What’s this? An out of cycle blog post? No holiday, no travel, and there’s a post?! What on earth is going on? Good question reader… today was a bit of a day… and I thought I could do with processing it by writing it down… and I did say to a colleague today that I don’t write on my blog enough… so here we go….
Today started like a fairly normal day – The alarm went off and I didn’t want to get out of bed… I was going to go into the office this morning, but slept really badly and decided I could benefit from a bit more sleep and no commute! (What a good choice!).
Today ended like a fairly normal (ish day…) I was the moderator for a panel chat at work celebrating Jewish American Heritage month. (The panellists were American!) – A great time was had by all!
The middle of the day however, was not your standard run-of-the-mill day.
Just gone midday, my mobile phone rang. A number I didn’t know. I answered. It’s the hospital. They’ve had a cancellation, could I come in… at 2pm… I checked the calendar and it worked! I made some lunch… Joined my 1pm call… took the dog out to the toilet and wandered up to the hospital!
I’d been referred to the ADHD clinic back in 2021. I had an inkling for a while… I was a bit erratic and fidgety as a child… struggled to concentrate during school and especially when revising for exams… and in the office used to struggle to stay at my desk all the time. (I love a wander!)
A random conversation with a colleague last year made me think that actually I did have something more than just being scatty and erratic and sometimes falling into deep periods of extreme focus… so I went to the GP who asked me a bunch of questions and referred me.
The wait was horrendous and I’d checked in with the hospital a number of times with no avail… and I’d just last week tried to contact them to find out what was going on and was waiting for a call back. Today’s call was just luck! (they didn’t have my message!)
And so, 4 hours after the phone rang, I was leaving the hospital with a diagnosis and a prescription for ADHD medication! Slightly surreal!
Tomorrow starts a new chapter I guess… I’m excited to see what happens and if I see improvement thanks to the stimulants! Hopefully I’ll write some updates… and I say hopefully… because I was supposed to keep securingsteven.com up to date.. and.. look where that got me!
But also I hope to write some updates just in case someone reads them and hit helps them!
Until next time… I’m off to go make a cup of tea and get a reasonable night’s sleep – a new day starts tomorrow!
For the last time, Good Evening London, Good evening world, Istanbul Calling!
Today started with a “reasonable” wake up call which resulted in a slightly less busy breakfast room… After a quick breakfast, I hot footed it down to “Tunnel” – to make my way downhill to Karakoy to make it over the Galata Bridge and to the ferry port.
The ferry company in Istanbul offers a pretty much full day tour – 10:30-16:30 almost all the way up the Bosphorous Strait to the North Sea… All for the very pricey sum of 65 Turkish Lira…. or £2.70.
In the queue to get tickets I made friends with Karen and Ed from the USA (shoutout to you if you’re reading!), all thanks to a man attempting to silently push in the queue… I used my best being British and a very quiet tut to ensure he was not pushing in!
The Bosphorus is BUSY – it’s a prime shipping lane from Russia and hundreds of ships per day pass through – 48,000 per year which is 3-4 times more than the Panama Canal or Suez Canal.
But there was also plenty of wildlife too… like this guy who kept flying alongside us…
As we sailed up the Bosphorus we passed lots of incredible buildings, mosques, palaces and all sorts….
Karen was, quite rightly obsessed with this MAHOOSIVE flag of Turkey up the hill…
Work decided to follow me…
There was genuinely LOADS to see from the boat
When you reach the top of the Bosphorus, you dock at the tinest town – Anadolu Kavağı on the Asian Side, just south of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. Looking at the bridge now, I have found its the 5th tallest of any bridge in the world and is one of the widest!
Anadolu Kavağı is really a tiny town, where it turns out they don’t speak much English… Karen and Ed had an amazing book (a bit like lonely planet) which recommended a bakery – we thought we’d get something to see us through before we went on a short hike.
