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Archive for January, 2015

Today in 1965, the great Statesman, World Leader and War Hero Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill died at his London home in Hyde Park Gate. His State funeral was held on 30 January 1965.

a sculpture of Winston Churchill at Guildhall

a sculpture of The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill at Guildhall

I loved history in school and especially the European and British history, in particular the Second World War for which, for some unknown reason, I have always from a very young age had a special affinity. I’ve read hundreds of books relating to WW2 and used to joke about how if I came back I wanted to come back as a spy!! 😉 008 Jane Bond at your service; always stir-crazy, never shaken!! LOL.

spy games academy

safety glasses on, and assault rifle in hand….008 strikes again!

So since coming to London, albeit something I had never planned to do (was I daft or what?), I have enjoyed visiting the places where Churchill worked and lived, the Churchill War Rooms are fascinating and you can hear some of his speeches being relayed over a tannoy; hearing his very distinctive voice left my hair standing on end and tears streaming down my face.

The Churchill War Rooms, a fantastic museum

The Churchill War Rooms, a fantastic museum

St Paul’s Cathedral where Churchill’s funeral was held, has a particular draw for me for many reasons (Mary Poppins, Princess Diana) et al, it is in fact one of my most favourite places in London.

St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London where Sir Winston Churchill's funeral was held

St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London where Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral was held

I wrote a blog yesterday for 3 Days in London about finding Churchill in London and listed some of the places where you can find him. I’m delighted to say that on the 30th January (next Friday) I will be part of a memorial flotilla on the River Thames commemorating 50 years since he died.

Commemoration flotilla on 30 January 2015

Commemoration flotilla on 30 January 2015 – image courtesy of Thames Clippers

One of his most famous wartime speeches referred to the brave pilots of the Royal Air Force ‘The Few’, who fought so valiantly and without thought to their own lives in the skies above our wee island, the Battle of Britain – a defining battle of WW2.

battle of britain memorial

The Battle of Britain memorial on Victoria Embankment – “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”

the ever so marvellous Spitfire used so effectively during the Battle of Britain in WW2

the ever so marvellous Spitfire used so effectively during the Battle of Britain in WW2

 

And one of my favourite wartime images

an iconic image of St Paul's Cathedral from during the Second World War

an iconic image of St Paul’s Cathedral from during the Second World War

so here’s to The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, long may he Rest in Peace

Born: November 30, 1874 at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
Died: January 24, 1965 at Hyde Park Gate, London
Buried: January 30, 1965 at St Martin’s Church, Bladon

…Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll

This is an excerpt from one of my favourite speeches made by Winston Churchill on 29 October 1941 during an address at a school in Harrow during WW2:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill, Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches

“Never give in, Never, Never, Never…” for the full speech visit http://www.winstonchurchill.org/

 

 

 

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We explored Reykjavik from top to bottom, we ate huge breakfasts at the hotel (much like we did in New York in 2003), enough to carry us through to supper time (Iceland, as you can imagine is somewhat expensive),

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Icelandic money – I have no idea what the value of that was in £’s

we drank gallons of hot chocolate and saw some of the most amazing things ever. There was a lot more of the city to explore, but due to the very slippery sidewalks and the freezing cold, our explorations were somewhat curtailed.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

fireman’s waterpump in Reykjavik

We travelled all over the island…although it seemed like it was, it really was only a tiny little corner of the island!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

who watched who I wonder!!!?

We also went on a whale-watching expedition….frankly I think the brochures and tourist offices lie….the whales are much too sensible to be hanging about in the freezing waters off Iceland and had shucked off to the Bahamas for the winter…..we spent nearly the whole day on a boat,

clad in a bright orange michelin man outfit that was unbelieveably difficult to get into and virtually impossible to get out of….talk of a corset…OMG!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Michelin woman!!! 🙂 Looks like a bear on her head 😉

you could barely breathe, but on the plus side, if you fell into the ocean, you would be warm and visible. For a while anyway. It was fabulous. I love being out at sea, the boat heaving and smashing into the waves, the wake a boiling mass of white fury streaming behind.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

seagulls following in our wake….

Noisy squarking sea-gulls trailed the boat probably hoping for a tid-bit or two…we scanned the ocean in vain….every now an then a shout of excitement and everyone would rush to this end or that of the boat….alas 😦 “no whales today, they’ve up and gone away”.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the only whale we saw….

But, as a succour, we were treated to awesome vistas of ocean and mountains and vast plains covered in snow; here there and everywhere you looked was snow, snow and more snow.

