Today is Mothers Day in the UK, my first in the UK since returning. But with the British government telling us that the best gift we can give today is to ‘stay away from mum’, the distance feels just as big.
But I will obviously listen to the advice.
We live in a bitter-sweet time. A time when we cannot control a virus but have the technology to connect the world in such a way that said virus goes global instantly. We also live in a time that allows us to connect digitally, and by sharing a quick FaceTime conversation that distance seems to shrink again.
I just wanted to put a quick happy mothers day message out there to the world. Remembering how lucky I am to have such a great mother, although I had never forgotten. And a happy mothers day to all you mothers out there.
I am sorry I couldn’t be with you this time round, but the beauty of life is we don’t have to limit such acknowledgments to one day. And we shouldn’t. There is a flaw in having a date circled in the calendar months ahead of time, when we have no idea what is around the corner. A global pandemic disrupting everything for example. It is much better to show love daily as tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. This quote is said so much but it is so true. I try not to forget this fact and each and every year I grow to realise how lucky we all are to enjoy another year on this earth. I am lucky to still be able to say it to my mum. Not everyone can, or could.
Happy mothers day to my amazing mum, and to all you great mothers out there.
Oh and take lots of photos, for the times when you can’t be together.
Hello everyone, I have had a little break from WordPress in December but that will be coming to an end the moment 2020 hits. I have a plan, I have lots I want to see and do and I want to hang out with you all. I have missed you.
2019 has been fun. I spent the beginning of it overheating in a Brisbane summer…
Followed by a colder winter working in Melbourne.
Now, spending Christmas and New Year exploring London.
I am really excited for 2020, but in this post I want to thank you all for helping make the last 12 months so enjoyable. Blogging has helped me get through hard times and helped me find what I enjoy in life. Writing, photography and exploring the world. Your support and interest in my blog has motivated me more that I can put down in words and for that I will try my best to deliver interesting posts for as long as I can. Thank you all so, so much.
I will keep this short, as I am sure many of you have better plans this evening than to read this. I hope you all have a fantastic New Years Eve and a great start to 2020. Happy New Year to those that have already seen it hit midnight, and I am thinking of you all in Australia with those wild fires. We are seeing it on the news constantly and it looks awful. My thoughts are with you all in the country I have called home for the past two years.
Stay safe everyone, be the best person you can be in 2020 and don’t let the year go to waste!!
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a large area consisting of 2,711 concrete concrete blocks dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It is a powerful memorial in Berlin that was completed in 2004, designed by architect Peter Eisenman.
The true scale of the memorial can be seen from above, although this would have to be from a nearby building as drones aren’t allowed.
The memorial invites you to take a walk between the blocks. No two blocks are the same, varying in size and reminding us that each and every victim was different. Someone with unique characteristics and personality.
The concrete blocks are all grey in colour, and no happy emotions can be gathered from the site.
As you walk, you find yourself getting smaller and smaller as the blocks become more and more intimidating. You almost become lost as the light starts to fade and sound of traffic slowly fades.
According to our guide, the slightly off balance blocks and differing heights of the columns is intentional to give the onlooker a sense of unease and/or dizziness, an unsettling feeling that is still in no way comparable to the experiences of the victims.
This memorial is a must in Berlin, it isn’t often that I will recommend something that would intentionally be unsettling, however a trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without a visit.
A short walk takes us to the Brandenburg Gate, built in the late 1700’s and remains one of Germany’s most popular landmarks.
In 1806, the Quadriga at the top of the monument (the lady and horse-drawn cart seen in more detail below) was stolen by Napoleons soldiers. The Quadriga returned to Berlin after Napoleon was defeated. After the defeat the square was renamed Pariser Platz or ‘Paris Square’. The goddess of victory behind the four horses seems to be looking directly at the French Embassy located in the square.
Who recognises the hotel above? Hotel Adlon is a luxury hotel in the square. It is also known for being the hotel that Michael Jackson was seen dangling his baby out of the window, one of the windows under the ‘Hotel Adlon’ sign that is seen on the right hand side of the building from the angle above.
And from the gate the large EU and German flags of the Reichstag Building can be seen. The Reichstag is home to the Bundestag, the German Parliament. The building is well known due the arson attack it suffered in 1933, not long after Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. It became the home of the German Parliament again after a full restoration in 1999.
The glass dome is actually open to visitors, and bookings are to be made in advance. Our guide told us that the glass dome also represents the parliaments desire for transparency with the German people.
Again, I would love if a German speaker was able to help me out here. I am not sure what this protest was about (I assume it is a protest) but I made my way over to check it out.
When I was in Australia I noticed that Muse were touring Europe, and would be in Amsterdam and Berlin just after I got back. They did (a few months after I bought tickets) announce more UK dates however at the time I was torn between visiting these two great European cities. I have been to Amsterdam a couple times now, and this helped me make my decision.
I booked my flights, headed to Edinburgh airport and prepared for my first trip to Germany.
The weather wasn’t great upon boarding. However what better way to get you in the mood for a trip! But with Berlin being not too far away I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like there. Nor did I take a look at the forecast.
