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I was away for two and a half months. I cannot put all the photos I took on the trip here. Maybe if I had blogged the trip I could. Alas, I did not do that. I put most photos on Facebook over the period.

So without much blather about this and that, I’m going to put some photos up here. We were located in Saltdean for the first part, not far from Brighton. We did a short trip to York and Nottingham, as well as a few places around Sussex, such as Scotney Castle (Kent) and Tunbridge Wells, Charleston House (Bloomsbury set), Monk House in Redmell (Virginia Woolf’s house) and the Burlington Gap.

We’ve stayed in Saltdean before but had not explored the bridle paths behind the suburb. The weather as you can see was amazing and I believe that is linseed/linen growing behind me.

 

It was so peaceful walking in the bridle paths and it seemed like we were alone forever. Here are some views of the fields and to the sea. See the poppies growing wild? I love UK for the wildflowers.This was a short kind of wheat growing here.

A lovely shot of the linseed, looking across to the rear of Saltdean, not far from Telscome Tye (the common).

A look along the bridle path. If you don’t know what a bridle path is, it’s a public right of way through private lands brought about by the historic use of these paths for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Some are just walking paths. This one you can ride horses.

This is a shot from Burlington Gap of the Seven Sisters. It is being eroded at a fast pace as the cliffs and most of the Southdowns are made of chalk with flint in it.

 

The next is a shot of my daughter and granddaughter as they went down the stairs to the beach. We had good tea and cake here in the cafe. The rocks are the flint from the chalk.

A view along the coast from our walk to Brighton Marina along the footpath.

Just to break the monotony of these gorgeous landscapes! This is the largest internal waterfall inside a mall at Singapore. The mall is attached by a walkway to the airport. We broke our journey from Canberra in Singapore and stayed at the Crowne Plaza. We were totally spoiled and hung out at the pool. Sadly just one night.

A few local places we went to next.

A very old pub in Alfriston, the George Inn, where they serve the most amazing Welsh Rarebit. And next, Monk House in Rodmell Village, Virginia Woolf’s own room.

A bust of Virginia Woolf that was at Charleston cottage and Monk House.

A short trip to York, which was so great. Our apartment was right in York, near the river. We thoroughly recommend Jorvik and we also saw another place, Barley Hall. Here is me in a kids’ dress up.

Here is me at the York Assembly Rooms, which is an Ask restaurant. Ask is very similar to Zizzi’s so not overly expensive.

Here is the obligatory shot of the Shambles in York.

Two shots of Scotney Castle, near Tunbridge Wells. My second visit. This is an iconic shot of the ruins.

Scotney has a Victorian house and then the old castle was ruined to make a folly. This is a view from the front of the house down through the amazing gardens.

Nottingham. I don’t seem to have a lot of photos from Nottingham. I did a tour of the caves under the mall. My daughter got claustrophobia and couldn’t do it. This was my second visit. The tour guide was great.  The photo is from the caves, which contain the oldest tannery, from about the 12C or something. Nottingham was visiting friends and family and a spot of shopping.

After leaving Nottingham we went to Southwell for the morning. There is a cathedral there, a minster actually and it is said the least well known. We fell in love with this village. So quaint and lovely.

The Southwell cathedral is famous for a gargoyle that looks like Donald Trump.

There are a few walks around Southwell, one that takes you to one of Lord Byron’s houses.

Near Southwell, actually within walking distance, is the first workhouse. In later years it was for assisted housing, but this workhouse served as a model for others. It was seen as a way to save money in looking after the poor.

 

These are some of the highlights. Part Two will have to be Cornwall, Lyme Regis and a few great houses.

See you later for the next instalment.

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Marina at Newhaven

I’ve been away from home now for nearly six weeks and on Monday we transition to the next phase of our trip. We head to London for four days and then to Ireland. This last week when we have been staying near Brighton we have had some adventures as well as taking it easy. I’ve learned not to wear white. I’m a stain magnet. Lesson number two is don’t wear flip flops with white trousers in the rain. I had black spots right up to my backside.

We took an impromptu trip to Dieppe, in Normandy in France via ferry from Newhaven. The pier is quite handy to Brighton and after watching the ferry depart from the pub (The Hope Inn) we were quite intrigued.

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We sailed past The Hope Inn where we sat to watch the ferry depart a day or two before

It was so easy to do. It was 20 GDP to go return and we stayed one night so there was a hotel cost as well. The trip over the English Channel was like a mill pond on the way back it was a bit choppier but very smooth sailing. We went on The Seven Sisters. When we got to the pier the computer system was out and the staff were getting the cars and trucks on manually and they couldn’t issue tickets for those not previously booked. We were able to check in as we were in the system. The ferry was a little late departing but not too long. They let us foot passengers on first. We took a bus down to the ferry. With a baby in tow we had to get a lift to our deck but all good. It was pretty busy on the ferry with school holidays starting and the kids play area was a scream fest. We settled ourselves in the chairs near the cafeteria, which was fine. The food was quite good and time went smoothly.

