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Barcelona!

May 17, 2017

Oh my God! What can I say about Barcelona that would do this city any justice? It’s an amazing place with the most stunning architecture…I’ve included some pictures of a tiny fraction of the buildings above, but there are far bigger, better and stunning buildings in this city. We just didn’t have the time to see them all.

How we got there…the ship docked in the early hours that Friday morning at Barcelona’s port. We took a taxi to the airport, dumped our suitcases with Left Luggage (because we were flying home later that day) and then took a bus from the airport to the Plaza Espanya near the city centre.  Look how amazing this square is…

And here’s what else is near there…

It’s the Museum of Catalunya. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go and see it. Instead we headed down a wide tree filled street (stopping at a really nice wee pizza place for lunch first) to find the Sagrada Familia (pictured at the start of this post) which is something I’ve always wanted to see. The place was hoaching with tourists, but it was well worth having a look at…the cathedral is truly inspiring and amazing to look at. Every nook and cranny is filled with exquisitely carved modern art. As you can see from the cranes, the building is still not finished more than 100 years after it was first begun. I loved it.

After that we headed for the city’s beach area which my mother assured us wasn’t that far to walk. It took us about an hour with a stop off for some drinks because the weather was so hot. Because it was Good Friday, there was a right festival atmosphere about the city and the place was jumping with locals and tourists. There were a range of street stalls and myself and the kids spent the rest of our holiday money on bits and pieces to take home – I bought two lovely fans painted in a modern style. I was really hot on holiday, but I knew I’d use them again back home…being a right Northerner, I get hot in muggy weather and stuffy offices, so the fans will come in handy. Plus we do get the odd hot day in Scotland. There are also some cheeky folk who would point out that I am a lady of a certain age who is hurtling towards 50 and therefore menopause, but as I am still only 25 (in my head) and will be forever, this will never happen!

Anyway, after the beach we walked up the packed Ramblas. It was uncomfortably busy, but didn’t put me off the city…in fact I’d love to return there for a long weekend at some point in the near future. We caught a bus at the Placa de Catalunya to get back to the airport in time for dinner and then our flight home. We only had a few hours in Barcelona, but I loved it. Verdict on Barcelona: fab. Will definitely go back. Only issue: I had the song ‘Barcelona’ by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe ringing through my head the entire time I was there and every time I think of the word ‘Barcelona’. It’s a great song, but really annoying if you can’t get it out of your head!

Anyway, that’s the holiday. We arrived back home around midnight that night and it was great being back in Scotland, but I really loved the holiday. We all loved the holiday.

Right, so back to real life. This week is the first full week I’ve had since leaving work and it’s already Wednesday and I don’t know where my time is going? Okay so this week, I have walked the dogs every day (and got soaked on Monday), I have had lunch with a friend (down at Ardardan today) and visited my father-in-law yesterday who is very old and frail. On Monday morning I also went to a pilates class with another friend. These events took up a few hours each day, so that’s my excuse for not achieving a huge amount over the last three days. The big news is that I have gone back to writing my book for adults…the one I started last year. I can’t say it’s been easy getting back into the swing of things, but I have written up my workplan and I intend to stick to it.

The rest of the week will be spent doing the bits and pieces around the house that need doing and assembling my new bike. I have great plans to take the kids out cycling more over the summer. There are some great routes around here plus I have a cycle carrier which we can use for further afield.

Over to books and I am currently reading: Caroline Moorhead’s ‘Martha Gellhorn: A Life’, which is a great read. On holiday, I got through several books:

The first three were fantastic. You cannot beat a Pratchett for humour and a good read, and Joanna’s books are just so funny and a great beach/poolside read. I had hoped to enjoy McIlvanney’s book more because he so revered as a writer, but it was alright. I doubt I’d read it again.

Right, I think I will finish up here and say adieu until next time! See you then.

Dawn xxx

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All Aboard! Bermuda, Madeira and Malaga

May 12, 2017

Hello, how’s things? How are you? What’s been happening with you? Am back to relate the next part of our epic journey across the Atlantic. Last week, I shared our days in the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios. Today, it’s Bermuda, Madeira and Malaga.

Firstly, though here’s a quick view of the ship. As you can see, unlike the pic above, the sun was splitting the sky. We had about three days of overcast, but still warm enough to sit out weather and the rest was glorious. Our ship was the Norwegian Epic and it was excellent. The food was excellent, the evening entertainment was good, the bars and restaurants were good and the cabins comfortable. We went to see the Broadway show of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which was brilliant, a dance show and a magician. The kids had their own clubs to attend and spent a lot of time at the ship’s waterpark (pools, flumes etc). They had a ball.

