Saturday, August 27, 2016

A late summer catch up

Well it's time for another "catch up".  I haven't been posting in "real time" as you  know...still talking about my Spring trips when I've been on two summer trips since then!

This summer has been a hectic one but now it's time to relax a little.

Since coming home from British Columbia in June the time has whizzed by.  I spent the first two weeks of July pet sitting in the east end of my home town.  It made me realize that if I lived anywhere outside the city centre I would certainly need a car again.  That's okay however as I never intend to leave my cozy little nest downtown as I love it so much.  I took care of a basset hound named Marmalade, a cat named Spice and a guinea pig named Hercules.  I've looked after them many times before so it was nice to live in a familiar home with animals I knew.  We all rubbed along together quite well and Marmalade happily joined me on the basement couch for nonstop "Downton Abbey".   Funny how I just could not get into that show. for so many years and then decided to give it one more try in June and I just could not get enough.  It was nice to watch it on their big screen TV.  So my life for two weeks consisted of walking Marmalade twice a day, reading and binge watching "Downton Abbey" - okay and a few other programs on Netflix as well.  After a hectic three months I needed the down time.


Meet the Spice Girl - can you believe I have fallen in love with this cat?  That is a first. I am NOT a cat lover - I am a cat tolerator (which is a step up from a cat hater which I was back when I had birds)  She is a friendly affectionate cat which is the only kind that is worth having.


My girl .Lady Marmalade (I like to pazazz up their names).  Busy scratching a mosquito bite (at least I hope that's what it was).  Due to lots of rain followed by sun the mosquitoes this summer have been awful.


We spent each early morning (as long as it wasn't raining) and early evening out on the back deck - me reading and them just hanging out.  The rest of the day we moved it to the basement so Hercules could join in on the fun. (although as long as you threw food into her cage she was happy).

I must admit by the end I was going a bit nutso as I seemed to turn into a hermit and wasn't seeing any friends.  I just wanted to relax it seems which I guess is understandable given my crazy Spring. (I know I keep going on about it - that's what happens when you get old I guess)

The family came home on July 15th and the next day I was off on a flight to Buffalo, New York.  I was able to use air miles (Delta Comfort) on the way down which was great.  It meant more leg room and free booze!  The purpose of this jaunt  was to attend a Paul McCartney concert in Hamilton, Ontario which happened to be where my sister lives and it was to be the day before her 70th birthday.  A perfect opportunity for a trip.  I actually scored this ticket while on the island of Gozo in Malta - frantically tapping away on the keyboard of my Microsoft tablet.  I never let a little thing like being on the other side of the world stop me from getting a ticket to see Paul!  I spent a couple of days with my friend Pat in Buffalo before heading back up to Canada on the Greyhound.  Here are a few things we got up to:


After picking me up from the airport we went back to Pat's place for Birthday cake!  Yes it was my "When I'm 64" birthday weekend!


Pat did a 5 km walk with me in Williamsivlle (suburb of Buffalo) on my birthday followed by pizza, ice cream and Scotch and coke at our friend Vickie's home.


Another day we also visited Buffalo's Canal side and water front which is gorgeous.  This is Buffalo Main Lighthouse completed in 1833.


Pat treated me to some of Buffalo's famous chicken wings at the place where they were "invented" - the Anchor Bar! (don't worry - we shared the plate!)

I'll be writing more about my birthday weekend in Buffalo in the weeks..okay months..ahead.

From there it was up to Hamilton.  Because they don't like to make things easy this involved a bus trip to Toronto but luckily the bus driver dropped a few of us off at Union Station which saved a subway ride and I was off on the GO bus to Hamilton.   I spent five nights with my sister and here's some of what I got up to:



Need I add the concert was wonderful!


The next day my sister and I went in to Toronto.  We took the subway out to High Park and walked a bit but oh boy was it hot and humid.  We then met my niece to celebrate my sister's 70th that day.
We then came back in to Toronto the next day, met my niece once again and went to see  the movie "Ghostbusters. We then went for my birthday supper and walked through blocks of musicians in The Beaches area of Toronto.

The next day I felt quite ill with a summer cold so we stayed put in her apartment -  my sister (not a coffee drinker) even walked to Tim Hortons to get my coffee for me!


The next day I was feeling a bit better so we took a boat trip out onto Hamilton Harbour which was very nice and a welcome break from the heat.  This was followed by Fish and Chips with a twist.  I really enjoyed this meal.



Later that evening I flew home - it was a great ten days away.

A couple of days later it was back to these two..or should I say three...the guinea pig was busy eating in the basement.


