Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 5)

Day 22- Canada/Alaska: Haines.

What a lovely little place to wake up to! This was the view I saw when I drew back the curtains.

It wasn’t a great morning. I was so SLEEPY

After the shenanigans of the first night of our trip, Megan’s snoring and sleepwalking had been fine. But unfortunately, the snoring reached new heights last night. Seriously, I could almost believe someone snuck a megaphone into the room and she was using it. At one stage I raised myself on an elbow to see if she was sleeping on her back, so that I could tell her to roll over. But no. She was already lying on her side.

You know how if you get up, you REALLY wake yourself up? I decided that if I got up and started rummaging around in my suitcase for the earplugs I brought with me, then I’d be wide awake, for the rest of the night. So I lay there and tried to drift with the movement of the ship.

It was a restless night, which was made worse by the guy, (not our lovely regular butler), bringing us our room service breakfast. We ordered it for 7 – 7:30, but he brought it 10 minutes early and SWITCHED ON THE ELECTRIC LIGHTS, instead of drawing the blinds.

Bloody hell.

Even though it was early, my poached egg and avo on toast was stone cold. It’s not the recommended temperature to eat them. My Americano coffee was normal-strength coffee.

Like a first-world hero, I set aside these huge drawbacks and struggled to the dock on time to meet our tour guide. I was sleepy and quiet.

Megan was very apologetic, but it’s not as if she deliberately set out to make a noise proclaiming, “I’M FAST ASLEEP AND YOU’RE NOT HAHA!”

But I told her that when we get back to the ship, I’m reserving the right to take a nap.

This was one of the ‘free’ excursions we selected before starting the cruise. All we had were tickets saying, “Tour Haines Summit Viewing.” We had no idea what we’d signed up for. I was assuming it was a quick bus tour up and down the only street of Haines, but I was wrong.

We were asked to bring our passports. That should have clued me in. We were popping back to Canada!

Incidentally, one of the things I really like about Alaska and Canada is that they have planter boxes filled with flowers all over the place. The councils have them in public places, but they’re everywhere in private homes too. My hypothesis is that when the snow melts, they have a limited time to enjoy seeing colour, so they go all out.

Our tour guide for today was a very jaunty woman named Elora.

“This is my first time being allowed to take a tour by myself,” she said as she took our tickets. We had to sign waivers… “We DO live in bear country!” she said as she handed them out.

There was slight confusion as 8 people turned up to take the tour. “I was only told 7,” said Elora. When we turned up to the bus, only 7 people got in. Elora, being her first time in sole responsibility, got flustered. She went looking for the unidentified person, and it was only when she returned to the bus that I asked her for the waiver forms and started calling the names out from them.

Like good little students on an excursion, everyone answered – except an Asian lady who had filled out a different form and then disappeared, presumably on her proper tour, never to be seen by us again.

You can take a teacher out of the classroom, but she never loses the skills. I know how to keep track of many people on an excursion, even when I’m sleepy.

Around 20 minutes later, I woke up completely. I was in the front seat of the bus, idly wondering if I should use the tine to take a nap, when I found myself yelling, “BEAR!!!!”

Frogdancer Jones, one of the most unobservant people on the planet, was the one to notice a fine fat Grizzly, sitting in a gravel pit by the side of the road, eating dandelions.

Elora jammed on the brakes and slowly backed the Pelican up so we could all get photos.

l was so pleased with myself. I’ve now seen both the black and grizzly bears.

I kept an eye out for the rest of the trip, but the grizzly was the only animal on offer.

We were held up by roadworks for a while. There is only one road in and out of Haines, so when an avalanche demolishes part of it, it’s a real drama. Parts of the highway were built up so that prevalent avalanche spots can pass underneath the road.

This river beside the road is one that never totally freezes, so it has the last salmon run in the area, usually in November. Around 4,000 Bald Eagles come, as well as bears, to feast on the fish.

That’d be a sight to see, for sure.

Suddenly, we were at the border. A polite Canadian border officer rifled through our passports and then let us go on our way.

Soon after we crossed the border, the vegetation changed.

“This here’s the tundra,” said Elora.”It looks like we’re on another planet, don’t it?”

I snapped this shot to show you what the scenery was like as we were travelling around in the Pelican. The mountains are huge.

We were heading for the summit at 3,500 feet/1,066 metres.

“A week ago all of this ground was snowcapped. It’s melting pretty rapidly. The river by the side of the road wasn’t visible last week,” said Elora.

This place is incredibly isolated. It’s an 8-hour drive to the next town, called Whitehorse, so it’s actually quicker and cheaper to take a 2-hour ferry ride to Skagway, and then drive 2 hours to the town. The weather is completely unreliable, so if someone leaves town to do some shopping, they may find that they have to spend a couple of extra nights in a hotel before they can get back home.

“Costco is the cheapest,” said Elora. “Whenever someone goes to Costco, they take orders from people. For example, a 4-pack of toilet rolls is $12 in Haines. In Costco, you can get a 48-roll slab for that price. So whenever we go to Whitehorse, we CLEAN UP!”

They used to go to Juneau to the Walmart, but it had to shut down because of theft, so now the good people of Haines go to Whitehorse instead.

“Do you people have overnight delivery?” asked Elora. When we all said yes, she continued, “We order non-perishables from Amazon, but they take 3 weeks to here. Half the time, I can’t remember what I ordered by the time the package gets here!”

As I was getting out of the bus to view the summit, a tiny movement caught my eye around the bush near the sign.

It was a ground squirrel.

I stood there taking pictures of it while everyone else was standing right nearby, oblivious. After a minute or so, it decided to quietly go away.

We stood there in the cold and wind when a truck came rushing past. It wasn’t the most well-used road I’d ever seen. Later, Elora was complaining about “all the traffic” she had in front of her on the way back to town.

There were two cars.

You could see how thick the snow was by the side of the road.

The highway was lined with these poles on either side of the road. These are for the snowploughs, so they don’t lose track of where the road is and drive off the side.

I can’t even imagine how deep the snow might get here.

We had some time to kill so she showed us the local newspaper. It’s released every two weeks and is this thin.

Everything has to be put in it, even the police reports.

The crime rate is so low that there are only two police assigned to the town.

Here are some of the 911 calls the intrepid police had to handle:

A request for assistance for two dogs quilled by a porcupine.

A man was reported trespassing on the road.

A vehicle was reported parked more than the posted time limit in the town centre.

A backpack was turned in.

A wallet was turned in.

You can enlarge the items and read them. There’s certainly not much excitement happening in Haines!

The views changed from the windows every few minutes.