What unfolded in the bakery, I cannot do justice to explaining here, but involved frustrated language from both sides, lots of gesticulation and shouting of the word “Potertoy” which transpired to be… Potato. I had my eye on the single roll left there, but after much confusion and me shouting “ONE-ONE” whilst doing single digit hand gestures, Karen got her pastry, I got my roll and we set off.
The cabaret of the bakery, however was concluded with us all trying the rather large pot of Potertoy pastry and each of us concluding it was horrible! The single roll was lovely, and we all shared that!
We left the town and hiked up the hill through the military controlled zone (We’re asking no questions… cameras away) to Yoros Castle…. or at least the remains of it…
What was lacking in castle was certainly not lacking in view!
Whilst hiking we made more friends with the most intriguing New Zealand couple, thanks the husband exclaiming “I don’t know about the Black sea… it looks blue to me!” – they have left New Zealand for a year, with no solid plans to basically travel the world with their son. Pretty incredible stuff and I’m sort of a little jealous!
Karen, Ed and I were hungry so decided to settle on a small waterfront Restaurant, looking over the boat so that we could keep an eye on things to ensure we didn’t miss it going back!
While the Restaurant had English menus, the staff did their best but did not really understand, causing another round of gesticulation and repeating… meanwhile I settled for, and managed to order a Fish… and we shared some surprisingly good chips before heading back to the boat.
After sailing back to Eminonu, we took a stroll uphill to the Grand Bazaar…. If I’m honest, it was actually a little overwhelming. Streets and streets of crap… I mean things… many shops selling the same stuff as you’ve seen all over Istanbul. I had a jaunt round before heading back to the hotel.
From the hotel I got ready for my Hamam. I followed the instructions from the Hamam and got some swimming shorts ready, left most of my valuables in the hotel and headed out to get some food.
I got food in a great bar where there was an American lady and her husband playing guitar/singing. She cracked out the Kazoo and I was happy!
From the bar, I pottered a little bit before heading into the Hamam.
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı is a renovated 16th century Hamam pretty much within the grounds of the neighbouring mosque.
Upon entering I was sent upstairs to a small changing room to remove all clothes… “No Underwears” the attendant reminded me – you wrap yourself in a peştamal – a sort of wrap, before heading back downstairs.
Once downstairs, you are led into the Hamam. The warmth instantly hits you and the steamy air relaxes you… but it’s not as steamy as a steam room. You’re sat on warm marble against the wall, where you are washed from a fountain with a bowl. The water was a lovely temperature and it was a welcome warm up for what I was about to endure.
From the pre-wash, you are then led to a giant marble slab in the middle of the room. You lay out on your back to soften and relax for about 15-20 minutes. It’s warm and relaxing and I really took the time to unwind.
While lying there, the call to prayer started from the mosque next door and it really led me to relax even more, taking in the sounds, the ancient roof above me, and dreaming of what it would have been like here back when it was first built.
My daydreams were soon interrupted by my new friend Yasar, who came to take me to another warm marble bench for the scrubbing and bubbling.
I’m not even sure how to describe what happened next in words, but for the next 30 maybe even 40 minutes, Yasar and I got a little too acquainted for my liking… between the way he magically created endless bubbles from what looked like a pillow case, to the way he scrubbed nearly every inch of me with a bath mitt that felt a little like 80 grit sandpaper, we got close. We also established that I am tense, my back is a mess, I am VERY ticklish and that Yasar likes football… there was some connection to Hull City. (I’m still not entirely sure)
I was also reminded pretty boldly that my mobility and posture is actually pretty crappy and I hope this has kicked my butt into gear to take up something like Pilates back home!
After a the scrubbing was more bubbling washing and massaging including shampoo and my temples feel new… to the point I’m not sure I have ever been so clean in my entire life!
Yasar didn’t warn me that the final watering would be cold, which was quite the surprise! Once cold watered, Yasar wrapped me up like Sultan Steven the first and sent me out to sit in the lounge area on a sort of sofa bed to chill out.