I was here for almost two weeks and then time for another trip!  I flew to Toronto then took the train into the city where I got a Greyhound bus to Buffalo.  An interesting trip as I sat beside a fellow who had just gotten out of jail and was heading for a half way house in St Catherines.  Behind us was a fellow who had lots of "experience" so was telling my seat mate about the half way house as he had been there twenty years ago.  It obviously hadn't helped him as he had just gotten out of the slammer as well.  Oh I learnt lots - despite putting my headphones on I could hear everything as could half the bus.  I learned more about Canada's prison system, their reactions to different drugs (and I don't mean aspirin) and their opinion of them and the fact that if you are at a halfway house you can't buy lottery tickets, use drugs or alcohol but you can use the services of a hooker if you've got the cash.  Oh boy, my seat mate was sure looking forward to that as he had been locked up for over a year . My friend Pat picked me up at the bus station and we went for a traditional Buffalo fish fry.

The next morning we headed out for Cleveland with our friend Vickie arriving early afternoon. (it's about a three hour drive).  Why Cleveland?  Well to see Paul again of course!!!   Our friend Deb was there at the hotel to greet us - there were four of us sharing a room for two nights at the Hampton Inn downtown which was just a fifteen minute walk from the arena.   I am skimming over my time there as I will be writing detailed posts on my time in each of the three cities I explored on this trip.  I met my friends Mary and Linda (penpals from back in the 60's who I reconnected with on Facebook - I LOVE Facebook!) for dinner and we had such a good visit.   Two concerts, another  meal with long time Beatle friends, lots of familiar faces at the concert to visit with as well as making new friends,  a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I was one happy Beatlemaniac.


Let's just say Cleveland was an absolute blast - definitely a blog post on that.  I took a "happy pill" (Aleve) and boogied my ass off during both concerts.  I had such fun and had seats in the fifth and third row which was a big deal for me.  With Paul's age and stuff happening in my own life (more on that later) who knows if this is the last concert or not.  It's funny as the first place I ever saw Paul was Cleveland for the Wings Over America tour in 1976.  I sure hope I get to see him again.

The next day  (after a 6 km walk around downtown Cleveland) it was off to Charleston, West Virginia where I did the 10km walk...very slowly with lots of sit downs and with a break in the middle (laid out flat on my king bed with the a/c blowing full blast).   I found out later the temperature was equal to 99F with the humidity.  I'm glad I didn't know that at the time.  I will be doing a post of my walk there but here's a sneak peek...


West Virginia state capital



This was the path nearing the end of the walk - at this point I just wanted it to be over despite the pretty scenery.  I've never seen so many trees as I did in West Virginia.

The next morning it was off to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania...yes, another state capital.  The first leg went well but then we had a stop over (not a bus change) in Pittsburgh.  No bus driver (short version of the story) was available (more on that in the blog post) so we were three hours late leaving but the driver made up time and didn't take a break so we rolled into town just over two hours late.

The next morning I set off on the 5 km walk visiting the State Capital of course.




I really enjoyed Harrisburg - loved the old homes and the history.  My hotel (Comfort Inn) was right by the river so I had a lovely walk that evening.  And then there were the critters above...Harrisburg was having a "Dynomite Summer" (their words, not mine!) with dinosaurs in different "costumes" all over the city.  We know how I can't stand that kind of thing...ha ha!  I will be writing a post about my dinosaur hunt in Harrisburg as well as the regular walk of course.

I have so many great stories to share!  I was just too busy or too exhausted to even pull out my tablet to write a blog post while I was away- in fact the only purpose my tablet served was to charge up my MP3 player!  I was gone just a week though and it was a wonderful action packed and fun time.  Now I rest!

At the end of July I had another appointment with the Orthopedic specialist and I was told I need a knee replacement.  This was a huge shock as when I was there six months ago he told me I was "too young" for a knee replacement and wouldn't even consent to a cortisone shot.  Due to waiting lists he told me it would be 8 to 10 months but I have found out it is more likely 9 to 12 months.  I am glad I have to wait as I am not mentally nor (I feel) even physically ready for it yet but the specialist assured me I will be ready by then if the past six months deterioration is anything to go by.  I need to lose weight so that will be my focus in the months ahead.

So as you can guess this means 2017 won't be a very active year for me or this blog.  Of course I'm a restless gal so no way am I sitting around for the next 8 months waiting for a phone call...this will be my last chance for a long get away before I get a brand new knee joint and my life will be physio appointments and exercises.  I'm booked to fly to London at the end of November (because.... London at Xmas!!!)  I am working on more of the trip and awaiting confirmation and then I will announce it.  I am hoping for six weeks away...I don't think I should push myself any further and I am having just two bases with two or three overnight trips (so I can leave my luggage in my room and just take a day pack).  I plan lots of rest days where I will catch up on blog posts, do laundry, read and generally relax. It's not the winter holiday I had dreamed of (Sri Lanka and Dubai) but that will have to be put off for at least a year.  On the bright side I will finally be getting a cortisone shot which should ease the discomfort. I've already booked a ticket for "The Nutcracker" at the Royal Opera House and a Norwegian concert at St Martins in the Fields the night after the Norwegian Xmas tree in Trafalgar Square is lit. (and I will be there for that as well!)

