Category Archives: Travels

You Have To Get Up

Here’s the thing about travel. It catches up to you when you get home. We have been back in Penticton for 4 days now. I thought I had worked through the jetlag thing, but, as usual I was wrong. I have been getting up earlier and earlier – today I’m writing this at 4:15 after being awake since three. Everyone all together now, Aaahhh, so sad. Okay, the whining is over for now.

On the evening of our last evening game drive, we are scouting locations for the traditional sundowners. On the way we spot Cape Buffalo, elephants, steenbok, dead trees and dead roots of dead trees.

Cape Buffalo are another curious – if more dangerous, animal

A pair of ambling elephants

Steenboks stand very still before leaping off into space


Did I mention how much Gary loves dead trees?

The dead roots still adhere to the rocks

A last incredible sunset

On the way back to camp we had a couple of interesting experiences. They both centre around our pals the elephants. I think I have mentioned that nocturnal hunters – lions, cheetahs, leopards aren’t bothered by lights – something to do with the cones and rods in their eyes. Elephants, on the other hand are bothered. We are driving along the track and Patrick is running a big spotlight back and forth to see what we can see. Suddenly there is an elephant in the light and he starts to charge – turns out it’s just a mock charge, but Shaun has thrown the vehicle into reverse and is backing up really, really fast. We sit about 500 metres away and wait for 10-15 minutes and then try it again. No elephant on the track. We are approaching a relatively large bush on our right and Patrick is carefully pointing any kind of light straight down. Just as we pass the bush an elephant realizes we are there and lets loose with a huge trumpet blast. He is close! How close? I am sitting in the back seat and I feel the blast of air on my neck and shoulder. I remark (okay scream) “Jesus Christ!”, Shaun hits the gas and we are going REALLY, REALLY, REALLY fast. Gary is in the front and turns around just in time to see the white of a tusk. Terry starts laughing so hard she almost wets herself and Patrick, poor Patrick is holding on for dear life. The photo below is just to show you Patrick’s seat – there was no way I was about to get a photo at that moment.

That’s Patrick seating on the no seat belt seat

I now know that my damaged heart can stand a huge scare! I can guarantee that it was beating a mile a minute!

Once we are out of the area, we spot

A Dik Dik – the smallest member of the antelope family – maybe 18″ high

and an African hare of some sort.

Rare? Who knows.

The last morning of the South African safari started early – I was out taking photos of the starry sky at 5:15. The others had decided they needed their rest more than a last opportunity to see a lion up close and personal, but not your intrepid blogger. So at precisely 6am Shaun, Patrick and myself were off for one last shot.

What an incredible sight at 5:30 in the morning. That bright splotch in the middle is the Milky Way. We will get some more shots in Namibia, but this is one of my favourites.

The first sighting of the morning was of the Marshall Eagle, the largest eagle in South Africa. I have lightened it up significantly, since it was still quite dark.

Quite magnificent

And then some more of those curious zebra.

Over the radio Shaun hears that two lions have been spotted somewhere near the reserve. A little explanation. Around the edge of the Klasserie Reserve, which is a private area within the national park, are “farms”. Now these aren’t farms as we know them. There are no fields, no crops etc., they are simply large tracts of land which are privately owned. Some have automatic reciprocal rights with the reserve – they can come on the reserve or you can go on their land without seeking permission and vice versa. There are no fences separating them. Others however don’t have this automatic relationship and you have to contact the owner/manager and ask permission. The one where the lions are heading is one of the latter, so Shaun gets on the radio to Donovan, who manages the part of the reserve we are staying on and he contacts the owner of the farm who says no problem. With that we are off like a dirty shirt.

We first come across a hyena, who is looking very much like he is heading where we are going.

A hyena on the prowl

We cross a river and Shaun spots the lion making his way through the bush. We leave the track and up into the scrub – and there he is.

How incredible to be no more than about 25 – 30 feet away.

He just totally ignores us.

Shaun took this 42 second video as he walked by. Note how quiet we were. Shaun’s “Yeah, sure” was in response to my asking if I could take pictures, knowing the click the camera would make.

Wow, just wow. After he passed we turned around and headed back to the track to get ahead of him but we came across the owner of the land – the fellow who had said we could come over. He was not a happy camper, and chastised Shaun for going off the road. Shaun was very apologetic and said he thought we had permission etc. etc. The guy waved it off and said we could follow the lion but to stay on the road. We decided just to go the other way. Afterwards Shaun said that the fellow had been upset because we got there first – he had not expected us to be as close as we were when he gave permission and he was choked we saw it and he didn’t. He also later apologized too Shaun. Nice, but I missed more opportunities to see the lion up close. It was interesting though, that someone who lives right there still gets excited at the chance to see these magnificent animals.

