Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 13 most awesome things I did in 2013

Well it's that time of year again....when you reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead.  2013 was an awesome year travel wise - not as many trips as I normally take but then again I had two huge trips instead.  All of the best things happened to me while traveling with the exception of one...and the number one thing it turns out....

So here it goes - in no particular order until we get to the top three...

#13 -  Spending a long weekend in Ottawa - with Sir Paul and friends (mine, not his!)  Ottawa was my "back-up" plan.  I always hate "just" seeing Paul once - what if he cancels?  It would be devastating.   So I always try to see two concerts per tour.   It also enabled me to see a couple of friends (well four if you include the doggies -which I do!) and take advantage of their hospitality. (Thanks Donna & Dorri!)  A free place to stay and I used airmiles...I had bought a nose bleed seat just to be in the arena but my friend Pat came through for me phoning to say there was a fifth row seat available. So I quickly got on the internet and voila...it was in my hot little hand.  So my friend Donna got my nose bleed seat as a thank you.  It was a great weekend away. 

Library at the back of the Houses of Parliament


 #12 - Alberta Road Trip

In early August I headed to southern Alberta for a family wedding and decided to make a road trip out of it.  I rented a car for a week and off I went...My first solo road trip since Newfoundland in 2008....and I liked it.   I don't think twice of hopping a plane alone for a far flung place but driving for hours in a car on my own doesn't thrill me - to say the least.   I enjoyed myself and look forward to doing another one sometime soon. Highlights?  (besides the wedding of course)  Visiting Fort Whoop Up in Edmonton and meeting Mary Frances the Goat, visiting Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and visiting the Alberta Birds of Prey centre and kissing an eagle!!  (well sort of kissing...she was game...I was a bit...shall we say shy....of her beak...)

Love that sky! 


#11  Staying in the Yellow Submarine Room in Singapore

I must say when I travel I tend to do it as cheaply as possible...while still having an authentic and meaningful trip.  I am not one for big chain hotels - even if I could afford them they are not my thing.  However when I read about the Yellow Submarine room at the Wanderlust Hotel in Singapore I knew I had to splurge and do it.  So on my stopover in Singapore on the way home from Cambodia I stayed there.  I loved every minute. (well except when the drunk Indian men kept me awake at night partying on the street...) of it.  Would I stay there again?  Probably not...too many other places to try out.

Long, narrow and very unique!!! 

#10 -  Walking the Seven Sisters in East Sussex with a long time friend

I had done this in 1997 and have been wanting to do it again ever since.  My German friend Claudia was going to be in the area when I was so I asked her if she wanted to do it with me.  She was game so off we went.  We were lucky to have a glorious day and it was spectacular.  A windy walk but oh my...such a beautiful one.  Almost ten miles of ups and downs but lots of fun.

Beachy Head - most of the walk was done at this point.  What a view!!! 

#9 - time spent at my little "Banana" Bungalow in Kep, Cambodia

When I saw Kep Lodge's website I KNEW I had to stay there. After a busy two week Intrepid tour of Cambodia I figured I would need a rest.  And rest I did....for six nights in my own little bungalow.  A lovely breakfast was included, the pool was magic and the staff absolutely delightful.  I explored the area most days but happily returned to my little slice of heaven each evening.  I certainly hope to return some day...

Looking towards the main lodge...pure heaven

#8 - Exploring Reykjavik

On the way back from the UK I had a four night stop off in Iceland.  I absolutely fell in love with Iceland and especially the quirky little capital of Reykjavik, population 200,000.  I spent one full day exploring the city and it's definitely on my "must return" list.

View from the cathedral

#7 - Walking the Cotswolds in September

I love the Cotswolds and being able to explore them on foot was a dream come true.  The last time I attempted that I was thwarted by an abscess tooth - somehow the walks weren't quite as enjoyable.  This time basing ourselves in the delightful village of Broadway we explored Broadway Tower, Snowshill and Stanton.  As well as taking a bus over to Winchcombe and touring Sudeley Castle.  I fell in love with the silly looking sheep, got accosted by a greedy horse, I had the best ice cream of my life, ate black berries fresh off the branch and had so many laughs with my friend June.  A wonderful time!


How could you not love scenery like this?  Well the guys in the orange jackets kind of ruin it...sigh...





#6 - Rediscovering Singapore

I liked Singapore the first time I visited it in 1977 and fell in love with it when I revisited in 1990. Sadly there was a 22 year gap. (but there won't be again)  It is one of my favourite places on earth - just a shame that it takes so long to get to....I was able to explore Little India for the first time while rediscovering old familiar places like Orchard Road and the harbour area.  I had another Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel Long bar where it was created - something I also did in 1977.  I had to have an Asian stopover on the way to Cambodia and I opted for Singapore - both ways.  No regrets!!! 