We were treated to a ‘show-off’ exhibition by the coast-guard that raced around in their little speedboat, spinning over the wake of our boat, flinging up into the air as it crashed over the waves. I was so like…..flip!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the Coast-Guard showing off

Come on already!!! hahaha. So although we didn’t see any whales, we did see a most splendid ocean…blue, blue blue and then on the way back a most exquisite sunset. Extraordinary.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

sunset…amazing colours

What an amazing 3 days, I loved every minute, even the cold. I loved the landscape, the snow, the colour of the water, the geysers <especially>, the rift in the continental plates, the waterfalls, the icelandic ponies <we saw some in the distance>, our nightly excursions to see the auroura, the traipsing around in the dark in waist deep snow, falling down holes LOL <I had just said to Cémanthe to be careful when my next step took me into a hole beneath the snow…we laughed so much!!!>, snow so powdery soft it feels like it doesn’t exist, the vast open vistas, the biting cold that chews are your nose and ears and fingers and toes….despite the layers of clothing, the quirky corrugated houses, the race to get indoors, the underfloor heating, the steaming hot showers that sting like hell at first and then ease frozen muscle and bones back to life, the slippery ground that sends you slip-sliding away, the fabulous sculptures <like Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar) a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason (1931 – 1989). Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun>,

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun

the extraordinary poly-tunnels that shine like alien life-forms in the dark; an eerie green light that can be seen from miles away powered and heated by the geothermal energy beneath the surface of the ground, where they grow tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers, cut flowers and potted plants, even bananas and grapes are grown in this way—but not usually on a commercial scale,

visiting for 3 days in iceland

eerie green lights of the poly-tunnels

and the sheer exhilaration of being in such an amazing place and the excitement of wondering if and when a volcano was likely to erupt!!! And the people, so friendly, welcoming and just lovely.

Iceland rocks…..no pun intended!! I’ve created a video for your enjoyment….there are way too many photos to include them all on one blog. 😉 You can watch it here http://youtu.be/QNHVlRwbtOY

All I can say is ……I can highly recommend you plan a trip to this fantastic island in the ocean. It’s amazing!!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

whale-watching with Elding Tours at Hafnarfjörður

So a little about Iceland. It’s a Nordic island between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates.
The settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson

It is also home toÞingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

And then it was time to say goodbye to Iceland, but I can assure you that I will definitely be planning a 2nd trip, this time in summer

visiting for 3 days in iceland

goodbye Iceland….I’ll be back 🙂

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Listen, if you want to be blown away by sheer, unadulterated extraordinary amazingness then this is a tour you HAVE to do!! Þingvellir Nature Reserve was fantastic. (pronounced Thingvellir) The unadulterated wild beauty, sheer vastness and wildness of the landscapes amaze and delight. Everything was covered with a new fall of snow, bright, blindingly white gorgeous snow. Everything was fantastic.

visiting ideland for 3 days

pure beautiful white snow

And so to the place where east meets west; the North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plate. Whoaaaa. If we had thought it was windy before, we were in for a real surprise at this place!! Fair blew us off our feet it did! People were being blow over, hats were sent flying through the air and if you took off your gloves to take photos, you made damn sure you held onto them tightly till they were safely in your pocket.

visiting iceland for 3 days

The North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates…primeval beauty

It was fantastic. Exhilerating. Awesome. Visceral. Extraordinary. Primeval! Have you ever looked into the bowels of the earth, into an abyss that is millions of years old, at rocks that have been flung up from the middle of the earth by the powerful forces of nature, black and menacing and totally fascinating. I was enthralled. The North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates stretch hundreds of miles across the planet, ever moving, ever shifting and shaping the land and the seas – slowly year on year, it inches further and further apart, the gap widening but not gaping; it’s filled with a constant upsurge of lava and rock that creates new landscapes just as amazing as the current. <insert : Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island, and Europe’s second largest island after Great Britain. It’s the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge>

Walking through the gap was beyond incredible.  It looked so menacing and yet so majestic, aeons of history; we are but a nano-second of existence in comparison to these rocks.  After a fairly short time to explore we set off again and travelled along the road that took us from one continental plate to another. OMG!!!! Never in my wildest dreams. Beyond description.

visiting iceland for 3 days

these little houses are built on the rock and earth gap that separate the two plates!!! courtesy of StopandThinkPhotography – copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

And then what to my mind was the most amazing of all….I can’t even begin to explain how thrilling it is to stand and watch a geyser exploding in a rage of heated water from deep within the bowels of the earth!! Thrilling, exhilerating, amazing, mesmerising….I could go on and on.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Strokkur Geyser – wow!!!!

I stood for the whole 45 minutes we were stopped in this area just watching that geyser rising and falling, teasing you as it rises into a dome of awesome blueness, then dropping again into a steaming hole, bubbling up and disappearing, bubbling up a little closer to the edge and gone again and then suddenly with a whoosh that leaves you gasping it explodes dozens of feet up into the air; a raging mass of boiling water, so hot it would kill you within seconds. Awesome!!! I was entranced. Only coz Cémanthe phoned me did I not get left behind….LOL I could seriously have stayed all afternoon. At least I would have been warm 😉

insert : <Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often>

Then we visited the Gullfoss Waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland…..I don’t even know how to describe this majestic, magnificent sight.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

what a landscape….how do you describe something so amazing

It doesn’t flow over the cliff and into the bottomless gorge; it roars, thrashing and flinging it’s way over the edge and into the abyss. A tumultuous mass of turquoise blue water, channelled into one narrow race, the rest of the vast falls frozen over. And it was C.O.L.D!!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

me and CJ at Gullfoss Waterfall…wow!!!

