And may the wind always be at your back …

Especially at the Cliffs of Moher! [but more on that later]

Ireland has been on my ‘bucket list’ for such a very long time, and although I had planned to be here for St Patrick’s day, it didn’t quite work out like that with our other adventures! So although it has been a bit cold, a bit wet, a bit grey, a lot windy and a bit miserable for most of our days, we have been having an amazing time.

When we arrived in Dublin we hired a car and headed to Northern Ireland. I was on a pilgrimage to explore the footsteps of my Dad (he used to work on a farm … that he did!). Michael Doherty [Dads second cousin] was going to be in Castlederg (he and Dad were born there) while we were here, so we made our plans around meeting him [as he is the ‘oracle’ on everything Doherty]. I feel blessed with the luck of the Irish to have been able to meet him here in Ireland.

We stayed in the Mourne Mountains for a couple of nights [before heading to Castlederg] and did the scenic drive up, down and around them. The landscape is gorgeous – lush, verdant rolling hills which have amazing stone/rock fences or neatly trimmed hedge rows. Every vista was hanging with mist adding a magical feel, and as the rainbows appeared you would look for that wee leprechaun on his pot of gold or the fairies dancing on the sunlight. 🧚‍♂️

The roads are narrow and bordered by rock walls or hedge rows or even village homes which are precariously close to the road. There are church’s around every corner, and if you haven’t seen a church for a while, you will see castle ruins. And ‘littered’ across the country are small stone homes from an age gone by. Often the new house is built right next to the old one. When we were in Alberta there were hundreds of timber barns and homes and here in Ireland it is small stone houses or barns. I just love them and took untold photos.

On our ‘Mourne’ drive we ended up in Newcastle for lunch and had a walk along the waterfront. We had a ‘sunny moment’ before a storm blew in. And when I say blew in, I mean really blew in … check out the tree!!! We had passed through Rostrevor, Kilkeel, Ballymartin (lots of towns starting with ‘Kil’ and ‘Bally’) and were staying in a very comfortable AirBnB in Hilltown. The rolling hills, scattered with ‘Irish’ sheep and the first signs of spring were all around us, but alas the sun was playing hide-and-seek!

From the Mourne Mountains we traveled across to Carrigan which is in the Republic. We stayed here two nights so that we could visit Castlederg and meet Michael. He very kindly spent a few hours taking us around the place to various places that had a connection to my family history. First port of call was St Patricks Cathedral where my Great-Grandparents grave is and also where Dad was baptised. From there we visited another few cemeteries and churches, had a tour in and around the greater area and drove past a house that Michael lived in when he was young. It is a ruin now, but it was fascinating to hear his stories. After lunch we had a look at the ‘new’ arrivals on the family tree and discussed how amazing it is that we [the NZ Doherty’s] would be missing of this tree is Dad hadn’t done Ancestory DNA – the results have been astonishing. I just feel that having been here in Ireland has given me such a connection and am so grateful to Michael for sharing his ‘findings’ with me. I know you are reading this Michael, so from me to you thank you

We drove on the next day back across to Carrickfergus to our next ‘pilgrimage’. I was determined to find Dad’s mate Ned, who he was in Australia and NZ with and Iris from the farm – I found both 💖 We called in to see Iris first but she was out, so we carried on up Islandmagee to find Ned. Now the address I had was Ned, Mulloughboy! I was expecting to find 6 houses and him in one of them!! It is a bit bigger than when Dad was last there (couple hundred houses!) so we asked the first bloke we came across and ‘oh begorrah’it was Ned. Can you believe that! Anyway Ned could hardly believe it, apologised he hadn’t shaved [he said he wasn’t expecting visitors 😆] and then we made plans to go out for dinner the following day, as he had a family function that evening. He sure would have had something to talk about!!

After leaving Ned we called back in past the farm to find Iris, but she was still out but we did find her son who called her and we made plans to visit the next day. It was just wonderful to meet both Ned and Iris, who very kindly shared the fond memories of Dad when he lived in Islandmagee. When we took Ned out for dinner we were able to call Dad on ‘facetime’ so he could have a quick chat with Ned. All in all visiting Islandmagee and Castlederg has been “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” [it’s a real word!]

We managed to get a day in Belfast and did a Black Cab Taxi tour. It was only an hour but it was great and covered the history of the troubles and the Wall, and how Belfast is becoming a dynamic city for the future. There is still some of this wall standing but now it is called the Peace Wall. We also visited the Titantic exhibition but that was a bit underwhelming!

From Islandmagee we headed North [anti clockwise] up through Larne, Ballygalley, the Glens, Cushendall, Cushenden, Torr, Ballycastle to Carrick-a-Rede where we walked the planks! It was wet, windy and wild and a swing bridge. OMG, I am really pushing the limits but, I got out there and did it! Actually, by the time you are in a queue and people are behind you … you just have to do it!!!!!!!

From there we headed up and around to the Giant’s Causeway where it is everything you have ever heard about … just a wonder of the world. So cool to finally be able to take my own footsteps. Our drive in around the north has been lovely, there are sheepees and lambs everywhere, daffodils by the thousands – it’s a thing where everyone plants them and they are like yellow glitter on the landscape.

We stopped in at the Mussenden Temple on our way to Derry. It has a fascinating history built in 1785 as a summer library for the lady of the estate. It is perched 120ft above the sea below. The estate itself has beautiful grounds and the temple has survived longer than the home! We were fortunate enough to have a break in the weather here, but it wasn’t long before another rain shower came at us from across seas, so we headed for Derry.

