Depart for Heathrow - London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

28.11.2014 Taxi,train and bus to Heathrow. Flight on Cathay Pacific at 18.05. Slight feeling of claustrophobia at the thought of 11 hour flight. But time went quite quickly with a meal, then dozing, watching films and doing exercises. Lights went on about 4am for breakfast! Good landing and met by rep from Tour East to take us to our hotel transfer taxi. Finally arrived at the Harbour Grand Hotel, Kowloon about 3.30 pm. (on 29 Nov. 8 hours ahead of GMT). Large comfortable room with vast bed. Much more upmarket than we are used to. Staff polite and smiling and bow and back out of the room. Only problem was no Wifi as it was really expensive. Unable to contact Andrew Law by email and the phone number he gave wouldn't connect. Went to a cafe for a meal where wifi free. He had emailed us inviting us to lunch tomorrow. Replied but then came away with no message. emailed Deb for her to get in touch with Andrew. No reply by bedtime. 30 November Awake at 5 am writing this. Was thinking of getting up at 6.30 for an early breakfast, then fell asleep until nearly 10. Wonderful self service breakfast in restaurant looking onto the harbour. Andrew had received Deb's message and rung hotel. Gave us details of how to meet him on the Island. Hotel courtesy bus to Tsimshatsui (TMT). Bought an Octopus card at concession rate.one stop to Admiralty then across platform and one stop to Wan Chai where A. waiting for us. Took us to a Dim Sum lunch and walked us round the streets. Little local restaurants with live crabs all parcelled up and still alive waiting to be cooked fresh! Took us into his high rise complex where he has a flat. Equipped with swimming pool and gym. Christmas lights and decorations everywhere. Bus to Stanley, beach resort. So different from Central HK. Sunday is family day,so everyone out and about. All very relaxed. A lot of different impressions. Large container ship channel. Boats going to and fro every 10 minutes 24/7. Back to Wan Chai and left Andrew. Knew our way this so journey easier until we couldn't find courtesy bus stop. Asked a woman who phoned our hotel for directions. Going in this morning journey took 40 minutes. Back less than ten. Decided to have 24 hours of wifi to catch up with people etc. Watched harbour lights at 8. A bit disappointing.. Meal then.bed. Slept for a few hours, then up writing this 3 am. Noticed there are no no. 4 buttons on lift. Four is an unlucky number as Chinese word for 4 is close to word for death. A lot of different superstitions. Buildings will have a gap through middle to allow evil spirits to pass through. Fend Sui. December 1 Didn't wake up until 10.15. Breakfast finishes at 10, but they gave us whatever we wanted to eat. In the foyer a crowd of workers were putting up Christmas trees. Poinsettia plants everywhere. Tea and coffee and cake in hotel cafe 2pm! State ferry Long taxi ride roadworks Tram to Peak Walked up to reservoir Up viewing tower Walked back to ferry Hotel 8.30 exhausted and hungry Meal in usual restaurant December 2 Ordered wake up call so down for breakfast by 9. Packed and stored suitcases, paid bill Town by courtesy bus to Museum of History. It was closed! Walked around a variety of side streets, found Austin Avenue. St Andrews Church Park with flamingos. Quick visit to Heritage Centre Cashed in Octopus cards Back to hotel for a couple of hours Had tea looking over harbour Walked around outside having learned some Punjabi from Sikh doorman. Tour East bus to Airport Just had enough spare cash to buy two soups..Passed three hours people watching. Flight for Sydney at 21.25 Vicar of Dibley. Christmas special December 3 OK flight but very little opportunity to sleep much. Breakfast at 4am. Temperature outside the airport in the high 20s. Sunny. Some difficulty negotiating the shuttle bus with two Ukrainians who crammed the minibus full with people for several hotels. Park Regis Central not as upmarket as HK, but comfortable and clean. Hadn't slept or eaten for several hours so had something at lunchtime local time (3 hours ahead of HK) then went for a walk. Saw several Austrailian ibis birds in the park. Very tame and photogenic. Back to the hotel and fell asleep. Woken by thunder and lighting and torrential rain. Walked down to The Rocks an older area of Sydney, passed Lilyvale Cottage. Had dinner outside near the Bridge. Trehills Bakery founded by an Irish labourer in 1880s ? Son went on to found largest law firm in Australia. Back along interesting streets in rain. Video light show on town hall.. Comfortable bed and Good night's sleep. December 4 Less humid. Breakfast next door then set off for Botanic Gardens. Hampered by back