We stopped at the US border crossing post for a toilet break. This little building caught my eye.

A very American sign!

To think that I pull out any dandelion I see in my garden. It’s probably a wise move – they attract bears.

We set off again, and then to our surprise, Elora pulled off to the side of the road. We were going to have a picnic! Or as Elora phrased it, we were going to “break bread together.”

This caused a bit of consternation with the British members of the Pelican, who were worried that she was going to pass a loaf of bread around and that would be it.

Honestly, that woman was working her arse off. There were supposed to be two people but they were running low on staff, so she had to drive, talk to us about everything we were seeing, prepare the lunch and answer any questions we may have. She was already thrown by the mysterious appearance and disappearance of pasenger number 8, but she was doing a cracking job.

Look at the scenery!

Honestly, everywhere you look in this country, there are amazing vistas around every corner.

Looking forward to the road we’d soon be travelling on, back to town.

Over lunch of chicken wraps, a bag of potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie each, people told Elora that they hadn’t seen many bears. She kindly shared the following two videos with us.

Here’s the first video Elora shared with us.

This was taken on the summit where we had just been.

How wonderful! And a little scary…

This one was taken at the local weir. The salmon are shut off except for one point where wildlife officers count how many go through. Meanwhile, the bears come down and eat their fill.

Once we were back on the bus, I asked Elora if love or freedom was the reason she’d left the law and come to Alaska from New Jersey. She laughed and said, “Good question!” Then she grew a little sombre and turned off the microphone. She leaned towards me and said, “A bad divorce does things to people. I didn’t want any memories, so I came to Alaska. There ain’t no memories here!”

Once we were back in town, we went for a wander to look for souvenirs.

Like when I found my beautiful moose antler sculpture in Sitka, I felt in my waters that there might be something here at this pretty little place.

A jewellery maker had his wares here. Look at this amber! I’ve never seen anything like it. The jeweller said that it was formed in seawater.

When we came back to the room, I went straight to bed for a nap before dinner. Megan said, “I’ll sit here on the couch and do my puzzles while you sleep.”

I woke up 2 hours later to this:

It made me laugh!

Dad joke of the day:

Poppy.

Poppy has gone rapidly downhill, and Georgia has made the call that it’s time to green dream.

She’ll be going over the rainbow bridge later today.

This is her on our last walk on the beach, eagerly waiting for me to throw the ball.

This is her last night, home from the Emergency Vet, lying on my dressing gown with her brother Jeffrey beside her on the left. They were probably lying like that in the womb.

I’ll miss my constant shadow. The only quality she lacks is a sense of humour – she’s the most intense Cavalier I’ve ever owned – and the most beautiful. I’m not sure how I’ll ever get anything done without my little helper by my side at all times. (Well, except when there was someone in the kitchen!)

Goodbye my baby girl.

I love you.

Day 11 – Canada/Alaska – Butchart Gardens

Woo hoo! Megan and I got the coveted front seat on the bus! She’s sure it’s because she bumped into Sharon in Whistler yesterday and mentioned that she had here yes shit all the way from Jasper to Whistler because of travel sickness.

Being in the front seat, we were on Wildlife Duty. No wildlife showed themselves, so it was pretty easy.

Or maybe we were just really bad at it…?

This is the second biggest granite outcrop after Gibraltar.

The white patch on the mountain is said to look like a witch flying on a broomstick, but I see a duck looking over its shoulder.

We stopped along the way back into Vancouver for a look at the Shannon Falls. 

It’s 3 times higher than Niagara Falls.

When Sharon said this, I thought I’d heard wrong. Isn’t Niagara Falls supposed to be HUGE? When I asked Sharon about it, she smiled and said, “Niagara Falls is only about 51 metres tall. But it’s wide,” and she spread her arms wide to illustrate what she meant. 

The falls started from way above our heads.

I don’t know what it is about running water, but everyone seems to love it.

Here’s a photo of Megan taking a photo of some of the people from the coach.

There was a path along the side of the falls that wound back towards where the coach was parked. The stream running alongside was very pretty.

Here’s an action shot.

The temperate rainforest reminded me a little of the Dandenongs.

I must take a drive up there when I get back.

There were some wonderful vistas on the drive.

Also, some very pretty number plates.

We saw that in Canada some provinces don’t require front number plates on their cars. That seems bizarre to me, but Sharon said it was the poorer provinces, to save money.

Here’s a tunnel under the Fraser River in Vancouver.

Seems crazy that they don’t have an emergency lane. How would they clear the tunnel if someone had an accident?

We had to take the ferry to Vancouver Island. We grabbed lunch and then we sat by a window.

Megan was following the course of the ferry, on a map on her phone, while I sat and wrote this post, looking out of the window now and then to enjoy the scenery. Once I finished, I took a nap with my head down on the table. People kept coming up and asking Megan if I was all right, which spoiled the nap a little. But I felt rejuvenated once we got back on the coach.

I was worried about Poppy. Georgia had to take her to the vet because she wasn’t eating, which for Poppy is UNTHINKABLE.

This is the photo Georgia sent me as proof of life. She’s now on a course of antibiotics and we’re waiting to hear the results of the blood tests. Our vet is very ‘hands-off’ when it comes to ordering expensive tests, so the fact that Poppy had them is making me even more worried.

She’s my shadow.

Anyway, I can’t do anything about it from here and I trust Georgia implicitly with the dogs so they’re in the best hands. Georgia said that Jeffrey doesn’t have a care in the world, but Scout is sticking closely to Poppy.

We went to Butchart Gardens, where even the rubbish bins are pretty.

This was a fabulous place. A rich family moved here in the mid-1880’s and ran a quarry right near the house that they lived in. When the quarry was empty, there was a great big hole left. What an eyesore!

Mrs Jenny Butchart bet her husband Robert 25c that she could create a beautiful garden there. Safe to say, she won the bet.

It shows what money can do. There’s no denying that she had the vision to see what could be done. But she had the money behind her to make it happen.

She laid rocks around where the garden beds were to be, then had tip trucks full of topsoil come and dump their loads to create the canvas for the garden.

She had guts. When the garden beds were completed, the bare walls of the old quarry looked awful. So she swung from ropes as she went down the sides of the quarry, putting some soil and a vine in every hole and crevice that she could.

It transformed the place.

We bumped into the couple who were chased by the bear yesterday. He showed me a picture of how close the bear got. Mehgan moved away, and I had to listen to his ideas about how much this garden would be worth if the heirs sold it all to create housing.

“I reckon there’d be at least 50 million,” he said. “Imagine getting your hands on all that money?”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” I said. “It seems like there’s it’s a family legacy.”