Freezingly, mind-numbingly, bone-crackingly cold. As you can imagine we stayed for as long as we didn’t freeze to the spot and then ran as fast as possible over frozen ground back to the warmth of the bus.

Three days of the most amazing adventures.  We went out late at night to track the northern lights, rushing from one place to another, freezing our asses off for 15 minutes and then racing back to the warmth of the restaurant, a mug of hot chocolate, hands over the heater…defrost and back out again for another ‘freeze your extremities why don’t you’ escapade in an endeavour to see the northern lights.

visiting iceland for 3 days

me dressed for chasing the northern lights in the middle of the night…in Iceland 🙂

Cémanthe and I managed to find a hollowed out nook amongst the rocks where we huddled together shivering and laughing, our noses frozen, our eyes drained of fluids by the raging winds that managed to shuck down any opening it could find as our buttocks froze on the hard icy ground. I have NEVER, EVER, NEVER known such cold in my life!! Even on the coldest, snowy day in the UK, it doesn’t get as cold as that!!! Indescribable.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

you won’t find the aroura there!!! it was as cold as it looks

So did we get to see the northern lights…..well yes we did!! Only we didn’t know we had till we saw the photos Cémanthe very cleverly managed to take.

visiting iceland for 3 days

the northern lights, courtesy of StopAndThinkPhotography copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

They looked for all the world like a grey shifting cloud….and no-one; namely the bloody guides, thought to tell us that that was the auroura!! I mean hello!!!! I have yet to discover if everyone sees a white shifting cloud or if it was just us. No-one got all excited, so I’m guessing it wasn’t just us that were unknowingly looking at the northern lights without realising. As we were about to leave, suddenly everyone did get all excited and we all piled off the bus and raced over to a narrow gorge and there in the distance were…a cloud of grey shifting clouds….the aroura apparently!!!

visiting iceland for 3 days

finally, the real deal…only seen once on camera …photo courtesy of StopAndThinkPhotography copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

Sorry of I sound underwhelmed, but they were NOTHING at all like you see on the brochures, or the pamphlets, or in the zillions of photos we have seen, taken by ‘other’ people. It was only when Cémanthe looked at the images on the camera did we realise that yes, those were the lights. Where were the blues, and greens, and pinks we were expecting to see? I am going to have to go back or go elsewhere…..like Norway!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Leifur Eiríksson c. 970 – c. 1020 a Norse explorer.

 

Leifur Eiríksson c. 970 – c. 1020

a Norse explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America (excluding Greenland), nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

 

 

episode 3 to follow tomorrow 🙂 #3DaysinIceland

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Exactly a year ago yesterday Cémanthe and I landed in Iceland!!! 🙂 In fact at precisely this time last year we were haring around in the dark trying to spot the Northern Lights!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

you won’t find the aroura there!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

flag of Iceland

prelogue (is there such a thing?)…this article was started on the 14th January 2014….but I never got round to finishing it…..so here it is…..
It all started a few months before in 2013….seems longer somehow, when CJ phoned and suggested we plan a trip to Iceland!!! Would I like to go to Iceland to see the northern lights and go whale-watching?….uhmmm…hell yes!!! Iceland has been on my dream list for years!!  and before I go any further, may I say OMG!!! Wow, what a country!!!

Although I initially uhmmed and ahhhed, dying to say yes but eventually said no (finances), but after much discussion (and I really was very keen to go) she persuaded me to be sensible and so we set the wheels in motion. Unfortunately visas and red-tape and money got in the way and had to be shifted, causing more than just a little bit of stress… Now what should be a simple process of booking the flights, hotels, excursions etc and just going….is not that simple on a South African passport. I have to apply for a visa every time I leave the UK to visit another country…..and that is a ruddy mission… So I won’t go into all the boring details…suffice it to say it was stressful in the extreme and we almost quit along the way…it’s also very expensive and bureaucratic!! Imagine!! But we persevered and survived and traveled to what is now my 2nd favourite country in the world….sorry Ireland and Italy…I still love you….but….have you been to Iceland?

visiting for 3 days in iceland

fresh snowfall….stunning vistas

#3DaysInIceland.

The first thing I can say about the country…is that it is well named!! 🙂 It is icy! However, we can forgive that, as it was after all, the middle (almost) of winter!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

do ya think it may have been cold?