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Lighthouse close up

 

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Leaving Newhaven

I took some great photos as we were leaving and the open deck proved a good place to get Mabel to sleep, if we stayed out of the wind. In no time at all we were disembarking. We went through French customs, no problem and the terminal staff called a cab for us, who in turn took us to a cash machine so we could pay him and then to our hotel, the Hotel de l’europe

The hotel was right on the beach.  As a three star we weren’t expecting a lot but the room was spacious and the bathroom huge. They set up a cot for Mabel very quickly and she had so much fun crawling around the floor. The view from our room was divine.

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View from the hotel

We got a bit of a shock when we looked out of the window to the right and saw the ferry. We were a stone’s throw from the port. Unfortunately as there is a harbour we had to go around and over two bridges. It was possible to walk but it took 35 minutes. We went walking about as we still had the afternoon and the late summer light to guide our way. We walked into the old town and saw so many lovely boutiques with great dresses and also baby clothes and then we walked up the hill to the old castle, Chateau de Dieppe, which is a maritime museum. As we went on Tuesday the museum was closed. Apparently all museums in France close on Tuesdays but we didn’t mind that for the view over Dieppe was fantastic and the outside of the castle was fun to photograph.

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Wide shot of Dieppe from the castle

I have zero French and my daughter is marginally better. Baby Mabel did better communicating than we did as she just smiled and laughed and flirted with everyone. We went looking for a meal and picked a place at random on the Quai. It was okay. It was French but not the restaurant I was looking for. I tried booking through Tripadvisor but that wouldn’t work. There were so many restaurants to choose from it was hard. We met an Irishman at the restaurant who is from Donegal, where we are heading on Friday. It’s a small world.

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View of old town up to the market square

I enjoyed the ferry trip immensely. The trip home was less crowded so we had lots of room and the staff are very good and helpful too. I did drink the worst coffee on the planet on the boat but the tea was fine. I recommend it. Customs on the British side was a bit tougher, being Australian. Mabel’s last name is different to ours so we were quizzed about our relationship and provided her birth certificate. No problems though.

I really want to take the ferry from Ireland back to the UK after Worldcon and Eurocon but I didn’t know about rail/sail tickets before we booked our flights. There is a Dublin to Wales option and a Belfast to Liverpool option and a Belfast to Scotland option. Rail/sail tickets allow you to book a train say from Brighton to Dublin and for under 50 GDP. That’s a pretty good deal. And I couldn’t resist, I’m now doing the rail/sail from Belfast, down to Dublin, across to Wales and then London and Brighton for 56 pounds or $107 AU. A bit of a safari but all good. No refund on my flights but shrug.

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Dieppe port

 

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I always forget all the things you have to do when you travel and all the costs involved that you don’t think about when you book that fateful ticket!

I had a big score today. My travel insurance is through my credit card and I don’t have to pay extra for coverage. Big win. I did, however, need to pay for a new passport.

I am not quite excited yet. I leave on Thursday morning from Canberra, fly to Sydney, then Sydney to Dallas and a late fright from Dallas to Indianapolis. I leave and arrive on the same day. It’s a weird kind of time travel. On my way home, I lose two days.

The other weird thing is that I booked to go earlier  so I could get a cheap flight. Hahahaha! Then I spend $1000 for accommodation for that week that I’m there earlier. That’s just stupid. I put up my hand. Yes, I’m stupid.

Being a writer, however, I can make use of that week, exploring the city, observing the culture, the food, putting all that experience to good use.

The reason I’m going is for the PCA conference where I’m giving a paper on my research. This is the first foray into the research results from the romance writers and readers. A good test run because when I get back I must start on the exegesis, which is an in depth look at the research. Even then, I probably won’t cover all of it as there’s just so much. People are talking about a book. Oh well, if I get funding I suppose I can write the book. I can relax a bit better now that I have the first cut of the presentation done.

I wanted to try to catch an SF convention while I was in the US but the PCA runs into Easter so I can’t. I have a couple of days after and they are hard to fill, mostly because I’m finding it hard to decide. Should I go to Chicago and check that place out. I have some stories set there so I could research the location. Or should I hang around Indiana and go up north to check out the Amish museum and stuff. Should I go or should I stay??? Argh. Then I had a thought to go to Nashville, or just fly to Dallas early and check out that city. Man oh man. Decisions. Decisions. DECISIONS!

I’ve sent Skyfire off to a beta reader for comments. My other beta readers are reading Sihe, my phd novel. I might have mentioned my editor for Dragon Wine Series went back to work at Pan Macmillan so I had to find someone else. That was good. All booked in for early May. That means a lot of hard work in April to get it ready. Yesterday I started on the tidy up of Moonfall, as that has to go to beta readers by the end of April if it’s to get to the editor in June. Who says there aren’t deadlines when you indy publish? You can’t muck people about. If you book something in it has to be ready. If the editor smashes it and tells me it needs more work that’s on me.