I arrived in a wet Berlin, it looked like it had just stopped raining however I thankfully avoided a downpour. I was pretty peckish upon leaving the airport and the first thing I found was a small food stand just outside of the airport as I headed to the train station. I dodged the puddles with my suitcase and headed for the small stand, offering some of Germany’s most popular cuisines.
I bought myself a currywurst, German sausage with ketchup and curry powder.
I got the train to the city, it wasn’t too much hassle nor did it take too long. The food was just enough to keep the hunger at bay as I headed to the centre.
I avoided the British temptations…
Now I ended up getting off at a station when I felt I was in the centre, in classic Sam style I didn’t have a hostel booked beforehand so I planned to head to a coffee shop and do just this. As I was walking down the escalator after getting off the train I met a really nice lady that was a little lost. She asked me something in German and I responded by apologizing that I only speak English, hoping of course that she understood. She did, and spoke English fluently and asked me how to find a certain trainline. Coincidentally it was the only one I knew, as it was the one I just got off. In return I asked where the best place to go is for someone that hasn’t been to the city before, and she recommended Hackescher Markt, a vibrant square in the city full of bars and restaurants. She told me that the line she was looking for went past here, and she insisted I follow her to the train and she would get off at this station and walk the rest of the way to her destination. It was a very kind gesture, we shook hands, exchanged names and went our separate ways.
I believe her name was Anker, the way she pronounced it was ‘anchor’ although I am unsure of the spelling. Anker? Janker?* She told me she was German but not from Berlin, I would appreciate if someone was to help me know what her name was exactly.
Sometimes you meet lovely people like this, she only knew me for 30 seconds however was still more than happy to show me where to go in person. This admittedly put me in a good mood as the guy serving me the currywurst at the airport was maybe the most miserable person I have tried to talk to in a long time. It wasn’t the best first impression but this lady at the train station restored my faith. So I thank her for that and for being a good person.
Update: Thank you to Mona Dee for letting me know the girl’s name is probably Anke, a popular name in northern Germany. Much appreciated!
I had a little wander around the surrounding streets as the rain started to fall.
I noticed the red and green ‘Ampelmann’ from some of the pedestrian crossings had his own store. Seems like he is pretty well known. After reading up on him I learned that before the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany had two difference sets of red and green lights at crossings. The west had a generic human figure similar to what we have in the UK, and east had this male figure. Since then the figure has acquired cult status and souvenir shops such as this one.
What I found funny about Berlin is that the rules regarding these Lime scooters are much more relaxed. I saw people riding past police without helmets, in fact I didn’t see a single helmet with any of the scooters. In Brisbane this would have not been possible, a hefty fine was handed out to anyone without a helmet.
As my phone battery was getting low and the rain heavier, I found a place I was guaranteed wifi to book a hostel and get my bearings. I have also quit caffeine in my coffee, and feel so much more focused for it. I enjoy the taste and realised I don’t need the kick, I got addicted in Melbourne and started to feel pretty terrible as a result. I also found it hard to find decaffeinated coffee in Berlin, I guess it is because I can’t speak German as I am sure coffee shops must sell decaffeinated, so found myself heading to Starbucks for my decaf-kick.
I booked a hostel for a good rate near Checkpoint Charlie and headed to the station.
What I didn’t know was that when I bought a ticket I had to validate it in these machines. I just jumped on the first train without using it and only realised upon getting off at my stop after seeing others doing it. Thankfully there were no ticket inspectors around.
I arrived at Kochstraße station, my hostel was just around the corner.
Now I am hoping this is just sheer coincidence but Mr Currywursts title of being the most miserable person I have ever met only lasted a couple of hours, as Mr Hostel receptionist snatched that title with two hands. Holy crap he was a misery, it was almost comical. The only reason he talked to me more was because he had to to give me a key. I was relieved to see it wasn’t just me he was like this with, after going to have a shower in the hostel I kid you not this is what one guest decided to warn us all about on the back of the shower door.
Dude at reception is a miserable c**t that hates everyone.
Vending machine only works 50% of the time. The other 50% is takes your money.
Reception dude hates everyone.’
Even funnier was that someone else decided the following day to write ‘Agreed!’ underneath it, reminding me further that sometimes we just shouldn’t take things personally. Sometimes the behaviour of some is a reflection of themselves and not you. But I started to miss the lovely lady at the train station very fast indeed.
In my room was a lovely Argentinian girl called Jorja. We decided as day turned to night we would have a wander in the city and not waste the evening. We had a sneak peak at Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. All of these places I will talk about further in parts two and three of my Berlin trip.
Now below is the biggest dome I have ever seen. It looks like an entertainment complex below it with cinemas and restaurants, however the highlight of this place has to be that roof.
And not far from here, the Brandenburg Gate. It looks very impressive at night.
Berlin doesn’t hide from it’s darker past, and the many memorials in the city are a reminder of this and that we don’t want a repeat.
I don’t like taking photos without at least giving some change, so I gave this guy what small change I had. He pulled out a hand fan with the word ‘thanks’ on it before I could take a picture. He didn’t even stop playing, a real pro.
As you can see the weather improved a lot, and remained great for the rest of the trip.
I decided to go back to the huge dome and see it during daylight, it was just as impressive if not more with the light shining through. This area is called Potsdamer Platz.
