Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Sunday, March 26, 2017
|on the move yet again|
- Rental car return to Newcastle Airport
- Metro from airport to main rail station
- Direct train from Newcastle Central to Kings Cross (check out the onboard wifi and Virgin streaming entertainment app for unlimited films,etc.). I booked this by Trainline and used our Family and Friends railcard to seriously knock the price of tickets down.
- Check in to our accommodation
|collecting lions as we go: this one is nebuchadnezzar's|
|chessmen ahoy! prepare to be captured|
Saturday, March 25, 2017
|border hopping on a sunny but windy day (ahead of the snow)|
Spoiler: we did make it back to Edinburgh and escaped the industrial action. Apart from not much sleep the evening before, we landed in Edinburgh unscathed to pick up our hire car.
Dear reader - I sped over the Scottish border in a Smart Car...
lets it sink in ...
A four-door Smart car.
Not great for long distance, and it catches the wind like a kite.
So maybe I should say that we sailed over the scottish border into Northumberland.
|in its natural habitat|
This is by no means because of a late night out with friends, catching up with old times, cheering absent friends or playing Exploding Kittens.
Wee Guy and I checked out Barter Books, the British Library of secondhand books, which is conveniently within a 10 minute walk of our rental. It was busy around lunchtime but we still managed to find odd nooks to tuck ourselves into next to the books.
|most perfect bacon sandwich ever IMO ...|
|books. cohen. trains|
After a wander round Alnwick centre we ended up back at Barter Books for book #2 and cake :)
|stables and ghost|
Day 14 was family day, catching up with mother-in-law/Granny Kate for a chilly but enjoyable day at Seaton Delaval Hall. As stately homes go, this one went up with a whoosh! in 1822, with the west wing remaining roofless for around 40 years. Today it is an amazing architectural skeleton that allows visitors to see the bare bones that usually hide under layers of plaster and wood panelling.
The west wing is roofed and undergoing restoration - speaking with the guides gave us some insight into the history and the work currently underway to preserve the building. We also learned about the ghosts but luckily after we'd scrambled through the cellars.
More stately home visiting and this time to Bamburgh Castle on the coast. Wee Guy and I bounced up the winding roads in the Smart car (nope - never buying one) and spent the day checking out Lord Armstrong's pile and then paying our respects to Grace Darling.
... followed by packing ... where next?
Not much to note here, except that if we'd been visiting more National Trust properties like Seaton Delaval Hall it would have made sense to buy a membership to decrease admission fees.
Oh, and not sure if this is relevant but beware booking car hire online. Sometimes the cheapest option might not be as good as it sounds. I booked through what looked like an aggregator since the rates quoted were extremely low. however, when I checked the find print for zero deductible premiums I found out that even with zero, you still have to pay up. What brings it to zero is that you then have to put in a claim to the aggregator company ... ho hum.
I rented directly from Europcar, picking up at one airport and getting one-way hire (extra 46GBP) to drop off at another. My premium package to reduce the deductible to zero cost around 75GBP for four days hire plus around 30GBP for roadside assist. And I bought a full tank of gas for around 33GBP so I didn't need to hunt out a refueling stop before return.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
|my travel sidekick|
On our second day in Venice with vaporetto tickets, or in other words day ten of our spring break vacation (please try to pay attention), we vaporettoed the heck out of our travel privileges!
First stop - the Lido. Where we experienced cars on roads and the faded excellence of a seaside resort out of season. Closed down arcades and fenced off lookout towers. A chilly beach and grey skies.
|Guidecca seaside stroll|
|dragster from 18th century Venice, i presume|
... which of course is day four in Venice and thus day -1 of unlimited 48-hour vaporetto travel (you are paying attention?) was palazzo or bust. We ticked off the textile and costume museum at Palazzo Mocenigo and then navigated thru Dorsoduro to Ca' Rezzonica. The displays are incredible but what's even more impressive are the surroundings they are in - these are impressive palaces along the Grand Canal.
Even if you don't like the subject matter, the ornate staircases, mouldings, strangely lopsided door hanging and remnants of an opulent days-gone-by lifestyle are worth the visit. Again, the museums pass from Venezia Unica is worth the price. We didn't stay longer than about two hours in each museum so far on this trip; we stayed longer in the Doges Palace on our last, but paying full price imposes an arbitrary time-to-cost benefit ratio that discount passes don't guilt you with.
|yes, of course i managed another aperol spritzer :)|
|lots of floors of really expensive shopping|
and a good cafe
Packing took the rest of the evening, punctuated by taking the recycling out and then worrying about the Italian air handlers strike for the next day ... spoilers!