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Little India


#5 - Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland  (on my first try!)

While they were white to the naked eye they were dancing in greens, yellows and reds.  All over the sky. My photos didn't turn out however a nice fellow emailed me his.  However as they are not my pictures I will not show them here.  Just trust me when I say it was a beautiful sight and one I will never forget.  And yes people had gone out on previous evenings to cloudy skies and no action - I was VERY lucky!!


#4 -The boat trip from Battambang to Siem Reap in Cambodia

Who would have thought gliding along in a wrecked up old metal boat would be one of the first things I think of when I look back on my time in Cambodia...or rather the crazy things that happened to us that day.  Like being in a boat crash with another boat, doing "our business" through a hole on top of the lake with some pervy fish swimming below, having a fish AND a food vendor(not at the same time!)  jump into the boat with us.  Something that makes me smile when I think of it. 

Life along the lake


#3  Walking the Great Glen Way in Scotland (from Fort William to Inverness)

I have always wanted to walk a long distance path in the UK so when my friend June (who runs Treadon travel) said she was planning a trip walking the Great Glen Way I jumped on it.  And what a walk it was!  Scenery like below....great company, good food, lots of laughs. I had the time of my life!!! 
How could you NOT love walking here?

#2 Exploring the temples of Angkor, Cambodia

It was really close between #2 and #3 - in fact I'd say they are pretty much tied but I think this experience edged out the Great Glen Way by a tiny tiny bit.   The temples at Angkor absolutely blew me away - yes after two days you get "templed out" but what I would have loved to have done is have a day off and then go at it again for another two days.  Ah well, maybe next time!

Ta Prohm temple at Angkor

And the #1 thing for 2013...happened right in my own back yard - seeing Paul McCartney in Regina!

Yes my hero finally came to see me!  (well I like to think so...ha ha!)  On August 14th, 2013 he played at Taylor Field (yes, sorry it will always be Taylor Field to me) and totally blew me away.  I decided to splurge and go for VIP tickets so had access to the sound check for the first time ever which I LOVED.  For the concert I had third row centre and it was a total dream come true.  It was my 42nd time seeing him in concert but as always, it felt like the first time.  Something I will never ever forget!!!  Thanks for coming to Regina Paul!!!

Here I am Laurie!  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A walk to Stanton

My reminiscing about our trip to the Cotswolds is not quite over yet.  Our last day in the countryside of the Cotswolds we visited the small village of Stanton which is three and a half miles south of Broadway, the base for our stay.

After leaving our luggage with our B & B hosts with a promise to be back by 4 p.m. (they were leaving for the airport then) we set off on our adventure. 

We walked out on the same road we had come in on the previous day and then set off through a forest - straight into puddles and mud.  Our boots were not a pretty sight and at one point I didn't think I would be able to pull my boot out of the mud!   A woman was walking on a path slightly above us with a very muddy dog who very dearly wanted to jump up on June.  Luckily June was able to restrain it and the dog's owner came over and retrieved it.  We did glean a bit of info from her in regards to the paths - we could have taken the one she was on and ended up in the same place.  (we did that on our return)

Out of the mucky forest we came upon the small village of Buckland, a charming little place...


Now wouldn't I love to do some house/petsitting here...on second thought pretty isolated...


After leaving Buckland we walked up  along a path overlooking more villages and through pastures...coming across these two characters....yes we had to cross their pasture.  If I had been on my own I probably would have said to hell with this and turned around...luckily June is the horse whisperer!
Bad horsie!
These horeses were very inquisitive, one in particular who decided it liked the smell of the plums inside my backpack.  I had no sooner got my booted feet onto the other side of the fence when it stuck it's nose onto my backpack and followed me.  I was yelling "help, help it's chasing me!" while scurrying in a totally different direction than what we meant to go with the horse in hot pursuit. (or so it seemed...)  It would not get it's big horsey nose off my backpack.  June had to take me by the hand and lead me away - not one of my finer moments I must confess. (June says it was the black one, I say it was the brown one)  We had a good laugh about it afterwards but it wasn't too funny for me at the time!!! Horses terrify me!  Once safely on the other side we decided to feed them an apple each - they both dropped them in the mud.  Ingrates! We regretted that action later!

We soon got to Stanton with mouths watering.  We kept hearing about the wonderful Mount Inn and it's fantastic food, so we decided after days of picnics in our room we were going to splurge and have a slap up meal. (as the English say)   As we approached I thought the place had a bit of a deserted air to it but it was confirmed when I tried to open the door.  Locked!  They started closing on Mondays the beginning of September.  Let's just say the air was blue!!!  After a bit of foot stamping and pouting (and that was just me) we walked over to the outdoor area with picnic tables and had our meagre lunch....thank goodness we had brought snacks with us which of course all sensible hikers do....but damn it we didn't want to have to eat it for lunch!