Derry is a lovely town which was ‘walled’ in the 17th Century. We did our own walking tour here and just strolled around enjoying it while it wasn’t raining. It is really lovely, has wonderful buildings and street art and of course a church or three!

I have so much more to share, but that’s it for this instalment from Ireland 🇮🇪 ☘️ 😊

“May your troubles be less … and your blessings be more … and nothing but happiness come through your door”

Our last week in the UK! (all fixed!)

Goodness time flies when you’re having fun – it is amazing to think we have almost been here a month!

We have had a few more outings, so let me give you a quick catch-up:

We visited the Stockport Hat Museum [as we had seen it from the train on our trips up to Manchester]. What a wonderful museum, giving a fascinating insight to the hatting industry. We spent hours here learning about the felting process, the hatting process and here about how the saying ‘Mad as Hatter’ came from the hatting industry as they used mercury in the felting process, which gave the workers mercury poisoning. Apparently the saying “pop goes the weasel’ comes from the hatting industry too. One of the tools is called a weasel, and when work was low they would ‘pop the weasel’ into a pawn shop so they could by ‘half a pound of tuppenny rice’ ….

Quarry Mill is a gorgeous property that is about 3.5km from where we are staying. It is an old cotton mill on the River Bollin, built in circa 1780’s. It has working machines from way back when, apprentice houses (for the children who started when they were aged 9!!), the Quarry Bank House and also Styal Village on the border where the adult workers lived. Such a beautiful place, but oh my, the horrors from that industrial revolution make our working lives today seem a bit easy!! When we visited on the Saturday they had some of the machines going and it was unbelievably loud. So not only were they deaf [from the noise of those machines], they also got ‘cotton lung’ [from inhaling the fluff]. We walked here twice as it is such a big property to explore. It is a lovely walk along the river and through the meadows.

Colin has family who live in Preston [his mum’s side], so we took ourselves on a journey up to visit them. We had to plan it for a Sunday as they were having strike action on the rail network on the Saturday. On the Sunday the services are a quite reduced, so what would be an hours drive took just over 2 hours on the train!! We were really only able to have lunch with everyone [Pamela (cousin) and David, Martin and Elaine, and their daughter Adelaide and Kyle and his fiancé Sally] before we had to take the train back, which took best part of 2.5 hours. We have made a commitment to care and fully look after this cat, so although she probably would have been okay, I just couldn’t leave her any longer. Pamela and David [who visited us in NZ 14 years ago with Martin and Kyle] very graciously came down to Wilmslow a couple of days later where we had a lovely long catch-up, and out for a pub meal, which was really lovely.

We visited the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, which is a bit like MOTAT in Auckland. Colin like it better than I do! Anyway, we had a visit here and all in all it wasn’t too bad! They had some working displays of the cotton weaving machines and some of the old generators, which complimented all the other industrial revolution things we had seen.

I read a wonderful book about a dog called Treo and his handler Dave and their deployment to Afghanistan as part of the bomb detection unit. It was funny, sad [I cried!] and gave me a completely different understanding of what happens for those soldiers when they are on an overseas deployment to a war-torn country. Anyway I discovered that Dave lived in Congleton when they returned and that Treo has a monument for his war effort there. It is not far from us, so we caught a train and a bus and went to this gorgeous village to visit. We found the memorial reasonably easily and I had a picture with the famous Treo.

So Louise and Tim have had us out a few night this week, as it sadly has to come to and end! So we went to the movies on Monday [to see Bohemian Rhapsody] and then out for dinner. Then we went to The Oak Wood for drinks on Thursday, out for Thai meal with the family on Friday and for a pub lunch on the Saturday [with Louise’s parents].

Louise also took us to All Saints Church in Daresbury to visit the Lewis Carroll memorial window, which depicts Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll as part of the window. It [the window] was commissioned to mark 100 years since the birth of Lewis Carroll – this name was only ever his pen name, his given name was Charles Lutwidge Dogdson. The church has built an annex with all things Lewis Carroll. A really interesting place to visit and easily missed if you are not in the know.

On Saturday after lunch we headed to Halifax where we visited Piece Hall and the markets. I had been here with Louise 30 years ago so it was wonderful to visit again. We had tea and cake [shared] before returning to Wilmslow via the Halifax Gibbet. The ‘Gibbet’ was installed in the late 1600’s and is a early type of guillotine. There is a plaque with names of the 52 known people to be beheaded!! A fairly brutal way for life to end when you are a petty criminal.

So as our week came to an end we had one more catch-up. This time is was Colin’s Cousin Keith and wife Eileen [his Dad’s side]. They were flying out of Manchester airport on holiday, so came down from Cumbria a day early to see us. We hadn’t seen them since they were in NZ 8 years ago, so it was great to see them again. After a having a coffee we headed up to Wilmslow and had a lovely meal with them. We had only just sat down and I knocked my half pint of lager over Colin!! Amazing how wet you can get from a half pint!! Keith very kindly took him over for a change of clothes!! [What a way to make an impression!]

So that brings our time in the UK to end for now. We have had an amazing time over the last month. Looking after Benson has been great, such a fun kitty-cat. Of course seeing Louise and Tim (and family) after 30 years was an absolute highlight and our time with them has been fantastic. We saw Colin’s cousins as well and have seen and done so many wonderful things AND had so many pub meals that we are on soup for the next two weeks.

