A Trip to Eden … Project — that is!

Dahlias in all sorts of shapes and sizes

And so it happened that on the 26th of July 2014, we left Norwich to embark on an unforgettable journey.

I said we because I was not alone; and all of us there were three — my husband, my sister-in-law, and me.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

“But it’s Sabbath!” I protested when my husband announced the news to me.

Well, traveling and enjoying the nature, we would be.
So agree, I did and what a sight I would see!

From Norwich to Cornwall was a seven-hour drive.
We woke up early and left at seven thirty-five.

Pink Poppy, I couldn't resist to photograph

Pink Poppy, I couldn’t resist to photograph

At Stonehenge we would drop by and see the awesome sight.
The satnav speculated half an hour early we would arrive.

But in a traffic jam we were caught,
as hundreds of other travelers on that day decided
they too might see this ancient burial site.

Red Poppy with white border, something I never saw around me

Red Poppy with white border, something I never saw around me

When at last our eyes have soaked up the wonder they beheld
Back in the car we packed ourselves, off to yonder field.

On rolling hills and grassy meadows our eyes ever feasted
Grazing sheep and cattle, but not a deer we spotted.

Camia: A tuber with a sweet fragrant smell. We used to have these around our old-fashioned pump.

Camia: A tuber with a sweet fragrant smell. We used to have these around our old-fashioned pump.

The sun was getting lower, when we arrived at our stopover.
In Totnes, Devon we stayed for the night

Wearied from traveling, there we would recover.
Such a delightful market-town we would have loved to discover,

But alas, the night was getting deeper.
On the morrow is another day and another place to wander.

Dahlia with busy bee

Octagonal Dahlia with the ever busy Bee

The trip to Eden Project was as exciting as the day before.
Beautiful scenery our eyes did explore.

My heart swelled in joyful songs of rapture
At a new kind of environment from what I used to encounter.

Eden Project Landscape

From a Dunghill to Breathtaking landscape

The site of Eden of Project, we got there finally.
But the road signs leading to the reputed garden
To my opinion were not done properly.

Dotted Lilies

They look like Cheetah Lilies

The car parks were full when we arrived at ten in the morning.
So to the farthest lane we went, even if we were whining.

It was a bit of a walk but our enthusiasm was not dwindling.
Along the tracks were signs “A T-Rex is on a loose”, Oh how exciting!

Rainforest Dome at Eden Project

The Rainforest Dome housing trees and plants from Asia and Africa

At last the domes appeared in view.
Oh so many people taking pictures, on a queue.

Such a huge place, how they managed to do it, I wondered.
For it was rubbish dumping site, but a beautiful garden it was converted.

Busy Bee on a Flower

Busy Bee

Outside the domes were local flowers, they didn’t need the special protection
The snow and hailstone, they can withstand without a question.

Don't know what they are called but they sure are a wonder to behold

Don’t know what they are called but they sure are a wonder to behold

The Rainforest Dome I chose to visit first
Palm trees in all sorts of shapes and sizes
But not a coconut to quench my thirst.

Cashew Nut

Cashew Nut hanging outside the fruit

Fruit trees so familiar, they made me grow with wonder.
Bananas and papayas, even the camia flower.

I could go on and on forever.
But I think I better stop here.

The traveler, exhausted but exhilarated

The traveler, exhausted but exhilarated

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Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, truly an event of the year

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Two hundred and fifty finest drummers and pipers, excellent fiddlers, highland dancers, warrior dancers, and a host of other performers equal a bedazzled crowd. Kudos to the participants and organizers of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Homecoming 2014 for an amazingly spectacular performance! No wonder their tickets have sold out for 16 consecutive years!

I couldn’t fully describe how amazed I was while watching the world renowned Military Tattoo live for the first time. From my going in and out of the show, I was filled with emotional impact of overwhelming amazement. From folkloric to warrior songs and dances of the Nagaland Indians, Zulu, Singapore, and Maori; from old-time favorites such as the Banana Boat Song by the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Drum to modern pops; from massed bands and drills to precision display; every act and performance brought me a sort of aggrandizement in terms of excitement, wonders and delight. I was constantly, and still am, in a state of euphoria. I could watch it every year if not for the distance from Norwich to Edinburgh.

