Travel Memories

Over the last few weeks I have detailed my lovely, extended holiday around much of this beautiful world in 2013 and it is such a good thing that I kept a daily log during the journey, noting the sights and sounds. In fact it has been so useful that I’ve been keeping a personal daily diary for a few years now and the only times I didn’t manage to was when poor health got in the way. Some days I have had more to write about than others and that is life, but I am glad that I have kept up with it. I try not to dwell on the past though, as I was taught a few years ago that we should surely learn from the past, live in the present and look to the future with a smile. In my recent writings I have done my best to share at least a few of the photos I took along the way, but as you might imagine one of the hardest things for me to do has been to decide which photos to share. I will try and sort out a few more though. I have both read and heard about some folk not liking sea travel, but it is something we can often adjust to. I found that P&O’s ‘Arcadia’, the large cruise ship I was travelling on coped extremely well and I do recommend such ways to travel, even if it is perhaps only a short cruise around the British Isles, which I know is done. In fact my first was a short ’taster’ cruise which I mentioned in my ‘Holiday Memories’ blog post in January of this year. It was as a result of that I was more than happy to get myself booked on a much longer cruise. The present restrictions on travel may mean it will be a while yet before the long cruises get going again, but I expect they will, in time. Having said that, I am reminded of the old saying that “A change is as good as a rest”, and I do believe that to be true. With what we have already been through during the last twelve months and are all coping with now, we have had to adjust, to adapt, to change. To take a quote from Srinivas Arka, “Our future depends mainly on the way we think at present. To change our lives, we must change the way we think”. It has often fascinated me the way some people will have an opinion about things they know nothing about simply by making assumptions.

So some of you reading this will have read my earlier blog posts and may not be too enthralled by the idea of the long journey I did. Yes, it is true that one of my grandfathers was in both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy and it has already been suggested that maybe I have some sea salt in my veins! But one option taken by a few folk I met on board ‘Arcadia’ was to combine sea and air travel. In fact two ladies I met during my time on board were doing just that, as they had flown from Australia to the UK, had a bit of a holiday here and then sailed back home. I also learned only the other day of someone else I know who did that, except they did their sea journey ‘in reverse’ as you might say, going from Southampton, across to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal that way. I expect they did a trip up to Hawaii then across and down to Australia and New Zealand. Others have done a return journey through Australia to the UK by going across land part of the way and seeing the sights there, then meeting their cruise ship in somewhere like Darwin. Travelling north from there are so many places to visit, for example I have read about a vast religious complex in Cambodia called Angkor Wat which was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II. This vast complex comprises more than a thousand buildings, and is one of the great cultural wonders of the world. Continuing their journey and having stopped off at a few other places, the return to the UK included a journey through the Suez Canal. Happily for them strong winds did not cause a container ship to get stranded in quite the way one did recently and prevent other ships from travelling through for a few days! Fortunately this sort of delay is an extremely rare event. Then, after a stop off at a few ports in Italy, Spain and Gibraltar perhaps, the English Channel was reached. I still have mixed memories of the latter though, because whilst my encounters with the Channel in recent years have been absolutely fine, I still recall one particular time back in about 1967 on a school trip to Belgium. I was fine to begin with, but then it got a bit rough and let us just say I wasn’t at my best for a short while. It all settled down though. Whilst on that holiday, we had lovely tours around various places. We were staying in Bruges, where there are lovely canals and we had returned to our hotel for an evening meal. The first course was green-coloured soup, but one of my school colleagues looked at it and said they weren’t touching it as it looked like canal water! To be fair to them yes it did, but the soup tasted fine to me when I tried it, as were all the meals we had there. But others were put off by the adverse comment. That may have been the start of my learning to give some credence to my own thoughts and ideas rather than ‘going with the crowd’. Incidentally, whilst writing this I learned that a credence is also the name given to the small side table, shelf or niche in a church for holding the elements of the Eucharist before they are consecrated. Which means that I have stood by a credence table many times as I passed various items to the vicar during a communion service. I never knew that until now. But back to my travels. Our visits on that holiday were very well organised, as I got to visit the Atomium near Brussels, I even managed to meet with an aunt and uncle who travelled over from their home in Antwerp to see me. I had my first taste of real, Belgian waffles! On that same trip a few of my schoolmates had tried smoking cigarettes as well as consuming alcoholic drinks, but they made themselves ill as a result. The response from our Headmaster who was with us on the trip was simply “You’re not men yet.” A while later attempts were made by my school colleagues for me to try smoking a cigarette, but the reason they gave me for doing so was because ‘everyone else was’. That to me was illogical, I’d also learned how smoking might not be good for me with my singing and playing my trumpet, so I declined. Some years later I did try smoking a pipe, but that made me ill so I left that well alone! It wasn’t until years later that I was diagnosed with asthma did I realise how sensible that decision had been. But I kept a daily diary of the time and I am glad I did as it has proved useful. Time passes, so much happens and we don’t always recall exactly when events occur.

I have said previously about the lovely holidays to Devon and Cornwall but it was always a long journey, especially before the motorways we have now. This meant keeping everyone as happy as possible, not to mention safe so that Dad could concentrate on driving the car! After a few years it ended up with me as ’navigator’ and Mum as ‘stewardess’. It meant I was kept busy watching for road signs, signals, map-reading as well as identifying other vehicles. Both my parents smoked as we travelled, so I was inhaling second-degree cigarette smoke but we thought nothing of it at that time. If we knew then what we know now about smoking, then things might have been different but twenty-twenty hindsight can be wonderful… As a few folk will know from training sessions, “we don’t know what we don’t know”. A favourite quote of mine. After a few years Mum did stop smoking, but despite giving up the habit dear Dad had sadly left it too late. A good friend of mine still smokes and despite efforts to persuade him otherwise he has decided that it is his life to do with and live as he pleases. There is a very old saying that one can lead a horse to water but not make it drink. Except there are consequences! As I got older and began living my own life I started to explore this country, taking holidays in the Lake District, Wales and the West Country. I took a great many photographs, mainly slides rather than prints and I still have many of them in storage. One day I will sort through a few! It was not until a good few years later when I got married that my wife and I had holidays in the Algarve, Portugal. Then I was on my own again for a while, but these things happen. In 2004 I spent a week in Philadelphia, U.S.A., seeing the famous sights there and that got me out and about again, so I did the same a while later to Washington D.C. then on to Orlando, Florida and in both places I really did do the traditional tourist thing, seeing both the Space Centre along with Launch Pad 39b, where the Space Shuttle had been moved to the previous day. I also visited the Disney Animal Kingdom. Then I saw a simulator ride called Star Tours and I went on that. It was based on Star Wars and naturally our shuttlecraft became involved with a battle – it was fun to be behind an x-wing fighter, especially when I saw a trench appear on the screen – we were about to destroy the Death Star! It was all very well done. I visited the Epcot centre and was glad of the map they provided! Altogether my visits to the U.S.A. were most enjoyable. My next holiday abroad was a few years later and this time was to southern Spain. Dear Dad had sadly passed away and after a while Mum started having holidays of her own, initially to Brighton or the like. Then one year she announced that she was going to Lucerne and without thinking I responded “That’s in Switzerland, isn’t it?” To which I received a rather condescending “Very good dear!” in reply. I then learned that Dad had been there many years ago and had said he would take Mum. He didn’t manage to, so she was going on her own – and she did! After that it was regular trips abroad, one year to South Africa, but then she found a lovely place in southern Spain, so one year I went with Mum, just for a week. We had a lovely time together, especially as it became her last holiday abroad. So I have treasured memories of all my travels. Who knows what and where we will all be in the time to come.

The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

A thought…
Without art, Earth is just Eh…

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