pain. Called in to Mitchell library to see the painted floor. Van Diemen's maps. Exhibition called Lost Diggers ' about Anzac soldiers in WW1. On to Botanical gardens. Wonderful, so many plants and birds. Views of the bridge. Oh to Opera house. Had a guided tour. Weather hot and humid.and threatening storms. December 5 NSW state parliament. Taken round by Joe from Madeira and Ian round lower chamber Allowed to hold the real mace. Then Mark took us round upper chamber. All very relaxed and informative. Also holocaust exhibition and Bomber Command Christmas lunch. Coffee served by a Greek. World Soil Day. Dave met a soil scientist from Western Australia. Robin picked us up from hotel at 1 pm. Took us to their home in Woolwich. Looks over the river. December 6 Drove out to Cambelltown to see where R and M work. Mount Keira lovely views across Bulli and Woolangong. On to Nan Tien Buddhist temple ( see website) Then thundery downpour until back at Burwood where they used to live. Chinese meal. December 7 Blue mountains. Maria stayed at home. Drive took about 2 hours. Went through huge thunderstorm. Raining when we arrived at Katoomba, but cleared quickly. All sandstone geology.three pillars called the the Three Sisters ( see photos) Went down on the steep railway to walk through woods where coal was mined. ( see photos) Back up on a cable car. Drove to the other side of the ridge to Govett's Leap. Saw the vertical waterfall. Back to Sydney again in violent thunderstorms. Took Robin and Maria out for a Thai meal in Hunters Hill December 8 Blue skies and very hot. Maria had to go for a blood test. We stayed and packed, took pictures. Robin played piano. Out for Yum Cha. A sort of Chinese brunch now, but originating from mid morning tea drinking. All sorts of savoury and sweet morsels offered, washed down with chrysanthemum tea. Delicious. We're going to go to the Centennial Park, but Robin got sidetracked in town, so went straight to the airport. Did see a few more ibis before leaving the town centre. Long wait at airport and then flight delayed. An elderly Welsh lady adopted us. She had been flying for 48 hours already after an emergency landing. They let her and us onto the plane first. Flight just under three hours. D sat next to another elderly Welsh lady. Didn't reach our motel until 2 am, so only a few hours sleep. December 9 Breakfast in Ashley Motel, Riccarton, Christchurch. Shuttle bus to airport to pick up Avis hire car. Upgraded to Toyota RAV4 for comfort. D got to grips with automatic steering. Road to Arthur's Pass straight and little traffic. Stopped at Springfield for coffee and sandwiches. On up the mountain passes. Arrived at Arthur's Pass Alpine Motel. Lovely setting and very comfortable rooms. But rain set in, no views. Glad we'd seen them on the way. Had a sleep after last night's short one. D went out briefly and took pictures of keas, indigenous parrot like birds. Meal at the Wobbly Kea. More rain forecast for tomorrow. May have to change our plans for Fox Glacier. December 10 Slept well. A great place to stay. Fiona and her husband have run it for a year. Packed up and drove down for breakfast opposite the Wobbly Kea. Not actually raining so heading for Hokitika and possibly to stay at Fox. Went to I-site at Hokitika and booked a farm B and B at Fox. Bought new was bag and things for D. Had lunch and took pictures of the clock tower and old Regent cinema building. All reminiscent of 1950s Britain. Down to the beach ( Pacific Ocean) covered in bits of wood and trees. Snow covered mountains in the background. Strange juxtaposition. Back to car and on to Fox. Arrived Fox and found B and B at 298 Cook Flat road. It's run by Peter Holford who runs a couple of farms here. There are all sorts of things to look out for such as peacocks chickens peacocks sort of moorhens he was very hospitable and in fact we found that he wars born in Devon Teignmouth in fact and his brother has lived in IDE and Exeter I shall have to this audio is dictated blog because some of the words are ridiculous anyway we love the place we could stay here for a month and tomorrow we're looking forward to getting up Fox Glacier Generally looking around the place here until Friday morning we went out for a meal at what they call a cafe which is in fact a restaurant near Lake Matheson which is called the mirror lake. We are now hoping to Skype Jen before we go to bed. December 11 Dave very sick all night. Is staying in bed. Skyped Deb and Jen. Clouds gradually lifting over the mountains. Then they come down and it rains. Walked into Fox, took about 40 minutes. No pharmacy but bought some medication in the general store as well as some bananas and chocolate. Had something to eat and drink at a