Also, while I’m away the Aurealis Awards will be announced. I have finally got Beneath the Floating City in Print. Here is a link to Amazon.

 

 

So the upshot is that I can safely say that Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part Five and Moonfall, Dragon Wine Part Six are coming soon.

A stay tuned for Donna’s travel blogs from Indianapolis, Indiana, USA>

 

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This is a hodgepodge post. Warning it is a photo fest!

I haven’t written a post for a bit and everything flows together and making it difficult to recall everything. I was recently arrived in Manchester last post. Since then I’ve visited London for a night, then Bath for three nights and I’ve settled near Brighton with a day trip to London, a day before the terrorist bombing at Parsons Green.

On GUFF related stuff I went to London to meet up with the TUN, who meet on the first Thursday of every month at the Bishop’s Finger, London Circle. The lovely Claire and Mark put me up for the night. I caught a Virgin Train from Manchester Piccadilly. I had prebooked it so it was 22 pounds, but the train ticket from Holmes Chapel to Manchester Piccadilly was 11 pounds. I don’t know how the Brits bear it. The cost of train tickets here is ridiculous and it’s not even that good.

Claire met me at the train at Euston Station and she took me for a walk to the British Museum. I only had a day pack so that worked well. You have to line up to be searched to enter the museum these days and they don’t allow big bags with wheels. So we didn’t have too much time so we did a quick raid on the Egyptian exhibition. The Rossetta Stone was four deep in people so I only got a passing glance at that. A lot of the exhibitions were crowded with people either taking photos or standing next to the exhibitions. I had a quick fix of mummies and amazing statuary and then we headed to Holborn to the pub. It was great  walking around the streets of London. I wanted to stay in London for a week just to walk around and get acquainted with the place but time ran out when we were booking things.

Claire bought me a pint of cider and we headed upstairs to where the Tun meet.

The TUN meeting was pretty amazing really. So many people coming in and it was quite vibrant and alive with talk. The room they meet in is upstairs and quiet, until it is filled up with SF fans. I met up with Kylie Ding, met Caroline, who I had not met and Patrick McMurray, who I hosted as a GUFF delegate years ago. Fiona Moore showed up and we hugged. We met at Worldcon and were on a panel together.

I wasn’t meant to be meeting there but Patrick’s plans to be in Ireland were tossed on the scrap heap. I met more people, like Nicholas who sounds like Liam Neeson and others but I can’t remember everyone’s name. I had a meal of bangers and mash. The bangers were pork, apple, mustard and were very nice. Here is a pic of me and Fiona Moore.

This is Kylie and another expat Aussie, who embarrassingly I can’t remember her name.

Caroline took this shot of me and Claire.

And I took a room shot later when it filled up.

A side note here. After keeping my weight reasonably under control, I seemed to have ballooned. It must be because my daughter isn’t making me green smoothies anymore. It could also be the presence of so much roasts and bangers and mash.

After the Tun meeting we got on a train to Claire and Mark’s place, where I had a loft room and a great big bed. I was a bit sleepless and I don’t know why. I have had a few of these weird nights on this trip and then after some cold brewed coffee and toast and jam I was on my way back into London to meet up with my daughter in Bath.

I’ve been to Bath a number of times and this visit was to meet up with Cheryl Morgan who lives outside of Bath and for my daughter to take in the sights. Bath was a totally weird experience this time, mostly because we are stupid!

We booked an AirBnB which we found after a post from Craig Cormick. We loved the pictures and we didn’t read any of the fine print. After staying near Manchester in that lovely little cottage that sadly was without WifI or a washing machine, we were hanging out for the next self catering Air BnB with WiFi and a washing machine. This quirky BnB was in a small village about 7.5 miles out of Bath. I arrived by train and found a bus to meet them out there. I getting stressed messages from my daughter. She doesn’t want to stay at the AirBnB and asked me to book her and N another one. I’m like What? And can’t you wait till I get there and at least look at it first.

The AirBnB was a lovely quaint cottage with creaky floors, very weird plumbing and was not self-catering and we couldn’t use the washing machine. I read all the fine print belatedly and realised it was more like a traditional Bnb with cooked breakfast. My daughter is vegan so I hadn’t even communicated that. Anyway, it got sorted. There was a shower in one of the bedrooms, sort of a cupboard space really and our loo was by the kitchen. It was a pump thing so every time you went and flushed, a massive sound clanged through the house that you have just been. One morning we all couldn’t bring ourselves to do serious business because the landlady was in the kitchen cooking and we had to go into to town and find a café. Breakfast was served in conservatory, very pretty, but there was no mobile phone coverage but there was wifi. The landlady said she didn’t cater for vegans. A bit sad really because she didn’t ask what she could do but because I hadn’t read the fine print I take the blame. She did let us put food in the fridge though and we could have asked her to cook my daughter the mushrooms we brought. But basically we spent as little time there as we could. A shame really, I thought it was pretty.