So as I finish this we head to Ireland – a visit here was at the top of my ‘to-do’ list, as I want to explore places that are part of my Dad’s history. We have of course had the opportunity to meet Michael (Dad’s second cousin) and all going well, we will see him again in Castlederg, where he and Dad were both born.

So, we’ll see you in Ireland x

“The only impossible journey … is the one you never begin”

Ps: just a quick comment on the rubbish – to be fair to everywhere else I have commented on it!! The rubbish on the train lines, around train stations, along motorway junctions is an absolute disgrace … I just cannot get my head around why?!? It will be interesting to see if I noticed it at home?!?

When it snowed it was very pretty … but awfully cold!

Our local car dealer is Aston Martin! And there is a Porsche shop, as well as a Bentley place…so you can imagine what the frock shops are like!! No shopping for me here!

Wilmslow is a fairly posh neighbourhood (we didn’t know that when we applied – it was just close to Louise and Tim!). We have been able to catch the train or the bus to explore locally and also to head up to Manchester, although we were snowed in one day, and it has been so cold that it has taken days for the snow to melt, making walking a bit treacherous ⛄

We spent the first day here with a walk up to the local supermarket to get our supplies and a bit of noesy around. I also went for a walk along the river that runs close to where we are staying. I met lots of dog owners and almost wished that we had a dog on this ‘assignment’ until I saw how muddy they all were! Nope, Benson the cat is fine for the cold and the wet, and she is such a fun kitty-cat. She just loves cuddles and playing … especially as I sit down to catch up on my blog!! Seems the iPad is a magnet 😁

On the Saturday Colin and I went and helped with the Care UK charity container pack. It was great to be able to help with this and sort more donated items for the next one [container]. We met lots of lovely people and someone who had recently been to New Zealand. It is always great when people have had such a lovely time in our home country. Afterwards we headed out for a pub lunch and then spent a lovely afternoon with Louise and Tim – they are not sick of us yet 😊

Colin thought it might be a great idea to get a car here in the UK, then we could take it to Ireland and Europe. We found a car online and headed into Manchester for a look. The one [car] that was on the ‘www’ had been sold, but he saw another car buried in the back corner under a pile of leaves, with flat tyres, flat battery, covered in moss and mould, BUT it was a Toyota! After chatting to the man, getting it started [it sounded good have been sat for 7 months] he said “yip, I’ll have it”. It was agreed that we would pick it up the following week once they have got it two new tyres and a MOT check and done a valet!!

We then started on the insurance process!! OMG – it is almost impossible. After many online enquiries, visits to two brokers [online enquiries won’t accept NZ Licence numbers, or no fixed abode, or no phone]. Finally after a day out in Knutsford we found another broker who was able to secure us insurance …. just need the car now! So we hadn’t heard from the car people as promised – so Colin is now chasing them, but they finally fess up that the mighty Toyota Motor has too much chassis rust! So back to not having a car! Anyway, after all that we have decided to hire a car in Ireland (next destination) and see how we get on without it when we get to Europe! All in all it was the most frustrating experience … and to boot the insurance was going to be NZ$1600 for a NZ$1000 car!!

On another day out in Manchester we visited the John Rylands Library [is sometimes confused as a church as the building is in a similar style] which is now part of the University of Manchester. It was opened in circa 1900, and is a beautiful building with the most incredible neo-Gothic architecture and a expansive book collection, some dating back centuries ago. It also has these most beautiful stained glass windows and decorative ornaments and statues.

After visiting the library, we just wandered around the city, checking out the canals and all the amazing street art and fitted in a visit to the mighty Cathedral.

We have also visited Knutsford which is a gorgeous village a short (45 minutes) bus ride from us. Knutsford, like Wilmslow is premium property with plenty of footballers and actors. We visited the heritage centre and saw the incredible tapestry, walked through Tatton Park (unfortunately the house wasn’t open), had lunch in a grand pub before catching our bus ‘home’. Actually we visited a insurance broker first, who very kindly sorted our insurance … and you know the rest!!!

Part of the Knutsford Tapestry…a really interesting ‘snapshot’ of the town for the new millennium. Every child who was at school in 1997-1999 put at least one stitch in it. It is 40 ft long and has lots of interesting stories ‘woven’ into it.

King Canut pebble mural.

We also went out with our lovely friends Louise and Tim for a beer at a local [The Oak Tree, in Alderley Edge]. I am loving having friends close by (well 30 min drive for them!), and being able to pop out to the local. Those of you who know us, will know that we are reasonably social😍

So that’s us for now. Benson the cat has been great, such a fun cat who always just wants to play, is always nicking my pens, or trying to nick my necklace!! She is one of the reasons that I have gotten so behind with my musings!! When I am writing or planning, she is there ‘helping’!! And she is the reason we are here, so love and cuddles first 😻

Cheshire / Greater Manchester has been great, and we have a few more things to see and do before we move on.

This memorial is outside Manchester Piccadilly station – it is a tribute to all the soldiers who returned home from the war blind 😢

So until next time, take care.

“Life is short … do stuff that matters”

A wonderful reunion … and lots of sightseeing!

It was so incredible to walk out of Manchester airport [after flying from Malta] to see my gorgeous friend Louise [and her husband Tim] after 30 years. We have had the pleasure of staying with them for 9 days and have had the most sublime time. It was just wonderful to finally meet Emma and William [their children], and just so lovely to see her parents again.

Such a fabulous thing to be ‘on holiday’ with them [Louise and Tim] and have our lives organised in the most enjoyable way. Of course the first thing we had to do was have a pint at the local (Ring O Bells, Warrington) and this led us to have several pints, in several pubs over several days!

