Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hey all,

New posts are coming at the end of the week when my new Internet service is installed.

What's coming?

The Peaks District with Mark and Sarah

A night and day in Milano, Italy


And Ikaria: A Night to Remember

Thanks for your patience and interest.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013



Driving through the Yorkshire Dales of England is a landscape artist’s dream. The Picturesque narrow country roads bordered by low stonewalls and hedgerows, that separate sheep pastures, are the norm in northern England.  The market town of Hawes is in the heart of the whole Dales area.  Here, I had a delightful two-night stay at the Fairview, which has received a local award for  the best breakfast among guesthouses in the area.  And yum, it is excellent.  Because of the Fairview’s   great location, once I parked my car, I had no need to use it during my whole visit. 
My first stop was to drop off my laundry. Then I was off to the Wensleydale Cheese Factory.  Wallace’s, (of Wallace and Grommet) favorite cheese.  Not only do they have a great movie explaining the history of the cheese but there is also a humorous young man who goes through the process of cheese making for all to see.  Then there is more cheese making demonstrations and a tour of the actual factory.  After I explored the whole cheese making operation, I headed off to the gift shop, and the large, very long tasting room, where I tasted every flavor of Wensleydale made, and there are a rows and rows of flavors.  I made a pit stop in one of their dining rooms for a light lunch and then was off to peruse the local shops on my way to the local Visitors Center in hopes of going on the Red Squirrel
Cotton growing in a field

walk, but I was too late. 

But the center offered me another walk on the Pennine Way to the Green Dragon Inn to see its waterfall.  The walk took me through sheep pastures, passed picturesque buildings and mildly hilly terrain to the ancient village of Hardraw.  On the way I saw a fence sign, Sheep Dog Trials, 6 PM.  Well, I surely wasn’t going to miss that.
Hardraw and the Inn in the distance

The Falls
The Green Dragon Inn dates back to the 13th/14th century and the interior around the two fireplaces has the putrid smell of years of  accumulated soot.  How anyone could sit in those rooms was beyond me, and I rushed through quickly to the outer bar. Although historians aren’t quite sure, it is believed that the name of the Inn comes from olden times of age old conflicts when the lord of the manor in these parts would send out a call for his men to meet under the banner of the Green Dragon at the falls. 

The falls are privately owned by the Inn, which charges four pounds to take a look.  I’m sure that during the summer months they take in a bundle just from the visitors to the falls.  There, I met a charming couple from Dublin who were traveling with their adopted sheep dog, on a more extended visit to the Dales than mine.  They explained that the Irish government had a program of giving pensioners (retirees) a holiday fund so they could take a vacation at least once year. This fund of course is really a medicinal concept that cuts down on sedentary illnesses and freshens pensioners’ outlooks as they age. I liked that idea a great deal, not just for me the avid traveler, but for all the older folks who worked hard all their lives and in retirement can only afford to sit around and wait to die (or now are forced in their old age to push grocery carts at stores for patrons to make ends meet).  In my opinion it is a much better use of our tax dollars than spending the money on the military/industrial community to create explosives to unsettle other peoples’ lives.

Upon arriving back from the waterfall and the Green Dragon Inn I found there was no time to waste. I had to immediately turn around and go back the way I had just come to see the Sheep Dog Trials.  There were five dogs ranging in age from one year to eleven years old.  They were all very friendly and I had a chance to say hello to each before their work began.  The flock of sheep, who stood together on the far side of the field, stay outside during the whole winter and their coats were becoming thick and woolly again after their spring shearing.   The farmer directed the dogs with some voice directions but mostly by sounds made from his whistle.  The dogs, which generally worked in twos, were extremely eager.  It was obvious they loved making the sheep do their bidding.  They began by circling the flock, one on each side, giving the sheep a wide berth. Yet the dogs were able to direct the whole flock into a pen, while separating six from the larger flock to use to show off their skills.  Each dog was given an opportunity to go through their paces as a sheepherder and they were all wonderful to watch.  Lucy the youngest was a natural, probably the most skilled of all the five dogs considering she was just shy of a year old.         