I met Cheryl Morgan on Saturday for lunch and we had planned to take in the Dragon Exhibition as a thing to do. We met at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. I bought a book for my granddaughter, Madds, Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. From there we found a nice café for lunch. Cheryl thankfully requested an inside table as she thought it would rain and it did, quite heavily. Being Bath it fined up again pretty quickly. We caught up on stuff. We were both at the Worldcon in Helsinki but didn’t get to talk much. Cheryl had been busy organising the web text feed for the Hugos. Cheryl talked a bit about her radio spot she does in Bristol and how busy her work as been. I was very privileged to be a social outing for her as she had to come into Bath to meet me. Thank you Cheryl! Cheryl has come into town on previous visits and has always been a wonderful native guide.

A shot of cider from lunch, a selfie with Cheryl and the lovely view from her special spot under the Pultney Street Bridge.

We walked down to the Victoria Gallery to see the Dragon Exhibition. There was some wonderful work there. The exhibition was centred on children I believe and a lot of the illustrations were from children’s books. As it was raining when we finished, we took in the permanent exhibition too. Here are some of the art that was painted on the wall. There was an app that went with this exhibition where you find eggs. We hunted around for a couple and found them. I later found all but one before leaving Bath.

Meanwhile my daughter and N had done the hop on hop off bus and been to the Roman Baths. There had been a queue at the Bath’s which was off putting. They told me they pulled up in the bus just have the rain and the queue had disappeared so they got straight in. Cheryl and I walked around to the Putney Street Bridge and Cheryl showed me her favourite spot where I took these lovely photos. Cheryl also took me to an independent  craft beer place where I bought some cider before we said good bye. I met up with my daughter and N and then we did more sight seeing before heading back to the village and the pub for dinner.

Here are a few shots from around Bath and the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms. Also it was the Jane Austen Festival so I got a few shots of the parade. It was huge, all the way up Milsom Street.

N had to leave us on Sunday to go back north for work. He dropped us to our bus tour, which was going to take us to Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Combe with a few things inbetween. My daughter woke up sick and it was a close call whether we would go, but she rallied and we went. We had a bit of an issue with Beanie’s sickness at Avebury and despite this Beans had a fab time. I’ve been to all these sites before but I hadn’t been to Castle Combe. It was a delight to see that and also to experience these places with my daughter. Here is some photos from all of these places.

I hope you don’t go crazy seeing all these photos. There is so much to see in the UK and it’s impossible to do it all. This first lot are from Stonehenge. It looked smaller than I remembered. There is also a new set up now that you park and shuttle buses take you to the stones. There is a museum and cafe now. Apparently visitor numbers have skyrocketed to millions. Soon they will build a tunnel so you won’t see the stones from the road. People slow down for a look and it causes traffic jams. They were right we saw one.

These next are from Avebury. I love this place. We didn’t get to go to the manor house which is worth it, but we did get to walk among the stones and the guide was good too. The last two shots are of the shop.

It was quite cold so I invested in another set of beanie and mittens.

Next stop Lacock. We didn’t get to go into the manor, not enough time and they were filming in there. Also there is the Talbot museum which I’ve seen before but not this time. We did the film tribute thing having a tour of the town. Some of the buildings are very old.

This street shot above is where Harry and Dumbledore materialise in Godrick’s Hollow.

The oldest house in Lacock.

This house has witches crosses on the roof.

These are from the small village of Castle Coombe, with the small market cross and the Norman knight buried in the church.

When we got back to Bath after the tour we wondered around for a bit, not for a moment thinking we should check what time the buses left. It turns out that the last bus departed at 6.00pm and we were stuck in Bath unless we caught a cab, which we had to do. It was $26 pounds plus a tip. We then rocked up to the Butchers Arms for dinner to be told they stopped serving food at 3.00pm. We were over it by this time and just went back to the BnB and bed. Next day checkout. So checking out is always a hassle.  You have to pack, gather up your crap, check that you have your crap etc. Complications include being in a remote village with a less than frequent bus service and schizo rain storms and wild winds. We sat in the observatory and watched the weather and formulated plans. We were to check out at 12 but our train didn’t leave until 2.36 from Bath Spa. We had our massive bags so no chance of doing anything. Watching the weather we both decided it was a cab job. Unfortunately we had not counted on the lack of mobile phone coverage. Eep! Just as I said this to Beans, I had one bar on my phone. I dared not move so I sent Beans running for the taxi’s phone number and booked a cab. Phew!

We arrived in good time with a nice, chatty private taxi driver who delivered us to the door of Bath Spa train station. Then we tried to sort our tickets. Beans noticed that our taxi driver couldn’t restart his car. He still hadn’t started his car when we moved upstairs to the station. We felt bad for him. There is this little café called Dashi on Station number two at Bath Spa. They have vegan sushi and their sandwiches aren’t bad either. We settled in there. Bean’s tummy was still a bit unsettled unfortunately. Lots of acid pain for her. Me I enjoyed my chicken and corn sandwich that was so fresh. We stocked up at that café for the journey, a lucky thing as none of our trains had food services on them.

