Monday, 16 February 2015

Scotland Again!


I'm ashamed it's taken me so long to post this year! No real excuse I haven't had any horrible lurgeys, I haven't had much work to do on the church newsletter & website and I haven't had a lot of babysitting to do. The weather has been quite good so I haven't stayed in much. Done quite a bit of gadding about locally & taken a few photos so maybe I'll get to post some.

I've done a lot of knitting, shawls mainly. Now three are waiting to be blocked if I ever find the time!

Well I've got some of my rail tours for this year. Can't believe I've got two Scottish ones! I'm going to some of the places I went last summer & some brilliant new ones.

I did love Ballachulish which is not far from Fort William. We travelled up from Glasgow on the West Highland Line. Keeping my fingers crossed nfor a fine trip. It pelted down the whole day so we could hardly see a thing on the journey. I was told it was a gorgeous trip, well I might get to see it this time.

It was so serene & peaceful in Ballachulish. The photo above is of the old hotel we stayed in which was on the edge of Loch Leven. 

The photos below are of the Loch & you can see how lovely it was even in quite dull weather. Well it is Scotland.

I had to laugh at what two Americans said to me complaining about the hotel. "The company should never send people to hotels where there are no shops & restaurants". I think they must have expected Disneyworld! Not sure how I held it in!

Not sure if we'll be going here I haven't got the final itinerary yet. It was very photogenic & has been used for lots of films including Skyfall. It was hard getting a photo without anyone walking in front of you to take a photo!

 Eilan Donan Castle

Off again to Isle of Mull on the ferry from Oban. I enjoyed that ferry crossing.

Ferry to Isle of Mull

On the Crossing to Mull

Didn't get to stay on Mull last time, only toured Duart Castle but I think we're staying in Craignure for three nights. Hope we get to Tobermory this time & see the lovely location for the children's TV series Balamory! Always wanted to go there but won't get to see Archie's pink castle!

I'll get to Inverness again. I liked it but didn't have enough time to see much. Another dull day but at least it didn't rain.

I'll get to go on the Jacobite Steam Train again alias Hogwart's Express! A lovely journey from Fort William to Mallaig especially great crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Any Harry Potter fans will remember this from the scene with the flying Ford Anglia! The photo isn't good because it was taken from inside the train & the windows were closed. There were people in cars following us & stopping every so often to wave to the train. Just hope the weather is a bit kinder this time.

I'll be in the lovely Edinburgh a few times. The weather was gorgeous both times I was there!

National Gallery

Princes Street Gardens

This time I'll also get to Glasgow which I also love.

Now the new places I'm going to are Aberdeen & right up to Thurso & John O'Groats at the top of Scotland to catch the ferry to Orkney & the Shetlands. We'll also be travelling on the Royal Deeside Railway & going to Balmoral if the Queen isn't in residence! WOW!

I'm also going to Pitlochry, Plockton (where they filmed Hamish Macbeth) Urquhart Castle Loch Ness, the Hebrides, Staffa, Iona & Fingal's Cave. Double WOW!!!!!

Here's a link to my map of the places I'm visiting in Scotland. See how far up north Shetland is from Thurso. It's a fair trek, halfway to Norway.

My other tours are Cornwall & Lake Garda, Verona & Venice. Gorgeous!

Think it's going to be a hectic summer. Just hope it's a good one weatherwise especially on those sea cruises around the Scottish islands but I'm not holding out great hopes! I'll enjoy it whatever the weather. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve & Tommy

Eleven 0 One & Tommy

Visited my old home town of Seaham Harbour today with my daughter & granddaughter for an ice cream before we visited the cemetery.  
Just opposite the ice cream shop on The Terrace next to the cenotaph is a lovely, moving sculpture marking the centenary of the First World War.  It shows a world weary British Tommy sitting reflecting on the horrors of the war one minute after the Armistice had been declared.
The sculpture was created by local artist Ray Lonsdale & it was intended to be in place for 3 months.  However the townspeople decided to try to raise the cash to buy it & they did just that! Tommy is there to stay. My photograph was just snapped on the hoof with my phone but you can see lots better photographs & read more about it here
Have a wonderful Christmas & a great year in 2015.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Voice Out of History - "Keep Calm and Carry On"

Ever wondered about the origin of this phrase?

Well today I found out and a lot more besides.

This morning I visited Alnwick a little market town up in the North East of England. It's only about fifty miles from home & my husband was going up there for a work trip so I thought I'd go with him. I had visions of browsing around the lovely little place with it's shops which are very different to the usual high street chains while I was waiting for my husband & then sitting in a nice little cafe for lunch. 

The best laid plans as they say, gang aft aglee! The shop my husband was visiting was out of the town so I had to sit in the car & wait for him. On the way back I suggested we stop for coffee somewhere in the town but as usual my husband drove straight on & out of the town. Nowhere to park! However just before we left I suggested we stop when I saw a sign for a bookshop called Barter Books. I thought coffee is usually available in big bookshops & this was a big bookshop!

