EARLY MONDAY MORNING AFTER A DRENCHED WEEKEND.DAY MONDAY MORNING AFTER A DRENCHED WEEKEND
HIGH PEAK JUNCTION
The early bird catches … a stunning sunrise on a crisp early-autumn morning.
“The High Peak Junction, near Cromford, Derbyshire, England, is the name now used to describe the site where the former Cromford and High Peak Railway (C&HPR), whose workshops were located here, meets the Cromford Canal. It lies within Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.” (Wikipedia).
The sunset is not too shabby too.
THE MANCHESTER EXPERIENCE
Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to visit many of the larger cities in the United Kingdom. From Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh in Scotland, to Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham in Middle-England. I’ve been to Bath, York, Norwich, Cambridge, Chelmsford and Colchester (although not a city, it was for a time the capital of Roman Britain). I have travelled further south to London, Canterbury, Dover, Portsmouth, Brighton and Southampton, and then north and east to Oxford, Cardiff (in Wales) as well as Limerick and Dublin in Ireland. To name a few.
This past week I have added another city to the list – Manchester, the third-most populous city in the United Kingdom (after London and Birmingham). A city of many cultures, adventures and surprises. From very old Roman (and older) landmarks to hyper-modern skyscrapers and shops.
Many famous people have links with this vibrant city. Big names such as, Albert Finney, one of Britain’s best-loved stage and screen actors and Sir Ben Kingsley, who won international acclaim and an Oscar for his role as the Indian statesman, Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film of the same name.
Emmeline Pankhurst, who, in 1903 helped to form Suffragettes, a militant-like group of activists hell-bent on giving women the recognition they deserved. In 1999, Time Magazine named Pankhurst one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
Maurice, Robin, and Barry Gibb, The Bee Gees, spent their childhood practising their harmonies in a modest terraced house on Keppel Road.
Alan Turing, the Manchester University scientist, is recognised as one of the world’s most influential computer pioneers. He is often credited with founding computing and artificial intelligence as we know it. Originally breaking codes for the Brits during World War II, Turing then went on to become the director of a computer lab at Manchester University.
Oh, and then there are also two of the most famous football teams in the world, but since football is not really my thing, I will not mention it.
One day was definitely not enough to spend in this interesting city.
SYMI – THE SECRET GEM
Last, but surely not least (of our Greek experiences) – Symi.
This little gem of an island has no reputation as (or desire, for that matter, to become) a cosmopolitan island and does not compete with islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, known for their nightlife and expensive hotels.
It is said that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones once stepped off their luxurious yacht on Symi island to stretch their sea-legs and went to one of the many restaurants on the island – and were quite surprised to be able to walk freely there without masses of people and paparazzi tagging along.
Although the island offers several exclusive boutiques, also found on the more popular, exciting, cosmopolitan islands, Symi comes without the decadence of many of the other ports. Summer is very hot and humid and well-dressed Europeans and other fashion conscious guests temporarily occupy Symi, but there is no jet setting. Visitors are chic but friendly and respectful towards the local environment. Lisandro from Muses once told a journalist, “Princess Caroline of Monaco was here and people thought to themselves: You might be a princess, but you’re not from Symi.”
The harbour welcomes you like a mother welcomes her long lost children – whether you are famous or not. Many famous actors, politicians, ship owners and models have visited the island – Symi is chosen by all who do not want to attract the attention of others and prefer an authentic Greek holiday experience. This is evidenced in the summer by the numerous yachts docking at the port of Symi.
The island oozes Mediterranean charm, as if a stylist has designed it that way and the harbour extends towards crystal clear water where blue chairs and tables are covered with white linen.
It may not be Mykonos or Santorini but it has been a top island for some time – fortunately too small to be noticed by too many people.
RHODES – A COLOSSAL EXPERIENCE
Did you know that there are more than 3000 islands in the Greek archipelago? Three thousand! (Some people say 6000.)
Rhodes Island – affectionately known as the Island of Endless Sunshine – is one of the larger ones. Rhodes (town), the principle city of the island, is divided into the old town and new town.
Historically, Rhodes was famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Two statues of deer on top of two columns mark the supposed location of this gigantic statue at the entrance to the Mandraki harbour that is guarded by the charming fort of Saint Nicholas that doubled as a lighthouse.
I absolutely lost myself meandering with my camera through the medieval stone-paved alleyways of the old town. Today, Rhodes old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This time capsule exists within the imposing walls built in the 14th century by the Knights of St. John who used the island as their home.
