Category Archives: Literature

Postcard From The USA – Zion National Park

Zion

Zion National Park contains some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States and is characterised by high plateaus, a maze of narrow deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas.  People have lived here for thousands of years but in modern times people only became aware of it when Mormon pioneers began to farm the canyon in the late nineteenth century.

In 1880 a geologist called Clarence Dutton visited the Canyon and he described it like this: ‘there is eloquence to their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind. Nothing can exceed the wonderous beauty of Zion, in the nobility and beauty of the sculptures there is no comparison’.

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Many people refused to believe that it was possible for such a place to exist because until a hundred years ago Zion Canyon was practically inaccessible to outside visitors; and only a few had laid eyes on the majestic towering cliffs.  Zion Canyon was declared a National Park in 1909.  It was well thoughtfully named because Zion is an ancient Hebrew word meaning a place of refuge or sanctuary and it was in a temple on Mount Zion near Jerusalem where Jesus and the disciples had the last supper together.

Once through the one mile long entrance tunnel the road started to descend into the valley down a switchback road through six precarious hairpin bends, still following Pine Creek to Mount Carmel junction and arrival at the visitor centre.

There was a peaceful calm at the bottom of the valley and the air tasted of mountain air that cleared your head and filled your lungs with freshness.  A truly marvellous spectacle of colourful sandstone cliffs soaring into the sky above a flat-bottomed, thickly forested valley floor in brilliant red and gold autumn foliage that accentuated the colours of the cliffs. Being at the bottom of the canyon this provided a complete contrast to the  top down view that had been the feature of the Grand Canyon and the views looking up were spectacular and awe inspiring.

After a break we took the short drive into the heart of the canyon that terminated at the Temple of Sinawava (Sinawava was the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians) and here we left to follow the footpaths and trails around the North Fork Virgin River.  There was a lot of choice and certainly not enough time to see as much as we would have liked so we choose the riverside walk towards the Mountain of Mystery and a famous, much photographed, narrow gorge called the Zion Narrows.  Zion is a unique place with diverse wildlife for whom this place is a safe and bountiful refuge.  A little way along the trail we heard a rustling in the bushes and on examination came face to face with a wild deer.  Given its close proximity we were a bit startled by this and on account of its size left quickly so I am afraid that I am unable to identify exactly what species it was.  Thank goodness it wasn’t a bear!

The trail was quite steep because the headwaters of the Virgin River above are at about two thousand, seven hundred metres and it empties into Lake Mead two hundred miles southwest after flowing almost a mile downward.  This gives the Virgin River one of the steepest stream gradients in North America.  Naturally therefore we didn’t get as far as we had optimistically planned and soon it was time to return and leave the park, which was a real shame, I had really enjoyed my day in Paradise.

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On This Day – Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

Relatively recently, on 30th June 2018 I was at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria.

Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire immediately north of which were the lands of the northern Ancient Britons, people so frightening that even the normally fearless Romans wouldn’t take them on.

Hadrians Wall

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On This Day – The Father Ted Tour in Ireland

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 22nd June 2014 I was in Southern Ireland on the trail of Father Ted…

Ireland Father Ted Tour Craggy Island Parochial House

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Thursday Doors – Bari in Southern Italy

Bari Doors

Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.

We especially liked the old town in the evenings where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  With some difficulty we found a traditional trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

Those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

On This Day – Kinsale in Ireland

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 16th June 2016 I was in Southern Ireland in the town of Kinsale…

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Kinsale Street

At around about lunch time we arrived in Kinsale and checked in to the Old Bank Town House with rooms overlooking the harbour and the brightly painted shops in the High Street opposite and after a glass of Guinness and a bowl of Chowder we spent the afternoon exploring the narrow sinuous streets, the tourist tat shops and the exclusive harbour area.

There is no getting away from the fact that Kinsale is very much a tourist town and it felt as though the whole place had been recently spruced up for the summer season and everywhere there were overflowing flower planters and fresh paint, bus tour blue, tourist turquoise and visitor violet which gave the town an uplifting vibrancy which was fake but at the same time friendly.  It is said that Queen Elizabeth of England thinks the world smells of fresh paint and I sort of got that impression here.

Kinsale Giants Cottage

Later we looked for somewhere to eat but this proved difficult on account of how busy the town was and it took some time to find a restaurant that could accommodate us.  Someone always finds a table however and eventually we were accommodated and enjoyed a final meal and had a reflective conversation about the week away.  It was our third successive year in Ireland, we have visited the West coast and the North and now the south and for the third year running we had not seen a single drop of rain.

Kim really believes that the sun always shines in Ireland!  On account of this I am beginning to think about starting a travel business specialising in escorted tours to Ireland because it would seem that we would be able to give a no rain guarantee.

Kinsale Flowers

As we left the restaurant we could hear genuine Irish music playing nearby so like children drawn to the Pied Piper we followed the sound to a nearby pub where a trio of musicians called ‘Goats Don’t Shave’ were playing traditional music and we stayed and watched, tapped our feet, clapped our hands and joined in when we recognised the lyrics.

We had had a good day, Clonakilty and Kinsale, an excellent way to finish the trip and before we went to bed we discovered more Irish music in the hotel bar where a man famous for playing with the Riverdance show was playing for free with his band of excellent musicians.  It was quite a show and we stayed longer than we planned and long after we had left we could hear the music of his accordion wafting across the street and through the open window of our room.

