Newcastle – A New Perspective

Over the weekend I took part in my first Meetups activity and partook of a street photography walking tour of Newcastle City. We only covered about 2 blocks in about 1 – 1.5 hours and I must admit it, it was something of an eye-opener. I took time to really take notice what was around me; to look up as well as what was in front of me and to really see (I got so immersed in my photographing that I was nearly run over).

We started our outing in Market Street, by the new Post Office and walked east up the mall to Bolton Street and then back along Scott Street to complete the loop.

Newcastle has some amazing architecture (I’ve always known that),

The once glorious old sandstone post office building:

oldpostoffice the art deco buildings:

cityarcade artdecobuildingdetail

gloriouscolumns but there is also some great graffiti art:

morganst_graffiti honeycafewall

There is so much development going on in Newcastle at the moment – it’s a great opportunity to get out, explore the city and to document some of those changes, and to see things you perhaps have never noticed before.

Like the sandstone figures adorning the old Longworth Institute building in Scott Street:

I feel like this some days!

I feel like this some days!

I actually really enjoyed my afternoon out – I meet a couple of new people who share an interest in photography and I saw my city from a different perspective.

Here are a few of my favourite images that I thought I would share with you.

Who doesn't love an orange door!

Who doesn’t love an orange door!

 

 

A Stairway to Heaven?

A Stairway to Heaven?

 

Reflected buildings!

Reflected buildings!

 

I really do love the city in which I live, and I feel privileged to live right amongst it where it’s not too far to walk to anywhere really.

It’s been quite a while since I have posted anything on my blog (there have been a few reasons for that, which I may include in future blogs, but for now, it’s good to be back writing again). I hope you enjoy it and come visit again!

Summertime in Newcastle

Welcome to my first blog for 2016! I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year and I hope that it brings all that you desire.

We have been back in Newcastle now for 6 weeks, so I thought I would post a little more about my home town. I have spent quite a bit of time in by the harbour and around by the beaches, mainly because I enjoy it so much – my heart lifts, my soul is revived and it makes me happy. But I also visit because I have been wanting to practice some photography. I have been doing the 52 week photo challenge, hosted by American artist, Ricky Tims and I have thoroughly enjoyed it – I have learnt so much along the way. He is running a similar course this year – if you are interested click here.

Anyway, I thought I would share some sights from around Newcastle:

Newcastle is home to the world’s largest coal exporting port, so you can sit and watch the ships come and go:

ShipEnteringHarbour_0781

Take a walk along”Honeysuckle“, harbourside (and maybe stop at any of the many restaurants along the way)

NewcaslteHarbour_towardNobbys

Go see the new ANZAC memorial walk where you can watch the hang-gliders above:

Hangglider_0644

or the people below:

BeachViewFromAbove_0669

A walk along the beach is always good: whether it is to watch the sun come up on New Year’s Eve:

Sunrise_0739

or watch the local bird life:

Seagulls_Sunrise_0765

and

CowrieHole_Pelicans_0641

or observe other photographers trying to capture the sunrise:

PhotographersAtSunrise_0707

You could also take a dip at the Ocean Baths:

Sunrise-Swimmers_0752

You might try your hand at surfing:

ContemplatingSurfer_0770

or try some rock fishing (wearing a life vest, of course – safety first)

CowrieHole_Fishing_0717pano

Away from the coast, you might also run into one of the locals (who came visiting one morning):

Kanga_0619

I hope you have enjoyed this visual display of Newcastle and I that I have maybe tempted you to come and visit.

Goodbye Texas

It’s time to say goodbye to Texas! And, yes, there will be (& has been) tears. 😥 sads

 

Almost 2 years ago now, my husband was made an offer to work in the USA for 12 months. What an opportunity – we could live in Texas, experience a new culture, do something different for a while and maybe have the odd adventure or two! We have now lived in Texas for 19 months and it has prematurely and abruptly come to an end.

Although this is a very sad turn of events – I think I recognised myself passing through most of the acknowledged stages of grief with anger and depression featuring strongly – I have now moved into acceptance and am trying to move past my sadness and bitterness and appreciate all the wonderful experiences I have had whilst here in the US; things I would not have done otherwise.

It wasn’t easy at the start, but I managed to make a life here and I have meet some amazing people; some will be friends for life!

Living in the North Texas town of Sherman, we have tried to experience as much of Texas (and Texoma) as we could, and also explore further afield when we could. There have been so many wonderful experiences. I was going to list our experiences here – but I now realise that we have done so much, it’s way too much to mention it all.

We have had opportunity to visit quite a few of the local sights and have enjoyed the uniquely Texan experiences of shooting rifles and pistols both at a gun range and on a ranch.