The following day I did a walking tour, I managed to get the last English speaking tour of the day. The tour leader was from Mexico and moved here a few years back. He was very informative and in a group of six we went to some of the major sights in the city. Some of these sights will be in part 2 and 3 of the posts.
Below, the location of Hitlers Bunker.
The bunker is way bigger than I had thought, you can see above how many rooms it has, I believe it was over 30. This was a fascinating stop on the tour, as despite being the location of Hitler’s death you would have no idea walking past. There isn’t anything but a car park and surrounding flats, the sign above is the only thing there that informs you of the locations significance.
This mural below can be found at Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus, a building that was home to the German Ministry of Aviation. This building survived the war, our tour guide saying that it was preserved by the allies so they could use it as a landmark for where they needed to bomb around it. It is now used as a tax office, so I guess the building itself hasn’t exactly won people over since the war. The mural outside is very impressive though, completed in the 50’s, depicting a happier future for Germans.
Just outside the building, we learned about the Berlin Wall. I have saved the pictures for the next parts however I share this image with you from the area. This hot air balloon rises 150 meters into the air, connected to the ground by a steel cable. An amazing event happened in East Germany on September 16th, 1979, two families made a hot air balloon out of materials they bought and successfully escaped across the border to the west. They rose to over 8,000ft, enough to make them detectable on radar but not identifiable. Their first balloon attempt didn’t make it, and to prevent the police from finally closing in on who did it, they quickly made another and attempted a second time. They made it across, the only injury being a broken leg. Amazing!
Below, another stop on the tour. This is Gendarmenmarkt, a square consisting of the Berlin concert hall and a French and German church to the left and right as you exit the hall. I was like a mirror had been put in the square, with the two churches being seemingly identical.
I bought my mum some chocolates from a nearby chocolate company. I was recommended by the tour guide and they were very good indeed.
Sadly I didn’t stay long enough to check out some of Berlin’s best examples of street art and murals, but I did see some smaller ones on route.
I remember seeing a bar I really wanted to try out when I first got to Hackescher Markt, so I did. Behind the bar was a really friendly and helpful Berliner that was happy to have conversation and let me know of some places to try out.
I told the bartender that I was going to head towards the Mercedes-Benz Arena as this was somewhere I was told to head for a few bars. She said she wouldn’t really go there herself, she preferred the bars along the river at Holzmarkt. She also told me about Resident Advisor, a must for people that want info on the city.
So off I went on a search for another bar.
Now I don’t know if I headed to the wrong place or if it was more of a daytime area, but I didn’t find anywhere lively when I got off the train in Holzmarkt. I probably headed to the wrong place.
And as I didn’t really know the area I went into the first bar I could find open. It seemed like your typical local pub, full of men chatting over a smoke and a beer and occasionally looking over to the obvious outsider. It was decent though, I enjoyed my beer here before heading closer to the arena.
And a very happy and very strange ending to the night came when I arrived at the arena. I noticed some of the Berlin Wall is located here, with some impressive artwork along it. I took some shots as I walked along it and out of nowhere I bumped into Jorja again! She was with some friends from the hostel and I was grateful to be invited along with them to a bar they heard about. It was very busy, we had a lot of fun and walked back to the hostel which I didn’t know was in walking distance. That’s the funny thing being in a big city for the first time, you can spend an hour getting on and off train and could be right next to or a million miles away from where you started. The night ended, I looked forward to seeing Muse the following night and I also look forward to sharing the pictures from some more parts of the walking tour from this day.
I hope you enjoyed part one, as well as all the shots from the trip so far!
I have done quite a bit of travelling since coming back from Australia. I have been back for one month now and had some much needed rest days between blog posts, but not too many. Edinburgh to the Isle of Wight via Bristol as I recently shared with you, then a few days in my hometown with friends and family. This is what I counted as my ‘rest days’, knowing I am home having some proper cooked meals in a place I can totally relax is the best rest possible. I then headed back up to Edinburgh to stay with my sister overnight before a flight to Berlin.
And as a certain something was being filmed in the Scottish capital, we went to check it out.
And after a glorious journey up the east coast of the country I arrived in Edinburgh.
The weather was perfect. Blue skies to complement the Scottish flags under a blazing sun. I wonder if this will make a movie look far-fetched… yes I can take all the storylines and car chases, but sunshine in Scotland?! Come on now.
Above is St Giles’ Cathedral. A dominant building on the Royal Mile, this was one of the film locations for the movie Avengers: Infinity War. I am sure fans of the Avengers movie’s will recognize the sets, although it is beautiful to see regardless.
Below, Cockburn Street which was also used in some scenes. Next door to the ‘Scott Brothers’ store is a shop for Harry Potter fans. I didn’t look at the sign however it was called ‘Diagon House’ last time I was here and I assume it is the same store. I made a very quick post on this here, as well as show you the outside of the coffee shop JK Rowling used to write her novels in.
But on this trip it was another huge movie franchise. Fast & Furious 9 is partially being set in the city and I managed to find the filming of it with the help of my sister.
But before that, a message from Vin Diesel himself.
Thankfully we didn’t have to go far, Waterloo Place was the location we found the filming taking place. It is just a couple of minutes walk from Waverley Station and on route to Carlton Hill, a great place if you want some amazing views of Edinburgh.
