The Grand Canyon to Clear the Mind

After several days in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon proved to be the salve we needed.  We needed a break from the craziness, not to mention all the cigarette smoke.  My poor asthmatic lungs were gasping for fresh air.  The hire car was a convertible Mustang, which by the way, is probably the most popular hire car there.  You’d of thought a giant convertible Mustang car club had taken over the southwest.  They were everywhere!

Our first stop was the Hoover Dam.  What a crazy feat of engineering in the middle of nowhere.  It’s just massive.  We knew we were getting close with all the electric lines snaking their way across the sky.  In order to get a proper picture of the dam we had to walk along the Memorial Bridge, which is freaking high up.  I hate heights, well more of a fear of falling, so anything to do with bridges, cliffs, etc really doesn’t sit well with me.  At all.

Hoover Dam

View from the Hoover Dam

Time for the trek to the Grand Canyon.  It’s amazing how far you can drive and see nothing except road.  A great swath was like a moonscape.  Luckily we got to the Canyon before the sunset.  After we checked into the hotel we headed up to the South Rim.  On the way we saw the first of the elk.  Beautiful animals but I was saddened to see the people who were trying to distract them and getting too close.  There are only signs everywhere saying not to do that.  We stayed on the road as it’s not our home.

Years ago I visited the Canyon for a few hours with my dad but I was excited to see it again and as it was the first time for my husband, the sunset was the perfect first impression.

After the long drive it was wonderful to just walk around in the gorgeous weather.  A perfect end to the day.  Of course we wanted to see the views in the sun rise as well.  So a few hours later we were back on the rim to watch the sun come up.  99% of the people were great, enjoying the quiet and taking loads of pictures.  But there was a couple going right out on an outcrop to do their own “photoshoot” but essentially inserting themselves in everyone else’s pictures.  I mentioned outloud how selfish that was and there were a few people within earshot nodding their heads in agreement.  Not to mention they were awfully close to the edge.  I mean, is taking a picture of your feet over the edge really worth the risk of falling?  On average 12 people die each year due to risks being taken.  The next day were a couple of people barely keeping their balance in the wind, holding up a huge flag near the edge.  I couldn’t watch.

But I digress.  Soon it was time for the sun to come up.  A glorious sight.

Sunrise

Sunrise

After breakfast we went back up to the rim and took advantage of the shuttle buses to check out several points along the way.  We also decided to walk between points for awhile.  Boy was I nervous, we were now away from the protective railings.  I said as long as I’m a distance that matches my height away from the edge I’ll be good.  So if I trip I’m far enough from the edge.  Which worked until we came to a short section that was only a couple of feet from the edge.  There was an old tree that was well polished from people gripping it on the way by.  I did get some strange looks as I would brace myself when people passed.  At one point we went to I was less than relaxed and a woman just looked at me and said something in Spanish.  It was pretty clear she had a mixture of pity and wondering why I was there!  🙂  A couple of times on the hike we came across benches where we would sit.  It would be dead quiet as if we were the only two people on earth.  It was incredible.

As we were pulling into our hotel we saw a couple of bucks just eating along.  We stayed in the car while I took a photo but there were two guys behind him getting closer and closer.  Honestly what they were thinking, I don’t know.  The buck comes equipped with several knives on its head!  In the park, while we were on the bus, the driver yelled out the window to a young woman to get away from a buck.  He said one step and it could kill you.  She seemed surprised at that.

A young buck

The last day was spent going up to Desert View before the long drive back to the airport.  Point after point had amazing views.  The average width of the Canyon is 10 miles though the brain can’t wrap itself round that fact.  It’s just so vast.

We would go back in a heartbeat.  It really clears out the cobwebs in the brain.

Las Vegas Observations

Las Vegas is a hell of a place.  I’m not sure I mean that in a good way.  The word my husband and I used most frequently was surreal.  We had an opportunity to go as my husband had a conference to attend so we figured we’d make a holiday of it.  I mean, it’s one those places you visit at least once.

