Look at the birdie…

Posted in response to the DailyPost weekly photo challenge.  This week’s theme ‘Graceful’.

Early Morning Mist

Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve used this picture before, but I honestly couldn’t fine a more fitting example for this challenge.  Oh, I had lots of nice birdie and animal pictures, and more graceful arching branches than I could count.  But, this photo of the most graceful building in the world, the Taj Mahal, caught by my goodself in the (very) early morning mist (yawn…) says it all.

We all think we know about the Taj Mahal, but no photograph or tv picture in the world will ever capture it’s vastness and purity of structure and form.  It glows in the sunrise with quite breathtaking beauty and grace.

Shame the bloomin’ bird got in the way… hehee.. 😉

Only  joking. Just look at the gorgeous sweep of those wings!

 

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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.

 

A’door’able (yeah, yeah, I know…)

Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly photo challenge.  This weeks theme ‘Doors’

Ok, this is a bit of a cheat as I’ve posted some of these pictures before.  It was a while ago, so hopefully you will all have forgotten 😉

Anyhoo, I still love ’em, and let’s face it, they couldn’t be any more appropriate for the challenge!!

On a pebble beach…

DSC_0449These photographs were taken on Holy Island, Northumberland, where one of the pebbly beaches behind the castle is covered in these piles of stones which have been built by visitors over many years. The one below caught my eye and inspired me to write the little verses underneath.

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Man of Stone

I stand amongst these shining rocks
and observe the swelling sea, where,
in that swaying garden,
my lover drifts alone
while coloured fish play
in her flexuous hair
and fallen stars gather
to weep their salty tears

No forces will deter me nor erode my will
I’ll stand here watching, waiting,
until, until…

Until the earth is sodden and
waves consume my soul,
and tumbling I join her
in the grave grey depths below
where together we’ll blend
into that stony bed
and our blissful cries will echo
forever

Intricate

Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly photo challenge.  This week’s theme ‘Intricate

Well, I was spoilt for choice with this topic.  First of all I thought of some of the lovely patterns on the buildings in Morocco, then I thought about taking some pics of the beautiful tablecloth that my mother-in-law spent years embroidering for me, but then, I remembered China. The beautiful buildings there are all covered in gorgeous decoration one way or another, but I thought these roof details that we saw at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing just about take the biscuit as far as intricacy goes.  What do you think??

CHINA Feb 2008 023 CHINA Feb 2008 027 CHINA Feb 2008 051CHINA Feb 2008 022

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!!

Tea in a Marrakech cafe

Cooling off with a cuppa in a Marrakech cafe