Convict labour built this bridge at Campbelltown which is on the main road between Hobart and Launceston. It dates back to 1838.
This is another look back to a post from my early blogging days. On this day in 2014, I posted the third in a series of posts about our visit to Scotland in 1990. I have edited it slightly but it more or less as I wrote it at the time. I don’t think it is likely that I will ever visit the UK again but when I dream of places I would like to see again Scotland is always one of them.
This is the last post about our trip to Scotland in 1990. We were only there a week. How I wish we’d had longer. I guess that’s why I’m so attracted to television programs and films set in Scotland. Not “Braveheart” though. Too bloodthirsty. I preferred “Local Hero”. On television I liked “Shetland”, “Hamish McBeth”, “Taggart” and “Takin’ Over the Asylum” (even before I’d ever heard of David Tennant).
The last leg of our journey was partly based on “Confessions of a Train Spotter” an episode of the BBC television series “Great Railway Journeys”. The narrator of this episode was Michael Palin and I sometimes wonder if it was this program that started him on his career as a globetrotting documentary maker. In this episode he travelled from London to the west coast of Scotland by train ending his journey at Kyle of Localsh. We loved the scenery so much that when we planned our trip we decided that we wanted to see the West Highland line and Kyle of Localsh too.
First we travelled from Glasgow to Fort William which is on the shore of Loch Linnhe, a large sea loch on the west coast. That journey was very scenic and we didn’t even mind the signal failure that delayed us en route. Our “Let’s Go” guide book described Fort William as being a climbing centre for nearby Ben Nevis and rather a boring town but we really liked it. One day while we waiting at the railway station I saw a railway cleaner washing a carriage on the platform . Cleaning trains was my job in Adelaide at the time and I often did exactly the same job myself. I remember thinking that it would be nice if I could exchange jobs with that person for a while and stay in Fort William for longer.
We had been staying in youth hostels for a couple of weeks so in Fort William we treated ourselves to a bed and breakfast place. There were a few other guests who we met at breakfast the next day. A lady who had just returned from a trip on a sail training vessel which we saw in the loch later and another Australian couple who were a bit younger than us. I’m sure most people know about the concept of “Six degrees of separation”. Well we had that experience. We chatted to this young couple and it turned out that they were from South Australia like us and they lived in a nearby suburb. But the best part of the story happened more than a year later back in Australia. One day when David was on the train home from work, he met the guy who we’d met in Fort William and discovered that he and his wife had moved to our suburb. What are the odds of that?
At Fort William we had haggis for the first time; we liked it. We had plunger coffee for the first time at the cafe in the Mountain Shop which probably started our coffee addiction. We had a huge pot of it for a Scottish “poond”. We walked 3 miles from the town to the beginning of the path to Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland at 1344m (4,406 ft). We had no intention of climbing the mountain although many do, we knew our limitations even in those days. The photo that David took of me at Glen Nevis is one of my favourites and that day was one of the best of our entire trip for me.
We also went on a bus tour to Glen Coe scene of the infamous massacre of the McDonald Clan by the Campbell’s. Our guide, if I remember correctly, said that the historical facts of the massacre were not quite the same as popular history suggests. Of course he may have been a Campbell himself ! However there has certainly been a lot written on the subject, some of it factual and some not so much. I did have to agree with our guide that the scenery alone is worth going there for whatever the truth of what happened is.
The West Highland Railway
Another highlight was the train journey from Fort William to Mallaig on the West Highland line. In summer you can ride a steam train on that route but we were too early in the season. However it didn’t matter. It was another day of beautiful views and impressive railway engineering. In particular the fabulous Glen Finnan Viaduct. You can’t actually appreciate how amazing this is when you are on it as well as you can in this photograph.
Mallaig is a fishing port and we enjoyed wandering around the town for a few hours. The fishing boats were very picturesque. I would have liked to have taken a ferry to Skye from there. It’s certainly a place I would love to visit again.
Kyle of Localsh
Our journey to Kyle of Localsh from Fort William was an anti climax in some ways as we had to take a bus, a very crowded bus, which we were obliged to stand up on for most of the journey. As I am short that meant that I was not able to see very much of the scenery.
At that time there was no bridge to connect the town with the Isle of Skye so we took the short ferry trip across to Kyleakin, so that we could say that we had been “Over the sea to Skye”. The bridge was opened in 1995 and it is now free to use, initially it charged a toll which became a contentious issue for local people, so much so that many refused to pay it. The toll was removed in 2004. We took a photograph of the Kyle of Localsh Station sign but unlike Michael Palin we didn’t take a replica home with us. Nor did we sample the variety of malt whiskies served at the nearby Localsh Hotel. Instead we continued our journey by train on another scenic route, the line to Inverness.