We all wish for flights to be boring and once we were in the air it was but the nuttiest thing happened on takeoff.  We were first in line to barrel down the runway, we’ve been told to stay seated and now they mentioned to the crew to buckle up.  Just as the pilot “hits the gas” a woman stands up in the aisle to remove her jumper.  The flight attendent was yelling at her to sit down and she wouldn’t listen.  We were all watching in disbelief.  How she wasn’t hurt is beyond me.

The trip out gave us some incredible views once we got to the Rockies.

Amazing how the Rockies suddenly rise up.

Best view of Lake Mead!

As I heard it was crazy expensive (shocker, I know) I did a lot of research to see what I could do on the cheap.  Not easy!  A small bag of snack mix was over $7!

If you aren’t into gambling, which I’m not, it can get a bit tricky finding things.  But I did go to the Bodies exhibit and the Titanic exhibit.  Aside from spending time with my husband, these were the best bits of Vegas for me.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any pictures, they ask you turn off mobile phones, etc.  I can understand with the Bodies as they are actual humans but definitely a shame about the Titanic exhibit.

I did try to see daylight at least once a day because this was the round the clock ambiance:

Yes, they do this on purpose to keep the gamblers at the slot machines but add this to the awful cigarette smoke it got a bit much. The pool area was my refuge in the morning while the shade lasted.

I did explore the strip, thank goodness for the bus system as the strip is 5 miles long!  It doesn’t seem it as all the resorts are massive.  You’d be amazed at the miles you can walk just staying in one resort.

I headed to the Bellagio as I heard they had a flower conservatory and a blown glass ceiling display.  Not only did it not disappoint, it was free!  The conservatory wasn’t massive but they are really creative with the display.  Well worth stopping by.

Their lobby ceiling was full of colour.

This made me want to hop a plane to Paris.

My husband was invited to an event at the top of Mandalay Bay and what a view!  I have to say that was quite something.  We chuckled as we had to go through security and they took my popcorn I got at dinner.  Because it was free I was saving it!  But I was out of luck.

To close out our stay before we headed to the Grand Canyon we headed to Fremont St and the surrounding area.  I enjoyed it much more.  No one seemed intent on emptying your bank account on a bag of crisps but you got to see the old casinos and they have the Container Park where all the shops and restaurants are made from shipping containers.  Plus you have the Preying Mantis out front.

Fremont St

At night flames come out of the antennae.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Las Vegas but I can honestly say once was enough.  Everyone was extremely nice but the felling of a vacuum sucking the money out of my pocket got old and stressful.  I can also honestly say it was quite the experience!

Whirlwind Trip to the UK

This has taken much longer getting back into posting after our busy holiday than I imagined it would.  Before I get to our amazing holiday I wanted to share a PSA with everyone.  Our trip was 3 weeks long but it’s been another couple of weeks since and I haven’t posted.

I had decided a few months ago I would come off my fibro meds once we were back from holiday because I still had the fibro symptoms plus some awful side effects.  Including a brain fog that was something else!  Now I spoke with doctors beforehand and the only thing they said was to step down the dose carefully.  I did it nice and slow.  It went better than I thought it would.  But once I finished the fun really started and they never mentioned anything about this which is why I’m sharing this with you.  I know I’m not the only one going through this.  The withdrawal after the meds was horrendous and I could barely get out of bed.  I did some research and found that people can end up having seizures or have to be in hospital.  Luckily I didn’t have that but I was really upset that I wasn’t told of this prior to going on the meds and not being told this when I said I was coming off!  So if you are going to be dealing with this, do research and really push your doctor to give you proper support, otherwise it can get really miserable.

That’s the end of the PSA and on to the fun stuff!

UK trip 4 2018

This year we took the kids with us to the UK, one because we were due for a family trip and two because our daughter is touring universities this year.  Surreal that she is beginning this new chapter!  We had so much to fit into this trip and hit the ground running by taking a day trip to Cardiff.  We were all pleasantly surprised at what a fabulous city it is.  The university was right near the town centre and we were fortunate to be able to speak with a senior professor who is part of the admissions.  It was a well spent half hour.  Crossing the Severn was quite the treat as well.

