Travel theme: Windy

Close your eyes and turn your face into the wind.  Feel it sweep along your skin in an invisible ocean of exultation.  Suddenly you know you are alive.

Vera Nazarian

Normally I am not a huge fan of windy weather, as is this week’s travel theme.

But when I am cruising on the ocean and my face is to the wind, I certainly feel alive and exult in the moment, and having photos certainly helps to preserve the memory.

Here I am on board Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth as we sailed through the Suez Canal.

And you can see the effect of the wind on me on this glorious, hot, Egyptian spring day.

 

 

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St Valentine’s Day

Ah, what is love?  Who can answer that question; most people have different definitions of what love means to them and I think that is how it should be.  But greeting cards have to be sold, flowers have to be harvested and chocolate has to be eaten so here is my post inspired by St Valentine’s Day.

Visiting Busan in South Korea last year (as a port stop on an epic 6 week cruise of Asia) I was delighted to see a wall of love locks and messages inspired by love.  The Parisians lost their love locks in 2015 when the council deemed their outpourings of love too weighty for some of the city’s most beautiful bridges; OK so it was actually the 45 tonnes of some million padlocks causing danger to the bridges rather than all those emotions.

But these locks and heart-shaped notes seem to be here to stay and add to the charm of walking to the top of Yongdusan Park, and taking in the panoramic views of the harbour below.

You can even sit down and admire the views, and the love.

Love seat, love locks, Life in Camelot, Korea - St Valentine's Day

A love seat amongst the love locks

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Thousands of heartfelt messages of love for everyone to read

Love locks at Busan Tower, Korea - Life in Camelot - St Valentine's Day

A wall dedicated to those dedicated to expressing their love.

Life in Camelot with love locks in Busan, Korea - St Valentine's Day

Just loving the love.

Happy Valentine’s Day to lovers in all the countries around this wonderful world and to my darling husband, who travels with me to all these countries, and wants to see as many of them as possible.

Favourite Song Friday – Same Old Lang Syne

This is my final Favourite Song Friday (have a look at my others here) because it is the second last day of this year, and coincidentally my daughter’s 20th birthday, and I shall start another episodic topic next year (stay tuned for that – pun intended…)

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and people will be celebrating all over the world, in all different ways.  I believe the general consensus is that 2016 has been a pretty rotten year and I would concur, for global and personal reasons.  However, as a species I believe we are very good at accepting and adapting and that is what I intend to do in 2017.

Many people will sing in the new year in with the famous tune, Auld Lang Syne, which is about preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year.

Dan Fogelberg’s song, Same Old Lang Syne, evokes a beautiful sense of nostalgia about past loves, past lives and memories we hope to cherish forever.

I have celebrated New Year’s Eve in some wonderful places around the world, with huge crowds or with just family and friends.  These include:

sleeping in the rental car by the side of the road in Scotland;

standing in crushing crowds on Tower Bridge in London;

watching Sydney’s famous fireworks from Taronga Zoo;

freezing with the family on Navy Pier in Chicago;

visiting friends in Washington, D.C.;

Life in Camelot, NYE, Washington 2009

sailing around the Caribbean on board QM2;

Life in Camelot, New Year's Eve on Cunard's QM2 2014

or celebrating my dear friend’s birthday, who is none too pleased that her birthday falls on 31st December.

Life in Camelot, Favourite Song Friday, New Year's Eve, Birthday

So, dear readers, I wish you all a wonderful New Year and an exciting and rewarding 2017.

When you are singing Auld Lang Syne think of the memories you have made, old and new, and look forward to the future with friends, family and lots and lots of favourite songs.

 

 

Cruisey Christmas

Christmas day this year is very hot but still spent with family. Two years ago we were on board Queen Mary 2 for Christmas which was incredibly festive and a special way to spend a Christmas.

Here is my blog post from last Christmas as we cruised around the Caribbean from island to island in a different heat.

I took photos of the incredibly festive stateroom door decorations that other QM2 passengers went to the trouble of packing for Christmas:

Life In Camelot

Last year I spent a cruisey Christmas on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 – a rather splendid way of spending Christmas.

Obviously there were a couple of thousand of other travellers spending Christmas on board too and, in my journeys around the decks, I was simply amazed at the lengths some of these people went to in decorating their stateroom doors with festive displays.

Here are some wonderful examples of Christmas at sea:

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas in 2015 and cheers to the New Year – and let’s go cruising.