After this wonderful exhibition of sheepdog skill, off I went for a pub dinner of homemade sweet potato soup and oven fresh bread. The next morning, I was off to the Peaks District, one of my very favorite areas in all of England.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013



    One of the great advantages of travel is that I meet such interesting people. Many of whom have become long, lasting friends. 
Carol's pond
A view of the moors  
    That is how I came to visit the Cumbria moors of Northern England.  Carol Darce, one of the most fascinating people I have met, at age 17 began riding her bicycle across such countries as Iran, Afghanistan, much of India, Nepal and places beyond. She, still with her bicycles, has now migrated from her London flat to Nenthead, the highest village in England.  Amid the sweeping vistas and extremely harsh winters, she is resurrecting a four-acre property making the large shambles of a house into a magnificent home with incredible views of the moors. Typical of her can do personality; Carol has done much of the labor herself, building a coir pond in her back yard and as I left, she began refinishing the wooden kitchen floors.  With an impressive collection of artifacts from her many travels and the lovely conservatory she had rebuilt by a local master builder, Carol has created an exciting three bedroom, two-bath home with views to die for. 
Part of the mine museum
 Nenthead and its nearest village, Alston, was historically England;s leading lead mining village.  But the mines closed in 1961, which affected the economy of the 2000 Nenthead villagers, and that of the
 whole area. The Heritage Museum about the history of lead and the mining process has also closed and is now a relic of a past era.  
    During out brief visit to the Lake District, although the lakes are beautiful and interesting, I found it much like the Cotswolds, overcrowded with masses of traffic.  PBS’s Agatha Christie Mysteries series gave me the impression that Windermere was a beautiful lake with quietly elegant resorts where patrons arrived by boat and settled in for a fortnight. NOT!  The Windermere I saw was a veritable tourist trap full of masses of tourist with their children, almost all eating large ice creams.  Talk about being disappointed, obviously the ‘Mystery’ producers have used a different location to depict Windermere in their stories.
     At Ullswater, another lake and village noted for its water activities, although lower on the ‘tourist attack scale,’ we again found parking impossible.  Grasmere, the last village we visited, was more like the Lake District I had envisioned, with its charming stone village houses, some converted into quaint restaurants, and control passes to the lake. Grasmere is also the location of Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage preserved by the local community.  
Me in the Hexham stocks
Carol in Hexham
    The next afternoon we visited the delightful village of Hexham, spending our time l taking each other’s pictures in the ‘stocks,’ and venues of this beautiful little historic market town. 

      Then it was off to Hadrian’s Wall. Although the wall has a quite different design and scope than the Great Wall of China, it is just as impressive.  For one, the size and weight of slaps of rock which had to be moved from somewhere else, and two, how they were able to pile these rock-slaps up evenly atop each other to create the wall had to be an incredible feat. The Romans called the area, Vindolanda.  Today there are two museums near the wall, one, the largest Roman fort ever excavated in England, and the other, a site museum full of artifacts of the people and the period. 
The smallest Billy Goat Gruff
The Troll
     One of the fall traditions for residences in the area is to put out witches in their yards - see some above and below:

Two of the three Bily Goats Gruff
Little Red Riding Hood


  On my last day, we took a long hillside walk among the peat bogs and the moors. Sheep were everywhere.
Peat Bog


   That evening we had dinner at the Nent Hall, where I ate the most delicious courgette or Zucchini (as we Americans call it) soup I have ever eaten anywhere in the world.  A very good restaurant indeed.
    During dinner, much to my annoyance, the four men who sat at the table next to ours insisted on watching TV.  It was then we heard some amazing news.  The lead mines were reopening and this depressed area would again have jobs. By the men’s conversations, we ascertained they were part of the project.  Their interest rallied around the locals’ concern about the risk to the environment. This is a community in-which most of the inhabitants have either moved away or been living on the dole since the 60s. Thus these managers decided environmental concerns would be the least of their   problems because the community desperately needed jobs.  Currently the area had been given over to massive numbers of cyclists, hikers on the Pennine Way and a few retirees who had bought houses and renovated them, much like Carol was doing, into homes with modern conveniences.  How the other retirees feel about the reopening of the mining industry, I have no idea, but my friend Carol, even as an environmentalist is keen on the idea.   
   The next morning I was off to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales.

Monday, September 2, 2013


I left August 19th, and arrived on the morning of the 20th sans luggage.  No luggage! I immediately went to British Air baggage and made a claim, filled out the forms and lamented my fate.  “Oh it’s those Spaniards,” I was told. “Couldn’t seem to transfer your suitcase from one plane to another in an hour and a half’s time.”  The clerk’s commented. “Should be here in the next 24 hours,” and politely waved me on with a smile.

Today is August 22, 2013 to date American Airlines still can’t find my luggage during the transfer from their flight 112 Miami to Barcelona to a 10:30 British Air flight to London the same day.  Although clearly marked to London, fully described and with a big rubber tag from my favorite travel company ACIS with my name and home address indelibly written on it, there is still no word.  I doubt anyone has even looked!  A pox on American Airlines in Barcelona! No wonder you are going under!  I am more than a little upset. 

