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michele dunlop travel page

On the learning curve - becomming a traveller.

Diary Entries

Friday, 29 June 2007

Location: Orkney, UK

Arrived in Stromness this evening after catching the ferry to Kirkwell. Good trip. Staying at Brown hostel and ate at the local pub tonight. Tomorrow doing the sites here and then making my way to Westray - I am going to look at Puffins.

Stayed at Bis Geos in Westray. £12 per night. Best hostel. Got picked up by a mini bus which meets everyone at the ferry and there is a standard £2 fare no matter where you are going. Everyone knows everyone so no problem needing directions. Walked into the conservatory and it was roasting hot, it is a real suntrap of the most comfortable kind. Soft sofa, heaps of books, looking straight out to the sea and cliffs.

The kitchen has two stoves, heaps of gear for cooking and utensils for eating with. Complete contrast to the hostel in Evora.

I had a rest, read and then walk to see what was on the cliffs = birds but no puffins.

Next day was raining and really cold. So miserable that i had to stay inside in the warm and read, sleep, eat and drink. I still had the hostel to myself, but met up with the gardener Kathleen, and handyman whose name i have forgotten but will add it when I remember. Alena pops in once a day.

beside the hostel there are two cottages and the residents of one them them called and said that they were off for fish and chips and brought me some back.

Next day raining but patches of fine and a bit warmer. I went to the village and then walked back, saw the work of Hume Sweet Hume, fabulous design of knitwear. Expensive though if converting to NZ and OZ dollars.
In the evening I went out with Westray Tours and saw the Puffins, in rafts, scout Puffins checking out the lay of the rock and then other Puffins coming in for the night. Some had chicks and some were just there in pairs being nice to each other.

Next day wet and misty again so caught the 0830 ferry back to Kirkwell, stayed at the Peedie Hostel £10 per night, lovely and small (peedie means small) a pretty and clean hostel, no common room but great location. There was no room there for the following night and so found the Kirkwell Youth Hostel (SYHA) about a 10 -15 minute walk. It is fabulous, £13.50 per night, good facilities and great spaces for people to eat and talk. A big dining room and lounge, spaces which just seem to encourage talk and laughter.

I visited most of the sights including the distillery. The Orkneys also have a boutique beer producer so I sampled a different one every evening. Hints of chocolate, cherries and so on. Very like descriptions of wine. I have seen middens, mounds where people built and lives in houses 3000 years ago (older than the pyramids) the St. Magnus cathedral and the centre which has a really good 15 minute free film. The distillery also has a film as part of the tour ( a bit expensive at $5.00, although you get $2.00 off if you buy a bottle of whiskey) I think it really has the best background about Orkney.

I had paid £20 for a deal which was three island, so 3 return trips by ferry or 2 ferry trips and one plane. I chose to fly to the most further island. I thought that I would just book for next day t North Ronaldsay but the planes were absolutely chocka so booked for early flight Friday. I did not realise that there was a folk festival on, when I did I tried to extend my stay but not – it was not too be.

Friday we were two hours late departing due to the low cloud. The plane was tiny and flew with its wheels down. We were just over the water and once the cloudbank appears he flew straight up into the blue. Landed fine, the hosts fro the Bird Observatory picked up and no sooner had we put our bags in hey had a call to say that there were Orcas in the bay so it was all into the jeeps again and we saw the fins and occasional back out in the water. Just google North Ronaldsay to find out about the Bird Observatory - heaps of info. Has a hostel and rooms, B & B , generous with breakfast, you can buy lunch and dinner there and well worth doing. £27 for dinner bed and breakfast in hostel. There is also a very well stocked bar, gratefully frequented by all. Seaweed eating sheep are a bit of a feature of this island and I did taste a mutton sandwich - tasty but not noticeably sea weedy. I did also enjoy the crab soup, and buffet diner that was offered before the Friday night concert.

Love to type more now but brain needs a break. Will do so because it was one of the best two days I have spent while away and have actually bought a T Shirt featuring fiddle playing sheep. Cool as.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Location: Invernes and Findhorn, Scotland

From Glasgow again on the train to Inverness. I did not even give catching the bus a thought but talking to others who did apparently it is a great trip. Anyway enjoyed Inverness, staying in the Tourist hostel which is in the town, and seeing.....

I stayed in a b&b between the village and the foundation at Findhorn. the first afternoon I wandered around the foundation space, loved seeing the original garden and caravan, and then what had been built since, with garden sancturies, meetin hall, pottery and weaving studio, steiner school and so on. A thriving working community and also an eco village. .............

Monday, 25 June 2007

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Took the train from Oxford to Glasgow and then found y way to Bothwell ( for someone who has always had a car I am doing ok on Public transport) I stayed there with an Aunt - fabulous food, not only meals, there is also morning, afternoon teas and supper - and lots and lots of choice. Nice just to stay somewhere and not be hunting for a place to sleep.

Walked the town, it's still great, when we were there in 1989 it was the European City of Culture.