After that there was nothing to do but to head back to camp to get ready to leave. Those of you who think that when I got back to camp I would gloat over the fact I had seen a full mane lion and the others hadn’t, would be wrong.   At least, you’re wrong until about three days later when I would start to occasionally mention it. (Terry:  yeah, like na na na na na, frequently!)

The entire safari was a fantastic experience and what an incredible way to end it.

We had a couple of hours to kill until the flight from Hoedspruit to Capetown where our four day wine tour would commence. Naturally we spent it waiting in a wine/gin bar. Terry and Cindy enjoyed gin and tonics – particularly due to the quality of the gin and the quality of these tonics

Add fresh blueberries for a delicious taste treat.

At the chaotic airport, we get through security – a bizarre experience in and of itself, and sit down in the waiting area. All of a sudden people get up and start moving – no announcement or sign of what is happening. We ask what is going on and someone says that the plane is loading. In South Africa they have dispensed with announcements over loudspeakers – you just have to pay attention. This is not just in small airports either. I noticed when we landed in Johannesburg large signs around the airport proclaiming that “We have gone silent”. This wouldn’t work in China where there are frequently 5-10 final boarding calls or even calls to “Mr. Sun Yat Sen, report to Get 12 for boarding”, also 5-10 times.

We arrive in Capetown, where we are met by Duncan and taken to our hotel. Tomorrow our wine tour of South African wineries begins with two burning questions –

  1. Are they as good as what we have in the Okanagan and
  2. How many wine tastings can we ingest before we scream “Enough! Stop pouring!”

Brunch? You Get Brunch?

The morning after the leopard sighting we are out for our morning game drive. Did I mention that morning game drives start at 6am so you are up at 5:30 or so. This means, of course, that there aren’t any late nights, which at our age isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the cool things you get are fantastic sunrises.

Wow. Just wow

Plus you get to see cool spiders.

This is a close up – we didn’t get too close.

We couldn’t get out of the vehicle too much, but Shaun said Terry could get out to check a footprint we saw. This is an elephant’s rear footprint – and Terry doesn’t have what one could call a petite foot.

An elephant footprint and Terry’s foot

We saw lots of animals including a herd of about 25-30 wildebeests. These two were very curious about what they were seeing.

Totally placid – much like myself.

Now I have a photo of something else we saw just before these two characters. Shaun is driving along and hits the brakes. He says that there is a new zebra nearby. We ask how he knows this. “That is VERY fresh zebra afterbirth there. ” Terry won’t let me post the photo, but for those who want to see zebra afterbirth send me an email and I’ll fire it off to you.

Next we stop and Shaun says he has a surprise for Terry and Cindy.

Our fantastic hosts at Nyeliti – Donovan and his lovely wife – Lee-Ann.

I mentioned to Shaun in the first couple of days that the whole purpose of this was to celebrate Terry’s 65th birthday in May and that Cindy was also celebrating her birthday. He then arranged to have a special brunch set up in the middle of the reserve for us. It was fantastic.

Champagne and OJ to start

Exquisite food – the cinnamon buns were incredible. Thanks Lindsay!

Fabulous company – please ignore the goof 2nd from the left

What a tremendous surprise.

After brunch is was off to see a few more critters.This is the Lavendar Crested Roller.  He is perhaps the most beautiful bird we saw on the safari.  Later on I’ll post a photo of one in flight.

Impalas are so cute – but they are also on the menu for almost every animal around. Thus there are and awful lot of them.

Cool Weaver nests

Then it was back to our bush camp – locally known as Nyeliti.

Our Home away from Home

Our humble abode for three days and nights

It’s a tough life but…

In the evening we were out again looking for more game. We saw another giraffe with another bird

Apparently this rhino had been released into the reserve from a neighbouring area. In order to protect him from poachers, his tusk had been cut off so that any poachers wouldn’t kill him.

It’s cool to cross a river in a Landrover.

Zebras are just as cool in black and white.

And another fabulous sunset



The 10,000 Most Walkable Cities in the World…

and Johannesburg didn’t make the list. A few years ago we were in Seminyak, Bali and we commented on the “quality” of the sidewalks – see below

This is why it is dangerous to walk the sidewalks of Semanyak.[/caption]

Here’s the thing though – Seminyak HAS sidewalks. We were out exploring yesterday and many parts of where we were just didn’t have them. Jan Smuts Road – a four lane, major arterial route with homes along it – no sidewalks. In residential areas sometimes yes, sometimes no. It was almost as if the homeowners (more on them in a minute) had put them in themselves. We find it fascinating, given that walking seems to be the most prevalent method of transportation for many many people.  Crosswalks are also at a premium.

Now about those scallywag homeowners. We are staying in a reasonably upscale, affluent area where 99.9% of the homes have walls in front of them and either barbed wire or an electrified fence running along the top.