At Inverness we stayed at a small hotel popular with rail enthusiasts. I had found the address in one of David’s rail magazines. They were happy to leave breakfast supplies outside our door when we chose to go out early in the morning on a day trip to Wick. We were a bit surprised that they left toast though. I hadn’t realised that in parts of the UK people ate cold toast.
Wick and Thurso are as far as you can go by train in the UK. We chose Wick as our destination for a day outing. Wick is a fishing port and once again I was captivated by the fishing boats. Wick was originally a Viking settlement and it would have been interesting to spend more time exploring the area which has ruins, walks and wildlife to see. I think a car would have been handy up here though.
We couldn’t leave Inverness without travelling to nearby Loch Ness. We took a local bus to visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle. We also visited a local museum which had a lot of information about the loch and the various expeditions that had been made to try to find the elusive Loch Ness Monster. I have to say that on the day that we were there we didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There have been a lot of hoaxes over the years and I think that I would be sorry in a way if scientists were able to prove or disprove that there was a creature living in Loch Ness. The mystery of it is part of the attraction. Either way tourist operators and businesses in the region have done well out of “Nessie”.
We watched the movie “Loch Ness” released in 1996 which starred Ted Danson. It wasn’t a brilliant movie, we watched it for the scenery really, but we did like the ending where Nessie is left in peace. I thought the castle ruins were very atmospheric and I liked hearing the piper who was playing there the day we visited.
We left Inverness finally and took the train all the way back to London and then on to Bexhill-on-Sea to spend Easter before travelling around southern England and North Wales. As you can tell from how much I have written twenty-five years have not made me forget how much I loved being in Scotland and I’d go again in a heartbeat if I could.
http://www.electricscotland.com/books/paterson/glencoe.htm – The Massacre at Glencoe
http://www.seat61.com/WestHighlandLine.htm#Fort%20William%20to%20Mallaig – The Man in Seat 61 blog
http://www.lochalsh.co.uk/skye_bridge.shtml – Skye Bridge story
As an island state with a river running through it, Singapore has a lot of bridges, some old, some new and some inside shopping malls.
Here are a few pictures taken in various places in Singapore earlier this year. Sentosa Island, Gardens By The Bay, Little India and Chinatown are all popular tourist destinations and great places to take colourful photos.
How long does it take to get 5,000 passengers processed and onto a cruise ship? Not as long as you might think.
Ovation of the Seas arrived early in the morning from her previous cruise and her passengers had all disembarked before 11am. Meanwhile the staff was busy preparing the ship for the new intake of passengers. Here are our impressions of the day.
When we received our “Set Sail Pass” as Royal Caribbean like to call tickets we were given a time to embark. By having staggered arrival times it means that you don’t have such long queues waiting to join the ship as you would if everyone arrived at once. Some privileged people who were Diamond Class were able to board earlier because they had loyalty points for being frequent cruisers but I think mostly they did it deck by deck. Our boarding time commenced from 1pm. We dropped our large bags off outside the terminal to be delivered to our cabin later and, as the company advised, carried on small bags containing things we might need during the day, a change of clothing, medications and of course our camera equipment.
Since our previous cruise Royal Caribbean had streamlined the procedure, eliminating much of the job of filling out forms by having staff with tablets to process the incoming passengers. We got through this fairly quickly with minimal queueing but then hit a bottleneck in the form of Immigration. There were about half a dozen staff from Border Force or whatever they call themselves now checking passports. They did work fairly quickly and were pleasant to deal with, sometimes the way those people stare at you when checking your passport can be quite unnerving. It did take a long time of standing in line but most people were good-natured about it and the line did keep moving. As we stood patiently waiting we saw a line of people in wheelchairs being taken through to be processed and boarded where there were no steps for them to deal with. Those that did not have carers with them were being wheeled by cheery looking staff members. Cruising is a great holiday for people with mobility issues as they can get around in their chairs or even gophers. There are plenty of elevators aboard ship and the inside and outside passageways are wide.
After making it through Passport Control we had one final hurdle which I had been expecting to see earlier. Passengers and their hand luggage all had to be X-Rayed before boarding the ship. Another queue, another wait but it’s necessary so although my feet were now getting numb from standing we waited our turns.
Finally we made it up the gangplank and into the arms of the ships photographers. Naomi tried to escape but there is no getting away from the first photo of the trip. We let them take the picture and vowed to avoid them for the rest of the voyage.
I think the whole process took about an hour.
