The Majorelle Garden / Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco.

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Generally, I ‘don’t do’ the touristy stuff, but occasionally there are places which one finds attractive for more than a single reason.

Such is the attraction of the Jardin Majorelle for me. I love gardening and growing plants. Places such as this inspire my own artistic creativity and, as a writer, my muse is awakened by the ambience.

Besides, I had a new camera at the time and wanted to try it out. So, we called our driver and set off to the Rue Yves Saint Laurent.

The Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech is one of the most visited sites in Morocco. It took French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) forty years of passion and dedication to create this enchanting garden in the heart of the “Ochre City”.

A bit of history…

Jacques Majorelle was born in 1886 in Nancy, France, the son of the famous furniture designer, Louis Majorelle, who, with Emile Gallé, founded the Nancy School.

He grew up in an ideal artistic universe, among draftsmen, cabinetmakers and marquetry inlayers from the workshops of his father, at a time when the Art Nouveau movement, largely inspired by shapes found in nature, was in full swing.

In 1923, Jacques Majorelle bought a four-acre land plot, situated on the border of a palm

Bou Saf Saf Villa
Bou Saf Saf Villa

grove in Marrakech. The spot was planted partly with poplars, revealing the presence of water and inspired the artist with a name for his new property, Bou Saf Saf.

Around his dwelling, Jacques Majorelle, a passionate amateur botanist, created a luxuriant garden which would become his most dazzling work. For almost forty years, he continued to enrich it with new varieties of plants from all five continents, fashioning a “cathedral of shapes and colours,” an “impressive garden.”

This magic spot is also a “voracious ogre garden,” whose costly maintenance forced the artist to open it to the public in 1947 for the price of an entrance fee and to divide it up following his divorce in 1956.

Jacques Majorelle in his garden, circ. 1940.
Jacques Majorelle in his garden, circ. 1940.

Majorelle was the victim of a serious car accident in 1955. Numerous operations and the eventual amputation of his left leg exacerbated his financial situation to the point where he was forced, in 1961, to sell his portion of the garden and the villa-studio. Following a second accident some months later, Jacques Majorelle was sent to France, for medical treatment. He died in Paris in October 1962, without even having bid farewell to Marrakech. His grave is in Nancy, next to that of his father.

 

 

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé discovered the Jardin Majorelle in 1966, during their first stay in Marrakech.

“We quickly became very familiar with this garden and went there every day. It was open to the public yet almost empty. We were seduced by this oasis where colours used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature. » … « And when we heard that the garden was to be sold and replaced by a hotel, we did everything we could to stop that project from happening. This is how we eventually became owners of the garden and of the villa. And we have brought life back to the garden through the years.”

Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent, “Une passion marocaine”

Éditions de la Martinière, 2010

 Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980 and saved it from falling victim to a real estate project and becoming a hotel complex. The new owners decided to live in the Villa Bou Saf Saf, which they renamed Villa Oasis, and undertook the restoration of the garden to “make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle.”

Automatic irrigation systems were installed, adjusting the distribution of water according to hours during the day and to the specific needs of each plant. New plant species have been added since 1999, increasing the total number from 135 to 300. A team of 20 gardeners once again began working to maintain the garden, its ponds and fountains.

The painter’s studio has been transformed into a museum open to the public, dedicated to Berber culture, housing the personal Berber collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé

He passed away on June 1, 2008, in Paris. His ashes were scattered in the rose garden of the Villa Oasis; a memorial was built in the garden, designed around a Roman pillar which was brought from Tangier and set on a pedestal with a plate bearing his name so that visitors can remember him and his unique contribution to fashion. “It is a way for artists to live on…”

Jardin Majorelle

On November 27, 2010, the street in front of the Jardin Majorelle’s entrance was renamed the Rue Yves Saint Laurent in his honour. Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma unveiled the new street sign. On the same occasion, she inaugurated the Yves Saint Laurent and Morocco exhibition in the garden’s museum, which was seen by nearly 50,000 visitors.

The current garden, much reduced in size from Majorelle’s original, covers nearly two and a half acres. It holds a collection of cacti, exotic plants and trees which are landscaped to emphasize each one’s unique beauty.

The paths, adorned with brilliant blue, lemon-yellow, and pumpkin-orange clay pots, allow us to see how the architectural style of the villa-studio, now transformed into a museum, is set off by vibrant colours dominated by its “Majorelle blue”.

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photo credit: copyright Paul White

A mint-green pavilion with white carved stucco trim and benches provide intense pops of colour on a stroll past the many plants, pools and fountains create a haven of serenity. The delicate sound of trickling water accompanies the song of the bulbul in the gardens and the chirping of numerous other bird species who have found their Eden here: blackbirds, house sparrows, robins, blue tits, great tits, warblers, grey wagtails and turtledoves.

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My wife and I enjoying a little shade.

As I said at the start of this post, I rarely do the touristy thing, preferring to sample and experience the true values and cultures of the countries and peoples I encounter on my travels. However, I now know why the Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Morocco, let alone Marrakech.

It is not perfect, but that is also something which adds to its charm.


Many of my travels inspire scenes, characters and events in my storybooks and novels which you can find on my website HERE.

Why not grab yourself one or more to take on your next trip, some are paperbacks, some ebooks and some both, so you’ll not be stuck for choice 🙂

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Lamenting lost eateries

 

I know it may sound ‘sad’, but I do get upset when one of my favourite dining places disappears, especially a well-established, well-loved place with an excellent reputation and a long history.

That is not to say age is my definition of a good place to eat. Some ‘unknown’ small, family-run establishments are equally loved, sometimes for great food, a particular speciality, the location, service, ambience or a combination which lends a certain je ne sais quoi to the diner’s experience, one which is often treasured for years.

I am fortunate, having travelled to many places around the globe over an extended number of years, I have accepted it is inevitable places change. Cities, towns, attractions alter as they grow and develop. The countryside is moulded and adapted to the current agricultural and farming needs, wild unspoilt lands are under constant siege and incursions from forestry, harvesting or slash and burn incursions.

Our world is constantly evolving, (and not always for the better), therefore, it is not unexpected to sees stores, shops and restaurants open and close. Yet it does not mean we cannot mourn or lament their passing.

Without further ado, I will list a few of the places which closed in the last year or so, places I already miss.

Please feel free to comment on any you have visited or any places you miss when you travel.

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Mr K’s, 507 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, New York, USA.

Mr K’s was a rarefied Chinese restaurant which prided itself on serving dishes from the Shanghai, Peking, Hunan, and Szechuan regions. The food itself several cuts above your local favourite takeout place. Everything, from the chopstick stand to the sorbet course was embellished by gold service.

 

Staying in New York, lunch was always good at,

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The Stage Deli. 834 Seventh Avenue, NY.

I first saw The Stage deli on a TV programme when I was in my early twenties. Right then I made myself a promise I would eat there one day. I turned out I ate there more than once during my visits to Manhattan.

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The New York Times headline, “New York’s famous Stage Deli closed at midnight on Thursday, November 29. The restaurant had been open since 1937” Still bought a tear of disappointment to my eye.

 

Skipping across the world to the amazing and wonderful,

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Mango Tree restaurant, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai.

We, my wife and I, loved visiting the Mango Tree and used to make our reservations before leaving the UK, ensuring we had a terrace table where you could watch the fountains of the Burj Khalifa dance to the music while you ate.