When finally, the last act had been performed, the last note had been played, the tribute to the fallen heroes had been paid, the national anthem had been played, the fireworks had been displayed, the last performer had left the esplanade, I heaved of sigh of jealousy and blurted, “Why didn’t the Scottish drop by the Philippines on their way to New Zealand and Australia?” It would have been a great privilege to be a part of the Military Tattoo, a festival every Scottish must be proud of.

I first heard about the Edinburgh Festival during a free guided walking tour on my first visit to the Scottish capital in 2009. Since then I have always wanted to go back and attend the reputed month-long festival. My yearning grew even more when I watched the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on television.

Below are some of the photos I took. I couldn’t  be bothered much with the quality as I was trying to focus on and just enjoy the show.

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The Best and Finest Pipers and Drummers

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Band and Dancers from Malta

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Poppies projected on the castle in honor of the WW Heroes

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A Maori symbol

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Warrior Dancers from Zulu

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The Military Tattoo Band Participants

The Lone Piper

The Lone Piper

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2014

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2014

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The War to End All Wars, Or Was It?

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  Some called it WW1 others World War One, at the time it was said to be the war to end all wars, and now exactly 100 years later we are commemorating its centenary. On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany as the rest of the global conflict began to take shape, the world had decided that the time was right to unleash man made death and destruction onto the planet, on a scale that had not been seen before. So just what started this war? Well it was one simple act, the assassination at Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28th June 1914. On 28th July Austria would declare war on Serbia, then other counties would follow suit declaring war on each other, some years after the war had actually started.

  During the conflict many now famous names would enter the common vocabulary, like the famous battlefields of the Somme, Mons, Ypres, and Gallipoli. The allies retreat from Gallipoli even warranting a depiction in a cathedrals stained glass window. Ships like the Lusitania would be sunk by a German U-boat to erupt in condemnation and disgust from nations around the world, with the name of the ship being forever associated with the horror of how innocent civilians can so easily be caught up in such a worldwide conflict.

  Many people would become heroes in a war that would see the development of several new weapons such as the tank, this was used en masse in the Battles of the Somme, and won a British victory at Cambral. It was not only a mans war either women would also play their part in their homeland or at the battlefront. Edith Cavell, a British nurse was shot on 12th October 1915 by the German army for helping allied soldiers to escape occupied Belgium. At the time her execution was condemned worldwide, such was the disgust at the Bosh/Hun, two terms of slang used to describe the German army. She is still remembered to this very day with commemorate ceremonies in England and Belgium.

   Although photography was in its infancy in those days it had developed whereby it could produce a decent result, and of the many images taken during the war there is probably one subject that stands out above all others, that being the images of the trenches. The allied trenches were actually built by 140,000 Chinese labourers recruited as manual labour by the British and French governments. Soldiers from both sides of the conflict would dig themselves in to face one another day after day, in a stalemate situation, their only real protection being that they were below ground level, with the water, mud, rats and disease. That was of course until the poisonous gas, shells, or sniper fire tried to kill them.

  The war went on and on, the soldiers would be ordered to go over the top and charge the enemy hoping to take a small area of ground, all while being confronted with a hail of bullets and other artillery. Just two enemy machine guns firing their rounds in a arced configuration could take down so many soldiers it seemed like lambs to the slaughter, but these were not lambs, they were human beings, brave human beings who ran to an untimely death. Lives would be lost pointlessly, but any action seemed better than this stalemate and no action at all, or so it would appear was the intellectual assessment of the generals.

  After 4 years of fighting with something like 8.5 million being killed, and 21 million wounded, sense would finally prevail and the war would start to end with the collapse of the German army on 15th July 1918. Various nations started to make peace with each other, then on 11th November 1918 Germany signed the armistice with the allies, finally the insanity of the First World War was over, however, much of Europe was now just a barren wasteland.

