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Yes, I admit it…..I am a full-on, no holds barred, well-versed and dedicated procrastinator!!

Hi, my name is Cindy. I am a procrastinator….. There I’ve said it…..

So you know how it goes (those of you who suffer the same predicament), tomorrow is always another day…I have been meaning to buy a 2nd external hard-drive for months now. My daughter is constantly urging me to do a back-up…in the cloud? Hmmm, not sure I trust ‘the cloud’….what with hackers and all.

So the long and the short of it is, I haven’t yet bought that 2nd hard-drive…always finding something else to do (I don’t buy much stuff these days), my money is rather saved or spent on experiences…like the Herne Bay Airshow, or a visit to Canterbury or paying HMRC Customs a hefty chunk of £££££’s for the privilege of shipping my belongings from SA to the UK and such like. So there is always a reason why I haven’t yet bought one.

And yesterday my pigeons came home to roost.

I dropped my external hard-drive.

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Not Just a Granny having a tantrum!!!

So, initially I went ice-cold. My body went into shock. My mind started whirling. Too terrified too cry, the tears had dried up in horror!!

Then the enormity of what had happened hit me and I made a frantic call to my computer guy…HELP!!!!! Does this mean I’ve lost all my photos ( 10 years worth at least, if not more) all my spreadsheets, documents, downloads, e-books…etc etc…in short…my life is on that little black plastic box meant to be safe and secure and shock-proof in it’s little black shock-proof casing!!! I felt like throwing up!

At my computer man’s suggestion, I ejected the hard-drive (done that…no t-shirt), and try again….nope, the screen is still telling me that I have used 0 data…..oh the sheer horror of seeing a great big (it seems enormous) fat 0 data used staring back at me….especially as I know full well that wasn’t the case (no pun intended) 5 seconds before I dropped it.

Of course, I have subsequently been asked ‘don’t you have a back-up?’ – Uhmm, yes, that was my back-up…… I had recently moved ALL the files and folders from my computer to the hard-drive as the computer is about 4 years old and sends me nasty messages occasionally! – or – Don’t you save your documents etc to ‘the cloud’…again Uhmm no! Buy hey…..I WAS going to be buying a 2nd external hard-drive to save copies of everything on to…next month! I just hadn’t gotten ’roundtoit’ Like that helps now doesn’t it?? Procrastinator!!!

The irony is that I was in the process of copying photos off my phone from a recent trip to Canterbury to celebrate my daughter’s birthday ( I had only got as far as copying them) when I leaned forward to pick up my phone to send my niece (currently a tourist in London) a message…and knocked the bloody hard-drive onto the floor. Not from a very large height either I might add…no more than 3 inches, but it seems it was enough…to render the data to 0!!!

Anyway, an appointment has been made to see my computer guy next month (next week!!) and hopefully he can indeed retrieve the data as he suspects he may well be able to do. If not, then I will have to have it looked at by professionals…and apparently that can cost upward of £700!!! which brings me to my next ‘issue’….the bloody Universe. I swear it’s determined to keep me poor to my dying day. Just when I think I have worked hard enough, taken on extra work to start saving, something crops up to drain my bank account.

So the long and the short of it (and expense) is…..if you too suffer from procrastination…get help!! aldwych-station-tour-2013-16

It’s a bastard, it costs money and it bites you in the bum when you least expect it! Grrrrr.

Oh! and in’future’ I will do today, what needs to be done today….after all, today is yesterday’s tomorrow.  It would do me well to remember that. *squinty eye picture* if I had one. LOL

Hinkley Point C

This is such a good and on point article I have to share it.

Keithpp's Blog

Hinkley Point C will cost 18 billion euros.

Correction, Hinkley Point C  has an estimated cost of 18 billion euros. Large infrastructure projects have a nasty habit of being over time and over budget. This is true of EDF’s latest project in France.

18 billion euros is larger than the capital value of EDF. Major shareholder in EDF is the French government. If Hinkley Point C proves to be, as many suspect, a White Elephant, it will destroy the French government.

The French Unions are oposed to Hinkley Point C and are considering mounting a legal challenge.

The new UK government is having second thoughts.

The price of electricity from Hinkley Point C is guaranteed for the next thirty-five years at double the current price of electricity.

The price of electricity from renewables has been halving every 18 months.

The offshore wind farms Siemens plan to build in the North Sea will deliver electricity…

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When there’s something you’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and suddenly you make the decision to do it and it’s nerve-wracking…..which is weird really but there it is – I’ve finally put a date to my Camino.

It’s been a dream of mine to do ‘The Camino’ for a very long time. I’m not sure when exactly I first became aware of The Camino, that, is lost in the mists of time. But some years ago my father planned to do The Camino on his bike and suddenly I was like….Oh okay….then during some visit or other to the UK he and I discussed the possibility of doing it together but due to the fact that he wanted to cycle the route but I wanted to walk…unfortunately we never did get that off the ground.

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My Dad and I in 2011, the last photo ever taken of us together

Although he did do it again last year with one of my younger sisters, albeit not very successfully apparently as by then he was in the early stages of dementia and not only lost his passport but was terribly slow and struggled along.  But since he was in his mid-80’s by then, he could be forgiven for struggling. And of course he has since passed away (not connected to the Camino).