A lovely street nicely bordered with lovely walls.

What is particularly heart warming are the frequent signs on the walls.

Note the electrified fence on top

Note the sign promoting safe suburbs

I’m thinking safe means behind those walls and not a sense of security due to a high sense of community.

Beautiful door

Bur even the beautiful door is behind bars.

Many of the homes have an interesting way of announcing the address

Yes, that is the address.

Oh, did I mention the gates?

They were definitely spectacular gates

Now, to be fair, there may very well be a reason for this security. Liz, our lovely hostess, has been very clear that if we are out after dark we are to take Uber home. Last night we decided to go up the street to Dolci for dinner. It is a 5 minute walk, 400 yards away. When Liz heard we were going she said that Tagala, her assistant could run us up and the restaurant would likely run us home. When we mentioned that we were staying at Liz’s, the restaurant owner said that when we were ready to leave, to wait and he would have someone walk us home. This is a level of security/possible danger or whatever we have never felt anywhere.  (Let’s be honest here.  Geoff tends not to worry about even these clear and definite warnings.  It’s Terry who pays attention and insists that we ask for an escort.)

Ah yes, the restaurant. It was interesting. When we walked in and said we didn’t have reservations we were given a choice of two tables. Ours looked very much like this one:

Note the chair.

Other than ours and this one, every other chair looked like this one.

Nice cushion, don’t you think?

We were given four (4) 1 inch cubes of bread for dipping in the oil and vinegar. The couple next to us had a plate piled high with them. Just as our server was about to chat with us, the owner came over and sent her away and took our order. Clearly, he was doing everything to make sure we were in and out quickly, while other tables who were there before us hadn’t even had their orders taken. (On the other hand he did provide us an escort home.) From the time we walked in the door until we were finished our starters was 35 minutes. Luckily we had not yet ordered our mains. Then Mama from Ravenna came out. Picture the prototypical Italian Mama and that’s who she was. A lovely woman who informed us that at 9 months of age she either: 1) stopped taking her mother’s milk and started eating Tagliatelle al Ragu or 2) stopped taking her mother’s milk and started making Tagliatelle al Ragu. We weren’t sure which one it was. When I asked what I should have to eat she said “Me” and wandered away. Thank goodness because I had no idea how I would have responded. (My spicy chicken livers and Terry’s salad were fabulous, the entrees a 7.5 and the ginger buttercream torte with ginger ice cream fantastic.)

Side note observation from Terry – the only people of colour in the restaurant were the servers. An interesting observation given that the urban population of Johannesburg of 7.8 million is 78% Black African or Coloured and only 14% White. BTW Wikipedia terminology, not mine)

This guy came to visit yesterday. He wasn’t all that scary though.

At one point all you could see was his head peeking out from under the plug on the left hand side.

Not all that big, but patient.

Liz has a serious bird feeder in her yard. Yesterday there had to be 40-50 birds at different times come to eat. Terry is quite jealous – but then Liz has a veritable forest on her property.

What was interesting was that whenever the big one below showed up, the pigeons all scattered. Guess there is a definite pecking order…

Terry here.  About the art in the galleries we visited–very often dark themes, as one might expect with the history of South Africa.  Mostly, it was discouraging to view.  Then we came upon some light-hearted ones–larger than life size sculptures of hares, foxes and dogs; ‘paintings of giant flower heads made by stretching various tones of pantyhose artfully over canvas.  I could have put to use some of those old Cameleon multi-coloured stockings to good use! ( Note:  you had to be there.)

Today we are off on a tour of Soweto which should be interesting.



Just Another Trip Around The World – Day 1

Well here we go again, off on another wild adventure. And off to a good start we are. Terry forgot her noise reducing earphones at home, I forgot a firearm I was supposed to deliver from Penticton to Coquitlam, Terry’s phone didn’t make it from the car to the airport and the first of the 11 flights on this trip was 45 minutes late getting out of Vancouver. Then we had to eat our way cross the country.

Some basic info for those of you who don’t know what the heck we are doing now. We are going on a couple of safaris – Kruger National Park in South Africa and another one in Namibia. In between a four day wine tour. We travel right around the world getting there and getting home (Vancouver-Toronto; Toronto-London; London-Cairo; Cairo-Johannesburg; Johannesburg-Addis Abbas; Addis Ababa-Seoul; Seoul-Seattle; Seattle-Vancouver – a total of 44714km in the air (that includes three internal flights in Africa). 52:12 in the air there and back, 6:25 in Africa and 30:54 in layover time totalling 89:31 of our lives. BTW the circumference of the earth is only 40075km.

I convinced Terry all this flying would be fine since it was all business class (points not cash!). We are presently in London and so far so good. In Toronto we went to the Air Canada Signature Suite and were very politely told we needed to go to the Maple Leaf Lounge – the suite was for “full paying business class patrons only” Well la ti dah!