cafe and spoke to Liz from Watford who is cycling all round NZ then on to Vancouver to Mexico. Kea trying to eat my food. Got some information on distances to Te Anau in case D not able to go far tomorrow. Walked back stopping to look at the little graveyard of 'Our Lady of the Snows' church. D up having a walk but had to go back to bed again (5 pm) cockerel and peacocks still very vocal. December 12 Left Fox this morning in brilliant sunshine. Could see Mount Tasman but Mount Cook still shrouded in cloud. Drove down the coast stopping at various viewpoints, Bruce Bay, Knights Point , Ship Creek ( ships hull found there 1867, ship was traced, sank in 1855 off the Austrailian Coast near Melbourne ) On to Haast for something to eat and fill up with petrol. Over the Haast Pass with snowy peaks and waterfalls. Stopping for photos all the time. Writing this at Cameron Creek. On down to Lake Hawea for tea break. Non stop views all the way. A bit like Scotland or Ireland, but more of it. Wanaka next stop. To find accommodation. Somehow started talking about physics and chemistry- Fleming's left hand rule. On to Wanaka and just found the I-site as they were closing. Sent us to the Wanaka Lodge. Fabulous place, room with balcony. Sat eating ice cream there listening to a missel thrush. December 13 Lovely stay at Wanaka, great breakfast. Our host Mandy booked us into a hotel in Queenstown and made us up a picnic including Christmas cake. Stopped at the Cardrona Hotel, built in the 1860s for the gold rush and now maintained as a historic building. Drove up to the top of the Crown Range. Stopped for a walk. Temperature down to about 7,so dug out some warm clothing. On down winding mountain roads to Queenstown, where we found Chalet Queenstown, run by Alex and John. Another room with a balcony and views of the mountains. Alex made us tea and we sat out in the garden and ate our packed lunch from Wanaka. I went to bed for a rest, while D went for a walk. German couple staying here, who live a few kilometres from Thea and a mother and son, he went to Exeter uni. Out for a meal and walk round the park. People playing bowls, tennis and frisbee golf. When will this catch on in England. December 14 Stopped at Highway cafe between Queenstown and Te Anau, at Athol. Met family from Auckland Son Jason Wolsey, age 22 is in IT (cloud), in Invercargill. He was interested in P's work, so gave him P's email. Took some photos of the agriculture in the wide valley around Five Rivers. After Mossburn we crossed some rounded hill country with some hillsides of red grass evidently protected by conservation managements. Then some wilderness areas on sandy ground (Whitestone River valley?). Temperature reached 20 degrees for the first time. Nice motel in Te Anau Got supplies for tomorrow from local supermarket, then excellent Italian ice cream. Did our laundry and watched several bus-loads of Chinese arrive. Hope they are not going on our trip tomorrow or at least not take cameras and make noise to disturb the wildlife in such a wilderness area. Meal at the Fat Duck. December 15 Picked up by bus for drive to lake Manapouri. 1.5 hour trip across the lake past the power station to West Arm. Then forty minute bus drive over Wilmot Pass (670m). Forested land had both silver and mountain beech, the latter old and gnarled and festooned with lichen (idea for Lord of the Rings). Characteristic red mistletoe and red rota (?) known as Christmas tree. Road unsealed and dusty. Arrived at Deep Cove (population 2) and boarded large catamaran for 3 hour cruise. December 16 Stayed around Te Anau. Walked for a bit,had coffee in the Olive Tree cafe. Heard bird singing which we couldn't identify. Later found it was the New Zealand bell bird. Have also seen plenty of thrushes . Evening meal in the Olive Tree again. Temperature about 29 degrees. December 17 Back to Queenstown via Athol where we had stopped for coffee on the way down. Stopped to see a historic steam railway at Kingston at the head of the lake. but everything looked mothballed even though all the direction signs were in place. Then to Kawarau Gorge where bungy-jumping had been initiated from the old swing bridge in 1988. One small Chinese girl was very courageous and made it in the end. On to Cromwell and found, with difficulty the old village, comprising buildings rested when the valley was flooded with the reservoir in 1993? Over the Lindis Pass. Plaque commemorating the centenary of introduction of first red deer from Scotland in 1871. Multi coloured lupins prolific along the valley bottom all the way except over the pass. Checked into a nice chalet on a quiet camp site and ate out across the road. Thrushes everywhere. We didn't hear the more pork owl in the night