Now for Bermuda. What can I say about it? It’s incredibly flat, incredibly expensive and there’s not much to see there. We spent some time in Hamilton, which is a nice town with very expensive, exclusive shops and not much else. I don’t have any pics because I accidentally locked myself out of my phone around about then and couldn’t take any. The biggest thing the kids had about Bermuda is that they were nervous about crossing the scary Bermuda Triangle (thanks to Scooby Doo for that one!), but we reassured them and they were fine. Verdict on Bermuda: meh!

Now Madeira is a totally different kettle of fish: a beautiful, cultured, historic island with lots to see and do and where you don’t feel like you are getting the Mickey taken out of you every time you take your purse out.

 

Here’s me on the cable car at Funchal. The view was fantastic and the kids loved being on the cable car. We had a drink at the top, a wee walk around (we didn’t do the lovely park there because the kids were champing at the bit to go back down and spend their holiday money) and then back down.

Funchal is a beautiful old town with lots of stunning buildings and things to see.

It has stunning parks one of which has a great view of the harbour where our ship (left) was docked. We all spent our holiday money buying gifts and things for ourselves. My mum – a near professional shopper – and my girl – also a near professional shopper – spent a happy hour in a large international clothes shop there and came out armed with bags and happy smiles. The boy, myself, my dad and my niece waited for them at the nearby park where the boy spent his time hunting out and watching, with a fascination on his face that I haven’t seen since he was tiny, the little lizards that lived in the rocks there. If he could have, I’m sure he would have taken one home! Verdict on Madeira: loved it! Would definitely go back. Shame we couldn’t have stayed longer.

Now to another place I love. I’ve been before and was really happy to be back…Malaga in southern Spain.

It’s a stunning city with some wonderful architecture…

It also has stunning castle, Castilla de Gibralfaro, which dates back to the 10th century and includes some of the best views of the city. Recommend this as a tourist destination: not only is it very reasonable to get into (don’t buy an organised trip! just go), but it’s got a museum, café and you can wander all round the ramparts. If, like me, you love exploring castles, you’ll enjoy this one. NB while we dafties walked up the flagstoned (and extremely steep) road up to the castle, doing our knees in and almost needing leg transplants when we arrived, you can actually get to the castle by a normal road around the back. In saying that, I actually enjoyed the ascent and descent.

The ramparts and the views…

The museum…

One of the stunning buildings at the foot of the castle. This is their awe inspiring town hall…

Although I’ve shown you the images in this order, I actually took them the other way round. We did the castle first and then went into the city to enjoy the beautiful and ancient architecture. We stopped off at a little bar down a side street for beer, enjoyed the ambiance and, quite frankly, I could have just stayed there. I love the city. Verdict on Malaga: love it for its architecture, history, friendly people, lots of things to do and see. Will definitely go back.

Right, am going to finish up here now. Next week, it’s the end of the holiday and what a way to spend it: Good Friday in Barcelona a city I’ve been dying to go to for years. Til next time!

Dawn xxx

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Orlando, the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios

May 4, 2017

So, as promised a quick overview of the holiday. Above is me – still peely wally (ie very pale for my non Scottish readers) – at Disney’s Magic Kingdom with Cinderella’s Castle in the background. Yes I am wearing Minnie Mouse ears and a Micky Mouse t-shirt…it’s a prerequisite of going to Disney! There were tonnes of families in matching t-shirts and ears and hats and my family were no different…except my dad who refused point-blank to wear anything like that. So we just called him a ‘bah humbug’!! Hee hee.

Anyway, first impressions of the Magic Kingdom…We took a free shuttle bus from our hotel to the park early in the morning. We arrived at Epcot and took the monorail to a steamboat port and got the boat across the water to the Magic Kingdom. It was a nice way to arrive, but a bit drawn out. Anyway, I was shocked by the amount of security on the doors of the Magic Kingdom…shocked, but not surprised.  Disney, like most other big parks, is a potential target for terrorists, which is horrible. Anyway, we got through the security (it was like being in an airport it was that much) after standing in the first of many queues that day. We walked through the gates and into a lovely faux town with lots of shops selling hugely overpriced food, drink and gifts. Everywhere was the sickly sweet scent of sweets or cakes or something. There was no magic…not for me anyway.

