Category Archives: Uncategorized

Winchester, Ancient Capital of Wessex

Winchester Cathedral

It seems a shame that King Alfred, the man who defeated the Danes and united the English, has gone down in popular history merely as the man who burnt the cakes.  But the city he made his capital does the man proud and it is impossible to stroll through the ancient streets of Winchester and not be aware of how “the Great” came to be added to Alfred’s name.

An unspoilt city and England’s ancient capital (the Court was mobile during the Anglo-Saxon period but the city was considered the capital of Wessex and England at the time), the cobblestones, buildings and monuments of Winchester, just an hour from London, ring with history.  If you like big bangs and all things military, it is also home to a host of museums dedicated to all things warlike.  Surrounded by water meadows and rolling downland, it offers the best of city life – modern shopping, quirky open air events, and great entertainment and it can be covered in a day (although a couple of days will show more of what is on offer and allow trips into the surrounding villages).

Fulling Mill Cottage and River Arle

To get a panoramic view of the streets and buildings laid out according to the original Saxon plan, a good starting point is St. Giles’ Hill (a great spot for a picnic), from where you can  pick out Hamo Thorneycroft’s famous statue of King Alfred.  Then follow in the King’s footsteps from the walls erected to keep out the Danes to what is the largest medieval cathedral in the world.   Famous for its treasures, from the sumptuously illustrated 12th century Bible to medieval paintings and a 16-metre stained-glass window 66% of which dates from medieval times, Winchester Cathedral is that much-overused word, awesome.

One of the Anthony Gormley Statues in the Crypt of Winchester Cathedral
One of the Gormley statues in the Crypt of Winchester Cathedral
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The Crypt, Winchester Cathedral

The newest acquisition is Sound ll, the Antony Gormley sculpture now permanently installed in the cathedral’s crypt where it looks particularly striking when the crypt floods which it frequently does.  Even if you don’t make a habit of visiting cathedrals, do make an exception to view this magnificent Gormley work.

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The Cloisters, Winchester Cathedral

Fans of The Da Vinci Code will be interested to know that the cathedral’s North transept doubles as the Vatican in the film of the book, but those of a more classical bent will head for the tomb of Jane Austen which can be found in the  nave where there is also a stained glass window to her memory.

Jane Austen Plaque in Winchester Cathedral

The novelist died in Winchester on 18 July 1817 and is buried in the cathedral.  While in this part of the cathedral, take note of the black font which depicts St. Nicholas of Smyrna giving an old man three bags of gold for his three daughters, said to be the forerunner of the pawnbrokers sign of three golden balls.

Continuing in the footsteps of King Alfred you could then head up the High Street to the Great Hall, all that remains of Winchester castle, and which for 700 years has housed the legendary Round Table.   Old it certainly is, and round, but it hangs on a wall where with its red, black and white colouring it resembles an enormous dartboard.  According to myth, the original was created by the wizard Merlin, but carbon dating in 1976 proved that this particular table was not made in the Arthurian 6th century but in the 13th, and this use of HyperPhysics sadly put paid to the legend.

The Round Table

The Round Table, High up on the Wall

Just outside the south door of the Great Hall, is Eleanor’s Garden, a re-creation of a medieval herbarium with turf seats and a camomile lawn, named after Eleanor, wife of Henry III, and Eleanor, wife of Edward I.  All the plants you see would have been grown in the 13th century, when floral symbols had priority over design.  The rose, lily, iris and strawberry plants represent aspects of religion while the greens – the grass, ivy, bay and holly represent faithfulness.

The oldest continuously running school in the country, 14th century Winchester College which became a model for Eton and for King’s College, Cambridge is nearby.  You can join a guided tour for an intriguing glimpse into the medieval heart of the college, the 14th century Gothic chapel with its early example of a wooden vaulted roof, the cloisters (where graffiti carved into the stones during the 16th and 17th centuries is still visible) and the original scholars’ dining-room.  As a complete contrast, you could later check out medieval Westgate, a fortified gateway which served as a debtors’ prison for 150 years and where prisoners graffiti is also still intact, albeit rather different from that of the scholars! 

