Archive for the ‘walking’ Category

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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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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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Jean Harlow, Muddy Paws and Geraldine Grainger

February 25, 2017

 

Jean Harlow...more about her later.

Jean Harlow…more about her later.

I’ve come to the keyboard not sure what to write this week for life has been busy, but there was nothing that you could say ‘wow, that’s really exciting’ to. I’ve started back writing, which is good, although I’m finding it difficult to get the time to do it. Looking after the kids and the house and working leaves little free time to do anything else. Plus the dogs are incredibly messy so all I feel I’m doing every day is hoovering up chewed up toys and cleaning up poo and pee from my carpet (anyone got any tips on how I stop them doing this…they are old enough now!). Anyway, I’m making time this afternoon to write and NOBODY better get in my way! Add in some dramatic music here!

Yesterday (Friday) I was barely at home during the day. I popped in to see my friend Tracy for a cuppa in the morning then met a couple of friends for lunch before meeting another friend to take the dogs a walk. She has a beautiful black Labrador that my dogs are a little wary of for some reason. She barely even looks at them. We took them down the beach and they loved it. Having dogs – despite the mess – is great for socialising with friends with dogs and meeting other dog owners. Plus you get a lot of love from them and they always look happy to see me (whereas my children often do not)!

The weather this week has been wet and windy with a touch of slushy snow on Thursday – that was what we got here as part of Storm Doris. The dogs loved being out in it, especially Millie who loves water and can often be found rolling about the shower after it’s been used. She is an odd bod dog. We have a deep puddle underneath one of the swings in the back garden which has filled with water. The hole was dug last year by the boy and a friend and never been filled in. I caught Millie at its edge testing the depth with one paw…sigh. I swiftly put her off the idea of going in. She just loves water as opposed to Casper for whom water is an anathema.  * just looked out the back window and she was at it again! Sigh. Muddy footprints and dirt everywhere!

Jean Harlow and William Powell.

Jean Harlow and William Powell.

Watched a great documentary about Jean Harlow on Sky this morning. I knew she had died young, but 26 and from kidney failure. Poor woman was at the top of her career and had genuinely loving relationship with actor William Powell. She had everything and then it was all cruelly taken from her. So young to go. Such a sad story. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen any of her films – I probably have because I was an avid watcher of the Saturday matinee when I was a child. For those of you who do not remember it, the Saturday matinee showed all the old films. Can’t remember if it was ITV or BBC that showed them, but I used to watch them every week which is why I’m such a big fan of Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, Doris Day, Laurel and HardyFred and Ginger and many more. I think I’ve seen all the big musicals from the 30s, 40s and 50s. I just love it.

Christina and Will from the television adaptation of Flambards.

Christina and Will from the television adaptation of Flambards.

Anyway, currently reading the fourth in the Flambards series. It’s good although I could happily give two of the main characters a good shake. You know you’re enjoying a book when you want to knock the characters heads together when their behaviour is out of hand. Will let you know how I get on with the rest of it.

Dr Strange.

Dr Strange.

Watched Dr Strange last night and really enjoyed it. I love the Marvel films and this one is full of action and adventure plus it’s got Benedict Cumberpatch in the lead role so that’s always a bonus. I like him as an actor and he didn’t disappoint with this one. Got to mention the cloak which has a personality of it’s own…nice touch.

The Vicar of Dibley.

The Vicar of Dibley.

As I write, The Vicar of Dibley is on the telly so I apologise if I seem a little distracted from this blog. I love that programme. Ian bought me the complete set one year for Christmas and I just love it. It’s so funny. It’s the first episode that’s on at the moment and Geraldine has discovered that the village don’t want her because she’s a woman. Classic telly. They don’t make them like this any more. I find today’s sitcoms – both American and British – to be turgid, formulaic programmes full of fake canned laughter and rubbish jokes. What are the writers doing? The jokes aren’t clever and the programmes often feel like they’ve been written in that way because it’s safe. No-one (and I’m talking about the mainstream telly channels here) seems to be taking risks any more. It’s so sad. Anyway, rant over.

Geraldioe marries.

Geraldine marries.

As I look down I see Millie has indeed been in the puddle. She has mud on her legs and now needs a bath…sigh. They just love to create more work for me, don’t they? I think I’ll take them down the beach for a  bit of a run and then bathe them both (Casper will love that! Not!).

Right I am going to finish up here and say cheerio til next time.

Dawn xxx

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This image doesn’t do the view justice!

September 18, 2015
The view from the Ben.

The view from the Ben.

I am shattered. We – myself, Tracy and Jane – walked up part of the John Muir Way again this morning…Ben Bowie…and what a view from the top. It was amazing. It was even better because the weather was fantastic. At the top, we chose a place to sit and take in the wonderful view. We ate mozzarella and sun dried tomato wraps, drank water and chatted. It was great. I felt on top of the world. You forget what a fantastic place Scotland is when you live here and you’re too busy with life to take in what’s around you…it’s beautiful, especially round where we live. Today the weather was perfect, the sun was splitting the sky, it wasn’t too hot (although it was cold in the shade – that’s autumn for you!) and the view at the top was more than worth it. That part of the walk isn’t too hard going so it’s a good starter walk. Am planning to take hubby and the kids up there next summer when he’s back to fighting fitness. I think we’ll have a picnic and enjoy the walk. 🙂

So how’s your week been? Work has been really really busy and hubby had another chemo session. He’s doing well considering, but is exhausted all the time. Looking forward to when it’s all finished and he can work at getting back to full health.

What else? Swam an half mile in the local pool yesterday. Am planning to start running next week. The triathlon isn’t til June, but I want to build up to it slowly but surely.

This week’s been taken up a lot with work and hospital appointments, so haven’t really done much else.  Currently reading Meredith Atwood’s (aka swim bike run mom) Triathlon for Every Woman which is a great read even if you never plan to do a triathlon. She’s very funny – probably told you that before. Still reading John Forster’s biog of Dickens, nearly finished it.

Am about to embark on making some things for Christmas. Due to time constraints (etc) this year I don’t think I’ll be knitting as much. Time to dig out the ole sewing machine!! I’ve already got a few ideas on what I want to make some members of the family.

Tis a sad week for me telly-wise, am nearly finished the very last series of True Blood. Soon it will be adieu Sookie, Jason, Bill, Eric, Pam and the rest of them. Sigh. Just as well I have the books to read!! Hee hee (she cackles with devilish delight!).

Right am off. Am away to make a cup of tea (go team Tea Force – that’s our name for the Inverclyde team triathlon in August next year!). Til next time.

Dawn xxx

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