Other than that….I can’t think of sufficient descriptive words to describe just how amazing the country is…but let me try…amazing, delightful, wonderous, awesome, spectacular, magnificent, incredible, beautiful, surprising, freezing, pretty damn exciting, welcoming, exquisite, extreme, visceral, wild, steamy, stunning, quirky, fantastic……you get the idea!!! I was totally bowled over and if it wasn’t for the fact that I adore London, I would move to Iceland 🙂 Iceland is beyond extraordinary. It is the quirkiest, coldest, most visceral, wild and now the most northerly place I have ever visited.

visiting iceland for 3 days

Hah!!! Wish you were here!! well actually, I was on my way to Iceland 🙂

So on the late afternoon of the 8th January, leaving from Victoria Bus Station, we made our way to Travelodge at Gatwick and checked into our room….cozy cozy….It was basic but awesome…the excitement was mounting and being so close to the airport was well amazing.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

and we’re on our way!!!! 3 Days in Iceland

CJ to her credit had decided to check us into a hotel near the airport for the night since our flight left really early the next day, and it was better than trying to not only get up at sparrow-fart, but also to negotiate the travails of the London transport system and subsequent railway journey on the day…wayyyyyy too stressful.  All sorts of things could go wrong and more often than not, do….especially when you HAVE to be somewhere at a certain time…like an airport where no plane waits for no wo/man!!…no cry!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the New Media Angel being social 😉

I love to be surprised and astounded when I visit a country and Iceland did both…in buckets full. My first sight of the island was out the window (yes hooray we had a window seat); my heart thrilled at the sight. It is one of my dreams/goals to visit 100 islands and now I was just about to land onto the next! whoo hoo!! By the time we did land I already had about 20 photos mostly of the clouds and the ocean and the sun shining onto the wing of the plane…we left really early in the morning and raced the sunrise…getting there just ahead of the sun getting to its zenith for 66 degrees north in winter! Not very high I can tell you!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

racing the sunrise…….

What a fabulous 3 days we had….

Day 1 we were up really early after spending a night of almost sleepless excitement!!  We arrived with plenty of time to spare after a really easy hop to the airport by cab…better than walking in the rain…yup, it was raining; to be expected really as how it was winter and this is the UK…..which you wouldn’t think this year (2015) it’s been so unseasonably warm. But back to 2014….and then onto the plane for #3DaysInIceland.  To our delight we had a window seat! I love the window seat! The plane, if I recall, took off on time and we were on our way whoo hooo!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

2014.01.09 UK 🙂 okay!!!

Lots of photos of the sunrise, clouds and the UK disappearing beneath us, then a hop, skip and bumpy ride across the top of Scotland.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Scotland!!!!

The flight was quick, soon enough we were flying over that tiny little island in the vast blue ocean as we craned our necks to get the best view ever and whoaaaaa…. suddenly we could see land!!!!….Iceland was beneath us. We peered out the window with much excitement pointing out volcanoes and glaciers and lots and lots of snow-covered mountains.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

wow!!!! Iceland

OMG just writing about it now….albeit a year later I am almost in tears just remembering how thrilling it was to see Iceland for the first time. I was also <bizarrely> hoping to see the volcano exploding. Yeah, I know…go figure right!! But it didn’t and we landed safely into what has to be the most mind-blowing travel experience ever!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Iceland!!!!!

Once off the plane and through customs without any hassle (whew!) we left the customs area and tried to find our way out the airport…. oh my gosh, how do they pronounce those words. First of all I don’t read Icelandic <a North Germanic language descended from Old Norse > and after much miming and gesticulating I ended up in a queue while CJ went to the loo. So while I was standing in the queue some woman kept asking me if I wanted a baggage label…uhhmm no I just got off the plane for goodness sake, why do I need a baggage ticket to leave the airport?!  All the time I’m thinking “weird considering we only had hand-luggage!” …hmmmm, LOL and hahahaha, as it turns out it was the queue to get BACK onto a plane; going where? Who the heck knows.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

I challenge you to pronounce those words….the Icelandic ones!!!

Fortunately Cémanthe came back from the loo before I boarded (LOL) and rescued me with much hilarity!! Then it was negotiating a foreign language again to figure out where to go for our bus to Reykjavik. (btw, never ever when taking a coach to your hotel in a foreign country, decide to wait till you get to the hotel before you go for a pee!!! – If you need to go….go before you leave the airport!!) LOL…enough said on that subject!!
Do you know, that after a whole year, I still can’t quite believe that I have been to Iceland!!! Extraordinary!!

Finally we found the right bus and clambered on board and off we went and even though it was still early in the day, it was already getting dark…the days are like about 3 hours long!!! What a landscape!! Oh my word. It’s wild, visceral, primeval…it grabs you by the guts and shakes you right out of any complacency whatsoever. I have never seen such landscapes before….towering mountains covered with brilliantly white snow, vast plains covered with brilliantly white snow, rivers frozen over, treacherously icy roads <I could barely look out the front window watching the driver>….shivers up the spine!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

views from the tour bus

We stopped off at a number of hotels to drop passengers off and finally reached our own. When we did finally arrive at our hotel, it was to discover under-floor heating, comfy beds and lovely hot water straight from the underground thermal springs! Loverly juberley. Climbing off the bus you are immediately frozen to the spot!!! Jeezuz, I have never known such cold. Grabbing our bags we ran helter-skelter into the warm, welcoming embrace of a heated hotel. Whew!!

