For the last four and a half months, I slept in everything from a child's bed in an airbnb to a mosquito net covered bed in a tent - 23 different beds! I ate everything from exotic vegetables and curries in Sri Lanka to good old fish and chips in England.
My biggest regret? Not writing more blog posts. My writing on the road was abysmal. My excuse? Probably the biggest excuse is lack of a good desk to write on in most places. Other excuses: tiredness at the end of the day, my wifi adapter croaking on me at the beginning of the trip...in Dubai I had the desk and the time to do posts but I could not get online. I finally figured out the problem and was able to fix it. Then my laptop decided it did not like being moved one tiny bit when I was online and if I so much as touched it the screen would go blank. Need I say that before I go on another long trip I will be purchasing a new laptop..with more memory. Yes I should have listened to a "certain friend" who advised me to get a laptop with more memory...I ignored that advice at my peril! If I had a nickel for every time I was informed Windows 10 could not do their updates due to lack of memory I could book a ticket back to England! Ah well, at least I did daily updates on Facebook and faithfully journaled. I have two full journals plus started another smaller one.
Here are some of the highlights of each of my stops. More details will be revealed in future posts!
Even the "Museum" subway station was impressive!
We also went for Ethiopian food one evening. It was pretty cold while I was there and as I was dressed for a more temperate climate as well as being paranoid about falling on the ice (no boots) we stayed in a lot. It was a chill (literally!) way to start my trip! Seriously, it was good to relax as it was quite a busy time getting ready.
Spiced meat and veg on top of Injera...a sourdough spongy bread made from teff flour. Oh yum!!!
Then it was time to fly to my next destination...
I also visited the new Postal Museum and went on the Mail Rail underground. This custom gauge 6.5 mile railway system delivered up to 4 million letters a day around London. It was opened in 1927 and closed in 2003. I highly recommend a visit to this museum but you must book in advance if you want to ride on the Mail Rail train - to me that is the whole point of visiting this museum. I loved it!
A bit snug...built for mail not humans!!
The world's first adhesive stamp - the Penny Black. Worth one penny! The stamp was issued in May of 1840 and made posting a letter much simpler. Before that postage was very costly as it was based on how many sheets and how far the letter was going - and the recipient paid!!!
I loved seeing all the early Christmas cards and stationery. Back in the day I was quite the letter writer and I am still a bit of a stationery geek.
All too soon it was time to head out for a long weekend in...
Sagrada Familia - one of the most spectacular things I've seen in my life..and I've seen a few!
The interior of the cathedral meant to resemble a forest
Parc Gruell - another Gaudi masterpiece.
Beautifully over the top fountain in Parc de la Cuitadella
I did make a day trip to...
Arabian gazelles...I love gazelles.
I will definitely be writing a post on my morning trip into the desert.
Seeing a gathering of elephants in Kaudalla National Park was the absolute highlight of the whole trip. To see so many elephants in one place was indescribable really. Our whole tour group was excited beyond belief. When our tour guide Sam asked us if we wanted to see an "elephant gathering" we all shouted "YES!!!". I can't even remember exactly how much it cost us each but whatever it was it was worth every penny and more. Keep in mind that this is a specific time of year and we were very lucky to see it- this isn't a typical sight for a visitor to Sri Lanka.
There was one huge disappointment in Sri Lanka and that was the train ride to Ella. It was absolutely packed and I, along with the rest of my tour had to stand for most of the train journey. It was difficult to see out the windows with people hanging their heads out let alone get any photos. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing. A sweet girl from Australia gave up her seat for me about ten minutes before we got off and the others insisted I take it. I was able to snap a few photos but the woman ahead of me had her arm out the window so it was difficult to get good shots.
The next day, while the others walked to Ella Rock four of us went to see the Nine Arches bridge. I had seen it on Instagram and thought it was beautiful. As the tuk tuk dropped us off high above the bridge the (early) train rumbled over the bridge. We then descended down a rocky steep path (eek! but I had help) to walk along the bridge. We were supposed to be taken right to the bridge where you can see tuk tuks waiting in the photo below - we got one of those back!
More details on this beautiful bridge in a future post!
I am a huge tea lover so being able to visit a tea plantation and see how it is grown and processed for drinking was so interesting. And of course I had to buy some to bring home!
And then there was the sea at the end of the trip. I booked an extra three nights in a delightful hotel n Mirissa on the south coast. Now Mirissa did not really appeal to me but this little hotel certainly did. I could have LIVED on my balcony watching monkeys, monitor lizards and of course the namesake of the hotel...Peacocks! I was woken every morning by peacocks shrieking. Now after a while this might get a bit old but for three mornings it was a thrill.
Oh my I did go on a bit about Sri Lanka didn't I? I guess I don't need to tell you that was my favourite part of the trip!
Then it was a short flight over to...
The Chinese fishing nets were interesting to watch and always attracted an audience of some kind.
Gangs of goats roamed the streets of Fort Kochi...they even lounged on benches at the beach!
I watched a couple of fisherman like this one who fish for hours in the sea with huge cargo ships passing by. It never seemed like they caught too much. Not sure I would want to eat any fish out of that sea anyway!
A boat trip on the backwaters was a reprieve from the heat.