The West Gate, Winchester
Westgate

One expects to find ghosts in most ancient cities and Winchester is no exception.   The most famous haunted Inn is The Eclipse in The Square, where the spectre of Alicia Lisle haunts the corridors.  Seventy-one years old when she was found guilty of harbouring rebel cavaliers and sentenced to death by Hanging Judge Jeffreys, she spent her last night here in 1685 listening to the scaffold being erected for her hanging.

Old Prison Gate
Old Prison Gate

At the Theatre Royal in Jewry Street, a wandering apparition haunts the dress-circle and gallery looking for her long lost lover while in the 18th century High Street offices formerly occupied by the county newspaper, the rattling chains of a woman dressed in grey has been known to rattle the staff on more than one occasion.

Streams and waterways punctuate the streets of the city giving it a homely atmosphere – especially when you see someone hauling a fine trout out of the river – and the Bikeabout Scheme means that you can tour around for most of the day for the small registration fee of £10.   Reflective jackets and helmets are also available.

Half-timbered hous in Winchester
Half-timbered hous in Winchester

You don’t need to cycle of course: there is a good transport system from Winchester to the picturesque villages of the Itchen and Meon Valleys,  handsome Georgian colour-washed Alresford (pronounced Allsford) for instance, home of the famous Watercress Steam Railway where you can make a childhood dream come true by riding on the footplate.   Later, stroll down the town’s elegant streets with their antique shops, and discreet fashion boutiques or along the riverside where the thatched timber-framed Fulling Mill straddles the River Arle.  Alresford is the home of watercress farming in the UK, so expect to sample gourmet dishes made of the green stuff – watercress pudding, watercress quiche and even watercress scones with afternoon tea – in smart bistros, tea rooms and old-fashioned pubs like the Wykeham Arms with its award-winning menu.

 

Main shopping area in Alresford

If there are children in the party, then don’t miss Marwell Zoo.   Home to over 200 species of animals and birds, from meerkats to sand cats, and some of the world’s rarest big cats including the Amur leopard and the snow leopard.  There are volunteer guides around the park to help visitors and to explain and illustrate the efforts the zoo is making to rehabilitate endangered animals back in their habitat.

And after all that history and ancient stones, Winchester can still surprise you with its pedestrian-friendly streets, colourful markets and exquisite boutiques nestling beside large-scale stores.  The High Street – once the Roman’s east-west route through the city – is home to stylish shops with Regency and Elizabethan bow-fronted windows, while The Square offers quaint pubs and restaurants after your exertions, and everywhere you’ll find bronze and stone carvings, many by famous sculptors.    It lies just one hour by train from London, 40 minutes from Portsmouth Ferry Terminal, and 15 minutes from Southampton Airport.

 

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Very Old Barn, NB date of erection in grey bricks at bottom of building.

Winchester’s a winner, and whether you taste runs to real ale or English wines, pub grub or gourmet dining, Goth outfits to designer chic, you’ll find it all here amidst the quiet stones that hold history’s secrets.

Interior Winchester Cathedral

Interior, Winchester Cathedral

 

Tribute to Allen Toussaint

Allen Toussaint died of a heart attack on November 10th last. Aged 77, he was one of the great Jazz and Rock and Roll legends that influenced many of today’s household names, including Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas and Ernie K-Doe. He collaborated with Paul McCartney, LaBelle, Robert Parker and Elvis Costello over the years and he was also a talent scout, record producer, studio owner, singer and arranger. He left New Orleans for New York in the wake of Katerina and it was when he returned to New Orleans that his career as a performer really took off.