Contrary to many experiences we have had with Air Canada, both legs so far have been excellent – both the food and the service. Hopefully it will continue on the next two legs with Egyptian Air.

Two shots of Windsor Castle.

We are sitting in the Maple Leaf Lounge now watching construction of what is likely going to be another terminal. It is fascinating. If I didn’t know better I’d say it was a government make work project.

This is the way it works:

In the foreground there are three front end loaders which are loading three earth moving trucks. These trucks then take the earth to the large pile of dirt near the centre of the photo, but on the right hand side and dump it. The front end loaders then gradually move it up to the top left of the large pile where it is then loaded onto the truck between the black and yellow blocks. After that truck is loaded and the earth tamped down it then drives off for who knows where. Most definitely an interesting process.

Earth moving on a peculiar scale

After two more flights – and 27 more meals (well that’s how it seemed to us!), we arrive in Johannesburg. Has this ever happened to you? You get on a plane and by the time you arrive at your destination you discover that the airline has lost your luggage? It has certainly happened to us – see our trip to Amsterdam or Singapore to Shanghai. I figure, 4 flights, halfway around the world there is no way our two bags are going to show up. And they didn’t – well they weren’t the first bags down the chute on to the conveyor – they were the 2nd and 3rd! Unbelievable. We are now on a high. We get in to the arrivals area looking for our ride to our B and B. No ride. Look around and wait ten minutes – we were early after all. No ride. Wait another ten minutes. No ride. Finally phone the B and B. Liz answers – “Oh did we arrange – just a minute – okay someone will be there in 20 minutes.” Great. 55  minutes later Abey shows up and we are off.

The trip in to Johannesburg, totally uneventful with the exception of hearing about how the Chinese are taking over Africa by bringing workers in to develop projects and then leaving them here. (Hmmm, sounds familiar somehow.)

We finally arrive at Liz’s on Lancaster – what a fantastic place and Liz is so apologetic about the airport fiasco, even I begin to feel guilty. We have a quick shower, a fabulous breakfast (it’s almost 10am) and collapse in to bed – and get 4 1/2 hours sleep falling asleep to the sound of teeming rain – harder than most Vancouver rains. Clearly, we haven’t lost our touch of bringing rain to very dry areas!

After our rest, we chat with Liz. “Where can we walk?” “Well, if you are going to take your back pack/camera bag, don’t go in to the park. In fact, you may not want to walk anywhere with that – just take your cell phone.” And we are in one of the nicer areas of Jo’burg. (Like that?) We wander off to Parkhurst – an upscale area full of restaurants and lots of people.  We enjoy a very fine meal (Veal Limone with incredible vegetables for Terry and Filet Medallions with fantastic french fries for Geoff. Add a bottle of Fat Bastard Sauvignon Blanc – $57 including tip) and then we order up an Uber to get us home. The Uber bill is $2.06 Cdn –  to go the same distance in Vancouver – $10.40. No wonder the taxis don’t want any part of Uber.

We are now home, Terry is soaking in the tub and I am listening to the thunder and pouring rain while enjoying a glass of lovely red wine provided by Liz as an apology – and Terry’s white is cooling in the fridge. What could be better.

Tomorrow – who knows!

(BTW Photography through dirty windows doesn’t show off my developing (LOL) skills!)

How Many $%^&ing Times Can I Miss the Sign?

After Sevilla it was off to Cordoba. Now Cordoba is a nice little city – nothing spectacular but interesting in its own little way. Lots of little alleyways to get lost in, a nice bridge to walk across, decent photo opportunities. You get the idea – nothing much to write about. They do have the Mezquita however. At one time it was a Moorish mosque but the Christians came to town and turned it into a cathedral. Then the businessmen came to town and turned it into a tourist attraction. It is really quite exquisite however.

The archways …

and pillars were spectacular.

The archways and pillars were spectacular

As was the ceiling.

The most interesting story was when I set up my 21″ tripod to get a photo or two – which is exactly what I managed to take before a very stern security guard was in my face, telling me to put it away and that if the security cameras saw me take it out again I would unceremoniously be escorted from the premises – at least that is what his tone implied. After that we just wandered the streets.

Puente Romano crosses the Guadalquivir River.

Terry poses on the Puente Romano crossing the Guadalquivir River.

Jan and Peter pose on the Puente Romano crossing the Guadalquivir River.

One of many tiny side streets

Another narrow passageway

Terry does her happy dance when the sun finally comes out – temporarily. Then we went into the cold Mezquita…sigh

Happy Happy

The smallest Hop on Hop off bus I’ve seen.

Some of the largest doors I’ve seen.

