A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: PhilFhi travels

Bangkok's many faces to chilled Railay Beach and Islands

sunny -34 °C

Back in Thailand again!

The bustling pace of Bangkok lured us back on our return through Asia. We started with the "same same" but tried to look through different lenses.

View of Wat Arun Ratchavararam and Sanam Luang from the Chao Phraya river

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Hawker's food market

Ducking in for a brunch after our ferry ride, we met this lovely lady serving the most delicious soup. This started our walk toward Bangkok flower market.

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The intention was to follow the "famous" street art but we got lost and only saw a few pieces.

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Streets on the way all had their explicit roles. "Motor-parts" street left me flabbergasted with each shop in the dim, narrow road, each selling their trade on one part of the car. There was exhaust shop, engine shop, wheel shop - all with piles of metal and often one person working on one part.

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Flower Market

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The people

We walked back to this lady's eatery from our first visit in Krum Kasem Road. We remembered her for the amazing flavours and her lovely smiles.

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This lady just beamed when we passed her. She was working with her sewing machine, on the street, as many vendors do around Bangkok.

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Salt Farm

We escaped the hustle and bustle on a "Withlocals" tour. Hansa our amazing guide took us to a salt farm, fish farm, mangroves and for a lovely meal. Truly the only tourists we saw for the whole day, were us! Magical. It was a completely fascinating day to the south of Bangkok city. We met the farmers and had a glimpse of day to day life for many people, not just our hosts.

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Fish Farm

We travelled up the watery streets on a boat, powered by gas canister. This was the only way to get to the stilted village.

The farm had it's own jetty which led to a path along the bank of one of their lakes (straight off the sea) and to the farm house.
It was a beautiful location with lovely people.

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The Lunch

And the food kept coming! It was a spectacular spread with so much local seafood- straight out of the seawater. Delicious battered prawns, mussels, fish in spices and royalty parcels stuffed with prawn and pork- a foodies heaven.

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Flying south....Ao Nang, Railay Beach and the islands

Ao Nang, famed for being a bit touristy certainly lived up to this but it was a fabulous gateway to explore for a few days.

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Our favourite restaurant- the most amazing battered prawns, but everything was delish!

Railay Beach

Railay Beach is more laid back pace wise. The only way there is on the water, for us by long boat taxi.

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Monkey monkey on the tree...and path...and roof...and balcony...
Not uncommon for these cheeky characters to climb onto your balcony, check the doors, open if they can and steal from the mini-bar.

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The odd human monkeys like to climb the cliffs here too. Railay is a climbing destination.

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Five Island Day Trip

Our day out on the sea was so lovely. Visiting Phi Phi Island and surrounds we soaked in the crystal clear, luke-warm waters, dived off boats in natural steep cliffed lagoons, snorkelled and dined. It was great to see slightly fewer crowds to begin with as we left on an early bird tour- really worth it!

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Path to the Phallic Cave

One unusual (for me anyway) place on Railay Beach is the cave on Pranang Beach - dedicated to the gifting of male penises!

The beach/cliffs are is also a rite of passage for climbers....not the cave that is.

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And after all that hard work, there are many chilled out bars...

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That should put a smile on your face.

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Posted by PhilFhi travels 22:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged food bangkok "ao_nang" Comments (0)

Autumn Fall in Kyoto and Kanazawa- Japan

木漏れ日- Komorebi - Sunlight filtering through the trees

semi-overcast
View Japan- traditional Kyoto to Kanazawa on PhilFhi travels's travel map.

木漏れ日

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Persuaded to visit Japan, we really did not know what to expect. It was not on our radar. It really did not take long for it to surpass our expectations; fresh delicious food, incredibly courteous people and a culture built on respect and pride- not to mention spectacular scenery and trains that leave on time! Autumn fall is a must for you to visit in November in this area. Kyoto has so much to explore in and around the city, whilst you would enjoy Kanazawa as a base to explore- we could have stayed much longer here to hike in the alps.

Kyoto

We travelled to Kyoto by the Thunderbird Express. Our hotel positioned itself in a narrow, dim lit street near the centre. Our first experience was to eat at a Yakitori where we had such a typical warm welcome, small Japanese kebabs. What a find!

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On our first full day, we hired bikes and cycled to Arashiyama where we visited the bamboo forest. Cycling is great around Kyoto as well as being incredibly easy. Everybody was so polite to us as we navigated the rules of the road!

