About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


One of the paramount experiences I had during my holiday in England was to ride the underground trains. Once you get used to the idea of being up to 55.2 meters/181 feet (Hampstead Line) beneath the city in an unescapable tube, it's really not too painful; rather, it can be quite a pleasant journey. I travelled on the Docklands Light Railway (aka the DLR), the Overground, the Underground, and the trains that became either the OG or the UG.

In order to get to Wales, I had to go to Paddington Station, which serves the West country. It is located between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and in 1842, Queen Victoria arrived at this station with her husband Prince Albert. It was their first trip and the engineer put the pedal to the metal, getting the train up to an average of 44 mph! Apparently, "Prince Albert wasn’t too happy with the driver’s speed-demonic ways and, after disembarking at Paddington, he scolded the driver with the words; “Not so fast next time, Mr Conductor”!" Eventually, a royal waiting room was built at the station and it was used by the royal family right up until the start of World War II.  Now it is used as a first-class waiting lounge. During the war, railway lines (which were strategically important in carrying troops and vital supplies) were a key target for Nazi bombers. In 1941, Paddington Station was hit by a particularly powerful parachute-deployed bomb.
Upon my arrival at the station, I was very impressed with the architecture and ease of getting on the correct train.  Ticket in hand, we stood with hundreds of other travellers looking intently at the departure board, waiting until our destination was highlighted to indicate which platform we should rush!  At that instant, everyone took off at a rapid pace, passing the First Class cars and hurrying to obtain a good seat.
The first time I went to Wales with my friend Cathy, we were too slow off the mark and ended up with seats separated by the entire length of the car.  However, my second time to Wales with Lorne in hand, I was prepared to rush the line and told him to just keep me in his sight and follow as fast as he could (what with his bad foot and all).  We managed to get in the "Quiet Car" together and I let him have the window seat to see all the lovely scenery as we passed through the plush panoramas.
But I digress.  When we got back to Paddington Station after four perfect days, we noticed a kiosk that sold Paddington bears and all sorts of paraphernelia relating to him.
Also, there was a statue of Paddington Bear near the station cafe.  I wanted to have my photo taken with it, but there were too many people hanging around and sitting right beside it.  So this photo is from Mr. Google. 
When I was preparing this post, I thought I should share a bit of background about this well-known bear.  After all, even I have a Paddington Bear of my own!

According to the story, he comes from Peru, having been sent to England by his Aunt Lucy who went to live in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima.  She taught him to speak English and arranged for him to stow away in a ship's lifeboat.  Upon arrival, he met Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two children who took him home with them to their home at 32 Windsor Gardens.  Paddington wasn't sure how old he was so the Browns decided to start at one and that he should have two birthdays - June 25 and December 25. That was just the beginning of the adventures of a little bear who has become extremely popular all over the world. The following youtube shows the very first episode of the original 1975 series.

As usual, profound thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt, the creator of ABC Wednesday, and her peppy and personable pack of assistants who keep this meme popping!  Without them, ABCW would quickly pass away into the proverbial void of outer space.

Enjoy the episode, "Please Take Care of This Bear." At less than 4 minutes, it's really quite pleasant.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

O is for OXFORD

This week, I'd like to share my visit to Oxford, England.  I'd known Anne, who lives in Oxfordshire, for several years through blogging and on Facebook but we had never met in person.  We arranged for me to come up from London by train and she'd meet me at the station.  (her photo at right) Well, it was as if we'd known each other forever!  We got along so well and she had planned a fabulous day for us.

First stop was Cafe Nero, a well-known coffee chain in England where we had lovely cappuccinos and talked and talked until we figured we should get going on our walking tour.  Long story short, she took me on the most fascinating walk all around the center of Oxford where I saw the most magnificent architecture ever!  You'll never see architecture like that here in western Canada!  We went to Christ Church Cathedral and its memorial gardens all the way down past University College to High Street.  We walked over Magdalen Bridge before cutting back and going down under the bridge to where you can rent punts at the Boathouse there.

We headed back up High Street past St. Edmund's Hall and Queen's College where we found a lovely place for lunch and then ambled into Mr. Simm's Olde Sweet Shoppe where we spent ages admiring all the shelves full of varieties of candy and cookies.  Again, you would never find a place like this where I live; my grandchildren would think they'd died and gone to Heaven!  We then cut through a narrow alley to view Radcliffe Camera, passing a quaint little cafe "Vaults Garden."  The next stop was one of my favourites because I'd seen the location many times while watching "Morse" and "Inspector Lewis" on BBC Canada and our Knowledge Network - the Bodleian Library. If you're an afficionado of these shows, you'll know that Morse loved opera and Lewis is beginning to understand it.  Hence, the music from Puccini's "La Boheme" in my slideshow.
Then it was up to Broad Street and a foray into Blackwell's Bookshop, apparently very famous in England, before passing by Trinity College on our way to St. John's College. Anne had decided that we would go and take a look inside this college because the church, in particular, was well worth a look.  However, it was closed to the public, so we chatted with the porter at the office just inside the gate and he allowed us to take a look at the courtyard and take a few photos if we wanted.  While Anne was still looking around, I continued chatting and mentioned I'd come all the way from Vancouver, Canada, and when he realized how far I'd come, he said to go along inside the church.  How obliging and kind!