There are no words – except Ale-Hop is a store that just sells everything from toys to scarves to slippers to inexpensive and cheerful gifts to take home (not that we did).

Then it was off to Granada, home to the Alhambra. The Alhambra, for those of you who may not remember their grade 8 Social Studies, is a palace and fortress complex largely built by Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. As with most things in Spain, it was taken over by Christians and  the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition.) But before we got there, we had to get to our hotel, thus the title of this post.

When we arrived in Granada it was raining and I was driving. Granada has more one way streets than any city I have ever been in. The map doesn’t do it justice. Our hotel was about 15 yards off the street which has the little one way arrow. On one side of it was a street which was about 15 feet wide and dead ended at the hotel doors. Unfortunately it also had a wall which blocked the sign that said “Turn here”. On the other side of the hotel was a pedestrian walkway. If you missed the turn – which I did the first two times by, you have to spend 15 minutes to go out of the downtown area and return. Frustrated? Your call. In addition, there were all sorts of demonstrations going on which caused a large police presence. See below

“Women in Spain went on strike on Thursday both from professional and domestic work in the country’s first-ever general feminist strike. To coincide with International Women’s Day, ten Spanish unions on Jan. 14 called for 24-hour strikes and the country’s two most important unions have asked members to stop working for two hours on Thursday.”

Of course we would show up right in the middle of it.

On strike – sort of…

Would you expect Terry and Jan to sit on the sidelines?

After the demonstration we wandered off to – you guessed it – some little lanes and squares. This square – somehow I have lost the photos, had a statue of Neptune. This blonde must have had Chinese blood in her somewhere. She must have seen 15 minutes taking her photo, flicking her hair and just basically demonstrating she was a DIVA!

You’re beautiful – yes you are.

From there it was time to stroll – ha ha – up to Albaicin to get a view of the Alhambra from above. Stroll – ha – how about mountain climb. It was a very healthy climb – my heart handled it – but barely.

A couple of views.

Unfortunately, on the way up we got separated from Pete. He wound up at a different viewpoint which has a fantastic view.

Great view.

After reconnecting we wandered back to the impossible to find in a car hotel. We decided to go to El Conde for dinner – a mere 5 minute walk. We arrived at 7:45 and they didn’t open until 8 and I mean 8. The wait was beyond worth it. There were about 8 of us when it opened and when we left you couldn’t move. As with most restaurants in Spain, it was tapas. They have a strange, but incredibly wonderful custom in Spain. Strangely I didn’t experience this when I was there with a group of grade 10s many years ago. If you order alcohol (which, obviously I would never have done as a responsible adult supervising little children) they bring you a starter. Our starter was a burger and fries.

I’m not sure how small the bird was that dropped the egg was, but it was small.

As most of you know, Geoff does not eat salad – “This was INCREDIBLE,” he said.

The patatas brava had an injected hot sauce. You move the “injector” around from patata to patata. We have discovered, however that spicy in Europe isn’t like spicy at home.

Patatas Bravas

The two guys working there were terrific.

Two great guys

So that was our first day. Next time – The Alhambra. See you then.




Home Sweet Home

Let me say right off that no, we are not home yet. We still have another 10 days or so to enjoy in the sunshine states. However, we have seen a number of heritage homes here in South Carolina.

I’m thinking the description is somewhat ominous, how about you?

This house just down the street from the five star resort we are staying at. Hilton Head has a real mix of homes. From the wealthy huge homes to the double wide trailers which are in somewhat suspect condition.

Meanwhile, up the highway in Bluffton, we came across the Sarah Riley Hooks home. Who was Sarah and why is her home worth noting? Read on.

From The Island Packet” – the local newspaper: “Sarah Riley Hooks was a home health care nurse….Sarah had a son named Tony. He lived with Sarah when he was in town and was a musician who played with Sly and the Family Stone and Bluffton’s own musician John Brannen. …A very bizarre thing happened early one Bluffton morning. Tony was shot dead on Sarah’s front porch. It was a senseless act by a deranged person. The shooter drove off and was chased by our police all the way to Savannah where he was caught. All of Bluffton was in a state of shock. Thirty years or so ago we were a small town, where things of this sort did not happen. Tony was her only child so, as you may imagine, this made it even worse. Sarah was, as were we all, very sad for some time after this.” Bizarre? A very bizarre thing happened? Very sad for some time? This reporter certainly has a way with words.

Then there is The Garvey House.

The interior:After viewing the Garvey House we wandered down to the beach/pier and saw this car. We figured it was something pulled out of the water. There was a woman just leaving the seafood shop and I asked her about the car. She said the car ran and the man who drove it also lived in it. A somewhat different interpretation of home sweet home.

Okay enough about home sweet home. Now just some random stuff.

