Denis Chapman Photography: Blog en-us (C) Denis Chapman Photography (Denis Chapman Photography) Tue, 13 Sep 2016 21:45:00 GMT Tue, 13 Sep 2016 21:45:00 GMT Denis Chapman Photography: Blog 90 120 Peru 2016 - Day 10 - Tuesday 13th September – Puno to Lima Not a lot to report today.  We had a late (for us) breakfast and met in the hotel lobby for a 9:45 pick to take us to Juliaca airport which was about an hour and a quarter drive from Puno.

We arrived in good time and were near the front of the check-in queue which opened 10 minutes after we arrived.  There were only 2 planes today from Juliaca – one to Lima via Cusco and our one which was direct to Lima.  Very small regional airport with only 2 gates but it did have some shops.

We left on time but hit some moderate turbulence after 5 minutes for about 10 minutes but it calmed down into a smooth 1 hour 20 minute flight.  We arrived in Lima to the sun – apparently the first time it’s been sunny in Lima since before we arrived first time.

A relatively quick 40 minute drive to the same hotel we stayed in last week despite the increasing rush hour traffic.

Kiron and I are going to have an early supper tonight and late breakfast tomorrow.  Pick up for the airport will be 17:15 tomorrow.

]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 21:44:43 GMT
Peru 2016 - Day 9 - Monday 12th September - Lake Titikaka peru-040-001peru-040-001Breakfast view from the hotel A 7:45 start today.  Short walk to the boat from the hotel.  Private fast boat just for our VJG group.  A fairly short ride to the first stop in the floating islands of the Uros.  This is a group of 87 separate islands built in and around 27,000 hectares of reed beds.  Each island has 3-10 families living on them and there approximately 800 inhabitants.   The rest of the Uros people (2,500) live on the mainland.  The Uros speak Aymara which our guide seemed pretty at.

This was an incredible experience; stepping off the boat onto the reed platform was really weird - very soft and squidgy.  We were then introduced to some of the people who lived on that island. The president (each island has one) and her husband and 3 other women.  They explained how the islands are built and how they live there. Then we were asked how deep we thought the lake was at that point.  They then measured it at 15 metres.  We then split into small groups and were shown the huts where they lived and got a chance to dress up in their costume. We finished with a ride in a traditional boat to a neighbouring island where our tour boat was parked.

peru-040-016peru-040-016Floatings Island of the Uros peru-040-050peru-040-050Flamingo in the floating islands peru-040-058peru-040-058Kiron in traditional Uru costume with Jaqueline We got back on the boat for an hour or so ride to Taquile island (a real island this time).  During this part the guide had us perform an Inca ritual with 3 coca leaves.

Info: Lake Titikaka is 118 miles at its longest and 50 miles at its widest, 95% of Lake Titikaka water evaporates, 3% goes via the outlet river and 2% extracted for agricultural use.  It's huge like an ocean.  53% of it is in Peru and the rest in Bolivia.

Taquile island home to people known as Taquileños, who speak Quechua (Inca language) – again our seemed pretty fluent in that as well.  It is pre-Incan in its origins which date from 800BC.  It is covered in agricultural terraces originating in these early times and currently has 2,500 inhabitants.

We landed at Taquile island and climbed half way up to a family house for lunch.  It had a table for 8 laid out with a traditional cloth awning over shielding us from the sun.  We were served with fresh made bread, a bowl of quinoa soup for starter and a trout and vegetable main course - both were delicious.

peru-040-122peru-040-122Lunchtime view from Taquile After eating, the guide showed and described the various head gear types worn by the people of the island.  We then trekked up to the main square (at 3,950 meteres) where there were good views all round.  We then trekked across to the other side of the island to catch the boat to return us to Puno.

]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 21:22:10 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 8 – Sunday 11th September – Cusco to Puno (Lake Titikaka) Another early start today - bags out by 6:00, leaving promptly at 6:30 as we have to catch a coach for the long drive to Puno.  I think we are sharing it with other groups.

All on the bus (more like a coach) very comfy seats. It was due to leave a 7:00 but actually left 5 minutes early.   Fairly leisurely drive as the roads are quite narrow and winding out of Cusco.   The bus has a crew of 3, the driver, a guide who is explaining and describing everything and a bus hostess. 

Very early on we stopped at one of the many villages and the guide got a large loaf of local bread.  It was brought around the bus by the hostess so that we could all rip a piece off.