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Favourite Song Friday – The Snowman

It is Christmas time and whilst I have never been a lover of many of the traditions surrounding this feast that are associated with a cold climate, e.g. plum pudding, mince tarts, eggnog and hot roast dinners on a sweltering summer day (in Australia), there are some things I do love and one of them is this Friday’s favourite song:

Walking in the Air by Howard Blake

The Snowman, Life in Camelot, Favourite Song Friday

This song is featured in the short film called The Snowman, about a young boy who befriends the Snowman in his yard and together they share a wonderful Christmas adventure before the harsh reality of daylight sets in.  This song plays during their magical journey together.

This delightful and seasonal short film was based upon the children’s book by Raymond Briggs.  In the film the song was performed by a young English choirboy called Peter Auty [1] rather than the famous Welsh Chorister, Aled Jones, to whom it is generally accredited.

I discovered this short film and haunting theme song when I was experiencing my first white Christmas, complete with all those traditional trimmings, in 1986.  I went to stay with my former flatmate and her family in Hull, Yorkshire in England.  They welcomed me and my fiance with open arms, warm hearts and plenty of food.

Life in Camelot with fiance and friend at Christmas in Hull - Favourite Song Friday

Life in Camelot with fiance (and female guest) in Hull on Christmas Day

Christmas in Hull, Life in Camelot 1986

Christmas tree in Hull, Yorkshire

Christmas in Hull with a welcoming family, Life in Camelot, Favourite Song Friday

Opening gifts on Christmas day with the Harrisons in Hull

I bought the DVD of the movie when my daughter was young and we play it every Christmas eve – it is probably the only Christmas tradition I have imposed upon her.

Two years ago we were in London just before Christmas time and we were delighted to find there was a musical production of The Snowman; so of course we went along to see it (and I took some sneaky photos).

So I will be watching the film tomorrow evening, hopefully sipping on something a little festive and wishing all my readers, and friends and families, a very Merry Christmas whether you be in a cold climate or a stinking hot one like mine will be this year.

There will be one more Favourite Song Friday for this year (stay tuned next week) and then I shall start something new next year.

Merry Christmas from Life in Camelot.

Favourite Song Friday – Gabriel

Today is my wedding anniversary so this is a mushy Favourite Song Friday:

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

Who remembers John Cusack in the very forgettable movie Say Anything, standing with his boom box held high playing this song, wearing his heart on sleeve trying to impress his young love?

Life in Camelot - Favourite Song Friday, Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes

Peter Gabriel’s album SO was released in 1986 and this was the year I travelled overseas as a young backpacker.  I played that cassette over and over until the music became part of my euphoric European experience so this song, in particular, will always be one of my favourites.

I still play this song when I travel, with my husband instead of a backpack, but now it is on an Apple iPod rather than a Sony Walkman.

The lyrics are lovely and the melody is haunting so join me, on my wedding anniversary, in reminiscing with this Favourite Song Friday.

 

 

Pirates, fact and fiction

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19th.

I wrote a post about real pirates a few years ago after sailing through the Gulf of Aden, famous for the Somali pirates who frequent those waters.

But most people are familiar with pirates through children’s books or movies, so here a few pretty images from my daughter’s book of Pirates:

and from some very familiar films:

 

Perhaps you have some other thoughts or emotions stirred up by this ridiculous but unique day in the calendar, based upon pirates, fact and fiction.

 

Travel theme: Sport

This week’s topic from Where’s My Backpack blog – Travel theme: Sport

Travelling isn’t always as easy as it should be on holiday and some of what you experience (or endure) can feel like you are participating in an olympic sport.

First, you must get your bags to the airport or cruise terminal.

This involves upper body strength, good timing and great precision as your goal is to ensure the bags arrive at the same destination as you.

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Head down and focus on the finish line.

Then you must stand in line, waiting for your turn to board. This can feel like a constant tug-of-war with pompous officials and, if you get your timing right, you can board your vessel in time to relax and pop into something comfortable.

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There’s always pushing and shoving to get on board.

Once you’ve settled in to your holiday you will no doubt undertake various activities, or sports, to keep you busy and ensure you have some interesting photos to show your workmates when you return.

If you choose to sightsee or take daytrips, make sure you are familiar with your method of transport; familiarise yourself with the local rules as penalties may apply for misuse.

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Beware of under-aged drivers and traffic jams!

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Which way to the Grand Prix?