Doing the Camino was one of the ‘things’ on my ‘list of things to do’ once I got my British Passport:) and like the sorting out of my possessions in South Africa the time has now come. And so project #Camino2016 has begun!

I immediately started doing some research on routes and best time of the year to travel etc etc. What I discovered is that there are numerous routes besides ‘The Way’!!! I finally decided on the Portuguese Coastal Route starting from Porto. Besides the fact that it is relatively flat in comparison to The Frances route which is 790kms and traverses mountain ranges, I have always wanted to go to Portugal so this was a great way to combine the two. I would love to go to Lisbon of course, but since it’s a lot further and I don’t have unlimited time, I settled on Porto as my launching point. However, on the plus side Porto looks amazing, so I’m really excited about starting there.

I’m planning on spending 3 days in Porto to explore then on the fourth day I shall head over to the Cathedral and start my 285km Camino journey from there.

I joined a group on Facebook; exclusively for women, the group allows women who have already walked the Camino, no matter which route, to offer advice and encouragement to those planning their journey. It allows us to ask for help or information and allows women who are already walking to post photos and tips and hints on what to wear, where to stay, what to expect en-route, what to look out for (like insane gropers), where to eat and also just some of the most stunning and amazing photos. It’s certainly made me impatient to start!!! LOL I’ve also starting studying photos on Instagram. Ohmygosh! Some of the places are just stunning.

Next was suitable gear…..I had bought my jacket while I was in South Africa as well as pants with zips and lots of lovely pockets (I love pants with pockets). I also bought a thermal top and leggings, socks, shoes, gloves and other bits and bobs. So thrilling to start getting my gear together.camino 2016.05.24 camino(4) Once I got back to the UK, I started doing more research on what to take and what to leave…keeping in mind the recommended weight of 10% of body weight…..I’m trying really hard to NOT lose any weight so I can take more with me!!! Hahaha.

I got online and ordered a whole lot of goodies from Mountain Warehouse, a parcel I received with much excitement and couldn’t wait to get it all on and start wearing it in.  I’ve also bought stuff that I will clearly not get to use (go figure) and some that after trying it out I have found to be unsuitable.2016.05.31 (1) So it goes I guess. But slowly I’m whittling it down to what I will or won’t take. Veterans of the Camino recommend weighing EVERYTHING and note it down…apparently after carrying the backpack for a couple of days for up to 8 hours a day, the pack gets heavier and heavier. Hmmm.camino (2)

I also got online and started to plan my route. As I say the Portuguese coastal route appeals to me the most…there’s also an inland route, but the thought of walking alongside the seas (well ocean actually) for 5 days appeals greatly. So I zoomed in on the maps and listed the towns along the way; potential places to stay and noted the distance between each. I don’t want to walk my feet off, so I’m limiting my distance to 28kms on any one day.

I also noted places that have lots of historical buildings and churches and things to see.  I can’t go to Portugal for 2 weeks and NOT explore….that would be sacrilege. And so after many, many hours online I have identified the best places to explore where I’ll stay for two nights, and which towns I can just sleep over and leave the next day.

Working out the various stages has been fun too…I worked out the distances with great care since as I say I didn’t want to walk more than 28kms on any one day…some places just don’t play fair…33kms!! So it’s been a real challenge to plan each stage. I’ve also learned so much I never knew about Portugal…I may just end up not coming back to the UK LOL. Portugal sounds absolutely fantastic. The towns have so much history and having looked at photos of some church interiors, I can tell already that I’m going to be taking a LOT of photos.

At the midway point of my journey, I’ll leave Portugal from Valenca, cross into Spain and walk the final stages from Tui to Santiago de Camino…oh my word, when I write that it gives me a thrill…of anticipation and a healthy dose of fear. I love walking and that will be a real pleasure, I love being on my own so that’s something I’m looking forward to and exploring is right up my alley….it’s looking to be a really amazing journey. The section from Tui to Santiago is the most important stage, I’ll do this over 5 days via Vigo and at just over 100kms it will qualify me for my Compostela….the certificate you receive from the Cathedral in Santiago for completing the route as a pilgrim. In order to ‘prove’ you’ve done the required 100km’s you get stamps in your Pilgrims Passport along the way from all sorts of places, churches, alburgues, restaurants and other such places…not always easy to identify but apparently once you say you’re a ‘pilgrim’ the locals are mostly very happy to help.  I am planning on learning some Portuguese and Spanish so that I can communicate.

My sister is loaning me her Spanish phrase book so I guess it’s time to start learning a new language.

Bring on the Camino!!!!camino 2016.05.24 camino(3)

 

The last time I visited South Africa was in 2011. After I left I said that that would be my last visit….uhmmm, nope!!

In February of this year I finally got my British Citizenship and realised that I needed to sort out my South African ‘stuff’ – my worldly possessions, most of which had been in storage for the past 15 years. I hadn’t wanted to make a decision to move everything to the UK in the event I didn’t get my citizenship and have to move it all back to SA.