We had reserved seats, supposedly near the luggage racks. When our train was on the notice board it said no reserved seats and that the train was formed of two coaches. It was the Portsmouth service and we had to change at Fratton. I’d never heard of Fratton so looked it up. It’s near Portsmouth. I was concerned about the two coach train and the number of people on board and the no reservation notice. When the train came it was every man for himself and every woman. I was surprised how aggressive people were getting on the train. The woman in front of me was trying to push the train conductor out of the way to get in. Obviously he stood still for two long. We had two big bags and other luggage and it was hectic getting on board. I made a comment about Brits and queues and this old lady turned around and sneered. Not likely. What has happened here? I looked up the population statistics and the population had increased by 6 million. That can put pressure on infrastructure.

Anyway, on the train we tried to move along the aisle to put our luggage in the little space. There was a Japanese man with his bag in the aisle and I couldn’t get passed and he wouldn’t move his bag. I had a crowd of people behind me so couldn’t move. A man switched seats so I could sit down but basically there were three huge bags blocking the aisle. People could squeeze past which worked but basically it stayed pretty packed behind me with people standing. Beans was standing and I wanted her to take my seat because she was sick but she wouldn’t. Eventually the ticket inspector came and said we couldn’t block the ailses with our bags. By this time I was pretty cranky. This is a private train company. Why on earth were there only two coaches for all these people? What the actual? This is a joke. It’s expensive and it’s bad. Great Western Railway sucks donkey balls.

Then we missed our connection. We had seven minutes to climb up the platform and change trains. I stressed about that but we were ten minutes late. Then we were told the train was coming, then it was cancelled and we were told to go to Barnham. We were on a Southern service so Great Western Railway weren’t interested in us. There was a big issue with the trains due to a breakdown so it was chaos everywhere. We rang Nick to tell him where we were and where we were being sent. We weren’t alone so that was actually comforting with other passengers equally bewildered.

Once in Barnham we caught a Brighton train and all went to plan. We arrived and then collected by Nick. Nick is Mathew’s cousin and he is spoiling us. It’s wonderful and relaxing just to be hanging here near Brighton. We’ve been to the Laines, the Brighton Museum and I had a prebooked sewer tour. Beanie bailed on that so I went alone. Here are some shots from around Brighton, then London.

Big storm brewing over Brighton and Hove.

This is where I climbed out of the sewer.

We did a day trip to London on Thursday and walked from London Bridge to St Pauls where we got on an tour bus, then we walked from 221B Baker Street to Marble Arch via Marks and Spencer. Marks and Spencer is bra heaven. It was also cold so I bought a jacket and a scarf. I could not bring myself to buy another beanie and gloves. We did not use the metro but we did see lots of police activity.

We saw the Tower Bridge Open from the Thames.

Next morning there was a bombing at Parsons Green on a metro train. We watched that on the news for a bit but it gets too overwhelming so we turned the tv off and continued with our plans.

We went to the Bluebell Railway in nearby by Sheffield Park. Steam trains! It was an amazing set up. They have a train station, actually they have three and the trust bought up the tracks and restored them. We took a steam train to East Grinstead. We checked out the shed with all the old engines and the museum. We were a bit confused about the time the train left and I heard the whistle and said what’s that? We went outside and saw the train pull away. You should have seen our faces. So we went back to the museum and then had lunch as there was a later train. I now have a book on train history. It’s a very broad overview. The bookstore there had so many books on different lines and trains and well my half price overview book suits me fine.

These are some photos from the Bluebell train day. Today we are off to Eastbourne and an art exhibition and probably a nice lunch. Tomorrow I meet a long lost, newly found half cousin and we are heading into Brighton.

I have one more SF fan related thing. I am meeting Patrick McMurray and possibly Claire on Wednesday in London to see the Sloan museum. Nick lent me a book on the Sloan Museum so I’m all up on that collection. We are then meeting some SF fans at the Old Cheshire Cheese Pub in Fleet Street. I went to this pub in 2000. I remember this because Tony was on the phone and I was reading a book. I read in the book that the people were meeting at the Old Cheshire Cheese at the same time Tony said to a friend, Okay we’ll meet at the Old Cheshire Cheese. And the next day I’m catching up with Barbara, who I have known since the old Purple Zone days on the Harper Collins Australia bulletin board. Takes me back. Barbara moved back to the UK a few years back.

This may be my last post on this trip. I’m not sure. I head back to Australia on the 24th of September.

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We were invited by SF fans James and Fionna to come visit Dublin and Drogheda. It was so lovely to be invited and they looked after us so well.