but there was a resident rabbit on the site. December 18 Omarama to Rangiora. A good night in campsite chalet Lake Tekapo, church on the hill, Rev McDonald. Daughter of founder returned to England in 1918 and died in Exeter of Spanish flu. Statue to collie sheepdogs nearby. Up to Mount John observatory , new buildings. Research being carried out by University of Canterbury. Stopped for late lunch at Geraldine, then took scenic inland route with mountains on the left. Straight road for several kilometres. On to Rangiora a satellite town of Christchurch. Parts of it affected by the earthquake in 2011, so a lot of empty buildings and new build going on. Eventually found somewhere to eat. Motel adequate, a bit musty, but ok for one night. December 19 Short drive to Kaikoura through more lowland farmland. Quite a lot of new vines growing. Checked in at motel for two nights. Feeling rather weary so had a sleep then went down to the seafront to book a boat trip to see the whales tomorrow. Ate early and early night. December 20 Two and a half hours on a powerful katamaran into the Kaikoura Bay to whale watch. Quite a choppy sea and difficult to hold on and take photos. Saw four whales which was more than usual and apparently set the whale watch community buzzing. Also saw various birds including a royal albatross with a wingspan of 3.5 metres. Coming in to land saw several fur seals basking on the rocks. A great experience. Later on went to a lecture at Dolphin Experience by a PhD Jodie Weir (KOKI) about her research into the endangered Hector's dolphin. Excellent presentation and learned a lot. Later went for a drive round the headland. More seals and more photos. A lovely warm summer evening. Cleared the car ready to give it back at Picton ferry tomorrow. December 21 The longest day.left Kaikoura around 9, after Skyping Deb. Heading for Picton. stopped at Ohau seal colony and saw about a hundred fur seals of various shapes and sizes. Arrived Picton, gave up the car, had coffee in upstairs lounge to carol singing in brilliant sunshine. Winter Wonderland was one of them. Temperature around 29 degrees. Clear, sunny and warm for crossing though got very windy approaching North Island (Windy Welly). A mile or two off South Island, the sea colour changed within a distance of a few metres from pale azure to ultra-marine. Picked up new car (bronze version of the previous Toyota). Found hotel in side street - a rather quirky old building, a bit hostelish but clean and comfortable and will probably turn out to be fun. Again, different from anything previous. Ate out at a nice cafe in Cuba Street, which seemed to have been a sales room for antique furniture at one time. Eateries of all kinds in what seems like a student area. Had a brisk walk round the block but decided to head back as as it was rather windy and there was washing to be done. December 22 Up before 8 to move the car from the street, otherwise Weill incur a hefty daytime fine. Breakfast at Prefab then walked to Te Papa. Found Landcare office on The Terrace. Took cable car to botanic gardens then walked down town through cemetry, hanika, wharf development. Dec 23 Drove around headlands with small sandy coves (including one called Scorching Bay) eventually up to Victoria lookout with views all round of Wellington and the harbour. Very scenic but windy road to 'arty' Greytown over some steep wooded hills with precipitous drops from the road, S feeling very queasy. Late lunch of soup, and inspected a huge Eucalyptus with an explanatory plaque and a sign pointing to it about a few feet away (another photo for the competition) then stopped at Masterton to book last accommodation for December 27. Arrived Dannevirke , the Viking Lodge motel, run by very cheery man called Peter. Nice quiet spacious cabin upgrade. D had Cantonese take-away (with plastic fork instead of chopsticks. Met two cats, one a young master, grey and inquisitive who tried to get in our cabin. December 24 Went round the local museum in Dannevirke. More busy on the roads. More gentle hills with cattle, sheep and vineyards. Stopped for a coffee, with chickens and talked to a woman small-holding farmer about water shortage. Arrived in Napier about 2pm. Staying at the Quality Inn on the waterfront. Nice large room with kitchen facilities and spa bath. Did some supermarket shopping as nothing open at the hotel or anywhere els come to that on Christmas Day. Had a meal in hotel bistro, then went to the 11 pm carol service at the Presbyterian church. All very familiar. Reminiscent of 1950s in many respects. People not unfriendly but not inclined to get into conversation Bed very late and did not sleep well. Christmas Day Sunny and warm 10 am service at Napier cathedral (see history of rebuilding after 1931, taken by the Dean Michael Godfrey, a very friendly welcoming service with Eucharist. Dean's outlook intentionally inclusive, working hard to open the cathedral to the community. Sang happy birthday to a young member and applauded a 101 year old lady who stood up to take a bow. Our hotel closed for meals, so went for Christmas dinner a few doors along. Two Dutch, mother and daughter, on the next table, so lots of language exchanges. Food delicious and very plentiful. S went to sleep afterwards and D went for a walk. Later on went to the Bluff lookout with view across the bay and looking down on the container port, large and expanding. On the way down, stopped at a little garden made from a quarry cut out by prisoners from the old prison up the road. Skyped Patrick and had an early night. A very enjoyable and different Christmas. Boxing Day Made our own breakfast, Skyped Deborah, then drove into Hastings, little town 10 miles south of Napier. Mixture of a bit of Art Deco and 1950s architecture. Pleasant little fountain, with the railway running through the middle of it! Lovely bell bird singing. Went in search of the Te Mata mountain lookout. Went all round it but never found the way up. On to Ocean (Pacific) beach. Lots of people there but all in one flagged area. Strong undercurrent there, so can be dangerous. Walked along the beach, paddling - pleasantly warm - temperature about 23, but strong sun, so didn't stay out too long. Back to Napier for a few more photos, made our own meal, relaxed listening to some Archers episodes we had missed!! Early night again, holidaying can be tiring December 27 Skyped Jen before we left Napier. Traffic quite heavy on route 5; stopped for coffee in the hills at Tarawera. Mixed forests here but travelled previously through many clear-felled tracts. Then over the plain towards Taupo. Mostly coniferous forests . Stopped briefly to see a sunken lane and other features of previous human impact. Stopped in Taupo to get WiFi in the library to find the address of our next stop in Turangi, which was busy and a bit like Paignton. Had an ice cream in the park then set out around the lake. Lovely chalet at an old fishing lodge - the town is a famous fly-fishing centre. Thrushes in the grounds. December 28 Rotorua, Te To Auckland Winery Temperature in high 20s Ridges Hotel Met up with Tim Steiner, then didn't December 30 Can't put the flights home off any longer. Left hotel around 10. Easy drive to the airport and gave up the car --------------------------------------- --------------------------------------- --------------------------------- Orkney trip 7 - 18 September 2015 Mon. 7 September Flew from Exeter to Inverness with three hour stopover at Manchester.both flights delayed by refuelling and an extra item of luggage on board. Good views over the whole of Scotland especially the Cairngorms. Sunny and clear. Arrived Inverness early evening and picked up hire car. Vauxhall Astra upgraded from a Corsa. Managed to get lost in the centre of Inverness and had to be guided in on the phone by Ann and Willy. Great welcome especially by Molly the Jack Russell. Lovely meal and a lot of catching up. Tues. 8 Breakfast in the conservatory. No sunshine and felt a lot colder. Willy doesn't do much now except to walk the dog and buy a paper, so Ann took us for a walk round Inverness. Bought a book on Orkney in Leakey' s, a huge secondhand bookstore in an old church building. A treasure trove Lunch and more chat then they took us out for a meal in the evening. Found I had brought an odd pair of black shoes. No doubt this will go down in the family annals. Ann is somewhat burdened with being a carer for Willy, says she doesn't have much of a life these days. Doesn't want to live into extreme old age. Felt sorry for her, as she has had such an active life up to now. Willy very set in his ways and opinions. Wed. 9 Another day with low cloud and distinctly cool and autumnal. Left about 9.30 and called in at Aldi for provisions before leaving town. Stopped at Golspie. Saw the Queen leaving Waverley on a steam train to go down to open the new rail link at Tweedbank. Also the day when she had reigned longer than Queen Victoria. For a coffee then drove on to Thurso, by which time the sun was out and it was therefore a lot warmer. Visit the Castle of Mey which was on the way to the ferry. This was a derelict castle bought by the Queen Mother in 1952 for her own home and donated to the state a few years before she died. A delightful little place. Had a guided tour then walked round the walled garden, visited a WW1 exhibition. A huge number of Highlanders were lost in battle. The usual sad family stories. One highland cow, Morag, and her calf, on loan from Balmoral and a variety of chickens, other fowl, goats and pigs and a donkey. Only ten minutes drive to the ferry at Gill's Bay. No problems and the crossing took about an hour. Arrive at St Margaret's Hope about 7.30. Had good directions from there to Kirkwall and then on to Stenness, stopping at the Happy Haddock in Finstown for some chips. Arrived at Harefields about 8.30, just about dark by then. Lovely bungalow overlooking the water and hills. Sleeps eight, so plenty of room. Big kitchen and sitting room so made ourselves at home. Thurs. 