Cate_shooting

Other places we have visited in Texas are Fort Worth (where we saw the longhorn drive),

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Texarkana, San Antonio – the Alamo and it’s wonderful riverwalk,

Riverwalk-view_from-bridgeWichita Falls, and the Texas hill country town of Fredericksburg. I also managed to get to visit Houston.

With Dallas being so close we managed to see most of the major touristy sites. We visited Dealey Plaza and the Book Repository, took a look at Old Red museum, checked out the DMA, enjoyed a visit to the Dallas Aquarium, took in the view from the top of Reunion Tower and enjoyed several visits to the Arboretum (one of my favourite places).

 

arboretum

There is so much to do in Dallas – make sure you visit some time!

We also enjoyed the very unique experience of visiting the Texas State Fair.

BigTex

In addition we also caught a couple of Baseball games at Arlington.

Cate_baseball

Besides Texas though, I have had the privilege of visiting another 13 states! Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa and New York.

Some highlights:

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Statue of Liberty, NY

Statue of Liberty, NY

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – New Mexico

I had no desire to visit the USA before coming here ,but I have a new appreciation of America and it’s people. Texas in particular will always have a place in my heart.  💕💕

I hope I can come back one day!

 

And the clouds rolled in!

This post has been a little while in coming; the last week and a half has not been easy. It has been a roller coaster of emotions for us. Shock, sadness and anger have been warring with each other – it’s exhausting. So, to try and overcome some of those emotions we thought we would take a road trip – our last one here in the US; it’s time for us to go home, but the decision was one that was imposed upon us with Andrew being made redundant. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you are invited to work in another country and then have the rug pulled out from under you and you are sent packing!

Anyway, back to that road trip. It’s fall here in the US and there are many areas where the leaves changing color are quite a spectacle. One of those places is an area known as the Talimena Scenic Drive (a 50 mile stretch of road from east Oklahoma to west Arkansas). So, we set off to have a look before all the color disappeared.

It didn’t turn out quite as expected however. We encountered quite a bit of cloud, fog and rain. We were advised to drive along the valley road first – so glad we did, at least we saw a little color. Driving became very challenging once we got further up the mountains! These are some photos taken from the car:

Talimena_CarDrive

Talimena_CarView

Talimena_QW_stateParkWe stayed a night at the Queen Wilhemina Lodge (the castle in the clouds), a recently renovated lodge; very popular & I managed to snag the last available room (people had cancelled due to the weather!) – this was the view from our room when we arrived:Talimena_QWL_view

There was a nice fire to sit by, but no reviving drinks to be had – there was no alcohol at the lodge – its situated in a dry county and they are required to wait 12 months before applying for a liquor license – damn!  The weather continued to move in; it got worse and we experienced a severe storm, with lots of rain and a power outage. The next morning it was still very cloudy, but still beautiful, mystical, even!

Talimna_beautyInFog

It eventually cleared enough for us to start our drive back along the mountain ridge. We saw some pretty sights;

Talimena_AutumnColour Talimena_AutumnLeaves_0955

Talimena_AutumnLeaves_0952 Talimena_AutumnColour_0976

it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but all in all, it was still another great experience!

Pumpkins at the Arboretum – Autumn is here!

One thing I really love about America is how the arrival of each season is celebrated wholeheartedly.

Autumn has now arrived in the northern hemisphere, so there are plenty of decorations around celebrating Fall and Harvest; with many scarecrows, hay bales and pumpkins! All the stores and so many porches and balconies around town are displaying their Fall decorations. It is wonderful!

harvest-decorfall-home-decor-2

Fall_signToday I went to visit the Dallas Arboretum with a friend to take a look at their Fall Festival, which features a huge pumpkin patch – with more than 75,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds. It was amazing! I had such a wonderful time; I just had to share – Here are a few photos:

Fall_Texas_pumpkins

Fall_UglyPumpkinPatch

Fall_PumpkinBed

Fall_PumpkinPath

I have been to the Arboretum twice before (one of which was for the Springtime bloom event) and it has been great every time. A visit to the gardens is truly delightful and there is something to see at any time of the year. If you are ever in Dallas – go; you won’t regret it. It also has a fabulous Children’s Adventure Garden for the kiddies (and adults).

 

Super Blood Moon!

In certain parts of the world last night there was a ‘Supermoon’ (where the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit – so appears larger and brighter), which coincided with a lunar eclipse, making for an amazing super blood moon!