I miss eating their Pandang chicken while listening to I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston!

There are many more, like No.1 Restaurant, & Chapter 2, both were situated near the Humber Bridge in England. They were crazy places, both with live music and dancing and late, late closing… usually around three or four o’clock in the wee hours of the following morning.

The Victorian Dining Room in Bristol, UK, no menu, just a set offering which the waiters paraded through the dining room on massive trays. Everybody was seated by 7.00pm when the doors closed and the Victorian dining experience began, several courses, beer, wine and port, carriages arrived at midnight to whisk the diners home.

I could go on lamenting. I could say there is nowhere now which can match these lost refreshment houses… but that would only be me reminiscing on good times past.

What one needs to do is look forward to their next great dining experience… so where should that be?

Where do you suggest I visit and why? What makes it so good? Let me know and I may just pop in the next time I’m about that area.

After all, eating is part of the experience of travelling, of finding new tastes and eating ‘other’ stuff. It’s all part of the fun.

Happy travelling.


 

Oh… by the way, if you want to take a book or two on your next journey I have some ideas for you on my website, a choice of hardcover, paperbacks and eBooks, whichever blows your frock up! go take a peek now, right HERE

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Digital device searches at border control. 11 things you should know

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen many disturbing news items about people being stopped at border crossings and their digital devices being searched.

At the Chaos Communication Congress, Kurt Opsahl and William Budington of the Electronic Frontier Foundation broke down what is happening in this area.

Here’s a recap of the talk with a dozen key facts and tips.

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  1. The agents don’t care about your privacy

Governments treat borders like especially dangerous areas and tend to assert more power and authority to conduct searches at borders than they do in the rest of the country.

It’s safe to assume that border agents in any country you visit follow policies or laws that allow them to search your digital devices. It’s also fair to assume they don’t care much about safeguarding your privacy. (In cases where such searches aren’t permitted, Opsahl and Budington, privacy advocates, didn’t speak highly of border agents’ adherence to the rules, either.)

What can happen if you refuse to give agents your passwords to facilitate their search? Border agents have enough power to make your life harder if you don’t comply. They can:

Deny your entry if you are a visitor to the country (not if you’re a citizen or a permanent resident);

Waste a lot of your time, potentially making you miss a connecting flight and wrecking your travel/business schedule;

Seize your property, including digital devices.

All in all, it’s very stressful, especially after a long international flight, when you’re eager to get out of the airport as fast as possible. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your privacy right away. A better way would be to prepare in advance, and that’s exactly what this post is about.

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  1. Digital searches never happen at first-line check

The border agent you see first thing on arrival does a so-called first-line check. If everything seems all right, you’re allowed entry and that’s that. But if something about you looks suspicious, the agent will send you to the second-line check — and this is where your property, including digital devices, may be searched.

Therefore, if you want to avoid digital searches (as well as other searches) it’s a good idea to avoid second-line checks. Of course, it’s not totally up to you, but at least you can do your best not to look suspicious. Some typical triggers that may cause a secondary check are:

Communication difficulties;

Irregularities in documentation;

Database signals or database mismatches with your paper documents (for example, the wrong dates or a different spelling of your name on your travel visa).

So before travelling, make sure your documents are in order. Prepare to show the border agent any additional papers you may be asked for (return tickets, hotel bookings, and such). At the border, be polite, calm, confident, and ready to explain where you are going and why, when you’re planning to return home, and so on.


 

  1. Digital searches don’t happen very often

Even if you are sent to second-line check, that doesn’t necessarily mean your devices will be searched. Numbers vary greatly for the largest European airports, from just 7% at Frankfurt to 48% at Paris Charles de Gaulle. In any case, there’s a good chance that second-line screening will be limited to an interview and an additional documents check.

All in all, although the number of digital searches is steadily increasing, they still don’t happen very often. For example, in the US, the number of media searches at borders has grown from 4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016 and an estimated 30,000 in 2017, but that’s out of about 400 million total border crossings per year, or about 1 in 13,000.


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  1. Lying to border agents is not recommended — and don’t even think about getting physical

Lying to border agents is a crime in most countries. Probably not something to try. On top of that, if you’re exposed to a lie, the odds of your device being searched skyrocket. With that said, the lie that you can’t unlock your phone because you forgot your password is not a particularly clever or original one.

Trying to interfere physically with border agents searching through your stuff is probably the worst course of action: They are well trained, and the consequences would not be nice.


  1. Agents may have some tricks up their sleeves

Border agents may have special equipment for the quick and effective extraction of data from mobile devices. The most notable examples are devices made by Cellebrite that can extract even deleted information. At least in some cases, this equipment can extract data even from locked devices.

Note that Cellebrite software shows even deleted entries from a phone’s call history, contacts, text messages, and so on


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  1. Fingerprints are weaker than passwords

Passwords are somewhat protected by the right to remain silent (not ultimate protection, but it’s better than nothing), but fingerprints are not. Therefore, it’s easier for border agents to order you to unlock a fingerprint-protected device than a password-protected one.

Moreover, border agents don’t have to ask for your fingerprint: They can just grab your finger and unlock your device. Additionally — although this is extraordinarily unlikely for the average traveller — if they have your fingerprints in a database, they can unlock your devices with a forged copy.

The best way to ensure that won’t happen is this: Enable Full Disk Encryption (FDE) in your operating system and switch off the device before you get to the border. You will be prompted to enter your password when you switch on the device, even if you normally use a fingerprint to unlock the screen. And using FDE is a good practice anyway.


 

  1. People who are searched should document everything — and change their passwords

If you’re searched, write down every detail: what agencies were involved, the names of the agents, badge numbers, what you were ordered to do, and so on. If any of your property is seized, get a receipt.

After the encounter, immediately change any passwords you gave up to border agents. A good password manager can make this part a lot easier for you by creating strong, random passwords and storing them for you.


 

  1. Cloud data is probably better protected than local data

Nowadays, we are used to privacy being ruined on a daily basis by government agencies sniffing around the cloud while not doing much to data stored locally on your devices. But when you’re crossing a border, data in the cloud is likely to be better protected than data stored in device memory. At least, that’s the case in the US. Border agents can search your device and data stored on it, but they don’t have the right to search your data stored in the cloud.


 

  1. Work devices probably fall under employer policies

Find out if your employer is OK with you taking your work devices over a border — and with the possible consequences of a digital search. Make sure you bear no responsibility in case such consequences, which could include corporate data loss or a data leak, take place. Consider leaving work devices at work if you don’t really need them with you.


 

 

  1. The best solution is not to bring your devices or data

Consider leaving behind not only your work devices but personal devices as well. If you don’t have the devices on you, there’s nothing to search. However, having no devices at all can look very suspicious to border agents so one solution would be to bring temporary devices.

The same goes for your data: Don’t bring it with you if you don’t really need it. Store the data in the cloud, but do so securely: Either use cloud storage that supports client-side encryption (unfortunately, most popular service providers do not, but we have a guide on the services that do) or encrypt the data before uploading.


 

  1. Data safety is never guaranteed

Back up all of your data before travelling. Use strong passwords for every service or app and log out of the services before crossing any borders. It should go without saying that you need to protect your devices’ operating systems with good passwords as well. As a bonus, these measures will help you if your device gets stolen which is more likely when you travel than at home.