So now that I had it (my citizenship), I planned a trip.

Just a couple of days after our Paris trip I boarded a plane to France (go figure) en-route to SA. We flew via Charles de Gaulle.  By the time we left it was dark and by my absolute luck I had a seat with a view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower…it looked magical. Soon after taking off we were asked to close our portholes so after that I didn’t get to see much else.

Paris by night - the Eiffel Tower

Paris by night – the Eiffel Tower

The plane was really empty and I had a row of 3 seats to myself and managed, by dint of wriggling and strategically places cushions and blankets, to get a good night’s sleep….well as good as what you can get on a noisy plane.  I had a seat on the left hand side of the plane as I was hoping to see the sunrise in the morning…..hah!!! I hadn’t bargained on the extraordinary brightness of the sun at that height…I opened my porthole a sliver and promptly shut it again…nearly blinded! Of course the sun had risen while I was sleeping, so I had missed the best of it.

Flying in over north of South Africa I was dismayed to see just how dry and brown the landscape was – I have become so spoiled by England’s green fields.  I was also surprised to see how empty the Johannesburg International airport (aka Oliver Tambo Airport) was…the last time I visited it was packed to the brim.

south african in winter

…how dry it all looks

I spent the first few days in Honeydew, staying with a friend who has a caravan parked within a caravan park….quiet and peaceful, the serenity belied the reality.  Beyond the iron gates and electrified fence are the sprawling mass of a township; a place of unrest and discontent, with frequent riots and tyre burning…..the burn marks clearly visible on the tar of what is a national highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria…two major cities.

Waking up in this park that borders on a nature reserve was a treat. As someone who treasures quiet mornings, I would make myself a cup of tea and wander down to the fence to watch the animals and birds at the waterholes.  The sunsets in the evenings are stunning; colours in the Highveld are like no other…it’s an African thing – something I suspect has to do with the air.

I had planned to see one of my younger sisters whilst there; Joanne, my Mother’s 3rd daughter, 10 years younger than me. She is currently being cared for by a charity in Soweto. After a dangerous descent into the underworld of drugs, she was, 3 years back, made a ward of the state and sent to an institution for detox and care. After they said she had to be moved on my sisters looked around and finally found this charity where she is currently staying and where I visited. Essentially although to all appearances she looks well, her brain has been irreparably damaged and she is unable to care for herself.t broke my heart to see the situation she has put herself in……I refuse to accept blame and will not allow anyone to say my sisters or I should care for her….she deliberately took the drugs to spite us against all pleading and arguments to not go down that road….and much as it breaks my heart to see where she has ended up, it is better than in an alleyway somewhere, and she is actually very happy and well cared for. The lady who runs the charity takes very good care of her albeit with very strict rules and if she breaks any of them she is denied her small freedoms…like being allowed to go to the store on her own. We simply don’t command the same respect and my sister, although very friendly to people, can be and has been very, very abusive towards her sisters, and my Mother when she was alive.  Anyway, that’s another story altogether, so moving on.

It was lovely to see her and I’m glad I made the journey despite my misgivings. I was most grateful to my lovely niece Tracey who has kept in touch with Joanne and visits on a regular basis, also being my go-between for birthdays and Christmas…being Postie for cards and presents. It was so lovely to see them too, the kids are growing up so quickly!!

Then it was off to Cape Town….flying over the country from north to south I was dismayed to see how dry and brown it all is. Many droughts have plagued the country and when you have idiots in Government who say that the previous Government failed because they built the dams too big, which means they take longer to fill up….you can only wonder. Although of course droughts are a common issue in Africa, still it was saddening to see how much it has deteriorated in the last decades.  Made me long for the green fields of England.

I was absolutely delighted to have a fantastic view of Table Mountain coming into land and if there is one thing I do miss about SA, that would be it…..the sight of Table Mountain….it really is quite extraordinary…as well as which the difference from before and after the mountain ranges is quite remarkable.

Table Mountain - Cape Town

Table Mountain – Cape Town

The Cape is green…on the whole, very green in comparison to further north. I was also astounded at how the ‘squatter’ camps in Cape Town had grown and how many houses had replaced the shacks, as well as which in a very innovative move which I think is just excellent, were that each house has a solar panel for generating hot water!! Makes absolute sense. Oh and satellite dishes galore!!

How wonderful it was to see my sisters at the airport…..I had only been expecting to see my friend Cheryll with whom I was to stay for the weekend and my younger sister Caroline and her hubby, but suddenly out of nowhere two of my other sisters Valerie and Sue appeared!!! We had a great time catching up. Of course Sue is now also working as a Carer in the UK but due to our work schedules we seldom see each other. You can imagine the noise at that table LOL…all of us talking 19 to the dozen….