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Toussaint receives Medal for Services to the Arts from President Obama Photo by P. Souza

 

Piano-player/Bandleader Jon Cleary, born in the UK but long-time resident in New Orleans and considered a native of the city, has long been a fan of Toussaint and in 2012 he recorded Occapella, a mix of popular and less familiar pieces penned by the legendary songwriter.

Occapella286

Jon was one of the musicians asked to play at the Tribute Concert held in the Orpheum Theatre, New Orleans on November 20th, just prior to the internment.

The casket was placed at the front of the stage and friends, fans and fellow stars joined together to mourn the legend, then stayed to cheer his legacy. This legacy was celebrated by an all-star lineup of singers and musicians who took to the stage to perform his songs in genres that covered his work in pop, R&b, gospel and even funk. The recently re-opened theatre rocked.

For the finale, all the musicians, along with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, piled onstage and blew the roof off with a frantic rendition of I’ll Fly Away with Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
After Oh Didn’t he Ramble the pall bearers carried the coffin out of the theatre to the hearse, followed by the family and everyone who’d been on stage, as the band played  Just a Closer Walk with Thee in slow tempo.

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Allen Toussaint Photo by Derek Bridges

Outside, crowds had been waiting since the small hours to pay their respects. They waited almost silently as the slow march continued and as the coffin was placed in the long stretch limo hearse. Then they erupted, singing and dancing, twirling their umbrellas, and in general, giving one of New Orleans’ favourite sons, a joyful send-off. The family hadn’t intended for the traditional Second Lining, but they gave in to the crowd’s wishes and the place went wild.

New Orleans will continue, as it always has, but it will never be quite the same.

Chiang Rai and Thailand’s Hill Tribes

Chiang Rai Merit Making
Chiang Rai Merit Making

Located on a plain beneath the outermost edge of the Himalayan range is Chiang Rai, capital of the province of the same name and until recently one of Thailand’s best kept secrets.

Without the slick presentation of big sister Chiang Mai, 180 Kl. to the south, Chiang Rai is a pleasing town with much less traffic, wide, clean streets and few skyscrapers. Here in the heart of the slow-paced province, the market-place and temple are the hub of the community, as they have been for centuries.

This is the part of Thailand that to date has attracted few long term visitors yet it is arguably Thailand’s most undervalued region. A province of mountains and rivers, you’ll find yourself everywhere either on a river or in the hills or mountains that form one continuous rippling green chain across the northern border with Laos and Myanmar.  It offers the most accessible base from which to venture into these countries and it is within easy reach of the Golden Triangle, that magnificent and tranquil setting where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet on the Mekong river, and where the S.E. Asian drug trade was spawned in the poppy fields of the area.

Golden Triangle

The essence of Chiang Rai is its untouched environment and breathtaking scenery, understated and soft hued, like a Chinese brush painting. Towering mountains and craggy limestone peaks loom out of the soft, opalescent, morning mists, elephants haul teak on river banks, and families drift up and down the rivers on their bamboo rafts which are transport, house and working stations.

Cultivation in Mountains

Most western visitors come here to visit the hill tribes, among which the Lisu, Akha, Karen and Yao who live in settlements of thatched huts in the mountains, are the best known. Home to thirteen different hill tribes who migrated from various parts of South China and North and Central Burma, there is a wealth of ethnic cultures in this small area.

It is a vexing question as to whether the visitor to the hill tribes is an agent of destruction or preservation. Exposure to outside influences has certainly altered the lives of the hill-tribes and many now expect payment for being photographed, an action that is viewed by some as a step towards the destruction of their culture. An alternative view is that the money earned gives the hill tribes an enhanced view of their culture and the interest shown in this aspect of their life helps to preserve this.

Akha Hill Tribe family

The province wants to show off its many delights and is seriously out to attract visitors. Most of its attractions are cultural and natural, so they are looking for a more ecologically aware kind of tourist, one who will appreciate the natural beauty of the area and its shy but friendly people. Indeed, the people are one of the greatest assets of the area with a gentle innocence and a uniquely northern curiosity about the visitor.