After only 45 minutes we arrived at our first stop - the church at Andahuailillas, known as the Sistine chapel of the Americas.  It was very spectacular inside but we couldn't take photos but they did hand out a free CD with photos on.

peru-039-022Kiron outside the chaurch at Andahuailillas Continued the journey going higher up the Urubamba River valley (2nd biggest tributary to the Amazon).  Fantastic scenery all around.  After the initial narrowness and winding the road opened out into a new modern highway - completed about 5 years ago.

After another hour and 30 minutes we arrived in Raqchi.   This is a big Inca temple complex which we explored for about 45 minutes.  Now we understand how the journey takes 10 hours with all these sightseeing stops.

peru-039-086peru-039-086Inca Temple ruins at Racqui Then 45 minutes to the lunch stop and 45 minutes at the lunch stop.   It was a buffet lunch which was good considering where we were.

Next stop was the Cusco/Puno areas border line at Abra la Raya which is also highest point on the road between Cusco and Puno at 4,335 metres / 14,210 feet.  It's also the dividing line between the Amazon and Pacific basins.

peru-039-119peru-039-119La Raya highest point on the journey - 4,335 metres

peru-039-124peru-039-124Our bus at La Raya We then entered Altiplano – an area heavily farmed with Alpacas and Llamas and cattle. This area is a mostly flat huge plateau and is very brown and parched as it has a long dry season which we're towards the end of.

Final stop was at Pukara to visit a small museum with some remains from an earlier pre-Inca civilisation.  We bought a pack of local coffee in the village shop.

Continuing driving along through altiplano and we saw a small flock of wild flamingos in the river!  As we drive along there were lots scattered along the riverside.  Never thought we'd see flamingos at 4,000 metres in the Andes - always imagined having to go Africa.

Anyway what we're driving through since passing the area border is in complete contrast with what we went through climbing up to it.  A vast almost flat high plateau, few inhabitants but lots of grazing animals even though the brown scrubby grass doesn't look very appetising for them.

We drove through Juliaca (from where we fly back to Lima on Tuesday) a large run down town, apparently the illegal money capital of Peru - drugs, manufacturing fakes and smuggling (from Bolivia).

Soon after Juliaca we caught our first sight of Lake Titikaka in the distance - lots of reeds at the top end as they've had a very dry couple of years.  A bit further on we can the lake more clearly.  We soon arrive in Puno at the bus depot and decant from it to our waiting tour bus to take us to our hotel.  Our hotel in on the shore of Lake Titikack!  Unfortunately our rooms don’t look out onto the lake but we did have our supper in the hotel restaurant overlooking the lake albeit dark by then (it gets dark by 18:00).

]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 00:44:08 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 7 – Saturday 10th September - Cusco Cusco - altitude 3,400 metres / 11,200 feet ancient capital of the Inca empire.

Interesting fact: You have to drink your hot drinks quickly as they get cold quickly as water boils at only 80°C at this altitude!

Very modern hotel and another good breakfast.   Leisurely start today bus picking us up at 09:30.

Tour of Cusco and some sites around the area. Relatively short drive to our first destination but a quick photo stop for a panoramic view of Cusco on the way.   First site is Tambomachay at 3,700 metres (over 12,000 feet) which is a small one with a couple of Inca building remains built over still flowing springs.

peru-038-009peru-038-009View over downtown Cusco Just a short drive back down the road to our next stop at the Inca temple of Quenko where there is an Inca shrine with a natural underground cave.

We then had to go on a quick detour into town for the bank for someone to cash some travellers cheques while the rest of us walked round the old Inca town square - Plaza de Armas. This is an old Inca winter solstice site.  The cathedral and Jesuit church are quite imposing buildings on the square.

peru-038-074peru-038-074Plaza de Armas We eventually then got to our 3rd site which was Saqsaywaman.  This is a large old Inca Temple complex much destroyed by the Conquistadors but still looks very imposing.  This also had an amazing viewpoint over looking Cusco.

peru-038-130peru-038-130Saqsaywaman peru-038-153peru-038-153View over Cusco including airport from Saqsaywaman We then into the centre of town to visit Coricancha – another old Inca site whose walls were meant to be covered in sheets of gold.              The Conquistadors demolished most of the temple and built a Dominican church.  Major earthquakes destroyed much of the church in the intervening years but the original Inca foundation walls still stand.

Then just a short drive back to the main square for a visit to the cathedral, again built on the foundations of an earlier Inca temple.