Day two – saw us heading to Yorkshire to see Louise’s parents, and of course for a pub lunch (Hollins Mill, Sowerby Bridge). I used to visit Louise in Halifax when we were here in 1986-1988. Colin and I were lucky enough to have a holiday on Louise’s parents canal boat, so we visited their new boat and remembered the wonderful holiday we had with them [it was only two nights, but it is a memory that we always talk about – if anyone will listen 😂]. We were so excited to hear that Louise’s parents are coming to New Zealand later this year – our first booking!!

On Wednesday evening I went with Louise to volunteer at CareUK which is a charity that distributes donated items, to refugees in Syria and Greece and any local people who require support. The amount of items donated is staggering, but it creates a huge job for the volunteers to sort it. I was pleased to be able to do a couple of hours to help out.

Day three – up and at it early as we were heading to Carlisle for the day. The train trip from Settle to Carlisle is a reasonably famous trip, so after dropping Will at school we beat a hasty retreat up the A-something and an M-something [motorways]. When Tim put the details into the SATNAV it said we had plenty of time to catch the 10.22 train! But after getting caught in a snarl up on the M-road it took our arrival time out to 10.26am! After breaking away from the hold up and the madness of the Manchester traffic we made great time heading north. As we took our last exit from the motorway system we had 6 minutes to spare at arrival, BUT we [well Tim] inadvertently found ourselves back on the motorway again. After a bit of a diversion we were back on track but on all these gorgeous country lanes. We did a bit of rallying [at one point flying I think!] making up time, then getting stuck behind a hay truck before finally arriving at the Settle Station with about 3 minutes to spare 😮

The train trip up to Carlisle is about 1.5 hours through the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines. The scenery is stunning and this trip, complete with tunnels and the famous Ribblehead viaduct was just so beautiful. Of course the awesome company and refreshments on the way made it a wonderfully relaxing trip [especially after the madness of catching the train!].

After a walk in and around Carlisle we of course stopped for a pub lunch (The Apple Tree, Carlisle). We did a bit of shopping before heading back to the train, for the trip back to Settle. Well we had not long got underway when there was a delay on the track. Our 1.5 hour trip ended up being 3.5 hours!! Of course every time the train stopped, it was in places where we couldn’t see anything and by the time we finally got back it was dark!! A little bit frustrating but the complimentary wine was a nice touch and of course it gave us more time to catch up. It was a wonderful day out.

Day four – had a lazy start to the day and then went for a walk in and around where Louise and Tim live. It was cold and it did try snowing but we braved it and really enjoyed exploring their neighbourhood. Pork Pies and mushy peas for lunch followed by a relaxing afternoon and endless cups of tea.

Then it was ‘glad-rags’ on and out to the Village Hall, Appleton Thorn for a sneaky pint before a wonderful dinner at La Boheme. This was their treat, for our 30th wedding anniversary. It was such a special dinner with exquisite food and just wonderful to be sharing a celebration with them.

Day five – saw us head to Bradford to the Science and Media Museum which was great. It has displays from all sorts of media, including film and TV as well as its own movie theatre and the wonder lab science exhibits. I really loved all the old photography / equipment here. There was a fascinating ‘installation’ of the terms and conditions for our media devices in the “Never Alone” which showed you how we are connected all the time. The terms and conditions for FITBIT, Facebook, Insta and Snapchat take hours to read so they just give you the option to select “I Agree” but you basically sign your life away!! A very thought provoking concept, to see it printed out onto scrolls and hung on the walls with some reaching the floor! I couldn’t get a good shot of it, so I burgled one from online (nothing is safe!!)

Believe it or not, from here we headed to the New Beehive for a pint before the ‘boys’ went of to watch Bradford play [they lost 4-0] and the ‘girls’ went shopping for essential items for the charity. A quiet night in and a movie was the perfect way to end the day.

Day six – exhausted! I forgot to mention that I arrived with the beginnings of a head cold! I stayed in bed until at least 11am (missing church!!) but managed to get myself together to travel with Tim, Will and Colin, to meet Louise and Emma at the pub (Egerton Arms, in Little Budworth [circa 1797 – it has been an ale house for most of this time apart from a couple of stints, the most recent in 2008] – top photo) for a delicious Sunday lunch. This is the quintessential English Pub with a lovely atmosphere and great beer 🍻

Day seven – Today we headed of to Chester – what an absolutely beautiful city. We walked around the fortified walls which were built in the 1st century by the Romans, stopped for a beer (at the Bear and Billet – the building is circa 1664) and then lunch at the Albion (which had wonderful posters and memorabilia from WWI). With a fascinating medieval feel to the place and all the gorgeous Tudor buildings, together with the River Dee and the absolutely gorgeous Cathedral, Chester was an absolute delight.

After a wonderful day in Chester, we visited friends of Louise and Tim’s for a drink in The Plum Shed [circa 2018]. Mark very kindly welcomed us into his garden bar. What a fabulous ‘garden pub’ it is. Colin was uber envious and I feel a garden bar may be on the cards when we get home. If I could Trip Advisor it I would say … a gorgeous modern bar, with an exceptional host and wonderful decor. A wonderful place to gather with friends and enjoy a tipple or two! 🍻

Day eight – we headed to Liverpool on a cold and grey day and visited the Albert Docks which is a fabulous place. With the river Mersey and the canals connecting here it is a busy ara which I am sure in the warmer months is bustling and vibrant. The Royal Liver Building is pretty impressive (when it was built in 1911, it used to be the tallest building in Europe) with its huge (18ft) copper Liver Birds [called Bella and Bertie] atop watching over the city and the sea.