We walked up towards the castle and into the area where the first ride we wanted to go on – Space Mountain was – unfortunately the queues were horrendous. We had bought a day ticket, but you can’t pre-buy day tickets for Disney, websites only allowed you to buy two days or more, so you can’t pre-book fast passes for a day either. We tried to book it on the machines in the park and we got help from a very nice Disney employee who was a whizz on them, but we couldn’t get a fast pass for Space Mountain for that day (the queue was over two hours long). We did, however, manage to get fast passes for the Haunted Mansion, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean and a couple of other rides, so we took those. We also went on the train that goes around the park a couple of times.

I’d like to say I had a fantastic time at Disney, but after a whole day (and around nine miles of walking according to my Fitbit) traipsing around the park I came away with a kind of ‘meh’ kind of feeling. I was quite disappointed in it. I felt the rides we did get on were quite old-fashioned, there was nothing fantastic about them. Also, you had to wait ages to get your picture taken with a character. I didn’t come away feeling like I’d had an amazing day. I just felt I’d paid an awful lot of money for a non-descript kind of day.

Above the view from the train in the Magic Kingdom. Verdict on Disney’s Magic Kingdom – meh.

Now Universal Studios is so much better.

We did Universal Studios the following day and it was fantastic. As a huge Harry Potter fan I, of course, was desperate to do the Harry Potter bits of the parks. We bought tickets for the two Universal Studios parks (as well as the fast passes, although we still had to queue, but not as long as folk who didnt have the passes) just so we could really enjoy both Harry Potter sites and the train between the two, but we got so much more as well. The first bit we headed for was Hogsmeade (pictured above and below).

It was amazing. The place felt so real and the attention to detail was amazing. We went to Ollivanders to buy wands and I picked up a couple of book marks too. This area also houses Hogwarts itself which we also visited. Then we went to the station to get the Hogwart’s Express to Diagon Alley.

The train journey itself is amazing. It has old-fashioned carriages with individual wee rooms. On one side, you can see out the windows and watch the ‘journey’ to ‘London’, but on the other, you are looking at the frosted glass of the doors between the room and the walkway and you can see the shadows of Harry, Ron and Hermione and hear their conversation. The journey doesn’t last long and takes you to ‘King’s Cross Station’.’s

Diagon Alley was nearby, as was the Night Bus (see below).

Diagon Alley was packed and we didn’t do the ride at Gringott’s (although apparently it’s good, but I don’t like rollercoasters so I didn’t want to do it).

Once we’d had our fill of Harry Potter, we decided to explore the rest of this park. It was fantastic. There are lots of places to see and things to do and it’s here we did the Transformers ride (which is AMAZING – you really feel like you’re in the middle of a battle between the Decepticons and Optimus Prime and his ‘men’, it’s terrifying in places, but such a thrill – you are in a city trying to escape the Decepticons and you get shot at and you tumble off the top of a sky scraper and it’s all so real you squeal all the way through it, but are secretly loving every minute of it), the Despicable Me ride and the Shrek ride. The Despicable Me one was amazing too, although not on a par with Transformers, and the Shrek one was good, but tamer.

We also saw a parade. We missed out on the Disney parade in the afternoon because we were doing the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, so it was nice to catch this one. Here’s Gru et al dancing and singing in the streets…

And a view of this park across the water…

After we’d tired of this park we took the Hogwart’s Express back to the other park and did the Jurassic Park ride and a few others.

Some more views of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade from a bridge that led us to the Jurassic Park ride.

The Jurassic Park ride was really good. It’s a river ride. You get on your ‘boat’ and go into the enclosures, dodging animatronics dinosaurs along the way. It ends with a long tip and splash into the water and is really fun. We followed this by popping into the King Kong ride. None of us were that bothered about doing it – in fact my mum was going to sit out because she couldn’t be bothered waiting in yet another queue – but we were all so glad we did. It’s really REALLY good. Again you are in a ‘car’ driving about Kong’s island dodging dinosaurs and large spiders and other beasts. This is done mostly with SGI and it’s so lifelike. It was exciting and scary and thrilling and, well, if we had the time or energy we would have done the ride again and again and again. It’s great…almost as good as the Transformers ride.

If I remember rightly, King Kong was the last ride we did that day as we had to catch the bus back, but we also squeezed in a few others along the way. We would around 10 miles that day according to Fitbit and we could hardly put one foot in front of the other by the time we were finished, but we all had a really good day.

Verdict on Universal Studios: loved it, would definitely go back. It’s fantastic. Recommend it.