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Without much of a break we headed to our next adventure.  My husband’s family planned a day coach trip to the Somme because his great great uncle was killed in action 100 years ago to the day.  The cemeteries take your breath away and they are immaculate.

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Thiepval was very powerful.  73,000 names of people of unknown burial.  73,000 families had the heartbreak of not knowing what happened.  It was overwhelming for me.  I was struck by the inability of humans to learn from history and the current climate doesn’t hold much hope that we won’t see another Thiepval.

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We were treated to a gorgeous view back across the channel with the sunset.  Hard to beat the sun going down over water.

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We realised that the kids had never been to Stonehenge so it sounded like a perfect day trip.  I really like how they’ve changed the area by moving the visitor centre a mile and a half away.  It really opens up the surrounding area so you see how it was in ancient times.  It was really lovely to walk in the countryside seeing all the barrows.  We also went to Avebury which is a village smack in the middle of a very large stone circle.  A fascinating place.

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After a couple of days puttering about it was time to head north.  I couldn’t wait to show the kids the countryside up north.  University of Manchester was on the list to tour and my friend works there.  Which was fabulous as she actually gave us a much better tour than the official one.  Including getting into the Rutherford Room where the atom was split in 1911.  That was so cool.

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The next day was a gorgeous trip into Yorkshire with Skipton Castle and Bolton Abbey.  I hadn’t been to the Abbey before and I loved it.  The whole area includes the Abbey, the current church in use and the village.  Loads of walking to be done.

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The next day was a great mix of geeky stuff.  We went to see the Lovell Telescope which is an incredible bit of engineering.  You have to have your phones off or in airplane mode as you can interfere with the telescope.  The telescope can pick up a single mobile phone signal from Mars.  We also enjoyed the diesel gala at the East Lancs Railway.  We rode the rails for bit.  The door windows were popular as it was the best way to cool off on the trains!

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It was time to head to London, no rest for the wicked!  Our daughter wanted to visit the Tate as some of the art work was in her image set from her AP Art History course.  I’ll admit, I don’t get the Tate.  At all but to each their own.  It was this afternoon that our daughter got her results for her AP Art History and AP Bio.  She achieved a 5 in both, we are so incredibly proud of all her hard work.  She worked so much with the studying.  It took a lot of time after school and weekends for the heavy coursework.

My husband noticed before our trip that the London Transport Museum was having an open day at Acton.  Our kids weren’t overly impressed but he and I loved walking round all the old stock, maps, signs and artifacts.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering round Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.  I have to say by this time I was tired of the sun and heat.  It wasn’t so bad in the countryside but London was pushing it!

For the last full day we headed to Cambridge for the last of the university tours.  We loved being able to walk in the footsteps of Darwin.  His room is still used by students.  Can you imagine being assigned his room?  Because most of the colleges own the river banks they charge you to walk through to the River Cam so we decided to do a punt tour down the river.  So much cooler on the river!  We got a great view of the Bridge of Sighs, named because Queen Victoria thought it looked just like a bridge in Venice.  It doesn’t but who was going to argue with the Queen?

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After a week straight of walking 4-8 miles a day, we were done in but what memories.  It was amazing to do all the exploring with the kids and spending the time with them before they went off on their next summer adventures.

 

 

Over the Rainbows at Niagara Falls

We’ve had a great week away.  It started off by doing a couple of university tours for our daughter.  The tradition of saying “we’re the best ever!” is still alive and well though the young gentleman at Cornell was funny and probably answered the most honest I’ve heard on any tour.  While our daughter went back home with her mother, my husband and I headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario for a long weekend.  A break was definitely needed!

The weather was just gorgeous though it was quite cold on the Sunday, particularly with the wind.  It was lovely to get out in fresh air and do a lot of walking.  We also went to Bird Kingdom which was fascinating.  The birds fly around free in the aviaries with trees, waterfalls, etc to keep them happy.  I liked it because if any human bugs them they can get away.  We went to a greenhouse floral show but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called.

I wanted to share with you some of the photos I took on our trip.

Niagara Falls 1 2018

Given the gorgeous weather the rainbows were out in force.  Just incredible.