Of course, the famous four were from here!

The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral was next on our ‘to-do’ list. Built in 1967, it is known locally as the ‘Wigwam’. It was originally designed in a ‘traditional’ design, but after WWII there was not enough money to finish. They finished the crypt in 1941, which is underneath, and then finished the building in this modern design. It is the largest church in the UK and seats 2,300 people.

Day nine – saw us packing up and getting ready to head to Wilmslow to look after ‘Benson’ the cat. Louise [now with my cold – friends share] and Tim are back to work. We weren’t expected [in Wilmslow] until later in the afternoon, so we took ourselves for another walk. It had been snowing, was pretty cold and grey but we ‘rugged-up’ and arrived home quite a while later to have a later lunch, before Tim very kindly took us to our next ‘Mr & Mrs Smith assignment’.

So Benson the cat is a super friendly, sassy kitty-cat and we are in a lovely apartment, not to far from the train station and shops. We are here until the 12th of February, so will be exploring the greater Manchester areas.

So that is the news, not quite up-to-date but as good as it gets for now!!

“Wherever you go … it becomes part of you somehow”

Malta has such incredible history …

We have been incredibly spoilt by being able to stay in Cospicua/Bormla. We have walked and walked [my btm thanks me!], have had a couple of gorgeous days and quite a few days of rain too!! We have been freezing!! Living in a heritage house with concrete floors and walls, and gorgeous tiles throughout the house you wouldn’t say that it would meet the insulated standards we have in NZ!! But regardless of the cold, we have had a delightful time and feel very privileged that we were trusted to look after ‘Misu’ the cat and this interesting home in such a beautiful area.

Over the next couple of days we visited the Inquisitors Palace, did a harbour cruise and explored Senglea and Mdina. The Inquisitors Palace was built over 500 years ago and is one of the only buildings of its type open to the public. It survived has survived earthquakes and wars.

I just loved being here and being able to glimpse at the past. The stairs were worn with hundreds of years of history. The Knights of Malta roamed here. The kitchen may have been my favourite place if I had been there all that time ago …. it had the wine and it would have been warm 😂. We visited the jail and the torture room – it is hard to believe that with such cruel punishments that crime even existed!

With so much to see from the water we did a harbour cruise, but the weather packed in, so didn’t really see a lot. We have also explored Senglea which is part of the ‘ Three Cities’ and again is fortified. From this point you can see Valletta, Birgu and the shipping docks. We walked around the walls of the city at a leisurely pace and just enjoyed exploring.

The guards tower has the eye, the ear and the crane and was to make the people feel safe. It has spectacular views over the Grand Harbour. It is a looooooong way down, so none was climbing in here!

One of the streets in the Three Cities – I just love that the people who live here ‘own’ it and keep it looking like this. There is room for cars on this one!!

We took the bus to Mdina one afternoon – WOW what a fabulous place, so medieval. This fortified city on the highest hill and you can see back to Valletta and the Three Cities. It was just amazing and there are hardly any cars – well there just isn’t room. St Paul’s cathedral stakes its pride of place and the streets are just like a story book. It was the Phoenicians who fortified the city and ‘back then’ it was the capital.

On a wild, wet and windy day [our last day] we headed to the Malta classic car museum. It is only small but it had a reasonably interesting collection and of course we took ‘our petrolhead’ with us.

So, I have talked about rubbish more than once! I am saddened to report that Malta is no different!! We walked to the supermarket out through St Helen’s gate [built in 1736] and into just everyday life, where tourists don’t roam! I wanted to walk along the wall, as it is just so interesting being inside the fortified walls – I will leave the pictures to say my ‘thousand words’ 😔

So, while Malta has been absolutely gorgeous – like any big city it has its darker spots. When you ‘live like a local’ of course you experience the wider communities – all the good things and the not so good things. I would definitely visit here again, there is much to see and do and I will continue my quest of picking up rubbish everywhere I go – I figure it all helps. And not to finish on a negative, one more picture of the delightful streets. 💖

So that’s us from Malta. We are flying to Manchester for our next ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’ assignment [which is in Wilmslow]. But before that begins we will be seeing our bridesmaid Louise [and her lovely family] with whom we haven’t seen since we got married. We are so looking forward to finally catching up with them again after all this time. I am sure that we will have lots of adventures to share with you from Warrington and the Manchester area. Until then take care.

“the earth is what we all have in common … lets look after it”

Malta welcomed us with a gorgeous day …

We left Cyprus on a sunny day and flew to Malta … 2 hours 40 minutes on an amazing flight with Emirates. We had actually booked with Air Malta, but it was a code share [lucky us!]. From checking in at Larnaca airport through to arriving in Malta, it was just the most wonderful experience. We had a delicious lunch with a glass of wine, full entertainment and we think a kiwi pilot [he sounded like home!]. No wonder Emirates win so many awards … and they sponsor ‘our’ boat, so they must be good!

We got a taxi from the airport to our ‘home’ for the next week, which is in the fortified walls of Cospicua/Bormla [one of the three cities]. We met Steve who entertained us for the afternoon, then Sara who told us the important things! Their home is a crazy, quirky building [5 levels if you count the roof!!] with ‘scary’ stairs to Steve’s office and roof top balcony. It overlooks to the harbour and Valletta beyond. There is no road to their house, so we had to walk down the stairs.