No time to lament that situation. I had a train to catch.  Upon arriving at Britrail I found my train ticket had been lost in the system and I had to buy another at a much higher rate than my Internet purchase.  Because of the higher cost of the ticket, I had to take a later train, which would arrive in Newcastle much later than I had told the New Bridge Residences where I was staying that I would arrive -after 11 PM.

I now had five hours to spare. Unfortunately I had not taken my own advice to travelers and packed and extra set of undies (knickers – the English term) in my carry on.   So I was immediately forced to go shopping.  Drat! For those novice travelers: note clothes shopping in the UK and on the continent is extremely expensive. Also as for as I know, shopping around St. Pancreas/Kings Cross station is sparse.  I looked within the two connected stations’ shops and all I found were these alluring lacing little things one might use to entice, at exorbitant prices.  I was in the market for something more medicinal, little tiddy-whities for daily use (I was told later, the Kings Cross area is a little red lightish). 

Having failed at new undie shopping, I immediately went to the only place I know in the area, the wonderful British Library. One could certainly forget their lingerie problem surrounded by on of the world’s best collection of books and literature, located in multi-floored glass cases one can watch go up and down to the book floor necessary when a librarian had to retrieve an individual book for a reader, free internet, a glorious gift shop, a great little cafe and an exhibition of PROPAGANDA, Power and Persuasion. The title made me think about the propaganda of the necessity of clean knickers (we are in the UK after all) daily, when I had only one pair, the ones I was wearing.  I suppressed my unsavory thoughts and took in as much as one could in the time allotted. Two hours on the Internet, a great egg salad on rye and the exhibition on Propaganda. It was so all encompassing, I forgot my troubles and trudged through the negative concepts historic, and otherwise, that all propaganda is not bad.  After all we Americans are now coughing in our sleeves instead of sending our germs air-born.  Good job, propaganda.  We are accepting gay marriage and allowing these couples the same benefits as every other couple.  Good job again.  But guns; the NRA has the high hand in that – but that’s where money and right-wingers’ talk control congress, ignoring the majority of the people.  I did not need a whole exhibition on Propaganda for me to know that clean knickers were necessary and guns were not.  

As I stated earlier because of my late train, I was late getting to my room for the night. I had made a University Rooms reservation; accommodations that are clean and really quite pleasant – located in safe and often central locations around the world. Here, I’d like to impose my travel ad for University Rooms.  Universities offer en-suite rooms – key in University Rooms and see the list.  It’s an excellent travel choice and I have never yet been disappointed.  Keep in mind, you are not going to the Ritz but certainly for a cheap or modestly priced sleep it can’t be beat, and many even have breakfast included.

I would also like to add that my train travel companions were exemplary.  Ed, a fitness trainer for the Tottenham football team – an intelligent, handsome, muscular fellow, and Katrina, a bright, extremely pretty English rose who works for Sky television were great travel companions.  Thank you both.

Because I arrived so late to my evening digs, I was late picking up my rental car, and because the Newcastle metro line to the airport was under repair, I had to find the location of the shuttle bus to the airport.  But never mind, it was a pleasant walk (no knickers for sale on the way-drat!) and with the kind help of passersby and Rachael from my night’s digs, I arrived at the bus just in time. 

As for the car, I had hired a standard shift and although I have one at home, after driving it around the parking lot I found that the thought of having to deal with the Round Abouts and reading the signs as I went, as well as constantly remembering when to shift, I might do better with an automatic.  So at double the price I got this lovely little Audi and I am a much happier and safer driver. 

Even with the map given to me by the rental company (I have an excellent road map of GB in my lost luggage), I had to stop an ask people directions now and then to get to my destination, Nenthead, Cambria, the highest village in England where my dear friend Carol has bought a really lovely house and renovated it into a magnificent home on the moors which overlooks the beautiful vast valleys and hillsides of the area.  

Surprised I had finally arrived, Carol and I did a lot of catching up, and after a great dinner, a tiring but very enjoyable evening walk, I rinsed out my knickers and snuggled down in my bed to a good and toasty snooze in this coldest village in England.  With morning tea and flowers served at my bedside, all is well except for my missing suitcase and having to wear damp undies (two days into my trip and not found) and the fact that Carol has awakened with a sore throat and cold.  Not that too!  Protect Me Universe!