Delete any data that you don’t need or that might raise questions at your destination (photos that might not matter at home but would be problematic in other countries, for example — showing a lot of skin, say, or drug use). Keep in mind that when you simply delete files, they are not really erased from the disk, so delete data securely.

Deleting files securely is quite easy on laptops — you have plenty of options here, including plain and simple disk formatting (but keep in mind that you have to perform a “low-level format,” not a “quick format), or special utilities that are available for all desktop operating systems. For example, BleachBit wipes files and can clean browser and recent document history as well as somewhat obscure things like thumbnails (yep, these tiny previews of your files can persist even after the files are deleted).

Secure deletion on mobile devices is a lot trickier, but still possible: Enable Full Disk Encryption and then wipe the encryption keys, making data nondecryptable. This operation is built into factory reset in iOS and in the “power wash” function on Chromebooks (unfortunately, it’s not available on Android).


To learn more, I recommend watching the whole talk by Kurt Opsahl and Daniel Wegemer. It contains a lot of additional nuances, both legal and technical.

 

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Then check out these latest fashions on Amazon 

Christmas, Down-Under.

Santa Claus Relaxing at the Beach with a Christmas Tree

I am not one usually taken to posting seasonal articles.

My reasoning is the posts are there all year-round, so most times such posts are read ‘out of season‘ negating the prime reason for scheduling them as such.

Today, I am making an exception. I am posting a story about one of my Christmas’s. Today is the 12th of December. So, this post can fairly be described as ‘Seasonal’.

I cannot recall exactly which year it was, but I will hazard a guess at 1977. It was the year the first Star Wars hit the cinema and the James Bond film, the one with the Lotus Elite which could convert into a submarine was shown.38a9e5018020cab10173ce5c0ac6ed06

Although I cannot swear on the date, I recall the films because I watched that first Star Wars in a theatre on George Street in Sydney Australia. Months before it was released at home in England.

Before I arrived in Sydney, I spent a few weeks visiting towns of Perth and Freemantle. I loved the laid-back lifestyle in Freemantle, a slow pace of life and live music in almost every bar. I hope it has not changed much during the ensuing years, it would be such a shame.

But I digress.

I was to spend around six weeks in Sydney.

Most of this time I stayed in Woolloomooloo, from where I did the touristy bit, crossing the Harbour bridge and visiting Taronga Zoo. Walking in Hyde Park, marvelling at the Opera house and drinking beer in its café while watching the boats sail under the bridge.

I may have passed through an area called Kings Cross. I may also have played a game called ‘two-up’ in a seedy bar situated on the edge of nowhere, or these may both simply be rumours.

I did take a trip up to the Gold Coast and was driven almost two hundred miles to visit a certain ‘disco’ because my friend wanted to secure a relationship with a certain young lady. He didn’t succeed.

I met a sweet girl who lived in Redwood. She was a second-generation Aussie, from Scandinavian origin. She had a mass blond hair, blue eyes and rather large…. um… upfront personalities… if you get my drift.

She and I enjoyed an open-air public rock concert held on the steps behind the opera house and took a trip on a ferry from circular quay.

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As Christmas drew near I decided I would spend a few days as a beach bum lounging around on Bondi beech drinking ‘Tinnies‘ and ‘Tubes’ while eating ‘Prawns’. So, I moved into a suit on the top floor of the Bondi Beach hotel.

Now, there are a number of beaches around Sydney, Bondi being the most well known with another called Lady Jane, which is rather infamous in its own right for its liberal view on clothing. However, this being Christmas time, I chose to spend it on Bondi.

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The currents here can challenge the best swimmers, so whatever you do obey the lifeguards and only swim within the flags. On one particular day, I was behaving correctly and swimming in the designated zone when I was stung by a type of jellyfish.

The jellyfish wrapped itself around my arm, the sting was like a ripple of electricity curling around my forearm.

I was swimming with a friend who heard me curse and came across to see what the problem was. I held my arm up. There was a strange looking ‘tape’ wrapped around it. My best description is to say it resembled a ‘pull tape’ or ‘tear strip’ from a packet of cigarettes, but rather than a solid red line this ‘tape’ had small blue dots equispaced every inch or so along its entire length, which we estimated to be about a meter.

It stung like hell, a sort of an electrical toothache throbbing sting. While it was extremely835368 painful it was not debilitating. I swam back to shore and visited the lifeguard station, joining the queue with the other victims and dabbing vinegar, or a vinegar smelling substance, onto the wounds. I had already pulled the offending creature from my arm.

One of the lifeguards took a look and nodded, calling his mate over. They both inspected my arm, commenting, “That’s a bute, mate… bet that hurts like a bugger?”, before wandering off to assist other wounded souls.

It turns out ‘blue bottles’ are not the large black blow-flies we have in England during the summer, but are long straggly jellyfish which tend to drift on the currents and sea winds. It just so happened, on this particular day, both the wind and current, along with the tide worked in bringing large quantities of ‘blue bottles’ into shore.

A few beers in the bar and some showing off of the trail of red welts, which ran from my wrist to above me elbow.. my wounds.. to several young ladies, gaining their sympathy and company, took my mind from the pain. So much so, an invitation to the Bondi Surf Club that evening was gladly accepted.

I decided I would not be venturing into the sea again this day, so armed with some cans… sorry tinnies.. of beer and a bag of prawns, we returned to the beach, but to the far right-hand side, near the rocks where the surfers perform their daredevil stunts among the large breaking waves.

Now, unlike the rest of the beach, this area is not deemed family friendly. It is not an area where swimming is advised. But it is an area where topless bathing is acceptable and, like the beer and prawns, something I self-prescribed myself as a cure for my earlier misfortune. After all, I was looking forward to a night at the surf club and needed to feel my best for the evening.

My self-medication worked.

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I was full of joy and gusto on the evening, although I am only reporting from partial memory and the odd anecdotes of my friends. Apart from waking among the dunes, wrapped in the arms of a young lady, my memory is missing from the moment the house band started to play Queens ‘We are the Champions‘ to the sunrise.

I have been assured I did not embarrass myself… unduly… and the floral mini skirt I found myself dressed in that morning was fairly gained by winning a ‘lemon-sucking from cleavage’ competition. Though no one can recall what happened to my trousers.

After refreshing myself back at the hotel, I spent the rest of the day drinking water and sleeping off a major hangover, by laying on the beach until the sun sank below the horizon.

Tonight was round two at the surf club. I was representing England and I needed to be in top form and hopefully win myself a replacement pair of trousers.

Thank you for reading and have an excellent Christmas and a wonderful New Year… unless you are reading this in April.. then let me wish you a Happy Easter.

Paul.


The Abduction of Rupert DeVille is an amazing novel which will make you laugh, cry and wonder.If you only read one book this year make certain it is this one. https://goo.gl/HqIIu9

Still, time to grab that last-minute gift… like my book, The Abduction of Rupert DeVille, a comical story of wrongful kidnapping, finding oneself, love, lies and…. well, just get a copy and read it!

Thanks 😊

Visiting Rigi – Part Three.  Snow angles, fairy-tale rides & fondue.

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I shall conclude this series of posts about my visit to Rigi with an abridged version of our last day and evening, which was the day we ventured up the mountain, twice.