This is the view from the roof 😮

These stairs are treacherous! You wouldn’t want to have a wine or three on the roof and then get back down these!

It is just incredible to have the opportunity to stay in a place with such history. Malta has had a turbulent past! From the Romans to the Phoenicians, the Arabs, the Norman’s, Napoleon, the Knights of St Johns and the British (and a few others!) Malta has been ‘the want’ of many civilisations over the past few thousands years.

It became a British independent in 1964, became a Republic in 1974 and joined the EU in 2004. It is a ‘jewel’ in the Mediterranean [and the smallest country] and was apparently the ‘nurse’ during the war, serving to look after soldiers who were injured. There is a fantastic hospital here built in the mid 1500’s, by the Knights of St John. It was ‘world-class’ and ahead of its time [doing amputations by guillotine rather than using saws!]. It is the most beautiful building and you can just feel the history, imagine the life of a time gone by. There are a few paintings left on the walls, but ultimately now it has a theatre built into [what once was] the gardens, and the hospital part now has all manner of events and functions.

So on our first day here is was stunning. We decided to headed Valletta on the ferry which was only a short trip, but just so incredible. From all the fancy boats in the Grand Harbour, the amazing buildings and the fortified walls of Birgu, Senglea and Valletta (it took 9,000 people to build the fortress of Valletta in the mid 1500’s 😮]. We walked and walked and walked around Valletta – it is just so enchanting, incredibly beautiful and the buildings just magnificent.

On the ferry … in Grand Harbour

Valletta on an absolute incredible day 😊

From the Grand Barrakka Gardens

Approaching Valletta … the lift [on the left] takes you up to the Gardens.

The Bell Tower monument to ‘Malta’ for the receiving the George Cross. It is to honour the 7,000 people who lost their lives during WWII, during the seige of Malta.

“at the going down of the sun … we will remember them”

There is just so many things that make you stop and look, things that delight you, surprise you and just simply astound you. I have taken hundreds of photos, around every corner is another building or vista that is just breathtakingly beautiful.

So this is us out exploring the neighbour 💖. It was a cold, wet and windy day but out we went. I love that some of these streets are careless, and that the ‘people’ have taken ownership of them and keep them looking just gorgeous.

We visited Fort St Angelo which is another place with just amazing history. We spent a couple of hours here and tried to take in the history – our wee brains are saturated!! In the early 1800’s the Royal British Navy ‘garrisoned’ the fort and they remained here until 1979. There was so much other history here, but I just can’t remember everything!! It had amazing view of the Grand Harbour and across to Valletta.

So that is us, two days in – our minds overflowing with sights, sounds and amazing history!

“When you travel … you will find the world amazing”

Our time in Cyprus comes to an end ….

So we arrived before Christmas and saw in the New Year, have seen incredible rich history, made new friends and loved our new furry friends. Our home for the past three weeks has been in the village of Tala [picture below]. The picture above is in the town of Paphos, which is a short 15 minute drive towards the coast.

So before we packed up to leave we had a few places left on our to do list. We visited the Castle [Fort] in the port of Paphos and walked around the waterfront. The castle was built circa 965AD and has an intriguing history – destroyed by an earthquake in 1222 [and rebuilt], pulled down by the Venetians in 1570 and rebuilt in 1592 by the Turks to protect the harbour. It has been used as a prison and during the British occupation [who took it from the Ottomans] as a salt warehouse. It is surrounded by a moat and is often the backdrop for concerts during the celebrations for Aphrodite in September.

Around the top of the castle where those fences are, is where the cannons were located. It would have been a formidable site to see this [fort] sitting at the port entrance with these in place, but clearly it wasn’t impenetrable as it kept being invaded!

One way in through these ancient doors and across the moat [which is unfortunately got a lot of rubbish in it!].

Inside there are information boards around the walls to let you know the history of the castle and the area, including the sea life, diving and the ship wrecks along the coast.

After we had explored the castle we walked along the main waterfront area, past all the eateries and tourist shops. There were several people in swimming, but I can tell you that it wasn’t warm enough for that!! I am sure that this is a bustling place in summer, but not really a nice place to swim, with all the seaweed.

A couple of days later we drove a bit further around the coast [to Peyia] for a coastal walk to the sea caves. It is quite uninhabited [along the walkway], although the houses we did see were pretty big. There is a ship wreck [Edro III] which garners a lot of attention. The ship was wrecked here in 2011 and is now just ‘part of the landscape’! It is actually protected, as are the other 12 wrecks!! Cyprus is said to be one of the best places in the world for diving and with all these wrecks, you can understand why!!

As we walked along the walkway, we were again surrounded by rubbish – lots of dumping of rubbish in various places. I am just continually bewildered by the rubbish 😲 It is amazing that the sea caves are promoted as a geological place of beauty and wonder, and yet there is so much rubbish littering the shore. Apparently in years gone by, this area had been a seal habitat, but years of us ‘humans’ desecrating this area they have all left. Such a sad depredation of our [human] legacy on this planet 😔

So the last week has seen some intense thunder storms, enough rain to float the ark, us [dogs, cats and humans] all being house bound and with only very short walks in between the heavy rains. This incredible rainbow [never seen such a bright one before] was gobbled up by the storm clouds. We retreated to the fire and endless cups of coffee. Of course this gives us time to do research for our next destination and beyond.

