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This is the last in my series of GUFF blog posts. The trip is done. I am home and I’ve recovered mostly from jet lag. I still randomly fall asleep and I was out cold by 8.30am last night.

After Bath and London fan meet ups, I went to Brighton, well close by, to stay with my partner’s cousin, Nick. It was a lovely place to base ourselves in. And Nick spoiled us so much with meals and outings and his lovely home that we didn’t want to leave. He also had a love slut for a cat, a ginger British Long Hair called Gus. What can be more welcoming than a cat who comes when called and has his purring bellows going before you even scratch under his chin. The grooming brush sent this fellow into raptures-an amazing thing to see.

So in Brighton I went on the sewer tour which I covered previous post. Later we went to Eastbourne to see the Ravilious exhibition and then for scampi and chips on the pier and then high tea with scones and jam on the Eastbourne Pier too.

IMG_0779IMG_0781Other excursions include the Bluebell steam railway, and Firle. My daughter was due to go to Morocco so I had time to myself. I also met my long, lost cousin, Christine, who came to Brighton and took us out for lunch.

Here is a photo of Firle, Nick at Firle and my long lost cousin, Christine and her husband Robert.IMG_0799.JPG

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London SF fan Patrick McMurray organised a day for me to go in to London and take me walking about and to some museums: The Wellcome and the Soane and we met up with a dozen or so SF fans at the Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub.

After a bit of wrangling, I managed to go from London to Baldock to meet former Australian fan friend but now British fan friend and buddy, Barbara on the Thursday night, but also managed to meet up with my cousin Christine again in Greenwich during the day. This required a massive amount of train mojo btw. Only thwarted twice when I got on the wrong train and then in the evening when the train I was on decided it couldn’t stop in Baldock and Barbara had to come rescue me. It’s a bit of a theme, me being rescued by SF fans. I wish some would come right now and save me from the coconut biscuits I am stuffing into my gob as I type.

Patrick met me at the St Pancras Station and then showed me St Pancras International and the amazing building that had been restored to Victorian splendour.

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We then walked through London as you do to see the sights and to meet Julie, his wife for lunch, and to go to the Wellcome Museum. Apparently the guy who set up this big Pharma company was originally American and then moved to Britain. He collected stuff. Heaps of stuff and you can see it at the museum as well as the temporary exhibitions. The exhibition was about graphic design and how it has been used, in particularly with packaging medics and implied instructions to medical staff. It also covered AIDS advertising among other things. The old collection was really interesting. I took a few photos, but it included sunken heads, sex aids, a dead body from South America, birthing models, bizarre paintings of surgical procedures and births. There was also another exhibition about the human body. I took a photo of this sculpture. I was feeling rather displeased with my body at the time. Also, a library which had other weird stuff in it.

In the gift shop I bought a few items that I figured would go down well in a fan auction. I was due to conduct a fan auction at Conflux in Canberra a few days after I arrived home. I purchased a glow in the dark tentacle and a periodic table tea towel. I would have bought more things but I had decision paralisis.

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We then went for lunch at the Fleet River Bakery and met Julie. It was quite nice there with the salads and excellent coffee. Then there was an unpleasant altercation between some clients of the establishment that put a damper on things. After farewelling Julie we trotted off to the Soane Museum which wasn’t far away at all at Lincoln Inn Fields. Here is the Wikipedia Link to the Museum.

Lucky for me, Nick had given me a book to read about the museum and it’s collection. It is a very eclectic collection. John Soane was an architect and the buildings themselves are a piece of art, add that to the amazing amount of stuff he collected, he has Seti 1’s sarcophagus in the basement, the art and the arrangements which have tried to represent how it was, and you have a unique establishment. To visit the museum is free. No photos unfortunately. We missed the tour of the private apartments but we did buy a guide. It is proving to be popular and it’s very tiny inside because it was basically three houses combined with stuff in it.

At the Olde Cheshire Cheese just off Fleet Street, is a very old pub. It is also deceptive. The bar you walk into is tiny, but it has many more floors below. It was apparently destroyed or damaged during the Great Fire of London but some parts of the pub are meant to be older. We discovered this when we went down the stairs. Patrick and I arrived early so we could grab a table and cider and beer! Patrick had worked up a considerable thirst and as much as I love walking the streets of London my feet needed a break. We table hopped until we had just about enough room for us all. Claire arrived and then the others came along. About a dozen all up. Some people I met before and some I didn’t. I took a few shots. Newly weds. A couple planning to migrate to NZ. An ex Aussie and her British beau, who drew me a dragon! Julie was unwell unfortunately so she didn’t end up joining us. I was staying over with Patrick and Julie so I was hopefully going to see her again. She picked us up from the train station so yay!