It was a lovely Victorian railway station & one of the many closed due to the horrendous Beeching railway cuts of 1968. It had been converted into a great bookshop.  Apparently this station was a very grand one for such a little market town because Alnwick was the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland. Posh or what!

I couldn't take photos of the outside because of all the cars parked there but you can see it in the video below. Also I didn't have my camera, just used the camera on my phone which I have very little idea about.

Inside the shop was amazing! Blazing coal fires, masses & masses of bookcases, murals, coffee (30p) & delicious freshly made biscuits (55p), play area with toys, a model railway running around above the bookcases, murals & lots more. My kind of place. I hate those soulless minimalist shops all glass & steel. YUK!

I particularly loved the murals & quotations all over the shop, especially this one about books. Very forward thinking for 1957!

Well back to the Keep Calm & Carry on motto. Apparently an original poster designed during World War 2 & never issued was found here in Barter Books. Take a look at the fantastic shop & the story of the poster here.

Well I never would have found that wonderful shop if we had stopped for coffee in the town. Sadly I was almost dragged out of the shop as soon as I finished my coffee so no time to browse.

However just as we were leaving I got my eye on the most tremendous bargains. Packs of secondhand paperbacks, 6 for £1.20. The one I picked was thrillers;it included books by Val MacDermid, Michael Dibden (fantastic), Ian Rankin, Kathy Reichs, Sue Grafton & Michael Connolly. Crumbs how cheap is that! I can give them to a charity shop too once I've read them.

I have to go back but this time by myself so I can take as long as I like to soak up that place. Just gorgeous!!!!!!

So if you love books & ever find you're in Northumberland, why not take a look! You won't be disappointed.

Monday, 1 December 2014

All Sorts of Everything!

 Lindisfarne Castle

Apologies but I'm pretty hopeless at posting these days.  I'm convinced we only have 3 day weeks now.  I just seem to get up in the morning & a couple of days have gone!  Maybe I've slept through!  It's a sign of old age, mind you it does seem to be worse in winter.  Christmas has a lot to answer for.  Thankfully we don't have Thanksgiving here or I'd be to take away!

This week I decided to buy my husband a laptop for his combined Christmas & birthday presents.  Well his old one has been driving him batty for a few months now.  My fault really, I've loaded it with photos of my trips & grandchildren.  Well it has taken me hours & hours to set it up for him.  I've lost a weekend. Thought it would be a doddle like it was with my little Nokia tablet but no.  The basic set up was fine.  However I won't go into the problems I had with the laptop after I downloaded Google Chrome because I just can't hack Internet Explorer.  YUK!!!!  After that I set up his email.  Problem?  Well I just couldn't get his BT Internet email to load.  Gmail was OK but crumbs I spent hours on trying to sort it. Eventually I discovered that it & a lot of other Internet email systems just aren't compatible with Windows 8 because they're using old technology.  Just wonder why my bills are so huge if they're not updating their stuff.  Spending too much time with their BT Infinity broadband kingdom!  Their advert is running as I type, hence the large bills.  Wonderful!  Well he'll just have to manage with Gmail.  Now I have to train him to use Windows 8. Takes a bit of getting used to after XP & Vista but I do like it.  Works great with my phone too.  I've written this post on the little Nokia Lumia tablet & it's been so easy uploading the photos from One Drive & so fast too.  I treated myself to a keyboard cover with an extra battery & it's brill!  Great for when I'm on tour.

What else?  Well I've been making lots of different things over the last few weeks. 

Sorry the picture quality isn't brilliant.

Some knitted poppies to wear for Remembrance Sunday. I always buy them but keep losing them so I decided to make some.  I don't have a pattern so every time I make one it's slightly different which is nice. 

Some candy cane ornament holders for the Christmas Fair at my granddaughter's school. 

The pattern is here.  There are some good patterns there you just have to register there first.

...... and some little snow socks to hold the candy canes too! 

The pattern for these is here 

Still need to make some baby doll's clothes for one granddaughter for Christmas before they go to France & to crochet a matinee coat for a niece's baby who is due this week.

I'm trying my hand at designing a scarf in lace wool & writing the pattern.  Don't bother watching this space, it may not come to anything with everything else that's going on.

Oh I nearly forgot.  I made a crocheted snowman hat for my granddaughter (which I forgot to take photograph of)!  My daughter bought her the mitts but there wasn't a snowman hat she liked to match so I had to make one!

Apart from the crafty stuff I've helped load a container from our local churches with aid for a community in Zambia.  I couldn't believe how many sports T shirts & running gear from marathons & fun runs there was.  Zillions!  It took groups of us three mornings to fill it.  One of our priests goes out to Zambia each year to work with a congregation & their priest comes back with him to our parish.