Then it was time to go and my sister and her hubby kindly drove me through to Cheryll’s place where I spent the next two days…..sunshine every day! I had forgotten what it’s like to wake up to sunshine every day! Mind you, just the week before I arrived the Cape had experienced some terrible storms that took trees down and lifted roofs off! I had packed my bags accordingly and as it turned out I had no need at all for the warmer clothes I packed!IMAG3550

From there it was over to Somerset West to a place I had booked via AirBnB…a first for me and I was hopeful it would be okay…..after all I had already paid for it all. The place turned out to be lovely and very well appointed, but unfortunately I had a falling out with the host due to her nosiness and sly comments about my being vegetarian.  But it was comfortable and safe and at least the hire car was safe and not too far from the storage unit in Strand which is where I had my possessions – the reason I was in SA in the first place…..time to sort out my boxes and keep, sell or pack…for shipment to the UK.

I had always said that as soon as I got my British Citizenship I would head over to SA and sort it all out. It had been in storage for 15 years already and costing me a small fortune.

Thankfully my sister and brother-in-law were with me when we first opened the storage room….I took one look at all the boxes piled high and would have just shut the door and left again LOL…… But disaster was averted, and we decided to start sorting stuff out right there and then…first thing down was my mattress….now bearing in mind it had been in storage for 15 years….there was not a mark, or moth or mouse poop anywhere to be seen…..well done to my sister for all the safeguards she had thrown willy nilly over it all hahahaha. It worked! In fact it worked so well I decided right there and then to send the mattress to the UK!!! It’s one of the best I have ever had.

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my marvellous mattress…can’t wait to sleep on it again

And so began the next step of my journey…..what to keep, what to throw away and what to sell/donate. Oh lordy……it was really hard. I had over 40 boxes to sort through and although I hadn’t seen or needed or used any of it for the last 15 years….it was very hard to make the decision to get rid of things like my precious books. But the reality is that we don’t have anywhere to put them here in the UK and I am damned if I am putting anything into storage here!!! Besides which, storage in the UK is more than double the cost than in SA.

I had a fair idea of what i wanted to keep and what not…clothes in particular, although there was a fair number of favoured items that I wanted to bring over…. Kitchen implements and the dinner service et al were easy….time to go. Over the years we have accumulated more than enough and frankly I didn’t want to end up with loads of things again.

My sister had had the brainwave of hiring an extra unit across from mine so I could have space to move and sort. It really made the job so much easier….whatever I wanted to keep I just took across to the other side where I had boxes taped up and numbered, ready to absorb the things I wanted to ship to the UK.

Finally, after 7 long days, lots of bending, sorting into keep, throw, sell, donate with packing and unpacking, as well as walking back and forth between units – utter exhaustion, braving heat and an unexpected south-westerly wind that ensured I took more SA beach sand back to the UK than I had ever intended…I narrowed it down from 43 boxes to 26!!! Hahahaha. But I can tell you, it was really difficult to part with some of the stuff….as the last day wore on, more and more little bits got ‘squeezed’ into various boxes…stuff I suddenly felt unable to part with.  I’ll probably end up donating it to charity once I get it here!!

But after all that, the most difficult items to part with were my books. It nearly broke me to force myself to leave behind all the Encyclopaedias and nature books I had collected over the years. The novels were easy…I had read them all anyway and could easily buy them from charity shops in the UK if I so desired to read them again….but my encyclopaedias…..really hard. My sister promised to donate them to a library which assuaged my emotions…but then promptly started giving them away to people she knew.

I put a lot of the household items up for sale, the many unwanted toys my daughter had accumulated, clothes, ornaments and such like, but after all I ended up donating 70% of my unwanted items to a charity in the Strand area. I felt really happy with that as the woman who runs the charity is taking in unwanted and abandoned children from the surrounding area and was desperate for all sorts of necessities. The delight on the children’s faces when they got the toys was amazing. So the stuff all went to a good home.

Then it was time to say goodbye. The final bits and pieces had been loaded and taken away, and to my utter joy my sister took the fabulous rosewood dressing-table that I had acquired some years ago (29 to be exact! – where do the years go?). It was in a right sorry state and desperately needed a good clean, some fixing up and a lick or three or four of polish….a lot of tlc. I would dearly have loved to bring it over to the UK, but I have absolutely nowhere to put it and it certainly won’t fit into my motorhome!! LOL

Next step was the removal company to collect all the boxes and ship them over to the UK. (fyi I had a really good experience using Biddulphs). In all it feels really weird….essentially I have now, except for family ties, cut my ties to South Africa…the land of my birth. And even more weirdly, I can no longer stay there in excess of 90 days without permission….that was the most odd of all the discoveries I made.  Cést la vie.

Now it wasn’t all work and no play….I spent the following Sunday and Monday with my younger sister Valerie in Fish Hoek and finally got to meet my little nephew Luca…who is just the cutest little boy. Initially he was very shy but within a few minutes we were best friends and the three of us had a fantastic day on the beach, splashing in the waves….well Val and Luca did…I watched from the sidelines and filmed the fun!

Then we met up with my youngest sister Deidre (Luca’s mummy), and her hubby and my niece Maya….what a charming and delightful little girl she is. I had not yet met either of the kiddies and my heart melted. They are just adorable. We spent the next day with them too and had a most enjoyable time.

