind, and why.

North Devon (loads of visits)  
The visits here started as a family visits to an elderly relative of my wife's, but subsequently they turned into regular tourist visits, usually to the same seafront hotel. For us this is a comfortable relaxing part of the country, it's not too far away, and there isn't any thinking required once we get there, so it's ideal 'switch off' territory.
North Devon, 2013
Shetland (loads of visits)  
Our first visit to Shetland was in the depths of winter to see the Up Helly Aa fire festival, and the next visit was only six months later to see what the place was like in daylight, and since then we've spent lots of time on the Islands.  This is my classic example of the dangers of revisiting somewhere lots of times, you eventually decide that it doesn't make sense to keep booking hotels and cottages and you need to find a house there to feed the visit habit. 
Shetland, 2007
Falkland Islands (twice, so far)  
This is the only really long haul place I've been back to.  This was one place where I really needed to grit my teeth (metaphorically at least) and rebook a trip to somewhere I'd really enjoyed visiting. I did choose a different travel route for the second visit (which wasn't as good!), and visited a mix of places, some new for the second visit others revisits (some being even better the second time round).  And I really do want to visit again!
Falkland Islands, 2009
Florence (three or four times, I think)  
Have been here several times, and got lazier and lazier on each visit. On the first visit we climbed every tower we could, visited every cathedral and toured every gallery. On the most recent visit we sat in cafes over-looking piazzas and the river, and watched other tourists hurrying around. Once we'd done the important sites, we had permission just to sit and watch, and enjoy being in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Florence, 2004
Alderney (twice, so far)
We've been to Alderney twice, and we've got a third visit planned, but not yet booked.  We first visited in 1994, and at that time the place seemed like it was still operating in the 1950s, albeit it with an huge number of pubs and restaurants.  Our second visit was in 2009, we flew in on the same airline and stayed in the same hotel (The Bellevue) which was still being run by the same people. The entire island seemed to have changed very little, and we again had a wonderfully relaxing time. One of the things we reflected on was how much, unlike the island, we'd changed in the 15 years since the first visit.  And we committed to returning to Alderney again in another fifteen years, in 2024, to see firstly how much the island has changed, and secondly how much we've changed. I wonder if the Bellevue will still be there?
Alderney. 2009

And my next return visit? 
I last went walking in the Swiss Alps in summer 1981, and I'll be going back there to walk in and around Wengen and Grindelwald later this summer. I'm guessing that the mountains won't have changed much, but this time I'll be staying in hotels rather than on campsites.

An Unscheduled Run

A tweet today from @Dawadderman on Fair Isle made me think back to my first visit to Fair Isle in Summer 2007.
I've been on an unscheduled run.

We had spent a few beautiful days exploring the Shetland mainland, but then the traditional summer fog had descended and hung ominously around the top of the fence posts across the island.  As we drove up to the little airstrip at Tingwall, we could see very little except for the curlews standing as sentries on the posts on each side of the road.   At the airport, were lots of people keen to get to Fair Isle on the wee plane.  Some had been waiting for several days for the fog to lift far enough to let the pilot see the distant end of the runway. 

We were taken aside by the woman behind the desk.  "Don't think this is going to happen today, some of these folks have been here for ages.  You might as well go back into town." We did.  About an hour later, we got the call. "Can you get down to Grutness? There'll be a boat in about an hour. You're on the list. Don't tell anyone else." 

We followed orders, although it seemed more like a Le Carre plot than a travel plan.

On the pier at Grutness were 10 other people, mostly essential travellers like nurses and light-house-fixers, and us.  We all peered off the end of the pier into the fog.  Eventually The Good Shepherd IV emerged and a dozen school aged children jumped off and headed for the bus that had miraculously appeared behind us on the pier.  Maybe the plot was Sound of Music rather than The Spy who Came in from the Cold. 

Leaving Grutness
We replaced the children on the boat and chugged off into the thick mist, rolling our way across the ever-churning patch of water just south of the Shetland mainland.  No one could see anything other than the mist and the rolling water surface.  Every now and again one of the the crew would, slightly worryingly, wander to the front of the bridge, and stare intently at what passed for a horizon.  And after a few minutes shake his head and sit down again.  Eventually the head shaking stopped and we could see that we were already close to the entrance to the Fair Isle Harbour.

As he gratefully scrambled down the gangway, one of the light-house-fixers muttered. "Don't care how long it takes. I'm staying here until the planes are going again".  When it was our turn to get off one of the crew shouted to us.  "Don't go too far, I'll give you a lift.  The Obs is still full, you'll be staying with us tonight."

European Bee Eater - occasional Fair Isle visitor
And as we reached the croft where we were staying, the fog, right on cue, lifted away.  A few minutes later as we set off for our first look at Fair Isle, we were greeted by the not-so-traditional Fair Isle cry of "Have you see the bee-eater yet?".

We weren't the only ones on an unscheduled run.