Posted by: travelrat | May 25, 2016


Ljubljana 3

Ljubljana: 10th April 2015.

Finally, we sailed in to Trieste. But, it wasn’t the end of the cruise. We’re overnighting here, and have the opportunity for an excursion before heading for the airport at Venice and home. But, we won’t be touring Trieste. We’re going to Ljubljana … mainly, to tick another country off the list. It’s the capital of Slovenia, and has just taken its place on my very short list of favourite cities.

It’s about a two-hour drive from Trieste, mainly through beautiful countryside … according to the guide, it’s even more beautiful further north. The centre of the city itself is virtually a car-free zone, although a few electric buggies can be seen around the place.

The streets are crowded with boutiques and shops selling more everyday items, as well as countless bars and cafés, most of which have tables outside. Most of these are on broad pedestrian streets, or on the banks of the river.

We had lunch in one of these restaurants, because we wanted to try some Slovenian food specialties. We ordered two different kinds of sausage, but neither was really to our taste. They were eatable, but I really wouldn’t cross town to buy any.

However, it’s unfair to dismiss a country’s entire cuisine on just one meal, so maybe another time?

Usually, a place where I don’t speak a word of the language is outside my comfort zone, but almost everyone here speaks English … and very good English, too. That, and Italian, are compulsory subjects in Slovenian schools.

So, you’re never in doubt that you’re always welcome here,

Ljubljana 2

Posted by: travelrat | May 23, 2016

Ladies of Llangollen

Plas Newydd

Llangollen: 16th April 2016.

I’m back! The posting resumes … but, I won’t launch into an account of our Canada/Alaska trip straight away. I promised the people who arranged our Wales trip that I’d get something up as soon as possible, and still have a few loose ends to tie up on the Caribbean/Mediterranean cruise.

Llangollen was home to the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’. Their house at Plas Newydd is open to the public, but be careful! The name simply means ‘New Hall’, and I know of at least one other place of that name.

Now, if the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ lived in this day and age, they would probably be described as ‘offbeat’, eccentric or quirky. That is, if they were noticed at all, for nowadays, it’s accepted that women may take an interest in poetry, literature and politics, and two women living together would hardly raise an eyebrow.

But, in the late 18th/early 19th Century, their behaviour was regarded as ‘scandalous’.

Lady Eleanor Butler was the daughter of a noble family living in Ireland; her friend, several years younger, was an orphan, Sarah Ponsonby, who she’d met and befriended at a boarding school in Kilkenny.

The friends decided to run away to England when Lady Eleanor’s family started making noises about sending her to a convent, because, at the age of 39, she still remained unmarried. Sarah, meanwhile, wished to escape the unwelcome attentions of her recently widowed guardian.

Their first attempt failed, but, in May 1778, they finally sailed for Milford Haven. They toured Wales for a short time, before they came to Llangollen, and declared it ‘… the beautifullest place in the world …’ and decided to settle there. They eventually rented a farm cottage called Pen-y-Maes, which they renamed Plas Newydd (New Hall). Here, they lived for almost 50 years, spending their time reading, writing and sketching and transforming the house and gardens.

While they wished to lead a life of ‘ … sweet and delicious retirement’, their story attracted a great many visitors, and their fame rapidly spread. Llangollen lies on the main route from London to Holyhead, one of the main ports for Ireland, and many of their visitors broke their journeys here on the way to somewhere else.

Their visitors included Robert Southey, Sir Walter Scott, Josiah Wedgewood Sir Humphrey Davy and the Duke of Wellington. William Wordsworth also came, and wrote a poem describing Plas Newydd as ‘ … a low roofed cot’ …’ which, reportedly, didn’t find much favour with the ladies, who declared they could write better poetry themselves.

The house is laid out pretty well as the ladies would have known it, with many memorabilia of their famed visitors. But, what most visitors notice above all is the intricate wood carvings, which the ladies collected, and embellished both the interior and the exterior of the house..

Plas Newydd 2

Posted by: travelrat | May 18, 2016


Rocky Mountaineer phase complete; in Banff; deciding what to do in the day we have before leaving for Calgary and home.

Posted by: travelrat | May 15, 2016

Story So Far

I’m back in Vancouver after a stupendous Alaska cruise. Train phase starts on Monday: more to come later.PANO_20160511_175935

Posted by: travelrat | May 7, 2016

In Vancouver

I’m here in Vancouver. Fairly easy trip; nice comfortable hotel. Board the Nieuw Amsterdam tomorrow…. later today, I mean!

Posted by: travelrat | May 5, 2016

Back to Sleep!

Tracker 2

Doesn’t time fly! It’s time to put the blog into ‘sleep’ mode again, for tomorrow, we’re off on our Canada/Alaska sortie. I’m just taking a tablet with me, so I won’t be able to post to a great extent; we probably won’t find wifi cover very often, anyway.

But, I will post to Facebook and Twitter whenever I can … you may have notised that stuff I post to Twitter shows up here, too. And, if there’s no wifi, I can, providing there’s cover, tweet from my mobile phone, too.

I’ll just add my usual request … if you haven’t heard from me by the end of May, please inform the Foreign and Commonwealth Office!