The following weekend, and after we had shut the doors of the storage unit I spent the weekend with another of my sisters; Caroline and her hubby Ewart at their home in Wynberg. What a pleasure to wake up to the amazing view of Table Mountain each day. We went up Lions Head in the evening to watch the sunset which it seems is a ‘National Occupation’ judging by the number of people.

Friday was mostly a wasted day with fiddle-faddling in their garage sorting boxes etc, but a highlight of the weekend was a ride on my brother-in-law’s motorbike….I rode pillion of course but oh my word, I hadn’t been on a bike in over 30 years!! Superb! When i got off the bike I said forget the motorhome….I’m buying a motorbike!!! LOL

Saturday was also a bit adhoc with none of the plans adhered to, but we did meet up with a friend of theirs and went to see a show which was just astounding and very very emotional for me. The story really captured my imagination and suddenly I found my South African identity again and it threw me completely.  I had over the last 15 years lost any joy in the country and any affiliation with or towards the country, so this sudden emotional connection left me feeling quite bereft…I cried on my sister’s shoulder afterwards.

We went for drinks afterwards and I had the most enormous Bailey’s Milkshake you could imagine…..I felt much better after that!!! LOL

Sunday we took an early ride up Table Mountain in the cable car. Oh my gosh the views….I had completely forgotten how stunning Cape Town is from that vantage.

We spent a couple of hours walking around the top of the mountain before heading back down and meeting my two younger sisters and the kiddies at Kirstenbosch Gardens for a picnic.  So much fun. It was lovely to relax in the sun and chat and play…and eat😉

So there we were…..4 sisters together. If my other two sisters Sue and Joanne had been there it would have been the first time in decades we had all been together. We all came from different parental relationships which has been really difficult and quite tricky over the years, with all of us together happening probably never. In fact I simply cannot recall any occasion where we were all together without exception.  How sad is that! My brother too lives in another country with his family. Maybe one day it would be amazing to get everyone together….sisters and brother along with nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-niece….all in one place. How marvellous.

Meanwhile my time in South Africa was drawing to a close. After our picnic in Kirstenbosch Gardens we decamped briefly to Deidre’s house for a couple of hours and then suddenly it was time to go. I felt so sad saying goodbye. It’s unlikely I will see them again for some years…it’s quite expensive travelling to SA and it’s also now become really expensive in the country. In years gone by you could get good value for your Rand, but not anymore.

Next morning is was up early and off to the airport. I said goodbye to my little sister with pain in my heart and my brother-in-law kindly drove me to the airport.

a trip to South Africa

leaving the Cape – looking towards Gordon’s Bay

Back to Johannesburg, overnight at my friend in Honeydew and then goodbye South Africa. As we flew out of Cape Town I had one last glimpse of the mountain and flying over the cape plains I felt an unexpected tug at my heart….unexpectedly I was sorry to be leaving….I guess that means this trip is not my last after all!

south african sunset

a final South African sunset from Johannesburg Airport

A very long night later, with little sleep on the flight we landed at Charles de Gualle and in no time at all I was in-flight to the UK. I had asked for a window seat, but unfortunately none were available.  Just before we started making our descent into London I took a walk along the passage and noticed that 6 rows at the back were empty!!! I asked the Attendant if I could sit there and oh my gosh the pilot could not have given me a better view of London as we came in to land even if I had asked:)

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beautiful London from the air

After what turned out to be an amazing trip to South Africa I was home.

 

 

Yes!! We went to Paris for Lunch! How marvellously indulgent is that. Having a British Passport really opens up the world.

When I first arrived in the UK back in 2001, I was on a South African passport with the accompanying ancestral visa.  Having this was, in my ‘book’, just the ultimate! It meant I could live and work in the UK, it also meant I could apply for visas to visit Europe and the USA…I really thought that was the ultimate.

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But as the years went by, I realised more and more what a real gem the ‘little red book’ is, the places I could go……instead of having to apply months in advance, spending a fortune and having to take off a lot of time (sometimes losing out on work due to visa appointments), the time got nearer to my making the decision to become a British Citizen (although that was a given anyway…I really wanted to be a citizen of the UK from when I first arrived), and apply for my British passport…..and now I have it.:)

 

caravan

 

I have a list of ‘things I want to do’ when I get my passport, and one of them was to just book a ticket on the Eurostar and visit Paris for the day.  Thanks to my ‘wish angel’; aka my daughter, as part of the celebration of becoming a BC and getting that little red book, she, along with two of my sisters arranged a day trip to Paris for lunch!!!

Wowww, amazing!!! What an extraordinary feeling it was to be able to just get on the train and go….no visas, no limits! I didn’t really appreciate the freedom having a British passport would give me.

We set off really early in the morning of the 24th April, the day after my birthday and headed for Ashford where we were due to meet the Eurostar.

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

5 minutes to go…..Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

To say that I had butterflies of excitement would be an understatement. I hadn’t ventured to Europe, or Paris for nearly 8 years…it just got tooooo expensive for the necessary visas, and after the trauma of getting a visa for our trip to Iceland I had decided I wasn’t planning any further trips until I had my British passport….but finally we were on our way!!!