This was the end of the tour but as on previous days he had booked lunch at one of Cusco’s best restaurants – Pachapapa.  Kiron had told the guide she wanted to taste Guinea Pig which they did – the guide had pre-ordered it as it takes an hour to cook.  She loved it and I have to say it did taste very nice there were lots of small bones – I’m sure she tell everyone all about it.  I had grilled alpaca.

peru-038-219peru-038-219Roast Guinea Pig This is where we also found out about our disastrous loss against Watford!!

Wandered back to the hotel looking around a couple of shops to pack up again as we’re leaving for Puno at 06:30 tomorrow morning.

]]> Sat, 10 Sep 2016 23:41:09 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 6 - Friday 9th September - Machu Picchu to Cusco Context Machu Picchu town is at 2,000 metres/ 6,560 feet; Machu Picchu site is at 2,400 metres/7,800 feet.

A 7:30 start today for our 2nd trip to Machu Picchu.  Today as part of our trip we climbed 400 metres up from the main site, on the Inca trial to the Sun Gate (2720 metres/ 9,000 feet) which used to be the entrance.  Some different viewpoints to see the site from as well.

peru-037-041peru-037-041OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA peru-037-062peru-037-062OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was very rough in places but weather was perfect for climbing as it was pleasantly cool after some overnight rain.  The sun really got out just as we were arriving at the top so it was a warm climb down. 

peru-037-017peru-037-017OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA peru-037-100peru-037-100OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When we got down we visited a couple of other areas in the main site that we didn't go to yesterday.  We then made for exit and bus ride back down.  No queuing for buses at all today!

Went for drink before lunch in the bar opposite the hotel.  We then had a group lunch at what the guide said was the best restaurant in Machu Picchu. It was a French/Peruvian restaurant and the food was indeed delicious.

We wandered around the town for a bit before meeting up to go the station to catch our train the 16:22 to Ollantaytambo where our bus will hopefully be waiting to take us to Cusco. Should arrive around 20:30-21:00 - a long tiring day.

Well the train trip was a surprise.  After the drinks and food service (not that any of our group were hungry) the crew started to entertain us!  First off we were treated to a local traditional dance .  One of the stewards was dressed in a multicolour rainbow costume with a mask apparently representing the devil accompanied by music which had the whole carriage clapping away! Then we had a fashion show of local clothes and then obviously they came round selling the clothes.  This didn't happen on the Rocky Mountaineer or the Ghan.

Off the train, onto the bus and we arrived at the hotel in Cusco just after 20:30.

]]> Sat, 10 Sep 2016 02:33:26 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 5 – Tuesday 8th September – Yucay to Machu Picchu Needed to be packed and cases outside the door by 6 this morning.  We're off to Machu Picchu today.

Short 30 minute drive to the station at Ollantaytambo and on to the Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu.  Very busy as to be expected but a very smart train with airplane style service with drinks and a savoury quinoa pastry.  (They're really big on quinoa in Peru away from the Pacific Coast areas.  We had some quinoa soup the other day and it was really nice.)  They also came round with souvenirs trolley.  Impressive for 90 minute journey.

peru-036-030peru-036-030Our train in Machu Picchu station Arrived at Machu Picchu station, handed our overnight bag (no luggage - that's locked in the bus back in Yucay) to the hotel man and went to queue up for the bus to the site.  We were told beforehand that we might have to queue for 1-1 and half hours but there was virtually no queue and we got the second bus!

The 20 minute bus ride was an experience.   A rough ride up a series of hairpins on an unmade road - bone shattering.  The guide had advised us to sit at the front if possible as it was a bit smoother ride.

Anyway we got there and entered the site.  Impossible to write how incredible it is.  The location in the middle of impossibly steep sided mountains is jaw dropping.  The weather was perfect the whole day even though thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon.  It was mainly t-shirt weather , very sunny and warm with only light winds all day.  The winds tend to pick up in the afternoons - they have done so far - but not today.

peru-036-062peru-036-062OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA peru-036-092peru-036-092Machu Picchu Did 2 sessions on the site with a short lunch break in between.

peru-036-287peru-036-287Machu Picchu Eventual came back the mountain at around 16:30 back in to town.  Got of the bus and walked a short way to our hotel for the night.

Really plush boutique style hotel, lovely rooms and a brilliant shower.  Just had the included dinner which was very nice and we tried some quinoa beer which was also very nice.

Going back to Machu Piccho at 07:30 tomorrow to walk along a bit of the Inca trail up to the Sun Gate.

]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 01:24:39 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 4 – Wednesday 7th September – In and Around the Sacred Valley Nice breakfast at 7, really nice freshly made omelette and black chorizo chipolatas.   On the road at 8 for our first visit which is to Ollantaytambo.