Posted by: travelrat | May 4, 2016



Old Sarum: 2nd May 2016

They call it the ‘Early Spring Bank Holiday’. Most people call it ‘May Day’, but there are some who don’t like the Communist associations. Or, ex-Air Force personnel, like me, for whom it has an even more unpleasant meaning.

On UK public holidays, most folk take to the roads … or, if TV ads are to be believed, spend the holiday browsing around furniture stores or DIY shops. The first is the reason I very rarely go far on such days.

But, just down the road is Old Sarum Castle, where they hold a historic re-enactment on most holidays, and I often go down to lend a hand with the stewarding. This time, it was the turn of the Romans.

Now, Romans from one group or another are frequent visitors, and I have lots of photos already in my archives. But, I did slip the GoPro into my pocket, in case they brought something different.

They did!

They’d had a war chariot especially built, in which rode the British leader, Queen Boudicca. Contrary to popular belief, though, it DIDN’T have knives on the wheel hubs to chop the invading Romans off at the knees … I don’t think the Elfin Safety people would have allowed it, anyway.

We’ve actually had a chariot here before, but that was a quadriga; drawn by four horses, and consisted of little more than whee;s and a stripped-down frame, intended for racing. The charioteer said at the time that, to use a chariot such as the ones in Ben Hur in a chariot race would be like competing in a Formula One race in an Army truck.

But, for the purposes of battle, it’s ideal … and the sight of such a formidable figure bearing down on them must have had many a legionary quaking in his boots!


Posted by: travelrat | May 2, 2016

Adriatic Sunset

Adriatic Sunset

Adriatic Sea: 9th April 2015

I got a lot of pictures of sunrises on this cruise, for I usually rise early, and like to take a turn around the decks when there aren’t many people about. But, I got very few sunsets. Although the cruise brochures often show passengers enjoying cocktails with a backdrop of a setting sun, it doesn’t often happen in real life. Because, when the sun decides to give it best for the evening … most folk are at dinner.

However, at dinner this night, the sunset was so beautiful that most people abandoned their meals, and dashed out on deck to witness it. And, since it was a gala night, most diners had cameras with them.

‘I wonder what the maitre d’ is thinking’ said someone close to me ‘seeing all the diners dash out of the restaurant like that’

‘I think he’d understand!’ I said … pointing to the maitre d’ standing by the rail, taking pictures with his Iphone like the rest of us.

Maitre d'

Posted by: travelrat | May 1, 2016

Travel Theme: Poetry


I am informed that Ireland celebrated National Poetry Day on Thursday, and the US celebrates National Poetry Month every April. When I worked for a living, we celebrated ‘Poets Day’ every Friday … although, in our case, it stood for ‘P*** Off Early; Tomorrow’s Saturday’!

I have to admit, I’m not the greatest aficionado of poetry. I put this down to the fact that I grew up not a dozen miles from where William Wordsworth ‘ … wandered lonely as a cloud’, and had my fill of Mr. Wordsworth and his ‘ … dank verses, stuff’d with Lakeland sedges … ‘ by the time I was out of short pants.

Of course, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme; it’s also about the ‘metre’, or rhythm. I think of:

There was a young man from Japan

Whose verses just would not scan.

‘The trouble with me,

Is easy to see

I will insist on trying to fit as many damn words into the last friggin line as I possibly can’

And, speaking of Japan:

There was a young man

Who didn’t like limericks

So he wrote haiku.

The limerick is one of my favourite verse forms, although it’s hard these days to think of one that isn’t obscene, libellous or politically incorrect. So, ‘The Dirty Old Bishop of Birmingham …’  is definitely out, because that’s all three.

Where you can have most fun with limericks is on the sometimes odd spelling or pronunciation of British place names, like:

There was a young girl from Carlisle

Who had such a bright, beaming smisle

In the darkness of night

She’d go out on her bike

And light up the road for a misle.

And, finally, my all time (printable) favourite:

A sea serpent from Salamanca

Bit a hole in a warship and sanca

It ate up the crew

(as sea serpents do)

And then picked its teeth with the anca.

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. See more at


Posted by: travelrat | April 29, 2016

The Road North


Penola/Coonawarra 21st November 2015.

I’d recommend this trip along the Great Ocean Road to anyone who wants to see the sights, but doesn’t want to drive. I would add a small recommendation, though. If you can, do the trip the other way, from Adelaide to Melbourne. ‘Australian National Treasures’ say that much of the northern part of the route passes through farmland, and is ‘less visually spectacular’ and I believe in keeping the best to the last.

As we drove northward, Jeremy told us of Sister Mary MacKillop (St Mary of the Cross), Australia’s first, and so far only saint, who worked in this area in the 19th Century.

At Penola, we stopped for a while to stretch our legs and admire some really old cottages and gardens. What surprised us was that there seemed to be no-one around, either to collect money or just keep an eye on the place; we just wandered through them at will.

We had lunch at the Farmer’s Leap winery in Coonawarra. The property of vineyards around here is that they’re not on slopes, as the more traditional vineyards are, but on flat ground. However, the local soil, ‘terra rossa’ or red clay, is good for the grapes and the limestone layer beneath ensures adequate drainage.

It didn’t seem to affect the quality of the wine, though … and the panini weren’t bad, either.


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