“But there’s always one grandchild who wants to get their hands on the money,” he argued.

“Yes, but it looks like there’s always one who wants to carry the legacy onwards. Sharon said there’s a great-granddaughter running the place now,” I said.

It was strange. Amid such beauty and obvious dedication to the upkeep, all he could see was dollar signs.

As time went on, the Butcharts expanded the garden by buying more land around them. There was also a formal Italian garden that they put on top of their tennis court.

I think they got a little bit carried away by this stage.

I saw a gardener and went over to have a chat. The garden is full of flowers and the gardeners are committed to making sure that whatever the season, the place will be full of colour and fragrance.

They achieve this by extensive use of annuals, overplanting them around the permanent plants.

They don’t plant anything unless it has at least a couple of flowers out. These plants will last until October, when they’ll be pulled out and something else will take their place.

A Monkey-Puzzle tree! I remember this from the estate we went to in Ireland. The Victorians loved them.

Here’s one that Megan spotted, covered with blossoms.

The gardens were dotted with water features. Here’s Megan, enraptured by the dragon.

I was very excited by this one. My first Redwood!

I liked the line of tiles on the steps here. Maybe I could try this at home?

See how the boar’s snout is gold? You get good luck from touching it. I, of course, am Fortunate Frogdancer so I’m already lucky, but I loaded up on some more luck, just in case.

Megan’s loading up on good luck too.

There was colour everywhere.

And I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I like a good sculpture.

Here’s the one that was in the background of the previous photo. Hermes was the messenger for the gods of ancient Greece.

It’s a pity that a bird pooed on his shoulder.

Everyone kept talking about the signature Blue Poppies that these gardens are renowned for. When I finally tracked them down after asking if any were blooming, to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed.

I thought they’d be a cornflower blue, instead of this more subtle shade.

I liked how the lanterns were the same shade as the wisteria. I had no idea it came in yellow!

I love azaleas.

These were massive.

I also ran a little mad in the gift shop:

Some silver earrings, and…

… these wonderful ceramic numbers for The Best House in Melbourne.

All I have to do is figure out how to attach them to the fence…

That’s all for today. We have a free day in Victoria, Vancouver Island tomorrow.

(Well, I have a free AFTERNOON. Megan is out whale-watching while I’ve been getting this blog up to date. It’s 11:50 now. I’m going to jump into the shower and then go and explore Victoria!)

Our tour ends tomorrow. Amazing how quickly it’s passed.

Dad joke of the day:

Our adventures have started and we haven’t even left home yet!

We leave on Sunday for our land tour of Canada and our expedition cruise to Alaska.

Friday night at 10 I listened to my voicemails and there was a message from Megs, my travel partner: “Look at your emails.”

Our Alaskan cruise has been cancelled. The ship had a problem that was discovered during a scheduled maintenance stop and the company was pulling the whole cruise.

Bloody hell. We booked the trip through Flight Centre and they don’t open on weekends. We had just one day to get this sorted.

OMG it was a THING!

I left an email for Montana, our travel agent, saying I’d be there at 9 AM. Then I spent the rest of the evening until 1 AM messaging with Scott and my Antarctica friends about possible workarounds.

At 8, I received a call from Montana asking us to come in at 12, to give her time to work through some options.

Well, we got to the travel agents at 12 and we left at 4:45.

It was a huge drama, much more than I thought it would be. We tried about 20 different alternatives, with the travel agent calling different companies to find out whether different tours and holidays would work with our dates. She started with 3 possible cruises. One was hellishly expensive and the others were only 7 days. (Our original cruise was 14 days.) One had children on board – yucky.

We started looking through brochures and exploring other options. Land tours? A combo of a short cruise and land tour? Going into the US instead?

Nothing would work. It was a nightmare.

Finally, after 2 hours, I looked at Megan and said, “I think we have to go with the expensive cruise. It’s the only thing that fits.”

She was reluctant, as she’s putting a new kitchen in as soon as we get back, but it was the only way.

It’s a 10 night cruise to Alaska. We’ve been upgraded to a balcony room WITH OUR OWN BUTLER!!!!!!

Haha! Not very frugal at all.

My Antarctica friends are now coming up with crazy requests for the butler. This could be fun…

The annoying thing is now that we’re not on an expedition ship anymore, we’ll have to dress for dinner. Apparently, “elegant casual” is the way to go. I’m going to have to bring my linen clothes – at least I’ll have a butler to iron them for me!!

A know-it-all woman I used to work with had this suggestion on FB:

“Little black dress, 3 bright scarves, 1 Isadora scarf, sparkly jewellery, a headband and a feather.”

Sure, like I have those things in my wardrobe… She said they might have ‘theme’ nights but we’ll be in the air when the company emails their ship information to us, so we’ll be missing that info. Never mind… maybe we could get the butler to help us?

“James! Find me a costume for the Bordello in Mexico night!!”

All up, after we get a full refund from the cancelled cruise, we’ll be $2,200 or so out of pocket. Our travel agent will see if our travel insurance will come to the party on any of this. Our holiday will be a few days’ shorter than originally intended, but hey – it’s better than being two WEEKS shorter, which was what it was starting to look like!

I got home utterly exhausted and was in bed at 8:20 PM.

So we leave on Sunday at 11AM, with a full itinerary, thank goodness. If anyone in Melbourne is looking for a good travel agent, Montana Edwards at Flight Centre Mordialloc is like a dog with a bone. She wasn’t stopping until our trip was sorted.

I guess I should start to pack now, hey?

Proper travel blogging will commence shortly. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #103

What’s top of my mind: My 7th continent!

Yes, in a few more days I’ll get the set! Megs and I leave on Sunday.

I can’t tell you how incredibly lucky I feel to be one of the few people in human history who will be able to say that I’ve set foot on all 7 continents. We live in an amazing time, that’s for sure.

Where I’m going: Canada and Alaska.

I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t enjoyed this trip. Everyone raves about it, so even though I’m pretty much going inblind, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a good time.

We’re meeting Martha (a blog reader) on our free day in Vancouver. I’m looking forward to this. 🙂

Where I’ve been: in denial.

I’ve done no research, no packing, no real garden prep for winter… Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have 3 days to get my shit together.

What I’m reading: SO MANY BOOKS.

But I don’t have the time to back-track through Goodreads for you.

Sorry.

What I’m watching: ‘The Gentlemen’ on Netflix.

I finished this last night and I loved it. As soon as my sister told me it was a Guy Ritchie series, I was in.

What I’m listening to: Jeffrey snoring.

