All posts by Keyman

Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 1

After walking the 4-day Abel Tasman Coastal Great Walk, I took a break and caught a transport 86km south of Nelson to the Nelson Lakes Region looking for more of an alpine hike.

Initially, I was due to arrive late afternoon and camp the night in St Arnaud. But due to a change in timing for the transport, I would be in the region several hours early, so chose to start the hike immediately with a short first day.

Day 1 – St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut – 3hr – 10 km

I arrived in St Arnaud, bought a coke from the Petrol Station/General Store, and with the lunch I’d brought with me, sat on the beach of Lake Rotoiti to enjoy them.

My big mistake was not to not know there aren’t any rubbish bins in St Arnaud. I’d have to carry an empty coke bottle for the entire hike. You live and you learn. After lunch, and a bit of harassment by a duck, I headed off around the edge of the lake climbing a little as I went on a thin non-manicured trail.

The 10km of today was entirely in the forest, and it would not sink in until later in day two that the vast majority of the hike would be this way.
Lake Rotoiti looks somewhat like an angry sperm, with two large nobs at one end and and a thin tail at the other. Near this table end, I stopped and boots off, dunked my feet in the water. Around me wasps crawled everywhere, attracted to the Beech trees most of the forests in this region contain. None bothered me, and neither did the sandflies, as for this hike I had bought some DEET insect repellant.

It didn’t take me long to reach the hut and I settled into hut life, chatting to the people who were already there including some Te Awaroa walkers and a girl who had arrived via water taxi. I talked to her into the evening and once everyone else had gone bed, we too decided to slip off to our respective sleeping bags.

Day 2 – Lakehead Hut to Upper Travers Hut – 19.6km – 7.5 hours

The first part of today was walking through the long grass at the end of the lake, before I disappeared into the forest once more.

I left last from the hut, but within 30 minutes I ran into the girl I’d been talking to the night before, who was reorganising her bags, of which she had brought too much.

Once she was ready to move on, I walked with her through the forest for the first half of the day, talking about everything and anything. Even as the sole of her boot fell apart before me, we continued walking and talking, and before we knew it, we arrived at the John Tait Hut, where we stopped for a coffee and lunch.

After our coffee break, my new friend and I continued on, beginning the climb towards the Upper Travers hut. About 30 minutes in, she took a break, but told me to push on. I bid her farewell, that I would see her at the hut, and set off up the trail. Not long after, I came to the Travers Falls. I dropped my pack and climbed down the steep bank to get a better look.

I ran into my friend again while I was putting on my pack. She seemed to like the idea of not carrying her pack for a while, so I left her to enjoy the waterfall. The climb continued at a fair pace, although within the trees I really couldn’t tell how far I was climbing except when I came out to cross the occasional stream. I’d been alerted to one of the bridges in this area having been washed out, and I located it, or what was left of it, as I crossed the rocky stream.

Then after three hours of climbing since the John Tait hut, I came over a rise to a tussocky field with great mountain views and the hut nestled in a small copse of trees. I crossed the field and set my pack down, preparing for the evening. For the next couple of hours I kept an eye out for my friend, who did eventually arrive, having left one of her bags behind. That evening I discovered much of the rest of the hike would be through trees, except for 2 hours crossing the saddle the next day.

Day 3 – Upper Travers Hut to West Sabine Hut – 8km – 6 hours

My walking friend from the day before made the choice to stay another night in the hut and return down the same track we’d climbed the previous day. While chatting over breakfast, she suggested a more alpine route, which I decided to ponder on the way to the next hut. I bid farewell and began climbing straight into forest, but only for 10 minutes before it opened out into an alpine landscape including a crown of mountains.

The trail plodded up towards the crown for several hundred metres before beginning a steep climb up the side of Mt Travers before slowly rounding out to the saddle, a 90 minute climb total.

I dropped pack and took a break with the view of Mt Travers behind me.

At the advice of another walker, I climbed to see small tarn a little further up, and also got a great view back down the valley I’d climbed from.

On the other side of the saddle, I got a view of where I would be going. With no sight of other walkers, I took up my pack again, and began the climb down. Half an hour later, and near where the trail dove back into the forest, I stopped for lunch in the sun.

Back in the forest, the trail led steeply down and seemed endless. Very occasionally, I could see the mountains around to judge how far I’d descended. But again, it felt never-ending and my knees didn’t thank me for the effort. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I began to hear a river ahead and followed the noise along a gully until I came out at the bottom where a stream met the raging East Branch Sabine River.

Thankful for the break, I took off my books and dipped my feet in the water. Afterwards, I headed along what I thought was a flat rest of the trail, but I was wrong. It was for the first several hundred metres before it crossed a bridge where deep below, the wide river raged even harder through a thin channel. The trail climbed around the side of Mount Franklin, still deep in the forest, with often muddy areas, until after a handful of kilometres, began yet another steep decent leading down to where the east and west branch of the rivers met. Then it was a 500m flat walk to the hut where I found two ladies from the previous hut, and no-one else. That night, I did some research on my way forward.

I’d originally planned to do a return day walk to the Blue Lake, then on to Sabine hut, the following day, with a long day out to St Arnaud for my last day. But this would see me walking predominantly in the forest, which I was honestly sick of at this point. The other option was to skip Blue Lake, head straight to Sabine Hut and then climb into the alpine region to Lake Angelus Hut instead. This sounded much more my style.

Next, part 2 of my Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit.
The Lone Trail Wanderer

Abel Tasman Coastal Trail – Nelson – New Zealand

For my second hike in as many weeks, I flew to Nelson at the top of the South Island. From here I will be doing a pair of hikes, but the first is a coastal and listed as one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. Thankfully the school holidays are over and as I start on a Monday the trail is expected to be quiet.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track Great Walk! is a 60 kilometre, 3-5 day walk which I did over four days, the last of which was a short day due to having an early pick up from my transport company. In addition, there are several inlet crossings on the trail, one of which doesn’t have an alternative high route, so tide times are important to ensure there are no delays.

Day 1 – Marahau to Torrent Bay Village Campsite – 17 km – 5.5 hours + Side trip to Cleopatra Pool

It was an early start from the hostel this morning to get to the pick up location, and I wasn’t able to find a coffee. I was collected with six others, most of whom were being dropped off like me at the southern start point.