The Hilton Head school complex is nearby (high school, middle school, elementary school, school for the creative arts, football stadium, lacrosse field, soccer field, baseball diamond and general playing fields) is nearby. Saw this sign. Imagine the idea of a Weather Makeup Day happening in BC – on a Saturday.

We went for a long bike ride this morning looking for the beach. We eventually found it (more on that in a second). It was VERY windy and VERY brisk. There were several kite-sailers out.

So the plan for our bike ride was to get to the beach and ride on the packed sand. After an hour or so we got to the end of Beach City Road, where, according to the map there was a public access to the beach. Instead we saw what you see.

Undaunted I went through the open gate to the house and knocked on the door. After the door opened it went as follows:

Geoff: “Hi. We were looking for the beach access.”

Man. (Turning himself 90 degrees and looking down): “No access here. This is private property.”

Geoff: “Oh, could you tell me where there is access?”

Man. “1/4 mile on the left.” SLAM. Yes folks, I literally had the door slammed in my face – a first.

Now sure it says private property and everything, but the gate was open and I’m just a tourist.

Yesterday we went golfing at The Golden Bear Golf course. Wasn’t a memorable round for sure except for these two that Terry caught.

Now this fellow resides on the bank next to our condo. We are about 15 feet away when we walk by.

I wonder if the sign applies to him too?

My arty photo for today.

And finally – Two Pals

Belfast Day 2

Day 2 was a day of 11789 paces around Belfast. First it was off to the Titanic Experience and then to The Crumlin Street Gaol.

Another cheesy photo

Our cab guide from the day before told us that no Catholic will go to the exhibit because there was a sign at the gates when it was being built “No Dogs, No Blacks and No Catholics.”

I must say that although it was interesting it wasn’t what I expected. There wasn’t really much about the actual sinking but a lot about Belfast life while it was being built and the actual building of it.

I think this is the actual height of the ship that was above the water.

I also think this is the site/slip where it was built and launched from.

A little self-explanatory

From the exhibit it was off to the gaol.

From here to there to there to here

Belfast its called the city of murals. Most are related to The Troubles but there are a few others as well.

This chef looks a little ticked for some reason

Then there was the giant salmon. Have no reason why.

Some cool buildings

And some not so cool buildings

Real “quality” buildings – check out the sign on the chimney

The Crumlin Street Gaol was built across the street from the Justice Building and they were joined by a tunnel.

The Hall of “Justice”

A walk to hell

Stairs to/from the tunnel. It was a very depressing walk

The jail was built to house between 500 and 550 prisoners in single cell accommodation, each cell measuring 12 by 7 feet, and 10 feet in height. In later years, depending on the influx there would be up to 1900 people, with up to 4 prisoners often occupying a single cell, as was the case during the early 1970s with the internment of a significantly disproportionate number of republicans.

Up to 4 prisoners shared this size cell at times

The punishment cell was used to – obviously – punish prisoners. They had only a mattress on the floor and a pot. Could not have been very comfortable and clearly there was a little more punishing that went on. Just sayin…

The punishment cell

and the padded cell

There was also the painting cell where therapy went on. Weird I do say.

Time for art

Then we went in to the condemned man cell. It was quite large and contained a bed, desk, bookshelves. The guide explained that the last hangman got the process down to a fine art. The warden, priest and a couple of guards would come in at the appointed time. Apparently what the condemned man didn’t realize was that the bookshelves just slid aside and there were the gallows. Other than the warders no one else knew since the condemned man wasn’t going to tell anyone. From the time the bookshelves were slid aside until the man died it took eight seconds.

It did seem a little incongruous to come around the corner in “the yard” to see

Like a pint?

On the walk back

Who has one of these in their front yard? And why?

Next – “If you’re brave enough.”

Belfast Day 1

Thus far we have seen or travelled through 15 of the Republic of Ireland’s 26 counties (6 more in Northern Ireland) and have met some wonderful people, seen some incredible scenery, enjoyed many many fine meals and had a pint or two of Ireland’s finest.

The 15 so far: Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Laois

After a quiet weekend in Skerries however, it was time to take off on our own, leaving Lynne and Martin to get ready for their next guests. Through the pouring rain (Ed. note: Who knows what song that is a line from?) we headed off to Belfast. Now I have certainly driven on “the other side” of the road before, but it has been quite awhile and even then it was an automatic and not a standard. Plus I rented a car (Skoda Superb – think  Chex Malibu but 3 inches wider) that in retrospect might have been a little bigger than we needed. Should be interesting.

We arrived in Belfast with no big to do – clearly motorways aren’t going to be an issue as long as I don’t try to keep up with the traffic going past me at 140+ km/hr. It had been suggested to us that a “Black Cab” tour of Belfast would provide a fascinating look at “The Troubles” and we did that the first afternoon.