Visited the newly reopened Kelvinhall art gallery and museum. After Vicci's tutoring in Madrid I am getting to enjoy a little looking at such things. I knew that Dali's Jesus ?of St. John is there so saw that. The plan was to see that and then go and find the fossell forrest, luckily I re-asked the lady at the desk for directions and she knew that it was closed, so at he gallery I stayed and really enjoyed the display for children on how to look at art and design. Actually there were no children there but heaps of adults getting into the interactive displays.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Location: Oxford, UK

My sister met me at the train station in London and escorted me back to Oxford where she was living.
I do not remember being in Oxford before and was impressed with the river and the building. I actually took a guided tour so now know a little more about how the UNiversity system there works.
Cycling is a must do there.

it rained and rained and rained.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Location: UK

From Madrid I took the overnight train to Barcelona. I was in a 4 berthed cabin and the other occupants were very businesslike travellers. No sooner had the train started, the jarmies were on and lights were off. I decided to do the same, but woke up again with a raging painful throat and a cough.
Landed in Barcelona arrived at the Hostel Centricpoint way to early to book in so left my bags in store and went off to view BCN as they call it.
Gaudi houses are right near so visited the Casa Batillo which included viewing the attics and chimneys. I loved it all especially the attention to light and ventilation, but really the whole whimsical lot. Next I happened across Ls Pedrera –Casa Mila and enjoyed more the same. I had heard a bit about parabolic cures in Portugal but was fascinated to see the chain hanging and the cures exposed. The attic of this place is like wonderland and I wished yet again that my nieces and family were all with me. We could have had fun there. These are must sees for BCN, E16 to get into the first one and E8 for the 2nd which includes the audio information.
Later in the week I visited Parc Guell, loved the busking and also aspects of the park that make it so famous. It is not clipped lawns, but trees and over growth, and then of course the created wondered to help people enjoy the place.
Well at 11 am went back to Hostel Centricpoint and found an enormous queue of happy backpackers out the door and along the street, playing cards, eating, chatting and waiting to book in. I assumed that they did not have bookings and had to wait and see – but no, like me most had confirmed bookings and were just waiting to be ‘processed’. Did not mention that Hostel Centricpoint has over 400 beds. I came back at 1pm and 3 pm, not so happy waiters were still queuing and then finally at 5.30 pm I decided to join the line which by now had made it too the steps of the hostel . Finally it was my turn and then was informed that there was a mistake in my booking and I was booked at their other hostel. After some time I was put into a taxi and off I went. Well it was not promising, graffiti on the walls, shared showers and loos with those of the other gender , kitchens with no equipment - the receptionist had no idea that I was coming. Decided to bunk down for the night (as long as the bed is clean I can cope but definitely need warm showers every couple of days) I assumed that with a full hostel - Centricpoint could practice age discrimination but I shared the room with a dancer from New York still in her dancing best so guess it wasn’t that. Whatever – don’t go to Centricpoint, there are plenty of hostels in Barcelona with enough computers for their receptionists and systems to cope with their bed numbers. Perhaps they sent those who looked least likely to complain.
Next morning tried booking elsewhere through Hostelworld and Hostelbookers and so on but they need more that a few hours for it to work, so went through the hostels on the back of the map and phoned (by then had purchased a Spanish SIM card) and the friendly voice at Hello BCN gave me a bed. Well run, good systems, breakfast. I ended up staying the rest of my time in Barcelona there and could have stayed on. Good location.
You could stay in Barcelona for a month and still be holidaying well. I was finding the weather a bit too hot, I have too cover up from the sun really well and so I was sweltering under my hiding from the sun outfit. I think travelling in Autumn and Winter and working Summer and Spring might be my thing. Anyway went on a day trip to Monserrat and would recommend that as a stay over place to get the most out of it. Lots of walks around the place to do and I think early morning or evening would bethe nicest for that. You can get a ticket that covers most of the exhibitions/buildings as well as the transport.
One of the Aussie guys in my room did a day trip to Girona and F??? (birthplace of Dali) and really recommended that. Lots of folk spent days at the beach (I live near one in NZ and Aust. so beaches not really my priority unless walking along in the evening or morning) The Aussie guy( he was a cool and enthusiastic dude) had also visited the Catalan museau on the waterfront – good value for gaining understanding of the Catalan cry to recognised as a people . E3 to get in and if you cannot see it all at once (I can never stay in anything all day and take it in) you have 50 days to use your ticket.
Other things – loved the Fundacio Joan Miro - big kick when I finally understood an entry in Wearable Art WOW (around 2005) as I had never heard of Miro before and there was the idea for the costume on the wall. One roommate highly recommended THE PALAU MUSICA CATALANA and so off I went. It is stunning and the entry ticket includes a guided tour – but it is very fast. I would suggest that to pay E35 and attend a concert there would give greater value for money. You have a longer time to appreciate the creation, maybe catch up on the history from a pamphlet, google or the museum before you go,. There is a range of concert types available every night. .
I had my computer, camera and wallet stolen whilein Barcelona, hence no more photos for a while. I never usually have them together and the ery onceI did they were kidnapped. Saw the burglar using the computer while I was on Skype and sent a message, they have them on CCT TV but to no avail. Too many thieves and pickpockets in Barcelona for the system to deal with. We travellers are the ones who have to help stop it but being more careful.

After Barcelona went to Zurich.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Location: ZURICH, Switzerland

In Zurich I walked around the city
took a boat ride down the the river and walked back to the city on the cathedral side.
Took a train to the 'highest spot' in Zurich, climbed the tower and then walked along the hillsides, (and heard and saw cowbells on cows that were not a set up - the real deal. Got a gondolar back to the train back to Zurich.
Visited the watch and clock museum (must do)

and that was about it.

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From Michele Dunlop
Hi all
Picked up a camera worm when my SD card was being downloaded to a disc. AVG and Trend cannot heal it so missing some photos. Any suggestions how I can retrieve them? thanks M