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Into Istanbul

Hagia Sophia By Night

We were like excited kids at Christmas again this morning, this trip has been a long time in coming. We checked in, went and munched on some bacon & cheese croissants and waited for our flight.

We landed in Istanbul late afternoon, got in a taxi and headed for Sultanahmet (in the old part of the city) to find our guesthouse for the next few days. The driver rang ahead and was given directions in to where we were staying, not far from Sultanahmet Square.

Back On The Trail

Durdle Door

Apologies for my absence from this blog over the last year, some of you will know that unfortunately I was ill pretty much most of last year, I still haven’t returned to full health, but I am slowly getting there. I do intend to go back at some point and create a couple of blogs with a few words and photos to fill in the gaps of some of the places I did manage to get to last year, but for now I am focussing on going forward and that starts with my upcoming trip.

Solo In The City - Lisbon Part 1

Tram In Lisbon
 

It dawned on me today that whilst I’ve explored many cities in various countries all over the world, I’ve never actually done it on my own, I’ve always had someone with me, either a friend or family member.  Of course I’ve explore lots of different places in England on my own, been on holiday on my own, away for weekends, day trips, but just never overseas. I temporarily felt a little daunted I don’t mind admitting.

John went off to work and I studied my map to find out where the closest metro stop was and once found I wandered off in that direction.   Finding the metro stop? No problem, getting a ticket? Another matter! I must have pushed every button on the machine in every combination possible and still 10 minutes later no ticket.  Eventually I gave up and walked away wondering what to do as none of the booths were manned, then I decided to try another machine. It was then that I discovered that the first one was broken as within a minute I had a ticket in my paws!  Soon enough I’d found the right platform, boarded a train and was heading towards Rossio Square which is said to be the heart of the city. I couldn’t wait to get up the stairs and out into daylight to take my first look at the city. First impressions – it’s beautiful, just from this square alone I had an inkling that I was going to like Lisbon. The city is built on hillsides and from here it’s an impressive sight as you look around to see colourful houses painted in yellows, greens, blues and pinks rising skyward.

West Coast, Sintra And The Inverted Tower

West Coast Of Portugal

Yesterday we were catching an early flight so we should have had plenty of time to do a few things – however, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan – in fact everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and the less said about it the better!!  With that in mind we ended up pulling into our accommodation near Porto Novo early evening.

I’ve been to Portugal many times and usually stay along the south coast, I was looking forward to seeing how the coast on the west differs. I’m not sure that’s going to happen while we are here though as it seems that at this time of year a mist comes from the sea and the coastline for the most part is obscured.  You can feel the temperature dropping the further up the coast you drive into the mist, it looks fairly spectacular in its own right though, so all is not lost.

In Bruge

Brugge

I often seem to find myself in service stations early morning en-route somewhere. This one is a familiar stop for us, just a few miles away from the Euro Tunnel terminal. I wasn’t quite awake yet, so a muffin and the largest coffee I could find were the order of the day.

I’m a big fan of the Euro Tunnel, it’s so easy to access mainland Europe from here, drive onto a train carriage and 30 minutes later drive straight off again into France, it’s so much cheaper and quicker than flying. France, Belgium and the Netherlands are all within an hour and a half drive and this time Belgium was to be our destination.

As this was just a short trip we wanted to make the most of our time so we headed straight away from the terminal and in the direction of Brugge. We have been before, but we took my parents over with us and my mum in particular has wanted to go to Brugge for many years.

Landguard Fort, Rendlesham Woods & Aldeburgh

Boat

We didn’t really start out with a plan today, only that we’d head over towards the east coast. There are very few English Heritage properties in this part of the country that we haven’t been to before but Landguard Fort just outside Felixstowe is one of them. As we were heading in that direction we decided to go there first and then make our way over to Aldeburgh.