Bamboo Forest

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We visited Tenryu - ji temple - with beautiful gardens, displaying the on set of autumn's red trees peering over the river. Over Togetsukyo bridge we climbed the steep steps to to Monkey Park- the most well behaved monkeys I have ever had the privilege to meet. Better than the tourists!

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Monkeys visiting the tourists in their enclosure- Monkeys free, tourists behind the cage

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"Just get off your phones and look at us will you!"

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Taking a ride in a traditional jinrikisha taxi

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"No-it's my turn!"

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Cycling past small rice paddy fields led us up hill to Ryoan - ji temple - rock garden/ old manor house....

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...and then on to Kinkaku - ji temple (Golden Temple) as the sun started to set. It's final statement was to exhale onto The Golden Temple in a truly magical way. We timed that really well indeed!

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We took the train to Inari - Fushimii nari tiashi shrine - famous for it's orange/ red pillar like structures to the top of the hill. It was a long walk up too! It felt like millions of stairs to the clouds. If you are visiting- arrive very early and the further you climb the fewer the numbers.

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Tofukuji temple.

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On way home we visited the Higashi - honganji temple. Our step count was fantastic on this day.

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After a little rest we walked to the Hyakumanben Chionji Temple in the Gion district and managed to get the last two tickets to Gion Kaikan to watch a Geisha show. This was so fortuitous as it was for locals and not the tourists. It was one of only 10 performances in the whole year where the general public could see Geisha perform.

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Giesha were spotted in the evening rushing around the backstreets as we walked, but respectfully we took no photos at this time.

Japanese pancake followed by more yakatori!

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We walked up to Kiyomizu Temple with it’s beautiful views across the city. The leaves were gorgeous here.

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We were interviewed by children from a local school which was fun.

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After that we walked past Yasaka Pagoda and into the old town part of Kyoto.

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This was lovely but a bit crowded so we rushed through.
As with all of the old districts, couples and friends, from local or afar were dressing up in kimonos.

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Our final stop for this day, was through the market, where we tried Octopus balls. I quite enjoyed it but not to Fhi’s taste.

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In the evening we visited the best Japanese restaurant in town. Effectively we had a private chef who cooked phenomenal seafood and vegetarian dishes.

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The perfect end to our stay in Kyoto

Kanazawa

We travelled on the Thunderbird Express to Kanazawa; a 3 hour train ride past padi fields, the sea towards our left and mountains to our right. The rice fields were always immaculately presented. As we drew closer to Kanazawa, snow capped peaks could be seen in the distance.

In town, our first walk saw us visit Kanazawa Castle. Humongous tree trunks buffered the roof to make the castle gate impenetrable.

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Built in the 1500s and habited by The Samurai until fire partially destroyed the castle, it now stands looking over Kenrokuen Gardens, originally a private gardens to share with guests.

The gardens are stunning. Symmetry between views and water mirroring play a big part.

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Also a rope structure, that we thought was decorative, was being assembled on all of the trees. However, this is preparation for winter. The rope holds up the branches and stops the weight from breaking the trees.

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It was amazing watching the workers construct so precisely and neatly.

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In the evening we ate at an Okonomiyaki. The chef brings the ingredients and cooks the dishes in front of you.

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Takayama

We got up early and caught the bullet train (Hokuriku Shinkansen) to Toyama and then another train to travel up to Takayama.

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After a long winding mountain train ride, we arrived. Takayama has a beautifully kept old town. You could imagine how it would have felt to walk it in days gone by.

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The beef sushi was delicious.

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Signs warned us of bears in the area as we walked closer to the woods.

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The reward, up this quiet and off the beaten track pathway, was the most spectacular leaf display. It blows your mind. And you'd enjoy it pretty much by yourself too.

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Being on a mountains edge, one side was Japanese maple and other deciduous trees. The other side, ruler straight, ancient ever-greens pierced the sky- pure brilliant green. The contrast was amazing.

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The colours were exploding in the forest. Simply breathtaking.

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From here we walked to Hida No Sato. This is Hida Folk Village; an actual village, (historical) reconstructed into a museum. Metre thick thatched roofs looked like tents.

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Shirakawago

It was another early start and a bus journey up to a village called Shirakawago. Shirakawago is a listed world heritage site, protecting the traditional buildings within this mountain town.

