Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hong Kong and Home

I have been home a couple of days now. On my last day in London I went out to Kew gardens but found entry was 13 Pounds 50 (over 20 Australian dollars) and as I only had a few hours and the clouds were threatening I decided it was not worthwhile. It did begin to rain as I was  in the train back. I went to the British Museum for a while and as the sun came out again I went to  Regents Park (photo 1) and did have to run to avoid the next shower, so much for London weather.  I collected my luggage about 4pm and headed for Heathrow.

Two days were spent in the heat and humidity of Hong Kong. I had some rides on double decker trams and crossed the harbour on the Star ferry (Photo 2). When I was last there in 1976,  the Star ferry was the main way to cross the harbour and they ran continuously. As the gang plank to one was shut the next one opened on the other side of the wharf.  Now things are much quieter with several metro lines crossing under the harbour and the ferry runs about every 20 minutes.  I also caught the Peak tram up for a view over the city(Photo 3) then bought some new shoes. The final morning was spent in the comparative tranquility of the Nan Lian Gardens (Photo 4) and Chi Lin Nunnery (photo 5). These are both representative of the Tang Dynasty.

However I was quite happy to leave the heat and crowds. Fortunately the flight to Auckland had low numbers and I had 3 seats to myself.  But I still had to wait 5 hours in Auckland for a direct flight to Dunedin which was an anticlimax to the trip.  Air New Zealand was still flying despite the ash cloud. The plane just flew at a lower than usual altitude. Glad I never fly Qantas.
Regents Park, London

On Star Ferry, Hong Kong

Hong Kong from the Peak

Nan Lian Gardens

Chi Lin Nunnery
The temperatures in Dunedin were very different to Hong Kong but I was glad to be home again

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yorkshire & Cumbria

Moors overlooking Saltaire

Leeds Town Hall

Leeds City markets

Leeds Shopping Arcade

St Mary the Virgin, Gisburn

Tarn Hows

Easedale Tarn

Near Easedale Tarn

Grasmere from the track up to Easedale Tarn
I am now back in London preparing to fly tonight to Hong Kong, my European journey over. Here is hoping that Chilean Volcano behaves itself and I can fly right home to Dunedin next Wednesday.

After picking up a car and getting thoroughly lost in Manchester, I spent 4 delightful days with my friend Tony in Saltaire, near Bradford. He kept me fit with local walks, one up onto the nearby moors and also showed me how to play bowls and even making an attempt to teach me to throw a boomerang.  I let the Aussie side down.

Sunday being wet, we visited Cliffe Castle Museum in a furnished Victorian era home but also having displays of industrial history and Geology at nearby Keighley. On Monday, before the climb up on the moors (Photo), we visited an art gallery dedicated to local artist, David Hockney. It was in a renovated Cotton Mill and the whole of Saltaire is a world heritage site due to the village having been built by a far sighted industrialist who provide homes and other facilities for his workers that were much better than what was common in that dark industrial time.

On Saturday I visited and had lunch with an internet friend, Jack (Sir),  in Leeds who showed me around the highlights of that city including the Town Hall and some very ornate shopping arcades (photos). We visited the Art Gallery which has many works by Henry Moore.  Leeds is much improved from the very dingy city I remember on a quick visit way back in 1974.

On Sunday I drove about 40 km to the little village of Gisburn and met my soon to be Vicar, Rev Eric Kyte. he leaves the parish of Gisburn (Photo) in 2 weeks and will be installed at Roslyn, Dunedin in mid-August.

I left Yorkshire on Tuesday and drove back across the Pennines to the Lake District where I spent 3 nights in Ambleside. I also spent 3 nights there last September and did several walks and wanted to do more especially with the use of a car.  I am not sure that was a good idea. the car gave me more flexibility but the parking fees are very high. It was a surprise to pay over 3 pounds for parking in a car park 2 miles from the nearest village. The weather was very mixed, raining at breakfast but fining up later on both full days there. Wednesday was spent around Coniston, walking about 6 km around Tarn Hows(photo) then, disappointed the ferry was not doing the whole lake to pass the island in “Swallows & Amazons”, I instead drove around Beatrix Potter territory to Hill Top and Hawkshead.

On Thursday I drove to Grasmere and climbed up to Easedale Tarn (photos), a little over 7 km round trip and 250 metres up. it provided wonderful views. I had planned another similar climb in the afternoon but thought better and instead did part of a walk, fairly level around the lake (photo) that I did last time but this time in much better weather. It is a very pretty area.

