Tag Archive | travel

Northern Lights-Part 1

Seeing the Northern Lights has been the Number 2 would-like experience on my Bucket List for some time and I was hoping to arrange a visit to Iceland or one of the Northern-most parts of Scandanavia next year to celebrate my next “big” birthday. After an evening out with the Hubster and Pooch I came across an online advert for a 12-night cruise on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth calling at various ports in Norway travelling up into the Arctic Circle with the aim of “finding” the Northern Lights. The cost was very tempting and, feeling that this could be the moment with all my stars aligned (together with the effect of several glasses of wine), I booked it!

I booked it on Friday evening with the departure date the following Friday- I had just 6 days to get our paperwork in order which, when taking the weekend out of the equation, reduced it to just 4 working days. I have never been on a cruise before and have always avoided them on the basis that I would be bored. I needn’t have worried (another story) but with holidays just starting to take off again after the COVID19 Pandemic, the amount of paperwork required to be completed before we set foot onboard was daunting. Luckily, our passports were valid for travel and, having had lots of medical tests last year, I was already registered with the NHS to access my up to date Corona Virus immunisation status. I knew therefore how to get Hubster registered quickly although, when I applied for his certificate of immunisation the message popped up “…..it could take up to 10 days to hit your account.”

We hadn’t got 10 days! As it happens, it appeared within 48 hours so stress levels were reduced considerably. We also had other forms to complete for both Cunard and the UK Government so when we left for our holiday the following Friday I had a portfolio full of paperwork to hand over.

If only it was that easy…….we still had the last and perhaps most worrying hurdle to overcome, a real-time COVID19 test taken at the port with results sent through to our mobiles within 40 minutes. Would our 3 hour drive down to Southampton be a wasted journey? I couldn’t bear to have got everything sorted within one week from booking only to test positive for COVID and sent home.

Thankfully we both tested negative and were allowed to park our car, unload our bags and get onboard. It was a big relief.

The on-boarding process was very efficient and it wasn’t long before we were shown to our Stateroom (don’t call it a cabin) and we could get ready for “Sail-Away.” Who knew that leaving port was called “Sail-Away”?- and that it is celebrated across the ship ( never call it a boat).

After Sail-Away and watching the harbour lights of Southampton fade into the evening we needed to get ready for our first evening meal onboard-in the Britannia restaurant and so we went to change into our smart casual, jacket and tie outfits whilst enjoying our complimentary bottle of fizz.

(To be continued)

Travel Journal-Persian Posts

Front cover

Front cover

Some of you already know that I write a couple of blogs (when the mood takes me!) my other blog being about my travels and experiences in Iran-Persian Posts. Over the past few days I have been catching up with my articles based on my 3-week holiday back in July 2014. Thank goodness then that I always keep a travel journal which I religiously and lovingly write up each evening so that I don’t forget even the smallest detail. It is amazing what you do forget and I love re-reading my journal weeks and months after my holiday.

My travel journal has come in very handy this whilst writing up my posts and I have managed to complete quite a few. We are already planning our 2015 visit so I must catch up before we go!

 

 

 

Travel journals are easy to put together and good fun. Collecting tickets and stubs, receipts, leaflets, postcards, menus, photos, labels and anything else that will stick onto the pages or slip into pockets is addictive but they give a great flavour of your travel experience and trigger memories otherwise filed away.

For this trip I used a great wire-bound book from paperchase. For £7.00 I got

Back cover

Back cover

lots of pages, both lined and plain so I could add my own drawings, plastic pockets and half-page paper pockets which were really useful to keep the leaflets and menus in.

You can buy the book online-Paperchase

If you are short of ideas but have collected a wealth of material, you will do worse than look on Pinterest for inspiration. There are lots of completed pages to view, ideas for travel-themed embellishments and layout designs as well as suggestions for what works well.

I will be writing another journal to cover my 2015 travels and have already got the book ready to pack! All I need now is to sort out the rest of my equipment to take and I will be set. Only 5 months early!

 

More adventures in Iran

I will soon be able to resurrect my other Blog “Persian Posts”  as we have now booked our tickets for our next visit to Iran. This time we are taking William with us and I am relieved that his Visa came through just this week so we can plan properly.

It will be an amazing experience for him especially as it is his first time in Iran but we will try and prepare him as best we can. Of course, nothing can prepare him fully for the different culture, food, weather, family, customs etc but there are certain things we do need to go through with him before we land in Esfahan.