Built at the mouth of the River Orwell, Landguard Fort is the site of the last opposed seaborne invasion of England in 1667. The current fort was built in the 18th century and has had various modifications in the 19th & 20th centuries. Most recently it was used during WW2 and subsequently abandoned a few years after the end of the war, leaving it to decay until it came into the hands of English Heritage. Forts of this nature are not usually in the scope of my general interest as I tend to prefer ruins of old castles or abbeys, however we both took out an audio guide to listen to as we went round and I really quite enjoyed it.

Canal Boats And Fake Festivals

Meadowlark On The Grand Union Canal

Saturday 18th August

It was one weekend a few months back when John and I were walking along the canal towpath that we decided it would be a great idea to hire a narrowboat for a day. When we got home a Google search revealed a hire company just a few miles away from us. A few emails later the date was set and the ‘Meadow Lark’ had been reserved for us.

We met up with some family members in Cosgrove, gathered our picnics and cameras and made our way on to the towpath.  We hired from Cosgrove Narrowboat http://www.cosgrovenarrowboats.co.uk and they were brilliant. Carol greeted us and took us through a few safety procedures, then we set sail ….. well, more of a chug really! There is a lock within the first few feet of cruising and Carol came onboard with us to help us through. John was driving and trying to get used to the way the boat worked and all eyes were on him as people watched on from the bank, he did bump and bash around a bit in the lock, but I thought he did exceptionally well all things considered.  The first five minutes were spent weaving around a bit as John got used to the length of the boat and the fact that you push the tiller in the opposite direction to that in which you want to move.

Medieval England And Celebrations

Remains of Kirby Muxloe Castle

Today we started out in the direction of Kirby Muxloe, a small village situated on the outskirts of Leicester, we were heading for the ruins of the 14th century castle. The castle here was never completed as the person responsible for it, Lord Hastings, was dramatically seized and executed by Richard III in 1483 and his family didn’t continue to complete it.  The moated remains consist of a gatehouse, a corner tower and parts of the old mansion. Nowadays it is in the care of English Heritage and being members, entrance is free for us. If you are coming from overseas to  England for any length of time, you can get an overseas visitors pass (currently for 9 or 16 days) to gain free entry to many of the English Heritage properties, which is great value if you plan on visiting a number of the bigger castles or stately homes http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/overseas-visitor-pass/

Kirby Muxloe is a fairly small property compared to others that English Heritage own and it doesn’t take very long to look around the ruin. After we had explored and walked around the moated area we got our picnic and blanket from the car and sat in the grounds eating lunch. It’s nice to take a look at if you are in the area or want to spend time there relaxing and eating a picnic, otherwise it’s not really big enough to warrant a special trip.

Back In England

England

Ok, as some of you will know I have been back from my trip for a while now and have been working on designing and creating this website over the last few months. It’s finally ready to be released, so welcome to one and all!  For my Facebook page click here - don’t forget to click on the link and ‘Like’ it as I need as much support as I can get at the moment!

Since returning from my trip I have managed to change my way of life considerably. The first thing we did (the day after we arrived back) was to put our house up for sale. It had been a huge drain financially for a long time and was far too big for just the two of us.  It took a while to sell, but finally it did and we are now shackle free and living life in a rented apartment beside a canal, which is awesome. We unloaded most of our material possessions on family/friends and charity shops and are now leading a far simpler and uncluttered life. 

Been Around The World And I, I ....... I

 

Algonquin Provincial Park

The next day we went into Algonquin Provincial Park and it was great to be out in the countryside again. We spent the day in the park taking various walking trails and looking for bears, we didn't see any bears, but it was a lovely sunny day and we saw some awesome dams created by beavers.

After taking a look at the map book that night we ruled out going any further into Canada as we have to back in Boston in a few days for our flight to Heathrow. The next day we crossed back in to America, which took a long time as they decided to search our car and make us fill various forms out while they questioned us over how many stamps we had in our passport and in particular were concerned that we had three visas into Cambodia over such a short space of time. Once we'd satisfied the customs officials, we were on our way again and we headed down into Adirondack Park.

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