Kinsale Accordian

 

On This Day – Kotor in Montenegro

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 13th June 2010 I was visiting the city of Kotor in the Balkan country of Montenegro…

Kotor Postcard

The border crossing between Croatia and Montenegro is not without considerable difficulty and lengthy delays because these two are uneasy neighbours (Montenegran Troops were responsible for the siege of Dubrovnic) and it all a bit officious but once through in front of us we could see the black mountains and after we passed through the busy and rather untidy outskirts of the city of Herceg Novi the road reached the sea and started to follow the winding coast line of the picturesque Bay of Kotor.

Once in this new country the first stop came quite quickly at a lay-by with a good view both east and west and looking across to the Italianate town of Perast, once an important independent Venetian ship building town but now rapidly becoming a modern tourist trap.

There was a small market and a jewellery stall in one corner of the lay-by and while Kim looked at sparkly things on chains I examined an information board about the Bay.  In the middle were about twenty clear holes about the thickness of a pencil and on closer examination I realised that they were bullet holes.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end because whoever had been using the sign for target practice was clearly a very good shot and it occurred to me that I could be in the cross-hairs of someone’s rifle sights even as I stood there.

I was beginning to become aware that Montenegro might be rather different to anywhere else that I had been before and I wasn’t inclined to hang around any longer than necessary so I encouraged Kim to hurry up and leave without a purchase and we carried on  without further delay around the bay.

There are strict driving rules in Montenegro but these don’t seem to apply to local people and my use of the road was continuing to irritate people and several times I was tooted and invited to pull over by motorists using hand signals that you won’t find in the Highway Code but I didn’t let this intimidate me and I continued sedately on, pulling over whenever I could to let agitated motorists pass me by.

Kotor 02

Eventually we arrived in Kotor without further incident and I found it much bigger than I imagined it would be from the descriptions in the travel guides and there was a six deck, two thousand passenger cruise liner tied up at the dock which was so huge it dwarfed the town and looked sadly out of place.  I may have mentioned this before but I really do not like these cruise ships.

At 35º centigrade it was extremely hot so we were pleased to go through the main gate of the old town and into the shaded cooler streets inside, Kim because she was out of the sun and me because she had stopped complaining about it.

It was busy inside because Kotor old town is quite small with a population of about five and a half thousand and it was playing host to the holidaymakers from the cruise liner and hundreds of others as well which temporarily more than doubled the population.

Once again there was a distinct Italianate feel because the old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by an impressive city wall that was built by Republic of Venice and the Venetian influence remains dominant among the architectural styles around the main squares and up and down the tight twisting streets.

Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and inside the walls the narrow sinuous streets took us past little picturesque shops, cafés, bars, antique monuments and cream stone buildings, balconies overflowing with billowing flowers, washing lines full of immaculate laundry and the overwhelming smell of laundry powder and fabric conditioner.

Kotor Washing Line

The old town of Kotor is wedged in between the rugged Bay and at the foot of the imposing Lovćen massif mountain range directly under overhanging limestone cliffs of the mountains Orjen and Lovćen.  At the back of the town there was an entrance to a demanding walk up the vertical mountain to visit the city walls but today it was too hot for us to even consider tackling it especially in flimsy sandals on slippery stones and paths with warnings of danger clearly signposted.  So we made do with admiring it all from sea level and then slipped back into the maze of streets and looked for a bar away from the blistering heat of the unrelenting sun which was reflecting off the buildings and radiating around the paved squares and open spaces.

Kotor wasn’t quite what we were expecting it has to be said and we found it untidy and scruffy, the cruise ship spoilt it in a way because the old town was overcrowded and the hulking mass of the ship destroyed the charm of the seafront and the harbour.  The cafés and bars were more expensive than I imagined they would be, certainly pricier than in Croatia, but I thought the old town was nice enough and we sat in the shade in a corner of one of the small squares and drank  a Montenegrin beer called Niksicko, which despite its rather unpromising name was really quite nice.

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On This Day – Tower Of Terror in Trogir, Croatia

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 8th June 2009 I was in Croatia visiting the medieval town of Trogir…

Trogir Waterfront

Trogir is about fifteen miles north of Split and is the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but also in all of Central Europe and inevitably therefore a UNESCO World heritage site.   It was mid morning when we arrived and the town was already very busy.  The old city is built on a little island, only separated from the mainland by a few yards and with access to it over a small bridge.

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Postcard From The USA – Four Corners, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon

Our first stop today was at the Four Corners monument where four US States meet at one intersection and it is possible to be in all of them at the same time by standing in two and reaching down and touching the others.

Four Corners Postcard 01

From Four Corners we drove to Monument Valley which was everything that I expected it to be and there was a magnificent view from the visitor centre across the whole of the valley.

Monument Valley

What followed next was another highlight of the holiday when Richard and I left the coach to go on an optional small plane journey for a flight from Monument Valley all the way down the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon

 

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Thursday Doors – Hallstatt in Austria

Hallstatt Door

On a visit to Salzburg we went on a train journey and visited the village of Hallstatt, which claims to be the most attractive place in all of Austria.

The land between the lake and mountains is sparse and precious and the town itself has exhausted every free patch of it and the first road to Hallstatt was only built in 1890. The bus arrived in the village through tunnels blasted out of the rocks and dropped us off at the southern end of the village. The village was thoroughly charming and I was immediately prepared to accept its most attractive village in Austria claim.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Postcard From The USA – Mesa Verde National Park

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Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the ancient Pueblo people. It is best known for several spectacular cliff dwellings which are structures built within caves and under outcroppings in cliffs, including the Cliff Palace, which is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

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