There are so many things I haven’t done

Does it really matter, you ask?

Perhaps not, but now seems to be an appropriate time, past the age of 65, to take stock.

We have achieved a lot in the last 15 or so years once the children had grown up and could look after themselves.

Unlike a lot of more modern couples who are doing the traveling in their 20’s and 30’s then having children, we chose to do it the other way around.

To me, it seemed easier to deal with teenagers when we were in our 40’s rather than our 60’s.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can truthfully say we were right.

We were older and wiser when we traveled and more aware of the dangers around us, sometimes overlooked or ignored by a youthful devil may care attitude.

But, in saying that ….

No, I don’t think I’ll be getting to see Mt Kilimanjaro, observing the wild animals in the Serengeti, climbing Mt Everest, or seeing the ancient pyramids.

Which is a sad state of affairs given the world has changed so much in recent years and has pretty much ruled out going to a lot of places, and in particular, the middle east, and because of COVID 19, just about everywhere else.

But, if it is ever possible before I die, I still want to go to the Greek Islands, and, Santorini is at the top of my travel bucket list.

We’ve been to London.  We’ve been to Paris and Euro Disney.  We’ve been to Rome and seen the ancient ruins.  We’ve been to Vienna, Schonbrunn Palace, and, particularly for us, a visit to Swarovski crystal world, near Innsbruck, we’ve been to Salzburg, and been on the Sound of Music tour.

We’ve been to Florence and loved it, we’ve been to Venice and loved that too, and we’ve spent a few days in the heart of Tuscany, and want to go back for longer, much longer.

In fact, that’s the second item on the travel bucket list.

We’ve also been to Singapore and Hong Kong, at first out of necessity as an airline stopover, but then we went back to see the city and tourist, and non-tourist attractions.

I will not forget staying at the Hong Kong Conrad hotel as a Diamond Hhonors member.  Oh, the memories.

We’ve also stayed on the French Riviera, in a timeshare apartment in Antibes where every morning when out back you had a view of the shimmering Mediterranean if the sun was out.

Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, the billionaire’s yachts in Antibes harbor, Monte Carlo and ‘that’ casino, taking the same drive along the coast as Grace Kelly did in To Catch a Thief, and feeling like James Bond arriving for a new adventure, minus the half-million-dollar sports car.

But, now, crashing back to earth with a very hard thump ….

Travel in the future is looking difficult for both of us, not only financially but from a health aspect.  We are both not as sprightly as we used to be.

Yet given the restraints and if it is at all possible, aside from the Greek Islands and Tuscany, the next items on the list are:

Germany, visiting both Berlin, from a cold war aspect, the Brandenburg gate springs to mind, and Munich at the time of the Octoberfest.  As a beer drinker that is also high on the bucket list.

Scotland, more so since we’ve started watching Outlander, and besides being a beer drinker, I am also partial to a good Single Malt, the Whiskey trail.

Ireland, because my wife’s previous name was Murphy and at some point, in the long distant past some relatives emigrated to Australia, and she would like to visit the country of her forebears.

But with the current state of the world, our health issues, and that all-important requisite money, or the lack of it, perhaps it’s time to visit other parts of our own country.

Perhaps it’s time to do a culinary trip, particularly down south.  It’s practical and achievable and safe.

And it’s a big country.

A photograph from the Inspirational bin – 28

Just what everyone needs in their backyard:  A Gazebo, or a small bandstand!

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Often when we go to different places, it gives us ideas, sometimes ideas beyond what is possible.

I have always wanted a gazebo, perhaps not on the same grand scale as the one above, but one where we can put a BBQ and a few seats, and relax on a sunny afternoon.

Shade, a cool breeze, a cold glass of wine or beer, and the aroma of meat cooking on an open flame.

But…

Reality sets in.  The backyard isn’t big enough, so my dream will stay just that.

But as an idea for a story, I suspect this might be the place where you first met the love of your life in circumstances that become the stuff of legends.

It can definitely be a meeting place, whether to carry on illegal activities, whether it’s after sneaking away to be with someone whom others will not approve, or whether it is many, many years later to reminisce, or to reconnect.

As usual, the possibilities are endless.

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

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I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

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An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

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The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

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St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

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The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

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Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

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And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

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Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Mount Ngauruhoe is apparently still an active volcano, has been for 2,500 years or so, and last erupted on 19th February 1975, and reportedly has erupted around 70 times since 1839.

The mountain is usually climbed from the western side, from the Mangatepopo track.

This photo was taken in summer from the Chateau Tongariro carpark.

In late autumn, on one of our many visits to the area, the mountain was covered with a light sprinkling of snow and ice.

On our most recent visit, this year, in winter, it was fully covered in snow.

It can be a breathtaking sight from the distance.

If only something made sense…

It seems rather fortuitous that we have a holiday at the end of the year.

I mean, who sat around a table however many years ago and decided that holidays like Christmas should be at the end of the year.  And who decided one half of the world could freeze to death on their holidays, and the other half burn?

At the end of a long year at that, you know, 52 weeks, 12 months, 365 days, where even when some of us get a weekend off once in a blue moon, it still seems like we’re working 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

So, who decided a week would have seven days, a year would have 12 months, and while we’re at it, who decided to give each month a different name?  And who named names?

Was it Father Time.  As children, we all learn about father time, or has political correctness stepped in and we now call ‘father time’, ‘person time’.