The first was planned. Not the finite details, just that my wife and I, accompanied by Mike and Heidi, would venture to the high point of Mount Rigi, Rigi Kulm.

As far as mountains go Rigi is not a monster, it is accessible to most people from children to the elderly or infirm who may need to use walking aids. I am unsure about access regarding wheelchairs.

Even though Rigi Kulm, is only 1,797 meters above sea level you can enjoy a view of no fewer than 13 lakes and a regular “sea of peaks” in a 360-degree panoramic vista. (cloud base permitting).

We boarded the vernacular railway at Vitznau, the “oldest mountain railway cogwheel train in Switzerland“. It takes a good thirty minutes or so, with several stops to reach the top known as Rigi Kulm.

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A one-hundred-yard walk from the door of our hotel took us directly to the area where you board the train. I would call it a station, but it is more of a ‘halt’ on the dockside where the Lucerne ferries stop.

The timings of the trains are coordinated with the arrival and departure of the ferries, making it possible to spend a full, or part day, visiting or skiing on Rigi mountain, even if you are staying in the city of Lucerne.

The trains are heated, so sitting back and looking out of the window from the comfort and warmth of a heated carriage is wonderful, especially when you are looking out onto a countryside of deep, freezingly cold snow.

The oddest thing is the impression one gets from the train, as it climbs the mountainside, for the houses built on the mountain look as if they are listing at a forty-five-degree angle. Of course, it is the train that is climbing at an angle, but while one can comprehend such, the eyes tell the brain otherwise.

Once at Rigi Kulm it is on with the woolly hats, scarves and firmly fastening of jackets and coats because the temperature difference from the train to the outside world is dramatic. Even like this day, when it was not particularly cold, one needs those few moments to adjust to the lower temperature.

Our little group were not going skiing today, so we stayed the ‘station’ side of the tracks and wondered towards the peek.

A large tower, a radio mast is located there and I believe (I was told), it has a webcam attached; at least I hope it does, as I stood pulling a variety of faces, waving and dancing a sort of jig at the (supposed) camera on the tower in full public view of the other visitors. I did wonder why some cast a curious glance towards my performance.

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Take a look around Rigi Kulm, this 360 experience is near the top, but not quite… you will still have to go yourself.

http://www.suisse-view.com/360/rigi/winter/poi/kulm-en/

Following the path upwards, the untouched virgin snow on the banks became irresistible and I followed Heidi’s dive into the soft drifts and we made several snow angles. I still think mine was the best.7576

There was a little cloud about, which obscured the full 360degree view possible from this high point on a clear day. But as the clouds drifted the view between them was stunning. In some ways, this peek-a-boo sighting of the landscape was more exciting than having an entire uninterrupted panorama.

It was not the coldest day, but the breeze and low temperature ensured the need for a call of nature, so we idled our way towards Rigi Kulm hotel. Yes, the ingenious Swiss have built a large hotel on top of the mountain.

In the hotel’s own words…. ” While the view from the Rigi is legendary, the mountain experience is unparalleled. The 360º all-round view at 1800m ASL depicts the incredible number of 125 named Alpine peaks and 13 lakes. If you stay at the Rigi Kulm Hotel, you’ll have the chance to witness the divine spectacle of colours at sunrise and sunset.

Upon seeing the rippling waves from the sea of fog, many struggle to find the right words to describe this experience and often just smile quietly and joyfully. The night-time tranquillity is pure relaxation, in which you can even look out for shooting stars. The Kulmhaus was opened on the Rigi in 1816. In 2016, the Rigi Kulm Hotel was celebrating its 200th anniversary.”

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The Rigi Kulm has a good fine dining restaurant but also caters for the day-trippers and sightseers such as ourselves. You can eat local sausages and chips in the dining room or outside on the terrace. The choice is yours. We settled simply for a ‘natural break’ and relaxed with a coffee.

After which we moseyed around a little more before visiting the gift shop. Don’t get too excited, this is a typical tourist gift shop full of useless ornaments and poorly crafted ‘stuff’. My wife settled for a keyring with a whistling beaver… yes, a battery-powered beaver that whistled a tune when squeezed… do not ask me why, or what relevance it has with a Swiss mountain because I do not know, and moreover I do not care. (Lol)

Another coffee and a light snack, this time sat outside the gift shops, (which is also a café), terrace we watched people learning to ski on the nursery slopes opposite, while accompanied by the tunes of a whistling beaver… repeatedly, followed by giggles and howls of laughter from the girls.

A short walk across the mountain footpaths led us to the cable car, which we used for our descent back to Vitznau.

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Our second trip up the mountain was a surprise.

We knew tonight’s meal was to be a treat from the boys, (Kurt and Alessandro) but did not know we were going back up the mountain until we were boarding the vernacular railway once more.

This time we alighted at a station a short way up Rigi and settle ourselves into a corner of a small tavern for some light refreshment. As I came to the end of my first glass Kurt hurried us, saying we had to leave ‘now’. He seemed a little excited in comparison to the laid-back atmosphere of the evening so far.

Once outside we found out why.

Waiting for us were horse-drawn sleighs, white horses and canopied sleighs. Soon we Horse-sleigh_opt-1024x662were seated, a thick blanket tucked around our legs… and we were off, galloping through the snow along twisting tracks, climbing higher and higher towards the mountaintop. It was like a scene from some romantic movie.

 

The journey ended on a small plateau where a large, a very large log cabin stood. This cabin was a fondue restaurant, the ‘Rigi-Huette’.

mood_Food_1This is the first traditional and authentic Swiss fondue I have eaten, it was very tasty and lace with a little kirsch, even more so.

 

The only downside to eating on a mountain is staying at its base, which meant leaving in time to catch the last train home. Well, the party simply had to carry on in the hotel’s own bar.

I would love to tell more about this trip, but I have other places and other journeys to tell of, each with their own unique story, so I shall leave Rigi, Vitznau, Lucerne and Switzerland for you to visit and ensure my next post on Wild Geese take you in a totally different direction.

Keep Happy, Paul.

 


Why not take my three-book collection, ‘Tales of Crimes & Violence’ with you the next time you travel?

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Visiting Rigi. Part two – a Day in Lucerne

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It has been a few weeks since I last posted ‘Visiting Rigi – Part one’

The reason for the delay is I have been travelling again, this time to Belgium, but that journey is a story is for another time.

Unlike many, I am not a fan of posting my blogs ‘on the hoof’.

I may drop the odd Instagram photo, but it is a rare thing. (I would post on Instagram far more if I could do so from my laptop.) However, when it comes to writing a blog post I like to have time to consider my experiences and to portray them in the right context, so I take notes at the time and add the finer details later.

I find this approach suits my form of travel blogging, which as a regular reader you will know, is not crammed full of dry, boring facts and figures.

Neither do I owe any allegiance to holiday companies, travel agents or airlines. Wild Geese is an independent blog and will not gush about a certain location, hotel or airline without honest reason drawn from personal experience.

If you are looking for a blog which reads like a glossy holiday brochure, Wild Geese is not for you. But if you want an insight into a destination, have genuine personal opinions and experiences shared with you, then read on and follow this blog. (The follow button is on the right.) 😊

 Back to Rigi.