Apparently, I’ll be swapping this for Megs snoring…

I’ve already bought some earplugs, but to be honest I’m not fond of the idea of earplugs. It’s a safety thing. Still, I’m going to give them a red hot go.

What I’m eating: Food.

Nothing of note.

What I’m planning: Liga’s road trip in Australia.

Remember my Antarctica trip and how we ended up being a tight friendship group? I stayed with Corinna last year in London and now Liga from Latvia is coming to Australia in November! I’m so excited.

She said that she wants to see 4 things while she’s here: 1. Me. 2. The Opera House. 3. Uluru. 4. The Great Barrier Reef.

Fortunately, she has around 3 weeks up her sleeve, so her wishes are do-able. It’s going to be tight, though. Latvia is a country the size of Tasmania, so I’m not sure Liga’s got her head around precisely how big Australia is.

I’ve spent far more time working on this trip than I have on Canada/Alaska. This will be Liga’s 7th continent so I want to make sure that she sees as much as possible.

She and her friend (also called Liga) will land in Sydney and spend 3 or 4 days there. They’ll then fly down to me. On the first day, I’ll take them to Healesville Sanctuary to see all the Aussie animals. Then – the road trip starts.

Melbourne – Halls Gap – The Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool – Adelaide – Port Augusta – Coober Pedy – Uluru.

I leave them there, and after a couple of days, they fly out to Cairns to the rainforests and the Reef. Then home.

They’ll see the bush, the desert and the rainforests. Cities and the Outback.

I was going to drop them off at Adelaide, but Liga said that she wanted to drive in the desert with the red sands stretching away on either side. I thought that sounded cool, so once I found out that the Ligas were going to be charged $ 900 USD extra for hiring a car in Adelaide and leaving it at Uluru, I decided to just drive up there with them.

The drive to Uluru and back isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Who deserves a thumbs-up: The travel money people.

As I was typing, I got a text to say that my CAD and USD money is now available. Off I got to Mornington to pick it up!

What has made me smile: our early Mother’s Day.

Megs and I are flying out early in Mothers Day, so the kids gathered here on Sunday for an early MD. Jenna couldn’t make it as she wasn’t feeling well, but everyone else was here. It was lovely to see the two quiet girls, Izzy and Sophie, get to know each other better.

Tom32 took me out to dinner a few days before, so we had a lovely evening just chilling. He lives in Frankston and the council there has invested heavily in street art, so he took me on a little walking tour before we grabbed dinner. Just up my alley! (No pun intended.)

Evan27 gave me some flowers with a card that read:

“Hey Mum, Happy Mothers Day.

I adore you and have such a privileged life with you as my mother. Even if it was a lot of smoke and mirrors in the early years and times were tougher than I realised. It was a delight.

Now, even if we don’t see or even talk to each other every day, it’s nice knowing you’re always there when I need you.

It’s been great becoming friends as adults on top of mother and son. I’m thrilled for you, with all these travels and can’t wait to read all about it.”

Do you know what this means?????

I finished reading it, turned to him and said, “Does this mean you’re going to READ MY BLOG???”

He laughed and said, “Well, I’m going to try!”

Dreams do come true!

So yes. Starting from now – the travel posts will be back on both blogs.

Dad joke of the day:

No Wed W’s this week –

Here’s the set up for Christmas Day inside. Ugh. Inside. How strange.

I spent so much time, effort and money and making the gardens look beautiful for the Big Day, and in the end no one saw it.

I wrote about our day HERE on the other blog. Pop across and have a look. It has a different Dad joke… it’s better than this one, to be honest.

I’ve suddenly got my quilting mojo back so I’m going to be going into my sewing room and actually using it for the first time in a year…

Have a happy few days between Christmas and New Year! Always a strange time of year.

Dad joke of the day:

Day 30: Colchester Castle, an arty house and Harwich.

“Colchester has seen better days,” said Scott as we picked our way through the shopping mall in the centre of town.
I nodded in reply, keeping a tight grip on my iPhone. There were quite a few dodgy-looking people hanging around.

However, once we got the stuff from the chemist that Scott needed to fight his chest infection, we were out of there and on to the HISTORY!
The Priory at Colchester is a fabulous example of 1100’s Norman architecture.

A surprising amount of the original building is still standing. Normally, there’s just a couple of walls standing, but with this abbey you csn get a feal feel for the layout of the place. These sturdy circular columns were certainly built to last!

The information board says, “The priory of St Julian and St Botolph was founded in 1103 by a community of priests who had previously served an important church on this site. The dedication to St Botolph, an East Anglian abbot who died in 680, indicates a Saxon origin for the community.”

“Influenced by widespread church reforms, the community chose to embrace the full religious life in the 1090s.”

So this was all well and good, but things went a little sour when 500 years later, Henry VIII decided to create the Church of England and grab all of the abbeys and churches for himself and his friends.

But get this…!

“By the early 1530s, the priory was home to a much reduced community. It was closed on the orders of Henry VIII in 1536 and its assets were granted to Sir Thomas Audley, the king’s Lord Chancellor who died in 1544.

Sir Thomas Audley!!!!
We were at Audley End only two days ago. I love it when the patchwork starts coming together.

This ruin was so beautiful.
But a castle was awaiting us.

Colchester is the oldest city in the UK. The Romans established it as their capital city here. It was completely torn down and burned to a crisp when Boudicca rebelled against the Romans. Even today, if you dig far enough, you’ll find a thick layer of black that marks where Boudicca and her troops taught the Romans a lesson. It’s called “The Boudicca Destruction Layer.” I think London has one too.

We’ll return to those days in a second.

Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe. It’s built to the same plan as the White Tower in the Tower of London, but it’s 50% bigger. No-one knows how tall the castle was. 2, 3 or 4 floors. Drawings differ.
Anyway, in 1074 it was built. It was used extensively until the late 1200’s until the crown sold it in 1670.

But first – they had this excellent sculpture in the gardens to celebrate the recent coronation. It looked really good. It’s made from woven willow branches.

Fortunate Frogdancer and Scott arrived at the castle just in time to jump onto a guided tour. I really like these… you often hear bits and pieces that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know.
The tour began under the castle. Down in the foundations, which were originally the foundations of a Roman Temple for Claudius.

When Emperor Claudius was alive, he brought troops over to England to expand the Roman Empire. There had been a bit of trade going on between the Romans and Saxons, but when he turned up for 3 days (after the fighting had finished) with a few thousand troops and 18 elephants, then Colchester and it’s surroundings became part of the Roman Empire.

When Claudius died a few years later, he became a god (of course) and so a huge temple was built at Colchester.