Between takes, the street was open for pedestrians only. The road was fenced off from either side, only vehicles used for the movie were on the street. We managed to get there as a scene was taking place and I got this bit of footage.
It was cool to see the drone camera capturing it all, and to imagine what it will look like on the big screen. It is a fairly small street, so takes only lasted a few seconds.
The scene ended, the street opened and we walked to the other side. The staff didn’t mind us recording as we went past, we just had to keep moving and were reminded continuously as we made our way through. It makes sense though, I can only imagine how long it would take to create a movie of this size.
The street was filled with everyone you can imagine that would be involved in such a production. Crew, actors and stunt doubles, volunteers, first aiders… it was pretty exciting to walk through and see them putting it together. My sister loves this kind of thing, and is was actually a paid extra in the movie!!
Below, all the camera work and the majority of the team on this particular set.
So I have to admit here, the actor seen in the first video wasn’t Vin Diesel, but his stunt double. This was made clear as we walked past the bus.
As we made it to the other side, we decided that today was the perfect day to climb up Carlton Hill. This is the best spot to take in the whole city, in all it’s natural and architectural glory.
What I love about Edinburgh is that both a busy city and quiet natural beauty spots are a short walk away. It is that perfect size for me, with just the right amount of everything.
Above are views from Carlton Hill, looking over to the Firth of Fourth and Leith, where my sister currently lives.
We made it back down, and the street used for filming seemed a lot quieter. With this we walked through the cities gardens on route back to the flat.
I cannot get enough of the beauty of Edinburgh. So many amazing buildings on a dramatic landscape, it is no surprise the city is home to numerous World Heritage Sites.
Below is one of my favourite buildings in the city, Scott Monument.
This is a monument for Scottish author Walter Scott, and stands just over 200ft tall. It is possible to climb the stairs to the very top with some great views over the city.
And I will leave you with Wojtek, a ‘beer-drinking soldier bear’ adopted by Polish troops during war that helped carry ammunition before ending his days in Edinburgh. It wasn’t a memorial I was expecting in the city centre, but one I welcome.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the post from one of my favourite cities in the UK. Are you a fan of the Fast and the Furious movies? Let me know and let me know if you have been to Edinburgh!
Bristol is a beautiful city. Located in England’s South West with a population of over 460,000, it is bigger than I thought it was. It is also a city that has been associated with Banksy, the famous yet anonymous street artist that apparently lives nearby.
Getting off the train from Southampton I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the city was. The glorious weather helped too.
This was a very quick visit as we arrived late morning/ early afternoon and my mum, sister and I were catching a flight back to Newcastle. We were due to fly to and from Newcastle however our flight down here was cancelled and rescheduled on the evening from Edinburgh. Thankfully this return journey remained scheduled to Newcastle which meant a much shorter journey home.
So this post is pretty much about one thing. The Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The bridge spans the Avon Gorge, and has done for almost 150 years. According to their website (I have linked at the bottom of this post) it is entirely funded by tolls. These tolls have paid for its upkeep since 1864.
The bridge was built to a design by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw. Despite having some changes, these designs were based on earlier ones by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The website has a dedicated ‘Our Heroes’ page, and lists the following people:
William Vick (1707 – 1754)
The wine merchant who left money in his will to fund a bridge across the Avon Gorge.
Marc Brunel (1769 – 1849)
A respected engineer. Inventor of the production line and father to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Sophia Kingdom (1775 – 1854)
Survivor of the French Revolution and mother to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Thomas Telford (1757 – 1834)
An internationally acclaimed and self taught British engineer, often referred to as ‘the Builder of Britain’ and the ‘Father of Civil Engineering’.
George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758 – 1834)
The First Lord of the Admiralty, Fellow of the Royal Society and Knight of the Garter. Friend to both Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel and ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.
Sir John Hawkshaw (1811 – 1891)
A distinguished civil engineer specialising in piers, canals, tunnels and railways who helped to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902)
A distinguished civil engineer who designed St Pancras Station and helped to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Davies Gilbert (1767 – 1839)
An English mathematician and theorist, founder of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, judge of the second competition to design a bridge across the Avon Gorge.
Thomas Guppy (1797 – 1882)
Successful merchant turned engineer, a friend and confidant to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Instrumental is setting up the Great Western Railway and a partner in the development of the Great Western Steamship Company.
Captain Christopher Claxton (1789 – 1868)
Naval captain and first Managing Director of the Great Western Steamship Company and Secretary to the Clifton Suspension Bridge Company. Harbourmaster at Bristol Docks.
I had to get a selfie here.
On top of the hill right next to the bridge, a cafe and observatory allow you to grab a coffee and gaze out over the structure and down the River Avon.
The views are great.
Now who has heard of the famous duo Wallace and Gromit? Some readers will be too young I am sure, although they are pretty much household names in the UK. A great memory I have was watching this with my family as a young child in the early nineties, and how much my dad loved the show. I am not sure if the show was aired outside of the UK, a claymation of a lovely homely man and his dog that loves Wensleydale cheese and crackers going on the odd crazy adventure. I tried to see what the link was with Bristol after seeing Wallace grinning before the bridge, it seems there was a charity event in the city not too long ago called Gromit Unleashed 2. This was the second of two award-winning sculpture trail’s, the first consisting of 80 Gromit sculptures in 2013. Gromit Unleashed 2 also starred Wallace, and one of the sculptures is still standing (well, sitting) here today.