Elephant Bathing
Elephant Bathing

From Chiang Rai one can take a boat ride up the river to the village of Rammit, home to the Karen tribe. Because of the dense jungle that stretches for miles the elephant is the only animal capable of working here, and the Karen have become excellent elephant trainers and handlers. The journey takes about 40 minutes and a good time to arrive is midday when the elephants have finished morning work and turn the river into their playground and bathtub.

In these hills also, you’ll find Doi Mae Salong, where the descendants of the soldiers of the 93rd Division of the Kuomintang now live, combatants who made the long journey from China after the civil war. It is a long winding road with wooden one-story shop houses on either side selling food, sweets (bite carefully into the most appealing looking, some are positively foul) and Chinese medicines. Snakes bottled in Brandy, spiders in oil, scorpions in wine are all popular buys with the locals but most of the Chinese descendants tend tea and coffee plantations, orchards and vegetable. gardens.

Merit Making on the Streets of Chiang Rai
Dawn, and a young girl makes Merit in Chiang Rai

With little effort, you can imagine you’ve wandered back into an older age. Layer upon layer of mountain ridges drift in and out among the clouds from your vantage point in the village which is set on a slight incline in the mountain side. Rich green farmland runs down into narrow valleys and mountain people laden with heavy loads can be seen trekking up and down the paths. There is little noise apart from the sighing of the wind in the bamboos and the soft boom from the bronze bell in the temple.

In recent memory, the opium poppy was the  only cash crop grown in the high mountains at over 1000 metres where the temperature was very suitable for its cultivation but strenuous efforts by the Thai government and various NGOs have weaned the hill tribes from their reliance on this and nowadays crops like soya and sago have taken their place. This alteration to a way of life unchanged for centuries has placed pressures on the different cultures and is causing change.  Apart from the poppy, there are no more forests to which they can move, no more trees to chop down and burn, and no patches of plants and herbs for medicine and food.

Street sceme Mae Sai (Border with Myanmar)
Street scene Mae Sai (Border with Myanmar)

M0st accept a settled existence and tourism is playing an increasingly important role in ensuring this for their eventual survival. Inevitably, tribes will diminish or vanish, but they have adapted before and can adapt again. Anything that can raise them from the grinding poverty of their daily lives can be construed as destructive only by the most perverse of eco-tourists.

There are many small hotels and inexpensive guesthouses in the hills, especially in the border area of Mae Sai, but don’t expect western food. Horses and mules can be rented for distant journeys and local people serve as guides. The hill tribes ignore borders, cheerfully crossing and re-crossing the border between Thailand and Myanmar and, some say, occasionally venturing back home to China.

So when thinking of the cool mountains of Thailand, think Chiang Rai rather than Chiang Mai, a town which is, in most people’s minds, merely a northern version of Bangkok.

A Misunderstanding at Nether Fondle.

I love Jan Toms stories of Nether Fondle (reminds me of a village that would appear in Beyond Our Ken). This is her latest. Read this, and if you enjoy it, catch the others on her WordPress site.

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. Misunderstanding at Nether Fondle

Tales from a Village Somewhere in England

High Street Nether Fondle A village scene at Nether Fondle

The best thing about being out of work was having time to daydream about better jobs. Top of Bruce Daylounger’s list was being a personal trainer in a girls’ school but so far nothing had turned up.
Then, to his amazement, his reluctant application to the Nether Fondle Weekly was successful and he was appointed junior sports reporter. The down side was that he hated exercise. Watching others heaving and sweating was only marginally worse than doing it himself but before he had a chance to speculate further, the editor, a hard-bitten ex-Fleet Street hack called Jerry Bruise crushed any aspirations.
‘This paper’s crap. Don’t get no ideas of writing nothing worth reading. You gotta be prepared to cover baby shows, dog shows, craft shows, vicars’ tea parties. Most exciting thing happens…

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Australia: Destinations Perth and Cairns

Perth offers a gentle welcome to the visitor heading for Australia for the first time.  Its superb location by the Swan River, white sandy beaches on the nearby Indian Ocean, cultural attractions and a cuisine to rival that of Sydney, makes every visit a pleasure.