Oh nearly forgot, my thoughts on Orlando. It’s immaculate and very modern, but I felt it was soulless. There is no culture to the place. It’s pretty enough, but I prefer old cities and towns with hundreds of years of history and buildings to match. We stayed at the Days Inn Hotel, which when we first arrived we weren’t that impressed with, but it was immaculate, the rooms were comfortable, the staff were lovely and it had a really nice pool area that the kids loved.

Our last full day in Orlando was taken up by the Universal Studios trip. The following morning we got up early (aching from all the walking we had done over the previous two days, but it was worth it), took a taxi to Port Canaveral and caught our cruise ship, the Norwegian Epic. More about that in the next blog post…I just loved the ship and the places we visited.

Til next time,

Dawn xxx

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Pretty

May 1, 2017

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Holidays and it’s a pug’s life

April 27, 2017

Okay so I sort of haven’t been around that much recently. Basically, me, the kids, my niece and my parents flew out to Orlando at the end of March, had three full days in Florida before joining a cruise ship at Port Canaveral for a trans Atlantic cruise back to Europe. It was a fantastic holiday, thoroughly enjoyed it and I would have told you all about it last week (we came back mid April) except I wasn’t well…I had a stinking cold for the entire holiday (not that it stopped me enjoying myself – see pic above of me on the upper deck enjoying my daily Bahama Mama cocktail!) and it got worse when we got back. Had to go on antibiotics to get shot of it. I don’t like taking tablets, but I had had this flamin’ cold on and off for five or six weeks. The antibiotics finally cleared the cold at the beginning of this week.

Anyway, regarding the holiday, I have lots to show you and talk about so I’m planning to do it over the next couple of weeks rather than doing a ginormous blog about it.

The other exciting news is that we’ve welcomed a new furry family member. Her name is Bonya (she was previously owned by a Russian lady) and she’s just adorable.

Unfortunately her previous owner had to rehome her, but I’m glad we’ve got her cos she’s a lovely wee dog. My other two dogs were a bit scared of her at first (although she’s the least scariest dog I’ve ever met), but are coming round now. She’s a terrible snorer, loves to give you big face licks (ew…I hate dogs licking me on the face and it’s a fight to keep her from doing it…she’s very determined!) and is very cuddly.

In other news, I took a major leap of faith and gave up my job this week. I feel that life is too short and I want to write for a living, so I’m going to give it a go. I made the decision months ago and it really feels right. I don’t really feel I’ve stopped work yet because I never work on Thursdays, but I think it will start to sink in next week when I don’t have to go. Just want to thank all my friends and colleagues at work for their generous gifts and see you all next week! People keep asking me what I’m going to do with my ‘retirement’, but I don’t view it as that…I am going to WRITE!! I am taking a couple of weeks off to get the house and garden in order and to chill out. Then I’ll start back writing again. Can’t wait.

Anyway, it’s getting late so I’m going to finish here. Til next time…and all the holiday tales to come!

Dawn xx

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A few inspirational quotes for you

April 9, 2017

Okay so this week I thought I’d share a few inspirational quotes with you…aka the ones that have amused me most recently.

Starting with good old Herr Einstein…

From the incorrigible Mae West…

And finally this one, which I agree wholeheartedly with (apart from the wrong spelling of ‘it’s’).

Til next time!

Dawn xxx

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On this day…

April 2, 2017

In an effort to jazz up my blog, today I’m not going to talk about the dogs and what I’ve been reading or watching, but am going to do a little history (I love history, so if you don’t…well, sorry!).

On this day in 1513, the oddly named Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain. He landed at what is now St Augustine, the oldest city in the US.

Commodore William James captured the pirate fortress of Suvarnadurg in India in 1755.

In 1982, the Falkland Wars began when Argentina invaded the islands. The conflict last ten weeks and around 1000 were killed.

Hans Christian Andersen, he of the fairytale writing fame, was born on this day on 1805 in Odense, Denmark. He wrote 168 fairytales including the fabulous Snow Queen and The Ugly Duckling.

Another writer born on this day in 1840 was Emile Zola. He was born in Paris, wrote a series of 20 books known as Rougon-Macquart novels and defended Captain Alfred Dreyfus when he was accused of treason.

Other famous folk who share this birthday include Alec Guinness (1914),  Marvin Gaye (1939) and Emmylou Harris (1947).

In 1902, the first film theatre opened in America on this day and in 1921 Albert Einstein lectured in New York on his new Theory of Relativity.

So there you go, hopefully you’ve found this interesting!! Til next time.

Dawn xx

 

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