Monday, March 20, 2017
Friday, March 17, 2017
|in my happy place|
A lot of the shop windows contain identical glass pieces.
Some shops are expensive.
Some are very cheap.
Some loudly proclaim No Chinese Glass.
|sigh ... glass|
The glass museum, refurbished since our last visit was a treasure to view. The displays are beautifully spaced out and a feast for the glass lover's eyes. Historical pieces flow chronologically from Roman to modern, with educational videos on the various techniques exploited so brilliantly by the Murano artisans.
|sailing up to the Rialto on our budget tour|
Making even more use of the travel pass, we completed our Grand Canal voyage via ACTV vaporetto line #1, getting off at Casino and then walking home.
My ankle aches but my heart soars.
Already I want to come back to Venice!
|plotting the next trip?|
- Venezia Unica for travel passes - buy them online in advance then swap the voucher for tickets on the day. Choose from the daily or single tickets, or splash out on the far less restrictive multi-day options. I noticed that there is also an ACTV smartphone app that allows you to buy and download tickets to your device. Haven't used it yet but noting for the future ...
- Murano is easy to reach just check the ACTV routes and timetables. Check before boarding - a single word, Murano? is usually all that is needed. The vaporetto crews have been wonderful on both our trips.
- DIY budget tour the Grand Canal courtesy of your travel pass. Line 1 zigzags from San Marco all the way through; line 2 takes a faster passage through. If you're lucky and the boat is not packed, try sitting at the front and pretending this is your private gondola.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
|still not quite believing we're here ... St. Mark's Square, with the Doges Palace|
We were in Scotland, but thanks to EasyJet, we're now in Venice and staying in the same apartment as three years ago. :)
We arrived late last night and remembered our way thru the maze of calles and alleys and snickets little wider than a handspan. We carried our case over the bridge steps, followed the blue dot on Google maps, and buzzed in to see the amazing Giulia once more.
|apologies for the frenetic slideshow but google pics doesn't do movies from desktop :(|
scenes from the Natural History Museum, Ca' Pesaro Modern Art Gallery and various navigations
This morning we shopped in the most elegant grocery store I have ever seen, then missed a traghetto (OK, we couldn't find it), walked the bridge route across the Grand Canal to visit the Natural History museum and Ca' Pesaro, the modern art gallery.
In between the dead animal abundance of the former and the inspirational canvases of the second, we had our first gelato ... priorities.
And we keep pinching ourselves cos surely we must still be sleeping ... #backinvenice
|putting our heads together - Rodin, ebb and Martini/Gish|
- easy peasy Easyjet flight from Edinburgh to Venice, limits us trans-Atlantic travellers to only one piece of carry-on luggage and a max of 20kg for the suitcase #packlight
- purchase the onboard vouchers for food etc ahead of time ... but don't go nuts. They are only valid on the flight you specify :( #boughtalotofkitkats
- depending on where you are staying, the Alilaguna boat shuttles direct from the airport make a lot of sense. They are more expensive than the train or bus transfers and much cheaper than a private watertaxi. Book the voucher online and exchange on arrival at the ticket office. For us, the convenience works. It's also a great way to arrive in venice during daylight - there's nothing quite like seeing the city skyline 'floating' emerging above the lagoon surface. Maybe not an option if you don't travel well by boat ...
- visit the Venezia Unica website for all sorts of discounts and travel tips before arriving. We bought a museum pass for all 11 civic museums and have two days of unlimited vaporetto travel sorted. You want to do it ahead of travel since you need the printed vouchers to claim your tickets, etc.
- crossing canals is easy on foot if you can find a bridge; vaporettos are an expensive way of getting around for tourists unless you buy a pass (see above). The alternative is a 2 Euro ride on a gondola ferry or traghetto. Street maps of the city show where these cross the Grand Canal (apparently) but note, they are not regular and seem to run to their own schedules. It is however a cool way to get on the water.
|Schrodinger's traghetto perhaps - we saw it on the water but not at a landing|
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
|Interactivity rules at the museum|
Still bucket listing.