I bought some plum and vanilla flavour gin liqueur to go with the handmade boomerang and Australian made Womat. On arrival we went with James to a giant Tescos! OMG! There I snaffled a bottle of aromatic gin, which tasted quite good. Beans bought some French red wine. It was a bit of a treat seeing the local produce and prices. I find supermarkets are really cultural that way. Maybe it’s the economics and accounting background.

Then we picked up some Indian takeaway for a late dinner. It was so yummy and be bought too much but that was fine because left overs. Fionna had found a recipe for vegan bread. It was delicious and had chopped hazelnuts in it. Tea and toast is an excellent breakfast for me! We used the last of our vegemite there.

We also met the best fannish dog, Leia, as in General Leia Organa. There was also Lego! Lego daleks!

 

On our first full day we went into Dublin for the day. It was sunny and lovely and mild. A fantastic day. We visited the Glass…cemetery which had a museum attached. Visiting Dublin you can’t help to discover the political history and the 1916 uprising. In the cemetery a number of the 1916 martyrs were buried. The museum also contained illustrations of different religions approaches to death and burial.

We had lunch at the Brazen Head pub for lunch. The photos above were from the Brazen Head. It was meant to be the oldest pub in Dublin. It was pretty touristy but we had no trouble getting a table and fed. OMG! I tried boiled bacon and cabbage. So good.

We also visited the Leprechaun museum. That was more about curiosity and it was fun but again a bit touristy. Here are some silly shots from the Leprechaun Museum.

Here is a few shots from walking around Dublin.

We ended up at the British…pub and that was a lovely place. Classy and quiet. SF fans who were coming pulled out but we had a nice drink. Then we headed back to Drogheda, a bit tired after a long day.

Sunday was going to be a our big sightseeing day, but Fionna had this cool idea to break it up as we were leaving late on Monday. She had booked us into the Kilmeianhan Gaol for a tour there at 4 pm on the Sunday. This is also linked to the 2016 uprisings as the guys that surrendered were executed in the days after for treason. It was really sad and moving. Before that she invited for a walk in the Wicklow Ranges, up the Sugarloaf Mountain to be exact. Unlike Saturday the weather turned typically Irish, light misty rain, grey clouds and not too cold.

The walk.

I did not complain! Well I don’t think anyone heard me. I did berate myself for not bringing a change of clothes. The first part involved walking through waist high ferns, which were wet from the overnight rain. The drizzle wasn’t bad at all. There were blackberries everywhere so I kept snacking. From the beginning of the walk I had no idea where we were walking. Beans said she was worried about me because I’m not a walker. I did buy hiking boots in Bergen so I can now say they have had two serious outings.

It was so beautiful there. The ferns and the mist and the view. We walked and walked. Leia came with us and the dog had so much fun, really so much fun. We did have a few worries finding the right path. I seriously earned whatever bad food I was going to eat that night. I saw the way to the summit and thought I wasn’t going to make it. After a few hours my feet were protesting. I sat down as a cloud rolled in and the others went up. I’m glad I sat the last bit out because it involved a bit of climbing. Not bad on the way up but a bit scary coming down. I took a great panoramic shot of the view when we got off the track. It shows Fionna and James and Leia while they checked the map.

The Kilmainham gaol photos. This was a very moving place where people who surrendered after the 1916 rising were executed. Here us a link to the gaol’s website. http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/dublin/kilmainhamgaol/

 

Monday

Monday was for Knowth and Newgrange, these chamber tombs. I’ve been in a chamber tomb before in Okney, but I really didn’t understand it. The guides here gave some good insights and I felt that I understood more. I think doing both together is a nice fit because there are different aspects to them. One you can look in the central chamber. We had lunch in the museum café and then it was time to collect our bags for the trip to the airport. Fionna took us up in her little, zippy Skoda and it was time to stay goodbye to Ireland.

Man these places were awesome!

Some thoughts

I will definitely come back to Ireland. I’m mostly Irish so it was good to go there for that reason. I’m glad James and Fionna invited us because it showed me how convenient it is to go there. For some reason it always seemed too hard.

Also, Ireland got me thinking about how British Australia is and how my perspective is shaped by that. We have “Give Way” signs where Ireland (and the USA) have “Yield” and in Ireland the postal boxes are green and so are the postal vans and ours a red like the UK. It got me thinking about how the victor writes the history books. While I have very Irish ancestors, their nationalism didn’t get passed on to me, the Catholicism did, although I am so lapsed, I consider myself not any religion. So Ireland got me thinking that I need to learn more about it and also come again and learn about the history, the myths and the politics.

Also, our hosts were so cute. They made me homesick for Matthew. They are as Dweebie as we are but I consider they had more books and we don’t have Lego so maybe they have way more geek cred than we do. I heart Fionna and James!