Apart from beach activities, including great surfing, the city itself  offers many attractions: like King’s Park with it’s superb views over the city, the 42 acres Botanic Garden, and the Aquarium of Western Australia where you walk through a 321-foot tunnel lined with glass, behind which thousands of colourful fish, sharks, and stingrays lurk.  If you want to get up close and personal with the sharks, “no probs.” as they say in Perth, you just trot off to the Discovery Pool where, if you are a qualified diver, you can have a face-to-face shark experience.

The “fun” part of the city is in the district of Northbridge where you will find a range of nightclubs, pubs, cafes and eateries, offering an eclectic mix of cultures and cuisines, but better still is “Freo” (Fremantle), located 20 minutes south of the city but almost an integral part of Perth itself.   European in appearance, Freo is a café-lined port with spectacular beaches and a more sophisticated lifestyle, but still distinctly Australian with verandaed beer-houses and pub barbecues a regular sight.

From Freo, take the 80-minute ferry ride over to RottenestIsland, accompanied (sometimes) by migrating whales, dolphins and sea-lions.   Once an Aboriginal penal colony, Rottenest is now a weekending town thronged with people who gather for karaoke bar singalongs as well as a closer acquaintance with the beer culture.

It would be a shame to spend all your time in the flesh-pots of Freo though, as Perth is an ideal stepping-off point for one and two-day-trips.   My own favourite is the wine producing MargaretRiver region on the Indian Ocean.  Although 155 miles away it is well worth a trip, if only to sample on site the lush, jammy Shirazes for which the area is famous and to revel in the ancient karri forests, beautiful countryside and heavenly beaches famed for their surf.

Second favourite is the journey north from Perth to see the Pinnacles, thousands of eerie limestone pillars up to four metres tall that dot the stark desert of the NamburgNational Park, and Monkey Mia where dolphins come into the shallow waters to feed.  I combined both trips over 3 days which gave me time for sightseeing, swimming and hanging out.

Perth embraces families, adult singles and couples alike and the range of entertainment for children and adults is a fair indication of why so many people come here for a vacation and then find it hard to go back home.

CAIRNS

In sharp contrast to Perth is Cairns, right bang at the point where two world heritage sites meet – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest – and the closest thing to tropical paradise I’ve found.

Few places can match Cairns’ concentration of activities, indigenous culture and pure natural splendour.  The Esplanade, up and down which the pelicans parade in undisputed ownership, has budget hostels, bars, eateries, boutiques and a great night time atmosphere.  The Pier waterfront complex has five-star hotels, some really super Australian designer shops and an eclectic range of restaurants.

The glitz has been totally absorbed by the town, but no matter how luxurious the suite, how chilled the champagne and how blue the pool, there is always a sense that a salt-water crocodile lurks not far away: Cairns has a primeval feel underneath the luxury, that’s what makes it different.

It’s essentially a stopping-off post for other trips, whether it be a trip to the Great Barrier Reef or any one of many rainforest trips.  The GBR needs no introduction to most people as its coral reefs are one of the most photographed sites in the world.  Snorkelling through the forests of staghorn coral, surrounded by round fish, flat fish, fluted fish, giant sea turtles, crimson squirrelfish, and sea cucumbers is exciting, but sensory overload really sets in when you spot the giant clams, their purple and green mottled lips open to their full 1 metre size.

There is an inner reef suitable for novices and beginners, an outer reef bordering the open sea with canyons and deep water, and the island reefs which are combination of both.  If you are staying on one of the blissful Islands, then your hotel will have a boat to transport you to the reefs, but if you choose a mainland hotel, then there are plenty of snazzy boats with scheduled trips out to the reefs from the waterfront.