Our room was comfortable albeit very basic, but it was WARM!!! and luxury of luxuries it had underfloor heating. Marvellous. I had died and gone to heaven!
But, first things first….With no time to rest, we dropped off our bags, we donned as much clothing as we could reasonably get on, wrapped up warm with leggings, thick socks, stocking, trousers, vests, tops, jumpers, scarves, jackets, the new faux-fur lined gloves and hats I bought at Christmas time and headed straight out to explore. Reykjavik is fantastic!!! Quirky houses, old architecture, fantastical sculptures, stunning modern architecture and a fabulous cathedral that sits atop the hill dominating the skyline…..demanding that you look “here I am!!!”

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Hallgrímskirkja church is Reykjavík’s main landmark

Did you know that the sidewalks in Iceland have under’floor’ heating? I kid you not. They are heated. How fab is that! Of course the heat is provided free by mother nature and all the Icelanders do is pipe it off and utilise it all. Perhaps we should arrange to have a volcano under our island then we can give the finger to the energy suppliers that overcharge so heavily. Insert <With the widespread availability of geo-thermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity>. hmmmm.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

eerie green lights of the poly-tunnels

….with much looking back over our shoulders to note landmarks for getting back to the hotel! We walked along icy streets and once again my poor brain had to cope with looking out for traffic coming at me from the wrong side of the road…I cannot understand why it is that people feel the need to drive on the right side of the road….that just seems wrong somehow 😉

Iceland….wow! what a stunningly beautiful country. Breathtaking in the extreme; never mind that we had scant breath for it to take due to the biting cold that snaked it’s way into everything and into our bones. Sæbraut, the sea in the centre of Reykjavík was just stunning….. just exquisite. I can’t explain to you how absolutely extraordinary the landscape really is. By now the sun was beginning to set and the snow-covered mountains were tinged with pink and lilac and creamy yellow…..never in my life have I seen such beauty….words do not pay adequate homage.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

indescribable colours, Sæbraut, the sea in the centre of Reykjavík

We slipped and slid along the promenade, along icy roads to the edge of the bay making our way gingerly to town, or as best we could anyway. The snow-laden landscape leading down to the sea; delicious shades of blue, pink, lilac vie for attention….I have never seen so many shades of blue – frozen to the bone we stood and stared.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

heading out to explore mid-afternoon

Quite frankly I can’t imagine anywhere more beautiful – the colours, the snow-covered buildings….for someone who loves snow, I was in paradise…pure and simple. We took hundreds of photos. The snow was almost knee deep in some places and treacherously slippery but we staggered along looking for all the world like two drunks fresh from the pub!!! I would so have loved to explore further afield but trying to stay upright on that ice was exhausting and we only made it as far as the opera house which was, thanks to the underground heated pipes, blessedly free from ice.

What a sensible idea. From there we staggered into ‘town’ and took a stroll along the main street that runs through Reyjavik. Finally we made out way into the centre of Reykjavik, which although not very large and could fit into London’s left pocket, is charming!

A delight of quirky stores stocking some of the most bizarre items you could imagine. There was a huge polar bear (stuffed of course) stood outside one of the stores.

The clothing is marvellous….I would so have loved to buy some but it would have been just to warm for our climate <bizarre I know, but it is real cold-weather clothing>.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

how colourful is that!!

Oh my gosh, the shops are a delight with goodies to buy, some of which challenge the imagination….I have never seen such amazing things in my life. Then went for supper at ……wait for it……and Italian restaurant. I know right? WTF…we’re in Iceland and we go for Italian LOL….but…let me tell you, I did not know what the menus said since they’re mostly written in Icelandic, I couldn’t understand the accent and I wasn’t prepared to order something that turned out to be roast polar bear, or stewed seal, or pickled porpoise….no way hosé I wasn’t eating local this time around, so stuck with what I know….boring right…typical bloody tourist LOL!! (yeah, okay, I know….eat local!!) but we were in sore need of something hot and frankly it was less scary to order Italian than trying to figure out what the Icelandic menu was offering.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the Italian Restaurant

Bellies full we went shopping for breakfast goodies and stuff to eat during the days ahead. Loved their little supermarkets and milk is milk and bread is easily identifiable, as are vegetables <not that we had many of those>, and cheese is cheese no matter what country you’re in. It’s good fun shopping in foreign supermarkets, they are so completely different to the UK (or SA), and yet quite similar. The brand names are not anything at all that we are familiar with so trying to decided what to buy is quite a challenge…..but chocolates, crisps and sweets look the same in any language 😉 Although we did buy fruit too!!