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Unlike Hida, people still live here. Padi fields are mixed with the same style traditional vernacular houses. The autumnal fall was like an artist’s palette. Wow!
Breathtaking was an understatement. Shirakawago is surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountain walls. You could see that, despite being picture postcard beautiful, it would surely be brutal in the depths of winter.

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The best udon noddle beef soup was consumed here. Very hearty and tasty indeed.

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Simply walking around the houses and up to the view point was a treasure and well worth a visit.

Samurai

On our final walk around Kanazawa we walked through the Samurai Quarters with it’s walled and moated area. This was the area where the warriors trained.

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Another tempura lunch and one more final exploration of Kanazawa’s old quarter, Daygon entertainment hub, before leaving this amazing city.

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Tucking into Kanazawa's much famed gold leaf ice cream. The most expensive Mr Whippy ever.

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Kanazawa market

Meticulously clean and ordered, Kanazawa is a mecca for snow crab buyers in November. Ranging upwards of $200 NZ / 100 pounds approx for one in good condition, this was quite an experience to see - people were buying them readily at the start of the day.

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If you buy anything delicious to eat in any Japanese market, remember not to walk around eating it- use their little eating rooms to the side if possible.

Posted by PhilFhi travels 21:11 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

The Dancing Northern Lights

Lights, Cameras, Action....

Tromso

Absolutely WOW is all I can say! This experience was completely insane-The Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are gobsmacking when they are dancing in the sky; the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind. It's what we flew to the arctic circle for and we certainly saw it!

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You can clearly see the 'Big Dipper' (or Plough) in the picture below

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On one of the placards, Tromso proudly boasts to be the largest Polar City.....after Murmansk in Russia that is....so I guess it is the second largest after all. But it does have the most northerly University in the world....(possibly I guess!)

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You can see the Northern lights from the town, especially up the cable car - but the lights have to be "on form" with clear skies if it is to compete with the light pollution of the city. The Cable Car is Tromso’s most popular tourist destination. It runs from Solliveien in Tromsdalen up to the mountain ledge Storsteinen. You really do get fantastic views from up here.

What a stunning view on our first night in Tromso - but no lights! Or so we thought
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If feeling energetic, you can walk up the mountain via the Sherpa steps; 1300 steps that snake to the summit of the cable car. Walking a bit further you can clamber over more natural surrounds to the trig point of the mountain. From here you can see magical views of the Tromso Fjords- this was even better around sunset.

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After apparently seeing the lights at the top of the cable car and not really knowing it, we booked to go on a Northern star chase. This would give us the expert knowledge and hopefully some spectacular locations.

Our first chase ventured 140km south as there was too much cloud cover. Our guide was quite amazing at finding clear skies on an evening that just wanted to pull up the duvet. Our first evening eventually bloomed into life with ghostly whites, gradually tinting green. The fire warmed the toes on an night that dipped to -4c in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

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A spiritual face looked down on us.

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Filled with the happy buzz of seeing the lights, our long journey back blew out with a puncture, snowfall and a broken spare tyre- limping in at 4.00am. We certainly had a midnight adventure!

The weekend weather was not great so we bunkered in. Wet wet wet. But a clear sky on the last night gave us one final chase. We were happy from the first experience, but the second was just incredible. We travelled east towards the sea, with spectacular snow capped mountains reaching from the fjords.
It was show time. Phenomenal. Starting sleepily, the lights woke up and literally danced, exploded, whirled as if some one was mixing water colours and then sending fireworks around the sky. Just wow!

Thanks to help from the guide, our photos came out well

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Our guide from Greenlander Tours took these stunning photos below on the evening

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On the mainland, before crossing Tromsø Bridge lies Tromsdalen Church, better known as the Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen). From here, we walked up the glacial valley to it's source. A lovely walk through the autumnal birch forest evolved, then thinned, as we ascended to see spectacular views on a monumental scale.

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Tromso is a fascinating place steeped in history; mainly exploratory ventures to the Poles, whaling and seal hunting. A proud culture and location in the arctic circle quite different to anything we had ever seen before.

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There was plenty to see in and around Tromso. This was the best time to see the Northern lights, but given another month, we would have had abundant snow to play in and whales to see feeding in the fjords.