It's time to get another passport as well - yay for the fact I can finally get one of the new ten year passports.  I plan to fill every page on it!

So that's how my life goes right now.  Stay tuned for more posts coming shortly!






Sunday, August 14, 2016

Jaunting around Jersey Part 2

So here I am back again with another story of my time on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands between England and France.  Part 2 takes place on Saturday May 1st when once again I purchased an all day bus pass for 7.50 GBP.   I had enjoyed my previous jaunt so much I decided to hit the buses once again.

I was staying in Gorey Harbour which was such a good decision as I was right by the water in a village setting yet with regular connections to good public transit all over the island.  The bus stop was literally a two minute walk from my door step.

While staying there I was being coy about where I was staying when talking about it on the blog.  (Stalkers you know!) Here is another picture of the harbour:  I stayed in the pale yellow house in between the three yellow buildings in a row (hotel) and the blue house.  One floor up with a wonderful view of the harbour.  I would mark it with an X but I don't know how to do that!


This view appears on postcards, fridge magnets, tea towels and trust me... I've got them all!!

I hopped the number 1 bus (every half hour) to St Helier which is the main town.  There I changed to the number 3 bus to Rozel Harbour.   I decided I was going to have breakfast there.  (not that many options in Gorey and I like to try a different place each time)

Twenty minutes later as I got off the bus I knew I would like this place...I wandered down the narrow street to the harbour and over to the Hungry Man kiosk.  I had heard many wonderful things about this place so I was so disappointed to see every table was taken and there was nowhere close by to sit. Sadly I made my way back to the main street and entered a tea room..or tried to.  They weren't yet open but would be in a few minutes so they said - and instructed me to sit outside on the deck which I did.  I sat for a while but no one even approached me and being as I hadn't had my coffee yet I was kind of grumpy and muttered "sod this",got up and walked down to the harbour again.  And guess what?  As I arrived a couple left their small table by the water so I immediately plunked my backpack down and went to order my breakfast.

So there I sat with my bacon, egg and cheese bap (bun) and a flat white coffee.  Bliss!  What a view!


The Hungry Man is supposed to have the best Crab sandwiches on the island - next time!


What more could a person ask for - a delicious breakfast with a view like this and the tang of the wonderful sea air.  I think you would have had to bitch slap me to get the smile off my face. These are the moments I savour on a trip - sitting enjoying the view and thinking how lucky I am to be able to do this.

I wandered around the village a bit...how I adore fishing villages whether they are in Portugal, Turkey, Malta or England...love them all.




It was time to hop on the bus an hour later so back I went to St Helier's Liberty Square bus station where I got the number 9 bus to Greve de Lecq which is one of the most popular beach areas on Jersey's north coast.

This beach was definitely a bit more touristy than other places I had seen but it was beautiful all the same.








At first I thought this was a very big fat seagull but turns out it was a duck..a very confused looking one.



I happily watched this boat get pulled in...I also spent a fair bit of time sitting on one of the benches on the pier above.


All too soon it was time to hop on the bus to St Helier and back to Gorey.  But my day wasn't finished yet..oh no it wasn't!  It was time to "hit" the castle above me and tackle the steep climb..nothing like leaving that until the end of the day.  Smart thinking, eh?



Mont Orgueil Castle or Gorey Castle as its better known as was built in the 13th century.  It has evolved over the years and was used as the main defence of Jersey until the 1600's when Elizabeth Castle was built (we will be visiting seeing that in another post). It was then used as a prison but fell into such disrepair by the mid 1700's that it could no longer be used for that purpose.  Renovations were done and it was used as garrison accommodation.  Germany invaded Jersey during the Second World War and they used the castle as garrisons as well - building new structures to fit in with the existing ones.  Royalty has visited this castle including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as well as the present Queen.







Another knight in shining armour.



What a view!


The view overlooking Gorey.  I had a more compelling reason to check out this view.  The bathroom of the airbnb I was using had NO curtains or blinds and I was constantly looking up at the castle with trepidation especially at night when the overhead light was on.  I am pretty sure no one could see it as it was pretty much a wall straight up - and I couldn't even see the house from here.  Whew!!!  The little green kiosk below the flagpole is where I would always catch the bus.  


The family tree of the French and British families that lived in the castle.

I really enjoyed this castle and wouldn't hesitate to visit it again...