I'm still listening to children read at my granddaughter's school & they've very kindly invited the volunteers to go on the pantomime trip with the whole school. I had a wonderful time last year.  The bus ridge was great before we even got there.  Not sure whether I enjoyed watching & listening to the children's reactions or the pantomime.  The comments were great.  One boy asked whether the ugly sisters were really women!  They weren't but I wasn't going there!  Loved every minute of it.  Well apart from the numerous trips to the loo!  This year it's Little Red Riding Hood.  Goodness knows what the comments will be. 

Also went on a retreat last month.  I haven't done that since I was at school.  It was nothing like those ones.  I haven't laughed so much for years.  The photo at the top is of Holy Island, Lindisfarne, where we spent the time.  I'll do a separate post on it as I took a few photos & it's a lovely place.

I was asked to apply for a tour manager post with another tour company which specialises in UK tours & cruises.  Wasn't too keen at first but filled the application form in which took hours!  Full of what you would do in hypothetical situations & what kind of person I am.  Crumbs!  Then they wanted a CV!  Think I must be daft.

What haven't I done?

No decorating unfortunately.  Light isn't good enough now, a great excuse.  Not a lot of housework either but as my friend says "nobody on their death bed ever wishes they'd done more housework".  I keep saying I might be the first. 
No cruise booked for my 70th birthday, dithered around too long & the one I'd been considering is fully booked.
Not much Christmas shopping done either.  Mainly because I don't know what to buy.  For once my granddaughters haven't asked for anything much.  Nor has my grandson but there's time yet.  It's his birthday next week so it will probably be a money job.  Will have to get onto the Internet methinks.

Well time to go!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Austrian Lakes

I took my first European tour to Austria in July & it took us two days to get there. 

First leg of the trip was via the Eurostar to Brussells Midi station & then on to Cologne where we stayed overnight. I loved the Eurostar; it was the first time I had travelled on it & we went first class. Fabulous! I don't think I'll ever enjoy air travel again.

Second day we travelled from Cologne along the Rhine Valley to Salzburg. What fantastic scenery, castles or rather schlosses & lovely valleys & mountains. It took over seven hours but it was a wonderful journey. It's so great being able to get up & walk around, go to the loo, have a trip to the buffet & stretch your legs. I had to laugh though, when I went along the carriages to check if everyone was OK one chap kept asking how much longer to get there. Just like when you take children anywhere by car. He couldn't understand why we were taking a scenic route when a fast train would get us there just the same. You wonder why people book holidays without checking the itinerary. 

Well we eventually arrived & next morning we had a ferry trip out onto the lake. It had been absolutely pouring an hour before but by the time we went onto the ferry it started to brighten up. This photo was taken from inside the ferry as it was raining a little, it's not particularly clear & you can see some reflection in the photo.

 Traunkirchen Parish Church

The weather brightened up quickly as we finished our little lake cruise. Now I'm not a fan of cemetaries but around the side of the church was a lovely little cemetary. The graves were beautifully kept. However what puzzled me is how small they were. At first I wondered whether they were children but I looked at a few of the headstones & whole families were in there! Maybe they were cremated!

There was a ferry landing beside the church which we used to travel up the lake.

Lake Traunsee

Here's a view from the hill above the church looking down on the lake.

The cafe at the bottom right of the photo sold fabulous ice cream!

It's amazing how fast the weather can change in areas where there are lakes & mountains. I took the photo above to try out the camera on a new tablet I had bought but it was so bright I couldn't see what I was taking. Didn't turn out so bad.

Then I walked across the road towards the lake & in that few minutes this was how the light changed. 

It was still warm so I went for a swim just past that bridge. It was fresh but not freezing. 

A back street!

And Another

Another View of the Lake

This part of Austria is suffering economically as it doesn't have the advantage of all year round tourism. No skiing here! The photograph above shows a shop & guest house which has closed. 

An Antique Shop in a Former Life

Sadly there were a few shops & cafes which had closed in this really small village. 

One of our day trips was to the beautiful village of Hallstatt. We went there by train & then across the lake by ferry. It was gorgeous. It's the most photogenic place I've ever visited. Sadly it was a little crowded.


As you approached by ferry across the lake the houses & shops looked as it they were growing out of the mountain. The reflections in the lake are wonderful.

The houses cafes & shops around the central square were really pretty with their beautiful colours & flower boxes.

I climbed up to the Catholic church below (lost count of how many steps) 

At the top once again I found a beautiful little cemetary.

Another day we visited Gmunden a small town across the lake very famous for its ceramics. A few people didn't like it but I did. I loved the colours that the houses were painted even though it was a rainy day it still looked pretty.

Gmunden's Glockenspiel

The glockenspiel on the town hall which still plays wasn't made locally as their ceramics weren't suitable. It was made in Meissen!

The main town square looking pretty dismal. No different to anywhere else when it rains!

I'll save Salzburg for another day!