Crisps (potato chips), plums and granola bars...whoopee.  No apples courtesy of those stupid horses...enough to eat but when you are salivating for something REALLY good this didn't cut it!



Still a bit on the grumpy side (and in need of a loo) we then proceeded to explore the village of Stanton which was quite charming and did make us feel a bit better.

Interior of St Michael's Church, Stanton

The groove on the end of the pew above was made by shepherds' dogs way back in the day.  So cool!

Gargoyles in the walls

Exterior of the church

Charm...

Charm...

And more charm...


Roses still hanging around in September

A little bit more charm
Need I add we were in photographer's heaven?

Beautiful pastoral scene on our walk back to Broadway (and we came back a slightly different way so didn't have to meet those horses again) 


I think I am going to do a blog post on all the sheep I have met!

A toast to a wonderful time in the Cotswolds - I will be back!!! 

After picking up our luggage we hauled it over to The Swan where we had a meal (steak and ale pie with chips)

 Upon leaving the Swan some fellows were sitting outside having a drink and one yelled to me "Your friend has a bear back" which caught me aback for a second before I realized he meant Tready Bear hanging from June's backpack!  We had a good laugh over that. 

Back on the bus to Cheltenham for the night before catching the train to London and then from Victoria on to our respective destinations. (mine, East Sussex)

I hope you enjoyed traveling the Cotswolds with me!!!  As Donald Duck says (I think it was him)  Thhhhhhat's All Folks!









Monday, December 16, 2013

Paris at Christmas

Out of my four visits to Paris over 37 years I have been there three times during the Christmas season.....  So being as I have had a bit of writer's block recently (cough - I know - that's an insult to real writers!!) I am going to do a few posts of just photos until I am back to normal mode.  These were from the last two visits in late 2008 and late 2011/very early 2012. 

Enjoy!!

Eiffel tower in a festive spirit

Notre Dame

Champs Eleysees with Place de Concorde in background



Chocolate crepes - yum!


Ferris Wheel at Place de Concorde

Skating rink at Hotel deVille

Recycled pop bottles!!!

Interior of Galeries Layfayette department store (very posh - needless to say I didn't buy anything there)





Saturday, December 7, 2013

The charm of Snowshill

When I last left you I was at Broadway tower - after our visit to the cafe we headed off towards Snowshill...sadly in the wrong direction....we turned left too soon....however if we hadn't gone the wrong way we wouldn't have done this....feasted on lovely blackberries off the bush.  Well okay... we did do that at several places but there was a very nice batch here...



Or have seen this...


We finally found our way - along a very narrow road...with me wittering on about possible traffic coming and killing us...yeah right...it was pretty quiet.  The whole walk to Snowshilll  and back was road walking actually.  


Lavender fields - well the remains of them.  They would be glorious in their heyday although I was just as happy - I am allergic to lavender.


Surrounding country side - oops I think that horse was doing some business- or maybe just swatting flies. 

And here we are!!!  


I love pretty doors!

View from the churchyard


We walked in here and then out again...we wanted a cream tea...not a drink. (wow that's a first)

St Barnabas Church

War memorial in church yard
As you can see, Snowshill was a lovely little village. 

We then carried on walking out of town until we reached Snowshill Manor.  It is a big tourist attraction in these parts but we were more interested in the cream tea.  When we went up to the admission desk we were told we had to buy a ticket to see the property to enter the cafe.  Seeing the crestfallen look on our faces ("please, all we want is a cream tea"!) the sweet young gal let us go in.   And so we did and did not stop - well except to use the loo....

Come to mama!!! 

Scones, preserves, clotted cream and tea...and utter bliss!

After enjoying our lovely tea and thanking the gal at the front desk (and another stop at the loo) we hit the road again....back on the road to Broadway.  (our map did not have a walking path for the route we wanted to walk) 

We walked between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire (where Broadway is).  Being as Gloucestershire is my "homeland" (well half of it) so to speak I had to have a picture of me with the sign.  (well it made sense at the time)

As we approached Broadway we came to this beautiful church...St Eadburgha's church.  St Eadburgha may be an alternative spelling of St Edburga - an English saint from the 7th century.   The church's isolated position outside of the village of Broadway could have been because of fear of the plague...

June showing how it's done...me..I believe I went through the gate!
On our way back into town we stopped to say hi to this character and he tried to steal Tready bear!!!  (ormaybe he just wanted to  love her up)
What a beautiful walk we had that day.  Snowshill was a little gem and the view from Broadway Tower was astounding.  Walking on the roads was not a problem as they were fairly quiet.  There was room to jump off the side when a vehicle did come by.  We got to experience so much more than whizzing by in a car.  A great day!!!