Caroline, her husband whose name escapes me! and so on. And there we were emerging at night to catch the train.

It was lovely to have them all come for a meet up with me, the GUFF delegate. I can’t thank Patrick enough and all the gang who came along. It meant a lot to me. Food was good too.

I took the train with Patrick to his local station and Julie collected us. I was introduced to the cats and then went up to the top floor to the guest bedroom. This was such a comfortable bed. It was so comfortable that I didn’t get up to say goodbye to Julie. Such bad form. I did get up to go get breakfast with Patrick in town and then to catch a train to my cousin, Christine. I left a little present. When I saw Patrick and Julie’s place I knew my present to them would fit right in. A stuffed wombat. My last! Patrick took a photo and sent it to Julie and she loved it too. I was so pleased.

Patrick and I walked into town and had an excellent breakfast. It was really good. Then I caught the train across London, beyond the castle…etc until I reached Lewisham quite by accident as I’d taken the wrong train. Thank god for mobile phones. Christine introduced me to Greenwich, where I’d never been before. We walked under the Thames along this tunnel and came up on the other side, I believe in the Isle of Dogs and then walked back. We shopped at Greenwich Markets and ate lunch at the Trafalgar Tavern. We had a Ploughman’s lunch. It wasn’t bad but the Ploughman’s lunch I had at the Rams Inn in Firle was heaps better. I guess it annoys me when a pub says hand cut ham and you get sliced ham from a packet and commercial pickles and not home made ones etc. But the cheese on the platter was amazing. And the views. Right on the Thames.

From Greenwich I took a ferry to Westminster Pier and walked to Kings Cross Station. I had my phone app to guide me. I got off track a couple of times. It was a long walk. I kept telling myself I could stop and have a coffee and rest but the other part of my brain said don’t because it’s going to rain. I didn’t stop and it started raining just as I was across the road from Kings Cross Station. I count that as a win.

Here are a few shots from the the view of Greenwich from the Isle of Dogs, Trafalgar pub to the Thames, and the Tower Bridge from the Thames, the Tower of London and the Shard.

I made it to Baldock because Barbara picked my up. We ate Indian takeaways and talked about Britain, Australia, SF fans and our mutual friends. Next morning I did a walk around Baldock, had morning tea at the Costa at Tescos there and bought a new carry on bag in the mega Tescos. Then we sat around all day watching telly, talking books and and writing etc and then around 7pm it was time for me to take off again.

A few photos from Baldock. And none of Barbara! Oh dear!

Yes, another long train ride to Gatwick Airport from Baldock to collect Beanie who was coming in from Morocco. That all went to plan except Bean’s plane was delayed and it was already a late arriving plane. After a conversation on messenger with Nick, he said he’d drive to Gatwick to pick us up. Bean’s plane was even later than expected and it would have been very hard to catch a train to Brighton. So Nick, wonderful, lovely Nick drove to Gatwick and we waited together for Beans to emerge then we drove to Brighton. We arrived home around 2 am I think. It’s a bit of a blur. Saturday was to be our last full day this UK trip.

Saturday night was the last night. We had a arranged a lovely meal at Terre A Terre in Brighton that is a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. We had to do lunch because it was booked out in the evening. So Saturday morning was a late start due to coming home at 2 and then going to this fabulous meal. Then we did a spot of shopping in the Laines and then went home. That evening we watched telly and ate a sort of tapas meal. It was very yummy.

Some shots around Brighton. Little laneways between buildings etc.

My stepson lives in Brighton so Beans and I caught up with him on the Sunday for breakfast. We had a lovely vegan meal and then did some more shopping. We really wanted to get presents for family etc. There was a protest that went right by us as we ate breakfast. It was the Labour Party conference in Brighton that weekend.

Here are some final shots of Brighton, the lovely vegetarian tapas plate from Terre a Terre. The boutique decorated with the sewing machines etc.

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After much discussion where Nick didn’t really listen to us, he drove us to Heathrow Airport. It was a slow wind down from the trip and the traffic was slow too. Nick had planned it well and good and we made it to the airport and said our goodbyes.

Then apparently, I am reliably informed, I had a personality change. I became a shrew with no thought in my mind but to check my bags in. Until then I would brook no diversion, no toilet stops, nothing. Even though I had two hours before the train left. Poor Beans.

