Friday, December 26, 2008

China

While this is not and Irish and Scott adventure in the strict sense of we were both in China I happened to have a business trip to China in the fall of 2007 and had a couple of days to do the tourist thing while we were there. In that not everyone gets to see China because it is rather cumbersome task to get a Visa it was certainly and adventure.

I flew from Minneapolis to Tokyo Japan where I caught a flight to Beijing after only a short wait in the Tokyo airport The flight to Tokyo was roughly 12 hours in the air and having traveled to Europe many time this was the longest flight I have ever been on.

Arriving in Beijing airport a rather modern airport we were met by business associates who transported us to our hotel room and left us for a day or so to adapt to the drastic time change. (13 hours)

Our hotel room was an International Hotel and catered to westerners so it was quite modern, comfortable and familiar to us.

From China


The area around our hotel was a study in contrasts there was extremely modern buildings right across the street in one direction

From China


Inside the modern building

From China


Yet right around the corner was a shantytown and they were building the roads with shovels and ancient equipment

From China


From China


You might have noticed that all the pictures seem to be overcast or foggy however that is not the case. These photos were taken on what passes for a bright sunny day. The smog in and around Beijing and Tianjin from the coal fired power plants and vehicle emissions was so bad that it always looks like it is overcast. The photo below really shows how bad it is.

From China


Interspersed between days of work in the office we traveled to the most popular tourist destinations around Beijing. In the center of Beijing right across the street from each other are Tienanmen Square and the famous Forbidden City (The emperors summer palace)These would be the photos or videos you always see on the news with the picture of the infamous Chairman Mao

Tienanmen Square
From China


Forbidden City

From China Summer Palace


We paid a nominal fee and got a recorded program about the forbidden City and toured around the palace grounds hearing about the history of the emperors that occupied this palace before Mao and the "Peoples Revolution" threw them out. The palace is huge occupying 20-30 acres. The Emperors sure lived in style this was only the Summer palace. They moved south in the winter.




One day was a road trip north out of Beijing to the mountains and a section of the Great Wall. The Great wall runs for almost 600 miles, but most of it is run down and almost destroyed. It has been rebuilt in 2 places each popular tourist attraction. we went to the less visited one becuase it was closer. As we got farther out into the country side approaching the Wall and the foot fills the smog started to clear up and the sky turned blue.

From China Great Wall


As with any tourist area you have to run a gaunlet of souvenir peddlers and beggars to get there and the road to the Great Wall was no exception.

From China Great Wall


I got accosted by these two gentleman and was forced to pay 2 dollars for a photograph before I could escape with my life.

From China Great Wall


You could either talk a trail to the top and the wall along the mountain crest or there was a chair lift. Once to the top it was quite a sight.

From China Great Wall




While I cannot take credit for the photos below (They came from some postcards sold to me by one of the peddlers on the wall) They are of the 1st more popular section of the wall and They were so good that I though they should be included in my tour of the "Great Wall"

Germany revisited

The Netherlands (Holland) is immediately adjacent to Germany merely 40 miles from where we lived in Holland was the border to Germany. With my having lived in Mannheim Germany for 2 years while in the military It seems like I should revisit where I spent some time earlier in my life. So on a long weekend we packed up the car and drove the 3 or 4 hundred miles to the Mannheim, Heidelberg area for a visit.

In Heidelberg we stayed at a nice hotel along the Rhine river with a view of all the activity on the waterfront.

From Germany


We put on many miles walking up and down the streets of Heidelberg and it shopping districts.

From Germany


From here we would tour around the area and visit the old castles and hillsides where I spent time years ago.

There are several castles along the river in this part of Germany, but by far the most famous is the large and sprawling "Heidelberg Castle".

From Germany


We walked up the trail from below and spent several hours touring the castle which included a visit to the castle wine cellar for a glass of Germany wine.

One of the trips we made from our base at the hotel was to the "Witch Tower" an old watch tower built during the war along with the ruins of an old amphitheater used by the Germans before the war.

From Germany


From Germany


Just north of Heidelberg along the mountains lies another castle in a small village off the main tourist track that really shows the old Germany. I remembered from my tour with the military police in the 70s driving through this place and wanted to return. We drove up in the car parked and walked through the village.

From Germany


We had lunch in street cafe in the village center then followed the old trails up to the castle.

From Germany


From Germany


While you can never go back to a time in the past and have it be the same it is certainly worth revising those old places just to enjoy the memories that they evoke.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Travels around Holland

While we lived in Holland we traveled around the country extensively. Its a small country only a couple of hundred miles across, but there are many interesting things to see. Parks, Museums, Tulip gardens, and many other things were worth a trip to see.

Often during the summer we would use our Harley Davidson and take off on a tour of the country side exploring. We have visited old Churches, man-made lakes, and museums while riding our motorcycle. One trip combined a motorcycle trip around the man-made in land sea called the Ijsselmeer which means Ice lake. Near the top of the map on the right you can see a road built across a very large inlet or bay in the north of Holland. The bay used to be salt water, but after the road was built and the sea could no longer flow back an forth the bay has now turned to mostly fresh water and is described as a lake.