 We took the rest of the day of our arrival as lazily as we could.

After unpacking and chatting to both our hosts (Kurt and Alessandro) and our friends (Mike and Hiedi) where we owned up to taking the wrong train and travelling for the best part of an hour in the opposite direction, we decided to stretch our legs and wander along the shoreline of the lake. (Lucerne).

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It was a reasonably bright but chilly day. A perfect day for strolling about and taking photographs of Vitznau, which is the area at the foot of Rigi mountain.  We wandered a little further than we initially intended. To rest we found a small café and took the weight from our legs while we drank coffee and ate a snack.

I like to look at ‘non-tourist’ menus, such as the one in this café, wherever I travel. They give a clear indication of popular dishes eaten locally. On this cafes menu, two items stood out. The first was ‘Goulash soup’ the second ‘Hawaiian toast’. Neither of which are familiar items on a traditional English menu.

As we were due to eat with our friends at the Rigi hotel later that evening, we selected a small cake to accompany our coffee and not one of these unfamiliar items. The rest and hot drink bolstered us and soon we arrived back at the hotel.

That evening our table comprised of my wife and me, Mike and Heidi, Kurt and Alessandro, Oushi from the wool shop, and a German couple whose names I forget, but I think were brother and sister.

As one can expect when a group of friends, who have not met for a while, gather together the conversation flowed as easily as the wine. Tales and stories of boldness, foolishness and idiocy shared, jokes and anecdotes told, past experiences regaled. Soon, I cannot recall having left the table, we found ourselves in the bar. Exclusively, thanks to Kurt.

Debbie and I compiled a playlist before leaving home which contained several tracks we, the group, had partied to before, along with two ‘jokey’ tracks, like an old rendition of ‘Heidi on a mountain top’. (groan).

Needless to say, the night was long, and the morning arrived all too soon.

Kurt and Alexandro still had the business to run, so we were left to our own devices until the evening when a ‘night-out’ was planned.

We decided to travel to Lucerne for the day with Mike and Heidi. Mike drove along the twisting roads, which in many instances are rather like English country lanes. The journey was… steady… the Swiss have strict rules about speed and harsh penalties.

After moseying around the shops for a while, the temptation to purchase some chocolate became overwhelming. Now, Swiss chocolate stores are not the run-of-the-mill sweet (candy) stores one finds in London or New York. The Swiss shops tend to be smaller, often family-run businesses, with handmade, or at least, hand finished confections.

Two things caught my eyes. One, the Ladybirds, or Ladybugs. Known as Glückskäferli. These little creatures represent good luck and traditionally, Parents in Switzerland told their young the Glückskäferli brought them; Much as some cultures tell of Storks arriving with newborn infants.

The second eye-opener, which can soon have one drooling are the large chocolate ‘slabs’. An amazing array and amount of fine chocolate displayed in flat tray-sized pieces just waiting for chunks to be broken off and taken away by a sweet-toothed person… like myself.

Nibbling on ten various flavours of chocolate, regardless of quantity, does not replace a hot drink and a good lunch, or so I was told as my companions herded me into a restaurant.

Once again, the two dishes I was unaccustomed to seeing were on the menu. Goulash soup and Hawaiian toast.

I have eaten, on several occasions, the dish I know as Hungarian Goulash, a rich beef stew flavoured with Paprika, often a mix of both sweet and smoked. It is a dish I enjoy.

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Both my wife and Heidi ordered the soup, which was a thinner, but no less tasty version of the same. Much as expected.

I forget who ordered the Hawaiian toast. Now, this is a strange beasty indeed and one I doubt very much has an origin in Hawaii, in fact, I would bet the good Hawaiian folk are as ignorant of this dishes existence as I once was.

For those who have not had the dubious pleasure(?) of tasting this… amalgamation, I shall describe its… well, I shall describe it.

Consider a Croque Monsieur, or a simple ham and cheese on toast and you are some way to realising the basic formula of this swiss delicacy… BUT…

The ham on the toast covered with cheese is good, but think of gruyere cheese not Cheddar, Monterey Jack or red Leicester. Then add a ring of pineapple, (this is inevitably from a catering pack of pre-sliced, soaked in syrup pineapple, not juicy sweet fresh fruit.)

The addition of either a cherry or cranberry sauce is then placed in the centre of the pineapple ring before grilling, (That’s broiled to you Americans, who have not quite got the hang of the English language yet) or baked in a very hot (pizza?) oven.toastHawaii

I assume those of you who think it is civilised to eat Pizza with fruit (pineapple) on will love the idea of fruity grilled cheese on white processed bread.

I feel sorry for you.

Back out on the street and wandering through the town like the visiting tourist we were, we find an ‘adult’ shop.

Curious to find out the Swiss attitude towards such, we enter the store. This is, as I have said, purely for research purposes… of course.

Browsing around there is the usual array of underwear and strange dressing-up costumes, (or so I am reliably informed), along with an overabundance of potions, oils, lubricating jells and… and… stuff. Strange objects I am certain are some form of weapon, possibly of mass intrusion if not destruction and the inevitable display of vibrating obelisks.

I must admit, I have never seen such a plethora of colours, sizes, shapes, textures and materials, mostly stood upright, displayed together in one place before. The girls, Heidi and my wife, seemed somehow mesmerised by this colourful exhibition, while Mikes and my own masculinity seemed to fade into the mists of a Swiss snowstorm by comparison.

The squawks, giggles and laughter of the girls soon attracted the attention of the store’s assistants, who was happily describing rotation, speed and…well, use your imagination. I began to wander off across the store when I heard a scream, followed by more raucous laughter.

Heidi, whether by accident or in her excitement, knocked a vibrator from its position, creating a domino effect from the smaller almost human appendage size, right up to the ‘pleasure an elephant’ monstrosity to topple over. The result a mass writhing, buzzing and juggling of multi-coloured latex, metal, glass and Kevlar ‘toys’ dancing across the display counters surface.

Dildo sex toys are pictured during the 14th "Venus" erotic fair in Berlin

We all left in a hurry, leaving the staff to undertake a co-ordinated rescue attempt, hopefully without sustaining any long-lasting injuries to themselves.

We left Lucerne shortly after and headed back to the safety of the Rigi Hotel and a bottle or three of Châteauneuf du Pape.

Tomorrow was going to be interesting.

We were going to head up the mountains.

If you follow this Wild Geese blog, you will find out about our snow angles, real Swiss fondue, Rigi Kulm, whistling beavers and a fairytale ride in the snow at night in part three of this Visiting Rigi post.


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Visiting Rigi. (Part one. The journey)

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It all started in when I received a phone call from my wife, asking me to meet her in the local Waitrose café.

Twenty minutes later I arrived. My wife was sitting with two of our friends, Mike & Heidi, who were leaving for Switzerland at the weekend to visit some mutual friends of ours in Rigi.

I was speaking to Mike, wishing him a pleasant time, asking him to pass on my regards to Kurt and Alesandro when my wife interrupted our conversation.

“Did you hear what I said?” Debs (my wife) asked.

Now, that is always an awkward question to ask a man.

I answered, “umm, no dear” trying to convincingly wear my most confused look. I mean, how on earth could I have not heard my wife asking me a question? (don’t answer that)

“I said, we’ll have a great time in Switzerland”, she say’s grinning inanely at me.

