Time to travel

I did a bit of a time leap when I travelled on these two trains within a couple of weeks of each other.

The first is one of the steam engines on the North York Moors Railway. A trip on this line is like stepping into a scene from Brief Encounter.  Every detail, from the signs, to the luggage on the strategically placed trolleys beautifully recreates the 1940’s era.  The train itself puffed and blew it’s way across the picturesquely bleak moors from Pickering to the seaside town of Whitby (where, I learnt, that Dracula had resided for a while… who knew??) a journey that would take about 25 minutes in the car, but took nearly two hours on the train!  A brilliantly fun and relaxing way to travel, but pretty rubbish for commuters!

on the other hand…

We travelled on the extraordinary Bullet Train when we visited Japan in June.  I was childishly excited at the prospect of experiencing this sci-fi speedy train, and wasn’t disappointed.

The rail service in Japan is second to none – well, certainly the service here in England doesn’t come anywhere near close.   The stations are easy to navigate, the trains are on time, they are clean, the staff are friendly and helpful, and that is across the board not just the Bullets.

But the Bullet trains.  Ah, the Bullet trains.  They are so beautiful. Swanlike in their elegance.  Seemingly never-ending as they cruise into the station. They’re comfortable – you can actually stretch your legs, and excitingly, you can twiddle the seats ’round… ha! for some reason I found that very pleasing.

And of course, they go fast. Very, very fast. And smoothly fast. Cutting through the countryside like a knife through butter.

By the time we left Japan I’d been on a few of them, criss-crossing from one beautiful place to another, but the excitement didn’t wane, and I’d love to do it again one day.

 

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An age apart

Posted in response to this weeks Daily Post weekly photo challenge. This week’s theme ‘Opposites’. https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/opposites/  (eek…url linky thing not working!)

I have to pinch my arm to remind myself that just a few weeks ago I was in Japan.  For as long as I can remember, it’s a country and culture that has fascinated me and drawn me to it.  It’s been top of my bucket list for, like, e-ver, and now it’s been crossed off as ‘done’!

And I have to tell you, it didn’t disappoint.

We did a small group tour, and in just two short weeks managed to feel immersed in it’s fabulous diversity – from the madness of Tokyo and Osaka, to the tranquillity of Takayama and Kamikochi. In fact, when I saw that this weeks photo challenge theme was ‘opposites’ Japan instantly sprang to mind, and I was sure I could find a suitable photograph among the, well alright, over a thousand, that I took (excessive I know, but well, it’s so darn photogenic!).   I chose this one, taken in Hama-rikyu Gardens, Tokyo, which illustrates how, despite the towering new glass buildings that Tokyo is known for, the old gardens at their heart remain quiet and peaceful, and in fact, I think, their beauty is enhanced by that sparkling backdrop.

This picture also made me think of the office workers peering out over their computer screens through the window, and down at the gardener working away in the sunshine.  Opposites indeed.

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Winin’

Posted in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge.  This week’s theme ‘Dance’

I’ve never witnessed anything so colourful, noisy, and joyful as the Trinidad Carnival.  The parade of dancers, each troupe in different coloured costumes, went on all day.  A senses overload which simply cannot be captured in mere photographs, but I gave it a go. Oh, and of course, these were taken whilst I was having the odd rum or two and ‘wining’ myself. Just to be clear.. wining is a Carribean dance (basically ‘winding’ your hips), I wasn’t drinking wine on top of the rum, let’s face it, I wouldn’t have been able to stand up, let alone dance, if I’d been doing that! 😉

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Vivid dancing

Posted in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge – This weeks theme ‘Vivid’

Took these in the wonderful madness and chaos of the Tobago Carnival a few years back. We were lucky enough to spend a whole day watching the spectacle of thousands of people in amazing costumes gyrating by – though sadly, it was a bit like watching a party with your nose pressed up against the window…!

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Thirsty Thursday

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For anyone who hasn’t yet visited Marrakech, Morocco, you must.  Jemaa El-Fna is the huge square in the centre.  Scooters and motorbikes go in all directions as do pony and traps, there are entertainers dancing, gymnasts flick flacking and climbing on each other to make pyramids (ta da!) hawkers selling, well everything – we even found a stall selling second hand false teeth (where did he get those from I wonder?), people with performing monkeys, musicians, people telling stories, people grabbing your hands to try and paint henna on them, it’s colourful, noisy and mad, in the best possible way.  In fact you can just sit in a cafe sipping your tea and watch it all for hours.