The modern Rhodes, with stretches of white beaches, cobalt-blue sea and exquisite cuisine, was exactly how I had always imagined a Greek island to be.
Next year, if we still walk the earth, we will go back to Rhodes. This time for my daughter’s wedding!
Antio Rodos! Until next year …
ACROPOLIS, THE PARTHENON … AND THE CINEMA
I remember how ready I was for an argument, all those years back, when a friend told us about his visit to to the Pantheon in Rome. I wanted to correct him – the Pantheon is in Athens, Greece. Luckily I did not exhibit my ignorance then and kept quite. I’ve seen the Pantheon in Rome since, and now I have been to the Acropolis, the citadel in Athens where the majestic Parthenon stands proud (despite all but being demolished).
The Parthenon was completed in 432BC and, oh boy, what a sight it must have been – towering above everything else. Unfortunately, a series of hostile events led to the destruction of this magnificent showpiece of architecture and in 1687, the final blow came when a Venetian mortar round blew up the gunpowder magazine inside the Parthenon, and the building was partly destroyed. And then the looting started.
It felt almost sacred, walking where Plato, Hippocrates, Socrates, Archimedes and such people, who left an indelible mark on earth, may have walked.
And that night we ended a perfect day in an open-air cinema lower down the slopes of Acropolis, watching Woody Allen’s (not really my cup of tea) latest film with an illuminated Parthenon casting it’s presence over the area. With a mastika ice-cream, topped with a delicious sour cherry sauce, in hand, I was contented.
(The majority of these pictures were shot at midday in the hottest and brightest of sun. Sorry for the poor quality.)
Verlede maand val ‘n gelukkie my mos te beurt. Melissa is lugwaardin in Dubai en sy sê sy verlang na haar pa en ma. Ons moet kom kuier. Nou moet ek uit die staanspoor sê dat ek baie ander plekke op aarde eerder sou wou besoek as ‘n land in die Midde-Ooste. Pa-se-enigste-dogter is egter die groot trekpleister en dan wou ek nog altyd daai hoë gebou waarvan ek die naam nooit kon onthou nie, gesien het.
Met die daalslag sien ek net wit sand by die vliegtuig se klein venstertjie uit – so ver as wat die oog kan sien. Die lug is ‘n dynserige beige.
Vir so ‘n yslike vliegtuig land die grote Airbus nogal heel grasieus in Abu Dhabi. In die aankomsaal is ek effens ongemaklik, dalk gespanne, want ek het nou al baie dinge gehoor en gelees van goed wat jy in hiérdie lande moet of maar liewers nie moet doen nie. Ek kyk die manne met hulle lang wit rokke agterdogtig aan. Christine haak by my in, maar ek woel my vinnig los – nie seker of dit een van die goed is wat taboe is nie. By doeanebeheer vra die jong Arabier sy vrae en sit sy tjap in ons paspoort.
Hoe dit werk, sal ek nooit weet nie, maar die bagasie wat éérste op die carroussel verbykom, se eienaars daag altyd laaste op. So ‘n rooi tas met ‘n blou strik is al heel dronk gedraai toe óns tasse verbykom.
Uiteindelik kry ek en vroulief ons sit tussen ‘n magdom nasionaliteite in ‘n lugversorgde bus na Dubai. Ons bagasie is vooruit in ‘n kleiner bus en met tipiese Suid-Afrikaanse bekommernis wonder ek of ons ooit weer ons bagasie gaan sien. Buite is dit 43 grade met geen boom in sig nie. Die bus beur tussen stofwolke voort en halfpad Dubai toe kry elke passasier ‘n bottel koue water. Ek sit aan die skadukant van die bus en waag dit om die gordyntjie oop te skuif. Die hittegolwe kom soos branders aangerol. Buite skuif platdakhuise in netjiese rye en imposante moskees verby ons.
Die pad is in ‘n uitstekende toestand.
‘n Uur of so later is ons in Dubai se buitewyke.
Nou, om die een of ander rede het ek Dubai voorgestel as ‘n groterige oase, ‘n plek so groot soos, sê nou maar, Brandfort met so ‘n klompie hoë geboue en die mensgemaakte Palm-eilande waarop jy half versigtig ‘n ent die see in kan loop.
En dan dáárdie gebou wat soos ‘n kers op ‘n verjaarsdagkoek bo alles uittroon.
O ja, en ook daardie nou al ikoniese skipgebou waar Roger Federer en André Agassi meer as 200 meter hoog op die helipad ‘n potjie tennis gespeel het. Verder net woestyn.
Mense, was ek verkeerd!