Yesterday I drove back to Manchester, left the car and continued by train to London.  I went back to the Royal Albert Hall for a program called ‘Strictly Gershwin’ by the English National Ballet with a big jazz band. It was a fitting finish to my tour of Europe as there was a long section at the end of the first half based on ‘An American in Paris” with views of Paris where I started my European journey on the large screens and later the main singer, Maria Friedman, sang “A Foggy Day in London Town. Fortunately mine was not foggy though rather wet but today looks fine so I think I am headed for Kew Gardens.

Did not have time to send this before leaving hotel on Saturday, did not make it to Kew gardens but am now in Hong Kong.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Taste of Ireland

Cahir Castle


Cliffs, Dun Aengus, Aran Islands

Gap of Dunloe


Blarney Castle

The weather has not been kind to me. On most days the temperature, about 14’C,  has not been much above that in Dunedin where it is the beginning of winter. Added to that it has been showery much of the time. As one driver said, “Ireland’s weather can be described as rain between the showers. “ The countryside  is quite pretty when the sun comes out.

On two overcast days with a little bit of drizzle I walked around Dublin. One walk was led by Donal, a graduate in Irish history and language. I learned a lot about the Irish rebellions and he was very amusing. Another walk, usually led by students, was through Trinity College but I was fortunate to have one of the university dons who also had a very dry humour especially about modern student use of the library which I particularly appreciated.  This ended with a visit to see the Book of Kells and other historic books from early Christian times in Ireland. They were in what is known as the Long Library, an immense room now only used for the historic collection. I also visited both cathedrals and another Museum of ancient books and artefacts covering all religions. In the evening I attended a performance of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw who was born in Dublin. I thought it excellent and it was in the Abbey Theatre less than a block from my hotel.

I then set off on a train trip around mainly south west Ireland. First stop was Limerick where I rented a car for the day to visit Tipperary and more importantly the Rock of Cashel and the castle at Cahir.
The Rock consists of a number of ruined buildings mainly from the 12th and 13th centuries. The best feature, Cormac’s chapel, was closed for renovations but there are the remains of a cathedral and a large round tower. It was the seat of the Kings of Munster.
I preferred the castle at Cahir (Photo 1) which was also built in the 13th century but has been enlarged and remodelled since and was quite interesting to explore. The weather improved this day and the following day was comparatively hot, reaching 24’C.

On that day I travelled to Galway which was very lively at the beginning of a Bank Holiday weekend. (Photo 2 shows the river mouth). However the warm weather did not last and the following much cooler day was spent on a ferry to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran islands. We first drove through Connemarra to the ferry wharf. There are over a thousand miles of stone walls on the island.  We walked up to Dun Aengus, an iron age fort on the cliff tops (Photo 3). Some tourists were being driven around in horse and cart and there were many horses, donkeys and goats to be seen.

From Galway I travelled to Killarney which I thought was a much prettier area. On the first full day I took a “tour’ to the Gap of Dunloe. This involved a short bus ride but the bus broke down and we continued with a competitor company to the starting point of a 7 mile walk. It was just as well I did not realise it was miles and actually over 11 kilometres. Some people travelled by horse drawn trap. The road is bitumen but narrow and climbs about 200 metres to the top. It passes 5 loughs or lakes in a valley formed by glaciers(Photo 4). Then there is a steep drop down to the lakes and we were taken through three lakes in traditional open boats with outboard motors. At one point we had to disembark and walk as the boatman navigated through a very shallow section. Wind and rain squalls as we crossed the largest lake did not really add to the journey. I was surprised to see large areas of wild rhododendrons which apparently are a weed here.

My second day in Killarney was much easier as I travelled on a bus tour around the Dingle Peninsula.  There was some very pretty scenery (Photo 5)  and some narrow cliff side roads when I was very glad not to be driving.

Then it was on to the city of Cork. I discovered that Blarney castle (Photo 6) could be reached by the local bus company. I managed to climb the stairs of the castle but gave kissing the stone a miss. I escaped the inevitable showers by having some scones, jam and cream.

This morning in Cork had much more promising weather and I followed some self guided historical tours around the city and through the cathedral. Then this afternoon I returned by train to Dublin where it was again raining. In fact, I was lucky that I delayed my departure for a restaurant as we had a hail storm.  I leave early tomorrow morning for the ferry ride back to Holyhead in Wales then several trains to Manchester where I pick up a rental car for the next week.  I have added a photo taken at Dun Aengus wearing my new Galway hoodie.