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Posted by PhilFhi travels 23:26 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Port in Porto

...and a half marathon too...

Porto


Porto is a picturesque city in north west Portugal, famous for it’s Port wine, terracotta roofs, tiled buildings and Dom Luis I Bridge spanning the River Douro.

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After arriving to our apartment in Porto, with a stunning spiral staircase and a lift fit to send the adrenaline pumping of any claustrophobic person, we set about for our orientation walk…

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Of course what starts at the top, must climb back up so we headed down to the beautiful river Douro at the bottom before eating closer to our apartment.

Our host gave us some fantastic recommendations for where to go. Antunes was a real “locals” restaurant. We had to expand our Portuguese rapidly as we played charades with the waiter. My pork dish looked like it would have fed the entire city. The flavours were simply out of this world.
We opted to travel by bus out to the coast and visit the fish market and sit by the sea as it was a stunning day.

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We loved exploring the narrow veins or arteries leading to the river. Each street had it’s own personality, as with many of the buildings.

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The Porto Half Marathon was a lovely run. It was a little warmer than expected which sapped energy levels a bit, but once you got into the groove, the views and different perspectives on the city was a pleasure. Running on Don Luis 1 Bridge was really weird as it vibrated so much it was noticeable when running.

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Strangely enough, after running a half, we did most of our walking around in the afternoon. This was a great “step-count” day.

Completing the run gave us the added bonus of enjoying the local food and wine afterwards.

Francesinha is probably the most famous sandwich in Portugal and an iconic Porto dish. Two slices of bread, layers of meat, melted cheese and a beer-infused sauce; this was certainly enjoyed after the run!

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The grilled, or fried sardines, really are one of the greatest pleasures eaten in Porto.

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The double-decker Dom Luis I bridge is an icon of the city of Porto spanning the River Douro and linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the bustling downtown Ribeira district of Porto. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel!

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Ambling the cobbled lanes, sampling different ports, using the cable car, visiting the food market, we just explored- stunning!

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São Bento train station is certainly worth looking at with beautiful blue and white tiled walls telling stories. Buildings all over Porto line their walls with tiles and is something to see.
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Taking an organised tour, we travelled along the Douro Valley for a couple of hours. Once into the rural, mountainous area, vines and river valleys transform the landscape.
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The river has and still does play a huge role in balance with the river. Early on, the wine was transported via boats down the river and kept in Porto before being trading overseas or in the city. This was a hazardous journey through gorges and rapids. Boats were then towed back up to the vineyards by ropes!
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Nowadays, with phenomenal engineering, the river has been tamed and locks enable tourist boats to use the stunning waterway. Locks, one of which is a hundred feet deep, raises and lowers river cruise ships safely.

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Porto should definitely be on your bucket list... we loved it.

Posted by PhilFhi travels 00:02 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

Bonnie Scotland

Lochs, Glenns, Nessie and a wee dram or two


View Bonnie Scotland on PhilFhi travels's travel map.

St Ives

Well this was an unexpected treat on our tour to Scotland. Not to be confused with it's Cornish namesake, St Ives gave us the perfect break with a gorgeous riverside cafe to rest our early morning start. St Ives is a market town with a lovely 15th Century bridge, complete with it's own chapel!

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Richmond

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3 hours later!! We stopped at Richmond Castle 1100AD… filled with ghosts of ladies and lords gorging on 50 course meals and prisoners scratching images of their loved ones on the cell walls…. And bear fighting :( and lots of religion of course.

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Newcastle

The Angel of the North - Wow it’s much bigger close up than it looks from the train.

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Whitley Bay

The place I grew up in ….. Gorgeous day out with Fiona Robby… my best friend all the way through my childhood who I hadn’t seen for 21 years!... but felt like old times… and the sun was shining. Wished we had our swimming stuff because it was definitely hot enough to take a dip in the North Sea (and that is a rare day indeed)

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Wylam

So lovely to see Mike Becs Eli and Dibsy from Waiheke…. All looking well and healthy. Great pub.. Great food… great company.
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Edinburgh

Edinburgh Tattoo

Wow Wow Wow. From beginning to end this show was spectacular. A once in a lifetime experience… Scottish dancers so light on their feet…. spine tingling bagpipes…. Nigerian dance… Trinidadian Carnival… the French Can Can… and the New Zealand band, dancers and singers who were certainly the most fun…
Roddy and Isabel were such great company and such great hosts .
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Edinburgh Castle

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Edinburgh was alive with so many people… street performers, tourists and performers from shows trying to rustle up a crowd on every corner. Great to meet up with my cousin Gavin and his gorgeous little girl Sorcha.