As we pulled up I noted a cafe right next to the trailhead, but when I got there, I found it was closed on Monday and Tuesdays. I guess I’ll have to find time to make my own coffee. I started out along a boardwalk to where to the stony trail began and headed into the bush that I would annoyingly be spending much of the hike in. From time to time as I walked I got views along the golden sands of Porters Beach.

A couple of kilometres into the walk, I stopped at Tinline Campsite, the first of many, where I made a coffee.
As I drank, I had my first meeting with a Weka. It seemed friendly, but I would soon learn not to trust these thieving little beasties, thankfully not because they took any of my stuff.

After coffee, the trail climbed a little, making the views just that little bit better. I climbed down a steep thin path to Coquille Bay Campsite before continuing on. A couple of kilometres later, I did the same at Apple Tree Bay Campsite, but learned that climbing down to every beach campsite meant climbing back up to the trail again, usually on a steep path.

I was looking for a lunch spot another couple of kilometres later as I rounded Stilwell Bay. A sign sent me to Yellow Point Lookout in hope of finding a nice spot, but after a short walk, I discovered to my disappointment, there was very little to see at said lookout. I also had my first encounter with the wasps in the National Park, which were everywhere. They paid me little attention, and I learned later that this entire region was rife with them due to the plentiful beech forests. Next to the Yellow Point Lookout path was the path down to Akersten Bay Camp where I dropped my pack and took lunch, but not before visiting the small cave at the end of the beach.

My camp for the night was to be on the other side of a bay usually crossed at low tide. But as I knew this ahead of time, and with low tide several hours away, I took the high tide route around and was able to walk 10 minutes on a side trail to Cleopatra Pool, part of the Torrent Bay River.

The river runs down a slide into the Cleopatra Pool, and as I dipped my feet in the cold water, I watched a couple of women slide down.

After my break, I walked the hour around the bay and when I got to the campsite, I found a nice spot, pitched my tent and went for a walk. The Torrent Bay Village is a village of baches (beach houses, to non-Kiwis) with numerous private property signs. I wandered around a bit and enjoyed the golden sand, swam in the bay and waited for more people to arrive, but even at low tide came, no-one crossed. Tonight, it would appear, I would be the ruler of the camping ground, with my sole subjects the mozzies.

Day 2 – Torrent Bay Village Campsite to Awaroa Campsite – 18.5km – 7 hours + Side trip to Awaroa Lodge

It was low tide on my waking and people were beginning to stream across the dry bay. As I got ready and had breakfast I watched more and more begin the soggy crossing. I bumped into some later and they told me they were all coming from the Anchorage Hut or Campsite.

When ready, I walked through the village and along the beach a little before beginning the climb up the hill on the far side. It was not a tall climb, and I soon came to the Torrent Bay View point.

I headed on, winding through the forest on a curving path that stayed fairly level. These paths/tracks are very wide, as are all Great Walk! Paths.

I crossed a stream and climbed a little until I came to the Halfway Pool, formed by a stream coming through the area. Compared to Cleopatra Pool, Halfway Pool isn’t even a half sized pool.

I continued on, crossed the Falls River Suspension Bridge and began a slow descent to the turn off to Medlands Beach. I had a quick look at the carving there before continuing on. I rounded the bay and came down onto the Bark Bay spit, where I dropped my pack, took off my boots and had some lunch.

When I headed out again I noted that the bay behind the spit was dry, so decided to cross instead of going the long way around. At the far side, the water was just coming in and was too deep to cross without taking off my boots. On the other side, I put my boots back on and climbed the short steep path to the trail.

It descended slowly down to Tonga Quarry where stones were extracted for the Nelson Cathedral. The quarry was once a Campsite, but was permanently closed after storm damage in 2018. Another short climb led around to Onetahuti Bay where there had been a warning of a deep stream crossing the beach. It wasn’t deep and I crossed with little issue.

I sand walked to the end of the beach, which is not the most fun, and dropped my pack and boots for a break. I then crossed a bridge and headed back into the hills before coming to a T-junction, one way heading down to the Awaroa Lodge, the other continuing the trail. A group of girls were deciding if they should go to the lodge, but decided not to, so I tailed them a little way before they stopped and I continued on. Just over a kilometre later was another shorter route to the lodge, and with the thought of a cider creeping into my mind, I decided to take it.

The Awaroa Lodge did indeed serve cider along with hot chips, so I had a couple of drinks and relaxed. After an hour, I pushed on, following a flat path that would lead to a bay crossing. The bay still had water in it and I had to decide to wait possibly hours for the tide to go down, or to go around. I decided to go around, although I hear I could have easily crossed as the water was only waist deep. I cut through the Awaroa Glamping site instead and ended up bushwhacking a little to get back to the path. The rest of the trail was hard work, especially as I had relaxed so long (nothing to do with the cider, nope). An hour later I finally arrived at the campsite, set up my tent and to get away from the sandflies and Weka, got in. Just before dark a noisy group arrived, but thankfully stayed at the other end of the campsite.

Day 3 – Awaroa Campsite to Mutton Cove Campsite – 14km – 5 hours

In the morning, everyone was up early to get the low tide crossing of the bay, all except the noisy crowd who were barely rising when everyone else was heading out.

Halfway across I noted there was still water higher than ankle deep, so I removed my boots and put on my flip flops. The rest of the crossing was slow and muddy, but I got there, cleaned up my feet as I looked back across the bay, put my boots on and headed off.

With a minimal climb, I crossed the peninsula to Waiharakeke Bay and walked along the bay until I came out on Goat Bay Beach.

There was a steep climb over the hill at Skinner Point, but I noted the tide was still out enough that I could try to rock hop around instead. I deemed there would be plenty of time to come back if I got stuck, but there weren’t any issues.

I jumped down onto Totaranui Beach and walked along to the campsite where there were plenty of RVs and people on holiday. I stopped and made a coffee before pushing on again, heading past the Totarani Education Centre on a grassy path…

…before climbing a small hill over to Anapai Bay Campsite, a small beach camp.

I stopped for a rest before pushing on over a pair of short ridges.