Once aboard we found our way to our cabin on Deck 10. It was roughly amidships and we had decided that as we’d be aboard for two weeks with many sea days it would be nice to have a balcony of our own as a place to retreat to if we got tired of the crowds. We had not yet received our Sea Passes but when we arrived there they were outside the door. The Sea Pass is like a smart card. It unlocks your cabin and is also used to charge purchases to your account. Apart from in the Casino, Royal Caribbean ships are cashless. You can register a credit card, buy “On Board Credit” prior to sailing or pay in cash or with a card at the end of the cruise. It’s a good system as long as you keep track of your spending.
When we arrived the bed was set up as a King size but remembering that this had been no trouble to change on our previous cruise we didn’t panic. In fact I read that all the beds are set up that way when the ship is prepared for sailing and the cabin stewards change them to the passengers’ preference later. I don’t know why they do it that way as passengers can and do give their preference when they book and it ought to be easy enough to pass this on to the housekeeping staff rather than make them do the bed making twice and waste a perfectly good set of king size sheets. But that’s what they do. Anyway I called housekeeping and the cabin attendant promised to see to it after 5pm which he did.
Our cabin also had a large couch, a desk which could be pulled out to use as a table, a chair, mirror, TV, a bar fridge and a wardrobe each. Our bathroom was more or less the same as we remembered from Explorer of the Seas.
We went out onto our balcony where there were two deck chairs with footrests and a small side table. We were facing Sydney Opera House and had a great view of all the activity on the water so we sat and relaxed there for a while.
We were not due to sail for some time so as we had not had lunch we decided to get something to eat and we headed up to the Windjammer Marketplace for a late meal. As we were on Deck 15 already we decided to check out the SeaPlex on Deck 16 where they have sports activities and do a slow lap of the walking track. We’ll describe these places in more detail in another post.
At 4:45pm we had to attend the ship’s Muster. There were plenty of staff directing people to the correct muster stations and before long we found ourselves at Jamie’s Italian, a coincidence as we had booked dinner in this restaurant for later on the cruise. It was very crowded but we were lucky to find a couple of seats. After we had been counted they showed us a video about safety procedures and demonstrated what the emergency signals would sound like. We heard a short message from the captain and finally received his permission to go. We said goodbye to our lifeboat companions saying that we hoped we would not have cause to see them, at least not in those circumstances.
After leaving our muster station we had a quick look at the Casino and music venues but then decided that we would watch the ship sail out of the harbour from our own balcony.
This turned out to be a good decision as our giant ship did a 90 degree turn in the harbour and sailed out past the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Fort Denison before reaching Sydney Heads. It was sunset as we sailed out and we got some lovely pictures until the light faded.
Just as it was getting too dark to see much we noticed a small boat coming up alongside very close to the ship. Looking down we realised that we were seeing the boat that was picking up the Pilot from our ship. We saw that again a couple of times more during the voyage but that was probably our best view of it.
Since Vanda wrote so much I am keeping it fairly short and I don’t have much in the way of photos to post from this part of the trip. We were kept extremely busy and photography was not allowed in the building where we checked in. Immigration imposes a $200 fine if you are caught. A very stupid woman was talking on her phone to someone about where they were and what they were doing. Most people seem to be phone addicted. Women must have painful childbirth these days as they pop their bubs out holding phones. This woman I took to calling “Phone Woman” was totally oblivious to the rules “No Phones” You were not allowed to use your phone because of security. Many people who were working there did not say a word. Neither did anyone in the crowd including her husband. Finally we passed one officer of some sort who flew over to her. She looked as if she would have a heart attack. She told the woman to turn off her phone as once and that they could give her a $200 fine. As they were just in front of me I heard what was said. Phone Woman was very kindly let off the fine and I thought she was just so lucky. It is not a good way to start your holiday paying such a big fine. She went on and on about it to her husband however for the rest of the time we were in the line. Her poor husband tried to tell her to forget about it and consider herself lucky that they didn’t have to fork out $200 bucks but she never shut up. I was pretty fed up with her myself but glad she was made to get off her stupid phone as I hate listening to other people’s phone calls.
I remember being so happy to finally make it to the ship. The immigration part gets a bit tiring as you are standing for so long and carrying stuff. I tried to keep my bag light weight but it was tiring to carry along with my hand bag. You’d finally get to the end of one bit and there was another bit hidden behind a large partition. Up and down, up and down you went through a maze David Bowie would have been proud of. I know it’s important to keep everything orderly but my legs and feet were burning by the time we got our sea passes and boarded.
The cabin was very nice after some of the awful Sydney hotel rooms we’ve been stuck with. Everything was sparkly clean and the beds very comfy. The bathroom was easy to move around in and we had plenty of clean towels and stuff. I loved the balcony and spent a lot of time out there. I found the balcony a very relaxing place to hang out especially at night when I could not sleep. I took my pillows outside with me a few times to pad out the lazy boy and just dozed or listened to the waves. Who needs a relaxation tape if you have the real thing? There is nothing like it. We stood out there while we were leaving the port of Sydney.