Here’s the guide, down in the vaults, showing us a model. It’s to scale… see the tiny human figure on the front steps?

Anyway, the temple was only up and running for 3 years when Boudicca swung into town in 860 or 861 and everything was toppled and burned to the ground, including the temple.

Not to be deterred, the temple was rebuilt, along with the rest of the town, and was in use for another 3 or 4 centuries, until the Romans packed up and left in 410. After that, it quietly sat there being gradually plundered for building supplies for people’s houses probably, until William the Conqueror came along and needed a castle built pronto.

The walls of the vaults all look like this. They are made of mudstone brought out from the river, with the lower levels being made of sand to stabilise the whole building. The white bit to the left is an oyster shell. The guide said that a worker must have thrown it aside after eating the oyster for lunch.

The gaps between rooms were very small.

Look at this! A Roman tile, complete with finger marks from the man who made it. We passed this around the group. We see so many of these tiles as we go around and look at the old churches.

And this is part of a Roman mosaic.

Then it was up to the Great Stairs. These are 4.8 metres in diameter and are the largest stairs in a Norman castle in England. Notice how the spiral turns to the right? This castle was built for defence.

As we were standing at the bottom of the stairs, we could see some graffiti that had been carved into the walls over the years. The guide pointed this one out and said that it was a sign to ward off witches.

There was a witch hunter who lived at the castle for a while. He died when he was 27, but before that he killed over 200 “witches.”

I bet you a million dollars that if I’d been alive then, I would’ve been in trouble. Me with my 3 “familiars”, my herb growing and single ways…

Unless my 4 sturdy sons saved me. But then again, I would have died in childbirth trying to deliver Tom31, so I would have been pretty much screwed either way.

Up we went, and onto the roof.

It was good to be out in the open air, looking at the view.

As we emerged out of a doorway back to the upper floor of the castle, we found ourselves in the middle of a group of primary school kids who were there on an excursion.

“What’s behind that door?” demanded a blond, bullet-headed boy with piercing blue eyes.

“I can’t tell you,” I said. “It’s for grownups.”

“Awwww,” he said.

Later, I bumped into him again.

“No really, how did you get behind that door?” he demanded.

“I’m sorry. They only let Australians see behind the door. I’m Australian,”.

His face darkened with indignation. “But I’m from Colchester!”

Look! Roman tiles being recycled in the castle!

A Roman soldier for the Christmas tree.

And a witch.

We wandered around town for a while after we left the castle. There were a few pretty buildings around.

You can just about see this little guy on the photo above. By the way, I patted that dog.

It’s the last week of my holiday and I’m missing the little woofs. Oh! And the boys, of course.

This house doesn’t look like anything special, but some extremely influential people once lived here.

These women wrote “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” among other nursery rhymes.

After a sumptuous lunch of McDonalds, sitting on some benches near he bus stop, we went back to the car to track down something called “A House for Essex.”

There’s a guy called Grayson Perry who’s way famous in the UK. He’ an artist, documentary maker, cross-dress and ceramics maker who designed this holiday home in the middle of nowhere.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes the house:

“The house encapsulates the story of Julie May Cope, a fictional Essex woman,[47] “born in a flood-struck Canvey Island in 1953 and mown down last year by a curry delivery driver in Colchester”.[48] Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Ellis Woodman said, “Sporting a livery of green and white ceramic tiles, telephone-box red joinery and a gold roof, it is not easy to miss. … Decoration is everywhere: from the external tiles embossed with motifs referencing Julie’s rock-chick youth to extravagant tapestries recording her life’s full narrative. Perry has contributed ceramic sculptures, modelled on Irish Sheelanagigs, which celebrate her as a kind of latter-day earth mother while the delivery driver’s moped has even been repurposed as a chandelier suspended above the double-height living room.”[48]

It’s certainly eye-catching.

Scott was more enamoured with it than I was.

The nappy pins on the tiles were a whimsical touch, though.

You can rent the house for a little getaway, but you’d have to be prepared to have tourists peering through the windows.

Then we were off to Harwich, pronounced “Horritch” for some inexplicable English reason. Scott says it’s so they can spot the outsiders.

Harwich is supposed to be where the Mayflower set sail. Personally, I think that any boat full of religious extremists is bad news, but Harwich is milking this for all it’s worth, even though it’s not absolutely certain that this was the port.

It’s worth looking at the board to see some of the names. A few of these people have names that would take an awful lot to live up to.

And the baby born at sea on the way to America?
Oceanus.
That poor kid.

One thing Harwich IS sure about is that the captain of the Mayflower was a home-town boy. Here’s his house.

The weather had turned and it was starting to rain.

That night we went to a Mexican restaurant, where I ordered a margarita and what I thought would be a light meal of a salad.

it was bigger than my head.
Ah well. At least I went to bed with a full stomach.

Day 21: The Cliffs of Moher.

“On the coast, you will travel to the Cliffs of Moher. Braced against the ocean, on the coast of County Clare. Here you will stand on the dramatic 702ft (214m) high and 9 miles (14km) long cliffs, a Wild Atlantic Way signature discovery point, to gaze out on the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.”

This was the spiel for today I the itinerary.

What an incredible place. Patrick, a young man on the tour here with his wife on their honeymoon, said, “I’m relieved. I was scared the fog would roll in and it’d all be hidden.”

Here it is in all its glory.

Just to prove I was here.

Here’s what greeted me at the entrance to the Cliffs of Moher. A raven, cawing loudly. It seemed somehow appropriate.

The weather wasn’t kind to us. It was rainy and very windy. On the way, Ben reminded us a few times not to get too close to the edge of the cliffs. I wonder if many tourists have started to fly, or if it’s just a myth that the tour guides tell amongst themselves to feel a frisson of fear running down their backs.

Beautiful, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Remember when I had a Little Adventure there a year or so ago?

This little fort was interesting. Apparently when Napoleon was rampaging around Europe, they were scared he’d try and invade Ireland. They built a series of these forts all around the southern coast, enough forts so they collectively had eyes on every part of the coast.
However, it was a wasted effort because Napoleon didn’t try to invade.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how it felt to be there on the cliffs, my face being stung by the rain but seeing that incredible view stretching out before me. 

My Antarctica jackets… both my warm and my cold… certainly proved their worth today, as I felt perfectly warm. Most people around me were miserable, with one woman on our tour saying, “Fastest trip ever. Walk up to the top, take a look, then straight down again!”

What a waste. When are we ever going to be here again? 

So I stood there, leaning against the wall, soaking it all in. It was hard to ignore the excited Argentinians singing Happy Birthday to someone right beside me, but I did my best.