I came down into Mutton Cove Campsite where I would be staying for the night. The camp was a large grassy area, but there was a lot of wind coming off the sea. I found a tucked away spot and pitched my tent. For much of the afternoon, only the occasional other walker would come by to stop for a break then head on again. Of course, I was not to have the place to myself, as late in the afternoon the noisy bunch arrived, thankfully camping at the other end.

Day 4 Mutton Cove Campsite to Wairau Bay Carpark – 8km – 2.5 hours
Today is a short day as I need to meet the trail transport in the early afternoon. I set off at my normal time, again just as the noisy crowd awoke.

I headed up the first steep climb right out of the camp as it crossed the peninsula to Wharwharangi Bay, and walked along the trail off the beach. The trail cut inland and passed the Wharwharangi Bay hut where I stopped to get some toilet paper to clean my sunglasses, then off again straight away onto the highest climb of the trail.

I powered up the sometimes steep trail and eventually came to the summit feeling strong. I took a break on a seat before beginning the slow descent around into Wainui Bay, where I was 2 hours early for the pickup.

I had hoped there might be a shop of similar nearby, but it was not to be the case. So, I found a camp table, got changed into long clothes to avoid the sandflies and just waited. The vehicle was early, and as all five of us were already there, we packed up and headed back to Nelson.

Overall,
The Abel Tasman was a nice little hike with one main issue for me, a large portion of it was spent in the forest. I’ve done plenty of forest walking in my time, but it tends to feel like I am on a treadmill with a screen showing forest displays. You climb and descend, turn left and right, but really have no idea where you’re going. I found this to be a typical case around the northern South Island. Other than this, I found the walk interesting and the various inlets a good respite from the forest. I did also note that two thirds of the people walking were woman. I noted similar on my next walk too and certainly aren’t complaining complaining.

After a day’s break in Nelson, I’m off to the Nelson Lakes Region for a more alpine walk.
Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Nottingham, England – Impressions

Part of the England’s East Midlands, Nottingham is just over 200km north of London. It’s steeped in the legend of Robin Hood and is surrounded by Sherwood Forest to the north. The city gets its name from an Anglo-Saxon chieftain named Snot, who ruled the area of Snotingham, meaning the homestead of the people of Snot.

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A week ago, I was in Norwich for a couple of days, and after a short week at work, I headed north to do the same in Nottingham.

Robin Hood Statue
It’s impossible to think of Nottingham without at some point thinking of Robin Hood. While there’s no actual proof he was a real person, it’s believed the name was a local reference to bandits in general. A legend grew around the character, spawning books and movies and growing a host of folklore about his Merry Men, his lover and nemesis, the Sheriff. The statue is in place outside Nottingham Castle.

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Sky Mirror
Situated outside the Playhouse in Wellington Circus on the Northside, the 6-metre diameter circular stainless steel mirror weighs nearly 10 tons. Its surface is said to reflect the ever-changing environment. A similar but somewhat larger 11-metre mirror was installed at the Rockefeller Centre in New York. With others in Monaco, Saint Petersburg and Tilburg, the Netherlands.

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Arboretum
Arboretum was the first designated public park in the city, opening in 1845. As the town grew around it, the neighbourhood took on its name. Past the lake and carpet bed, along the path with the Aviary to the left and Victorian flower garden to the right, the Arboretum opens into a pleasant grassy park lined with trees. Other features on the Arboretum include a formal garden, a Chinese bell tower, and a Bandstand. However, the latter was cordoned off for special events. A pleasant stroll on a cloudy afternoon.

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Theatre Royal Nottingham
The grand theatre in the heart of Nottingham is connected to the Royal Concert Hall. Like its namesake in London, it regularly attracts major touring dramas, opera, ballet, West End musicals and even an annual pantomime. It can seat 1186 people over four floors.

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Nottingham University
While not as sprawling as the universities of Oxford or Canterbury, Nottingham’s University takes up a fair chunk of the north side of the city.

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Old Market Square
At the base of the steps leading up to the city council chambers is one of the largest paved pedestrian squares in the UK. It was originally the centre point between the Norman town of Nottingham and an old Anglo-Saxon town called Snothryngham (the original spelling), where a market square was formed. It was also the site of the Nottingham Goose Fair between the 12th century and 1928, when it was moved due to space limitations. The fair has gathered in October every year for most of those 700 years, although it was cancelled in 1646 due to the Great Plague and during both world wars. It was also cancelled last year for the COVID pandemic. In 1764 it was notable for the cheese riot that occurred due to the significant increase in cheese prices from the previous year.

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Motorpoint Arena and National Ice Centre
The Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham is the sister Arena to the one in Cardiff I visited 18 months ago, before the world got strange. It is also used as a concert venue, although I didn’t go inside this one. Connected to it is the National Ice Centre, UK’s first twin Olympic-sized rink, and where Nottingham-born Olympic champions Torvill and Dean first developed their love for skating.

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Nottingham Castle
Built-in 1068 by Willian the Conqueror and originally a wooden structure, it was replaced by the more defensible stone castle. Then by 1651, it was largely demolished except for its walls and gates.

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20 years later, a ducal palace was built on the site, only to be burned down by rioters. It was then rebuilt and became the art gallery that stands there now. During my visit, it held a display on three of Nottingham’s most rebellious and bloody episodes, a creative gallery and the museum of the Mercian Regiment.

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The castle, ducal palace, and the art gallery were all perched atop a bluff of Triassic sandstone riddled with caves and underground passageways. It was through some of these tunnels that various acts of violence were brought against the castle and palace. During my visit, I went down into some of the caves and tunnels beneath the gallery on a cave tour.

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Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Nestled at the base of the Castle walls, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to be the oldest inn in England dating from 1189AD, the year Richard the Lionheart became king. However, there is no documentation to verify this date. Several other inns across the country claim the same honour, including several in Nottingham. But, after I visited the castle, I had to pop in for lunch, because maybe it is the oldest, perhaps it’s not, but the Fish and Chips were good.

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Nottingham Contemporary
Near the National Ice Centre is a contemporary art space with large sprawling rooms, sparsely decorated with art. This one is from a Brazilian artist and contains several large pieces, along with many wall hangings. It was only a quick visit as there was honestly not a lot to see.

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National Justice Museum
The museum is housed in a former Victorian courtroom, prison, and police station, and details the historical process where people could be arrested, tried, sentenced and executed. A visit to the museum often starts with a court trial with several audience members playing roles. This little role play is designed to show how cutthroat the system could be.