The event was visible in North America, South America, Greenland, West Africa and Western Europe. Apparently the next time this will happen will be in 2033 – at least in this part of the world (and the last time it happened was in 1982). I did a little bit of research on this and I found some decent information on the USA Today website and today I found the BBC website also provided a good explanation and some great photos.

Did anyone stay up and watch this rare event?

I watched the first half of this (from North Texas, USA) – watching as the Earth’s shadow began to fall across the bright full moon and progress until it was fully eclipsed and gave off an orange/red glow. I must admit, it was wonderful to watch.

As I keen photographer, I tried to capture some of this. I knew I wouldn’t be too successful as I took the photos from my balcony and there was a lot of incidental light about, and I don’t have a powerful enough zoom lens; however, I did try. Did anyone else capture a good photo? This is what I managed to capture:

The beginning

The beginning

Almost there!

Almost there!

Full eclipse

Full eclipse

Kilkenny to Dublin

Well, our journey around Ireland is almost over. 😔

Yesterday we left our wonderful hotel at Kilkenny, but before saying good bye we visited the castle and explored the town a little.

The castle sits above the town with a commanding spot on the River Nore. Disappointingly, there is no photography allowed within the castle – this is very unfortunate because it was beautiful with lots of wonderful things to admire. The portrait gallery in particular was fabulous. The garden was also very pretty.

 After exploring the town (very nice), on the way back to the car, we happened to call in on a music shop, which just happened to have a harp for sale:

 Alas, at €2795 and no room in my luggage, I could not take it home with me. I did however find myself a book of all of Turlough O’Carolan’s sheet music (with 4 cd’s to accompany it) – so I did leave with that. Turlough O’Carolan is a famous Irish harpist from the late 17th and early 18th century for those not in the know.

We called in at the Brownshill Dolmen (it sits in a field, just outside of Carlow) – it has the largest capstone of all the megalithic portal tombs in Ireland (reputedly weighing 150 tons). It is very impressive.

Brownshill Dolmen

Glendalough was our last stop before heading back into Dublin. This is home to an early Christian monastic site originally founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. It is easy to see why he would have chosen this spot; it is so peaceful and very beautiful! 
  

For our final 2 nights I thought it would be nice to finish off with a stay in a ‘castle’ (it was originally a castle but has been rebuilt and reinvented most recently in in the late 90’s as a hotel)- at Clontarf Castle, a little out of the city.  

Our final day in Dublin has been pretty quiet, catching the local bus into the city and just doing a bit of shopping, having lunch in Temple Bar and some more walking around the city. Tomorrow we fly back to Texas and back to reality. For a little island, Ireland sure packs a lot in! It has been a most wonderful trip (I wish it could have been longer) and I hope I can come back soon! 😊

Cork and Waterford

Sadly we had to say farewell to County Kerry too soon and left with sights unseen and adventures missed! There is so much to do in this area – a week would have been lovely!From Kilarney we headed to Cork taking the longer coastal route, stopping at Buntray House (home of the White family [my maiden name] ,the former earls of Bantry since 1739) and gardens overlooking Bantry Bay. This is a magnificent house (no photography inside the house unfortunately) and is still privately owned (it also acts as a B&B).

Bantry House and Gardens

Before heading on to Cork, I had to stop in at Drombeg Stone Circle, dating from the 2nd century BC.

Drombeg Stone Circle

I must admit I did not really like Cork, it appeared a hard and dirty city; it certainly wasn’t quaint and charming. The following morning we headed for Blarney to visit the castle. This was so much more than I expected.

Blarney CastleBesides the castle (and of course, the Blarney Stone, which I did not kiss!) there is a rather large manor house and some rather extensive gardens; one of which was called Rock Close (a hidden grove of ancient Yew trees and limestone rock formations) – this  was a magical wonderland where ivy grew over trees, tree roots were twisted, the moss covered the trees and the rocks, and where there were waterfalls and hidden caves, the Witch’s steps, the Witch’s kitchen and the Druid’s cave. For me, this was wonderland and I could have stayed here for hours!

BlarneyWoods

We did experience a bit of rain at Blarney castle, but quite a good deal more as we made our way to Cobh, which was going to be our next stop. As is was totally miserable here, we didn’t stay and pushed on, calling in at the Old Midleton Distillery (Ireland’s largest distillery) for a quick visit before making our way to Waterford (Ireland’s oldest city) where we stayed overnight at the Waterford Marina Hotel (a great value hotel and I would recommend it).