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Here are some videos of the falls.  The power of the falls is so mesmerising.

This video is behind the falls in one of the two portals.

Bird Kingdom didn’t just have birds, there were reptiles and tortoises.  I have to say this guy could hustle faster than I thought they could.  Headed right for us.

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I just love birds and all the colours they come in.  It’s remarkable how varied and bright they can be.

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I was surprised how many there were pure white.  Against the backdrop they were beautiful.

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The greenhouse didn’t have as many flowers as I had hoped because they were redoing a significant portion of the greenhouses.

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We had a wonderful time recharging our batteries and spending time together.  I loved how friendly everyone was across the border.  It made for a great experience.

 

 

New York in August

This month has been a bit of a whirlwind.  My friend,  whom I’ve been friends with since I was about 15 months old, came to visit with her family for a couple of weeks from the UK.  With the distance between us, we obviously don’t see each other often so I was really looking forward to this.  I am very fortunate to have her friendship, she is one of those people that are true friends.  Never any judging, just complete acceptance and support.  She is just a lovely person.  I also count her wonderful husband as a very old friend.  The funny thing is our children share the same names so you can bet it got a little confusing having everyone together!

We packed in loads of adventures into the two weeks they were here.  The kids were introduced to the massive sized ice creams, root beer floats, and New York style pizza.  I fear there was a withdrawal from the newfound root beer habit.  

The highlight of the visit was the trek to NYC.  Given the time of year I do wish that we had portable air conditioning units to carry with us.  The concrete jungle definitely gives off the heat waves!  This visit was a whirlwind tour of the more popular sites. Good thing we had excellent trainers!  


Grand Central is a great place to start the adventure.  It’s such an amazing building and thankfully it was restored rather than suffering the fate that Penn Station had.  Their son is a massive train fan so this was such a treat for him.  



We started in Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty.  Apparently you have to book tickets 3 months in advance to go up it.  To be honest I remember doing that as a child and the time it takes to get up to the top doesn’t make it worth it.  We wandered to the World Trade Center and the memorial there.  The memorial was incredibly moving, they really did it well.  Despite the crowds it’s a peaceful spot.  What got me the most was that they put a white rose on the names when it is the person’s birthday.  

My son, who had visited there with school, said we had to go straight up to the new World Trade Center building.  Then look straight up.  A very cool view.  The way they designed it, looks like it goes on forever.

As this was proving a very hot afternoon I suggested the next stop be Little Italy for refreshments.  


Cannoli and cocktails are very restorative don’t you know.  There is nothing like a well prepared cannoli.  This gave us enough energy to get through the queues to the top of the Empire State Building.  We timed it so by the time we got to the top the sun was going down.  It was insanely crowded at the top but we were able to get some great views.


Not bad for a first day.  The next day was museum day in a bid to keep cool.  For some reason I had yet to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’m really glad we went, what an amazing museum.  There is something for everyone and their collections are extensive.  Because we didn’t have an endless amount of time we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see.  I would love to go back again.


We ended up spending most of the day there so we had to briskly walk across Central Park as we had promised a visit to the Natural History Museum.  


I hadn’t been in this part of the park before and the flowers and pond were really pretty.  As luck would have it, we emerged from the park right at the museum.  Unfortunately we discovered we only had two hours before it closed.  We were impressed by the greeters, though I wouldn’t mess with them, given the size of their teeth!


Because of the movie “Night at the Museum” we had to go see Dum Dum.  For those that haven’t seen the movie, it is a large Easter Island head.  I asked a guide where the Easter Island head was and he looked confused until I said Dum Dum.  So you can imagine how many parents are dragged there by their children!  Though given the cool stuff there it’s not much of a hardship.

After including Times Square, cheesecake and Gulliver’s Gate, we were very tired on the trip back.  All in all it was a very successful trip and loads of fabulous memories were made. 

The Cowards Will Never Win

It’s been another trying few weeks for Britain.  The startling and crazy politics aside, I mean really, the DUP?  But two cities close to my heart were once again cruelly attacked by  cowards.  What else can you call them?  It’s bad enough if you target fellow man but to target children?  No, you are a coward.