I’ve always liked a refreshing glass of mint tea, it’s good for the digestion you know, and can help if you’ve got tummy upsets or the like.  However, I’d never tasted mint tea as good as the brew they deliver in Marrakech.

They pop freshly picked mint and a dollop of honey into a silver tea pot, bung in some boiling water and serve (from a height to cool it) into wee little glasses.  Perfect on a scorching hot Marrakech morning (or afternoon).. (or evening)…

‘We can’t make it this good at home’ we thought ‘the little teapot must be the key’

We set off to the souk to buy one, and while we were at it, thought we’d get some for our daughters too, as a souvenir  So we needed three topnotch teapots.  Surely there would be a deal to be done.

The souks run off of the square and are narrow covered lanes with market stalls or tiny shops on either side. They are normally packed with people, animals pulling carts, and mad motorcyclists trying to run you down. It’s steamily hot,and there are some interesting smells. But I absolutely love them.  The atmosphere is like nowhere else. Mostly jovial, but you have to beware of anyone trying to fleece you, or pick your pockets.  Probably no worse than any other tourist ridden place though.

It didn’t take us long to find a small shop whose shelves were overloaded with gleaming teapots of all different designs and sizes.  We pondered long and hard over which three to choose while the owner of the shop stood courteously to one side watching us diligently.  As soon as we picked a couple up, he swooped and gave us an outrageously high price which he swore was a bargain for these authentic Moroccon items. Now, anyone who has ever been to Morocco must know that the rule of thumb is to seriously haggle over the price. When he found out we were buying three, he did drop it a bit, and after haggling good naturedly for a good half an hour, we got him to a more reasonable sum which was about a quarter of the original price he’d suggested.

Letting us know that he wouldn’t be able to feed his family of ten for a week because we had struck such a hard bargain (hmm….) he wrapped up our lovely bona fide Marrakechian pots and we went off to find a cool spot to have another cup of tea.

When we got back to our room in our little Riad, we were eager to inspect our purchases. Polished and shiny, prettily patterned, they would be a perfect reminder of our short holiday in Morocco.

Though we did see the funny side when we turned them over and found ‘Made In Manchester’ stamped brazenly on the bottom!!

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Cooling off with a cuppa in a Marrakech cafe

Floating

So hard to choose between pictures for this weeks Daily Post photo challenge so I’ve given you a selection. Let me know which you like best!!  The prompt is ‘Afloat’:

Ok, this first one is a little self-indulgent.  I didn’t take the picture either….’cos yes, that’s me up there, floating about, light as a feather, above the beautiful blue sea off the coast of Marmaris, Turkey. I was particularly chuffed with the smiley face parachute! 😉

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This next one is of the harbour at Kovalam, Kerala, India. When you see these hundreds of fishing boats out at night with their lanterns lit, it looks like the stars have fallen from the sky and are bobbing about on the water.

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These next three were all taken on the backwaters of Kerala.

We were astonished by the ‘school buses’ like the one below that were crammed alarmingly with chattering children on their way home!

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It was very atmospheric in the deep dark midst of the backwaters!

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But at least when you eventually surfaced into the open, you could get a snack from a floating restaurant!

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Oh I nearly forgot my paper boat made with my own fair hands especially for this challenge.  The photo’s weren’t as stunningly wonderful or even half as interesting as I’d imagined,but hey ho, I’m sharing anyway!!

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Keeping warm in Pingyao

Ok, I apologise, this is not technically a great picture, but I think it captures this week’s photo challenge theme ‘warmth‘ well enough to share it.  It was taken on our trip to China whilst we were staying in the ancient city of Pingyao.  We were there for Chinese New Year, which was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life – wonderfully chaotic!

It was bitterly cold, the coldest I have ever been, but the gorgeous old courtyards in our beautiful hotel each had their own charcoal brick fires (like the one pictured), and you can also see the doors to our rooms covered with blue duvets to keep the drafts out. The fire and the lanterns gave it all a magical glow.  It was still too bloomin’ cold to stand out there for long though!

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