“Yeah, I’m sure they will,” I said, knowing I was missing something, somewhere. But was uncertain what it was. This was further confirmed as all conversation had ceased and all eye were on me.

I shrugged, opened my palms in a submissive gesture and said, most eloquently, “What?”

Once again, Debs spoke. Only this time slowly and precisely as one might when explaining something to a child. “We – shall – have – a – great – time – in – Switzerland.”

“Yeah…and?” I said frowning, still plainly not getting the gist of things.

Debs groaned and told me I was not listening. “WE” she repeated, “WE will have a good time, not just Mike and Heidi.”

The penny dropped… “We” that meant “us”… “we” were going to Switzerland. (Doh/slaps forehead with palm)

All I could manage was a string of questions… when, how, when was this organised, who said…  and a few more garbled monosyllables which made no sense.

It turned out Debs bumped into Mike and Heidi while shopping for chestnut mushrooms and disposable cleansing wipes. They decide to have a chat over coffee during which Heidi suggested we travel to Rigi too.

Having nothing planned for the following week or so, Debs booked the flights there and then, via some online app or whatnot, before telephoning me to join them in the café.

So, it was arbitrarily decided I was to travel to Switzerland in three days’ time.

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The Queen visiting Waitrose. If its good enough her Maj, its good enough for me.

It is a relatively short flight, just under two hours from England to Basel,

So, my wife booked low-cost airline Easy Jet. We could tolerate the cramped conditions contortionish-1024x682for such a short time.

The flight took off and landed on time. (That is all there is to say about that).

From the airport, we took the shuttle bus to the Railway station.

However, this was the first time either of us had been to this railway station and, even as seasoned travellers, there is always a little apprehension when visiting such a busy central commuter hub.

Basel SBB station is Europe’s largest border station. (Switzerland’s border with both France & Germany)

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On this occasion, any niggling doubts we might have harboured were instantly dispelled by the helpful, informative and efficient clerk in the ticket booth.

We told her our destination; she gave us our tickets (24 Euros each), told us which platform number we needed, the trains route number, the time of departure, how long it was between now and the departure time, where we would find somewhere to rest, have a snack and drink coffee nearest to our train’s platform. All in perfect and pleasant English.

If one followed those clear, precise instructions to the letter nothing could go wrong and we would arrive in Lucerne in 1hour and one minute. (Yes, it is that precise. After all, this is Switzerland, the home of watchmaking).

Sitting outside a small café on the upper level, people watching, Debs noticed a sign saying that the train for Lausanne was leaving in two moments from platform so & so.

It seemed a little strange after being given such detailed information there should be another, earlier train. Without thinking I grabbed our bags and soon we were comfortably seated in an impeccably clean carriage and enjoying a smooth quiet ride.

About twenty minutes into the journey the guard passed our way and asked to inspect our tickets. Glancing at our tickets he asked where we were going. Lucerne, we told him, before travelling on to Rigi.

“On this train, you are not,” he said.

“Why?,” I asked.

“Because this train is going to Lausanne, not Lucerne. It is the wrong direction.”

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Ahhh…… You see, even us seasoned and experienced travellers can make mistakes, by not paying attention, or not following the correct advice.

The Guard was somewhat bemused, clearly because two idiotic English people could not even catch the correct train to their destination. He told us to get off at the next station, cross the line and travel back to Basel. He would telephone ahead and inform the station of our foolishness. (He did not say foolishness, that is my interpretation). He also scribbled some notes on the rear of the tickets in Switz/French I could not decipher. Perhaps he had been a doctor in a previous life?

Alighting from our carriage back in Basel, we were met by a kindly chap who guided us to the correct platform and saw us seated comfortably on the correct train. It seems he received a phone call about two feral English who needed to be herded in the right direction. The large grim which spread across his face as he read the note on the back of the tickets was another embarrassment we had to swallow.

For me, the big lesson to be learned here is not one of miss-direction, by taking the wrong train, the wrong bus, or a wrong turn. It is recognising the ease and efficiency which an excellently organised, well-oiled system can react to something as simple as two foolish Brits travelling in the wrong direction.

I cannot imagine, on any other countries railways, especially at a major international commuting hub, the communication, courtesy and personal service shown to us would occur. It is something I have not previously, or since, encountered… anywhere.

We relaxed and chatted as the train rumbled its way through the (mostly) picturesque Swiss countryside. As scheduled the train pulled to a halt in Lucerne one hour and one minute after departure. Which left us exactly seven minutes to race out of the station, cross the road and board the paddle boat ferry.

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Not that we needed to rush. The ferries are a constant and frequent service servicing all the villages and towns around the lake as well as running many tourist/sightseeing trips daily.

We grabbed a coffee from the restaurant and wandered outside onto the deck. It was rather chilly but refreshing. Bracing I think would be a more appropriate term. But worth facing the cold for the sight of sailing on this lake.

We phoned Kurt when we reached Weggis because he wanted to welcome us in person at the Rigi Vitznua dock, which he did. This landing point is where the cog or vernacular railway, which travels up the mountain is situated. In a very Swiss way, the trains times of departure are synchronised with the arrivals and departures of the Lucerne ferries.

A short walk of a few hundred yards, towards the mountain and Kurt’s hotel, the Rigi Hotel is there, right at the base of the mountain.

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***

I shall continue my Swiss adventure in a second post, where you can read about Goulash soup, snow angels, something adult and special night journey up the snowy mountain.

Follow Wild Geese not to miss out on my true traveller’s’ tales.

Thanks for reading, Paul.


 

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Hluhluwe–iMfolozi

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It is okay, I never knew how to pronounce this either until I visited South Africa.

This time we flew on Emirates, one of my favourite airlines and not just because of the great food, the large seats and many accessories. Neither is it because of the professional and attentive cabin crew or the excellent lounges they have at many airports.

Although all that counts. Primarily, it is because I have had some amazing times flying with them, like being one of only six passengers on a 747, on another having bottles of complimentary champagne because… but that’s another story.

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We landed at King Shaka international airport, where we are met by our driver who whisked us away in air-cooled comfort to the ‘Protea Hotel by Marriott Durban Edward’, a huge and unnecessarily overly long name. This hotel was The Edward and, when I first stayed, The Karis Edward, both names that are far easier to say.

The Edward is situated on North Beach, by the Indian Market. It is a traditional hotel, not a resort. If you are looking for tourist style amenities choose another Hotel. For instance, the small swimming pool is on the roof and is partly in shade most of the day, therefore often far too cold to be comfortable, except for the hardiest or most determine of swimmers.67075784_y@2x

This is NOT a place for children, which makes Hotel Edward even more appealing to me. Neither can this hotel boast of extensive gardens, but it does have a few palms near the front veranda.

 

It is a rare example of South African’s Art Deco and overlooks the Indian Ocean from its position right on Durban’s Golden Mile. In keeping with such tradition is the highest quality of service and attention to detail. The food is excellent whether you eat in the main restaurant or up on the seventh floor.

If you choose to stay here you can add your name to the long list of princes and presidents, millionaires, celebrities and me, who have stayed since the Hotel Edward, Durban opened its doors in 1911.

As nice as the Hotel Edward is and as wonderful as its location, I was not visiting Durban for either of those reasons. I was simply using it as a base to explore further inland, KwaZulu-Natal and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, the oldest established game reserve in South Africa.