Moving further up the observatory, the views improve and a very cool camera sits at the top. Clifton Observatory was established in 1766 and consists of Giants Cave and the Camera Obscura.
This one of only three Camera Obscura’s operating in the UK, and was set up in 1828. The natural optical phenomenon occurs when an inverted image is projected through a pinprick hole and displayed on the other side of that hole, whether it is a screen/ wall etc. In this room the image appears through a hole in the roof of the building, and displays the light on a large circular base in the middle of the room below it. This only works in a darkened room, which made photography pretty difficult with a phone camera. This must have been pretty amazing to view at the time of its creation, with the image being so clear. And the camera, like CCTV of today, is able to move around using a handle above the image. I enjoyed viewing Bristol from an angle I didn’t know existed!
Views of the surrounding areas, from the top of the observatory.
If you look closely below, not to the very horizon but the last dark row of trees before it, the top of another bridge can be seen. Seems like Bristol likes its bridges!
And now all the way back down, and further. Giants Cave or Ghyston’s Cave takes you 200ft along and down a tunnel to an opening in the cliff face, 250ft above the gorge and 90ft below the observatory and cliff top.
It is not for everyone with some narrow sections and steep stairs, however this is the scene when you reach the bottom. A glow from the cave opening, great views of the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge and another scary floor that you can stand on and see right through.
And after a good fifteen minutes or so we decided to head back up. Obviously this way was more of a workout, but not too bad. That is if you take the right path, this stairway seemingly leading to nowhere.
I wonder where it did lead to…
And that is it from Bristol! After this quick trip we headed back to the airport and north to Newcastle. I am glad I can tick Bristol off the list of UK cities I have visited and would have liked to have spent more time here. But it is safe to say the city is great, and the surrounding towns look stunning.
I hope you enjoyed the post, and will see you tomorrow with my next adventure. Edinburgh for a night with my sister (and seeing a certain movie being filmed in the city) before flying to Berlin to explore the city and see Muse live at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Shortly after getting back home I was on another flight. This time to the Isle of Wight as my step-grandmother passed away just before I arrived back in the UK. I was able to Skype with her from Melbourne which I am grateful for, technology is certainly a blessing at times. The funeral was held where she lived and I went down with my mum and sister.
This involved a train ride up to Edinburgh as our flight was cancelled by EasyJet. This meant instead of getting to Bristol on the morning (where we were getting the train to Southampton and then a ferry across) we had to wait all day for an evening flight. This was pretty damn annoying but a quick gin and tonic at the train station helped.
My sister lives up in Edinburgh with her boyfriend, meaning I have been up a couple of times to see her. Edinburgh is a gorgeous and very historical city not too far north of the Scotland/England border, and my mums place of birth. And would a trip to Edinburgh be complete without trying haggis?
This restaurant receives great reviews so we thought we would try it. It is right in the city centre and if you would like to try some local delicacies this is a great place to head.
If I remember rightly I had the beef haggis with heather honey and turnip puree. It was very good.
It was nice to stroll through the streets again, despite being a very short trip. But I had longer in the city recently after my recent trip to Berlin via Edinburgh Airport and have more pictures from that trip coming soon. The new The Fast and the Furious movie, Fast & Furious 9, is currently being filmed in the city. And I have some shots of the filming in an upcoming post!
Time to board…
And we finally made it to Bristol.
The next morning after a good breakfast we made the train ride to Southampton. The flight the previous night was only around 55 minutes so wasn’t bad at all. Southampton and Portsmouth are cities that are a short ferry ride from the island, however we had to fly into Bristol on those dates.
Southampton is a lovely city, however upon leaving the train station I couldn’t help to notice how bland and concrete the buildings were. I have always thought that about rail travel, despite being a great mode of transport for getting right into the city centre, the views from the windows are often some of the worst arriving into any city. The graffiti, barbed wire, rubbish… never gives a good first impression for a tourist.
But after a fast ferry (around 40 minutes) we arrived on the Island.
The Island is great. And bigger than you would think. It covers 150 sq miles and has the population of a small city, roughly 141,000. Recently the Isle of Wight was mentioned on Britain’s Got Talent as a reggae singer and resident of the island, Derek Sandy, performed on the show. His song ‘Welcome to the Isle of Wight’ received four yeses from the judges, a song my uncle wrote and produced with him!
Hovertravel is another travel option getting onto the island. There isn’t a commercial airport for tourists to use, so currently water is the only way. This hovercraft service is the worlds only commercial passenger hovercraft service and gets you to the mainland in only ten minutes.
You see the object in the water below? Nope, not the guy, behind to the right. That is one of a few forts that can be viewed from the coastline, built in the 1800’s due to the threat of invasion. You can actually book a trip there for a luxury retreat today, one of these trips can be viewed here, named No Man’s Fort. It is pretty amazing to think how these would have been built at sea, especially in choppy waters.