For my money though, the rainforest is the most awe-inspiring place outside Cairns.  Having taken the Scenic Railway trip which chugs through 15 tunnels as it climbs 300 metres towards the AthertonHighlands and the village of Kuranda, and a boat ride on the crocodile infested DaintreeRiver, I was keen to spend a few days in a Rainforest Lodge.  Although I wore a rain poncho most of the time, the life of the forest was so absorbing that the constant misty rain was forgotten.  Central to this was the trip on Skyrail (a world first in ecotourism).  Sailing high above the rainforest canopy your gondola passes over eucalypt woodland, waterfalls, and trees in which white cockatoos nest, with panoramic views to Cairns, Trinity Beach and Green and Fitzroy islands.  You can alight at different stations en route to experience the forest floor from the comfort of boardwalks surrounded by trees, lush palms, ferns, animals and birdlife.

Whatever your style, Cairns can offer you an experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Curaçao – More than Just a Liqueur

I was tempted to use this Post as part of the Orange photo challenge, thinking Dutch/Orange, Williamstad/William of Orange, Curaçao/Orange liqueur, but I thought that might be considered an anology too far!

Entering Harbour at Williamstad
Entering Harbour at Williamstad

The ABC of the Caribbean    

Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, the ABC of the Dutch Antilles, located in the southern Caribbean Sea just off the Venezuelan coast, are 3 of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean   Not only are they physically beautiful but the people themselves are among the friendliest and most welcoming in the Caribbean, something to do with the Netherland’s good governance of the islands it is said.

Williamstad, Capital of Curacao
Williamstad, Capital of Curacao

Imagine a tropical Amsterdam if you will and you have Curaçao.  Williamstad, the capital, is a town of tidy Dutch-style streets with tall narrow houses in pastel colours of blue, green and pink lining the quayside, interspersed with emerald green swathes of grass and former warehouses now seerving as Museums.  Prosperous and clean shops and delightful open-air bars and cafés give cheering evidence of the good husbandry of the former Dutch owners.  A perfect town in which to wander, safely it must be mentioned, there are some superb restaurants and plenty of budget ones as well, great retail experiences in the Duty Free shops which stock everything from designer clothes to gold jewellery and Havana cigars, Curaçao has it all.

Beaches, Seas and Aquasports

White Beaches and Turquoise Seas
White Beaches and Turquoise Seas

Fascinating though the town is, the beaches and the tremendous amount of water sports on offer, exercise a pull on even the most dedicated of shoppers.  There are 35 fantastic beaches with white sands that are really blazingly, blindingly white and with the background of the turquoise sea (yes really turquoise) this is a picture postcard tropical idyll.  Swimming, snorkelling, diving or merely floating lazily on the seas around Curaçao is something everyone should do once in their lives.

Williamstad, Curacao, Habour.
Williamstad, Curacao, Habour.

I’m no diver – I’m not even a swimmer – but I was nearly tempted into taking lessons from one of the many diving schools we visited, so enticing were the waters.  ‘Rubber suits aren’t necessary’ Piet said persuasively.  ‘The water is very warm, between 70ᵒ and 85ᵒ’.  But I shied off and now I wish I hadn’t.

The Town of Williamstad, Curacao
The Town of Williamstad, Curacao

My partner however, sampled some of the over 65 varied dive sites including spectacularly located shipwrecks, and raved about waters with 100 foot visibility, the gentle drop offs and walls blanketed by magnificent coral formations.  And I’ll swear he hasn’t been the same since he swam underwater with the turtles and the multi-coloured fish, an experience he likened to a psychedelic dream.