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Well I did request air-conditioning…

When participating in extra-curricular sporting activities you need to keep you feet on the ground,

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Always wear matching team colours.

keep your equipment dry,

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Don’t allow the competition to make you lose your balance.

but not too dry,

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Don’t make the acceptance phone call before you’ve actually won.

 

and keep your eyes on the game at all times.

Disneyland 4 - December 2009

Protective eyewear can be handy.

At the end of your trip, you may be tired, you may be distracted but make sure you have enough left in you to tackle the last sporting challenge of your journey – collecting your baggage and queueing for an eternity to get through customs in  your own country.

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I have a black belt in dealing with airline baggage belts.

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The final hurdle, then home.

As you can see, travelling is a lot like an olympic sport: if at first you do not succeed, try and try again (or fly and fly again)!

Harmony in Hiroshima

This week’s blog topic from Where’s My Backpack blog – Travel theme: Harmony

Hiroshima was in the news recently when Barack Obama made his visit there – the first US president to do so since the 1945 nuclear attack. This visit brought up the collective memories and consciousness of the horror that occurred almost 71 years ago, when according to the president’s speech, “the world was changed”.

His visit also highlighted the need for reconciliation between nations previously at war, and a future that relies on harmony.

I visited Hiroshima just 2 months prior to the president’s visit as part of the itinerary of Queen Elizabeth’s 2016 World Cruise and of course I expected to see the peace park, memorial museum and the bomb site, that includes the famous A-bomb dome, (preserved as a symbol of peace), to remind the world of the events of August 6th 1945.

But I didn’t visit any of them.

Instead I spent the day on Miyajima Island, where I experienced complete harmony with nature; the island is a little piece of heaven “where people and gods live together”.

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Welcome to Hiroshima

After disembarking Queen Elizabeth into the cool morning we entered the tin shed that served as a passenger terminal but this cold metal exterior belied the atmosphere within.  The maiden call of Queen Elizabeth brought excitement, wonder and many smiles to the locals who welcomed us warmly.  They even had a small display showing the history of Cunard, along with many local goods and services.

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Excitement at Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage here

I was drawn to the volunteer welcomers, all pretty in pink, because I have volunteered in a similar position at Port Melbourne to welcome the cruise ships to my city. I approached them and asked if I could pose with them, and after showing them some photos of me in the role in Melbourne, along with some helpful translation, they were delighted.

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Hiroshima’s Cruise Welcomers

Waterfront welcomers with ship

Life in Camelot working as a Waterfront Welcomer in Melbourne

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Life in Camelot with the Hiroshima Cruise Welcomers

After utilising the free internet in the terminal (Cunard really needs to step into the 21st century and provide free internet services), my husband and I each bought a one day streetcar (an electric railway) and ferry pass for 840 yen (just under AU$10).  The streetcar journey took about 30 minutes to reach Miyajimaguchi where we then boarded the ferry.

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The ferry to Miyajima Island

It only took 10 minutes for the ferry to transport us to Miyajima where the majestic Tori gate beckoned us into the shore. We were greeted at the terminal by a deer – it seemed tame – as it sniffed around my handbag for food.

As we wandered along the waterfront I discovered that the deer are everywhere and live in harmony on the island with the traders and the tourists.

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Greeted by inquisitive deer

They were just so photogenic and placid that I could have stayed with them all day.

I even took photos of other tourists enjoying the deer…

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Excited tourists posing with the deer

… and then I reached the Tori gate!

This majestic gate was far more orange than I’d expected but still so grand.  The tide was in as we approached and I took loads and loads of photos of it, with my iPhone and my SLR (the film not developed yet as I write this).

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Miyajima’s Tori Gate

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Life in Camelot and husband, King Arthur, pose with the Tori Gate

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A vision for sore eyes

I could have sat and gazed at the gate, the water and the gorgeous deer for hours but there was more to see on Miyajima Island, this little slice of Japanese countryside bliss.

There were a lot of people wandering about the Itsukushima Shrine, which also appears to float in the ocean when the tide is in, but we were drawn to Mt Misen and felt compelled to climb it before doing anything else.

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Itsukushima Shrine

I love a good cable car ride up a mountain (that will be another blog post some day) and was excited at the prospect of riding the ‘ropeway’ as the Japanese call them.  However we didn’t have any cash on us that day and couldn’t see any credit card signs at the ticket office; however this didn’t phase me too much as it was the most glorious day and we were drawn up the mountain by the sheer beauty and serenity.