I enjoyed a wonderful Kathakali traditional dance performance.
And then there was an overnight trip to hill country near Munnar. Lots more tea!!! I stayed overnight in a guest house with a beautiful view.
The view from the balcony outside my room
Tea not beer!!
I will be writing posts about my time in Kerala don't you worry.
Oh yeah - I got back on the Thames Path!!
There are these type of bunkers all over the Channel Islands. Original defense forts (a lot built during the French Revolution) were then built over and fortified by the Germans who occupied the Channel Islands from 1940 to 1945.
St Peter Port harbour with Castle Cornet in the background
St Peter Port makes a lovely photo from the water
Guernsey has beautiful beaches but they are rocky as are the beaches of Jersey.
I will be writing posts on my daily activities on this beautiful island.
Then it was time to take an overnight ferry back to England...I paid for an upgrade and was in a secure area with comfortable reclining chairs and complimentary tea, coffee, biscuits and newspapers. It was well worth it as it was quieter and I felt much more at ease leaving my belongings to go use the loo or get something from the cafe. After 13 hours we arrived in...
Time to gather my bags from the Condor ferry office and board a train for Brighton and spend the two nights in..
Rottingdean, East Sussex
The High (main) Street in Rottingdean...my airbnb was on this street and was just as charming!
Kipling Gardens. Yes, Rudyard Kipling lived here.
I will definitely be taking you for a "walk" around the village - so much to see!!! And the beauty of this place is it is just a few minutes from Brighton. For those of us who use public transport there are lots of buses going through the village in each direction. Definitely my "go to" place if I ever decide to base myself in East Sussex again.
36 hours later I was on a train to Gatwick airport and next stop..
A classic view of the Danube from Buda Castle
Matthias Church in Buda Old Town
Quirky "flying nun" sculpture in Buda Old Town
Close up of the Budapest Parliament Buildings - absolutely stunning at night from across the water
Coffee with a guinea pig at the Zoo Cafe
Then it was an overnight train to...
Krakow's main square which dates back to the 13th century. Cloth Hall (with shops inside) is on the left and St Mary's Basilica on the right.
Another view of the beautiful Cloth Hall with a statue of Adam Mickiewicz (greatest Polish romantic poet of the 19th century)
A beautiful park and walkway surround the Old Town - this was once the moat outside the city walls.
Some of the shoes of victims of the Holocaust at Auschwitz
Back to Sussex!!
Brighton has a lot of street art
The Lanes - if you like shopping you will love Brighton!
Then it was time to head back to my favourite place in the world...
London was starting to bloom!
It took two trains and a bus to get to Charles Darwin's home of 40 years but it was totally worth it!
A day trip to Chester didn't quite work out as I had hoped. Nonstop rain put a damper in my plans to visit the wonderful Chester Zoo. I had visited there in 1994 and have since read and seen the British TV production of June Mottershead's wonderful account of how her father started the zoo. I figured the animals would be smarter than me and take shelter so why waste money? So I wandered around the city streets with my umbrella stopping in coffee shops and pubs when I got too tired or wet. The most excitement all day was when the toilet on the train greeted me as I walked on and asked me not to put anything but toilet paper down it. Alrighty then! I still enjoyed the day and I am thinking Chester would be a good place to base myself again (did this in 1994) for a few days.
Beautiful Chester Cathedral
Chester is known for its numerous and beautiful timbered houses.
The Isle of Wight
You have to love a place that uses old London underground trains as their trains system.
The beaches were huge and beautiful.
Thatched cottages in Old Shanklin. Hmmm..never made it to this tea room. Now I must go back!
Back to London for another five days or so...
London was in full bloom including the beautiful Wisteria in Holland Park
Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park - beautiful all year round!
Beautiful Little Venice
Stopped off at this canal boat cafe and had an ice cream sitting outside - bliss!
Back on the Thames Path from Staines to Old Windsor
The weather was magnificent and fell over the Bank Holiday weekend so everyone was out to enjoy it which was good to see but also made for lots of crowds everywhere.
Then it was time to head to
The Lake District!
View from Wrynose Pass
Wast Water - deepest of all the lake and probably the most awe-inspiring surrounded by mountains including Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain. This is in the west of the Lake District which doesn't see as many tourists as the North or Central areas.
Hill Top - Beatrix Potter's first home in the Lake District. After she married William Healis and moved to Castle Cottage she continued to do her work here.
Then it was time to leave and head back to London for the final time...of this trip!
Please don't ask me what churches these are ...OLD churches!!!
Flags out for the Royal Wedding
Even dogs were kitted out for the festivities
Going to Windsor two days before the wedding was not a smart move...I had to do my walk backwards and scary things happen when I try to read instructions backwards.
Swan gathering for the wedding...nah...there are always a whole bunch here because tourists = food.
One of the more scenic stretches along the Thames Path that day
And then it was the wedding...
Prince William with a "beer belly" and slippers...too cool for words. (NOT)
And all too soon it was time to come home...
I had such mixed feelings about this beautiful trip coming to an end. One part of me was relieved that I was heading back to a normal routine as I was starting to get tired but the other part was very sad to be ending my life of adventure as well as my life in London. However I know that I will be back. Travel, especially long term travel is in my blood!
So many stories to tell and I can't wait to share them all!