The weather down there was lovely. Which meant for a lovely send off to my gran. The funeral service was on the day we got there, but we landed with plenty of time to spare. As my gran was born in the north east, half the people at the funeral were in fact travelling from the same region of England as us. It was strange going south and hearing a church full of locals accents on the other side of the country. And it was lovely to see some people we haven’t seen in years.
The next few shots are from Appley, on the north of the island. I have fond memories as a kid walking down here past the cute little Appley Towers, overlooking the south coast of England.
Some very eagle-eyed readers will notice a tower on the English coastline in the shots below. This is the Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, a 560ft observation tower. I really like it and can be seen all the way from the Isle of Wight.
And speaking of cruise liners, this was one of the last places the Titanic was seen before it’s doomed journey. There is a photograph from the island of the liner, one of the last photos taken. It wasn’t the very last as the ship made its way to Ireland before the journey across the Atlantic.
I have always been lucky with the weather here. A few years back I went to the Isle of Wight Festival with my sister and some friends and the weather was perfect. It is one of the UK’s biggest festivals and attracts some very big bands and thousands of music fans. It is a great opportunity for many people to see the island for the first time and the beauty on offer.
Similar to the forts above, procedures were put in place on land to protect the Isle of Wight and the UK from invasions. We walked around some sites that haven’t been touched since the world wars, where huge guns and weaponry would have been fired during Nazi bombings. It was fascinating to see, and a reminder of how terrible and terrifying war must be to experience in person.
And before we knew it, we were back at the ferry terminal and sailing back to the mainland. It is always a beautiful trip to this part of the world, and even though this visit was in sad circumstances my gran had a beautiful send off and we had a lovely family reunion. There is something about just being next to the ocean that is very calming too, and this helped a lot for all of us.
We spotted a ship named ‘Blade Runner II’, pretty cool!
And that is it from my Isle of Wight trip. A fairly quick trip with plenty of miles covered, and we got to explore Bristol for a day before the evening flight back. Some posts from this trip, as well as Edinburgh and Berlin to come soon.
Thank you for reading, have you ever been to the Isle of Wight? Let me know. Pat, I know you have recently told me you have a friend on the island, I hope they share plenty of beautiful pictures with you! It is a fascinating island with beautiful landscapes and plenty of history.
This is Bishop Auckland, a small town in County Durham in the North East of England. I lived here all my childhood, born in the hospital just up the road before moving to the Texas on an internship at 21. It is a town with a very proud history, and a not so proud recent history. Those were my thoughts until I came back recently to see what had changed.
Vikings still roam the streets and mingle with the locals…
Sometimes unsuspecting locals are grabbed by said vikings and benches are used as makeshift chopping blocks.
And growing up I often thought this town hadn’t kept with the times. It has had a great history though, a thriving town during the Industrial Revolution with the surrounding mining towns and villages. It is also home to Auckland Castle, historically a home for the Bishops of Durham and a place they came to hunt. Auckland Castle sits right behind the Town Hall seen in the above picture.
The Auckland Project, a fantastic project that I will introduce you to shortly, states that ‘Auckland Castle was built to host lavish medieval celebrations and hunting parties, to entertain royalty and impress visitors with the bishops’ power and wealth. From Bishop Auckland, the Prince Bishops ventured forth to broker royal marriages, lead armies into battle and advise kings.’
Pretty damn important people of the time.
Bishop Auckland station connects the town to nearby Darlington, home of The Stockton and Darlington Railway, the worlds first public steam railway.
A cool fact to share is that Stan Laurel went to my school. Laurel hit fame as half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, Laurel being British and having family roots back to the town. As I was leaving King James I Academy in 2005, the school celebrated it’s 400th birthday. Again, a school with a long and proud history that is hard to maintain in a small coal mining town in the 21st century.
Next to him, Bob Hardisty. A football player that spent most of his time playing for Bishop Auckland in it’s glory days, winning multiple amateur trophies. On the 6th February 1958 a plane carrying the Manchester United football team crashed during take off, tragically killing 23 of those on board. With such a huge team losing so many players to the disaster, players were signed from elsewhere. One of these was Bob Hardisty, one of three players from Bishop Auckland’s that then signed for Manchester United. It is pretty crazy to think one of the biggest sports teams in the world signed players from my town.
Another historical fact relating to football is from the neigbouring town of West Auckland. This town is famous for winning the first ‘world cup’ of teams from multiple European nations, and for beating Juventus 6-1 in 1911 to defend the title. Juventus now is another footballing giant, the team Cristiano Ronaldo currently plays for.
But that was then. Growing up in the early 90’s I remember the popular market near the Town Hall and the busy high street. I remember twenty taxis lining up on a Saturday night to take those from the surrounding areas to and from the busy weekend nightlife. And I remember through my teens seeing the high street slowly die off and businesses close, being replaced by boarded up windows and betting shops. The town hit a low point for sure and to be honest I am glad I left when I did as there wasn’t anything for a 21 year old, or anyone for that matter.
However since being away my mum has been keeping me updated with everything that is happening in the town. And every time I hear something it has been positive. My first experience of things improving was the beginning of what is now and regular event called Kynren, taking place annually in the fields around the castle.