We had one fabulous day before the rains set in, so it was a bath for Bailey, Brandy and Peep … what are the chances of them looking so clean and beautiful for when their owners arrive home 😂 🤞

We met some lovely people out walking our dogs, and caught up with one friendly [expat] couple for drinks at our local in Tala, before we left. Of course we have invited them to NZ as well.

So after a day cleaning the house, making dinner for our home owners [HO], walking our ‘girls’ for the last time, collecting our HO’s from the airport and then a lovely night catching up with them, it was time to say goodbye to Cyprus. Julie and Iain were wonderful people and were so generous with our time in their home, and we loved that they trusted us with their ‘girls’ – all 7 of them!

Today we have driven from Paphos to Larnaca for our flight [Monday 7th Jan] Malta awaits! ✈️ 🌞

“No matter where you go … you are there”

Out and about in Paphos 🌞

On a beautiful sunny day we headed into town to do the harbour walk. It is probably a 5km return walk which takes you along the water front past the Archaeological Park and Tombs of the Kings. It wasn’t very busy, so it was really nice to soak up the fresh sea air and enjoy the sparkling Mediterranean at a leisurely pace [albeit with a bit of a chilly wind – it is winter here!].

All along the walkway are sculptures, I liked this one best as did Colin!! The others were a bit non! The walk was along part of the coast line that has rocky outcrops and a scruffy looking beach [with rubbish!]. Beaches in New Zealand are second to none, and I think that New Zealand is paradise [although not perfect!] compared to what we have seen. Trip Advisor doesn’t even rate any NZ beaches in the top 20! After this trip and inviting hundreds of people to visit us in NZ, this will change. I also noted that Air NZ ranked as the 2nd airline 😊

On Christmas Eve we headed into the city for a wander about, it wasn’t busy so we had a lovely explore. There are some lovely buildings and shops and I really like these pedestrian walkways [although scooters do use them!]

We had also been invited to the local Taverna for dinner and celebrations. We met several of the locals, including the Priest [who dressed up as Santa]. We sat at a table of Expats and I happened to find myself next to a lady called Barbara Armstrong who was the women’s rally championship driver [plus many other titles, including the Speed Queen]. It was great to meet and chat with her and of course I have invited her to New Zealand.

We woke up on Christmas Day to the most sublime morning. We packed up our wee dogs and headed to the coast for a walk (about 30mins from our village). With the Mediterranean sparkling beneath the high puff-ball clouds we dawdled along with the ‘girls’ just exploring and did a bit of rock climbing! I try to do a photo essay of our ‘pets’ [for their owners] while we are looking after them, and I was pretty pleased with how these turned out. We had to find a bigger rock for Bailey [and her wheels] – she just wants to do everything the other two do 💖

Bailey rock-climbing with her wheels 😊

Brandy – super smart wee dog 😊

Peep [neighbours dog] needed a lift up here 😂

We we lucky enough to be invited to the neighbours [Scottish] for Christmas dinner. It was a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, trifle and mince pies, and of course a wine or three. It was just a lovely evening, and an easy chat with Ken and Aileen, who have lived in Tala Village for 12 years. Their house is 200+ years old but has been modernised and is just lovely. They have 8 cats, one of whom weighs in at 10kg! He was just a big cat – I reckon he should have been named Mowgli.

Just up the road from our village is the Agios Neophytos Monastery, so we headed up there to explore. Neophytos [a Cypriot Monk and hermit] carved his way into the rocks and then created a small church connected to his room, into which he also carved his tomb into, and was buried there until his remains were transferred to the basilica. This was way back in 12AD. Later in the 16AD a domed basilica was built and the monastery still operates today. We found ourselves coming in the back door of the basilica and missed the no photos sign!! Oooops! Only took one photo [inside] before I was enlightened of the policy!!

Ancient olive tree …

There is also a small museum here with significant pottery, religious artefacts and writings dating back to 10AD. Again, the history here was just so fascinating.

So from him and me, happy New Year and all the best for 2019 😊

“With the new year here … dare to do the things you’ve always wanted”

Cyprus, an observation – not an opinion!

After two weeks in Cyprus here are a few things we have observed:

  • There is rubbish everywhere! When you live amongst it … you don’t see it!!
  • It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean
  • 1.2 million people live here
  • It has the oldest winery in the world [apparently] – Aphrodite loved wine [so do I!]
  • The street signs are tiny and hard to read, if they are there at all [and they are meant to have white writing, but most have faded out!] 🤔
  • You can [apparently] buy a Cypriot passport by investing approx €350,000 in property
  • It has a seemingly romantic nature and laid back atmosphere about it
  • Halloumi has been made in Cyprus for centuries
  • The bougainvillea throughout the villages are beautiful
  • The Mediterranean Sea sparkles likes ‘jewels’, on a sunny day
  • It is cold here in winter! We have the fire on today 🔥
  • Most people speak English
  • There are half finished condos everywhere
  • Rubbish is collected twice a week in villages and three times a week in towns to keep the rat populations down! If rubbish is collected so often, then why is it everywhere?
  • The roads are lumpy and bumpy!
  • There are a lot of foreigners living here – like any other country in the world!

  • It is still occupied [illegally in 1974] by Turkey in the north
  • There are huge numbers of UK / Russian expats living here
  • Hire cars have red number plates – so glad we have a local car/number plate!
  • There are trees laden with fruit and fruit rotting on the ground?!?
  • Cyprus was invaded by Turkey, then the British, then it became a republic [circa 1960’s]. It is a member of the EU, but not the Turkish occupied area in the north
  • It is a holiday destination with all the trappings
  • A lot of drivers drive toward the centre of the road as the edges are all falling apart
  • There is a low crime rate [perfect, makes you feel safe]
  • There are British who live here, who love their pubs and they [pubs] can be found everywhere?!?
  • There is low taxation
  • They have a lot of earthquakes here
  • The farmers and growers have a challenging job with the rocky ground
  • Some British who live here aren’t fond of other immigration? They have been coming here the longest, but seemingly don’t like the changes.