William is looking forward to his trip, as am I, and I hope he loves the country and its people as much as I do. There are not many Western boys of his age that get this opportunity and we will try and show him as much of the country as is possible in the 3 weeks we are there and in temperatures up into the 90’s.

The good thing is that Feri’s nephew is exactly the same age and they will be housed together on the self-contained second floor-God help us! I have packed a spare English-Farsi vocabulary book so here’s hoping they manage to communicate! We will be there during the World Cup and as both love football I am sure that we will witness the evidence that football is a truly global language!

In the meantime, Will has his A Level exams to finish and his last school Prom to navigate so he is going to be busy. I have marked out a few things and places that I would like to see this year so look out for more Persian Posts coming soon!

 

 

 

Home thoughts from abroad

I am really looking forward to my next visit to Iran, which is due later this year. I love the country, its people, its food, the culture and architecture and the history is mind-boggling. The fragrant smells of spices and herbs in the bazaar, mud walls, easy living and bergamot tea to drink at leisure all day. It’s a wonderful experience.

When I am there, we tend to go out in the early morning to do our sight-seeing and visiting early doors before it gets too hot. After lunch, the family settles down for their afternoon siesta. I find it difficult to get into the routine of sleeping in the afternoon and usually spend my first week updating my Persian Posts blog.

This year I will be doing something in addition to my blog, and I don’t know why I haven’t thought about it before. This is a fantastic idea for any trip, holiday, honeymoon and days out and I will be stocking up on 3 weeks of Iranian stamps on my first day.

Postcard album

 

Robert Browning

Home Thoughts from Abroad

O, to be in England
Now that April ‘s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That ‘s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Funky flowers

I have finally found something I can do on the train without my arms flailing everywhere threatening to accidentally stab my fellow passengers with knitting needles.

Crochet hooks are smaller and blunt and therefore crocheting on the train is a much safer and convenient option for me than knitting.

Funky flower brooches are usually the end product and having sold a few and with orders for more in specific colours to do, I need to get on with it.

Off to catch the train!

Have a good day all.

Iran-Esfahan a year on

I can’t believe that this time last year I was in Iran enjoying two weeks of fascinating culture and family experience. One of my favourite memories is the pigeon towers. Here’s a reminder.

Here in the UK, we often hear complaints from local councils about the damage and inconvenience that wild pigeons create. Many people feed these urban pests and the very acidic and vast amounts of pigeon poo corrodes stonework of buildings, clutters drains and guttering and can make smooth pavements into veritable ice-rinks.  The food left uneaten also encourages mice and rats, and dead pigeons can contaminate water supplies. So, what do the Iranians, and particularly those living around Esfahan, do about their pigeons?

They build Pigeon Towers.

There are many, many such towers in and around the Esfahan area and all are individually designed and architectually unique. Unlike the UK, pigeons are revered in Iran and are a sign of good luck so these pigeon-palaces are considered well deserved. I was lucky enough to see inside one of these towers which just happened to be undergoing some internal maintenance when we arrived.

The main purpose of these towers is to encourage pigeons to nest in the honeycombed interior, where each bird has their own “pad”, about the same size as a small shoe box. Not wanting to soil their living area, the pigeons then poo on the protruding lip of their nest, and the tower-keeper can then easily brush all the poo to the floor, sweep it up and use it as fertiliser for locally grown crops.

The Esfahan area is well-known for its melon and cucumber yields, and I can say from experience that they are deliciously sweet, crisp and full of flavour.

Power to Pigeon-Poo!

Train travel

Travelling up to Scotland on the East Coast line is a treat on a beautiful sunny day like yesterday. The scenery past Newcastle up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and beyond is breathtaking at times and when the sky is a deep blue peppered finely with a few clouds here and there and the mellow autumn sun is still low in the sky with its silver-gold rays reflecting off the water it is simply stunning. But whilst the scenery itself is enough to attract my attention, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the conversations going on around me.

We were joined at York by a troupe of tourists travelling to Edinburgh and their first task once settled was to read the menu. When they found that breakfast was included in their trip it was bacon butties all round. This in turn stimulated a debate about the traditional English delicacy, fish & chips. It seems to all of us who were listening (compulsory for all those without ear plugs) that all they have eaten since arriving on our shores is fish & chips and thanks to them I now know many of the best, and worst places dotted around the UK serving our “favourite” dish.