I chilled for a while before getting dressed, paying and wandering out back toward my hotel… As I stepped out I was a little awestruck by the beauty of this small mosque…
I wandered up the super steep hill back toward the main road near where I am staying, where I had a little wander. It’s sort of like Denmark Street in London – LOADS of musical instrument shops, as well as shops selling knicknacks, clothes, turkish delight, etc.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the size of the street dogs. There are street cats everywhere and a number of street dogs. While the cats are normal sized, the dogs are HUGE.
From the main street, I finally found some postcards, and made friends with the man in the shop called Tina – Tina, you’ve promised to send the postcard. Don’t let me down – the recipient is a huge fan of the blog. NO PRESSHA.
And with that, I think my time in Istanbul is pretty much complete. My flight out at 13:10 tomorrow means I will be leaving the hotel at about 10 to head to the airport (There are many question about how long it actually takes to get to Sabiha Gökçen airport so better be safe than sorry.)… I’m actually flying “Turkish Easyjet” – Pegasus Airlines, so am now off to pack, repack, measure and weigh my bags!!
Would I come back to Istanbul? 100% – while I feel like I’ve seen everything I have set out to see, it certainly strikes me as the sort of place you could come back to, see new things and enjoy old things again. I’m a fan for sure!
What next I hear you ask? Well, I have been a little sad this evening that I have not done anything official to commemorate Yom HaShoah – Holocaust memorial day… before I realised that the way I am commemorating this year is by flying to Israel! Not only do Am Yisrael Chai(the children of Israel live), but the Children of Israel thrive, and I’m super looking forward to another trip to Israel. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the 6 million murdered by joining the 7 or so million living and thriving in our homeland for a few days!
It’s unlikely I’ll blog again from Israel, so until next time I’m somewhere new, thanks for joining me… and, I guess… Yalla Bye!
Welcome back to Istanbul (not Constantinople) part 2! I’m back in the rocking chair on the balcony writing for the second evening running…
This morning began in the bustling breakfast room of the Hotel. There was pretty much anything and everything on display for perusal – not much fruit, but almost anything else you could imagine. I settled for a few slices of toast covered with honey I took from the honeycomb on the buffet (as you do)… a few pieces of traditional bread, and some Turkish Delight and nuts…. when in Turkey and all that!
There were no empty tables in the breakfast room so I ended up making friends with a very interesting Austrian lady who was here visiting “The bad parts of town”… she had family here, and she comes back regu larly… She also told me at the end of WW2, her father walked home to Austria from Poland once he escaped internment. She was not forthcoming with any more details so I did not push!
From Breakfast I wandered down to the Neve Shalom Synagogue and Jewish Museum. I learned all about how the Jews came to Istanbul following the Spanish expulsion – How they integrated, formed a unified community and how they have had a rich history here.
As someone who is incredibly Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish)… and by incredibly, I mean 99.7% according to my DNA test, many of the things about the Sephardi (Spanish) culture are interesting to me as they are similar, yet different.
While there are actually now both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Synagoges in Istanbul, a chance conversation showed me the similarities – I was in the foyer of the synagogue looking at the memorial to the two terrorist attacks that damaged the building and killed congregants and got talking to the people stood there.
One of the men, made Aliyah (Moved to Israel) when he was 14, but as a child this was his Synagogue. I don’t think he’d been back since he was a kid, (and was now in his late 50s) and was recalling stories to his family and friends (who also happened to be local Turkish jews)… he said that as a kid he used to go to Synagogue… sit with his dad, and then go upstairs to sit with his grandma to be shown off to all her friends and spoiled rotten with sweets…. We had the same story. <3
We also had an amazing conversation about the difference between being Jewish and practising and how special it was to be Jewish but it was mutually exclusive to being religious.
From Neve Shalom, I walked into a film set (literally) and ended up stumbling up the Camondo Stairs to get out the way – I didn’t get a photo in the panic!
From there I walked down to the Golden Horn, and walked accross the Galata Bridge again. This time, I wandered through the Egyptian Spice Market… I will be going back there tomorrow!