For the next few days I’m taking a break. We are staying in the Manchester region in a cute little cottage. Tomorrow we head to York for the day. I’ve been there about four times but it will be Beans’ first. Thursday I’m heading to London for the monthly SF fan meet up, the Ton. I’ll probably blog again soon. Today was meant to be a rest day, but Bean’s got restless so we decided to walk to a nearby town. On the way, besides being distracted by all the ripe blackberries, we saw a sign for a public access walkway and decided to try it. It was hilarious. We didn’t know where to go. Nothing was marked. We started fighting over which way to go and whether to reverse our steps. So our trip to Sandbach took twice as long as it should have. This is not a tourist town. They do have Heritage listed buildings and Saxon crosses and a good bar/pub for lunch.

 

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Sadly our stay in Scotland was rather short. I feel you need more time in Scotland to explore it, visit the highlands. We are only here for three days really. We did one full day in Glasgow and one day in Edinburgh, the rest was getting here and leaving.

I’ve been to Scotland before but Beans has not. She wants to do all the things but this was just a preview. She’s going to have to come back.

We did attempt a hop on hop off tour in Glasgow but sadly we couldn’t get on the bus. They required us to physically print out our vouchers. I mean we are travelling. We don’t have a printer.  The bus driver said go up to the Uni Library and use their internet café. Well the library said they had no public facilities so we gave up.

We have limited time so spending a couple of hours and money looking for somewhere to print out a voucher and walking back to the pick up place was ridiculous. I mean really what was the driver thinking? He says don’t worry there’s a bus every ten minutes. All right for him. We’ve requested a refund on the tickets but the company hasn’t responded.

We had a nice lunch, actually breakfast, and then went for a walk to the Botanical Gardens. We were meeting a friend in the evening. We walked through West End to get there and then had a fab dinner at the Banana Leaf, a kind of up market Malaysian place. Glasgow really is a vegan food heaven. Thanks Tash!

A few snaps from around West End Glasgow, complete with Tardis.

Thursday 31st we took the train to Edinburgh. It was really easy to get to the station via the metro. Funny little things the metro trains. They are so small. Beans felt claustrophobic. At Buchanan Street you walk through the tunnel to Queen Street Station. It is weird but the on line instructions said to catch a bus. We could have done but the metro was easier and more predictable.

First up we met up with Laura, who met us at the train station. Laura is a romance scholar and we started a walking tour around Edinburgh. I went to places I had never been before, Calton Hill, behind Hollyrood Castle and to the Georgian part of town. We had lunch in Hendersen’s,a  vegetarian restaurant and later we made for the National Museum of Scotland. I had a fan meet up planned with Alistair but he had to call it off due to illness in the family. Lillian Edwards met us at 4.0opm. Originally I was meeting her in Glasgow but she lives in Edinburgh so it worked out really well. We had failed to meet up at Worldcon. It just happens that way sometimes.

Lillian is a whirlwind. She had a new car, a wonderful bright green Skoda and she took us up in the car and around Arthur’s Seat to the village of Duddingston, which has the oldest pub in Glasgow, the Sheep’s Heid. We had a lovely drink, then we stumbled across some ancient skittles and played with those. Then we headed to an Indian Restaurant, Mother India on Infirmary Street. We said goodbye to Laura who had come along with us and had an excellent meal. Lillian was a great host and very informative. My daughter is interested in Lillian’s area of academic  expertise-Internet privacy.

I was so happy we went and we got to meet two new people who I had only every corresponded with on the internet.

Here are a few pics from Edinburgh and one of Lilian and me taken at the loch.

 

here is that pic of the skittles which we think are quite ancient.

This shot is a wide view of the view over Newtown and the firth from Claton Hill.

Today we head to Dublin to stay with James and Fionna for the weekend.

 

We realise that we are on the last three weeks of the trip. Next post will lots of photos. I’ve never been to Ireland before.

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This post combines two days on daytours out of Reykjavik. The Fire and Ice Tour booked through Iceland Tours and the Grand Golden Circle Tour booked through Busland.

We had booked a Fire and Ice Tour which included a three hour trek on a glacier. I was a bit worried about this because you know I’m old, I have bad knees and I’ve got a problem with my foot. It was a pricey tour around $450 Au so probably $350 US but the description was very cool and because it was hands on we went for it.

In Bergen I had inadvertently invested a fortune in hiking boots. I thought I was spending under $200 but ended up spending just over $300. They are great boots btw. I will have to take up tramping or hiking to get my money’s worth. Doh! I had currency conversion blindness. Anyway, you can hire them from the tour company along with wet weather gear. I didn’t know this before hand. Oops!

Anyway, once in Reykjavik we got to know our way around. Our tour was picking up from BSI but the local bus doesn’t go there. I tried to change the pick up place but the office was shut. Then I discovered that on Sundays the buses don’t start until 9.55am and our tour pick up was 8 ish. So it was a taxi anyway. We waited at BSI and lots of tour buses pick up from there, Icelandic horse rides etc.

It was an effing miserable day. Raining and cold. We had only just thawed out and we were going out in that! Sigh. Our bus arrived. We were the only ones on the tour. My god we had a personalised tour!! I thought they would cancel if only two but no, Ingimundur said he was taking us.