Anyway…

Who do we blame for this mess, we have to blame someone.  It’s not our fault.  If it were up to me I’d have Christmas in September when there’s more temperate weather in both halves of the world.

And who decided that Christmas should be attached to Winter and not Summer?

It’s like the whole mess was designed by a group of academics majoring in philosophy sitting in a back room and fed Coca Cola and Pizzas until they came up with an answer, which was probably to send it all to a parliamentary committee made up from candidates from Bellevue Asylum.

The same people, by the way, who are responsible for coordinating traffic lights.

And then there’s that other mystery I’ve never quite understood.

If you work for the FBI your first name suddenly becomes ‘Agent’.  Everyone gets that name change whether you like it or not.

Which is much the same as all Russians once upon a time calling each other ‘comrade’.  Beats the hell, I suppose, out of remembering peoples first names, especially in Russia where, to us, they’re unpronounceable.

Sorry.

You can tell I haven’t got over last Chrismas.

Nor missing out, again, to COVID restrictions.

Perhas things will be better next Christmas.

Is there something wrong?

I asked myself that question when about 1000 odd words into a current short story, one that I continue to go back to, but found an initial reluctance to write, and now seems to be difficult to continue.

Is the reason because I don’t feel like writing, that I’ve written myself into a corner, the story isn’t flowing, or there’s something else I’d rather be doing…

Like, scouring the internet…

Working on writing some blog posts, like this one…

Checking my email…

Checking my other blogs to see how many people have viewed my recent posts,

Or just puddle with anything other than what I should be doing.

The thing is, I know where most of the stories are going, it’s just a matter of sitting down, picking up the threads, and writing. Certainly, I could be working on one or another right now.

But, something is nagging at me.

I thought it was that I wanted to write another Being Inspired piece, having the photo I wanted to use for inspiration in my head. I sat down this morning and started it, and got seven or eight paragraphs done, and then it was time to go down to breakfast.

Attention diverted.

I could have written more after breakfast, but that seemed to segue into a chat over coffee that ran into lunch. It’s odd how it seems there is so much to talk about.

Then it’s been one excuse after another that has kept me from picking up that story and running with it. I could do it now, but that reluctance remains.

Perhaps tomorrow.

For now, I’m going to work on some crosswords and see if that doesn’t inspire me, and if it doesn’t I could always have an early night.

It’s the same every time we go away, on the run all day doing touristy stuff, making notes for later on, on the run, and then getting back to the room exhausted. After all, there is so much to see and do.

Maybe I’ll just reflect on today and worry about it tomorrow, except…

We have an equally hectic day planned.

Maybe I’ll get that holiday from writing after all.

I should be on holiday but…

You would think that going away for a few days, you would be able to drag yourself away from writing.

You would think, after doing it every day for the last six months, it would be time to take a break. But, the trouble with good intentions and being in a different place, there’s a ton of new and different places and things to write about.

We are away primarily for a wedding, with part of it being a Chinese Tea Ceremony, and at course I’ve been reading up on it, and there is any number of descriptions, making it difficult to get a clear idea of what happens.

I guess I’m going to have to wait until the day, next Friday.

In between, there will be a dinner that will have as the centrepiece, Peking duck, my absolute favourite duck dish.

I had it last in Hong Kong two years back before the riots at the restaurant in the Peninsular hotel, and it was exquisite.

Then it’s my brother’s 70th birthday. As he is working feverishly on the family history, and having jetted off many times overseas tracking down the long lost relatives we knew nothing about, it’ll be time for a progress report.

I must admit that some of those relatives have roused my writer’s curiosity. When I helped clear out my parent’s house after they moved into a retirement home, we found a great deal of ancestral material, the most interesting of which is, would you believe, was about my mother.

We have found a whole lot of letters she received from her first boyfriend and then from my father. It shows a side to her I never knew about, and a side to my father that given what I know of him, is totally out of character.

There will no doubt be more on this subject later.

And finally but not least there was a baby announcement, always a subject of much joy and happiness.

This is only day two. There is definitely more to come.

Searching for locations: Niagara Falls, Canada

We visited the falls in winter, just after Christmas when it was all but frozen.

The weather was freezing, it was snowing, and very icy to walk anywhere near the falls

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Getting photos is a matter of how much you want to risk your safety.

I know I slipped and fell a number of times on the ice just below the snowy surface in pursuit of the perfect photograph.  Alas, I don’t think I succeeded.

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The mist was generated from both the waterfall and the low cloud.  It was impossible not to get wet just watching the falls.

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Of course, unlike the braver people, you could not get me into one of the boats that headed towards the falls.  I suspect there might be icebergs and wasn’t going to tempt the fate of another Titanic, even on a lesser scale.  The water would be freezing.

Searching for locations: Driving in ice and snow, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern-day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers, and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Searching for locations: Hong Kong Park, Hong Kong

After arriving in Hong Kong early in the morning, we were taken to the Hong Kong Conrad Hotel where we were staying for several days.  We had a short sleep, then I took the grandchildren for a walk and we found Hong Kong Park, with a Fountain Plaza, waterways, a waterfall, and turtles.

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Part of the fountain area.

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Turtles resting on a rock

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A turtle about to go in the water

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The waterfall.

It was a pleasant surprise to find this park in such a highly built-up area.

Nearby was a multi-story underground shopping center that was huge, and very conveniently accessible from our hotel.