  Apart from the utter waste, destruction and death, caused by the governments of the day, the horror for many would not end with the culmination of the war. The British government in particular during and after the war would not recognize a medical condition known as shell shock, thus some soldiers with this condition were actually shot as deserters when their mental capacity to fight had left them as shaking wrecks. Even in a much later war the condition of Gulf War Syndrome would again be rejected as an illness, until the government finally admitted to its existence.

  Post-war, on 4th January 1919 there was a peace conference in Paris, then on 21st June the German navy surrendered its battleships, which it then scuttled at Scapa Flow, this was then followed by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was basically given the choice of signing the treaty which imposed many limitations on what it could or could not do, with various areas of German land being given to the victors, or they would be invaded by the allies. With an armed force of only around 100,000, they had no option but to sign the treaty which angered man German people. Ironically, there was one soldier in particular who always held a lifelong grudge towards this treaty, and he would one day rise to hold the power whereby he would be the instigator of the Second World War, one Adolf Hitler.

Lest We Forget …

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Stonehenge: A “Wonder of the World” in its own right

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It may not have won a place in the New 7 Wonders of the World, but Stonehenge is a Wonder of the World in its own right, in ways more than one.

Having seen it only in photos and before seeing it in person, I admit I didn’t use to feel excited about it…until I came to England. Last year I decided I wanted to go and see it but going there by public transportation was not a good option, so I told my husband to drive me there half-jokingly. Then two weeks ago, my husband surprised me by saying we would go to Cornwall and stopped at Stonehenge on the way. Even if I was tied up with two birthday parties to attend to, writing assignments, and music theory course, I jumped at the idea without second thought, and forgot to tell my piano student that I was going to be away! Knowing my husband, I might not get offered again, so forget about everything else.

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Amesbury town sign seen a few miles before Stonehenge

The trip was to be about four and a half hours, but due to the nice flow of traffic, we were going to arrive earlier than expected. (Well, that’s what we thought and hoped for.) When, finally, I spotted the town sign from a distance, I readied my camera. We were driving at a minimum speed of 40mph and was lucky enough to capture it in all its glory, heightening my excitement even more, every inch of the way, because we’re nearly there! I don’t know my camera that well yet and was really lucky to have the right setting at the right moment.  The satnav indicated we would be there in eleven minutes. That was until the road became heavily congested and we were literally inching our way. The 11 minutes turned into 20, then 40, 60, 80, 100, 2 hours! The traffic report on the radio kept saying “traffic towards Stonehenge is stationery”. We were starting to fidget in our seats. Our prebooked ticket said it was only valid at the date and time indicated. Everyone was getting impatient, especially the driver.

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Hundreds of visitors flocked at Stonehenge on 27 July 2014

More than 2 hours later, the traffic eased up and the gear went up to the fourth. Few minutes later we caught sight of the Stonehenge and thought, “We didn’t have to pay a ticket to see it! Did we get ripped off?” Then again, my ever loyal camera captured the above image as we sped past it, to get closer to it. I didn’t expect it to be so huge! The stones were massive! People were dwarfed by them.

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Truly a wonder of the world in its own righ

Seeing it closely, I thought to myself, “So if they are this huge, how in the world did those ancient people arrange them? What kind of technology did they use?” I was stupefied! I really wish it won a place in the New 7 Wonders of the World. Nevertheless, the Stonehenge is no doubt one of the Wonders of the World, and I think they should not limit it to only seven because there are hundreds of them.

Oh, by the way, the advantage of buying the ticket in advance was that we didn’t have to queue up. As it was HOT, everybody decided to go to Stonehenge on that day causing traffic jam and a long queue in the ticket booth. Another thing is that the prebooked ticket is valid on that day regardless of what time you arrive there.