House in Curacao
House in Curacao

And it’s not just swimming, snorkelling and diving.  The Marine Park and Underwater Nature Reserve offer other experiences, the best of which for most people is the Curasub, the mini-submarine which takes passengers 320 metres below the sea and which is a boon for those who, for whatever reason, cannot dive.  The journey last about one and a half hours and is a delight from start to finish.  It is also safe as the internal pressure means that the sub can surface much more quickly than can a diver.

National Parks and Museums

There are experiences of a different king at the Christoffel Park, a naturally laid out wildlife preserve covering 4,500 acres, flanked by hills and shadowed by the majestic mount Christoffel.  The park is home to rare sabal palms and orchids, iguanas, several species of birds and the shy Curaçao deer.  Horseback riding and mountain biking are available and driving, hiking or strolling is easy and pleasurable.

Houses in Curacao
Houses in Curacao

Surprised by the varied number of Museums on Curaçao, ranging from an Antique Furniture Museum to the Jewish Historical Museum housed in the oldest continuously operating Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere (since AD 732) I had my work cut out to fit even a few of them in.  Once you’ve ticked off the museums you want to see you can then start on the many elegant Plantation Houses on the island.  The Caribbean as a whole is not short of Plantation Houses but the ones on Curaçao are in a class of their own and well worth a visit.

Getting round the island

Buses are a cost-effective way of getting around the island and a useful way of meeting the friendly locals, but taxi are cheap and plentiful.  For touring downtown Williamstad and to reach the Seaquarium there is an old time trolley bus with aircon at the front and fresh air in the back!

‘You must have a free ferry ride with the locals’ my hotel porter told me.  ‘It operates at least 30 times a day when the Queen Emma Bridge opens to let ships pass through’.  So I did, and it was fun.

Williamstad
Williamstad
Williamstad, Curacao
Williamstad, Curacao

Curaçao was discovered by one of Columbus’s lieutenants, Alonso de Ojela.  It’s a pity the good Señor never had a chance to try the ice-cold beer, the only lager in the world brewed from seawater, or even ‘a sticky’, the sweet, syrupy Orange or Blue Curaçao.  I think he’d have liked them.

Return to Blogging

So, after a long absence I have returned to blogging.  Friends have been asking me why I’ve neglected my blogs for so long and I can only plead overwork in other fields and, perhaps, a little bit of laziness as well.

Now, however, I am determined to get back into the swing of things and update the blog on a regular basis, starting off by detailing some of my travels which have taken me to France, Italy, N. Ireland, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam since I last uploaded words and photos on the site.

First, I wanted to make sure everything was working on the site, to add one or two gadgets which will make it easier for people to comment on the blog if they wish, and I’ve changed the background colour.  I’ve also added some new menus to the strapline which I hope you’ll like, I enjoyed playing with them myself, darting from Mosaic to Classic, from Timeline to Flipchart (and isn’t the flipchart one amazing?).

So, watch this space.  Meantime, here’s a few recent images from my travels.  Hope you like them.

  Orchids in Thailand

 Sheep and Shed in Ireland

Auxerre in France

Menu in Italy

Oranges in Spain

Asian Travels – Mari Nicholson

I have decided to split my travel blogging into two separate areas, one for my forays into East Asia, an area of the world in which I travel extensively, and one for Europe.  I hope it will be easy for the readers to navigate between the two, and I hope I manage to leave links where necessary.

I have decided to call this one Asian travels, and the one for my European excursions I propose calling, surprise surprise, European Travels.

This year I have spent quite a bit of time in Thailand, my all-time favourite country, during which I managed to visit Koh Samui – just avoiding the flooding which hit the island shortly after I left – and I spent some time in Hua Hin, the Thai Royals’ favourite resort on the Gulf.  I also spent time in Khao Sok National Park and in Khao Yai National Park, two quite different areas of forest land, one to the North of Bangkok and one way down South, near Krabi, Phuket, and Surat Thani.

I hope you’ll check in occasionally to read my articles, maybe to ask me some questions, or leave a comment.  This is just ‘Hello’ for today.  First blog coming up soon.