This would be my first time in Hluhluwe and that was what was exciting me.

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When I was a teenager I read Wilbur Smiths tales of the Courtney and Ballantyne families. The books, When the Lion Feeds to The Triumph of the Sun and beyond, charts the lives of these two families and the history of Africa from around 1860 to the outbreak of WW1.

On the phone from his home in London (he lives between here and Cape Town), Smith told about his 33rd and latest novel an Indian Ocean pirate thriller, Those in Peril… but that is not for this blog.

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Wilbur Smith, Author

Yet it was these books which first fascinated me regarding this part of Africa. A part I was off to see in a couple of days… I’ll fast forward to then…

Okay… I have done so, it is now a couple of days since my landing in South Africa.

I was collected by Jurgen at the unearthly hour of 5:30am. swiftly we exited the city and dove a little too fast deeper into the real South Africa, stopping at a small café/shop just outside of Melmoth and, in the tourist’s handbook THE birthplace of Shaka (Chaka).

History records that Shaka was born somewhere near the town named Melmoth, (named after Sir Melmoth Osborn in 1887 after the annexation of Zululand by the United Kingdom.) But there is no official recognition of it being outside this shop, where rather dodgy and dirty souvenir sellers prey on unsuspecting tourists with a range of vaguely African looking statuettes and charms. (mostly made in Taiwan and China.)

Thankfully Jurgen can swear fluently in isiZulu, Afrikaans and Ruger Hawkeye .30-06. This kept the unwanted attentions of these hawkers to a distance where even their shouting was carried away on the breeze.

After a twenty minute break, we were off again, throwing up a huge cloud of dust in our wake.

Sometime later we entered the park, Jurgen chatting with the guards on the way in and assessing what animals had been seen and where. Then we were in.

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Now, being in an African game reserve is not like visiting a ‘Safari park’ in England or America. Oh no. While the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi park is nowhere near the largest reserve in Africa, it still covers a reasonable 96000 Hectares, plenty to keep me busy for a while.

The main ‘camp‘ is Hilltop. But there are several throughout the park. You stay in well appointed ’roundels’. Alternatively, go for a walking safari, ranger accompanied of course and camp out in the bush… if you don’t mind sharing your bed with a lion or a snake, or three.

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Hilltop Camp, stay overnight or just lunch

If you have the slightest chance to go to Hluhluwe–iMfolozi in Zulu Natal, do. Just do.

Anyway, that’s enough about me. The reason one comes here is to see some animals, so I’ll finish the post with a few of those.

Oh, all images are copyright, please do not reproduce them without permission. Thank you.

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My first photo from the park. It is of a male Nyala. Often called the ‘McDonalds’ of the bush. Poor things!
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Not the best capture, but I still love the picture
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White (Veight) Rhino

My home town, come and visit.

Generally, when one writes a travel blog they write about their travels. Which sounds like an obvious statement to make.

But one should consider, where you travel to is usually someone’s home. Likewise, your hometown is a destination for other people.

With that in mind, I have been considering my own locality and have decided to write a little about the nearest town to my own home, a historic market town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, called Beverley.

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North Bar (within).

Beverley is situated about 9 miles North, (& slightly West), of the City of ‘Kingston-Upon-Hull’, commonly referred to simply as Hull. (The City of Culture 2017).

Beverley was voted as one of the best places in to live in the UK and I must agree. But living here I am bound to be biased.

This town inspired the naming of the cities of Beverly, Massachusetts and Beverly Hills in California.

So, what is special about Beverley?

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Beverley Minster from the Beck

Let’s start with BEVERLEY MINSTER, is the parish Church of St. John and St. Martin, in the Church of England. It is one of the largest parish churches in the UK, larger than one-third of all English cathedrals and regarded as a gothic masterpiece by many.

 

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The Minster from Long Lane

The minster owes its origin and much of its subsequent importance to Saint John of Beverley, who founded a monastery locally around 700 AD John died in 721, his body was buried in a chapel of the Saxon church. He was canonised in 1037. The present minster is built around his tomb.

After a serious fire in 1188… King Henry III granted oaks from Sherwood in 1253, and the high altar was dedicated in 1261.

It took 200 years to complete building work but, despite the time scale involved, the whole building has coherent form and detail and is regarded by Thomas Rickman as one of the finest examples of Early English design. The twin towers of the west front are a superlative example of the Perpendicular style. These formed the inspiration for the present west towers of Westminster Abbey, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.

In the 18th century, the present central tower replaced an original lantern tower that was in danger of collapse. This central tower now houses the largest surviving treadwheel crane in England, which used to be used when raising building materials to a workshop located in the roof. A distinctive feature of both the north and south transepts is the presence of wheel windows, with ten equal parts. Tours to the roof space to see the crane and rose windows are available to the general public, subject to other church commitments.

Today the church is still a place of pilgrimage for visitors. It also continues to be a place of prayer and worship at the heart of the community.

Walk along Beverley’s cobblestone paths and roads to the Georgian Quarter at the other end of town where you will find ST. MARY’S CHURCH, the 15th Century North Bar and a great number of listed buildings.

Lovely St Mary’s, unequalled in England and almost without rival on the continent of Europe” so said Sir Tatton Sykes, a 19th century East Riding landowner and restorer of churches, said, whilst contemplating the West front of the church.

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Inside St Mary’s Church

It may fairly be claimed that St Mary’s holds very high rank among the great Parish Churches of England. This was the opinion of both Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, and Sir John Betjeman.

The church owes its great architectural interest to having been developed through 400 years of almost continuous building from 1120 to 1530. Many of the Craft Guilds of the town adopted St Mary’s and, during the Middle-Ages, it was regarded as the Parish Church of the town.

Between 1844 and 1876, a complete restoration of the church was carried out under the successive supervision of Augustus Welby Pugin, his son E. Welby Pugin, and Sir Gilbert Scott.

The view of the exterior is especially fine from the South West, in which the pinnacles of the South Porch mingle with those of the battlements of the Nave, South Transept and Central Tower.

The West front is a fine example of late fourteenth-century work and may well have influenced that of the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, which was built more than half a century later.

There is lots to look out for in the church from the ‘Lewis Carroll’ White Rabbit to the ceiling of Kings we do hope you find time to enjoy this fabulous building which is dedicated to the glory of God.

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BEVERLEY RACECOURSE, situated on the Westwood, has been part of the historic market town of Beverley for over 300 years. In 1752, the Jockey Club was founded and the first Grandstand was built in 1767. Between 1813 and 1833, Squire Watts owned no less than four St. Leger winners, including the famous horse, Altisidora. (There is a public house named after the horse in the small hamlet of Bishop Burton, on the outskirts of the Beverley town).

Currently, two most prestigious races being the Hilary Needler Trophy for two-year-olds, in May and Beverley Bullet Sprint over 5 furlongs, in August for three-year-olds and up.

The racecourse is a right-handed flat course, just over 1 mile 3 furlongs. It is predominantly flat but with a stiff, uphill finish and tight turns. Beverley has the most pronounced “draw bias” on a UK racecourse on its 5-furlong course. The sharp right-hand bend and the fact the ground runs away to the left make a low draw (i.e. on the inside rail) much more advantageous than a high draw (i.e. on the wide outside and on ground sloping right to left).