Then it was back to the hotel for an earlyish night…we were way too excited to sleep immediately. And we still had a midnight excursion to go on…..yes we were heading out to see the Northern lights!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the closest we got to ‘northern lights’ 😉

Cémanthe had booked us on an excursion the next day to the totally unpronouncable – Þingvellir Nature reserve; <insert : a site of historical, cultural, and geological importance, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland>, then the Gullfoss waterfalls and the North American and Eurasian rift. OMG!!!!! Seriously!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

incredible landscape

day two to follow……

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Another of my 2014 highlights was going to Iceland for 3 days with my daughter. In fact it was exactly 1 year ago today that we landed in this most incredible place. What an experience.  I cannot even begin to tell you how extraordinary that country is…….blog to follow….eventually. 🙂

3days in liceland

Cémanthe at the geysers

But what I can say for now is that it was one of the most fascinating and amazing places on the planet.

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One the highlights of my 2014 year was seeing my brother again after quite some time 🙂

We had a really lovely evening together and I felt that a lot of barriers that had been put up came down (mostly from my side). Our family has such a lot of baggage from a really topsy-turvy childhood and so often resentments and misunderstandings have stood in the way of what could/should be a loving relationship.

It’s amazing to me how things that happened in our childhood can have such long-term effects…even right into adulthood…..I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to get to know my brother better. I shudder to think this may never have happened.  His lovely wife, my sister-in-law had a lot to do with the fences initially being brought down and the relationship to start being rebuilt. She is truly the best sister-in-law a person could ever hope for.

my younger brother & me :)

my younger brother & me 🙂

He was over in London for a couple of days in September last year and we met up one night when I too was in London and had an altogether lovely evening just talking and walking and talking.  This photo was a #selfie 😉 taken on the Southbank near the Oxo Tower and Gabriel’s Wharf.

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Hello dear lovely people.

weobley, herefordshire, black and white villages of the uk, historical villages of the uk

not the horse I am on…but you get the picture 😉

Just dropping by to let you know that after much deliberation, soul-searching and missing London desperately….I have reactivated 3 Days in London…I’m back….In mind and spirit if not body 😉

big ben and westminster palace

another of my favourite quotes

That’s still difficult and although I do manage the odd day/s here and there, largely I am working and because I now have to travel all the way to Broadstairs between jobs, and since it is criminally expensive to travel by train to London for a day…I can’t spend as much time in the city as I would like. But, there we go.  Broadstairs is gorgeous and I am loving the fresh sea air and walks on the beach with my chica, (who I might add is looking so much happier and healthier and less stressed since she has moved there….3 months already can you believe!!!),

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

beautiful sunset on the beach at Broadstairs….that is Cémanthe in the distance

and the extraordinary sunrises I get to see; they’re something else (altho that won’t last for long coz the days are getting longer and the sun is rising earlier and soon it will arise before I am prepared to!!! LOL).  Hence the reason winter is one of my favourite seasons…..it’s the only time of the year I get to watch a sunrise.   7/8am is way more reasonable than 4am!!!

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

sunrise in Viking Bay, Broadstairs

So, here’s the thing, I have started up/continued with 3 Days in London.  Partly inspired by the 3DIL App…after ignoring it for 3 months and not updating it or anything, the downloads increased by nearly 2,000 to in excess of 4,500 downloads….. so, as you can imagine, when I saw that, I was like WOW…okay so I can’t let these people down and since the ‘business’ is not yet viable to sell, I have decided to activate things again and just get on with it. You may have noticed a lot more activity lately on the twitter profile and I have opened a new instagram account for 3daysinlondon as well as which I am back on my facebook page….I am however going to try and avoid the 2014 burn-out due to my obsession with the city.

london and the river thames

one of my favourite views, upstream from Tower Bridge

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” — Samuel Johnson

I spent a lot of the latter part of 2014 deliberating and after an intense coaching session on the 3rd January, with my wonderful daughter (who is a qualified coach), I am now moving forward with more deliberation and focus.  I also discovered that I have in fact achieved my life’s goal….”to have a roof over my head while I travel”.   Only it isn’t quite in the form/way that I meant when I said it……as in “I would like to have a camper-van and travel to different parts of the country for/at my leisure”, the goal has manifested itself in my job…wherein I get to travel to different parts of the country and I always have a roof over my head while working!!! Go figure! LOL  so back to the drawing board on that and I shall have to advise the universe of exactly what it is that I want/would like (it doesn’t do to be demanding….I’ll ask nicely).

a mobile home

a mobile home = a roof over my head while I travel

So after the coaching session, I’ve now given myself 5 years in which to build 3 Days in London up into a viable business and that’s where my focus will be….besides working, of which I will be doing a lot in the next year or so. I turn 60 this year and the sudden realisation that I am nearing retirement age (urgh! how did that happen so quickly) gave me a kick up the proverbial *** to start saving…which means I have to work more …blergh!!!  That means I don’t get to as many events as I would like or spend anywhere near as much time in the city as I would love….but you can’t have it all…..so for now I have made my peace with life as it is and just making the most of wherever I am.