This is an Inca town in the sacred valley which has an unfinished Sun Temple.  As we had climb a lot of steps the guide gave us each a bunch coca leaves to chew!  Just like the locals - they help with altitude and thirst and hunger and contain cocaine!

peru-034-044peru-034-044OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Slowly climbed up steps through terraces to the unfinished Sun Temple at the top.  Views were spectacular across the town and valley below.  The temple was being built when the Spanish conquest occurred hence it was unfinished.  There were lots of building blocks in various stages of preparation all around as only the first level was put in place.

peru-034-097peru-034-097OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

peru-034-078peru-034-078OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Back down to town level and K and I had a coffee at the cafe recommended by the guide. He's going to show us where to buy local coffee to bring home in Cusco.

Back up the Sacred valley a bit then up one side high up with more spectacular views down the valley.  We eventually arrive at Moray where there are several huge amphitheatre type sets of terraces.

peru-035-016peru-035-016OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We climbed down into the main one for closer views. The photos speak for themselves.

peru-034-154peru-034-154OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We then drove back a short way to a genuine local family house where they hold mini workshops - as a special VJV event.  K and I learnt how to make Chicha de Jora which is a weak beer/spirit made out of corn. We had a taste at the end.  Interesting as there were no additives or sugar.  The rest of the group made music with traditional instruments.  The owners mother then made us all a pot of local coffee. It was all very well done.

Final major stop of the day was to the salt mines at Maras. Here a salt water spring drains into hundreds of pools from which the water evaporates to leave salt.  It has been in use since pre -Inca times.

peru-034-207peru-034-207OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We then drove back to a restaurant near the hotel (different to last night's ) for a late lunch - it's coming up to 15:30.  Done this way to avoid the crowds at  Ollantaytambo.  K and I did get a lunchtime snack yesterday which we ate earlier.

Very nice local restaurant again.  We both had Alpaca - K as a carpacio and D had a kind of stir fry - very delicious, like really good steak.


]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 23:58:28 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 3 – Tuesday 6th September – Lima to Cusco Got up at 5, had breakfast at 5:30 and were ready in the lobby for 6:15 for transfer to the airport.  The Departure hall was really busy but our guide got us on a short queue for old, pregnant and disabled people!?  Probably 30-40% of the domestic departures were for Cusco - several every hour.

Took off on time and finally got above the low cloud that has covered Lima since we've been here to spectacular views on the Andes.

peru-033-008peru-033-008OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Quite a short flight - just over an hour - with a impressive landing in Cusco in the mountains.

peru-033-021peru-033-021OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We got out of baggage reclaim before the guide had even arrived!  Still we had time to soak up some sun at 3,600 metres above sea level - it felt really warm and got hotter during the afternoon.

We first stopped off at a hotel in Cusco (the one we come back to on Friday I think) to get a snack and some coca tea before setting off on our afternoon tour.  First stop was at Awanakancha which is a weaving centre with the goal to keep alive the traditional textile arts.  It has all stages of the process on display including small herds of Llamas and Alpacas as well as ????, and demonstrations of spinning, dyeing and weaving to wool from the various animals.

peru-033-041peru-033-041OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We then drove on over to Pisac where we had some lunch of local delicacies including quinoa soup and Tequeños with guacamole - fried cheese sticks.  We then had some time to wonder around the local market.

We then drove to our hotel which was actually in Yucay quite some way from Cusco.


]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 23:43:00 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 2 – Monday 5th September - Lima Peru is 6 hours behind the UK so we went to bed around 3:30 equivalent!  Managed to get some sleep though obviously woke up early and it’s difficult to get back to sleep.  K said she slept well.  Anyway leisurely start this morning as we’re not meeting for the tour until 9:00.  We went down to breakfast just after 7:30 as we were both up and ready.  Quite a nice spread of the usual fare.  We both had freshly made omelettes and fresh fruit etc.

On to the tour at 9.  The post rush hour traffic was really busy and we took longer than planned so it seemed like all our viewings were a bit rushed.  First stop was this really huge mud brick structure covering 15 acres call Huaca Pucllana.

peru-032-006peru-032-006Huaca Pucllana

We then continued onto downtown Lima and after driving around Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin we were dropped off outside the Church of San Francisco.  It looks wet in the photo but that’s because they were washing the pigeon dropping away!  We weren’t allowed to take photos in the church complex itself but it was very impressive – we got to go into the underground catacombs which full of pits of bones and sculls etc.

peru-032-029peru-032-029Church of San Francisco

We then walked past the old railway station, now a library and to Plaza Mayor where the presidential palace is and lots of fine buildings around the other sides.