A few things of note. Icelandic is a very musical and delightful language. I wish I had the tongue and ear  for it. We had to ask Ingimundur quite a few times to repeat his name. He gave us a very informative tour and our conversations ranged from Iceland’s economics, history and geology. On the way back he played Icelandic music for us. Beans likes a few Icelandic performers.

The Icelandic landscape is many things at once. It’s a young land geologically speaking. Mountains thrust up out of lava plains, moss covers lava fields range next to the coast near Reykjavik, clouds obscure volcanoes and glaciers blanket a large part of the country. The landscape is sometimes bleak. I thought of descriptors but words fail really to communicate what the Icelandic landscape is and also the camera really fails to deliver what the eye sees. I only had the iPhone so I apologise for that. Rugged, spectacular, raw, primal, dramatic, awe inspiring, amazing, beautiful, stark, breathe taking, breath stealing…

This post is mostly going to be photos with interspersed comments. This top one is of other people abseiling into a great effing hole in the glacier. Crazy! The second one is a Hollywood pose. I do have my feet stuck in the ice though so technically I am hanging there.

We did drink some of the water on the glacier. It was pure and cold. The guy talking to me is Ingimuntur, our guide. The view down to the river was taken on the glacier. Truly amazing sight. This glacier is Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, so just the tip of a really big glacier. It’s has ash and grit in it. From the distance the other glaciers looked white.

The bottom line is that we were both so glad to have done this tour. Walking the glacier was a pivotal moment for us, a defining moment of our trip. We had ice shoes fitted (crampons?), a harness and a ice pick thingie whatsit!

I want to say one thing. I did not complain the whole trip across the ice. I did not whinge. I did not want to spoil it for my daughter. My inner dialogue though was something else. A snippet for you. “Oh God we are not climbing up there are we?” And “OMG! We are still going up?”  And “Thank god we are going down hill! Yay!” “God I’m tired I don’t think I can lift my feet”. I did nearly tip myself into a moulin. hahaha!

These are some distance shots of the glacier.

We also saw a couple of waterfalls on the way. This one we got to walk behind (Selfoss). You did this at your own risk. There was some slippery rocks to climb over and the spray was so cold and wet too. There were other waterfalls nearby.

These other pics were of the landscape. Not good taken from the bus. There was just so much.

The hot stream was entirely bone warming despite the walk to get there. I giggled as I walked down this incredible hill, because I knew I had to walk up it. By then I was bone tired.

Moss covered lava. This lava was laid down in the year 1000. Apparently it is called Christian lava because after they converted to Christianity there was this massive eruption and they thought the old gods were angry. Iceland also has many kinds of sheep. This black sheep looked huge looming out of the mist but when we got closer it looked smaller. Ingimundur took these shots for me. My phone had run out of charge by this time. He took these of us in the stream. It was really close to nature as it had chunks of moss floating past. I thought we were crazy walking all that way in the cold and rain but when we got there there were lots of lunatics already there. And despite my laughing on the walk down, the trip back up the hill was not as bad as I expected. I suspect it was the warm bones from the hot stream.

Ingimundur dropped us back to our accommodation. We were cold, wet and tired and so incredibly happy.

The next day we had booked the Grand Golden Circle Tour. A much cheaper tour but one where we could sit on our tired butts all day. Or so we though. Our tour guide was called Aesigir and we booked with a different company.

This tour included waterfalls, geysirs and the national park, which has the continental drift space of 7000 metres in it. This was much more touristy than our glacier tour but that can’t be helped. You have to see these places. Really you do. This was an amazing waterfall, Faxi and next to it was a salmon ladder because the waterfall is too strong for the fish so they get help.

Then there was the Geysir and what looks like the bog of eternal stench. It did not smell bad at all. We got video of the geysir, Stokur, I think it’s called, going off. My daughter was taken by surprise as she wasn’t expecting it. Then it went off with three blows, then it sort of just gurgled a bit why we waited to film in and then I got film of a double whammy.

 

Then there was Gullfoss, the most famous waterfall, the Kerid crater and the National park that contains the continental drift. Part of Iceland is part of Europe and the other is on the Atlantic plate and you can see this. There is also a huge lake there.

 

And lastly, I wanted to say that Iceland is a must visit place. If you are in the north you should come see it. The culture is amazing too, being so isolated and I think the efforts to maintain the language and culture totally worthwhile. I hope in sharing this amazing country that it doesn’t change it. Here you can be close to nature, take some risks in seeing them, and be up close. The Fire and Ice Tour took us to some unspoiled places and the guide was very careful that even our footsteps did not disturb anything, particularly plants as they take a long time to grow.

Lastly a few shots of Reykjavik, taken on our last day. There is some amazing graffiti/wall art so we took a few shots.

I would love to come back and do the hiking/tramping tour to the centre. That whole area shuts down for winter. They close the roads in a couple of weeks and they don’t open until June. Next time I want to explore more widely to the Westfjords as well. Thank you Iceland!

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