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Remembering the Fallen Victims of Norwich

Garden of Memorial Norwich

Beyond these gates lie the victims of the air raids in Norwich during the Second World War. Walking reverently on the new-mowed soft green grass and reading their names, I sometimes gasped at the differences in their ages. Some have lived a full life, others were still in their prime, and a number of them were at their tender of 13 and below. “She was too young. Oh, he’s still a toddler!” I thought out loud as I point at their plaques. I stopped a couple of times and tried to relive some of their affairs long before the war broke out. I imagined a dad taking his son for a fishing trip. The son chomped at the sight of a fish caught in its mouth, struggling to get free. They did set it free and threw it back into the water. I saw little girls in their summer frock picking blackberries to make a pie or a jam. Their lives didn’t have to end this way.

Garden_of_Remembrance_Norwich

Garden of Remembrance Norwich

They were ordinary civilians, but the sacrifice they made for the freedom of this city that we now enjoy can never be paid neither by silver nor gold. Nay their names must never be forgotten. To them may we always be indebted.

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Shall I trade in my Canon 1100D for the Powershot SX50?

Canon_SLR_versus_Powershot_SX50

On my first visit to Wex Photographic Shop in Norwich, I was particularly drawn by the Canon Powershot SX50.  I love photographing birds, and one of my wishes is to photograph an owl in the wild. I have a Canon 1100D that came with a standard lens, plus a Sigma 18-200mm, which is good enough for photographing people, landscapes and other subjects in close ranges.

Take a look for example at this photo I took in Hunstanton using my kit. I was probably about 100 meters away.In order to photograph a bird in the wild, I would need one of those “ugly lenses,” but my financial situation doesn’t allow me to. However, a camera with a super zoom lens that is equal to 24-1200mm, which is the Canon Powershot SX50,  would be “a lot more beautiful” for my pocket.  But I can’t afford to have two cameras, although the latter one only costs around £220.

This photo is taken with Canon Powershot SX50.

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So the question is, shall I trade in my 1100D for the SX50? Why or why not?

Reply in the comment below and the most convincing reply will get an Amazon gift voucher of £10.

To qualify for the contest, you must follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

So, come on and give it your best shot. Pun intended. :D

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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1 Thing more you need to know about Norfolk Lavender

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“Around 100 acres of lavender fields” was the first thing that I read about the “famous” Norfolk Lavender. Boy it’s huge! I was overwhelmed at the prospect of getting lost in the middle of a massive field while photographing hundreds, perhaps, even thousands of lavender rows. When at last I found out that it was just one bus stop away from my favorite Hunstanton, a.k.a. Sunny Hunny, I wasted no more time and the next thing I knew I was on the bus again.

First stop was Kings Lynn, a peaceful market town in West Norfolk. After spending a couple of hours here, I and my travel buddy, Gabry, hopped on the bus to our final destination that would highlight the day trip, Lavender Fields. We didn’t know exactly where to get off but a kind young gentleman, the sort of James Rodriguez of Colombia, became our instant bus guide.

No sooner had we gotten off the bus than the scent of lavender wafted in the air; it heightened my expectation even more. The huge purple billboard strategically built by the roadside caught our attention beckoning us to come hither. As soon as I spotted the field, I felt like someone burst my bubble and my countenance fell. For it wasn’t a massive field of 100 acres but rather a small field which had only about 50 rows of different kinds of lavender, and they were not even deep purple yet. We came too early.

IMG_8178But after spending all that money and travelling all the way for two hours on the bus, I thought I might as well make the most out of it. The bees and the butterflies, specially, diverted my attention and I spent several minutes capturing every moment with them.

Tired and seemingly satisfied with photographing the butterfly, I went inside the shop where they sold all sorts of lavender products, still wondering where the massive fields of lavender could be.  Upon spotting a bookmark with a picture of the “massive lavender field,” I could hold it no longer, I had to make my sentiments known. I picked up one of the bookmarks, and pointing at the picture I blurted, “I’m expecting to see this!”  His reply stunned me. He said they didn’t have one on site but they have them all across the country. I wondered why it’s called Norfolk Lavender if they grow outside Norfolk.  Outside the shop was a nursery, and there were two men arranging propagated lavender and other plants. I ventured closer to one of them, and this time I became more direct. I asked where the “massive field” was. He gave me the direction and told me further that they were not deep purple yet, but they would be in two weeks. Thanking him, I left the nursery to find Gabry. We were at the wrong place! The field was near the bus stop where we got off.