Now the driver Chris (“Now folks…”) was quite upfront about the fact that he was Catholic but that that would in no way influence what he told us, that he would provide a very balanced perspective of both sides. Well, that sounded only reasonable. Our first stop was just off the rather well know Shankill Road, in the Protestant area of Belfast.

William of Orange, the man who started it all way back 1690

Chris informed us that William III (Ed. note: more on him in a couple of posts from now) was the fellow who started the Troubles when he defeated James II at the Battle of Boyne, ensuring Protestant control in Ireland and the beginning of discrimination of the Catholics. From there he took us to see the mural of Stephen “Top Gun” McKeag. He was given the nickname because he murdered at least 30 people, many of them innocent individuals. His “signature” was to shoot them in the face so to deny them an open-casket. Now I have checked online and this information is indeed accurate. Chris also talked about the fact that generally speaking the outside world only heard from the media about how the IRA were terrorists and that the British army and Belfast police committed no violent acts except in self-defense. He also pointed out that the Protestants seemed to glorify the “killers” while the Catholics remembered the victims.

Stevie “Top Gun” McKeag

More honoring of “The Murderers” – to quote Chris.  The guns appear to follow your movements.

He continued on with the discrimination theme by pointing out that in order to have a vote in the elections, you had to own a house but if you were Protestant and owned your home, all adults living in the house could vote but if you were Catholic and owned a house, only you could vote. In this way the minority Protestant population ensured they maintained control over the Catholic majority since the judiciary and government controlled everything. It did seem to me that that was a fairly significant level of discrimination.

From there it was off to the Peace Line which divide the two.

Terry looking a little pensive

The wall is forty-five feet high but doesn’t actually split the entire city but rather just some neighborhoods. At one time there was apparently 45 kms of wall but I think that has changed somewhat.

Just some neighborhoods

If you look at the photos above the map you will see the street. These photos were taken on the Protestant side of the wall. All along the street runs a park which further separates the homes from the wall by a further 75 – 100 feet.

There are three gates in the major sections of the wall. Two of them close every night and the third has many security cameras around it. If it looks like some trouble might be brewing, they can be automatically be shut.

One of the gates

This is the opposite side of the wall – in the Catholic neighborhood. They back up right to the fence and have put up these cages to protect themselves from thing, possibly bricks, being thrown over the wall. Compare it to the Protestant side. Perhaps a little more discrimination? 

Nice way to live

He also took us to a memorial garden which listed all the names of the Republican soldiers
and civilians who died and showed us one of the plastic bullets the police and soldiers used. There are several documented cases of the soldiers shooting the bullets directly at civilian’s heads, resulting in their deaths. It was 5 or so inches long with a diameter of about 1 and a half inches.

Did not look anything like what I thought a plastic bullet would look like

Remember how Chris talked about the Protestant murals proudly showing their heroes?

Here are the Catholic heroes.

Perhaps the most famous

Following Sands’s election win in 1980, the British government introduced the Representation of the People Act 1981 which prevents prisoners serving jail terms of more than one year in either the UK or the Republic of Ireland from being nominated as candidates in British elections. The enactment of the law, as a direct response to the election of Sands, consequently prevented other hunger strikers from being elected to the House of Commons. The Catholic perspective is that the government did this because Margaret Thatcher refused to sit in Parliament with Sands. When she died, apparently there was dancing in the streets to the tune of The Witch is dead!

Not as to Chris’s balance perspective. I would have to agree that it was very balanced – every time he told us something good about the Catholics, he told us something bad about the Protestant.

And now for something a little less maudlin and, frankly, depressing.

Just how would this work?

Kelly’s Cellar – this place could never be painted – there is just too much stuff. The ceiling is about 7 feet high.

The Crowne – a rather famous Belfast pub with overpriced wine and not a particularly good pint.

Just stopping in for a pint – on Monday afternoon.

The story about The Crowne is that a married couple – he Irish, she English wanted to open the pub. She wanted to call it The Crowne and his response was that the only way that would happen was if he could put a mosaic of the crown in the floor. She agreed and now everytime an Irishman walks in, he walks all over the crown.


The Shining Light leads us home

The Shoe Blog

And finally – not from Ireland, but from our good friend Peter. I hope he asked!

Belong to a grade 12 student at University Hill Secondary




The Beauty of Ireland – Part 2

After our hearty breakfast we were off. Jackie, our B and B host, told us we should do the Bray Head loop, that it held fantastic vistas. When we got there the signage indicated that the loop was 5k which wouldn’t be a problem for four fit hikers like us.

We crossed over the stile to the unfenced pasture and came face to face with several of the inhabitants.

Just grazing away

Further up

More of the inhabitants


Hope that pink is just paint… and not that, as Martin suggested, there may be a Kerryman in the area.

Now the path up was just a little rocky but not too bad.

Martin on the way up

Looking back dow the trail all you could see was the gorse on the bog.