We were in London when the attacks happened in Manchester.  Once again I was taken and impressed with the spirit of the people coming together, despite what an orange useless so called leader likes to spout on stuff he doesn’t understand.  He doesn’t get what the people of Britain are made of.  We’re very good at getting back up again, pulling up the boot straps, and coming together with humour, strength, and acts of kindness.

So while this terrible problem needs to be solved, preferably sooner rather than later, these cowards need to know they aren’t ever going to win.

When we were in London we walked miles and miles visiting places I used to go when I lived there and discovering new sights.  I took my husband to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  I used to go years ago.  I love how people can just have a soap box to talk about whatever they want as long as it doesn’t incite hate or violence.

It was only just starting when we arrived, just one guy talking about his Christian beliefs.    He did have a sense of humour about it.  There was a lively debate between him and a gentleman who was Muslim.  I couldn’t hear too much what he was saying but all of a sudden the man holding court said “but you don’t want 4 wives, you’d have 4 mother in laws!”  Given that most obviously don’t have 4 wives, I do wonder what point was being brought up.

While this was going on a man came up to us asking if he could talk to us.  Nice enough but it wasn’t too long before we realised he was a bit out there.  He had some wild ideas about saving the earth and that we shouldn’t pollute, as he was rolling cigarettes.  He also talked about how the policeman was rude trying to arrest him for riding his bicycle on the M5.  He moved on to how we should all love each other which is when I got a bit naughty and suggested he talk to the guy above as he was talking about love as well.

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And so he did!  Much to the delight of the crowd.  Which begs the question why some choose to just chant and sing to get their message across.

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I don’t think their message is getting out, or maybe it is.  Who knows?

It was a gorgeous day and as we were walking through the park, for a laugh, I called to a squirrel.  Wouldn’t you know, it came running!  I think people need to stop feeding the animals!

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We also had a bit of fun with celebrity sightings on this trip.  When we arrived in the UK, James Blunt walked by me with his guitar, not a bad start.  As we were walking through Leicester Sq we came upon the theatre for “Don Juan in Soho” starring David Tennant.  We quickly got tickets.  It was hilarious and not for children!

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Because we queued politely, we missed out on getting an autograph.  I might have to rethink that!  But while we were sitting in the theatre I suddenly realised Tom Hollander was 10 feet away.  I stayed perfectly calm.  Well most of me, my left arm was hitting my husband frantically so he could look over.  It wasn’t long before I was tapping him again because 4 feet away Steven Moffat was sitting there!  Needless to say it was a fun night.

Luck would have it, two of my cousins arrived in London just before we left and my younger cousin had never been to London before.  It was a great treat giving her a bit of a walking tour at night, introducing her to some of the famous sites.  How wonderful to see London through fresh eyes.

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We did swing by the Lego store, where I am envious of those who have the job of building this:

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We walked through the War Rooms of Churchill and through the area filled with monuments and symbols of strength and perseverance.

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As I said, the cowards will never overcome the spirit and the strength of the people.

Life is Bloomin’ Good….

We are in the midst of enjoying a lovely holiday back in the U.K.  A much needed holiday but I haven’t done much cooking.  Instead we’ve been enjoying the diesel gala and walking our pins off.  The weather has been absolutely wonderful and I’ve taken the opportunity to indulge in a bit of photography with my SLR.  

With the gala there were some pretty sweet setups with cameras, my husband teased me saying I had lens envy.  😊.  True enough!  Though this post is a quick one to share some photos I took of flowers, I will be doing a post on the gala.  


The cat is a neighbourhood cat that is just desperate for belly rubs.  Soft thing.  Tomorrow we’re popping over to France by ferry. We’re in need of wine.

Warship D832 Onslaught

I am a very lucky woman.  I have a husband that supports me 100% and takes amazing care of me.  This past year has been very hard with issues with my family and my health.  He never wavered and really had to do more than his fair share while I worked to get healthy again.  Plus he works crazy hours.  I wanted to give him a treat that would make him smile.  Since I am horrible at winning any lottery ticket I thought something train related would do the trick.