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

wish you were here….

I’ve also had to give up my membership of the Historic Royal Palaces and Kew Gardens, which is terribly sad, but seems no point paying for something that I am not going to be able to visit for the foreseeable future…..I shall save the money instead.

hampton court palace

beautiful Hampton Court Palace

In other news, I have been growing my hair now for the last two years and it is now unbelievably… down to my waist!! The intention is to donate it to charity for wigs for people who have lost theirs during cancer treatment.  I’ll be setting up a justgiving link to go with the donation as you wouldn’t believe it but women who have lost their hair only get a synthetic wig from the NHS which I suppose is reasonable as they are expensive….did you know that a real hair wig costs anything between £200 – £2,000….which is extraordinary.  So the plan is to have it cut while I am in London in Feb, as it is now driving me nuts and gets hooked on everything. And don’t even talk to me about washing it….lordy what a mission that is.

Besides that, we went to Canterbury 🙂 Yayyyy!!! Entered via the West Gate (or was it North?) and finally I have visited one of the cities in the UK that I was so desperate to see.  It turned out to be so very different to what I was expecting and ever so fascinating with seriously old houses.  I will write on that shortly.

the maot tearooms in canterbury

The Moat Tearooms on the right….a 15th century house

I also managed to get up to London for the 2015 New Year fireworks and although I didn’t have my usual front row seat due to himself Boris J introducing a fee #booBoris and me being the stubborn person I am refusing to pay for something that was free before and quite frankly in my humble opinion as a Londoner (well not officially right now…but still….) I should be able to go for free…..I did however, get a spot on Horse Guards and although I couldn’t see what was happening in the lower regions of the London Eye, I get to see the wonderful display above.  My gosh, they certainly are a sight to see.   More on that later.

new year fireworks in london

fabulous spectacle – New Year in London

So in the world of Cindy, all is well.  I’m back in Essex with a client I visited last year…..and more on that later too 😉 or else this will end up a book instead of a blog.

essex and kent counties of the uk

from Essex (work) to Kent (home)

 See y’all 🙂

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I guess it had to happen someday…moving away from London.

views of london

when a man is tired of London……

Yes, we’ve moved….okay technically we moved nearly 3 months ago, but what with one thing and another I haven’t had time to sit down a write about it. So after living in the area; 4 years for her and 3 years for me, my daughter decided to move from Richmond to Broadstairs….

broadstairs

Broadstairs – a seaside town in Kent

Here’s the thing. My daughter wanted to have a change of scenery, to get away from the noise and hustle and bustle, pollution and grime of the big city…or as they called it in the ‘olden days’ – the ‘big smoke’. We may not have much smoke by way of coal and wood fires these days, but the emmissions from cars, trucks and vans more than makes up for that!! It always gives me a start when returning from a trip overseas to fly in over London and see the levels of pollution…..urgh, we live in that! So I was totally sympathetic to her wanting to get out of it. She had been longing to move to the countryside/seaside for ever such a long time, to escape to peace and quiet, but I suspect she held off so long because of me…knowing how much I loved London and because we really were, despite the freezing cold house in winter and noisy upstairs tennants, very happy in our little house in Richmond. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and so the decision was made.

richmond

Richmond Riverside

After many weekends away and trips to various seaside towns, some that made her go ooooo and others that generated a blergh…….a trip to Broadstairs yielded a delightful little house in a quiet street in a quaint seaside town….and her heart was stolen….she was sold …so to speak. I got a whatsapp message with images of the house and a ‘should I go for it’….yes, of course you should…..if it’s what you want then for sure go for it. And so she did, put the offer in and a few days or so later I got another whatsapp image…..’I got it!!!’ I was thrilled for her and devastated for me…although I think that’s probably quite a strong word as I had more or less by then, due to previous circumstances mentioned, decided to quit London and the business of London and move away. So this was actually ideal timing.

viking bay broadstairs

Viking Bay – Broadstairs

We had a final breakfast at our favourite café in St Margarets; La Creperie Bretonne

la creperie bretonne

our favourite breakfast place in St Margarets

Boxes were obtained, sorting began and soon our possessions were being whittled down and packed into what one hoped would be a few boxes…hah!!! Never underestimate the volume of stuff one collects over the years. However, I did a massive purge and all the personal development tapes, dvd’s, videos and boxes of books that I very foolishly wasted my money on in 2007/2008 took a hike….in other words, I destroyed the lot!!! Yes, I spent hours ripping up tapes, tearing books into shreds and destroying cds and dvds. I know this seems like a wilful act of destruction, but my feelings about this invasive industry still run very high. I am still smarting at the pervasive and underhand tactics they use to get you to sign up to their very expensive courses and I’m still paying the price; emotionally, mentally and financially. They sell you on the idea that by doing their course, your life will change….well it did, but not for the better…..especially financially. (and yes, I have written the book!) LOL But I digress….

