Friday, 28 March 2008

It's the hard knock life

Jeez. It's the end of another week. Funny, with Monday being a public holiday, the week was supposed to be shorter and yet it's been rather drawn-out and painful. Sheesh, good riddance nasty week. It hasn't been bad for any reason in particular - just one of those weeks with a yucky feeling. It's about to get a whole lot better though, cos it's the weekend, baby! I'm seconds (okay, make that an hour and 40 minutes [but who's counting?]) away from my first delicious sip of vino for the weekend, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Not to sound like an alchie or anything.

I've pretty much been pre-occupied with work lately and so have absolutely nothing interesting to write about. This'll be a short post. I did read a pretty good book last week, though. I'll tell you about it quickly. It's called 'Escape' and is written by Carolyn Jessop. It's the most fascinating story of her life in an uber-scary cult called the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (or something like that). Coincidentally, its leader (Warren Jeffs) is currently serving time in jail which trust me, makes the world a better place. Anyway, the FLDS is a polygamist cult and Jessop describes her marriage at the age of 18 to a 50 year old man. She is the fourth of many wives. Scary. She goes on to bear him eight children, but the hell she goes through finally prompts her flee both her (so-called) marriage and the cult community. (No, I haven't given away the plot - the novel starts off with her 'escape'.)

It was such an interesting read but I have to tell you, it struck every little feminist nerve in my body. It's so hard to believe this is happening in the western world. Though I guess (to be fair), South African headlines are unbelievably gruesome on a daily - make that hourly - basis, and we supposedly also belong to the western world. We merely glance over stories of child rape and family murders - hardly news anymore. Boiling frog syndrome. That's what that is.

Okay, I got seriously side-tracked. Sorry, back to the book. It really does make for an interesting read. You can pick it up from Exclusive Books (or any other book seller for that matter). Speaking of Exclusive's...

I popped into Exclusive's the other evening after work to pick up a book and headed for Woolies afterwards, thinking I'd buy something for dinner. It was about quarter to seven, close to closing time and the store was pretty much deserted. That was, until I got to the ready-made meals section. There I found a whole bunch of single women (and one gay guy) searching the shelves for a tasty meal for one. At first it was funny. 'Check out all the single women looking for lonely dinners' I thought, and then it hit me. I was one of them. I was a single chick looking for dinner for one. Damn, that was depressing. I grabbed the first thing I saw and high-tailed it out of there. Now I know where single women go when everybody goes home to their 'plus-ones'.

Well on that somber note, I'm going to wrap-up now. I'm not off to Woolies to find my dinner for one tonight. No sir! I'm off to meet up with my fabulous friends for a catch-up over vino. (Whew)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

(Cue drum roll...) Trrrrrr... TA-DAH!

(Warning: This is a long, long - oh-so-long - post. :)

Six months ago, I crammed all my favourite things into a suitcase and hopped on a plan
e to the UK. No, not to stay but for a much-anticipated, much-needed, kick-ass holiday. I was gone for about three weeks and covered a LOT of ground, so needless to say, I took a crazy amount of photos. Thing is, I'm still sifting through the pics, sorting my favourites from the crappy, out-of-focus ones. But in the meantime, here's a quick run-through of what we
nt down.

First stop, Basingstoke. England. (Why? Because my brother lives there.) Anyway, I spent a few days in England which gave me the chance to visit a few 'totally-touristy-but-worth-the-trip' places.

Stonehenge. No naked, dancing hippies or geriatric druids. Just lots of camera wielding tourists and large monolithic rocks.
Inside Salisbury Cathedral (v.v. pretty!). At 123 metres, the cathedral boasts the United Kingdom's tallest church spire, has a clock dating back to 1386 AD and is home to a piece of the Magna Carta.

Off to London... (yes, that really is blue sky in London).

High in the sky on the Eye.After squeezing as much of London as I could into a few days, it was time to head for the nearest EasyJet plane, destination Bordeaux!
This was my first time in France and I was really, really, really looking forward to it. I picked up a car (hereafter known as 'le wretched car') at the airport as I thought it would be a good idea to have my own transport on the more remote part of my holiday. This sounded great on paper, but in reality it was frikken' freaky! Driving on the wrong side of le wretched car, on the wrong side of the road at Bordeaux peak hour (which is very busy, let me tell you!) was terrifying. 'Got horribly lost and kept hitting the pavement while trying to get a feel for the wrong side of the road thing. I wanted to cry when it started raining as I couldn't figure out how to switch on le windshield wipers. (You'd think it would be simple, but it wasn't.) Anyway finally, a few hours later, I made it to Bergerac where my teeny little hotel room was waiting for me. Happy days.
Bergerac was fantastic - so old and quaint. Filled to the brim with photo opportunities. So stunning. Here are a few snaps taken in and around the town centre.
From Bergerac, I hit the road and visited some of the more remote villages scattered around the French countryside. The beauty of these places was over-whelming. Tiny little French villages completely forgotten by time. Ones that stood out in particular with the medieval city in Sarlat and the too-gorgeous Roque-Gageac. Absolute must-sees if you're ever in the area.