10 After breakfast we went up to The Standing Stones of Stenness, then walked to the Ring of Brodgar, past the blue bungalow on the Ness of Brodgar (man made? See new archaeological research). Drove up to Skara Brae to sus it out for the next day. Had a coffee. Then further south down the coast to Yesnaby, where we had our picnic on the cliff top near the wartime gun emplacements. Then walked up along the cliff tops to the Brough of Bigging and down to a little sheltered bay away from the wind, which is quite spectacular. Dropped down to Stromness to buy provisions at local bakery, butcher and Co-op. Returned to near Stenness to see Maes Howe, but it was closed, so returned home. Cooked a meal, then Adrian, the owner came by to show us how to work the TV. Very nice man, had a long chat. Turns out he is selling Harefields . Fri.11 After breakfast set out for Skara Brae. Unfortunately the back pain has returned with a vengeance. Determined to keep going. Exercise the best things. S B is fascinating, full of interesting facts. Over 5000 years old. Occupied for 600 years. Why did they leave? A lot of theories. Nearby is Skaill House. Built by a bishop of Kirkwall in 17th century, then the home of Earls.... Delightful place with a lot of interesting history. Then on to Loons, an RSPB site overlooking the Loch of Isbister. It had a sounding wall which could amplify the call of wading birds. Had our picnic here. Then went down to Marwick Choin, a coastal lagoon, then round to the Kitchener Memorial. Walked up through barley fields and cattle. On top it was so windy we could hardly stand. The tower is being repaired and was covered by polythene and scaffolding. Apparently they had to use army vehicles to get all the equipment up there. We think it may be being repaired for the centenary next year of Kitchener going down with his ship the HMS Hampshire after striking a German mine. Only twelve men survived. On to Bursay to see the ruins of the Earl's palace. Robert and his son Patrick were both bad people, so when they were executed and then Cromwell took over, nobody was too bothered. Prior to the ruins, we found a lovely cafe (The Teapot) looking over to the headland. After that Brough of Bursay for a quick visit. It has causeway which is covered at high tide. Drove home via Hillside Road and Loch of Hundland, via Dounby and Harray. Managed the day, but the back still bad. NB Orkney chairs at Skaill House, very comfortable, his and hers. Sat. 12 Drove into Stromness, information centre, followed the round the streets, went to the museum and had coffee in the Stromness Hotel. Like going back in time. No-one else there. Drove round to bay of Houton, where the ferry to Hoy goes from. Sat and had picnic while hearing the news about Jeremy Corbyn being elected as Labour Party leader. Weather not so good today. Overcast and cool and still windy. Drove along to Orphir where there is a heritage centre focussing on the Orkneyinga saga, Icelandic connection around 12th century. Next door is the remains of the Earl's Bu and the medieval remains of a round church, said to commemorate the basilica in Jerusalem. Back via Swanbister, Kirbister and over the hill back to Stenness. Raining and windy by now, so wrote diary, postcards Sun. 13 Lovely sunny day. Wind had dropped,so feeling much warmer. Quick game of table tennis before we went out, then into Kirkwall, stopping to take pictures of the Churchill barriers. Went to the 11.15 a.m. Service at St Magnus cathedral. The cathedral belongs to the people of Orkney and is looked after by Orkney Island council. The service had a strong social conscience, led by a woman and felt welcoming and progressive. Stopped for coffee afterwards and spoke to one of the choir members who is also very involved with the running of the church. A large cruise ship was in, so a lot of the congregation were visitors. Spoke to two Canadians from Toronto. Next year there will be big celebrations in June to commemorate the Battle of Jutland and the loss of Kitchener on HMS Hampshire. People and press from all over the world are expected. Had lunch in a cafe opposite the cathedral and spoke to two Dutch people from