The long trek home involved a few little spats with Beans, usually to do with spilled water or boarding the plane after a stop over. I managed to pour hot tea down my front in Singapore. When Beans pointed it out, I managed to pour some more into the crotch of my pants. Ow! It was hot.

We arrived home safely to Sydney, but there was the bus. Yes, the bloody bus takes 3.5 hours and it took more like four. After a day on a plane you really don’t want a bus. I think I passed out on the bus and by the time I arrived I could hardly stay awake.

Matthew was there to collect us. Lovely, adorable and cuddly Matthew. The mighty darling Dweeb!

We were actually home.

Then I had a day or two before I had to prepare for Conflux SF convention. I had a table. A book launch and a fan auction to prepare for.

Fan auction was amazing folks. We made good money! Thank to the generous fans who attended and paid through the nostrils for Finnish sweets. The tentacle and the periodic table tea towel went down like a treat so did the Finnish sweets and Moomin coffee and biscuit tin. Aussie fans are crazy for the Finnish sweets! We also auctioned off a world con souvenir book as it was marvellous and some Finish weird anthologies.

Here are some snaps of the auction goodies. PS I bought the Darth Vader, breathing lolly dispenser.

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Reflections

I think I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I think I’m extroverted but at times it was hard to reach out to people I didn’t know, particularly ones from different cultures. When you travel you are often stressed but you may not be aware of it. I think that is true for me. I was excited to be there, but there was a stress there too from being out of my comfort zone, away from home. I am so happy to have met some wonderful people who reached out to me or me to them, who shared their homes or their cities with me. I love the feeling of community I get. I thank those who went to extra mile to meet me and say hello. I’m very grateful to my daughter, Beans, who came with me and offered support. She did my hair! I think it was hard for her given she doesn’t identify as a fan (though she really is!) and she had to put up with me, my demands, the demands of fandom on my time and the times I just needed to zone out when she really wanted me to be present and attentive. I don’t think I could have done it alone, Beans. Thank you.

Thank you fandom for a wonderful time, a wonderful trip and a fuller, more detailed report is the next thing on my agenda.

Here is a pic taken by Fionna O’Sullivan, one of our GUFF hosts in Dublin, Ireland. She thought it was the author shot. I think it shows me reflecting.

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Here is a photo by Cat Sparks of my book launch, featuring the wonderful Craig Cormick, launcher extraordinaire.

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The 2017 Australian GUFF delegate is signing off now. So long and thanks for the scampi. (I’m allergic to fish).

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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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Warning: this post contains Vikings! Actually, things about Vikings!

Last post I got us to Stockholm. We arrived on Tuesday and we were in time for the local SF fan meet up at the British Arms Hotel. This pub was quite near where the Viking Line berthed so we thought we could find our way back there by reversing our trip. Our AirBnB host told us about the local transport app. During Winter in Stockholm it is very important to plan your trips and know when buses and trains are arriving so their app was very efficient. We used it to plan our journey back the way we came.

Photo of Stockholm’s central railway station that reminds me of Sydney’s Town Hall.

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We had been invited to come along to this meet up by local fan Johan so it was good to meet local fans. There were Australians there too. Gillian Polack was there visiting with Johan. Then Janice and Stephen turned up, then some USAins. It was quite a national group. They very kindly spoke in English and we had some great conversation. So great was the conversation that we forgot to take photos.

It was an English style pub and one of the bartenders was English and chatted with us. My daughter eats vegan and the vegetarian burger had cheese in the vegetable pattie. I ordered chips for her and the bar tender told me there was a vegan dish available but it wasn’t on the menu. So he very kindly made sure my daughter got a vegan bean stew. I had some potent local cider called Old Rosie.

My daughter had a really good chat with Magnus and Marten and got recommendations for what was she should do in Stockholm and surrounds. Gamla Stan, the Historica museum, a trip to Birka were our order of priority.

Next day we did the tourist thing and took the metro to Gamla Stan, old town. It had cobble stones, the foot killers! I will spare you photos of me with swollen feet (no matter how spectacular) and even stories of using the walking stick! Some days are better than others. But cobble stones are killers.

We made it to Gamla Stan and we had been told the best restaurants are in streets parallel to the main street. First up we found a cafe that did raw food, organic food and vegan stuff. Once again my daughter was in vegan heaven being able to have a good coffee with soy milk and a vegan muffin. I had a pastry and a coffee too. Then we noted there was a vegan restaurant across the road so we pegged that for lunch. Next to that was Geronimo’s Bar and I have a nice picture of their sign.