Looking out just before we start to climb. Skellig Michael (home to the final scene in the last Star Wars movie) in the distance

More cattle – they were bored by the view I guess since they never really looked up.

Remember Where’s Waldo? Well, spot Bessie

Can you find me?

The gorse is quite attractive, unless of course you are looking for a golf ball.

Looking out from the viewpoint.

Skellig Michael

I take Terry taking me taking Lynne and Martin

Terry takes me taking Lynne and Martin

Okay so it looks like a pleasant enough jaunt, doesn’t it. Well it wasn’t. The path to viewpoint was fine as the picture showed. That was about 2200 paces. After that however, there was no gravel path just a frequently walked path through the gorse and heather – and that was covering the wet bog which lay just beneath. If we had known then what we know now I am 100% confident we would have just walked back down the way we came up, but being the intrepid hikers we are, we set out to complete the loop. Terry and Lynne had shoes on while Martin and I were in sandals/flip flops. Have you ever walked through gorse in sandals? It is an experience I would highly recommend if you want to get the feeling of walking over broken glass without actually breaking glass. It was also another 4000 or so paces to get back down and was quite the adventure. We had to wander all over the place looking for the driest way down. Add to that the fact that ever since we had left the car I had needed the facilities and – well, let’s just say that it was a little tight coming down.

Looking back it doesn’t look that bad, does it. That dark green strip in the middle is kind of like Chinese traffic lights – just suggestions since it was often very muddy where that “path” went.

From above you can see the distance but you can’t see the elevation or the vegetation. Even the cows and sheep didn’t bother going up there.

I can’t wait to get back to the KVR trail!

From there it was off to Sneem via a very twisty turn narrow road along the south coast for a spot of lunch.

Beautiful river

Bars, bars and more bars – both the gray and yellow buildings are also bars.

This guy looks about how I felt.

I’ll just have a wee nap…

If you saw this photo on Facebook, I think I mentioned that it had been a loooooonnnnnggggg day. It started with the trek, then took 5 hours of driving time to cover the distance that says it should take 3 hours and 8 minutes to cover.

It never tasted so good!

How does it take so long to get anywhere?

We were also exhausted because we could not find a hotel for the evening – everything was booked for some bizarre reason. We finally found the Hiberian Hotel in Mallow.

If you are going to use the toilet in this hotel, you need a game plan since once you sit down and fully reach out, you are still 18-20 inches away from the roll.

Reach out and I’ll be there

Until next time.

The Beauty of Ireland

Well we reached the south of Ireland.

Here we are – all the way down to Knightstown on Valentia Island an island of 800 people- just across from Cahersiveen.

We’re going to divide this post into Variety and Views. We lead off with variety.

Despite having a somewhat mediocre pint in Castleisland – aptly named since it is land locked we came upon these two signs. The first was in a pub and the second – well, you figure it out.

You Go Mouse!

Just what does that mean?

Not sure how this would even happen. It was on an SUV which had a rear door that opened.


Dyslexic maybe?

These were on the ferry wharf. Pretty sure they caught the lobster that morning that became my dinner that evening -see below – which I had in the cream building just beyond them.

Dinner traps

Nothing fancy – just pure lobster – and fresh crab to replace the bits you don’t eat.

This sign was above the door inside the restaurant. Laughed like a madman…

Politically Correct?

I wanted to sing The Loadout by Jackson Browne to these guys.

Like the supervisor on the left – he was directing them.

Our ferry to Knightstown.

We had five cars on our voyage

Which weed do you think they meant?

I was then confused about the spelling of Knightstown – or is it Knights Town?

Sell pretty much everything, I guess

Anchors away, Terry, anchors away.

Somebody got something wrong

Go right – no left, no…

I quit!

I’m not digging another damn hole.

We stayed at the Atlantic Villa B and B where everything came from their garden – eggs, edible nasturtium garnish, and the wild boar sausage. Not sure how they came from the garden but far be it from me to comment. I will say that I have never eaten sausages so hot. I cut them up into little pieces and still the steam came off them. Left one because it was just too hot.

Fresh eggs for the Atlantic Villa B and B

The obligatory arty photo

See caption below

No words except that Terry found this a little disturbing. How about you?

And now, well almost now, the views.

Terry on the way to the top of the island.

The Three Amigos

Young (ish) love

And NOW the views

Dingle Peninsula

Controversial Skellig Michael – home to the final scene in Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Terry thinks this looks exactly like a breast with the nipple standing – perhaps it is cold?

Really Terry, a breast?

View from the restaurant at dinnertime.

The Sporadic Shoe Blog 

We had a long chat with the owner, Bridie. I told her about the shoe blog and she very graciously allowed me to take the picture


And now, just wait for the next post. The photos are – wait for it –