peru-032-064peru-032-064Plaza Mayor

We were then taken to a private museum – Museo Larco – for a very quick tour of loads of excavated artefacts.  Pretty impressive amount and quality of stuff for a private concern.

peru-032-098peru-032-098Piece in Museo Larco (Private Museum) peru-032-130peru-032-130Complete set of Inca gold

The mini-bus dropped us back at the hotel and we went in search of lunch in Miraflores.  Ended up (after not finding the mall) in a nice local café.  K had a seafood rice dish which was OK but she expected the rice on the side and D had a dish which was a fillet of white fish on a bed of potatoes and asparagus with a cheese sauce and covered in prawns – it was very yummy if a bit rich.

Back to the hotel for a rest before looking for a light supper and packing up for an early transfer to the airport tomorrow on the way to Cusco.

]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 20:56:16 GMT
Peru 2016 Day 1 – Sunday 4th September - UK to Lima I’ll try keeping an up to date blog although Kiron thinks it’s a really naff idea.

Before we left Jaya made a lovely breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and at 9:10 gave us a lift to the station.  Train really busy though not everyone necessarily going to Gatwick it seemed.  Arrived on time and got the shuttle to North Terminal.  Airport, NT especially, looked very un-busy so dropped off our bags very quickly and went through security which seemed much more intensive than recent flights.  D went straight through but K got body scanned and had her bag searched – she did leave her Kindle in it!

K not very hungry after large breakfast so D had a quick Pret sandwich and on to Jamie’s Bar for a glass of prosecco.  Gatwick has renumbered all its gates – ours was gate 573!  Boarding was very quick as the plane is only half full – our block of 24 World Traveller Plus seats only has 11 people in it.  Lots of leg room though.  Off stand on time but still didn’t take off for another 25 minutes.  Oh and they brought round some extra glasses of prosecco from Club while we were still on the stand.

Pre-lunch drinks came around soon into the flight closely followed by lunch.  We both had steak with roast potatoes and veg with a little pot of sauce – very nice but a bit dry though the sauce helped.  Nice lemon and mint couscous for starter, choice of bread rolls and a cheesecake dessert and a nice little bottle of wine.

Both watched films but the entertainment system seems to have a fault – it was down for 15 minutes at one point while they re-booted it but it doesn’t seem to be much better.

Just over half way they came around with a snack box that had nachos with a tomato salsa, piece of cake, a chocolate, an oat cereal bar and a drink which was quite nice.

Both of us tried snoozing on and off, K more successfully I think – I never find it easy to sleep of the plane.  Another small meal came along about an hour and a half before we were due to land.  I had red pesto penne and K had chicken korma – it came with a very sweet lemon drizzle cake, definitely not as nice as Jaya’s.

It got dark outside as we got nearer Lima and there was a spectacular sunset.  Also it was interesting seeing the lightning in some storms far to the north.  Straight in for a very smooth landing.  Weather dry and around 17 C.  The airport was very busy; a couple of large airplanes seemed to have arrived around the same time but we got into immigration ahead of the big queues which occurred after we had got through.  Took a little while for our bags to arrive but we collected those and met up with our guide and group.

There are 8 in our group – apart from us there is a slightly younger than us mother and son pair, plus a group of 3 (1M, 2W) and a single woman.  Our guide speaks good English and she gave the usual welcome and updated information – we have a 9:00 start for the city tour tomorrow (Monday) and have to meet in the lobby at 6:15 on Tuesday to be taken back to the airport for our flight to Cusco.

Got to the hotel by about 21:00.  We’re in the Hotel Jose Antonio in the Miraflores district quite near the sea (Pacific Ocean).  Rooms are OK for an economy hotel.  I think everyone decided straight to bed.

]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 10:20:14 GMT
Trip to Castle Combe to see Unclie and the Allard Some images from a spontaneous trip on Saturday to the Historic Sports Car Club (HSCC) 50th Anniversary weekend meet at Castle Combe to see Unclie and his classic Allard:

dkc-1095-005dkc-1095-005Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-006dkc-1095-006Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-007dkc-1095-007Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-010dkc-1095-010Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-012dkc-1095-012Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-014dkc-1095-014Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-017dkc-1095-017Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-018dkc-1095-018Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-021dkc-1095-021Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-025dkc-1095-025Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-027dkc-1095-027Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-033dkc-1095-033Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-042dkc-1095-042Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-046dkc-1095-046Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-049dkc-1095-049Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-056dkc-1095-056Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-059dkc-1095-059Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-064dkc-1095-064Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-066dkc-1095-066Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-068dkc-1095-068Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-069dkc-1095-069Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-072dkc-1095-072Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-075dkc-1095-075Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-077dkc-1095-077Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-079dkc-1095-079Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-083dkc-1095-083Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-094dkc-1095-094Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-099dkc-1095-099Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-103dkc-1095-103Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-107dkc-1095-107Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-109dkc-1095-109Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-120dkc-1095-120Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-121dkc-1095-121Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-122dkc-1095-122Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-123dkc-1095-123Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-126dkc-1095-126Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-133dkc-1095-133Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-135dkc-1095-135Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-138dkc-1095-138Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe dkc-1095-143dkc-1095-143Unclie and Allard at Castle Combe