Kynren, linked here and at the bottom of the post, is a spectacle performed on Saturdays between June and September. 2,000 years of history is reenacted before 8,000 people in theater style seating, including music, horses and hundreds of volunteers with theater style backdrops. It is very impressive and has gained attention nationwide and intentionally. It was inspired by a very similar event called Puy du Fou in Western France.
This is one change for the better in this town. And The Auckland Projecthas an aim to restore Bishop Auckland’s glory days. On their website the following can be read about the project:
The Auckland Project is like nothing you’ve come across before. It’s a project that spans over a thousand years, seven venues in one beautiful setting.
We’re all about Bishop Auckland, a small town but one with a big history and big ambitions.
The Auckland Project
And that is exactly what it is. A small town with a big history.
For many centuries, Bishop Auckland was a thriving market town but since the demise of the mining industry, like many British towns, it has been affected by an economic and social decline. Today, we intend to use art, faith and heritage as a ‘circuit breaker’ to drive regeneration in the local community.
It seems to be doing just that. Jonathan Ruffer is the founder of The Auckland Project and has invested a hell of a lot of money into the town. He is a multi millionaire using his money for good and wants to see the area rise again.
What started with ideas, thoughts and aspirations is now becoming reality, but there will be no finishing line for us to cross. By its very nature, this project is long term and the broad vision at the heart of our journey will not be limited in direction or time.
Jonathan Ruffer- Founder, The Auckland Project
What a great guy.
I am not sure what the Storm Troopers are here for, but they don’t know the epic fight that is imminent with the vikings just down the street.
Were they vikings by the way? I am not sure exactly.
One thing I regrettably didn’t do was head up Auckland Tower, seen in my first pictures in the post.
This tower is 29 meters tall with a viewing platform 15 meters up, offering views of the surrounding area. I think it is a nice addition to the town and seeing it in what was once a slowly dying market place gave me great belief that the town may see a revival.
And of course this isn’t the only town that has struggled to keep its head above the water. It is a sign of the times, industries and the way we live changes and these changes can be pretty rapid. We no longer rely on high streets for our weekly shop with online shopping. And the country doesn’t rely on Bishop Auckland anymore for it’s coal. Instead, like many areas the revival comes with tourism. And if anything the problems towns and even cities face in an ever changing world is a good thing as it forces regions to improvise and improve. Nobody likes change however it is vital for anything to last. Adapt to the times or die. And I am glad Bishop Auckland is clearing it’s weeds and is seeing a new burst of life.
I hope it continues, and I hope you enjoyed this post about my home town. It is a place I have loved and hated in equal measure growing up, but that’s any hometown I guess. But I am very proud of what it is doing currently, enough to want to blog about the place and I would highly recommend experiencing Kynren if you are in the North East.
This post is about my flight to London from Melbourne. Through Abu Dhabi. And Amsterdam. And then a train to Durham from Kings Cross. I was so tired I ended up having to stand up the last half of the journey so to not end up in Newcastle. I didn’t sleep much on the journey as you can tell.
But before that, my last coffee in Melbourne. I went back to my post People of Melbourne, what should I do? as I remember being recommended this place, Dukes, and never visited. And for that reason I went on the day of my flight. I went to tell the blogger I had been and… realised the recommendation was on another post that I can’t find. Now I am pretty confident I remember who it was, but don’t want to say for sure in case I am wrong.
So if you told me to go here, I did. And thank you it was great coffee! It was just jam packed in there so had to have it in a to-go cup.
My goodbyes were said to this great city, I made sure I had everything and headed to the airport. A long 35 hours (at least) were ahead of me and I got to it.
I had an evening flight, and the first flight was the longest. Melbourne to Abu Dhabi is just over 14 hours, plenty of time to catch a good amount of sleep. If you’re one to fall asleep easily on flights that is. I am not one of those people, partly because of the mild anxiety I have before each flight and being in that seated position for so long. The coffee was long before the flight so I don’t want to blame that.
What didn’t help my insomnia was browsing the movie section, the first thing I usually do when aboard. Well the first thing was listen to an Islamic prayer over the tannoy being an airline from the United Arab Emirates, it was my first time flying through the Middle East. And this was quickly made apparent looking at the temperature in my first stop, Abu Dhabi.
46C!! The last and only time I have ever experienced such madness was in Sydney when it reached 47C a couple years back. I remember waiting for a breeze to hit me only for it to feel more like a hairdryer to the face. Brutal, brutal weather that I am just not used to. Thankfully airplanes are prepared for the elements, it is pretty crazy how the air temperature goes from such lows at high altitude to such highs when we land. Technology is amazing.
But back to the movie. I liked Deadpool, I like how both movies don’t take themselves seriously. I need this kind of humour in my life. And another reason not to sleep was the meals and drinks being offered during it. I feel it would be a waste not to make the most of it, especially travelling for so long. A feed every now and then is pretty important as I lose track of time and what day it is.
And a few hours and a couple of movies into the flight and I was just leaving Australia. One thing I was really excited about (and still am of course) is living inside a continent that could fit inside of Australia. So many countries within a short distance of one another, no great oceans to cover, no jetlag.
It reminded me that Perth is regarded as the most remote city in the world, that is what I though until about two minutes ago when I googled it and read this article from the Guardian. It states that although it isn’t the most remote city in the world, it probably is when looking at any city of it’s size. It is closer to other nations cities than it is Sydney, and the closest big city is Adelaide which is 1,300 miles away.