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Directions up Mt Misen

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5 storied pagoda

The ascent was made easy by the sheer beauty of crossing little stone bridges, over creeks, waterfalls and koi-filled ponds, shaded by handsome trees, and of course, more friendly deer.

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Ascending Mt Misen

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Koi pond

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Life in Camelot with a deer friend

We never made it onto the ropeway ride because at the top (and main entrance) we discovered that the ride required a further 2 or so hours spent on top of the mountain, time we didn’t really have before returning to Queen Elizabeth.

So we descended the mountain via a different, but just as beautiful path and drank in the tranquility of this little piece of heaven, near Hiroshima.

Communing with nature makes you hungry though, and after buying some gifts and souvenirs (I just had to get something to celebrate the gate and the deer),

we ducked into one of the little restaurants that faced the ocean for a late lunch.

As if all those giant oysters weren’t enough, my husband had to stop at one of the local vendors to try his luck with some barbequed octopus on a stick (he claims it was still struggling as it went down),

and I indulged in one of the little cakes in the shape of the maple leaf as we strolled back along past many tourist shops.

Maple cakes

Momiji Manju, is the name given to the maple-leaf shaped pastries found on Miyamija Island.  They consist of a dough of flour, water, sugar and starch and are filled with red bean paste. They are boiled but served cold, usually at teatime.  It has been this way since the 14th century.

As we approached the Tori gate again my heart skipped a beat because whilst we’d been frolicking in the mountains with the deer the tide had gone out and it became possible to take even more photos, down at the water level.

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Low tide at the Tori gate

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What a grand structure

Of course it was just at this time that my trusty NIKON SLR camera (only about 17 years old) decided to stop working completely – it may have been just one deer shot too many – so I only had my iPhone to rely on for the rest of the photos.  However, that didn’t stop me from taking as many as possible, including the obligatory ‘selfie’ in front of the gate.

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Selfie at the Tori gate

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Barnacles and coins to make a wish upon the Tori gate

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A very happy traveller

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Beautiful day on Miyajima Island

It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the ferry back to the mainland because I could have stayed there and enjoyed the peace and harmony of the island all day long.  But we had intended to try to see the city of Hiroshima as well before heading back to Queen Elizabeth.

As luck would have it, (or possibly not), we’d spent so many hours on Miyajima we ran out of time and had to return to the catch the last shuttle back to the cruise terminal.  It was still a hive of activity  with visitors keen to see the ship and partake in the festivities of this day.

I used the free internet again, watched a display of young sword fighters and saw some sturgeon being sold by a local fisherman.

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Farewell performance for cruise passengers

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Baby sturgeon for sale

I talked to some lovely local women who gave me brochures for my scrapbook and practiced their English; they were even impressed at my 3 or 4 words of Japanese; they really are so well-mannered.

Then I joined my husband back in our port-side stateroom where we watched the Hiroshima police band play for us whilst the excited locals waved their glowsticks with gusto.

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Police band and groupies farewell Queen Elizabeth

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Farewell Hiroshima – we shall return

When we reconnected with our fellow passengers that evening we heard many stories about how sad and poignant their visits had been; some people who had spent their time between the peace memorial and the island wished they’d only been to the island, because the island offered an idyllic escape from the grim reminders of war in the city.

As we sailed away to our next port I was left so inspired and moved by Hiroshima, it’s people, nature and harmony.

Travel theme: Dazzling

Being a lover of all things that glitter and sparkle, I was enchanted by the notion of a blog post entitled Dazzling and couldn’t wait to post my own.  So I searched through some of my travel photos to pick some of the prettiest and, most dazzling.

Coincidentally, just today I went through a display home with my family and I came across this master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, adorned with dazzling tiles and opulent chandelier:

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Bathroom luxury

Most of my recent world travels have taken place on board Cruise ships, mostly on board Cunard but here’s a photo taken of a marvellous stage show on board Celebrity Solstice:

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Flying high on Celebrity Solstice

I have just returned from cruising through Asia where I saw dazzling dance dresses in South Korea:

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Busan, South Korea

A warm welcome, fantastic ferris wheel and blingy boats in Osaka, Japan:

And the spherical, shiny reflection of the Tokyo Skytree:

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Tokyo Skytree reflection

When visiting abroad there are some things you just can’t resist and this includes the stunning masks in Venice (yes, we managed to get one all the way home without breaking it):

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Venetian masks

And daggy tourist photos of yourself with dazzling street performers in London’s Piccadilly Circus:

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Life in Camelot, and friends