A gaggle(?) of geese on the way to Sarlat...

One of the courtyards in the medieval city. What's amazing about this place is that it was built around the 9th Century! Phenomenal.

Another of the many little towns built on the banks of the Dordogne River is the idyllic Roque-Gageac - in my opion , one of the prettiest places in the world. Houses are built into the cliff overlooking the Dordogne, neighbouring the troglodyte caves. Incredible!

Chateau de Beynac. With pristine views that overlook the Dordogne and the surrounding French countryside, this chateau is in the perfect location.

Ah, le wretched car...
A Bordeaux tram - highly efficient. After a few days of that, I returned le wretched car to the people at Avis - Bordeaux - and hopped on a SNCF train to Paris. (Okay, maybe 'hopping' is the wrong term. I missed my booked train and had to spend far too many Euros to catch the next one. All very dramatic. Anyhoo...) Paris. City of love and lights. It wasn't quite love at first sight because let's face it, Paris is a little dirty and the people are (a little?) rude. But the underlying charm of Paris soon hit its mark, and I had a fantastic time. With only about five days in Paris, it was hard to get to everything I wanted to see. But nonetheless, I saw a lot. Up the tower, down the Seine, a game at Rugby Town (it was World Cup time), off to the Palace of Versailles, up the steps to Sacre Coeur etc. And don't forget the Louvre (but I'll leave that for another post). In all, it was AMAZING!!!!
Here are some of my favourite pics:
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The Stravinsky Fountain with the Centre Georges Pompidou in the background.River boat on the Seine. Hmmm... C'est la vie, hey?View from the top floor of the Eiffel Tower. The nerve-wracking elevator ride is worth the views!Taken in Versailles...This was taken after the Scotland - Italy game, which as you can see, Scotland WON!Couldn't help but notice lots of beautiful carrousels. This pic doesn't do it nearly enough justice, though.View from a river trip down the Seine...Some of the street artists outside the Sacré-Cœur Basilica included mimes and this harpist. Très parisien!Some or other tower people keep talking about...Okay, this may seem a bit macabre, but it was actually quite cool. I stopped by Cimetière de Montparnasse (Montparnasse Cemetery) which is the final resting place of many important and influential people. These include Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, César Frank and - as you can see in the pic below - Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.It was hard to leave Paris but there was an upside. Next I was headed for one of my favourite cities - Edinburgh. 'Collected another rental car at the airport but instead of settling down in the city, got straight on the motorway and headed for the Isle of Skye. Wow. After the hectic pace of Paris, the Isle of Skye was a complete shock to the system - and a beautiful one at that. Cool, dark moors and a sheep population that vastly out numbers the human count, the Isle of Skye is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. I was only there for a short time and wish I could have stayed for longer. It's definitely a place I want to go back to some day.

On the way to Isle of Skye: Eilean Donan Castle, which dates back to the 13th Century. The road to the Isle was mesmerising - very beautiful.Not much on the Isle of Skye - dark moors, scattered farm houses and a whack-load of sheep.Most of the signs are in Gaelic, a language commonly spoken on the Isle of Skye.
(Note the lurking sheep. Really, they're EVERYWHERE!)Spean Bridge (near Fort William) is home to the Commando Memorial - a moving tribute to the Commandos who died in the Second World War. As the memorial reminds us, their motto was 'United We Conquer' and 'This Country was their Training Ground'. What was particularly poignant was that a few metres from the statue was a little circular garden of rememberance, scattered with home-made crosses and messages to fallen soldiers both from the world wars and recent wars. There were a few messages to young soldiers who had died in the last year in Iraq and other war-torn areas. It was really, really sad.Onto lighter stuff... 'Came across this lone piper en route to Skye. Great stuff! After tearing myself away from the majestic Isle of Skye, I took the A9 (or whatever the road is) back down to Edinburgh where I stayed in a charming albeit tiny apartment quite close to the hub of the city. Unfortunately though, I didn't spend much time in Edinburgh as I have a lot of family in Glasgow, and so spent most of my time there. (Plus, as I was driving most of the time, I didn't get much a chance to take pics. Pity. Anyway...) Glasgow is also pretty fabulous though and so it was time pretty well spent.
Here are some pics taken on and around Princes Street.
As do all great holidays, this one also came to an end too soon. It was nice to go home, but I have to admit, now I have itchy feet and can't wait for the next trip. I just need to wait for my butchered piggy bank to heal and who knows, maybe if I sell my left kidney I might just be able to go somewhere nice sometime soon.
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