14 hours later….
I could not comment on the heat in the UAE, but despite the sun only just rising it was still in the mid 30’s. And one thing I wanted to mention here was that this is the best sunrise I have ever seen. The photo really doesn’t do it justice due to my iPhone not focusing properly. But have you ever been able to see the actual sun itself just as it is rising or setting? When the brightness is at it’s lowest and you can see the half circle as it descends/rises beyond the horizon. This is the only time I have been able to actually observe the sun without the glare preventing it. This time round, the sun had fully risen above the horizon and I am not sure if it was behind dust, but I was able to just stare at the sun in all its perfectly round glory for a good few minutes before it got too much for my eyes. And not like a blurred view, it was like looking at a full moon in all its glory. It truly took my breath away and walking through the terminal I was caught by surprise.
I am sorry the video isn’t the best video in the world. It is just a tribute as Tenacious D would say. And a reminder to buy a damn camera.
And a five hours later, I was off again.
I enjoyed these flights with Etihad. The journeys were pleasant, the service was good and my neighbours in the seats next to me were friendly. They also had Muse’s latest album in the playlist, Simulation Theory, and this really got me in the mood to see them for the 6th time in Berlin.
I arrived in Amsterdam. Tired as hell, I managed to get one hours sleep on that previous flight. One. And by this point the frustration about being so close to home but so far really hit home and I only had an hour in this airport. Enough time to find an Irish Pub and down a pint of beer to pass the time as I really didn’t trust myself trying to have such a quick nap. If I managed to get some shut eye it would have probably lasted a week. So I had a quick drink, a quick bite to eat and headed to the gate. I was in two minds about having a coffee, should I force myself to stay awake and maybe struggle to sleep when I get back?! I opted against it and the stress that comes naturally with such travel made me head to the nearest beer.
I did notice this beer below, a further reminder that I was almost there…
Funnily enough I am obsessed with checking I have everything with me constantly. I know I do but I have a habit of checking regardless. Passports, cards, phone… check, check, check. And on this occasion I was walking through the terminal and realised I had a debit card missing… I paid for my food and left my card in the machine!! Thankfully it only took a minute to walk back but I am pleased I checked. That wouldn’t have been fun at all.
I always find it funny how often I fly to the UK from often much warmer climates, and how quickly a blanket of grey blocks the view of the landscape below. I mean I don’t mind British weather, I love the unpredictability at times. Don’t get me wrong I love escaping it, but being somewhere exotic really helps me to appreciate our milder climate.
I forget I was in Melbourne during winter for a second, silly me.
And here I am, back in Kings Cross after a journey from London City Airport to this station that took as long as my last flight. It didn’t help that I underestimated the tube and what it meant to get off at the wrong stop with a massive suitcase, but I made it. I had some well deserved fish and chips at the pub above Platform 9 and Three Quarters (the staff were lovely by the way) and waited for my train.
And here I am, in all my embarrassing glory. 35 hours in with one hour sleep. By this point the rocking of the carriage was making me nod off, but I really could not afford to fall asleep on a train. For the first time I was fighting sleep instead of trying to get it, and had to walk up and down the carriages a couple of times.
I then found the best technique was to occasionally stick my head out the window of the 80mph train without getting decapitated, between heavy rock songs. I am sure I looked a little strange to the train staff but I know with all the confidence in the world that they have seen worse. And the technique worked beautifully as you can tell by how delighted/ high I look in the shot above.
And there we have it, 35 hours of travel and my bed had never felt better. As far as long haul goes I do not have any complaints. There were no delays, no issues on the flights and I witnessed the best sunrise I have ever seen. Will I ever see a better one? I don’t know. Will I one day by a decent camera and actually take a decent shot? I hope so. But in the meantime I hope you enjoyed the post travelling half way across the world and enjoy the posts to come. I have a lot to cover already!
Take care and I hope you are having a great day wherever you are,
Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!
I am delighted to share two things with you today, a surprise ruined by my post title I know however I wanted to get straight into it. Thank you to every one of you beautiful readers for helping me reach 10,000 followers. I couldn’t be happier.
Ten thousand!!! An incredible number and one I could have only dreamt of reaching when I first started blogging. But I love writing and sharing my stories/photos and am delighted I can share them with so many of you.
I apologise in advance however, with me leaving Australia and everything that that involves I am a little delayed with my blog posts. I have been back three weeks now however with everything I have been doing in this time I could not have posted everyday. I went to my step-grans funeral pretty much straight after getting back, and have been up and down the country quite a bit. I have also been to Berlin for a few days to see Muse live, and spent some time exploring the city. So in a way the delay in posting helps me, as it gave me enough time to post all of my Australia photos and gives me time to plan and prepare some in depth posts of my experiences since landing back in Europe.
I have lots to talk about. And I am going to try and put out some longer and more detailed posts for you as I feel each trip has given me more than just the photos. And I love sharing some cool facts about destinations every now and then.
So this is a little sneak peak as to where I have been, but there are a couple more adventures to add in too!!
Thank you for being amazing and supportive, I love you all and will speak to you soon from my new city, London.
Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!