Bacon butties finished we travelled along the coastline as the scenery gradually became more dramatic. I could hear people behind me scrabbling for their cameras but rather than the usual “oohs” ,“aahs” and gasping at the beauty of the cliffs and fishing boats we heard “get the sheep! get the sheep!” Silly me. I never knew that sheep, the stalwart of the English countryside, are a tourist attraction in their own right. Goodness knows what they’d make of the pink/orange sheep on the M8- They’d probably pull the emergency cord.

Bacon butties digested, and faced with all sorts of strange and wonderful dishes on the East Coast train menu it was clearly proving difficult to choose their next meal. Beetroot risotto was the vegetarian option and I had to snigger to myself when one of the gang asked their tour guide “What is beetroot?” The question however was nothing compared to the answer “red cabbage”. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any funnier, the guide was asked, “What’s risotto?”…..she replied “ Pasta”.

Pasta? Silly me again. I’ve been trying to make risotto with Arborio rice and all the time I needed pasta. Well, I certainly learned a few things on my journey yesterday.

I’m looking forward to the return journey already.

Better late than never….Iran here we come

The journey and the jokes begin

I am always a little suspicious when a wife of 30 years standing deposits her husband off with us for a two week holiday in Iran with a Cheshire-cat grin and an obvious “ I sympathise with you” look on her face before driving back home with gay abandon. I could sense her shoulders relax as she realises she’ll be driving home to spend two weeks husband-free and I stood and watched the smile spread from ear to ear as we connected in female understanding. Go girl!

Bless him. Javad is a lovely man with a heart of gold but his perpetual jokes are the pits and the thought of spending almost 24 hours in travelling in close proximity followed by two weeks of frequent visits is almost unbearable in the nicest possible way. However, not to be outwitted I am prepared. Firstly I insist on sitting in the back of the car on the way to Heathrow, my i-pod is fully charged, I have 2 books in my bag, a journal to write, and a new book of crosswords to tackle. No doubt there will be a film to watch on the plane too.

Feri can listen to the jokes.

Family duty fulfilled.

Universal packing List!

Tomorrow I am flying over to Iran for two weeks and as usual I am packing for a month and every eventuality. There are so many things to remember but what I forget is that I can buy everything I need over there and for a fraction of the price. So why am I so insistent on taking a case the size of my old school trunk, 40 pairs of knickers (TMI), three changes of clothes per day (hot, cold, indifferent, wedding, birthday, meals out, etc etc etc) and a shed load of books to read knowing that I won’t have time to sit down let alone read a book?

Who knows but I thought that I’d seek help to whittle down the contents of my case to the bare necessities and the Universal Packing List is what I found.

Here you can type in the overriding criteria of your holiday and the programme will tell you what you need to do before you go and what you need to pack! Fantastic!

Now, where can I get hold of some Sherpas?

Preparing for Iran

Well it really doesn’t seem two minutes since we were saying our goodbyes to the family and heading home from Iran last October. Now, I’m packing again and getting anxious about the journey.

Packing is so much easier now that I know what to expect, and hurray for Wallis who have yet again provided me with my perfect Anglo/Iranian wardrobe; long sleeves, long lines, and fabulous printed flowing fabrics that I know I can wear here or there quite comfortably. Wonderful! I also popped into my favourite scarf shop in Nottingham today and treated myself to a new scarf! Very decadent but it is gorgeous.

Over the next 2 days I need to keep myself busy and try not to think about the 6-hour flight to Tehran. Flying and me do not mix and I get very anxious with claustrophobia and the general feeling of being out of control which can lead to aggressive behaviour and panic attacks (brown paper bag always on hand) The Valium is also packed and I am just hoping for a smooth flight.

Esfahan is the nearest city to where we live and it has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. How lucky that it is only a 20 minute drive away. I fell in love with Esfahan at first sight and I was amazed by its stunning beauty the likes of which I have never seen. Here are a few of the sights I can look forward to;

Esfahan-Half the World

This time round I really want to visit the Armenian Christian cathedral as it looks spectacular and strangely not out of place in a predominantly Moslem country. However, I reserve  final judgement until I have seen it for myself.

So there we are two days to go until we travel and I need to wrap presents, pack my case, paint my nails and generally get ready for part 2 of my Iranian adventures.  I just wish I’d been more diligent with my Farsi 😦 but I’ll get by!

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you all over the next couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy them too.