 

The most important thing in Gamla Stan is the SF bookshop, but I was also on a mission to some needles so I could knit up the Finland wool mittens. I don’t expect to finish them up as I have to watch the old RSI but a few rows now and then might keep me occupied. Google told me there was a yarn shop in Gamla Stan so we went there first, taking a few snaps on the way. They guy on the horse is St George I think, killing the dragon. Or it’s a king who killed a dragon.

 

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The yarn shop was smallish, with some yarn:the local yarn I thought was a bit rough/scratchy and the Icelandic yarn I want to by in Iceland so in the end I only purchased the needles. Then we headed for the SF bookshop. Wow! What a glorious SF bookshop. It has English versions, Swedish translations, DVD, related stuff like TinTin models and then upstairs it had games, Games workshop and Black Library books. My daughter wanted to buy a book and she chose The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. She wanted to by Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman too but we had to worry about weight restrictions. These photos include two external, one internal and one spot the author- Sarah Cawkwell!

 

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We headed back to the vegan restaurant for the buffet lunch, which was really nice. I had black bean soup, vegetable casserole and salad. We booked the Birka tour so we wanted to make sure we knew where the ferry left from so we did the checking out the venue thing with a map, Google etc. We caught the bus to City Hall, which was only two stops away and did a bit of exploring there. The building looks like a cathedral to me with it’s funny steeple. I took a photo of this mausoleum. Later we were told that it has no body in it, but is a bit of a tourist scam. This lot of photos are from the City Hall and surrounds.

 

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Talking of scams…we needed to pay for the loos. A 5 SEK coin to be exact. The public loos weren’t luxurious or even that clean but you needed to pay to spend a penny. At the railway station it’s 10 SEK.

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We took some nice pictures and then decided to walk back to Gamla Stan as it looked close enough. It was across the bridge on another island. A bit turned around but eventually we made it and went back to the first cafe for an afternoon coffee and snack. Then we headed back to our accommodation.

Where we were staying was quite close to a nature reserve. So after resting my feet for a bit we went for an evening walk. Queue pictures of walk and the lake. People were swimming and having fun. There was a golf course in there. I tried taking a photo for Russell but the sun was setting. We saw deer, Bambi look alikes and a pet cemetery. This is a collection of photos from the nature reserve.

 

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Thursday we had the trip to Birka so major stress to ready and where we needed to be in time. Except we woke up early, well before our alarm. It’s because it’s so light here at night and early in the morning. Even though we were early we just went. It was a beautiful day. Bright blue skies, calm weather etc. After a bit of a wait (happens when you are early) we boarded the ferry. Our tour guide Emil, was wearing historical costume. Not a viking helmet etc, just every day wear. He gave us a bit of a talk about features on our way to Birka. The Raven Rock, the rock where a king jumped off with his horse and lived and so many more.

Here is a collection from Birka. The ferry, the spot for a king with a hat, the guide, the view from the hillfort, the cross (Celtic instead of German), the local cows, me and replica boats, replica boats without me, replica village

 

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Birka is an island where the remains of an early Viking village was found. I was hoping to see archeological digs but alas, it was covered up. We saw burial mounds and where the village is currently under fields, the remains of the hill fort,a  museum and a replica village. The guide was funny and informative. He was an archeologist and so provided some useful information and tips for where to find things in the museums that had been taken from Birka. He was saying there was so much more to explore but funds being limited they will be excavated in the future some time. Only about 5 per cent of the village/city had been excavated so far. The government bought most of the island from the people who live there. Apparently seven people live there, farming etc. We saw sheep and cows.

In the museum shop I bought a Viking inspired T-shirt. Beans bought vegan soap and Thor hammer fridge magnet. We had prebooked our lunch so we were served that on the way back to Stockholm with window side seats.

After a long day we headed home. The ferry ride was lovely and I was a bit sun burnt despite sun block. We did another walk in the nature reserve. The next day, Thursday we had planned to visit the museum historica. Not only was it recommended because of the Viking related exhibits, it was also free. Thursday was rainy so it was a good day to do museum related stuff. We found our way there with the aid of maps and preplanning for the metro. We had purchased a 3 day pass which made travel easy and economical. We had to buy them from the grocery store.