]]> Sat, 16 Apr 2016 12:02:00 GMT
Bristol Multiple Birthday Party Some images from the family party in Bristol:

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]]> Sun, 10 Apr 2016 18:54:00 GMT
'Surprise' Trip to Bath The 4 of us went on a surprise trip to Bath as a pre-30th birthday treat for Kiron.

dkc-1090-001-LRdkc-1090-001-LROutside the Assembly Rooms dkc-1090-016-LRdkc-1090-016-LRThe Roman Baths dkc-1090-025-LRdkc-1090-025-LRIn the Coeur De Lion dkc-1090-026dkc-1090-026Pulteney Bridge dkc-1090-028dkc-1090-028Pulteney Wier dkc-1090-040dkc-1090-040Pulteney Bridge and Wier dkc-1090-057-LRdkc-1090-057-LRJoya Italian Restaurant dkc-1090-063dkc-1090-063Original ceiling plasterwork in the NatWest Bank in Bath. dkc-1090-070-LRdkc-1090-070-LRTara in the Circus, Bath dkc-1090-075-Panodkc-1090-075-PanoThe Royal Crescent dkc-1090-100dkc-1090-100Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-101dkc-1090-101Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-109dkc-1090-109Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-116dkc-1090-116Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-119dkc-1090-119Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-126dkc-1090-126Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-128dkc-1090-128Inside the Roman Baths dkc-1090-135dkc-1090-135Inside the Roman Baths

]]> Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:28:00 GMT
Braziers in Wokingham Some images from when the Braziers stayed in Wokingham:

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]]> Sun, 03 Apr 2016 18:54:00 GMT
Bobo’s Birthday – Forbury Restaurant, Reading A couple of photos from yesterday’s lunch:

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]]> Sun, 20 Mar 2016 19:54:00 GMT
Wednesday 9th March 2016 – Sydney Blue Mountains 8 o’clock start for the trip to another world heritage listed area, the Blue Mountains. This time from an insider’s perspective from lookouts, rainforest bush tracks and valleys rather than some of the more popular tourist sites.

An accident on the Sydney harbour bridge meant that we didn’t cross the harbour bridge on the way out as planned but used the original Anzac (Glebe) Bridge – a 2 hour drive to the first stop in the Blue Mountains.

Drove along the Parramatta Road, the first road to be built out of Sydney linking it to Parramatta.  John Russo, a convict, who had been a farmer in England, persuaded the government to give him the last of the wheat supplies, some men, animals and land; he successfully harvested a crop in the second year. Russo is known as the father of agricultural here as the colony was on the brink of giving up and going back to England because of the poor land around Sydney.  Russo ‘s farm is still there but is now a museum.

Passed the Olympic Stadia where most events were held in 2000 except water sports and the infamous beach volleyball on Bondi Beach !

Blue Mountain is 280,000 acres and is made up of several national parks -75% of the trees are evergreen eucalyptus which makes it a huge risk from bush fires. The mountains are not really a mountain range at all as, at their highest, they are 1200m. The road we are on is one of the aboriginal tracks.

In the early 1800s the first official white men crossed the mountains and discovered fertile plains. The governor rewarded them with land and got 30 convicts to build a road, rewarded with freedom and 30 acres of land. Gold was later discovered round here and there are also coal mines around Sydney.  (The first white men to cross the mountains were convicts but not recognised because they had escaped! ).

Wentworth Falls stop but not much water today, beautiful views though and definitely a blue haze. Peaceful and calming with very little bird song which is unusual.

Leura Village a picturesque mountain village with a 1900s heritage shop frontage.  Had a delicious Chai and shared a macadamia, ginger and fig cookie also delicious. Lots of charming little shops and went into the first patchwork and quilting shop we have seen on the trip.  Lots if aboriginal fat quarters and kits, really wanted to get some but no room!

On to Echo Point and the Three Sisters, the most photographed aboriginal site in New South Wales. There are 2 legends about how these rocks were formed.