Day Five (Monday)
Wee Guy and I headed back in to Edinburgh, on an earlier train so we could get back before the dreaded end of off peak. Stopped for coffee in the excellent cafe in the basement of the National Galleries on the Mound and added a couple of pastries to start our day. He picked up the book he'd spied on our earlier visit; I mapped out a quick sketch.
|Gazing into the old town from the new|
From there we headed up the steps towards the Royal Mile and on to the museum in Chambers Street again. We highly recommend the interactive exhibits in the science and technology wing ... they all worked, unlike some other places we've visited recently cough cough hrmacmillanspacecentre ...
There's also a wonderful fashion and textile display, focusing on the influence from Scottish fabrics and designers.
|School and workplace|
For our lunch, we headed south past the university buildings - McEwan Hall where I graduated, Teviot Row student Union with the showers with unlimited hot water, and my beloved Green Banana Club of yore at Potterow - to the Dick Vet at Summerhall for lunch. For a former student, wandering the hallways and stepping into the old library brought back lots of memories (good, bad, terrifying). Instead of hospital kennels there are now a distillery, sweet shop and art installations. No more radioactive cats in quarantine! Summerhall is home to the largest Arts complex outside London. We had a very tasty lunch in one of the surgery lecturer's offices under the surgical suite that I worked in briefly!
|Late for a lecture?|
It felt almost as odd revisiting the Dick as it did working there immediately after qualifying ... and with my son along for the ride too.
From there we headed back to the museum to catch a few more exhibits (museums - best in small doses), before catching our off peak return.
|Rooftop Panorama at the museum|
- Family and Friends Railcard (£30) make train travel even cheaper
- Entry to the galleries and the museum is free; pay extra to see certain exhibitions. Free access to the museum roof deck is a must for sunny and clear days
- Summerhall is open all week though certain galleries are closed on Mondays. The lecture theatre were closed when we visited and so was the dissection room where the formalin fumes from the cadavers killed off my respiratory cilia :(
Monday, March 13, 2017
|lifeboat ahoy, but no whale ...|
So far ... family, friends, beaches and whales ...
Family - check
Friends - check
Beaches - check
Whale - so far unseen, even though we were in the right area :(
Day Three (Saturday)
Day three was family and friends day, catching up with an aunt, an uncle, a neighbour and a childhood friend. Also, catching up on bits and pieces of work that travel with me. Wee Guy went to hang out with a local friend and also learn that 'tea' means dinner over here.
Day Four (Sunday)
This morning we travelled along the coast to Kinghorn, to visit the lifeboat station. This charming little seaside village fields three full inshore lifeboat crews out of a population of 2,930. All boat crew must live within the village, and must not leave it while on call unless they arrange cover.
We saw the boat returning from a practice run, when the tractor unit picked it up on the trolley by driving into the waves. Then we chatted with crew and other volunteers (yes, the crew are volunteers too - they don't get paid for training or for going out on rescues).
... they're recruiting too, but I think the Wee Guy is a little young.
Later, we made our re-acquaintance with the local castle, another beach, took two busy terriers for a walk, and resumed a conversation that was started a year ago while shrugging off a few more grams of jet lag. Happy travels :)
Saturday, March 11, 2017
|sunshine, in march, in scotland ... #endofdays|
(subtitle: a real blog post)
We're on holiday.
To clarify, the 'we' is myself and the Wee Guy, and 'on holiday' means back in the UK visiting family.
So far, we've kicked jetlag (ok not quite but this time has been brutal), missed the off peak train travel back from Edinburgh and spent dinner time in the city, walked along the harbour, walked the dog, and walked round Edinburgh.
We've caught up with family, friends, old haunts and coffee.
We've caught sun and grey days.
We're missing home but having enough fun to not miss it too badly.
- Flight from Vancouver to Edinburgh via Heathrow.
- Use free airport wifi to Skype grandparents to let them know of our arrival and when to expect us. (Turn off all data, roaming etc. to avoid a nasty shock on return home).
- Test Canadian bank card in UK ATM - success!
- Airport shuttle into Fife.
- SIM cards from Three.co.uk - If you have a UK delivery address, send off in advance for a free pay-as-you-go SIM then pick up a top-up voucher at WH Smith or similar. Credit card top ups do not work unless you have a UK billing address :( Once topped up, convert your top up into an Add On that will last for 30 days for additional value.
|all sunny at the end of the harbour|
- Ugh jetlag migraine ... glorious sunshine not helping (scotland ... march ... sunshine ... wtf?)