We scored tickets to the English guided tour of the Viking section of the museum and then went to explore the gold room, where the treasure hordes were on display. There were gold torques, and black smithing tools, and coils of gold and silver used in hair or as currency, there were buckles and rings and amazing things. Totally worth the time. We did two trips through this section. The tour guide was a resident Viking woman but due to the rain couldn’t show us what they do outside in the interactive part. We saw skeletons and grave goods and tall panels explaining the layout of the grave goods and their purpose. There were rune stones and swords and it was all fantastic really. We did a second look around after lunch, which was yummy and quite reasonably priced. We went up stairs to look at the Swedish cultural history collection with relics of the church and so on. Overall a really nice museum and the shop was good too but we were heading to Norway and thought we might find a Thor Hammer necklace there.

Some Viking related pics. Turn away if you’re bored!

 

Once we were home we didn’t bother with a walk in the nature park as it continued to be gray and rainy. We had to pack and weigh and work out our departure time and how to get to the airport and also eat the remains of our food. Self catering is really quite fun, except the changing countries part. We had to leave behind some plant based margarine which I had cunningly identified even though I don’t speak Swedish. Now, of course, the margarine is much missed!

And the feared rain was falling quite heavily on the morning of our departure from Stockholm. About 15 minutes to the metro from our lodgings. Man I look so impressed.

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The trip to Norway was uneventful except for the struggle to get on the plane and to our seat. Really! I don’t mean to complain but god! Argh!

I’m going to split this post into a separate one in Norway. I’m still in Norway though! But more Vikings!

 

 

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We were sad to be saying goodby to Helsinki. If a city has a spirit then Helsinki has a gentle and kind one. It is a very pretty place too.

We booked a sauna at our hotel for after breakfast on our last day. We felt we should experience a Finnish sauna in Finland. I’m not keen on saunas but I think I coped with this one quite well. It was a lovely clean room with shower, sauna with glass door and it’s own toilet. I think we were supposed to be quiet in there but we chatted and relaxed.

As we had to check out by 12 and our ferry didn’t leave until 5pm we had the old travellers’ dilemma about what to do with our luggage. We toyed with the idea of leaving it at the hotel and going sight seeing. We discussed taxi versus pushing the damn things to the marina to using the trams. In the end we had the brilliant idea of taking the luggage to the terminal and putting it in a locker. We asked directions about which tram to take and headed off with our bags on wheels. My daughter’s bag is new and the wheels work really well. My bag has temperamental wheels, which means they randomly stop working. We went to the tram stop in front of central station. We waited for a while and realised the rumoured tram number 5 was not appearing on the schedule. We had out our maps and were discussing things and arguing as tourists do when someone took pity on us. We were at the wrong tram stop and we needed tram #4. So this woman pointed us to where we needed to go.

All the trams we’d been riding on had wide doorways with little or no stairs. The tram to the ferry terminal had narrow doorways and three or four stairs. Eek! So we made it on the the tram but where we thought it would be obvious to get off, it wasn’t. Luckily some people on the tram asked us. “Boat? Or No Boat?” We then realised it was our stop so I quick as a flash dragged the bags off. My daughter keeps commenting: you did that so fast!

We walked the bags to the terminal only to find that all the big lockers were taken. We had hours until we were due to board. We used two smaller lockers to put our hand luggage and pushed our suitcases back up the street to the markets and stalls. We thought we could sit with our bags in the lovely sun. Then we got the idea we could do a ferry trip. I did a scout around and the ferry company let us take our bags on so we managed to get the tourist 45 minute tour.

Here is me with our bags in the back of the ferry.

It was an amazing day. The weather was warm, the sky so blue. I took some lovely shots. Here is a shot of the ferry we were going to take to Stockholm.

 

We got to see some of Suomenlinna from the seaward side. Here are some shots. King’s Gate I think.

 

Then when we made it back we sat by the wharf and ate burgers.  I had a reindeer burger and Beans had a vegetarian one without mayo or cheese. She was very impressed with the vegan food options in Helsinki. The seagulls are very aggressive so we had to guard our food from being stolen away. I spied someone eating a plate of meatballs and potatoes and gravy and I had food envy. My burger was fine, but I didn’t taste much difference in the reindeer meet.

Some shots from when we were sitting down, just chilling with the seagulls.

We also took turns checking out the stalls. I found some Finnish yarn! I’m so happy, I bought a mitten kit. It was 27 Euros, a bit pricey but it’s Finnish!