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Beneath the courtroom, are several floors of cells, which get steadily worse the lower you go until at the bottom they are little more than dark, dank caves where prisoners were held. The prisons were separated into men’s and women’s gaols, with the men doing more hard labour, while the women did more menial labour.

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The back courtyard has a set of gallows where a mock hanging takes place, although the ‘prisoner’ (a member of the audience) gets saved by a writ from the king. The back courtyard only held a small number of hangings at the time as most were held on the front steps, so locals could watch.

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Impressions
Nottingham is smaller than many of the other cities I’ve explored and has perhaps more of a common township feel than a magical place where legends were born. Yet, I still enjoyed exploring another of England’s historical locations.

Until next time,
The World Wanderer

Norwich, England – Impressions

About a hundred miles to the North East of London is Norwich, which until the 18th century was the second-largest city in England. The town was founded in about the 6th century as Northwic (North Farm) and over time has become Norwich, with a silent ‘w’.

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In its early years, Norwich was a bustling trade centre even while being raided and burnt in 1004 by the Viking king of Denmark. Wool was Norwich’s primary trade good, which was said to have made England rich and funded many churches in the region. Norwich has more medieval churches than any other city in Western Europe north of the Alps.

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So, taking a couple of days off, I caught the train out of London and, after dropping my bag at my hotel, set about exploring the city.

Cow Tower

Skirting north along the River Wensum, I discovered the Cow Tower nestled on one of its bends. The late 12th-century artillery tower was built to defend the northeastern approach to the city from the local English rebels and the French. The weapons of choice on the defensive building were hand cannons and bombards.

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City Walls – Barre Gate and Magdelen Gates

Continuing along the river, I found two different sections of the seven-metre wall that once surrounded the city. Norwich had twelve such fortified gates and boasted the longest system of urban defences in Britain. I did find other scattered bits throughout the city. An artist’s impression can be found here.

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Dinosaur Art Trail

As I walked towards the centre of the city, I discovered a two-metre tall, brightly painted T. rex on the side of the road. Littered throughout the city are 21 of these sculptures, of which I may have found about 10. They are part of the GoGo Art Trail in Norwich, which has included hares and dragons in previous years, with woolly mammoths next year.

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Elm Hill

Just north of the city centre is a historical cobbled lane that dates back to the Tudor period between 1485 and 1603. The lane’s name is from several Elm trees that once grew in the square at the top of the road. Due to Dutch Elm Disease, the tree in Elm Hill is no longer an Elm tree.

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Tombland

At the bottom of Elm Hill lane is Tombland, the location of an ancient Anglo-Saxon marketplace. While today it is a popular restaurant area, it also houses a pair of old gates into the courtyard of the Norwich Cathedral.

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Norwich Cathedral

The cathedral is one of the most complete Norman Cathedrals in England. Some parts were sectioned off for an exhibition called Dippy on tour, the cast bones of a Diplodocus dinosaur. The display had closed by the time I popped by, but a choir was practising at the other end. While we couldn’t take photos of the choir, the cathedral’s acoustics gave their voices an awe-inspiring sound.

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Norwich Castle

The castle at the centre of Norwich is perhaps the most untypical looking castle I’ve seen in my travels with its distinct cubic shape. (Although during my trip to Nottingham the next week, I found another just like it). Its construction was ordered by William the Conquerer late in the tenth century. The castle was used as a prison from 1220 to 1887 before being converted to a Museum. Unfortunately, during my visit to the city, the castle had some of the original medieval floors and rooms being reconstructed, and I couldn’t visit the site.

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Plantation Garden

Also known as the Secret Garden, the Plantation Garden was established more than a hundred years ago in an abandoned chalk quarry beside the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The garden is a spot of serenity in the city includes a huge gothic fountain, a 10-metre long Victorian-style greenhouse and a medieval terrace wall.

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The South Asia Collection – Old Skating Rink Gallery

Not far from the centre of the city is a large restored Victorian roller skating rink with a dramatic arched wooden roof. It originally opened in 1876 but barely lasted a year. Over the years, it has been a Vaudeville Theatre, an American tinned meat sales building, a Salvation Army citadel and a builder’s merchant. In 1993 it was bought for the South Asia Collection and converted to an art gallery and shop. Unsurprisingly, it now holds an extensive collection of art from Southern Asia.

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The Museum of Norwich at Bridewell

Hidden away in a small building near the central city, the museum tells the story of Norwich’s industries and the people who lived and worked there. The period stretches from medieval to modern and shows how the city adapted to changing fortunes through the textile trade, shoes, chocolate, and mustard production.

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Impressions

I was surprised to find a city of art, numerous gaming stores and many many churches, along with quaint old Victorian lanes and plentiful history. It was a nice place to explore for a couple of days.

Until next time,

The World Wanderer

Liverpool, England – Impressions

Two hours by train north of London, Liverpool is known for its culture, primarily its musicians have produced more no. 1 singles than any other city in the world. And, of course, it’s the home of The Beatles.

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Liverpool is the fourth largest city in the UK by population, and after London, it has the second-highest number of Art Galleries. It’s also an important port similar to Bristol to the south and was heavily bombed during WWII.

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After arriving in the early afternoon, I dropped off my bag at my room and set out to explore in the 32-degree heat. I quickly located the Walker Art Gallery and headed inside in the hope of finding some cooling. It was cooler but not as air-conditioned as I’d hoped.

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While not huge, the gallery still had plentiful exhibits, from the room full of ancient Roman statues and imprints to collections of ceramics, and of course, paintings from many different styles, old and modern.

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After my wander around the gallery, I began exploring the city, including the County Sessions House. The Victorian era building was originally the city courthouse, then the Merseyside Museum of Labour History, and now the staff offices for the Walker Art Gallery.

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Along from the Walker Art Gallery is the World Museum, which opened in 1853 and became one of the great British museums. It suffered extensive damage during World War 2, burning down after a bomb landed on the library next door. After I visited the art gallery, I decided to explore the city more before coming back to look through the exhibits but never made it. Headlining while I was in town was an Exhibition on AI.