It was beginning to get a bit dark by then so we decided to go to a lovely French restaurant that Anne had discovered once while in town.  We headed up St. Giles to the "Pierre Victoire" where we aced a lovely table in the attic area, even though we didn't have a reservation, it was 7pm and it closed at 8pm.

Anne had to catch her bus home and I had to catch the train back to London so we parted ways somewhere along George Street.  Anne asked me to text her when I got home, but that wasn't until after 11pm because I got lost somewhere along the way between the underground and the DLR - not a good time of night to be wandering around East London!  But I made it home safe and sound and went to sleep with visions of one of the most beautiful cities I've ever had the pleasure of visiting and of a new "real" friend that I hope, one day, will visit me so I can return the pleasure of being tour guide! Enjoy the slideshow!
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Sunday, October 14, 2012

N is for NEWPORT

N is for Newport - Wales, that is.  The one place my DL wanted to visit was Newport as his grandfather was born there.  He has the whole clan listed in his grandfather's Bible and Grandpa Herbert was born in the late 1800s but immigrated to Canada when he was in his twenties.  Since my paternal grandmother was also born in Wales, both of us think of ourselves as part Welsh.  Before we went together, I visited my friend Jane with my travel partner Cathy and stayed for 3 nights.  I'd stayed with Jane 6 years ago when she kindly showed me around Newport and Cardiff, but this was Cathy's first time in Wales.

We caught the train in Salisbury around 10:30 am and arrived at 12:30 - not a long trip at all.  Jane and her friend Neil, along with Freyja - Jane's new dog - met us at the station and after dropping our bags, we went out to Duckpool Farm where another of Jane's friends lives.  It's a beautiful location with lots of property and a paddock, just right for someone who owns a horse.  That evening, Neil took us all our for a lovely dinner at a traditional Welsh pub called "Cripple Creek." (photo at left)

After a breakfast of cereal and yogurt, and visiting Jane's new horse, we three girls headed out for a day touring the area around Newport.  First stop was Abergavveny for gas and then we drove to a town called Crickhowell.  We strolled through the narrow streets and arrived at the local church where I took a few photos of the beautiful rolling hills beyond the cemetery.  The locals were obviously still celebrating the Queen's Jubilee as there were flags and pennants everywhere. Next stop was Hay-on-Wye, which is world renowed for books and bookstores. We stopped at The Granary for lunch where Cathy & I tried "bubble and squeak."  Fully fortified, we walked down to the River Wye and strolled along its banks.

Next stop was the Skirrid Inn, famous for being the oldest public house in Wales. The first record of its existence was in 1110!  From earliest times, courts were held on the first floor, complete with a Judge's retiring room.  People believe that the Master-Hangman, Bloody Judge Jeffreys (1644-1689) sat in judgement at the Skirrid and many men met their end hanging from a beam.  The scorch and drag marks of the rope can still be seen to this day.  The owner, Geoff Fiddler, was there upon our arrival and when I told him I have Welsh blood, he offered to allow us upstairs to view the rooms where people can stay.  As we cautiously crept up the stairs - past the rope - we suddenly heard a blood-curdling scream, followed by our own screams and the sound of 3 hearts pounding in fright.  But it was just Geoff trying to scare the bejeezus out of us.  Well, mission accomplished.  And then we all howled with laughter! There were 3 rooms and one actually felt like there was a ghost in there! We all felt a chill go up our backs when we went in. If you'd like to read a bit more about the haunted areas of Wales, just click here.

Our final stop of the day was at Llanthony Abbey where I took lots of photos of the ruins.  It was an Augustinian Abbey and is found in a secluded valley in the Black Mountains, dating back to 1100 when a Norman nobleman, Walter deLancy, came upon a ruined chapel and decided to stay and dedicate himself to solitary prayer and study.

Newport has had a great history since medieval times and then it became the focus of coal exports in the 19th century. Now it is famous for its transporter bridge, of which there are only 8 in the entire world.  It was built in 1906, and it was fascinating to see it span the River Usk and learn how it functions.  The river banks are very low so near to the city center so an ordinary bridge, which would need very long approach ramps, wouldn't be able to allow ships to pass underneath it. Also, a ferry wouldn't be able to cross during low tides.  To read more about the bridge, just click here.
 Our third day in Wales was spent in Swansea and Rhossili, which I'll tell you about in a later post.   Naturally, I must thank Mrs. Nesbitt for creating ABC Wednesday many years ago and keeping it going now with her numerous assistants. I hope you enjoy this short slideshow I made up using my own photos.  The music is "Angel of Monmouth" which I thought suitable since Newport is in Monmouthsire. My most noteworthy memory of Wales is that, even under grey skies, it is so colourful, especially the deep greens!  See for yourself.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Monday, October 08, 2012