Even though the weather was wild, it seemed to somehow suit this place. It was stern and unmoving and beautiful.

The roads here are so narrow. There is a lot of tourism going on and the coaches are everywhere.

The Burren is a limestone area around 80 square miles wide. It used to be under the ocean near the equator in millenia gone by, as they’ve found fossils of warm water fish among the rocks.

In the 1640s, Cromwell’s surveyor Ludlow described it as “a savage land, yielding neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him.”

That didn’t stop him burning villages and then leaving the people nowhere to go but the Burren.

This is Kinvarra’s 11th century intact castle. That means that Cromwell was welcome. Any place that had Catholics living there had a very different response…

We drove past a memorial to the famine victims. This part of it is a little boy outside the workhouse doors. You can see the big hinges to the side.

This is a sacked Cistercian abbey. It was established in the 11th century, before Cromwell came over in 1649 to fuck things over for the Catholics. He only stayed a year, but he certainly made his mark on this country.

We passed by a golf course on both sides of the road. Ben mentioned “the love grass.” When someone asked what that was, he said, “They call it the Love Grass, because if you go in there you’re fucked!

I bought some stainless steel earrings with some Connemara marble in them.

We stopped at Adare village for half an hour.

(Incidentally, if you’re a member of my family reading this, please send me a message on Messenger.Just curious to see if anyone is following me on this trip. )

🙂

It’s such a pretty place. I think we all wished we could have stayed longer.

We headed off for 2 nights in Kilarney. This is Ben’s home town. You could almost see him swell with pride as we entered the town.

Not a bad welcome. This was right outside our hotel.

This was when sickness started to rip through our coach. Over the next few days, as many as 10 people were staying back at the hotel to spend a day in bed. Of course, when people started feeling bad, they didn’t wear masks to protect the rest of us.
I woke up this morning not feeling 100%, so I popped a mask on. I was hopeful that the Cliffs of Moher had blown the germs right out of me, but no such luck.
I didn’t have to miss any days on the bus, but I was certainly putting in marathon nights’ sleep for the next few nights. No going out and partying for Frogdancer Jones!

Day 20: Connemara, Kylemore Abbey and a fjord.

Connemara was beautiful and wild.
It’s harder country here than where we’ve been so far. Ben was telling us about the Connemara ponies, small white hoses, legend has it, were brought over by the Spanish Armada. They are highly prized for their jumping and racing abilities. Their foals are born brown and then turn white as they mature.

Along the way, we passed by two big hotels. “ Normally we’d stop at one or t’other for a toilet break,” said Ben, “ but we can’t now. They’re full of Ukrainians fleeing from the war.”

It brings it home a bit, how close everything is here to one another.

Lough Inagh

As the sun came out, it lit up the colours on the shore on the other side. The heather was glowing a reddish/brown colour, the grass was – of course- green and the bleating of the sheep wanting to be fed by the tourists and the sound of the wind was the only things I could hear.
( I blocked the tourist chatter out.)

There were a couple of houses on the road with big picture windows looking out over the lake. What a view to see every day!

Ben said that the EU are paying farmers to run sheep on the Connemara hills. They have to state how many head of sheep they have and are paid accordingly.
The EU keep a watch on them by using satellite technology. “ But the farmers, if they’ve over-estimated their sheep, they do things like paint the rocks white, or borrow some sheep from a neighbour.”


After our lit stop by the lake, we were off to Kylemore Abbey. This place has an interesting history.

A rich politician called Mitchell Henry, who was a really good landlord and fought for the rights of his tenants, fell in love with this place and decided to build a grand estate for his wife Margaret.

He certainly did.

The house looks like a fairytale castle as we crossed the bridge towards it. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that we all gasped when we saw it. It’s worth enlarging it to have a good look at it. Stunning.

He built the grand house – which, disappointingly, was a little boring when I went into it – but the gardens would have been superb. They were still amazing, even though the passing of time has not been kind to the scope they used to have.

Sorry about the weird photo. I’m learning how to transfer photo’s from my phone to my iPad because they haven’t all synched. Once I put them here I can’t delete them, so here is one I had second thoughts about but can’t get rid of. You’re welcome.

This is a portrait of his wife.

They lived there happily until, on a family holiday in Egypt, his wife died of dysentery. She was only 45.
My grandmother, who was a superstitious woman, would have said that the family was asking for misfortune, by having peacock feathers inside the house.


He ended up losing his fortune and, after changing hands a few times, the property came to the attention of a group of Irish Benedictine nuns who used to have an abbey in Ypres. They were evacuated to England by some Irish fusiliers when their abbey was bombed into oblivion, and in 1920 they came to what is now called the Abbey.

The Benedictines are an enclosed order. It was suggested to them by the Irish Archbishop in 1921 that the mountains be their walls. I like that. They still live here today, though their numbers are fewer.

They make heather honey, which has same healing properties as Manuka honey; handmade chocolates and they bake for the cafe. I had the best blueberry muffin I’ve ever eaten in my life here!

After looking at the house, I took the shuttle bus up the hill to the gardens. There, I saw a pig and them made my way towards an unassuming doorway towards the walled gardens.

This was what greeted me when I went through the gate.

Herbaceous border, anyone?

The gardens seemed to go on forever.

They have pops of turquoise which looks really good. I’m filing this away for use in my own garden…

A Monkey Puzzle tree. Originally from South America, for some reason they became a real “must have” in fashionable Victorian gardens.
I’m not really a fan, myself, but I grew up reading about Monkey Puzzle trees and at least now I know what they look like.

The roof in the back is the groundskeeper’s house. Not a bad job to have.

Naturally, I spent a lot of time wandering through the vegetable gardens, feeling a bit guilty that mine isn’t anywhere as beautifully tended as this one.

Nuns evidently eat a lot of rhubarb, just saying.

Even the walls were used, with espaliered fruit trees to catch every bit of the warmth from the sun on the bricks.

Could you grow enough to feed a family in a garden this size? I think so.

A fine lot of cabbages with marigolds interplanted within them. I started doing interplanting with flowers last year.
Looks like I’m onto a good thing.

Another nicely ordered bed. Butwhat is that furry looki Branch poking in at the top left side?

It’s an apple tree. I’ve seen one that’s covered with fur like this.

Can you imagine the nuns working in their garden, seeing the mountains surrounding them and feeling safe and enclosed?

The sound of swiftly running water made me peer through the fuchsia hedge. There was a stream.

There’s something about the sound of running water, isn’t there?

I saw my second robin red breast in the kitchen garden. It was happily flying in and out of the fuchsia hedge. I talked with an Irish couple who laughed when I said that I was excited to see the robin.
“They’re all over the place in Ireland,” he said.
It seems that I should keep a sharper look out.

I’m going to buy a red and purple fuchsia when I’m home. It’ll remind me of the fuch Hedge where I saw my robin.

This garden has everything – even Connemara ponies.

You can see the difference in the colour between the mother and her baby.

As I sat in the sun, waiting for the shuttle bus, I began to think of what life must have been like for the people who built this place.

The 27 hot houses where the ladies could take their walks when it was cold and wet. They’d likely take a pony trap or something to get them up here. It’s quite a hike for ladies with long skirts to do.

When they were in the hot houses they could eat a home-grown banana, which would be my idea of hell, but for them would be an unbelievable luxury.

There are only 2 hothouses here now and they’re tiny. But in his day, they were huge and were heated by pipes of hot water, which was also used to heat the house.

There were no trees here before he started the garden.

The hills around us are bare of all but grass, heather and sheep, but around the house and gardens are hundreds of trees. He certainly had the long game in mind when he planted this garden. One hundred and fifty years later, we’re getting the benefit.m

We slowed down beside the only fjord in Ireland, Killarney Fjord. During the Second World War, pilots would use the fjord as a line to guide them through to Europe.

Once during the war: there was a huge storm in the Atlantic and a British submarine took refuge in the fjord. They got a ping that a German submarine was right beside them. Neutral waters so they didn’t fire on each other, and when  the storm abated, they went their separate ways.

Ferry used to travel faster and the dolphins used to play with them. Now that petrol is so high, the ferries have slowed down and it’s no fun for the dolphins anymore.

Peahen and chicks, just wandering around the road in front of us.

Lines in the land means potatoes. The people who lived on these hills were a driven-down race of people who were driven from their ancestral lands and ended up here. It was poor land, so the displaced people were left alone.

They used to drag seaweed up to the top of the mountains to fertilise the potatoes. Over time they became experts on growing potatoes and that’s all they grew. When the Famine hit, they were decimated.

In the famine, 2 million people died and 2 million left. Those who could afford to, left. Those who couldn’t were left to take their chances. The population of Ireland hasn’t yet recovered since the famine. They’re still a million people short, even now.

The queen sent an envoy who wrote that the Irish were simply being lazy. Ben pointed to the lines in the mountains and said, “People who wouldn’t farm like this, do you think they would be lazy?”

Queen Victoria sent a shipload of corn. The trouble was, that corn was totally unfamiliar to the Irish. She helpfully included recipes, but they were written in English when everyone only spoke Irish. Plus they were illiterate, because they were forbidden to go to school.

The Choctaw Indians sent $450. They’d been through their own troubles with white settlement. Then during Covid, the Choctaws set up a Go Fund Me Fund an A million and a half euros sent back to return the favour. I guess the Irish never forget.

 Village of Cong, where The Quiet Man was filmed.

This place was doing a roaring trade with people just wanting to sit at the bar and drink a pint of Guinness.

Gayle was so happy. ‘The Quiet Man’ is her favourite movie so she was pretty much in heaven.

Cong is certainly living off the back of this movie! It’s a pretty little place though.

Turn your head to the side…

I bought this little card. It reminds me of the photo at the top of this post.

Day 6: Windsor Castle omg.

Today was the day I’d been waiting for. Today was the day that I was finally going to stand on Henry VIII’s grave. This was the deciding point of the question, “Where do I want to go for my birthday?”

My main wish was to stand on his grave on my actual birthday, which is September 6. Unfortunately, this fell on a Wednesday this year and the chapel is closed on Wednesdays. Momentarily dashed by this news, I rallied and so today- on Friday – I was finally going to fulfill the dream of a lifetime.

Windsor Castle is the oldest working castle in the world.

Windsor Castle is conveniently located right outside the train station. Nice of William the Conqueror to put the castle here back on 1066. So easy for the tourists.

On my way towards the castle I saw an art gallery with prints by Billy Connelly. I filed that information away to use on the way back.

I had a ticket for 10 o’clock, so I wandered around the streets for a bit.

I stood chatting to a nice policewoman for a few minutes.
“See down there?” She said, pointing. “Fortescues has the best ice cream in Windsor, in my opinion.”

Finally it was time to go in. I presented my ticket to the guard, queued for my audio guide and then I emerged into the open space within the castle walls. If I went up, I’d be going to the castle state rooms. But if I headed down the hill, I’d be walking towards St George chapel, where Henry is buried. So are 11 other monarchs, including Elizabeth II last year.

I saw this on the way. Then I saw another changing of the guard…

But enough of that! Time for the chapel.

The chapel was incredibly beautiful.

It also had my signs saying NO PHOTOGRAPHY. Fortunately I only got caught right at the end.

The first thing I did was to light a candle for my great grandfather, who died in France in the trenches of WWI. Just thought I’d let him know I was back.

Remember

tower

when I told you about Princess Charlotte dying in childbirth and bring forth the race for her royal uncles to produce an heir? The race which resulted in Victoria being born. 

This statue was paid for by donations from the public, who were apparently distraught at the princess’s death.

She’s lying at the bottom of the statue, under a shroud, while above, her spirit is soaring to heaven. Angels are either side of her, one holding her stillborn baby.

I think this statue is wonderful. It’s tucked away in an alcove of the chapel behind a barrier. You’d walk straight past it if it wasn’t on the audio guide.

History would probably have been very different if Queen Charlotte had’ve inherited the throne instead of Queen Victoria.

Now this was a thrill! 

Here are the graves of Edward of York and Elizabeth Woodville. 

She must have been incredibly hot. Legend has it that she was waiting at the side of the road to petition the king for some money to support herself and her 2 sons, because her husband had died in the war of the roses, fighting for the other side. 

He took one look at her and was absolutely smitten and married her in secret, which really annoyed a powerful nobleman called Warwick, who was engaged in negotiations with the French king for Edward to marry one of his daughters. Embarrassing…

They ended up having 6, (I think) children, with the 2 boys becoming the lost princes of the Tower of London. 

Yes, when Edward died at the ripe old age of 41, probably from too much carousing and fornicating, the oldest boy became king. The boys were put into the Tower “ to keep them safe “ and were never heard from again. Suspicion is on their uncle Richard II, who became king, but no one really knows for sure what happened.

The altar is stunning. It faces east, which is apparently a thing in churches, because Christ said that he’ll popping back to earth in the morning.

I had a feeling that I was getting close to my life goal of standing on Henry VIII’s grave. I spoke to a guide who, when I asked if I was near, smiled and said, “You’re about 10 feet away.”

Then he said, “I’ll show you something,” and he brought a photograph of the contents of Henry’s grave.

He said that there was some debate about whether Charles I was in there with him, so they lifted the slab and had a look.

The coffin in the middle was Henry VIII. The coffin was damaged, probably by Cromwell’s troops. To his right was Jane Seymour, the only wife who succeeded in giving him a legitimate son. ( She died 11 days later, poor thing.)

The coffin on the left had a body whose head had been cut off, so that was a big hint that it was actually Charles I. Someone had tried to sew the head back onto the body, which I felt was a bit sad.

A stillborn baby of Queen Anne was in there too.

The guide then told me about the stalls which were on either side of the altar. These were for the Knights of the Garter. Each knight gets his own stall, with a brass plate, a sword and a banner. If the knight is a woman, they get a brass plaque, a hat and banner. 

Prince William is the 1,000th Knight of the Garter. Nice round number.

I was strangely reluctant to move further, so I sat down and gazed around at the beautifully carved stalls and all of the colours of the chapel. No wonder the Queen wanted to be buried here.

Forgot to mention that I saw her final resting place on the way into the main part of the chapel. 

Here it is. A simple marble slab set into the floor of the chapel. This wasn’t at all how Henry planned to be interred. He’d planned a huge memorial tomb with lifelike figures of himself and Jane, but he died before work could really get started.

Done!

I sat there for quite a while, looking at the grave and pondering life.

On my way out, I stopped to read another marble slab. Omg – it’s Charles Brandon.
He was one of Henry VIII’s best friends. He was entrusted with taking Henry’s little sister over to France to marry the old king there.
She wasn’t happy about this match at all, so she got Henry to promise that she could choose her next husband herself.
On the way over, she and Brandon fell in love.

She proceeded to marry the French king and spent the next year trying her hardest to push him into an early grave by exhausting him every day.

It worked, and she and Brandon married in secret. When they came clean, it was a dangerous moment. Henry was FURIOUS because a marriageable princess was a useful bargaining chip for a king to have. After a few months, he missed his friend’s company, so he graciously forgave them and bought them back to court.

I had to show you this. He must have been very talented to capture the devil in this way!

I succumbed and bought an Anne of Cleves Christmas tree ornament.
She was his fourth wife, who had the brains to accept his proposal of divorce. She was given lots of money and many properties. She wasn’t allowed to marry, but really, I’d imagine that once you’ve escaped the snare of marrying Henry, you’d be keen to keep your freedom.

Outside Prince Albert’s last resting place, I saw this ancient graffiti.

This is a little look at the world outside. See how thick the walls are?

Like a toy soldier.

I walked back up the hill towards the queue to the staterooms. Gazing up at the Round Tower, I reflected that in a couple of hours, I’d be climbing to the top.

Everywhere I looked was amazing. It’s like I was in a movie.

I’m loving it.

The first thing I saw was Queen Mary’s doll house.

This was never intended as a toy, but as a demonstration of British craftsmanship. It’s a 1:12 scale and was impressive. Built in 1924, it has running water and electricity. Even the gramophone player can play the records.

They were adamant about no photos in the staterooms, and in the main I respected it. I already had the important pictures of the chapel. But now and then something came along that was all too tempting.

Grand reception room. WOW.
it was stunning. There was gold leaf everywhere! It was fantastic,

The room was extensively damaged in the fire that ripped through Windsor Castle in 1992. The ceiling, in particular, was destroyed and has been totally restored.

They certainly did a great job. It was wonderful.

In another room I saw these portraits. One was of a young Princess Elizabeth, with a couple of books beside her showing that she was intelligent and learned. The underskirt and sleeves are made of material used only for royals, while again, she’s wearing pearls.

The other was of her half=brother, Prince Edward, before he became king when his father, Henry VIII died. There’s a definite family resemblance, isn’t there?

All of Henry’s plotting and planning to get a male heir was all for nothing. Edward died when he was just 16, probably of tuberculosis.

And here’s the portrait of King Richard III. The king in the car park, Shakespeare’s evil villain.
But I’ve always had a soft spot for him, after reading Sharon Penman’s novel ‘ The Sunny in Splendour.’

I had to take a shot of this one. It’s Charles II’s official bed, where he was ceremoniously put to bed and woken up each day.

What a colossal waste of time! He was a notorious philanderer, so as soon as the gentlemen putting him to bed had left, he would have been up and moving onwards to one of his mistresses rooms.

The shots that follow are of the Grand Quadrangle.
During the fire of 1992, priceless works of art, furniture and books that are so precious that it would normally take weeks to work out how to move them, were hastily grabbed and thrown on this patch of grass, simply to stop them from being destroyed.

Queen Victoria once invited a circus to come and perform for the inhabi Of the castle, and they were located here.

In earlier days, this was where jousting was held.

I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that my climb up the 200 steps of the Round Tower was a guided tour. Again, no photos were permitted before a certain point, which made sense as it’s a working part of the castle so they need to be careful about security.

But I took this sneaky pic of the first entry point of the tower.

You can see that the stairs get progressively more narrow the further up you go. This is to create a bottleneck of knights and soldiers, making it easier for the defenders to pick them off.

if you enlarge the picture, you’ll notice that in the middle of the wall at the end is a small cannon sticking out. It was put in in the 1640’s. it’s designed to shoot grapeshot. It’s never been used, but I guess it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,

Once we were past a certain point, we were allowed to take photos.

I don’t think any enemy would be able to sneak up on the castle unawares!

This is a view of the Long Walk It takes people straight to the racetrack at Ascot.

It turns out that I was here on the first anniversary of the Queen’s death.

This is not the place to drop your phone.

Our guide explained that the stones that Windsor Castle are made of contain silica. Whenever it rains, and in England it often does, the stones self clean. It always looks clean.

William the Conqueror built a ring of castles 25 miles apart, all to protect London. Twenty five miles is the average day’s ride for an army. Windsor is one of them.

I tried to get a picture of one of the planes flying over the castle. The juxtaposition of old and new. Tried and tried…

Until at last, just as I left the gate, I had my chance!

And of course I went back to the ice cream shop.

It was delicious.

As if this day wasn’t already amazing, I also saw the perfect painting to represent this trip to the UK.
The story behind this series is that the artist is saying that all of the important, iconic things in your childhood get gradually buried under the day-to-day lives we all lead.
But they’re still reaching out to us, saying, “We’re still here… Don’t forget us….”

I’ve warned Ryan28 to expect a very large parcel. It turns out that they’re shipping it to me in the frame!

« Older posts