Posted by: travelrat | March 24, 2015

St Maarten

Back at St Maarten. Will be offline for a week till we get to Tenerife.

Posted by: travelrat | March 21, 2015

Bahamas

Enjoying a great kebab and a beer at Least Med, Port Lucaya in the Bahamas

Posted by: travelrat | March 16, 2015

Still in Contact

Quick hello from Sint Maarten. Just been underwater in the semi-submersible

Posted by: travelrat | March 13, 2015

Waiting for a Flight

I’m in Paris, waiting for my flight to Guadeloupe

Posted by: travelrat | March 11, 2015

Off Again

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Tomorrow, we’re off on our travels again, and, once more, the time has come to put the blog into ‘sleep’ mode. Not complete hibernation, though; I should be able to find free or inexpensive wifi from time to time, to put the occasional post up.

Most cruise ships are fitted with wifi, but it’s usually rather expensive, although some cruise lines are, like more and more hotels these days, getting the message that it’s a major selling point and are offering either free access or a reasonably-priced package.

Not ours, though … they still charge by the microsecond. The best thing is still, as Arthur and Pauline Frommer advise, wait until you go ashore, then follow the crew.

Whatever we come across, it’s bound to be an improvement on China last year, from where I could neither post nor tweet from my mobile phone.

We’ll be back towards the end of April with, hopefully, enough ‘blogunition’ to keep us going for quite a while. And, we haven’t finished with China yet!

Posted by: travelrat | March 9, 2015

Cormorant Fishing: Video

Photo by Lorraine Kellett

Photo by Lorraine Kellett

Li River: 19th May 2014.

This video rather prompts the question ‘Isn’t it cruel to the birds?’ I’d say that no-one with any sense would mistreat the animal on which his living depends.

(I say again, no-one with any sense !!)

Cormorants, I discovered, live for up to 15 years in the wild … but nearly 30 in captivity. Which raises the question: If you were a cormorant, would you rather spend 30 years in captivity, or 15 just doing what cormorants do?

 

Posted by: travelrat | March 6, 2015

Watch the Birdie: Video Experiments

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One of my favourite stories is the one of how, on a coach tour, I was once approached by a fellow passenger asking for help in working his new camera. He was trying to fit a 35mm film into an APS camera!

Now, what I’d do, if I got a new piece of gear, is to get hands-on with it as much as possible before I want to use it to record anything special. I certainly don’t want to page through the ‘book of words’ when confronted with something really special.

I recently got some new audio recording gear I’ve been trying out … the old stuff doesn’t work with Windows 8 … but, most importantly, trying out the GoPro mounts I got for Christmas, in conjunction with the remote control.

And, where better to photograph than the place I go to when I’m stuck for something to take pictures of … my garden!

Posted by: travelrat | March 4, 2015

Currency

One of the slight downsides of cruising is the different currencies some people feel they must take with them. True, you can usually change your money as required on the ship, but often, the rate isn’t all that favourable.

Taking money to spend ashore isn’t, though, always the difficulty it seems to be. On the fjords cruise, we only called at Norwegian ports, so only took Norwegian krone. (We did make a brief foray into Sweden, but don’t know if Norwegian money is accepted there, because we didn’t buy anything.)

On the Baltic cruise, St Petersburg was our only port of call where they didn’t use euros … but, at the souvenir shops at the Summer Palace and the Hermitage, there was always an assistant handy with a calculator to convert roubles to euros whenever anyone showed an interest in something.

Researching our next cruise, though, showed we would, in theory, need a basket of half a dozen currencies … but, in practice, pounds sterling, US dollars or Euros would be accepted almost anywhere. And, the beauty about euros is we already have a fairish stash from previous trips.

If you confine yourself to these currencies, though, it’s good to ensure that a proportion of it is in low value notes … because, often, you might get your change in the local currency. Notes are fine; you can usually change them at the bank when you get home. But, coins … all you can do with them usually, if you don’t want to keep them as a souvenir, is drop them in a charity tin at an airport or bank or somewhere.

Posted by: travelrat | March 2, 2015

Cormorant Fishing

Photograph by Lorraine Kellett

Photograph by Lorraine Kellett

Li River: 19th May 2014.

Cormorant fishing used to be common in south-east Asia. The fisherman would tame some of these birds, and train them to dive for fish, as cormorants do. But, a string would be tied around the bird’s neck, so he couldn’t snarf any but the smallest fish, and had to give them to the fisherman.

.They don’t do it commercially in China any more because of Government restrictions on fishing in the rivers because of over-fishing. But, they do allow a few cormorant fishermen to operate, to show the craft to visitors. We took an evening cruise on the Li River to see one of these demonstrations,

I left the Nikon in the hotel room, and only took the GoPro, for I didn’t fancy fiddling with two cameras in the dark. I got some good video, which you’ll see later, but, unfortunately, the stills weren’t satisfactory at all. Fortunately, Lorraine got some decent shots, so I can illustrate this piece.

Since the fisherman’s raft had a bright pressure light in the bows, we were able to get an excellent view of these graceful birds in action, and later, go ashore to see them close up.

The total catch would have just about filled a sardine tin, but it was interesting to watch, anyway

Posted by: travelrat | February 27, 2015

Kirkhead Tower

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Kents Bank: 8th February 2015

I took a short walk up the hill from the hotel in Kents Bank, where we were staying, to see if I could get a good view of Morecambe Bay and the Kent Estuary. I spotted a castle-like tower at the top of the hill, which first inquiries told me was Wraysholme Tower, and old 15th Century ‘pele tower’. These are quite common in the north of England, and were raised in more troubled times to protect livestock from marauding ‘reivers’

Subsequent inquiries proved my informant mistaken. Wraysholme Tower is some distance away; this one is called Kirkhead Tower. It first appeared on a map dated 1826, and is believed to have been a summer house, built sometime in the 18th Century. It’s said to have been built on the site of the first parish church in the area, which predated even the nearby Cartmel Priory.

Be advised, though, that there is no public access to either tower … in fact, from my researches, I got the impression that the rule in both cases was ‘Trespassers will be shot; survivors will be prosecuted’.

But, having got as close as I could to Kirkhead Tower, I met a man walking a dog coming out of the field. He confirmed that it wasn’t a public right of way, but all the local people walk there, and nobody seems to mind. So, I walked across the field to enjoy a great panorama, as well as a close up view of the tower.

Mr. Wraysholme and his tower can wait for another day!

 

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