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar…and a bit of a selfie there😉

Bubbling with excitement and barely able to keep my feet on the ground, we finally reached Ashford then whoosh, the Eurostar whizzed into the station and without further ado we were on our way!me and train I could scarcely contain myself.  My grin almost reached my ears. It was really awesome to be able to share this trip with my daughter and we chatted and planned and took dozens of photos…and we hadn’t even left the UK yet!!! LOLme and cj

Suddenly, like Alice, we were hurtling at speed through a tunnel and under the sea…or was that Nemo?

I still marvel at the engineering feat of the Eurotunnel. How extraordinary to be able to travel beneath the sea in a train…..okayyyy so it goes through a tunnel, but you know what I mean!

Before we had drawn breath we were in France…..although if you had woken up after a sleep you’d think you were in England….the landscape is exactly the same.  The modern accoutrements of roads and telephone wires, houses and bridges etc are of course somewhat different, plus they drive on the wrong side of the road on the continent, but other than that….the landscape is just the same.  I recall in 2008 seeing the rapeseed fields in England and after popping out the tunnel on the other side, seeing exactly the same fields in France.  It’s weird.

The excitement built the nearer we got to Paris and then we were there, on the outskirts and none too soon we drew to a stop at Gare du Nord.  The last time I had been there was in 2008 and of course prior to that, the most marvellous trip my daughter and I made in 2005 for my 50th.

Heading straight for the Metro we planned our journey through the maze and soon we were in the centre of Paris and a short walk from Notre Dame.

Paris for Lunch by Eurostar

the maze of the Paris Metro system – remarkably easy to use

Wow, that building is just awesome. I love that it stands on its own little island in the middle of the Seine; il de la cité….quite appropriate.

We didn’t go in but set off to find the restaurant that my daughter had in mind for lunch.  It was a place she had visited previously on a day trip, and felt it would fit the bill.  We tramped about, along the West Bank, down lanes and across bridges but the restaurant was nowhere to be found!!! Eventually she got onto google and located the place…right where we had initially been!!! LOL. By then I was beginning to despair and time was flying by.  As usual, channelling my inner tourist, I was really keen to see as much as possible, but as she reminded me, the purpose of the trip was to have ‘Lunch in Paris’…

The restaurant, la fourmi ailée, was an absolute delight. The interior is quirky, and very very French (naturellement)… 20160424_131621 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16

We made our way to a table at the rear of the restaurant and I spent the next few minutes simply gawking and admiring…..the place is a delight. Two of my favourite features were the painted ceiling and the books from floor to ceiling. We selected our meal and placed our order with the delightful waiter…oh that French accent….it’s amazing how the French accent combined with the language can turn a simple phrase like ‘clean up your mess and wash the dishes’ sound like music to your ears…unless you understand what’s being said of course LOL

I do love it. And yes I think I do love Paris in the springtime.  I’m so lucky to have my birthday in spring in the northern hemisphere….in South Africa I was an autumn baby (which explains why autumn is my favourite season), but of the joys of seeing the trees smothered in glorious clouds of pink cherry blossom, the parks alive with hundreds of spring flowers; a rainbow of colours….IMAG3174 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

Although the weather was overcast and a bit wet, after lunch we set off to see ‘as much as possible’.  I really wanted to walk along the West Bank of the Seine to Pont Alexandre III.

paris for lunch

Pont Alexandre III

So after a second visit to Notre Dame we set off, but instead of sticking to the riverbank we did a sort of zig-zag and strolled along cobbled streets that meander here and there, leading to tiny squares, secret parks and hidden churches, enjoying the marvellous French architecture, patisseries, charming little shops and quirky lanes that lead you further and further into the depths of the city.

I adore how in Paris all the cafes have chairs on the sidewalks….they look so chic!IMAG3163 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

It fascinates me that some of the houses and buildings still have the pockmarks from exploding shells and bullets during WW2 occupation.20160424_144156 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16  - CopyThe architecture is wonderful, in many places so old and deteriorating, so bad you wonder how it stays up, but that all lends to the charm. We discovered amazing street art, secret symbols and charming murals.

We managed to flash past some of Paris’s most well-known landmarks and saw a few in the distance.

We killed two birds with one stone….from a roundabout on the Champs-Élysées20160424_160116 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16 we could see the Arc de Triomphe,

paris for lunch

Arc de Triomphe

from Pont des Invalides we managed to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance,

Paris for lunch

the Eiffel Tower in the distance

while at Notre Dame we saw the amazing statue of Charlemagne,

paris for lunch

Charlemagne

were just a stones-throw from Fontaine Saint Michel,

the famous ‘Metropolitain’ signIMAG3173 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch and the infamous ‘love-locks’ bridge.

One of the things I find most fascinating about Paris are the plane trees…they are so beautifully sculpted like soldiers in a row.IMAG3189 - 2016.04.24 Paris for lunch

All too soon we had to make our way back to the station.

paris for lunch

…is it really that late already???