  • You can’t put anything in the loo that doesn’t come from you! This includes toilet paper!! This is even in most hotels and it is because the pipes are too small and block frequently, so only pee and poop in the loo!
  • It is so hot here in summer that a lot of the expats head back to their respective countries [also to avoid the tourists!]
  • There are an incredible number of feral cats and mangey dogs

  • The Cypriot people are not known for their love of pets – 1,000’s of dogs are abandoned every year as they can’t afford to take them to the vet, and there is apparently more feral cats than people 😮 😞
  • There is rubbish everywhere! I pick up rubbish and bin it every time we are out walking our little dogs, and there are piles of rubbish dumped everywhere.
  • The beaches are littered with rubbish – apparently not in front of the ‘hotel strip’ [but we haven’t been there]
  • There is incredible history here 🏰
  • Living amongst the locals has been wonderful – so friendly and welcoming.
  • If you are a ‘local’ you will always be in the ‘right’ in a car accident! Just give way to everyone and adopt a I’m in no hurry policy.
  • Parking is everywhere and anywhere, if there is a footpath it is likely a car park as well
  • The rubbish! I can’t get past it – everyone, tourists and locals alike, need to clean up this island and return it, to its former ‘bewitching’ beauty.

“When in Rome …. enjoy the experience, don’t try to change it!”

Cyprus has kept us busy …

So we are now ‘solo’ on this our 5th ‘assignment’. We have got a good routine going and all is well with our ‘menagerie’. We are going for a short walk in the morning, then heading off to explore before being ‘home’ for feeding time at the zoo – I include us in that!! 😂. Then another short walk in the afternoon. Bailey our wee disabled dog just loves being in her cradle and exploring the world. Then we all have some time for rest and relaxation!

We visited the Archaeological Park and Mosaics which are the most incredible ‘pictures’ of the past. This is the legendary birth place of Aphrodite in 12BC – I just can’t get my head around this history. Here at the Mosaics are tombs, fortresses and a glimpse of a world that is beyond my imagination. We spent hours exploring around here and viewing the astonishing ‘mosaics’. They are so detailed and when you look at them along a corridor they look like the most beautiful carpets. I cannot even believe how they made it to this day – what with all the wars, earthquakes and scaring of the earth that we humans do, it is extraordinary they have survived.

The pieces of ’tile’ in these pictures are about the size of your little finger nail !!

The weather was glorious, which meant we were able to get some great photos. We truly had a great time exploring the houses of Dionysos, Orpheus, Aion and Theseus. These ruins was ‘found’ by a farmer ploughing his fields! The small cubes of ’tiles’ are made from glass paste and depict scenes of Greek Methodology. Did I say they were amazing!

A day later we visited the ‘Tombs of the Kings’ with more phenomenal history. The tombs [carved into the rocks] do not really hold remains of Kings, but more of notable people [aristocracy]. They are underground and the layout almost represents houses. A central chamber for burial preparations [welcome] and then tunnels leading to [rooms] with crypts. They are huge and it’s staggering to view these underground cemeteries. As you head down into each of the 7 unearthed tombs, you can see the magical blue sky and hear the sea, and wonder what the location in this desert-like landscape would have been like in the distant past. I read in our guide book, that a lot of the treasures in these tombs were stolen by grave-robbers!

I took sooooooo many photos here! It was just fascinating, and every tomb/chamber you went into had a different feel about it. This is because they are from different eras. My guide book tells me that they are from the Hellenistic/Roman periods back in the 3AD!! The work involved by carving all these out of the stone without a digger is mind boggling! You can see all the ‘carving marks’ on the walls.

So with enough history here to clutter my mind for a lifetime, we had an easy couple of days and just soaked up the ambience of our village and talked to other dog-walkers while out with our three.

This ‘assignment’ has it challenges with ‘our’ wee Bailey. She is such a sweet wee dog and is so patient with us while we get the hang of expressing her bladder, carrying her to and from the car, and of course getting her ‘wheels’ on. I tell you that this wee dog can get herself around on the tiled floor with alarming speed! She is into the cat food or out the door in a blink and we have sure learnt fast, not to feel to sorry for her [apart from her having to put up with us!]. It certainly is a dedication to have a disabled dog like this, and I hope her owners enjoy their break over Christmas.

Oh and just before I go, we were told that the snakes sort of hibernate in ‘winter’ as it is a bit cold for them! Well it mustn’t be quite cold enough yet because we saw this ‘black whip snake’ 🐍 😮

“Make today an adventure …”

Ps: Colin needed a haircut, so we found this barber in town … he spoke no English but seemed to make my husband handsome, so I though I would get a trim as well [I was having a bad hair day!]. Well you know what comes next, I get a bit more of a shorter hair cut than I bargained for and he tried in earnest to blow dry/style it for me. I came out looking [according to Colin] like Linda Ronstant or Sharon O’Neil 😂 AND NO, THERE ARE NO PHOTOS OF THIS!! So now I have the the shortest hair cut I think I ever have had!! Colin laughed and just kept saying … when you wash it, it might be okay!