- Slow walking with dog ... left behind by grandparents going longer route (oh the shame)...
- Pooh sticks from the bridge ... realise parenting failure as Wee Guy thinks nana is actually going to make him handle poo sticks ...
- Fail to obtain pre-booked rail tickets from station ticket machine a too jetlagged/post-migrainish to remember which credit card ... increase anxiety in Wee Guy who now does not believe he is under care of competent adult ...
- Afternoon nap ... unconscious for several hours ... Wee Guy discovers Doctor Who on Netflix again ... holiday plans now sorted!
|the Writers Museum: free entry and worth it to see |
inside this amazing building
- Ticket success requires insertion of most of my credit cards into machine.
- Train travel bucket list item checked
- Yo Sushi! lunch bucket list level achieved
- Brief arting stop at National Gallery to giggle at books, then onwards via Writers Museum and Royal Mile to National Museum on Chambers Street to catch up with soon-to-be Dr. Ryan for tea and cakes (and museums)
- bounce down the marble Scotsman Steps
- Off peak hours pah! Dinner in town. Bonus: seeing Edinburgh all lit up
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Or maybe selfies power your voyage of exploration for personal acceptance, understanding and confidence.
Universally reviled, or defended as an act of self-expression. A moment of attention-grabbing vanity or an opportunity for reflection—what exactly is the deal?
The earliest selfie was recorded in days when point-and-click was more like click-run-stand very still. Today, due to digital cameras in general and the omnipresent smartphone in particular, more than one million self-portraits are taken and uploaded to social media every day.
Analysts suggest that selfie-taking is narcissistic, that men posting selfies display signs of psychopathy and that all it really shows is that we haven’t moved on from self-obsessed toddlerhood.
Described as a marker of the YOLO generation, selfies provoke outrage and despair. It’s catchy to point the finger at deaths from extreme-risk selfie-taking. Selfies also seem to indicate social and humanitarian obliviousness; one artist started a Yolocaust collection, collecting images taken at Holocaust memorials, then Photoshopping them to show how disrespectful and unaware the photographers seemed to their surroundings.
Selfies for good?
— Scuttle (@chloedg11) February 7, 2017
Okay, not an actual arm’s-length selfie … but there’s also a turtle (a giant one) involved!
However, selfies also get some positive press. Harnessing their self-promotion aspect for communication spreads awareness and exploration.
- The ice bucket challenge selfies boosted online donations to ALS research by 400% in just one month. This funded the discovery of a new gene associated with the disease.
- Vancouver photographer Vivienne McMaster uses the #beyourownbeloved hashtag to grow a community founded on selfies to explore and enhance body positivity.
- And science also uses the selfie to push against boundaries, both social and research. Who remembers #distractinglysexy? Female scientists took to social media to mock a senior scientist’s assertions that women were not a positive presence in the lab. And how about the highly personable shares between Philae, Rosetta and their “handlers” back on earth that captured the moment for space exploration?
Or maybe you use them as another way of archiving, forming a visual diary of events and happy memories—all at arm’s-length (or selfie stick, if you prefer).
The first images taken from space came from cameras aboard a 1946 U.S.-launched V2 rocket. They show the topography from around 105 km above the surface, five times higher than ever before.
The Explorer VI satellite launched in August 1959 took snapshots of our beautiful blue planet from 17,000 km above Mexico. This one captured cloud cover over a sunlit patch of the Central Pacific Ocean—a little fuzzy, but hey, that’s us!
The crew from Apollo 8 took the first human-powered selfies way back in 1968 as the spacecraft orbited the moon. The photos show the earth as a whole planet from around 30,000 km away, in all its blue and clouded wonder. The astronaut crew also captured the first earthrise over the lunar surface.
And then there’s the late Valentine’s gift: a selfie from 6,054,587,000 km away. Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot came from Voyager 1 as the space probe looked back one last time before heading off into the void of deep space.
So, what do we see from these (very) long-distance views of self? Do we see bad hombres or mounting terror, the need to build walls, perhaps? Or could we gain from their self-reflection? As Sagan himself suggested, the pale blue dot “selfie” highlights how much we need to care for our unique and fragile tiny globe in space.
from Amanda – Talk Science to Me http://ift.tt/2mfxRpm