Waterford's crystal harpI liked Waterford (and again, I could have stayed longer). Our first stop in Waterford was Waterford Crystal where we did a tour of the factory. This was very informative and I enjoyed it, but it was pricey at 13euro each, although I now have a great appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into creating these pieces of art – by the way – there are no seconds at Waterford Crystal- any imperfect pieces are scrapped! I couldn’t afford to buy anything here, but I did admire all that was on offer, including The Barclays trophy with Jason Day’s name on it, The Ashes Cup and the People’s Choice Awards Trophies. Of course, I particularly admired the crystal harp on display!

Just down the street we took a look at Reginald’s Tower (a stone tower dating from the 12th century, this is the oldest civic urban building in Ireland).

ReginaldsTower

We also took a look at the ruins of the 13th century Grey Friars church and Christchurch Cathedral (built in 1770). Before leaving Waterford I happened to find my street and took a photo:

Catherine Street– and then headed to Kilkenny.

However, once again, we didn’t take the most direct route; I had to go via The Rock of Cashel! What an impressive and imposing structure. Once again – I loved what I saw here.

RockOfCashel

The views from this former fortress and monastery are also impressive.

View from Rock of Cashel

To cap off my day – we finished up in a hotel bar (Langtons House Hotel) – old and beautiful, having dinner and a few drinks listening to some live Irish music. For me; I was feeling a bit like ‘a pig in mud’, very happy! 😊

IMG_0634

I tried to upload this yesterday, but had trouble with Wi-Fi!

 

Spectacular Kerry

2 days in Kerry – absolutely wonderful – even in wet weather!

Thursday we ventured to the Dingle peninsular and drove the Slea Head road. It was another very full day. We looked in at Inch Beach (part of Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here)

Inch Beachand then went on to Dingle town (where we had lunch at Denners Hotel).

We also saw an ancient stone ring fort and some Beehive Huts:

Beehive Hut

Unfortunately the rain did fall for a considerable part of the day and we did get wet. However, it was still very nice. We saw lots of rainbows – the best I have ever seen – they were complete and very vibrant.

Rainbows in Dingle

Friday we did the “Ring of Kerry” – and, yes, there is plenty of spectacular scenery.

Kerry Coastline

There are also lots of tourist buses and lots of narrow roads! But, we went to some places the tourist coaches don’t go. We had great fun crawling through the ruined remains of Ballycarbery Castle – this was awesome!


We also clambered over a couple of 2500 year old stone forts!


All in all – it was a great day and topped off with my first tipple of Irish whiskey!

I must add; the hotel we stayed in at Kilarney was very nice – The Lake Hotel (even if the bed/mattress wasn’t, and completely stuffed my back) – the room and views over a part of a ruined castle were lovely:

I wish we could have stayed longer – I could have spent a week here easily, there is so much to see and do!

Bunratty and Limerick

I apologise for the lateness of this post; I have been fighting a cold for the past week and the last 2 days it has been fighting back aggressively!

After leaving Galway we headed to The Burren (literally ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic) – and the countryside is just that! Very different to other areas of Ireland. I was keen to see some more of ancient Ireland and we called in on Poulnabrone Dolmen, dating from 2500-2000 BC.

Burren-Dolmen

Afterwards we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. Very spectacular!

CliffsOfMoher_a

Kilfenora_HighCrossWe didn’t really have as much time as I would have liked to explore this region, however I did manage to squeeze in some more High Celtic Crosses at Kilfenora:

– we needed to move on to the town of Bunratty, where I had booked us a 4 course medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle. This was fabulous.

Upon arrival at the castle you climb the narrow spiral staircase to the great hall where we were greeted with a goblet of mead (this was delicious, by the way) and a violinist. We then enjoyed a welcome from our hosts (all the staff are in period costume) with a history of the castle and some more music and song.

Bunratty_GreatHall

Bunratty_performersEveryone is then ushered down stairs to the banqueting hall. The only implement provided for eating is a knife, so the soup – you had to sip from the bowl. The food was very good, and during dinner entertainment was provided by a fiddle player and a harpist; there were also interludes of singing and story telling. Overall though, my favourite was the solo by the harpist. Just wonderful! It was a great night and I’m glad we did this.

The following day we headed into Limerick for a look around. Again, not enough time, but we went to King John’s Castle (sitting on the banks of the Shannon River), which provided a great interactive display of history of Ireland, Limerick and the castle.

KingJohnCastle_RiverShannon

Limerick_StMarysWhile in Limerick we also visited St Mary’s Cathedral, originally built in 1172 – this is probably one of the best ancient churches I have ever seen. This stone building has wonderful stained glass panels, an oak barrel vaulted roof and is probably best known for it’s 15th century oak misericords (a form of seating used by the clergy) with each one having a different figure carved into the underside of the seat (they fold up when not in use).

Limerick_Misericords

On then to Kilarney!