On our way back to Gard de Nord we stopped for a quick look at the ‘Wall of Love’; now a landmark in its own right, this love-themed 40 square metres (430 sq ft) wall in the Jehan Rictus garden square in Montmartre, Paris, France. The wall, created in 2000 by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito, is composed of 612 tiles of enamelled lava, on which the phrase “I love you” is featured 311 times in 250 languages.

the wall of love

The ‘Wall of Love’ in Montmartre

We also bought and devoured one of the most delicious Nutella crepes I have ever had, and viewed the fabulous Sacre Coure in Montmartre….one of my favourite areas of Paris.

paris for lunch

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur

Along the way we walked past the Grand Palais

paris for lunch

Grand Palais

passed through the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10thand 18th Arrondisement and stumbled across a protest march near Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt20160424_154701 - Paris for lunch 24.04.16

Then suddenly we were back at the station….6 hours in Paris had whizzed by and it was time to board the Eurostar for London….tired but elated!!

We had just been to ‘Paris for Lunch’.

paris for lunch

19 ; 01 à Londres s’il vous plaît

Paris both repels and fascinates me. I find some of the buildings to be quite ‘cold’ although the wrought-iron balconies are charming.

paris for lunch

I find the wrought-iron balconies on the buildings rather charming

The parks are wonderful and of course the famous landmarks are wonderful to see up close….or not so close😉

Although I seldom visit a place more than once and try to see everything I can on any one visit, I suspect that there is so much more to Paris than meets the eye. I shall look forward to another such visit….it would be sacrilege not to!😉

paris for lunch

Bonjour and au revoir Paris…..till next time

 

 

 

Just a few months ago I became a British Citizen. In fact today is the 3rd monthaversary of my citizenship ceremony.

IMG-20160225-WA0026

at my citizenship ceremony in Maidstone

I have a list of ‘things to do once I have my passport’ and one of those is the Camino.  I wasn’t really sure which section I wanted to do but since I have always wanted to visit Portugal, when I discovered that one of the routes is from Porto I decided to make that the route I would take.

I can’t quite make up my mind whether to walk it all in one go, or rather break it up into 2 stages.  So in September of this year I plan to walk the Camino from Porto to Santiago or maybe just the first stage. It will all depend on how I feel at the time LOL

I have completed part of Chaucer’s route to Canterbury and in order to practice for the Camino I am going to continue the journey and complete it before I leave for Porto (hopefully; time being an issue).

My passion is London and the history of the city, and I have explored and visited many of the areas where Chaucer lived and worked,

IMAG6351_1

a wooden structure depicts the Algate house Chaucer lived in 

and on one of my recent work assignments I discovered part of the ‘pilgrims way’ and immediately set out to walk the section nearest to where I was working.

IMAG2659 - Kent April2016

The Pilgrim’s Way – Winchester to Canterbury

passportI am a 61 year-old single parent of a most wonderful daughter aged 35+. Born in South Africa, I crossed the seas in October 2001 to visit my sister and her hubby who were living in Ireland at the time. I loved Ireland and after deciding that London was where I wanted to live, I returned to SA poste-haste to obtain my ancestral visa (my grandfather had the good sense to be born in Wandsworth) and never looked back…..after living and working in the UK for the past 15 years I recently obtained my British Citizenship and relevant passport and hope to put it to good use.
Since getting my passport on 30 March I’ve been from Dover to Calais, specifically so that I could see the White Cliffs of Dover.IMAG2395.jpg

My daughter and I went to Paris on 24 April for lunch (courtesy of her and my sisters Sue & Caroline – thanks guys, it was amazing)

My next trip is to Brussels in July to spend a few days with my friend Valy,

and of course I’ve been to South Africa, but since I used both my passports, it only semi counts as a trip post UK passport😉

It has been my dream for some years now to walk the Camino as well as spending a few days to explore Santiago. My father (deceased 2015) has cycled the Camino a few times, the last being in 2015 a few months before he died at the age of 85…although he didn’t complete the route due to deteriorating health. One of my younger sisters was with him at the time and they managed to fit in a visit to my brother and family in Hungary…..I’m going to visit them in Budapest for a few days before my #Camino2016.kevin & timi and family
I have lived in the UK for 15 years now and have travelled extensively both in the UK and in Europe and 3 times to the USA.  Prior to my departure in 2001  I travelled extensively in South Africa, and during the 6 months I lived in Ireland between October 2001 and March 2002 we travelled all over the island and then some….I’ve been to just about every county.

I plan to buy a motor-home in 2021 and start travelling the length and breadth of the UK with occasional trips to the Continent. It’s so easy it would be a shame not to.

traveler and sun

heading for the sun and surf…suitcase following close behind

I look forward to meeting fellow pilgrims in September.
Here is an extract from the site http://santiago-compostela.net/

Walking the Camino

Walking the Camino is not difficult – most of the stages are fairly flat on good paths. The main difficulty is that few of us have walked continuously for 10, 20 or 30 days. You learn more about your feet than you would ever have thought possible!

Origins of the pilgrimage

The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back at the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.