I forgot to mention Mrs We Just Breezed Through! Now she was some bitchy woman and she nearly got a finger. I had to restrain myself as I hate rude people who butt into someone else’s conversation. I know I sound just as rude and as bad here but I stayed cool. Everyone was tired after going through immigration and boarding the ship. We found all the elevators on the ship jam-packed with other people because we were all in the same area at the same time. We talked to some of them about our experiences and them to us. I was remarking on being glad to be out of those lines and finally on the ship. It was just a pleasantry really to someone else who had spoken to me. We were all standing there and Mrs Diamond Class breezes past us and says “Oh we just breezed through!” like the rest of us were nothing but cattle class. Throw her overboard! I still feel annoyed when I think about her.
Later on we had to go to Muster. I didn’t think we would get a seat at first as it was so crowded in our section of the ship. We found some nice seats in a corner next to some nice people who we chatted to a little before the boring safety video came on. It was ages before they showed it as we had to wait for everyone to arrive and be checked off the list. I know they have to do these things but I’m always glad to get them over. I was glad to hear the captain’s message as I wanted to get a sense for what he was like. I like to see the profiles and photos of the crew. There wasn’t one in our ships newspaper. I was a bit disappointed in the paper as it was not as good or newsy as the one on Explorer. Ovation’s was more of a program of events (When and Where). Maybe they all do it that way now. While we were meant to be watching the video and listening to messages from the crew and most people were polite and obeyed the no phone rules one man was really rude. He got on his phone twice and ducked into a dark corner to talk about what I don’t know. I hoped he would be caught and told off by a crew member but he got away with it.
Later we explored the ship a little and finally it was time to bid Sydney a fond farewell. I was disappointed that the captain did not sound the whistle. I was taking movie film of our departure and hoped to pick it up as my camera has a very good mike. I must say that Sydney is a spectacular port to depart from. The views are amazing and we had a beautiful sunset. I captured this on film along with the sights. There was the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Luna Park, Circular Quay and the city of course. We stayed outside for quite some time enjoying all of this and wondering what the next fourteen days would bring us.
Next time we’ll show you some more pictures of Ovation of the Seas in the meantime as I know people are awestruck by the size of these ships here are some stats.
Ovation of the Seas statistics: http://www.travelweekly.com/Cruise/Royal-Caribbean-International/Ovation-of-the-Seas
If you missed it you can read Part One here.
Another new city and another opportunity for a Which Way. This is Darwin where we spent a few hours. It actually took us longer to sail from Brisbane to Darwin than from Darwin to Port Klang, Malaysia our next port.
It was very hot there so although I would like to see a bit more of the city I’d prefer to go at a cooler time of year, if there is one.
I’ve never been a big fan of having my photo taken, even on holidays it is rare for me to be photographed unless I am with friends who want a picture. I don’t feel that the world is missing out because there are few photos of me especially now that I’m way past my best. However, it seems that I’m in the minority as the whole world seems intent on immortalising themselves on social media.
Now it seems to me that many people have become so obsessed with selfies that they travel the world photographing themselves without actually noticing the scenery. In Singapore we went for a ride on a sampan in the shopping centre at Marina Bay Sands. Two young girls with a small child sat in front of us and honestly I think they wasted their money on the ride as they spent the entire trip taking photos of each other and the child. Not once did they look at where they were going.
Everywhere we went we encountered tourists being photographed or taking selfies in front of tourist attractions. Well of course at a popular attraction whether it be Gardens on the Bay in Singapore or the Sydney Opera House you are going to have to deal with crowds and it’s almost impossible to get a photo without some people in it. Even forty years ago when I first visited Sydney there were tourists who would ask us if we’d take a photo of them with their cameras. I don’t really mind that so much. It’s a nice holiday memory. Now people don’t just do a quick pose in front of the attraction though. They have to strike a pose, jump in the air, wave their arms around or pose like they are in that famous scene from “Titanic”. And it’s not just one photo, they have to have dozens. Then there are the ones with the selfie sticks who march around getting into everyone elses’ picture without so much as an “I beg your pardon.”
I”ve noticed that people who actually enjoy photography are a bit more polite, they take their pictures and then move on so someone else can have a go but the selfie brigade notice nothing but their own faces. It does make me mad that so many of these people are bad mannered and inconsiderate of others but it also makes me think that so many of them are missing the point of travel by focussing so much on themselves and not what’s going on around them.