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Wandering down towards the docks, I discovered the Royal Liver Building with its two spires, one at each end of the building; this end is facing the river. At the top of the spires are Liver Birds, mythical creatures that watch over the city. It is said that if they were to fly away, Liverpool would cease to exist, so the birds are chained to their perches just in case.

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Near the Royal Liver Building is the Titanic Memorial, a granite monument commemorating the 244 engineers who lost their lives in the Titanic disaster in 1912.

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Heading along the docks, I took a walk around the Royal Albert Dock and found the Jellybean mosaic of The Beatles I’d seen in my first brief visit to Liverpool several years ago. I then crossed back into the main commercial area, where I stopped in the heat for a sly cider or two to help cool down. After finding something to eat, I decided to change my accommodation and settled into my new, cooler and quieter place for the night.

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The next day, after finding a local place for a Full English Breakfast, I headed for my booking at The Beatles Story. I spent the next 90 minutes listening to the Beatles’ story from beginning to end on the provided audio device while walking through rooms dedicated to parts of the story. For the story, they recreated the Cavern Club, where the band began, along with their first recording studio.

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While The Beatles were from my mother’s era, I still knew a fair bit about them, and this tour just filled in a lot of gaps. Afterwards, I enjoyed a coffee and scone in the cafeteria before heading on for my day. I headed into the main commercial area for lunch before exploring the city some more.

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On the East side of the central city, in an area known as Ropewalks, I found St. Lukes Bombed Out Church which, on May 6 1941, was struck by an incendiary device. The ensuing fire lasted several days before it left only a stonework shell of the building. It is now a memorial to those who lost their lives in WWII.

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A block along from St. Luke’s Bombed Out Church is Liverpool’s Chinatown, the first established Chinatown in Europe. I have to admit, other than the rather grand gateway, the area is a little underwhelming. Perhaps it was just timing, as none of the restaurants were open Friday afternoon.

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I then worked my way back to Matthew Street, home of the infamous Cavern Club, before finding a perch and a cold cider.

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Then it was back to the docks to the Museum of Liverpool, where I spent the next hour strolling around exhibitions relating to the Blitz of Liverpool, the history of the region from Ice Age to present, the overhead railway that once ran the length of the docks, and a gallery on the city soldiers.

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Back in the heat, I attempted to get to the Liverpool Cathedral, its tower visible from across the city but ended up in the Cains Brewery Village and Baltic Market area instead. It’s a large area of bars and food outlets, including several box parks. After a quick look around, I continued on.

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On finally reaching the Liverpool Cathedral, I felt a little humbled by its size. For a start, its design is a more modern red brick instead of the gothic styles of other cathedrals I’ve seen. It was huge. This side height is 36 metres, while the central tower beyond is just over 100 metres. It is the longest cathedral in the world at 189m.

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Final Impressions

Liverpool was a fun couple of days away from London in a city with many sides. There are so many things to do, hidden museums and galleries and, of course, Beatles sites everywhere. It’s definitely worth the visit.

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Until next time,
The World Wanderer

Oxford, England – Impressions

If you were to draw a triangle with points on Bristol, Birmingham and London, somewhere near the middle would be Oxford. At 90km west of London, Oxford is best known for its university, the oldest in the English-speaking world. The town and university are so similar to Cambridge that the pair often group under the name Oxbridge.

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Oxford was first settled around 900AD at a ford in the river, which the Saxons used to cross oxen. Like Cambridge, the city is very much a student city, with college buildings dominating the landscape. Oxford has a reputation as a party town, and soon after my arrival midday on Saturday, I noted many girls in their 20s were all dressed up to party. All afternoon, in various parts of the central city, I noticed more of them in different stages of drunkenness, but not so many guys.

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My first stop in the city was the Oxford Castle and Prison, which I’d booked ahead to ensure a spot. Unlike other castles in the UK, Oxford Castle has very much been integrated into the surrounding buildings and is not as grand as others I’ve visited.

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The hour-long tour took us to the top of the remaining watchtower, giving expansive views across the city and surrounding landscape.

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As the tour dove next into the lower chambers, I learned that the military value of the castle waned during the 12th and 13th centuries, after which it became more of a prison. And while digging the prison, they discovered an old chapel crypt thought to be from the original structure.

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During the Victorian era, authorities discovered that the prisoners were better fed and sheltered than many in the city, so they introduced a series of hardships. There were tales of up to sixty prisoners jammed into a single room and forced to sleep standing in ankle-deep human waste. Others were forced to turn great wheels that pushed water up to the top of the tower, only to trickle back down again. However, for those who could afford it, exclusive rooms were available with great fineries and clothing to help them enjoy their stays.

There are plenty of architecturally impressive buildings throughout central Oxford, but in my mind, not as many as Cambridge. Indeed, the central city felt less majestic than that other city, Cambridge. There are still some fine pieces, such as the Tom Tower – a bell tower that stands above the main entrance to the Christ Church,

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Or the Town Hall, which is currently closed to the public.

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Then there is the Carfax Tower, the only remaining part of St. Martin’s church, demolished in 1896 due to increasing traffic problems in the city.

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It is the tallest building in the centre and an excellent place to get a bird’s eye view of the city, which, of course, I did.

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Past the University Church of St Mary the Virgin is the Radcliffe Camera, perhaps the most distinctive building in Oxford with its round shape. The word ‘camera’ in Latin means room or space; the Radcliffe room is a part of the Bodleian library and houses the Radcliffe Science Library.

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The Bodleian Library is the second largest library in the UK, holding 11 million volumes on 190km of shelving, with 5km more being added each year. It’s a legal deposit library and can request a free copy of every book published in the UK.

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On Sunday, I had pre-booked a couple of museums after missing out in Cambridge. After scouring the city for a full English breakfast, I headed to the Ashmolean Museum.

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The Ashmolean is a classic art and archaeology museum with many exhibits and tens of thousands of items on show over several floors. From ancient Egypt, Persia, to the Roman Empire, from mummies to silver platters, to exquisitely carved blocks of marble. I wiled away 90 minutes skimming many items, and I still didn’t see everything.

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Then after a quick lunch, I headed to the Museum of Science History. Compared to the vast space of the Ashmolean, the MSH is but three medium-sized rooms, with various exhibits such as a collection of Islamic astrolabes, a collection of watches that tell stories, and the history of typhoid, to name a few.