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Not wanting to waste any more time, we hurriedly retraced our steps back to where the bus dropped us off. I made sure I asked the man twice and had him rephrase the direction so I could follow it. However, when we arrived at a turning point, I quickly forgot all the direction I was given!  Though it would have taken only 10 minutes for the return trip, going back to ask the man again didn’t look like a welcome option. Time was running out and we had to make sure to catch our bus back to Norwich.

Oh, one thing more you need to know about the Norfolk Lavender fields is that they have been sold to private owners. I found the information two weeks later when I intended to go back to see them in deep purple, as the man in the nursery told me.

The adventure didn’t end there though. We caught the bus to Hunstanton and soaked up in the sun. Knowing it would only take about an hour to get to Fakenham, we decided to get the next bus so we could catch the last trip to Norwich. But why is it that when one has to be in a certain place at a certain time, fate plays a trick and causes delay, just when you didn’t have time for it? The bus rolled slowly, taking its own sweet time and stopped over at Wells-Next-the-Sea longer than necessary. I kept glancing at my phone clock, and every minute my worry was doubled. I prayed earnestly to get there on time, but the clock was ticking fast, and my heartbeat was racing even faster. In fact, I wished the bus would run as fast as my heartbeat. It felt like my prayer wasn’t getting past the roof of the bus. Finally, we arrived at Fakenham, and I was going to heave a sigh of relief when I saw the last bus to Norwich slowly inching its way from the station. I tried to signal with my hand to the driver to stop but he shook his head and deliberately drove off.

Stuck in Fakenham, I sent an urgent text to my husband but his reply made me even more worried. Thankfully, my good friend, Paul, responded to my distressed message, and within an hour he came to pick us up.

Lesson learned:
When God doesn’t directly answer one’s prayer to catch the last bus home, he will send a rescuer.
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Photo Diary: Norwich Lord Mayor’s Celebration 2014

Lord Mayor's Celebration Fireworks
Fireworks photo courtesy of  Matthew Dartford. With thanks from Travelog with Jem

Lord Mayor’s Procession

Contrary to advertised, this years street procession didn’t have many colourful floats, in fact there weren’t any but lorries.  I think the organisers should not announce anything that would excite the people’s interest and then not deliver. However, in fairness to those who made an effort to make the event interesting, I would like to commend them and wish them to keep it up for the years to follow.

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One of the floats/lorries during the Lord Mayor’s Procession

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An acrobat performing in midair while tied to a giant balloon

More photos and some videos to follow. Like Travelog with Jem on Facebook to see them.

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I came, I saw, I learned at Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History

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I would have never thought a humble museum such as the Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History could be so educating and *enlightening! When I first heard about Fakenham Gas Museum I thought, “What a strange museum! What am I going to see there? Gases? Not interesting!” That was my rather uneducated presumption until I went to see it, and I was *illumined, indeed (*puns intended).

The first part of the tour was a film-viewing on how William Murdoch invented the gas lighting system that eventually made houses and streets brighter at night. After that, Dr. Bridges, the chairman of the museum who was also the tour guide, took us around the place.

Dr Bridges’s immense knowledge of how the former town gas worked cannot be disputed.  Throughout the tour he constantly threw in interesting incidents and accounts of people who used to work in the factory. They sure made the visit more meaningful and pleasurable. By his explanations and stories, I have gleaned a wealth of knowledge about gas, its by products and their numerous uses from explosives to soaps, medicines and many other things in between. I will never forget the role coal played during the war, in the battlefield and in domestic affairs. Now we still see a lot of these products in our houses such as baking soda, ammonia, melamine wares, etc.  All of this I wouldn’t have learned and understood with such depth by reading books alone.

The museum is run by “Friends of the Museum” volunteers who, I strongly believe, deserve to be called heroes for their selfless desire to keep such a monumental legacy as the Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History.

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