So finally after much packing and dumping and selling and heart-wrenching decisions, we were packed up and ready to go…..and at the beginning of October (yes, I know, it’s taken that long) the van (please note the word ‘van’) arrived to collect all our boxes and things to begin the long trek to Broadstairs. It’s 80 miles…..and a very long 80 miles too may I add. We’re now closer to Belgium and France than we are to London!!! Go figure!! hahaha.

viking bay broadstairs

beneath the clouds is Belgium – sunset in Viking Bay

Anyway, getting back to the ‘van’, my lovely daughter had moved any number of times in her life, but never a major move besides one some years ago that we would rather consign to the annuls of history along with the jerk who was her husband at the time, and she had acquired quite a lot of furniture and household stuff in the four years we lived at Richmond. So when she got a ‘man-with-a-van’ and his wife in to give her an estimate of volume and cost, both she and they totally underestimated the amount of stuff there was…..and lo and behold the van, when it arrived on moving day, was too small. However, I am very good at puzzles, and did make a really good effort to squeeze everything in, I heaved and moved and shoved and jiggled and juggled boxes and furniture, and managed, much to the amazement of the van man and his sidekick, to get so much stuff in to the van that they were well impressed. In fact I quite simply put them to shame. I did in the process end up with a body covered in bruises and bloodied arms and shins. I looked like I had been to war! They should have paid me for doing their job. Hah!! But unfortunately she had to quickly scout around and order another van to collate and take with her the rest of the stuff left over. We ended up with a truck that cost as much again as the first quote and was that big it could have easily managed the whole bleeding lot. But, since much was already packed in the van and they had a few days ago given her the option to cancel, we felt we had to just go with what we had…and I wasn’t of a mind to unpack the bloody van again.

So everything in and away we went, barring some of my stuff……I hung onto the house as long as I could and since we had paid rent up to a certain date, I was determined to do as much in London as I could before I had to go. Crikey, it’s a long way….not to Tipperary but to Broadstairs. We finally made it and then there was unpacking to do. Firstly, I got stuck in and offloaded the van in double quick time, they really should have paid me….and very foolishly I didn’t get them to take the boxes upstairs, but had them pile the darn things in the dining area. Urgh!!! Stupid. Then they tried to get the bed bases up the stairs…..hmmmmm, yes, well….bearing in mind it was an old house, the people were not only thinner but shorter in ‘those’ days and as it turned out the damn staircase was too narrow and turned at too sharp an angle to allow us to get the bases past the first few steps. Bleeding heck…now what? So the mattress went up and (please don’t tell the landlord) but we took the bannister off the wall the next day and tried again…still to no avail, and to this day they are still stacked in the dining area…..but the boxes…..yes the boxes. Hmmm.

Now you might ask, where was my daughter while all this was happening…..well she, poor baby, had just come out of surgery after having a heart monitor stuck into her breastbone and was incapacitated. So Mama, did her thing….I’ve also had years of practice after having moved house on an average of about once every 6 months before she was born and 14 times in the 21 years after that, I had plenty of experience.

Once the vans were unpacked we set out to explore and have a very welcome cup of tea. Broadstairs is an absolute delight.

beach huts broadstairs

colourful beach huts in Broadstairs

Quirky shops, narrow roads, a rumbunctious pub, all sorts of fantastical items that have washed up onto the beach over the years, fantastic views, long stretches of secluded beaches, unobstructed views of the sunrise over the sea, a history that goes as far back as the Vikings and probably further, hence the name Viking Bay, a chapel that dates from the early 1600’s, little tea shops and home to the Charles Dickens Museum and Bleak House!!! Yes, yer man Charles Dickens used to summer in Broadstairs. Some of his books were written there and of course ‘Bleak House’….sitting for all the world bold as brass on the clifftop.

Bleak House, Broadstairs

Bleak House, Broadstairs

Marvelous. Once I had my girl settled in as much as could be, I headed back to London for my great London walkabout and my goodbye London excursions. Sadly I didn’t get to do or even see everything I wanted but I did a heck of a lot.

travelling in the uk

my luggage – from St Margarets to Broadstairs

 

Once I finally cut the strings that bound me to London I hopped on a train with 2 large, very large suitcases, (one suitcase handle broke before I had gone 10 feet along the pavement to the station) and a reusable bag of groceries…..and made my sorry way to Broadstairs.

First to Clapham Junction, then to Broadstairs and a cab to the house. Not at all sure how I did that journey, but it seems I must have managed because I did eventually get to my destination. Mind you the staff on South West Trains were ever so helpful and the Train Conductor helped me on and off with all my bags, bless him.

And so to Broadstairs.

viking bay broadstairs

Viking Bay – Broadstairs

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