One weekend trip we packed a lunch in the cooler and set out on the Harley for a trip across the almost 30 mile long road across the top of the Ijsselmeer.

From motorbiking around Holland


Along the way we stopped to view the farms were they grow the famous Amsterdam tulips

From motorbiking around Holland


From motorbiking around Holland


One of our favorite places to go was the city of Maastricht, Holland. The center square had a restaurant and beer garden that in summer was a beautiful place to lunch and we would often ride the Harley down and spend time there. Just off the square was an old church built in the 13th century that was a masterpiece of ancient architecture.

From motorbiking around Holland


From motorbiking around Holland


Sometimes our travels would take us to beaches

From motorbiking around Holland


Sometime parks where famous battles raged during WWII

From motorbiking around Holland


Other time picnics along famous Dutch canals

From motorbiking around Holland


Saturday, December 20, 2008

WindSurfing the North Sea


While we were living in the Netherlands many days on the weekends when it was windy were spent on the beach of the North Sea windsurfing and picnicking.

It was a two hour drive to the beach on the Northwest coast of Holland just south of Rotterdam. Most often we went to a section of beach near a small village called Ouddorp. Along the beach there is a public park with a road. When windy days blow from the North West you will often see hundreds of windsurfers with their trailers and campers parked along the road. Many of these people came from as far away as Germany to Surf here.

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland

We usually would arrive late in the morning to get a good spot to park because by early afternoon the road would be full and you could not get a place to park. The rigs you see there are many and diverse from cars with rooftop racks to totally decked out motor homes with large trailers pulling complex arrays of windsurfing gear.

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland


From Surfing At the Sea in Holland
Once parked and the equipment unloaded the selection of the correct sail and board was mulled at length.

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland

The rig was erected and the wetsuit put on and the battle to get over the 1st wave break out into smoother water begins.

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland
Once pass the break you were into some flat water and high speed action packed sailing

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland


Sailing is tough work and frequent breaks are in order for all the sailors.

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland

From Surfing At the Sea in Holland


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Margarets trip Home 1999

In 1998 the year Scott and I took an assignment in Europe one of my many goals in that assignment was to rekindle the flame on my childhood farm. I had only spent a few short weeks there in the last 20 years

From A visit to the Farm in Goorey


Since then it has fallen down and my family has built a new small house up near the road. Even though I miss the old house, I am glad they had this comfort.
One of the memories that stayed in my heart in that time away from home was seeing my mother and father sitting by the fire or having tea on the little table with its white lace table cloth.

Since I was home last my father went to heaven and my mother moved out of the little house, to a smaller house closer to Londonderry, to live closer to my sister. My brother bought the land, and my sister fixed the house on the farm up for all of the family to spend a little soul searching time in when they can come home.

Since we are all spread out over England, Ireland, and America, and getting older it gets harder to get together. In 1999 I planned a 2 week trip back to the farm my goals there were:

To sit by the fire like my mother and father did having tea on the little table
Visit my fathers grave
To go to the upper fields
To find the well we used to carry the drinking water from
To just wander all over the little farm
To have a picnic with my mother on the sandy beach
Visit My old School


To make a long story short I did not get the true felling I was after. Carrying 25 years of baggage from my life since I had left as a carefree 18 year made that impossible, but it still was really good.

I did all the things I wanted to do on the farm. Scott and I took a lovely hike along the MalinHead coast which is the end of Ireland and very close to our family farm. I know there will be another trip back.





We cannot bring the old days back
It fills my heart with pain,
But we can share some memories now
our home is alive again.
I took a walk up on the farm
the well to find,
No More water , stone or stage
it's all moved away with time.
Our Home is there for all to share
A pretty site to see,
Us all around the Table Having tea,



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A trip down Memory Lane

In November 2007 I took a trip home to the old sod and had a reunion with my three sisters my brother, and my mother. It was the first time in 20 year we were all home together with no husbands or wives just the children that grew up together. Even though my father had passed away, we still felt like we had never left home.

There was way to many highlights on this trip to write them all. It would be like writing a book, but I will talk about a few that are very much an Irish custom. Every day many people just dropped in for a cup of tea, a glass of wine or just to sing a song. There was lots of Irish dancing, and singing Irish songs. Our days were full of love, friendship, and laughter. We had many trips to take every day to renew old memories.

video video

video video


One of my favorite trips was to my grandmothers old house which is over 500 hundred years old and is still standing in memory of the great people who lived in it and loved it. Just to give you an idea of the Irish hospitably a old neighbor where my grandma live heard we were coming to visit the old house and went in and started the old hearth fire in the kitchen and in the little sitting room. It looked like my grandma was still living there even though it was over 50 years since my grandma went to heaven. Believe me we left a lot of tears there


Then there was days when the sisters that grew up together would try to get away from everybody and go to the pub to have a glass of wine together but,The boys that used to chase us on their bikes as we grew up chased now in their
cars as old men.

I will not bore you with any more of this story as you might already know the Irish are storytellers.