The Way was defined then by the net of Roman routes that joined the neuralgic points of the Peninsula. The impressive human flow that from very soon went towards Galicia made quickly appear lots of hospitals, churches, monasteries, abbeys and towns around the route. During the 14th century the pilgrimage began to decay, fact brought by the wars, the epidemics and the natural catastrophes.

The recovery of the route begins at the end of the 19th century, but it is during the last quarter of the 20th century when the authentic contemporary resurge of the peregrination takes place. There is no doubt that the social, tourist, cultural or sport components have had a great importance in the “jacobea” revitalization but we cannot forget that the route has gained its prestige thanks to its spiritual value.

Buen Camino:)

20160423_161749 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

Dover Castle and St George’s Day 2016

Having my birthday on the same day as St George’s Day certainly opens it up for attending amazing events.  No less this year.  Since I wasn’t in the mood for the long train journey to London to watch the Morris Dancers at Leadenhall Market, or attend the St George’s Day Festival at Trafalgar Square, (as well as which I’ve done that before a few times), I decided instead to head over to Dover Castle for the St George’s Day Festival. It also helped that I have an English Heritage membership😉20160423_154929 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

Dover is not too far from Broadstairs by train, so early on the morning of Saturday 23rd I hopped onto the train and made my way there. I’ve visited the castle before and ohmyword, it is extraordinary. England’s biggest castle, the size of the place leaves you breathless, both with wonder and physically! It takes a good few hours to explore all the nooks and crannies and walk the perimeter.  And there is so much to see.

20160423_115012 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

The Constables Gate, Dover Castle. constructed 1220-1227

The blurb promised an action-packed knight vs dragon festival.  It didn’t disappoint. Starting at 10am the events ranged from horsemanship, swordsmanship and medieval music,

St Georges Day Festival Dover Castle

medieval musicians

to a mock up village with craftsmen and women going about their medieval business.  We were treated to live cooking demonstrations, archery, swordsmanship displays, medieval music and jesters plying their trade.

I got there really early and made my way into the castle grounds, this time approaching from the top of the cliffs via bus, rather than walking up like I did the previous visit (insane idea).  Have you any idea just how high those cliffs are? You can see France from the top…hello!!!!

20160423_161448 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

across the English channel to France

A cluster of medieval tents were set up here and there, and the villagers were chatting to visitors and demonstrating their trade and crafts. A colourful medley of sounds and colours – although I’m sure it smelt a lot more fragrant than it did during medieval times.

20160423_122613 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

…medieval streets were most certainly not paved with gold!

The costumes were beautifully done, flags flapping gaily in the ever present wind – which at times can almost blow you off your feet.20160423_123748 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip High above the castle keep, the flag of England with the cross of St George flapped wildly in the wind alongside the Union Jack.

20160423_121623 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

St George’s Day Festival at Dover Castle

I meandered here and there, exploring the interior and precincts of the castle enjoying the different displays before settling down at the west end of the green to watch the displays of swordsmanship as knights in their armour valiantly fought one another.  They are marvellous, although it does look awfully tiring.

20160423_123605 - 23.04.16 Dover Castle & Road Trip

the knight’s fight

Afterwards I made my way to the jester’s encampment for what was to be an hour of sheer and unadulterated fun and silliness.  Whoever they were, they were fantastic. A lot of the quips were definitely aimed at the older generation, but the visuals and tricks appealed to all ages…I was laughing so much at one stage I could barely hold the camera still as I was recording.

Then the coup de grace and finale; a titan battle between St George on his sturdy mount

St Georges Day Festival Dover Castle

St George on his trusty steed

and the fearsome dragon!!! LOL – right???!!!

This epic display filled the spectator stands (wet grass) as we waited breathlessly while St George fought off the evil Black Knight on his stallion….

St Georges Day Festival Dover Castle

The Black Knight and St George do battle

….before tackling the effervescent dragon. St George is his eagerness to slay the dragon raced up to the horrible green creature intent on murder!! His not so sturdy mount objected to the sudden halt, skidded on the wet grass, and reared up so high that St George’s rump met the ground with a thump!!

St George's Day festival at Dover Castle

St George lands on his rump with a thump!

The horse was retired, and on foot St George raced after the dragon, his armour rattling, wielding his mighty sword to rescue the virgin, and slayed the fearsome creature.  Hoorah! The battle was won.

St George's Day festival at Dover Castle

…and so the dragon is slewed!!! LOL

The weather as usual managed to provide 4 seasons in one day and we had a mix of sunshine, howling gales, a shower of rain and heavy black clouds that hung menacingly over the castle….threatening to lash down but not quite getting there. All we needed was a smattering of snow (not unheard of) and hail and we would have had a typical spring day in the UK. LOL

In all a brilliant day and superb way to celebrate my birthday. Thanks St George😉 nice to have you on board.

I can highly recommend a visit to Dover Castle. It is by far one of the most awesome castles I have visited to date.  Mind you, to be fair, most of the castles I have visited are amazing…..all in their own special way.

Visit Dover Castle

St George is the Patron Saint of England

The horses used during the events were Atkinson’s Action Horses

You can reach Dover Castle via car, on foot (if you have the oomph to climb the hill), by bus from the city centre. The station is Dover Priory

 

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