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Once done, I headed to a pub for a cider and to wait for my train back to London.

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Overall Impressions,
After visiting Cambridge first, I expected to see more similarities between the two cities. Yes, there are colleges in both, grand architecture, and plenty of students. But Oxford reminded me more of York than Cambridge, more of a party town than a Mecca of education, even though it’s that too. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time in Oxford. I was more prepared and got to see more that it had to offer. Well worth the visit.

Until next time,

The World Wanderer

Cambridge, England – Impressions

Less than 100km north of London in Cambridgeshire is the small city of Cambridge well known for its prestigious university. With the UK summer packing up after only 3 weeks of sunshine, I headed out of London for the weekend to explore this piece of England’s history.

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Cambridge is very much a student city with 20% of its population attending one of the two collegiate universities in the city. Young people swarm like well educated flies all over the city, whether playing sport in the myriad of parks, flying past on scooters or bikes, hanging in groups around the central city, or later in the evening, in lines trying to get into bars.

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One of the first thing you notice about the city is the architecture, but it’s not just the grand gothic style of King’s college or the myriad of churches around the city. Cambridge has a modern style mixed in with the more classic ones.

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As my visit was only for the weekend, I spent much of Saturday exploring the various locations of the city with the intention of taking in some of the museums prior to my Sunday return train.

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The collegiate University of Cambridge, founded in 1209, consists of 31 separate colleges. It’s the second oldest university in the English-speaking world, with Oxford University the oldest. Each of the colleges have multiple grand buildings spread through the central city. The building above is the King’s College Chapel.

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Across from the college is Great St Mary’s, a small 15th-century church with a climbable tower and a viewing platform offering panoramas of the city, including this view down onto Cambridge Market Square. The market had many different food stalls, most with lines of eager people waiting to sample their delights.

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North of Great Saint Mary’s is Trinity Street, running alongside Trinity college, an architecturally pleasing span of road leading to the north of the central city, and St John’s college.

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The street ends at the Round Church, a landmark church built in 1130 and only one of four remaining medieval round churches still operating in England.

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Not far from the Round Church is the River Cam, a place popular for punting tours. A punt is a flat bottom boat pushed through shallow slow moving rivers with a punt pole. The River Cam cuts its way along the west and north sides of the central city, most of it used for punting.

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A walk along the river led to one of the many parks littering Cambridge central city, some with interesting names. This one is Parker’s Piece, while others are called Christ’s Pieces, Midsummer Green and Jesus Green.

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The river leads past various bridges, many unique in their build, such as this one, called the Mathematical Bridge. Its a footbridge crossing into Trinity College, built from straight beams in a mathematical precise shape.

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On my wanders through the city I discovered an odd clock in the wall near King’s College. It’s called the Corpus Clock and is also known as the Grasshopper Clock due to the mechanical grasshopper that walks along the top, ‘eating time’. The clock’s time is only correct every 5 minutes and is supposed to reflect life’s irregularity.

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On the second day of my stay in Cambridge, the rain was supposed to come, so I intended to take in some of the free museums around the city, such as the Fitzwilliam Museum above. Unfortunately, due to COVID, to maintain social distancing there is limited space in each, and pre-booking is required. Unfortunately, they were all booked out, so after a relaxing morning, I found my way to a cafe serving a full English breakfast, before heading back to London.

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Overall Impressions
Cambridge is a wondrous city to wander around with eye catching architecture at every turn. It felt small wandering around the central city, but with plenty to see. It’s a shame many indoor attractions were booked out, but it will inspire me to book ahead on my next trip, to Oxford in a couple of weeks.

The World Wanderer.

Isle of Wight, England – Impressions

After lockdown eased and on the first British long weekend, I couldn’t help getting out of London. I’d put this trip off after booking it a year ago, and I’m now looking forward to exploring the island a little.

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The Isle of Wight is in the English Channel off England’s south coast, near Portsmouth, Southhampton and Bournemouth. The island is known for being Queen Victoria’s favourite summer holiday location and a hotbed of dinosaur fossils and a pivotal defence for the region against the Spanish Armada and in the Battle of Britain.

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My trip to the island was long, with an hour-long train ride across London, a 2-hour train to Portsmouth and a 25-minute catamaran ferry crossing to the township of Ryde.

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If I’d done a little more research, I’d have noted one of the world’s last commercial hovercraft services still operates from Portsmouth to Ryde and would have booked that instead of the ferry.

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With several hours to kill before my accommodation opened in Shanklin, on the south side of the island, I hung out in Ryde for lunch and had a wander around. After many weeks of rain in the UK, the sun decided to make up for it all in one go, marking the arrival of summer. I ordered takeaway fish and chips and sat in a small park overlooking the channel while I ate. Of course, fish and chips are a staple in London, but fresh cooked on the seaside is just better.

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Due to track upgrades, the cross-island train was closed, so after lunch and a climb through Ryde’s commercial streets, I made my way to the bus station for the trip to Shanklin. I arrived almost an hour later, but still too early for my accommodation. I stopped off at the local information centre/cafe, grabbed a map and a cider, then I began looking at things to do for the weekend. After checking into my accommodation, I explored the township, finding a path down to the beachfront.

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While Ryde is a typical British seaside township, Shanklin is a typical beachside township with many hotels and restaurants on the shoreline. The Pirate Cove and Jurassic Bay Adventure Park spanned several blocks, with plentiful ice cream stalls dotted about. At the end of the bay is the Shanklin Chine, a small tourist gorge with woodland paths leading up the cliff to come out near my accommodation.

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The Chine is nicely set up with well-manicured paths, a waterfall and a heritage centre with historical displays. Later that evening, coloured lights came on in the gorge, giving it an almost magical feel that photos don’t quite do justice. Then, after a beachfront dinner, I headed back to my accommodation.

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The following morning over my Full English Breakfast, I had to decide what to do for the day. While one of the main attractions on the island is The Needles, a series of chalk stacks in the bay, they’re 2 hours away by bus on the far end of the island. So, I decided on the less travel option, to the township of New Port near the island’s centre, to check out Carisbrook Castle, the Newport Minister, a museum of island history and a Roman villa.

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Newport is an hour by bus, and the castle on the hill outside of town, a further 20-minute walk. When I arrived, I discovered they weren’t accepting walk-in visitors, so I booked a ticket online. With 90 minutes until I was allowed in, I walked to a local supermarket to get some lunch, then back up the hill to wait for my entrance time.