Wednesday 15 August – is the 2018 date for the Flemingate Ladies’ Day at Beverley Racecourse, considered by some, to be second only to Ascot.

Beverley has four pastures, East and South East of the town, aligning the river Hull are the pastures of Figham and Swinemoor.

To the East and South East of the town are the Westwood and Hurn in the form of one large pasture, usually referred to solely as BEVERLEY WESTWOOD.

The wellbeing of the pastures is overseen by the Pasture Masters, a group of men (and recently women), elected from the Freemen of Beverley each March. Although the Pasture Act of 1836 clarified the right of the Pasture Masters to administer and enforce their bylaws, it did not state who ‘owned’ the land. In 1978 the courts decided the pastures were owned by the then Borough Council; it is now ‘owned’ by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

The pasture allows free grazing of cattle and is an open public space which contains Beverley Racecourse, Beverley Golf Club and the Gallops, along with the remains of the notorious Black Mill windmill.

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Cattle grazing on Westwood Pasture, showing Black Mill.

Chalk taken from the pasture was used for the foundation of Beverley’s streets and for making lime. The Corporation obtained a regular income from leasing out lime kilns on the Westwood until 1812. Clay was used for brick making by local brick makers, the North Bar in Beverley town is built with Beverley made bricks. The signs of this industry are still to be seen in the many hollows and pits that give the pasture its character.

Talking of Windmills, Skidby Mill, Yorkshire’s last working windmill is a four-sailed tower mill built in 1821 by Norman and Smithson of Hull is situated just outside of the town on the edge of Skidby village.

The adjacent warehouses form the Museum of East Riding Rural Life, with displays illustrating the agricultural and rural history of the area, including a range of simple child-friendly interactive exhibits.

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Skidby Mill

If you love live music, you may want to make a date with the Beverley Folk Festival or the Early Music Festival and catch some of Britain’s best live performers. These two festivals are the stand out events in the annual Beverley calendar and are not to be missed:

Beverley Folk Festival – For 30 years, the festival has helped to put Beverley on the music map. It’s 3 nights & 2 days of: Concerts, Dance, Comedy, Film, Literature, Poetry, Family & Youth Events, Workshops, Craft Fair, Food Outlets, Real Ale Bars, Camping and lots more.

Beverley Food Festival has become an award-winning event, winning the 2017 North of England ‘Rural Oscar for Tourism and commendation at national level, and ‘Remarkable East Yorkshire Tourism Award for Best Large Event’ in 2016.   This year approximately 140 stalls attended the event, alongside the well-loved Local Food Theatre Marquee.

Beverley has an extensive range of interests and activities to keep everybody entertained. Besides a plethora of cafes, restaurants, hotels and shops, you could visit The East Riding Treasure House, a heritage centre providing museum, library and archive facilities under one roof, plus access to the adjoining Edwardian exhibition spaces of the Beverley Art Gallery. The Treasure House tower provides splendid views over the rooftops of Beverley.

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Filming ‘Dads Army’ inside the ERT

An evening at the ERT (East Riding Theatre) located in a converted Baptist chapel was founded by actor and Beverley resident Vincent Regan and achieved through a huge community effort, the theatre opened its doors for the first time in December 2014. It has since delivered an eclectic programme of quality theatre, music and entertainment.

 

There are parklands, walks and trails in abundance and, of course, Beverley is a perfect place to use as a base to visit the rest of the East Ridings, or the whole of Yorkshire. You could take a peek at where you might venture be taking an air tour first?

In existence since 1930, the flying club has been based at Beverley (Linley) Airfield (Leven) since 1991. The Yorkshire Wolds and coast are easily visible once you are in the air, as are the River Humber, the wind farm and two reservoirs that help give visual guidance for pilots coming into land. There is one single grass runway here and it’s nestled in amongst the patchwork of farming fields that surround this delightful spot, away from controlled airspace and restricted flight paths. Great fun.

I would say the latest claim to fame Beverley has is that much of the Town and its buildings were used as the location for the movie ‘Dad’s Army

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Outside Beverley Minster

I could go on shouting the delights of Beverley and, indeed, the whole of Yorkshire, which is known as God’s own County’. But the best way to find out more is to visit; honestly, it is far nicer here than amongst the noise and grime of a big city like London.

You never know, we could even meet up and grab a coffee together, maybe?

Meeting Michelangelo

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© Paul White 2017

I only posted once in Wild Geese last month (September), which is remiss of me; although I do have my reasons (excuses).

One of which is, I was gearing up for the release of my latest book, ‘Jacks Dits – true tales from the mess deck’, another was arranging the final bits & bobs for my 2018 calendar, Boggle Eyes, a series of distorted, fun portraits, one for each month of the year (of course). Along with a few other things and life’s own demands, I did not find time to catch up with you all.

I have now enough time for this post, a little fun story about part of our trip to Scotland earlier this year and how we came across Michelangelo. (Who became our travelling partner.)

So, without further ado, I shall start on the evening we stopped at Esthwiate waters, in the Lake District. Yes, I know the Lake District is in England, but we were heading North toward Scotland.

We were staying in Hawkshead, (see the Wild Geese post ‘ Lakes, Starlings, High tea and William Wordsworth’) and decided to take a late drive to have a picnic/camping meal somewhere scenic.

Hence stopping on the shores of Esthwiate waters, a small lake situated centrally between the better-known Coniston waters and Lake Windermere.

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Esthwiate waters © Paul White 2017

We found a small wooded area with parking that led right down to the water’s edge. There were two other vehicles, one belonging to an elderly couple out for an evening’s walk, another, a small camper van, in which the young folks were planning to sleep overnight.

My wife set about preparing food and I making tea on our small butane stove. No sooner had I placed the kettle on the flames than we were visited by an inquisitive pair of Mute Swans. I think they were curious about what food we may have, but had a strange way of enquiring, namely pecking my backside with snapping beaks.

I flapped my arms shouted, in an attempt to ‘shoo’ the Swans away. In return, they started to hoot and hiss at me. My wife found it hilarious watching me scamper about trying to shield my nether regions from Swan molestations.

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One of the culprits. © Paul White 2017

Happily, once the Swans realised I would not be feeding them they wandered off along the shoreline, leaving me battered but whole.

While I waited for the kettle to a boil, I noticed a child’s toy, accidentally left or abandoned, standing upright on a tree stump. It was a slightly damaged, (part of his left arm is missing,) figure of a Ninja Turtle.

Neither my wife or I were certain which Ninja Mutant Hero Turtle this was, until after consulting the great google in the clouds, whose sage knowledge informed us it was Michelangelo, the only one we did not name during our attempt at childish recollection.

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Meeting Michelangelo © Paul White 2017

As I was taking a photo of said Michelangelo Turtle toy, (to keep as a record,) my wife suggested we take him with us on our trip.

 I agreed, considering another companion was welcome to join us.

 

 

The following are some photographs of Michelangelo enjoying his outing with us. As he is such good company, we intend to allow him to travel with us on our future trips too, so you may well see him popping up on future Wild Geese posts.

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Please forward any photographs of any such ‘travelling companions’ you and your family may have.

Enjoy life,

Paul.


 

Feel free to visit my website where you can see my books, find links to my other blogs and see what I have planned for the future. 

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