I ended off my fabulous day with a lobster salad with the wonderful Jersey Royal potatoes on the side...a bit extravagant but I'm worth it. :)


 A fabulous day from beginning to end!





Thursday, August 4, 2016

Being Bookish in Alnwick

After my glorious days on Holy Island and at Bamburgh Castle I spent a day exploring my base of Berwick.  My last day in Northumberland was earmarked to visit Alnwick  (pronounced "Annick" because well...it's Britain and they like to do stuff like that).  It was a dull cold rainy foggy day ....but you've got to roll with it. So off I went on the double decker bus and I was lucky enough to get the seat on the top in the front row. Fun on a nice day - not such a great move on a foggy day. ("I'll be the first one killed if a crazy driver hits us because I'll fly through the window" I kept thinking.- one car made it back into its own lane just in time as I cringed and closed my eyes)  Anyway we made it there in one piece..obviously or I wouldn't be writing this would I?


Finally snagged a picture of this...it's a play park a "stone's throw from the beach" where you can paint pots, go to a cafe and have a family adventure together.  All righty then.  I snickered every time we passed this on the way to Holy Island and Bamburgh but never managed to get a picture before this bus trip because I had my camera out and ready to snap.

Upon my arrival in Alnwick I headed onto the High (main) Street passing through the market first.




I slowly made my way to Alnwick Castle.  Having read negative reviews saying it was overpriced andbeing as I had visited two Castles in the past three days I knew I wouldn't bother with this one.  I did visit the gift shop however and purchased a 5 x 7 copy of this print.  Yes, I am obsessed with sheep!  I loved the gift shop and could have spent a whole lot of time and money there but stuck with the print only.  I wandered over to the entrance to the palace grounds and asked security if despite having no ticket I could walk past and get a photo.  He said "go ahead" so here it is...ahem here they are...well I couldn't stop at just one could I?




Absolutely loved the detail on this fence.


Barter Books...the real reason I came to Alnwick.  Barter Books is on the site of the old Alnwick Railway station and was opened in 1991.  They have kept the character of the railway station yet turned it into a wonderful place for readers like me.  It is one of the largest second-hand book shops in Europe and attracts over 200,000 visitors a year with 40% being outside the local area.  The reason the shop is called Barter Books is that customers can exchange their books for credit against future purchases if they wish.


When I walked in the door and saw this I fell in love... I mean really...a dog, a fireplace, coffee and tea on tap, specially made cookies,(both kinds: ginger and chocolate chip were very nice thank you)  a cafe as well (though I didn't sample their wares) and thousands and thousands of books...my idea of heaven...okay put Paul McCartney on the sofa with a guitar (on second thought he doesn't even need to bring that with him)  and I'd spend eternity there!


I stood in here and tried to calm myself down...I am such a book geek that is pathetic.


Eeek,...eeeek....


This mural of authors was fascinating...I had to get postcards of it..for more information click here.


See the Keep Calm and Carry On poster above?  This is where it all began...This is an original 1939 wartime poster that was bought at auction in 2000.  It was put up in the book shop and caught on and well..the rest is history.

And yes I did buy a book!  (the book was donated to a charity shop when I had finished reading it..AFTER ripping the part of the page that said Barter Books with the price on and gluing it into my travel journal...geek, geek!)

At this point I was getting a bit peckish so headed back into town passing through this gate...

Hotspur Tower, Bondgate


Another view of the High Street - lots of pubs, cafes and shops.


St Michaels Pant - Pant is the word used for fountains that had water funneled from nearby streams. There are numerous pants all over the city including the High Pant and the Low Pant. ("You take the High Pant and I'll take the Low Pant and I'll get to the toilet afore you") I didn't know this when I was there or I'd have gone stalking all the "pants".  On second though it was rather a dull icky day to be doing that...ah well, next time!  Anyway this was one was constructed in 1759 which makes it the second oldest functioning pant in Alnwick.

Harry "Hotspur" Percy - erected to commemorate 700 years of occupation of Alnwick Castle by the Percy family.   He looked better from the back...ahem...This trip seemed to involve an unusually high number of knights.  (sadly, all dead)


Sheep!!!




For some strange reason I was not in the mood for a pub so finally found a local cafe that had what I wanted.  I was having one of those days where I didn't know exactly what I wanted to eat but somehow I'd know it when I saw it on a menu..I hate when that happens!  It was a cold dank day so something warm and quintessentially British was in order.  What could be better than a Toad in the Hole....Yorkshire pudding meets sausages.  It was yummy delicious.

With my tummy full I wandered through the market again and paused to buy some pretty hand made note cards before boarding my bus back to Berwick.  Alnwick is certainly on my "list" of places to get back to if only to see more "pants" and get "accidentally" locked in the bookshop for the night.