First legend:

A magic man had three daughters whom he left at the top of a cliff while he went down into the valley to look for herbs etc. One daughter threw a stone at a centipede; the stone crashed all the way down the valley splitting the rock and leaving the sisters on a narrow ledge.

The crash awoke a magical mythical creature (bunyun?) who went after the three girls. So the father used his magic stick to turn the girls into stone to protect them. The creature then went after the father who turned himself into a lyre bird to escape but in doing so he dropped his magic stick. And this is what the lyre bird is still looking for to this day when he digs his beak into the earth. Until he finds the stick he and the girls cannot be changed back into humans.

Second version:

The three girls wanted to marry three warriors from the same tribe but their father wouldn’t allow it, so he turned them to stone until they came to their senses.  The warriors declared war and the magic man was killed, so the three sisters remain as stone.

Next stop the bush walk to Govern ‘s Leap -1.8km downhill luckily,  as it is 30 degrees and feels hot.  The coach dropped us at the top of the walk and picked us up at the bottom.

Lunch / High tea in the elegant dining room at the Hydro Majestic Hotel followed by a tour of the historic iconic hotel.  Bottle of sparkling pinot noir / chardonnay between four of us with the sandwiches, savouries, scones and cake while looking at the stunning views. Then on to the tour of the hotel.

The spa was opened in 1903 by Mark Foy, the son of a draper who started his department store in Melbourne the same year as Mr Selfridge  opened his in London.

Spas were very trendy in Europe but did not yet exist in Australia. Foy based his design on a spa in Matlock and had the vision, the money and the drive to see it through.  Initially it was run on a very strict regime with mandatory treatments, no alcohol, strict meal times, lights off at 10, …which wasn’t very successful.  He then relaxed the rules and it became a resort hotel which it still is and became so popular he had to expand in 1907.

Foy was unable to find water at first so he had it shipped from Germany but by the time it arrived it was rancid and couldn’t be used for bathing. So he got people to drink small glasses of it on the basis that if it was disgusting it was good for you. Since then wells and bores have been dug and water has been found! They had their own generators and even hot electricity 4 days before Sydney.

The long ladies drawing room known as Cat’s Alley, slopes with a difference of 1m in the floor level. The builders hit ironstone and rather than wait for diggers / dynamite, Mark Foy had it built on a slope.

Finished off in the shop and managed not to buy anything!  Back on the coach for the 2hr drive back to Sydney, stopping to take photos of the bridge & the opera house before driving over the bridge back to our hotel.

Last trip in Australia – tomorrow we have the morning free before the flight to Dubai. Can’t really believe that we visited some of the places that are almost storybook names – Botany Bay, Bondi Beach, Wollomalloo, Uluru, rainforest, thrown spears and boomerangs with Aboriginals, seen kangaroos, emu, crocodiles, kookaburra, wallabies and eaten some of them; as well as seen a whole load of new things.

Excellent trip all round and sorry to leave Australia.

]]> Wed, 09 Mar 2016 19:54:00 GMT
Tuesday 8th March 2016 – Sydney Sydney sightseeing tour leaving at 8. Went on a short drive around Sydney with a couple of photo stops for views of the bridge and the opera house, a prestigious private girls school that looks like Hogwarts, and lots of other sights I have forgotten.

I do remember one street that is 3km where 1/3 is the business area – “making money” – 1/3 is retail – “spending money” – and the rest is cinemas, restaurants – “enjoying money”!

Then onto Bondi Beach where we paddled and got quite wet as some of the waves were deceptive. Bondi means Crashing Water in the aboriginal language. Back to Central Quay for the 12:30 harbour cruise and lunch on board.

Free time until 8am tomorrow, so we went to the Sydney Opera House and took the tour and had a drink at the bar, a must for all tourists.

5:35 ferry from Circular Quay to Pyrmont Bay – 5 stops along the route and the nearest stop to our hotel. The ferry took about 35 minutes and we stayed on the open deck and watched the gorgeous Sydney waterfront and harbour.

Decided to have supper in the hotel restaurant as it has been quite a tiring day. Another great meal, this time with Asian flavours; we have certainly eaten well here.

Last day in Australia tomorrow and our final trip starting at 8 again.

]]> Tue, 08 Mar 2016 19:54:00 GMT
Monday 7th March 2016 – Cairns – Sydney Io’s 18th and Sorcha ‘s 14th birthdays.

Breakfast at 8 again very leisurely, watching about 30 people doing their exercises in the park opposite.  Packed the cases and left them outside the room and went to the Cairns Art gallery and for a walk along the Marina before being picked up at 11 for the flight to Sydney.