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Carisbrook Castle was built in the 12th century atop a hillside where several roman forts had once stood. It is most notable for being the prison of King Charles I before his execution for treason and then 250 years later, the home of Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s daughter.

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On a more personal note, the major sporting venue in Dunedin, New Zealand, was named after this very castle. The castle was in better repair than many I’d seen in the UK over the past few years. After I toured the castle and the high keep on the hill above it, I made my way back into town.

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I contemplated taking the bus to the Needles, but it drove by before I could get to the bus stop, so decision made, I headed back into Newport. When I got to the Minister, I found it was closed, at 2 in the afternoon on the Sunday of a long weekend. Disappointing.

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I headed to the Roman Villa and found that closed too, and was equally bemused to see the museum also closed. I’m not sure if this was due to the COVID lockdown or if the smaller town didn’t merit having these items open on a long weekend? So, I caught the bus back to the beach. But instead of stopping at Shanklin, I continued on to Sandown at the other end of the bay. With tourists enjoying the sun and beach, I walked around towards the white cliffs.

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When the path ran out, I walked back towards Shanklin, past the Sandown pier. The beachfront goes all the way to Shanklin, so I decided to walk the 3 miles back. A peaceful and enjoyable walk. In Shanklin, I stopped for dinner and a couple of ciders before heading back to my accommodation for the night.

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The next morning after breakfast, I caught the bus back to Ryde with the intention of walk to a nearby winery. But during the bus ride, I discovered the short tour I wanted to take was also on hold due to COVID. So, with nothing else to do, I went to the waterfront for lunch and awaited my ferry back to the mainland. Thankfully, I was able to take an earlier crossing to Portsmouth and its Emirates Spinnaker tower before my 2 and a half hour train ride home.

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Overall Impressions
The Isle of Wight was a lovely weekend away from London, but many things were closed due to the timing. This made travel times on the island long and meant I couldn’t see everything I’d have liked to. Disappointing, but perhaps I’ll return again in the future with a vehicle to make getting around a little easier.

The World Wanderer

Edinburgh, Scotland – Impressions

In the past 2 months, I’ve spent time in 6 different European countries, enjoying their cultures and hiking. But like the midges of Scotland, the more you scratch, the more the travel bug itches. So, under the again rising heel of COVID, I flew to Edinburgh for a long weekend to explore Scotland’s capital.

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While it rained for most my first day in the city, I still made the most of seeing what I could, starting with a most glorious Full Scottish Breakfast, including haggis. Then I was off to explore the rainswept streets looking for indoor activities.

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Architecture
Compared to many other cities in the UK, Edinburgh is perhaps the most majestic, with grand architecture across much of the city, and classic stone buildings which turn black in the rain.

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Scott Monument
At the edge of the New Town, a gothic spire pokes up into the grey sky dedicated to the writer Sir Walter Scott. In the early 19th century, he wrote the famous poem The Lady of the Lake, along with the novels Waverley, Rob Roy, and Ivanhoe. He now sits beneath the spire in polished marble contemplating the rain.

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Carlton Hill
On the eastern end of the New City, the craggy, grass-covered Calton Hill protrudes from the cityscape. I climbed it on the rainy first day of my visit, but not all of the views were muted. The Dugald Stewart monument, dedicated to a Scottish philosopher, was built in 1831 and modelled after the Tower of the Winds in Athens. In the background is the Old Town with the gloomy Edinburgh Castle in the distance.

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I climbed it again on my second day, with the sun out, for better views across the city to the Firth of Forth.

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There are several monuments on the hill, including The National Monument of Scotland, left unfinished in 1829, a memorial to soldiers and sailors who perished in the Napoleonic Wars.

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Nelson’s Tower monument, to commemorate Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805.

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At the top of the hill is an observatory. I investigated the domed building to discover a philosophical experiment where, over time, they are collecting 3D renditions of people to populate a new world. I came for the views and ended up getting digitised to live among thousands of other digital souls in the exhibit.

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Camera Obscura and The World of Illusions
On the Royal mile near the Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions is the oldest purpose-built attraction in Edinburgh. Over five floors, plus the roof, there are more than 100 interactive illusion based exhibits, although the Camera Obscura is closed due to COVID.

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But, the rooftop still gives one of the better views of Edinburgh, even across the wet city.

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The kinds of things you see in the World of Illusions are quite varied, with mirrors featuring in many ways, in 3D representations and other twisted mirror illusions. Other tricks include a collection of multi-view pictures like the one below, shadow photographic stunts, on the fly software morphing, and various electrical tricks. While it is popular with kids, it’s also fun for adults on a rainy day.

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The Scotch Whiskey Experience
After visiting the Guinness brewery in Dublin, I couldn’t not do the Scotch Whiskey Experience while in Edinburgh. The tour begins in a moving barrel gliding through the process of making Scotch Whiskey. It then teaches us about the five different regions of Scotch distillation and each of their characteristics.

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We were then walked through a room with a collection of 3000 unopened bottles, no two the same, one bottle having been bought for US$3000 in the 1970s.

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The final part of the experience is, of course, the tasting. The standard silver tour comes with a single tasting, but the gold, which I bought, includes five so I could try all of the different regional Scotches.

Edinburgh Castle
With the sun coming out on my second day in Edinburgh, I explored the grand castle on the hill.

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Edinburgh Castle is the most besieged place in Scotland and one of the most attacked places in the world. In its 1100-year history, it’s been under siege some 26 times.

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But, after the Lang Siege in the 16th century, it had to be rebuilt as it had been largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. There’s a vast amount of history in the walls, with several small museums, and, of course, great views in all directions.

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Leith and the Firth of Forth
With the sun continuing to hold on the 2nd day of my visit, I took a thirty-minute walk along a street lined with polished stone building out to the port district of Leith beside the Firth of Forth.

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Leith has a definite British suburban feel, similar to where I live in Wembley, but once on the waterfront, it steps it up a notch, with expensive-looking high-rises and hotels. I walked along the coast a little way to Newhaven, before cutting back into central Edinburgh. All up about a 6-mile walk, well needed after the big breakfasts and all the Scotch.