Soon it was time to say goodbye to Helsinki. Picture sad faces. Then we went to check in to the ferry. Upstairs sitting down having a coffee was Sara Lindberg, who we had met at the Welcome to Finland party at Worldcon. So we sat with her and chatted, learned some Swedish and agreed to meet for drinks. She told us about the buffet on board so we planned to get tickets to that.

It wasn’t long before we got on board the massive ferry, Gabriella, run by the Viking Line. It’s a very big ship from my perspective. Then there was the queue for the lifts to reach the berths. We discovered we were on level two, that’s the bottom of the bottom deck! We were under the cars and trucks. Funny! We had a four berth room but luckily we didn’t have to share. Despite the fake window, we were quite comfortable.

Here is a shot of me being silly. Except for the terrible feelings of foreboding and death I slept well.

There was onboard WiFi. I discovered it didn’t work on Deck Two so no morning internet browsing for me. I had to go up to the higher decks to log on. Also, every time I went to the loo or out of range I had to relog on to the internet. We managed to buy buffet tickets for the 6 pm seating. The ship took off and it was so smooth I didn’t even feel us embarking. We took some lovely shots leaving Helsinki from the ship.

The restaurant couldn’t seat us together saying our table was full. However, we had two seats next to us that weren’t used at all. Poor Sara had to eat on her own.

The buffet was an interesting experience. I liken it to starved zombies who had access to five day old corpses. It was if they hadn’t ever been fed and thought that the food would disappear. A lot I couldn’t eat as there was fish of all kinds, fresh, smoked, pickled, tar flavoured, fermented. I got some meat but it was very smokey and salty for a roast meat. Beans said she paid 35 euro for a salad. She found some things to eat, but yeah pricey if you don’t eat most of the things on offer. She was saddened they didn’t have anything vegan and hot.

Later on, we found Sara and she joined us at the table. We had some wine (the buffet included wine and beer on tap) and chatted. Then we went for a stroll and found our way to the bar at the back of the ship. I had a cocktail which was vodka and campari based. We talked some more and then the day’s toil weighed on me and I took myself to bed. Beans stayed up with Sara for a bit. I was woken later by my daughter banging on the bathroom door. Let me out. Let me out.

Me being half asleep it took me a moment to realised she locked the door from her side. I’m saying. I can’t let you out. You need to unlock the door. Panicked sounds. Oh, she says, I locked the door. I went back to bed. It was a long night but perfectly comfortable despite not being able to check the internet in bed.

Next morning, I got up and ready and went upstairs to get an Internet fix. Then I saw the islands! It was so pretty coming into Stockholm. I took photos.

And then some more photos. Beans and Sara joined me and we watched the scenery and then went to breakfast. It was a lot more calmer at breakfast than the buffet the previous night. A full array of food was available. I had crepes, bacon, scrambled eggs and I forget now what else. Some fruit I think.

Because we were on the very bottom of the ship and there were queues when we were getting on, we packed up and were at the front of the line to disembark. It got pretty packed behind the doors, with screaming babies and barking dogs and people saying let us out. I was once again thinking of zombies trying to get out the door. I am not sure my imagination is helpful. Being down in the lower decks I thought that if there was a crisis on the ship we would be the first to die! Anyway, all good.

The journey to our AirBnB was eventful of course but not as eventful as other people. I bought a 24 hour metro ticket and was given the general direction of the bus and a number ’50’. It took us a bit to figure out which direction we should go. There were a lot of busses to Slussen, but we were told to go to Central Station. I asked one bus driver and he said “no’ when I asked if he was going to Central. Another tourist just took any bus. She said that it was bound to put down near a metro stop. She probably had the right idea because Slussen does have a metro stop. So we waited with our huge suitcases. Then a 53 bus came and it did go to central station. Another couple from the ship got on but they had no ticket so had to get off and go find one. Thank heavens we bought our ticket on the ship. We had help finding Central Station and then we followed the signs to the metro. Our instructions were pretty straightforward. We are out in the burbs. Unfortunately, we got lost trying to find the apartment. We started to get stressed and had to ring our host. It did work out, but it was funny. He said I’ll go on the balcony and look for you. So we followed instructions and saw a shirtless guy jumping up and down and waving his hands. Okaay.

After that it was pretty straightforward. We were tired. We had a short break and then went grocery shopping. Sweden don’t use the Euro so we had to do quick mental gymnastics to figure out what things cost. This is the view from where we are staying out in suburbia.

Next blog post is our stay in Stockholm. Warning this next blog post will contain Vikings!

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