Good flight with excellent views of Sydney including the bridge and opera house as we landed.  Collected our luggage (the new case was first off!) and in our hotel soon after 6.

We are staying at Darling Harbour and it is only a very short walk to the harbour with shops restaurants and another stunning skyline.

Ate at “Meat and Wine”, the calamari is perfect again as was the rest of the meal, all beautifully presented.

Back to 6am alarm again tomorrow a day’s sightseeing in Sydney.

]]> Mon, 07 Mar 2016 20:07:00 GMT
Sunday 6th March 2016 – Cairns (Rest Day) Free day on Cairns, I think this is our first fully free day of the trip. Had a late breakfast at 8 rather than 6:30 which has been the norm.

dkc-1080-005dkc-1080-005Our hotel in Cairns (with the P on it)

Mooched around Cairns for the morning, it is beautiful town on the sea but with no sandy beach. There used to be beautiful sandy beaches but the dredging carried out to make it safe for shipping created mudflats instead. They are beautiful too in their own way with lots of birds including pelicans and waders, fish, crabs etc. When you look out across the Pacific Ocean the next land you would get to would be Mexico. The birds are really noisy and you can see bays hanging from the trees, positively a tropical paradise!

The town has a Lido, completely free, which was very busy with families as it was Sunday. Wandered around admiring the views, watched a couple of aboriginals fishing (they seemed to catch something), helicopters flying off…. and a local said G’day.

When it got too hot we went back to the Esplanade and looked at the shops. Bought a replacement suitcase and a t-shirt. Our black suitcase must have been dropped at some stage and one wheel has broken, so it was becoming difficult to wheel. On inspection D discovered that half the base was shattered and bits were rattling about.

Went to look at UGG boots and bought a pair of genuine Australian ones, (there are a lot of fakes, made in China and the lady seemed to think that’s mostly what is sold in England!)

dkc-1080-022dkc-1080-022Fruit Bats roosting in Cairns city centre

dkc-1080-025dkc-1080-025Fruit Bats roosting in Cairns city centre

Had a glass of Australian sparkling wine for Mother’s day – thank you K&T, it was lovely and very sweet of you to organise it with Dad – before having supper at Barnacle Bill’s a seafood restaurant.  Had calamari starter (melt in your mouth) followed by a crocodile & kangeroo dish and barramundi in a mango and coconut salsa.

Tomorrow we can have another lazy start as we have to put cases outside at 10 and collected at 11 for our afternoon flight to Sydney.  Clocks will change again and we will be 11 hours ahead of the UK.



]]> Sun, 06 Mar 2016 18:50:00 GMT
Saturday 5th March 2016 – Cairns – Kuranda & Tjapukai Day started with another scenic railway journey to the picturesque market town of Karunda, 'the village in the rain forest' with markets, butterfly sanctuary and Koala Gardens. The train left at 8:50 from a picturesque little station, for a 90 minute journey, with a photo opportunity stop at Barron Falls Station.

dkc-1078-112dkc-1078-112Kuranda Station in the rain forest Free time in Kuranda, went to see the Koala Gardens with wallabies and crocodiles as well as Koalas. dkc-1078-128dkc-1078-128Koala at Kuranda dkc-1079-006dkc-1079-006Wallaby at Kuranda dkc-1079-009dkc-1079-009Crocodile at Kuranda

Lunch at Anabelle's pies. Then we wandered about the town and D bought a t-shirt and I bought a cotton top.

Walked back to the Skyrail rainforest cableway station for 12:50, to get the cable car back to Smithfield, stopping at two stops for a walk. The journey without stops would take 40 minutes and we had to meet up at 2:15, so plenty time for the walks.

dkc-1079-050dkc-1079-050Skyrail above the rain forest

Finally, a visit to the Aboriginal Centre for authentic music, dance and storytelling by the Tjapukai people. D had a go at throwing a spear and a boomerang, J only tried the boomerang.

dkc-1079-086dkc-1079-086Fire making at Tjapukai

Another excellent day but tiring. Coach back go the hotel for 5, we decided to go and have a drink at the Rattle'n'Hum again. Then went to Woolworths (which is more like Waitrose) to buy stuff for supper and to the liquor store to buy a bottle of wine.  Decided to have a lazy evening in the hotel instead of going out. Very relaxing!

Tomorrow is our first free day and am really looking forward to it.  It's all been great but a little exhausting.

]]> Sat, 05 Mar 2016 20:11:00 GMT