The ISLE OF MAN is a magical, mystical, and magnificent island situated in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland.  Evidence shows that colonisation started around 6500 BC when people arrived by sea.  People survived by living in crude shelters and hunting and fishing for food.  With the Iron Age came the Celtic influence and by the 5th century, the Manx language developed out of Irish and Scottish Gaelic. By the 8th century, the Vikings arrived and began to settle here.  We arrived in mid-afternoon on a beautiful sunny day and were greeted by the Tower of Refuge in the harbour at Douglas.

"The Tower of Refuge stands upon St. Mary's Isle (also known as Connister Rock) - a marine hazard upon which many ships approaching Douglas Harbour wrecked due to low visibility or bad weather. The miniature castle was built in response to the 1830 destruction of the packet St. George with local donations. The project, undertaken by Sir William Hillary and designed by architect John Welch, was completed in 1832 and increased the visibility of the waterway hazard as well as provided a storage place for dry provisions in case anyone shipwrecked upon the isle. The islet is seen here at an average tide. Low tide allows one to walk out from the Douglas shore. Extremely high tide will completely submerge the islet from sight except for the Tower of Refuge." 

I had a marvelous experience on my recent holiday, hosted by Carol and Alan Cooper, residents of Douglas on the Isle of Man.  As soon as we arrived by ferry and had dropped our bags in their elder daughter's room, (Thanks Becki) they took us for a drive south towards Castletown, the Isle's ancient capital. We saw Castle Rushen, built for a Norse king who died in 1265 and buried nearby in the Abbey of Rushen. Apparently, there is evidence in the castle that at one time there was a siege by Robert the Bruce. We did a little walking tour from the Castle to the Old House of Keys, the former home of the Manx Parliament and to the Old Grammar School, which was originally a church and transformed in 1570 to a school for boys.

A trip to the Isle of Man is never complete without a ride on the Steam Train!  We watched it arrive, puffing steam all the way, hopped on and had a memorable half hour or so.  As well, one of the first things we were told was that when we crossed the "Fairy Bridge" we must say hello to the fairies.  It is a long-standing supersition on the Isle, but most believe it is unlucky not to say hello.  As extra luck, I bought my granddaughter a little necklace with a pink-jewelled fairy on it for a Christmas gift. 

That first night we celebrated Alan's birthday  at Tanroagan, a wonderful seafood restaurant in Castletown.  However, the road on which the Coopers live was closed off for the trials of one of their famous motorcycle races. So in order to get there, we had to go through the forest behind their house, wind our way through the bushes and trees to find the path that led to stiles over which we climbed to get to the cars that Alan had earlier moved.  What an experience that was!  Carol and I got detached from the group of 8 that included their 4 kids and Alan had to come back to find us - in the deepening dark! Thank goodness we all have a sense of humour!

During our stay, we also visited Port Mary and Port Erin where sailboats line the harbours in style.  I have never seen so many sailboats in one area in my life!  On the west coast of the island is the town of Peel with beautiful beaches and stunning views of Peel Castle, an impressive fortress on St. Patrick's Isle.  Legend has it that St. Patrick himself visited this tiny island, bringing Christianity to the Isle of Man.  Magnus Barefoot, an 11th Century Viking King of Mann, remained a royal resident of the castle.  The castle was also the center of government for over 200 years until power moved south to Castle Rushen.

Alan and Carol took us for a lengthy visit to Cregneash, a picturesque village with thatched Manx cottages, Loghtan sheep (famous for having multiple horns and fine brown fleece popular with hand spinners), Shorthorn cows, and working horses.  We wandered the country lanes and marvelled in some breathtaking photo ops. We also drove to the Sound where we had a magnificent view of the Calf of Man, home to a breeding population of Manx Shearwaters, a seabird which derives its name from its presence in Manx waters. Do check out the link as it's quite an interesting place.

Also, Carol and Alan took us to the House of Manannan, a museum of the Celtic, Viking, and Maritime past.  We saw a life-size reconstruction of a Celtic roundhouse and a Viking longhouse, walked through a quayside warehouse to discover sailmakers, coopers and chandlers and learned about the importance of the sea to the lives of the Isle of Man's people.  There was also a Viking longship called "Odin's Raven" from which there appeared to be sailors pulling it through the window of the museum.

I must say I'd love to go back for another visit to explore the northern end of the isle.  I want to go by steam train to the isle's highest peak as well as visit the Manx Museum, the Laxey Wheel, and towns of Ramsey, Jurby, and Kirk Michael as well as the Point of Ayre. I hope you enjoy the slideshow accompanied by Celtic music as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I know it's long, but it might just encourage you to make a trip to the Isle of Man yourself!
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow