To Winnipeg and Churchill

We had a late night flight from Toronto to Winnipeg, leaving at 10pm from Toronto Pearson. For some reason, everybody else seems to fly at that time too. The airport was packed with people. A 45-minute wait for food at one restaurant. What craziness is that? But on the positive side, our flight left on time, and we had a spare seat next to us.

The flight was just over two hours long. I spent an hour of that reading, and then the rest of it dozing off. I was hardly conscious for the landing, and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

Once again, the benefit of only taking carry-on luggage outweighed the downside of having to minimise how much we took. We were off the plane and out of the airport in no time at all. Even better, I’d book us a hotel right at the airport, so we walked out of the terminal and a minute later walked into the hotel.

We stayed at The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel by Lakeview, and boy, was it nice. The hotel is a year old and still looks brand new. The room was big, bed very comfortable, bathroom clean and spacious. It had some nice modern touches like an iPad for use (which gives you access to Netflix and controls the tv), swipe card entry (not slot, but swipe), and controls beside the door for Privacy/Make-up room.

We were in bed within about half an hour of arriving and, despite my back being sore, managed to sleep pretty well.

I woke up at 8. Glen had been awake since 6. We went down for breakfast, served by a very friendly and attentive waitress, went back to the room for a bit before checking out at 9:30 or so. A short walk back to the airport, a quick check-in at Calm Air and breeze through security, and we were at the gate in next to no time.

Pity the flight departing wasn’t so punctual. Still, it wasn’t as if we had plans when we landed so it didn’t make much of a difference. We left half an hour late, on a smallish plane that seats about 40 people. Glen and I were the last to board, but we got the emergency exit seats at the front, and had two seats to ourselves each. The plane was only about half full of passengers.

Our plane to Churchill

It was a noisy ride (the propellers just outside the window – and visible as they whirred around). We were given a little lunch snack box thing, which contained a ham and salad sandwich, a piece of cake, and a small caesar salad. We also had drinks. There was one flight attendant, and at one point either the captain or his co-pilot came through to use the bathroom at the back of the plane, while the flight attendant went into the cockpit.

The flight lasted about two hours. There wasn’t much to see out the window as it was a bit cloudy. We could see more on our descent. It’s a different kind of landscape, that’s for sure, with lots of little rivers and lakes, with clumps of trees dotted around the place. It’s very flat too.

After landing at the airport, I called the hotel and they sent someone to pick us up. A short drive later we were in town and checking into the Polar Inn & Suites. Accommodation is simple, but comfortable. After dumping off our stuff, we went for a walk, stopping at Gypsy’s Bakery for lunch, then going to the Parks Canada Visitors Centre.

We chatted to one of the officers there and got the message that it’s dangerous out here. There’s one area behind the hospital where we were told not to go in early morning or late evening as polar bears like to use the beach. We were also told, generally, not to go wandering around as you never know when you might cross paths with a bear. Then it’s pretty much goodnight Gracie. Glen was a bit freaked out, meanwhile I’m secretly praying we see one from a relative safe distance.

What this does indicate though is that we’re likely to see at least one polar bear during our trip, which I am over the moon about. Polar bears AND Beluga whales in one go? How awesome is that?!

After checking out the Parks Canada museum and watching a video, we walked through a bit more of the town. It’s bigger than I expected, but the houses are kind of what I had in mind. Built low to the ground, weatherboard house, the place a bit like a seaside town that’s very laid-back. It reminds me a bit of Rottnest Island. We walked along the track the officer told us was dangerous at certain times of the day. No polar bears, but we saw the bay and the inukshuk (Inuit monument/statue).

We looked around a little bit longer and then went back to the hotel. There’s not much to do here apart from go on tours, and most of them happen in the morning. I’ve sketched out a bit more of a plan for the next few days, but it looks like we’ll have a lot of free time. I suppose we’ll just have to relax.

Breaking out of my comfort zone at Canada’s Wonderland

I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters. The last time I went on one was at the Canadian National Exhibition, where I burst a blood vessel in my leg. And that wasn’t even a bit rollercoaster. But Canada’s Wonderland is one of the biggest attractions nearby, and we’ve already been here a year without going (though Glen did go with the kids a couple of weeks ago but didn’t go on the big rides).

So, it was with a lot of trepidation that we went to Canada’s Wonderland on Saturday with Pete, Royden and Alastair. Michelle and her wife, Sandra, met us there. Going in a group was an excellent idea because if it had just been Glen and I, we would have chickened out on so many rides.

Canada's Wonderland

Pete drove us there and we arrived around 11am. Glen had pre-bought all the tickets and passes so it was a fairly quick and easy process. He’d also pre-paid for parking. We went through the turnstiles, went and collected our fast lane passes, met Michelle and Sandra, and set off for our first ride.

We decided to tackle the Leviathan first, the park’s tallest, newest and scariest ride. Little did we know this was actually Pete’s first rollercoaster ever! His fears and worries seem so much more acceptable when you take that into account. A pity we didn’t realise until after we’d got home.

When we got to the ride, we noticed that the fast lane is only for people who have the fast lane PLUS pass, which we didn’t. The queue was long. It would only cost us an extra $10. We went and upgraded. It wasn’t a straightforward process though. We were directed to the wrong stand first of all, then had to go back to the entrance, dealt with someone there, and then had to go to another place to get the wristband. The processes involved could have been so much better streamlined. Canada’s Wonderland, get your act together!

But, once that was sorted, the rest of the day was a breeze. We returned to the Leviathan, queued for a fraction of the time as everybody else, and then jumped on the ride. From the website: Riders will be dropped from 306 feet (93.27M) at an 80 degree angle; travelling over 5486 feet (1672.1M) of track at speeds reaching 148km/hour.

I closed my eyes the whole ride and screamed my lungs out. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. And during the third drop you go down, you actually lift off your seat which is just beyond words scary. But after 3 minutes, it was done and the adrenalin pushed us on to the next ride.

The Drop. You can probably guess what this was. You ascend vertically and then they let you go and you plummet. SCREAMED SO LOUD. Yet, getting off, I laughed my head off and couldn’t stop. Talk about a reaction.

Next up, we queued for the Bat (no fast lane here) but after 20 minutes and only getting halfway, we left. We did the Leviathan again. Slightly less terrifying the second time around but eyes open only half the time.

We then walked around a bit more of the park, getting on the shockwave next, a ride I didn’t think I’d get on, but did once others did as well. It was a bit of a theme of the day. I’d say no to some of them, others would join the queue and FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in and I’d join the queue. In fact, most of the time when this happened, the ride wasn’t as scary as I thought.

We also went on the Windseeker (which takes you high into the air and you circle around a bit. Much more gentle than it looks), Skyrider (you stand up on this roller coaster. Bit jarry), Behemoth (the other big roller coaster), Psyclone, Sledge Hammer, Flight Deck (twice for me, three times for the others), Time Warp and Vortex. The only one I didn’t do was the Flight Deck the third time. Everything else, I was there, which was so much more than I thought I’d do.

Psyclone

We ate bad carnival food, including a giant ice-cream sandwich made with two cookies and a lot of soft-serve ice-cream. There were also these funnel cake things which were made of deep-fried cake batter, topped with strawberries, syrup and ice-cream.

Cookies!!!

We did the Leviathan a third time (which was my second last ride), and Glen and I were the second from the front this time. I kept my eyes open the whole way. Still screamed but laughed a lot more. Definitely worth going on.

We had a bit of a scare at the end of the day. Us boys were going to leave, while Michelle and Sandra were going to go on another ride. Throughout the day we’d been putting our water bottles, wallets and phones in Sandra’s bag (we helped carry it too), and then at the end of the day, took them all out and said goodbye to the girls. They left, we dawdled, then we saw them coming back.

Michelle’s phone was missing. She said she’d had it in her pocket but her pocket was undone and she was worried it had flung out during the Flight Deck ride. They went back to look, while Glen and I went looking at the last place we’d been. We couldn’t find it. We were so worried that it had actually been in the bag all along, and when we took our stuff out anytime during the day, it had fallen out. It was a bit of a downer note to end on. BUT in the car on the way home, Glen got a message. Michelle had found her phone. It was on the grass underneath the Flight Deck ride. Phew!

We left the park at 6, spending a little while looking for the car in the parking lot. Glen said we had parked it in D, but D covers quite a lot of area. It reminded me of the episode where the Simpsons go to the Itchy and Scratchy theme park, and Homer says, ‘Remember, we’re parked in the Itchy lot.’ The camera then zooms out to show there are only two giant lots: an Itchy and a Scratchy lot. It was like that. We found the car in the end.

So that was our day at Canada’s Wonderland. My adrenals were well and truly drained by the end of it, my throat hoarse from screaming, and my skin a bit burnt from the sun, but boy, was it a great day.

Planning the next escape

I’ve only been home a few days, but planning for the next few trips has already begun in earnest. Wednesday and Thursday I spent time making arrangements for Newfoundland at the end of August, while today I was looking into packages to see bears during the salmon run in British Columbia in September/October. I made progress on both trips, though the bear trip is still a bit of a pipe dream. It’s not cheap.

Besides planning our next lot of travel, it’s been a busy few days. On Wednesday I went shopping with Dave, mostly to serve as babysitter of his son Josh, while he raced around IKEA picking up soft furnishings. And yes, I did buy a few things as well. Glen wanted another green rug for the balcony, and I also picked up a cheap clothes horse. We really should have bought one when we first arrived, but it’s so much easier using the dryer. Now, my guilt has caught up with me and I’m drying clothes on the balcony.

The journey around IKEA was fine, Josh slipping in and out of sleep as we went along. Babies are such attention-magnets. Everybody looks at a baby. I like to think it’s because I was pushing the pram, but really it’s just a baby thing. I also got to feed him, which went well.

After IKEA, we went to one of the scariest and most dangerous places on Earth: Costco. For those of you who don’t know what Costco is, it’s a giant warehouse that sells just about anything you need from fresh groceries to packaged foods, televisions, cleaning products, clothes. You name it, they have it. And it’s all cheap. You buy things in bulk (say, a kilometre of cling film) and the price goes down.

I was unable to resist buying things, things we desperately needed. Like a giant ream of paper, 350 ibuprofen, 22 razors, bananas, chicken, fish, a big jar of pesto, 115 dishwasher pods, and a big roll of baking paper. Absolutely essential, all of it. Luckily, common sense kicked in before too long and I refrained from buying anything else. I also messaged Glen and told him he’s forbidden from stepping foot in a Costco ever. He has no control.

Wednesday night we went for dinner at our neighbour Julian’s place. He put on a great spread, serving a lot of food. We ate our full, caught up on what’s been going on in our lives, and introduced him to Archer.

Thursday was my first day back writing since before I went to the UK. I managed to reach my word count target, which is just shy of 3000 words per day. The book is slowly coming together, and I think it will turn out ok. I’m discovering new conflicts and emotional triggers to put into the book, so it feels a bit more exciting for me to right now. This continued on Friday too. I’m meant to write every day between now and 20 August, but tomorrow we’re going to Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park, and I doubt I’ll do any when I get home. Just means more to write on Sunday.

Thursday evening we went for a farewell dinner with Clare and Shane, Bec and Alastair, at Origins. Clare and Shane leave next week and are going on a two month tour of Europe, before returning to Perth. (Glen and I both forgot they were from Perth, thinking they were from Brisbane, like Bec and Alastair). We did the shared food thing, which worked out well as we were able to try lots of different things, like truffled popcorn, a different take on Peking duck, and some delicious fried calamari. Was a great night. Sad to see another group friends leave, but thrilled for their coming adventures.

Friday was filled with writing, going to the gym, and researching more travels. I think we’ll be able to see the bears in October at Thanksgiving, provided we want to pay the fees. To be honest, I think it’s the cheapest option available and the place we’d be going looks stunning. Need to book it soon though as spaces have just about gone. In fact, there are only two left.

This evening we went to see Labyrinth at the cinemas with Pete and Royden. Yes, it’s the original Labyrinth with David Bowie. Thank god it only went for an hour and a half. I know I’m a traitor to my generation for saying this but damn that movie is terrible. It’s dated so much. The Dance Magic Dance song is now stuck in my head, which is ok because it’s probably the best bit of the whole film. I don’t think I ever need to see it (or David Bowie’s crotch) ever again.

Tomorrow, Canada’s Wonderland. I don’t think I’ll eat anything because those roller coasters look terrifying!

Friends, family and Shakespeare in Love

The wind down to the end of my stay in the UK has been so busy that I’m going to need a rest when I get back to Toronto. I’m in Putney at the moment, mildly relieved that a friend has had to cancel our catch-up this evening. I’m worn out!

Thursday I went down to Leigh-on-Sea to meet Ellen and Dan for lunch as they live in Essex, not exactly close to Leigh-on-Sea, but close enough. Plus I had originally planned to be staying there that night but those plans changed. Ellen and I went to high school together (she was a year above) and I was one of the bridesmen at her wedding.

It was a beautiful day by the seaside and we had plenty to talk about, not least of which the impending birth of their first child (only six weeks away) and the purchase of a new house (Dan got the call while we were there to say that the exchange had gone through). Though both looked really good and it was such a great joy to spend time with them.

Getting back to London was a bit of a bother, stupidly deciding to take the District Line from Tower Hill during rush hour on a very hot and humid day. It took ages and was very uncomfortable. In the evening I had dinner with Jackie and Laura, giving us a chance to chat as there hasn’t been much while I’ve been here.

Friday Amy picked me up and we went for lunch and a walk in Richmond Park. This was also my opportunity to spend some time with Amy’s two-and-a-half-month-old daughter Elia, who’s very adorable. Another warm day but we enjoyed the gardens at Richmond Park and caught up on what’s been happening and what’s on the horizon. We also saw lots of deer resting in the shade, including many with antlers.

After lunch, I went into London to meet Leon and Alice (my uncle and aunt), as well as Jackie and her friend Tina. We went to the Crypt Cafe beneath St Martin’s in the Fields, which is a great place to meet, though wasn’t as cool as we were expecting. It was about 31 degrees in London with 80% humidity so the heat was really making me melt, especially as I walked from Waterloo Station to Trafalgar Square.

Leon, Alice and I then went for dinner with their daughter, Jo, and her boyfriend, Andy, at a place in Soho called Pho. Pretty good Vietnamese food, which was then followed by going to see the stage production of Shakespeare in Love. I’ve not seen the movie but apparently it follows it pretty closely. It was fun, even if the modern interpretation of acting and rehearsals etc was a bit jarring at first. The use of space was excellent and the way the stage moved about was impressive. It was laugh.

Saturday I caught the train down to Oxted as Leon, Alice, Jo and I were going to Alice’s brothers house for her and her sisters joint birthday party. Alice’s brother owns half a manor house in the country. It’s a bit place with a massive kitchen, about six or seven rooms (and just about as many bathrooms), and grounds. A perfect setting for gathering 41 of Alice’s family. I struggled with names after a certain point, though could absolutely remember the dog’s names (Alfie and Daisy).

There was a lot of food and plenty of drink to take us into the night. Sheila and Ian were also there, which I was really pleased about as it gave us time to catch-up. I talked to a few people I hadn’t met before, and told people I was an author when they asked what I did. It’s still a difficult thing to say. People were interested though and I was encouraged to talk to one of the younger relatives because he’s doing creative writing at university. I even sounded like I knew things.

Michael's house

Michael’s house

Me, Leon, Jo and AliceSunday I went for lunch with Leon, Alice and their friends in London. Jo and Andy were there too. I met more people, a few I knew from the last time I was here. Ate and drank way too much, but had a lovely time. Then I had to get across London to catch the train to Leigh-on-Sea for a dinner in my honour. This time it was with Sheila, Ian, Mary and Mary, Martin, Laurence and William. I was running late as all the trains were delayed but I didn’t get there much later than expected, so I was relieved.

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant, one of the few restaurants that are open in Leigh-on-Sea on a Sunday night. Even then, they close at 9:30 (and really want you out earlier). Leigh-on-Sea has upgraded a bit over the past year with new restaurants and cafes, turning it quite trendy, though you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere open on a Sunday night. Bizarre.

The meal was really good, probably one of the better Thai meals I’ve had outside Australia, which is a relief. Once again, ate too much, adding it on to the mountains I’ve eaten over the past two weeks. Definitely back on the diet when I get home on Tuesday, and of course, back in the gym. We had tea around at Sheila’s afterwards.

I stayed at Mary’s that night and in the morning we went down with her husband to their allotment. Last year it was impressive, this year it’s even more so. They’ve got about three half plots now which are pretty big and it’s bursting with life, colour and edible treats. Whitecurrants, blackcurrants, blueberries, plums, runner beans, courgettes, pumpkins…just to name a few. When Glen and I came here two years ago, he got inspired and made plots in our garden back home. I’m intrigued to see how our tenant has taken them on.

I met Sheila for lunch at one of the restaurants on the Broadway in Leigh, pleased to have the time together to chat. We then went to see Ian who’s doing up a car from 1928 (or there abouts). It is actually the car his parents owned way back when and he has a photo of when he was a young boy standing beside it with his parents. He’s fixing it up now, which is quite a product, but it’s a beautiful car.

I left Leigh-on-Sea about 3pm, a bit of a sad goodbye at the station, one of many during this trip. One (or a couple) of visits never seems enough, and without a planned return date, it makes the distance seem so far.

I’m now back in Putney. My bag is pretty much packed and ready to go for my flight tomorrow morning. Looking forward to seeing Glen. I’ve got a lot to do when I get home, continuing to write the sequel being the most pressing. But with that there’s a bunch of admin, some volunteer stuff and, oh yes, a wedding to finalise. It’s going to be a tiring but hopefully productive week.

And then, on the 29th, we head to Churchill to swim with Beluga whales. It’s all go here.

 

Monty Python Live

The main driver for my trip to England was to see Monty Python and Wednesday night it was upon me. Richard, his boyfriend Michaud, and I met and had dinner (fish and chips) at a nearby (and expensive) pub, before Richard and I took the train out to The O2 Arena.

The arena is smaller than I expected, partly because it’s hidden inside the Millennium Dome which is massive. We had pretty good seats, on an incline where we could see everything. Of course, we were far enough back that they were indecipherable to the naked eye, but they had screens so we didn’t miss anything.

The show was filled with the classics, of course, many of which are on a cd I own. They started off with the Yorkshiremen, with a few changes, but still brilliant. The Bruce’s, The Spanish Inquisition, Arguments, Spam, Albatross, and of course, the Dead Parrot Sketch, were a few that I can now remember.

They had plenty of songs too, adding a couple of extra verses to the penis song from Meaning of Life, and giving renditions of Every Sperm Is Sacred, It’s Christmas In Heaven and I’m a Lumberjack.

John Cleese’s voice is very faded, but understandable for his age. Yet, in comparison, Eric Idle sounds as much as he did back in the day, especially during the songs.

There were a few clips from the show, often to give Chapman a bit of a showing, but my favourite was the WI’s re-enactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbour. That is pure absurdity and just so wonderful. I’m looking forward to watching them all again when we get back to Australia.

The show finished on a high with a very good encore, and I was left with a very warm glow. I’m so glad I made the effort to come over and see it as it was definitely worth it.

It finished at 10:30 and then we joined the hordes to get to the tube station, which took 40 minutes. Still, it moved with relative speed and without fuss. I bid farewell to Richard at Waterloo and continued back to Putney.

Books About Town

Wednesday was a beautiful day in London, if a bit warm. It made a difference from the grey skies and drizzle over Wales. I stayed in for much of the morning, getting up late and doing washing. I think nearly all of my clothes ended up on the line, and it was a bit of a novelty to have them dry in the sun.

I didn’t have anything planned until the evening, when I would be going to see the Monty Python Live (almost) show, however, having a day free was great as it meant I could go and check out the books-as-benches around London, put on by Books About Town.

Church of Christ the KingPrior to leaving Toronto, I’d seen an article about these park benches that were designed to look like books and had been decorated/painted as such. They were in four main areas in London – City, Riverside, Greenwich and Bloomsbury – and there were maps for each of them. I set off about lunch time to check out as many as I could, except those in Greenwich.

First stop was Russell Square to check out the Bloomsbury books. The maps had pinpointed all the books with excellent accuracy so they were easy to find, and the distances they were spaced weren’t too far so it wasn’t a slog.

Russell HotelThe great thing about this campaign was that I got to see parts and things of London that I’d never seen before, and probably never would have. My first book was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in St George’s Gardens. It’s a park with gravestones in it, and, because of the beautiful weather, lots of live people soaking up the sunshine.

That was a bit of a theme of the day. Every green space I went to (and most of the benches were in parks) was heaving with people. I was staggered. Didn’t they have jobs and homes to be going to? They were all just lounging around, eating, drinking, laughing. And this was the middle of the day. (Ok, maybe they were on their lunch breaks.)

St Paul'sFrom there I saw a myriad of other books, stumbling across a giant cathedral (Christ the King I think) that had The Importance of Being Ernest in front of it. Only one bench that I looked for wasn’t there and that was 1984. It was out front of a university and had been damaged so was off for repair. Oh the irony.

A few of the benches were occupied with people but I asked everyone if I could have a photo and they moved. There were two I didn’t bother with: one with a breast feeding woman on it and the other surrounded by school children. I got photos of the backs of the benches though.

I found the act of asking people to move good for building confidence. When I got to the Riverside ones, there were quite a few occupied benches and I thought I’d leave them but fought that drive to run and so went ahead and asked. Everyone moved which was nice.

MinervaI really enjoyed checking out the sights on Riverside, many of which were around the city hall building, something I’d only seen from afar. The precinct surrounding it is well designed, with great views, excellent sculpture, and a water fountain play area. If I hadn’t gone to find the benches, it’s likely I never would have come here.

The last bench I saw was Paddington Bear, something that for me is so quintessentially English. I first read a Paddington Bear book when I was seven years old and we were here at Christmas. We were staying at Joanna’s and she had the books. That year I received a compendium of Paddington Bear books, which I loved. Then, when I came to England at 19, I stumbled across the Paddington Bear sculpture at Paddington station, so he’s always been a bit special to me.

Tower and CityI sat on his bench (one of only two I actually sat on, the other being one of the Peter Pan benches at St Paul’s) and asked another bench-hunter to take my photo. And that ended my search for benches.

There are still a few I didn’t see, apart from those in Greenwich, as they were a bit further out from where I was and I didn’t have a big affinity with those books/stories. If anyone’s in London while this is going on, I encourage you to keep an eye out for them. Some people had no idea they were sitting on books.

Tower BridgeBy the time I finished, I was worn out. The heat had gotten to me and I had a headache. The rides through the tube were torturous because the ones I was on were not air conditioned and there were a lot of bodies. I’d planned to meet Richard at his hotel at 5pm (he was coming to the Monty Python show with me) but I got there early and sat in the hotel bar, charging my phone, having a drink and cooling down. It was a nice way to end the day.

Anglesey: land of druids

Breakfast at the B&B was decent. I had poached eggs on toast, some fruit and some green tea, and was done and dusted by twenty past eight. Nikki texted to say her breakfast was taking a while so I walked into town with my luggage, met her and then we set off for day two of our Welsh adventure.

Nikki had already been out exploring as she was awake so early. She saw the fairy glen, which she said was pretty and idyllic. I’d had a bit of a walk before breakfast too but only for about fifteen minutes, heading down to the river and taking some photos.

I was alone in this gloomy forest and I can’t help but think of Midsomer Murders or Touch of Frost, or a billion other UK crime dramas. I didn’t stay long, as I’d given myself the creeps. It was breathtakingly beautiful down there though.

Our first stop of the day was St Digain’s church in Llangernyw to check out a yew tree which is the oldest in Wales and one of the oldest living things in the world. It’s between 4000 and 5000 years old. Staggering!

We rewrote our plans after visiting the yew tree as it had taken us longer to get there than expected. Roger, our sat-nav, couldn’t find the place we needed to go so we had to drive aimlessly for a bit and then I got reception on my phone so could find where we needed to go on Google Maps. So, after the tree, rather than heading south for a bit, we headed north to the coast to get on the lovely and wide Wales Expressway. We were going to Anglesey, home of the druids.

We crossed the bridge into Anglesey then went around the northern coast to Penmon to visit St Seiriol’s well. There were a few other tourists there, checking out the old and the new church, the dovecote (which was really impressive), and then the well (which was less so). By then it was lunchtime so we went further up the road to the point, looked at the lighthouse and had soup and cake at the cafe there.

From there we went to Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber, a very ancient mound that has had something on it since forever. First a circular ditch, then a stone circle and eventually this mound. We parked the car and walked next to a field full of cows for five minutes until we reached the mound. I really liked it. It’s fairly well maintained (the grass is at least) and there’s a stone out the front with old engravings on it. You can also go inside it.

After this mound, we went to check out another one called Barclodiad y Gawres, which is built overlooking the ocean. There’s a beach here where people were spending their day (I don’t think anyone was in the water though), and after a bit of a walk along the cliff, you come across a burial mound. It’s been heavily restored with bricks and concrete but there are some old pieces still there inside. I really enjoyed the view and the sea air.

From here we drove to Holyhead, which is on the far west of Anglesey, and from there to South Stack Cliffs to try to see puffins. The sat-nav took us along more windy and narrow streets but we eventually made it. There are about 400 steps on South Stack Cliffs that take you down to the bottom and across to South Stack Island. On the steps, you can bird watch as there are a lot of sea birds here. Sadly there were no puffins that we could see.

I went down to the bottom of the steps but didn’t go across to the island as there’s not much out there. I then ran up 100 of the steps, and struggled up the remaining 300. I have very little stamina for cardio-vascular activity.

South Stack Cliffs was our last stop together for the day so we drove to Bangor early so I had plenty of time for my train and so we could get some food. We didn’t find a pub easily so we made the very sad decision to eat in the cafe at Morrison’s. It filled a spot but was definitely nothing spectacular.

Nikki dropped me at the station and we said our goodbyes. It’s been a great five days together, especially as it had been over a year since we’ve been together. I’m also very grateful that we’ve got the kind of friendship where we can be around each other so much over five days without killing each other. She’s now off to explore more ancient sites around Wales. Only three more months until we see each other again. (Oh god, only three months until the wedding!)

I caught the train from Bangor to Crewe at 7pm and then changed trains at Crewe for Euston London at 9:30pm. Initially I thought the train wouldn’t get in until quarter to midnight, meaning I’d have a real problem getting back to Jackie’s before the trains stopped. Thankfully, the time I had was wrong and got into Euston over an hour earlier than initially thought. It still took a while to get home with all the train and bus changes but I did get home before midnight.

Just as an aside, I took over 1000 photos over two days. Plenty are double-ups and errors, but still.