My husband is a fan of the Warship class of diesels and luckily one was going to be at the Swanage Railway Diesel Gala.  I asked my MIL if there was a possibility of setting up a driver’s experience but as she rightly pointed out, that wasn’t an option for safety reasons.  I’m sure the passengers would prefer experienced drivers!

But the option of a cab ride was a go as long as everyone was ok with it.  As the drivers were staying with us, that part was easy and as my FIL works with the railway and we know a few people that was taken care of as well.  I can’t lie, I was excited to get this set up.  Then when I found out I could have a cab ride as well, that was just a bonus!  My husband went first then I got to have my ride.

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I had some videos but they are too large.  Wordpress recommends I upgrade to Premium.  Those of you who have upgraded, do you recommend?  And have they improved importing your followers to the new upgraded site?

Both of us enjoyed the cab ride very much.  Everyone was such a great help and so generous with their time.  It was a fabulous gala.

 

Quite the Diesel Show in Swanage

The main reason for the timing of our trip to England was the springtime Diesel Gala at Swanage Railway.  Obviously we were there for friends and family but if we can get our train fix than all the better!

We had the perfect weather for this trip and it really made the gala shine.  A few locos trickled at the beginning of the week but several came in as a convoy on the Wednesday before the gala.  My husband and I have fun “racing” the convoy from Corfe Castle to Swanage.

Diesel gala 1 2016

Because they need to come down when the rails aren’t busy we don’t get a lot of light for the display but it was still loads of fun.  It is so impressive the amount of work the volunteers put into this.  There is quite a lot of logistics to wrangle.  We stayed in Swanage well after dark watching them shunting the locos round to get them staged for the first day.

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We bought a three day pass for this so we just rode the rails so to speak enjoying all the different locos and watching the locos changing out at Norden.

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I had been noticing people perched up on the hill at the castle in Corfe taking pictures.  When I say perched, I mean just that.  It’s almost like a cliff!  I can’t imagine having to storm the castle with armor, shields, and weapons.  It seems like an impossible task to me!  But it does give you the perfect spot to watch the locos go over the viaduct.

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Still need to get over there for a Steam Gala but this was a lot of fun.  The vibe was great and it was just what we needed to have a blast.  A huge success all round.  🙂

 

The Dorset Coast

We have been having a wonderful visit back in the UK.  It is going by very quickly though, wish there was a way to slow it down.  Right now we are on the train to London on our way to Manchester.  Since our last visit they have put wifi on the trains so I can blog while we travel.  Which is great because with the diesel gala and day trips I haven’t had time!  

Mixed emotions today as it is hard to leave family but I am very excited to head up north as it’s been 13 years, which is far too long.  We’re staying with my friend that I’ve known for 42 years!  Since I was in nappies.  

While we were in Swanage we did a few day trips on the coast.  It was just breathtaking.  And a challenge!  With the steep climbs I really pushed my back.  I’m paying for it now but it felt really good to actually get up the hills.  Getting to the top makes it all worth it with the views.

The first coast trip was to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.  I have to say we’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather, sun for the whole trip with the exception of the last two days.  We both have a bit of a farmer’s tan.  

Here are some pics of that day.  I tried several times to load small video but the wifi can’t handle it.  It was becoming the definition of insanity!


The next day we drove to Portland Bill, a lighthouse on an island sticking out about six miles into the channel.  There is a guided tour to the top of the lighthouse and the guide showed us a map showing all the known shipwrecks in the immediate area.

A famous one, the Royal Adelaide, happened in 1872.  Because it happened close enough to the beach everyone was rescued.  Great success!  The next day they found 20 people dead on the beach.  Turns out some locals thought it would be a good idea to rescue the gin on the boat by drinking it.  They died of exposure.  Darwinism at work, unfortunately.



I have a few blog posts to do when we get back home including a Victorian Sponge.  Ooh la la.  😊.  But first we’re going to enjoy the last few days of our trip which include a visit to the East Lancashire Railway.  Should be fun!