the cruise ship. Then toured the Earl's Palace which was part of our group ticket. Sunny and clear, so good views everywhere. Then on to the Italian chapel, built by Italian prisoners in the war. Amazing place and achievement. Fortunately two coaches had just left, so we had the chapel to ourselves before the next coach arrived. Then drove round to Hoxa Head right out on a peninsula opposite the Flotta oil refinery. There are a lot of the wartime defence ruins there. The defence was so good, that no shots were ever fired against the Germans and they were prevented from getting through to Skapa Flow. Before we set out on our walk, we passed a tearoom, miles along the road from anywhere.the owner was there, he had come from Essex about ten years ago and loves it here. Still has a strong Essex accent. Back home to cook a meal. Very weary after all our exertions, but a great day, all sunshine apart from back pain. Mon. 14 Drove down to Houton and took 10am ferry to Hoy, about 45 minutes. Walked up to the museum and had a chat to the warden there. It was only his second there. His interests are in nature conservation and social history. He had previously been a warden in Orford Ness and had also worked abroad in Cambodia and Indian and had had a house in France, but lost money selling it. A bit of a world citizen and a wanderer. Had a quick look round the museum, then walked up to a rusting oil storage container, where there were various exhibits and we watched a video on Scapa Flow history in both wars. During WW2 there were 12,000 naval personnel on Hoy. at the 2011 census, the population of the whole of Orkney was only 21,000. Walked round and saw the air raid shelter, boat shed and various rusting ordnance. Walked up to the naval cemetery and saw varies commonwealth war graves to all the ships lost. Some German sailors also there. Starting torrid, so back to the museum cafe for lunch. Man running it came from Peterborough. Another roving spirit. In the last two years, he lost his mother, then his sister. In August his son committed suicide. He has bought a four bedrooms house on Hoy all decorated, for £30,000 Rain really pelting down by now, so spent times the museum until time for the ferry back. Home to dry off and take more pain killers.then out to Stromness Hotel for an evening meal. It was like going back in time, but a great meal. Tues. 15 Beautiful sunny day, so different from yesterday.On way to Kirkwall, called in to St. Unstan's tomb. There was a farmer there with a lovely Orcadian accent. Talked farming matters with him once we had got our ear in. He knew where all the dairy herds were on Orkney. Then tried to go to Maes Howe, but they were fully booked for the morning and we had the cathedral tour in Kirkwall at 2pm, so had to give it a miss.. Had a coffee in the real food store then went round the ruined Earl's chapel, which was another venue on our ticket. Interesting history. Down to the museum, which was excellently laid out. Didn't have time to do it all. Had sandwiches in the car, then tour of the cathedral roof. Only six people allowed at a time. Our guide Ross Flett (an Orkney surname) was very informative and gave us more than the allotted time. Up winding steps to above the nave, then on to the clock and the belfry and then to the parapet outside. Great views all round. The cathedral has a new stonemason, a small young woman, who seems to be doing great things. Back to the museum and bought books and a CD. Tearoom for a cup of tea, then walked around the museum garden. Cooked back at home. Adrian and Lesley came round to see us. Lovely sunset,took some photos. Thought we would go out later to see the northern lights, but by that time it was pouring with rain. So we crept around the stones of Stenness with the torch. Wed. 16 Still raining, so left our lovely bungalow under dark skies. Drove to the Highland Park distillery the other side of Kirkwall. No time for the full tour, but watched a video and had a dram of whisky which was very tasty. The guide there was from Stockport but like so many people that we met, had been in Orkney for years and loved it. Some special bottles of whisky cost as much as £12000 and some people with more money than sense buy more than one, one for investment and one to drink. On to the ferry at St. Margaret's hope. Again very well organised. Voyage took about an hour and the skies were clearing so there were some good view. On landing called in at John o' Groats. Not too tacky and great views back across to Orkney and Hoy. Then up to Duncansby Head, where there is a Stephenson lighthouse. On to Dunnet Head and another Stephenson lighthouse and more views across to Hoy.

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