The Edinburgh Dungeon
The dungeon is one of several underground ‘shows’ designed to showcase some of Edinburgh’s history but includes visitor interactions, 4D style effects, frights and laughs.

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Visitors head down through small underground corridors in dim light to several well set up small rooms. We witnessed a witch trial, some haunted rooms where we learned of some gruesome deaths, witnessed ghosts looking for vengeance and hung out in the sewer sanctuary of cannibals. The acting and storytelling were excellent, although the COVID masks did impede speech for some of the quieter speakers.

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Overall Impressions
Edinburgh is a beautiful city architecturally with plenty to do inside during the rain, typical for Scotland, but also many outdoor activities for those lucky enough to see the sun.

Until next time,

The World Wanderer.

Camino Portugués de Costa – Spain – Days 10, 11 & 12

In late August 2020, with the world still under the heel of the COVID-19 pandemic, I walked the Portuguese Coastal Camino de Santiago over 12 days.

Back to Days 6, 7, 8 & 9

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Day 10 – Pontevedra to Caldas De Reis – Spain – 21.3km
Today the trail was quite straightforward following the road out of Pontevedra. As usual, I was on the lookout for breakfast and found a cafe popular with peregrinos. But there I ran into a dutch lady I’d met in the Porto Albergue the night before I’d begun my Camino. It was refreshing to hear English being spoken fluently again and not the occasional forced second or third language.

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While the Camino Portugués has some views, much of the experience is cultural or spiritual, and it’s known for the camaraderie between pilgrims. However, due to COVID, few English speakers were tempted to this side of Europe. This and Americans not already resident in the EU weren’t allowed at all. This has led my Camino to be a contemplative and somewhat solitary experience.

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Once out of Pontevedra it was a quick march through country roads before several kilometres of slow climbing on a dirt path before heading back into villages. The trail led me past fields of grapevines, and even taking me under some.

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There were few views today on the way to Caldas de Reis, and tonight I have a room to myself in a hostel. Caldas de Reis is a town known for its hot springs. In many places along the trail, there are washing pools with running water for pilgrims to clean their clothes or rest weary feet in the cool water. In Caldas de Reis, however, I found a pool filled from a hot spring. It was heaven and great for the leg muscles. I saw others using it too, some stripping down to their underwear and getting right in.

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Day 11 – Caldas De Reis to Padrón – Spain – 18.9km

After eating the breakfast left for me by my hosts, I headed out across Caldas del Reis on quiet streets as it’s Domingo – Sunday.

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I found a coffee and took it with me as I headed out of town, tossing the cup in the last bin I saw. For the next few kilometres, the path climbed 150m, although it wasn’t intense, and in the cool wind, the climbing kept me warm. Today, the first part of the trail is mainly dirt and runs through forest, so not a lot to see.

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I passed a rest stop hankering for a coffee, but it was so full of waiting pilgrims I decided to push on. The path weaved across a highway before running beside a motorway until Valga where it began to descend through villages with fields of grapevines, corn and other crops.

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Still hankering for a coffee, I stopped at a cafe in San Miguel de Valga. While I was there, a Dutch guy arrived, and we got talking. After having an early lunch, we left the cafe and chatted for the last few kilometres before arriving in the outskirts of Padrón, barely remembering the walk. There was a large Sunday market going on in town and masses of people everywhere. With the current COVID threat in Spain, this made me nervous, so and I suggested we take a less direct route through town. At the end of the market areas, we went out separate ways, and I located my hostel before heading out to explore.

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Padrón is a classic little town with a central old town like many places across Europe. In my exploration, I ran into the Dutch guy once more, and we sat for a beer and some food before he headed off to his hostel outside of town.

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Day 12 – Padrón to Santiago de Compostela – Spain – 25.6km

On the final day on this latest adventure, I headed out from the hostel and along the dark streets of Padrón. Today, I’d read, would be one of the less interesting days, as the trail begins the slow climb into Santiago de Compostela and right from the beginning the urban sprawl began. After five kilometres, I arrived at A Escravitude, where I found this Igrexa.

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For the next 15 or so kilometres, I walked through leafy suburbs on thin roads making my way uphill towards the centre of the city.

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From here there are few views, and those are mainly of low hills and tree-covered suburbs.

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When I entered the main built-up area of the city, the path led me along the main drag. With more stone buildings around, the heat rose, and I found a vending station to buy a drink. The road then led me up to the Central Park, which in turn led me into Cidade Vella – Old Town in Galician. Cidade Vella in Santiago is rather large and is a spiderweb of walkways with many shops, restaurants and cafes. I found my way to the official ending point of the walk and emerged in the grand square to perhaps 20 groups of pilgrims spread out in front of the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela.

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I found a shady spot at the back of the square and sat down for a rest, watching pilgrims in the square languish about taking photos as more groups arrived. After my break, I located the pilgrim office, filled out the relevant online form and collected my official certificates of completion. I then located my hostel and checked in before returning to find lunch. Later, I got a late afternoon photo of the cathedral.

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I then ran into a Spanish girl who I’d seen walking and discovered she spoke English. I sat down for some beers with her and another Spanish guy. Later that evening, we gathered a group of Spanish people, some who could speak English, and went for dinner and more beers. Much fun was had.

I spent the next day wandering around the old town of Santiago and eating local food. While it’s served many places, I located a suitable place to try to Pulpo – Octopus – which I rather enjoyed.

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Final Impressions of Camino Portugués de Costa

I have completed two hikes this year, and this would have been my first had COVID not caused it be moved after the Tour du Mont Blanc. This was a long-distance, low altitude, cultural experience with some views, while the TMB was a challenging, high peak climbing, massive mountain hike with amazing views. While I very much enjoyed the cultural experience of the Camino, it would have been better to do it first as the TMB took away some of its grandeur. That and with many English speakers avoiding the region meant fewer friendships were made and more of a lonely experience.

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But, in the spirit of the Camino, it was still an enjoyable cultural experience. It opened my eyes to the beauty of northern Portugal, and allowed me to experience Spain. The food in both countries was amazing and the people friendly and understanding of my low level of Spanish. I have studied the language to a beginner level and it was enough to survive, but it has pushed me to reach the next level before I head to Spain for my next Camino, the Camino Frances in a year.

The Lone Trail Wanderer