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Then a day of events - Alternotives (acapella pitch perfect band), Japanes LADY drummers and then a delicious chinese meal … yum. Hemming Wehn…. Very funny. Great places to see on a stroll around town include the Royal Mile , the Castle and Calton Hill(where we saw a South American Bagpipe band who were brilliant) . Fab lunch with Auntie Anne, Gavin, Sabrina, Sorcha, Roddy Isabel Dad and Phil.
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Pittenweem and Anstruther

These are gorgeous little fishing villages on the way from Edinburgh up to Montrose on the coast. We spent many a great family holiday here. The best fish and chips and we even saw seals.

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Montrose

What a beautiful beach… miles and miles long (we should know we ran the length of it and back) . Had a gorgeous walk out to the lighthouse with my dad.
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Cairngorms to Inverness

A beautiful drive through the wild and purple heather coated Cairngorms. Stopping in on the way to check whether the Queen was home at her scottish residence of Balmoral… she was! So we couldn’t go
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Haggis, Neeps and mash
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Rosemarkie

Rosemarkie is just along from Inverness in the Black Isles. So lovely to see my cousin Graham and his lovely wife Akiko and kids Molly and Hattie. The beach is gorgeous and we saw Dolphins! Yay. We were treated to our own private musical performance and thoroughly spoilt rotten who were such fabulous hosts.
We walked up a big hill )and saw LOTS of mushrooms) to a sculpture at the top(which was only created to give the locals some income by a very caring lord!) Then off to see Salmon jumping UP stream… 4 out of 100 salmon make it back home to try to jump up stream to lay their eggs… only 1 of them will make it… and then after finally getting to the top they lay their eggs and die from exhaustion! It’s a hard life being a Salmon.
We finished the day at the theatre watching the Blazin Fiddles.

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Loch Ness to Oban to Mull

We drove down beautiful loch Ness and stopped at Urquhart Castle… which was very old and interesting…. Then a tree fell down and we were stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam! 9 hours after setting off we arrived at Oban… thankfully right next door to a distillery.

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The Isle of Mull

The black skies around made the lighthouse more startling and striking as our ferry jaunted it’s way to Mull. The views from the bus on Mull were film like and we arrived in Tobermory (where the kids TV programme Balamory was filmed) with its colourful seafront cottages. The scenery on the walk out to the lighthouse was just stunning as we gazed across still waters.. So remote and wild and magical. Quick stop at the distillery for a tasting then home on the boat to eat Langoustine… yum yum yum.

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Lighthouses on Mull

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Largs

After a lovely night stop at Auntie Margaret and Lou's house in Largs where we were spoilt rotten we headed on to Portpatrick and Stranrear.
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Stranraer and Portpatrick

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Stranraer is a port town where the ferry from Ireland comes in. It’s also where all of my mums family are from and where I was born. It’s basically a massive council estate but the seafront is gorgeous as is the beach. So lovely to see all the places that have been talked about in my family.

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Port Patrick is an idyllic little fishing village on the other side on the head only 5 km from Stranraer. My mum and her family spent a lot of time here. It is such a pretty little town. I loved it. As we walked along the coastline, it reminded me of Waiheke… and the sun was even shining… hooray.

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Lake District - Keswick and Lake Derwent

We arrived at Keswick iin the pouring rain! It always seems to rain in the Lake District. Phil and I braved the weather and walked to Castlerigg Stone Circle 5000 years old (3000BC) then what to do in the Lake District in the pouring rain….we headed to the pub!

Next day we got up superearly and walked up the Catbells…beautiful views from the top (after a pretty scary literally rock climb to get to the top) but well worth the 15km….. Then what to do after a 15km walk…. Head to the pub of course :)

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Manchester

So lovely to see my Auntie Marie Louise and my cousin Stephen, Clara and Josh and Ethan who I’d never met before. What a lovely day in the garden in the VERY hot sunshine (back in England now lol) eating BBQ food and drinking wine and beer…and a little bit of dancing too.

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Wow what an awesome trip.

Posted by PhilFhi travels 09:23 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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