From the Spice market, I wandered over to the Topkapi Palace! (I had to look up how to write this, as in my head all day I’ve been saying Teppenyaki!!). Ordered to be built in 1459 by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, and serving as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and the home to it’s sultans up until 1856, it’s a pretty impressive piece of work…
From the Palace, I walked through the gardens down to the Hagia Irene – a greek orthodox church, Technically the second largest in Istanbul, which is now a museum.
By Museum it’s pretty much just a shell… the photos of inside were pretty unenthralling as most of the center was covered by fencing for what looked like building work, and nets collecting bird poop!
From the Hagia Irene, I wandered out and over to the Blue Mosque… which was closed…
So I wandered back over the square to the Hagia Sophia…
I got there just in time for the afternoon prayers…. there was a rush, and where I could go was a little limited, but all the same, I popped my shoes off and went inside.
It was breathtakingly huge…. and impressive… and just an incredible feat of engineering and art… Now when I said Hagia Irene was techincally the second largest Church… that was because Hagia Sophia was originally a church, that was converted to a mosque in 1943.
From 1935 til 2020 Hagia Sophia was a museum however the current Turkish president changed the status back to mosque through a series of technicalities as a way to win over some of his more religious subjects…. This has resulted in some of the leftover church features being covered up…
While others are a little more difficult to hide…
I left Hagia Sophia, and headed back to the hotel. It was warm, I was warm, I wanted to chill out for a little bit before I headed out to dinner so thought I’d try the rooftop/balcony Jacuzzi.
This was not my finest hour. It transpires I was too long for the bath, so couldn’t find a comfy position whereby I was actually submerged in the water, and it also transpires the secluded rooftop balcony, was not as secluded as one might think when your neighbours appear on the actual roof of their building…
From a risqué bath, I headed out to dinner, via Taksim Square and yet another beautifully lit mosque
For dinner, I shlapped out to the only Kosher restaurant in Istanbul (that I could find)… I guess this is becoming a feature of this blog – “Eating in a questionable far flung Kosher Restaurant so you don’t have to”…
As it happens, good choices were made!
The guy in charge didn’t speak much English, I don’t speak any Turkish, so we settled on a combination of English and Hebrew… A good warmup for my next stop!
From Caffe Eden, I wandered down to get a view of the 15th of July Martyrs Bridge (Named after those who died in an attempted coup on the bridge)… and wow am I glad I did…
From the bridge, I took a wander back to the main road and just before hopping in a taxi, I accidentally stumbled upon another Synagogue to round the day off nicely!
I’m off to weigh my suitcase now to work out how much stuff I can buy at the Bazzar and spice market tomorrow… Early start – I’m off on a Cruise up the Bosphorus!
Greetings reader old and new, and welcome to another set of ramblings bought to you by Steven while in a foreign land… This time, from Istanbul (no, not Constantinople).
Thanks to a lack of outbound companion voucher flights to Israel and a want to have come and visit for a while, I find myself writing while sat on a rocking chair on the balcony, listening to the call to prayer going on in the background.
This morning at an ungodly hour, I made my way to Heathrow, where I was soon to learn that the baggage carousels “Don’t start work” til 4.30, and the BA Lounge doesn’t open til 5.
Once the bag was dropped and I was fed, we boarded the flight where I promptly tried my best to sleep. Having done so many Transatlantic flights last year, I found this one a little short (It was only about 3.5 hours!)… but then I had made it to Istanbul!
From the airport, I hopped into a taxi and headed to the hotel to dump my bag and have a little nap. Nap didn’t happen as the housekeeping team helped me to put the AC on for me to find out shortly later that it was only blowing hot as the cold is “off for the winter”.
Eventually, nap given up on, I put on some shorts and headed out to the Galata Tower. (Shorts were a MISTAKE, and would soon be replaced with trousers – spot the tourist!)
Galata Tower was opened in 1349 and provides great views over the city of Istanbul and beyond. I’m not entirely convinced the Lifts containing floor to ceiling screens which panned across Istanbul during the ascent were original from 1349, but who am I to judge?
While up the Galata Tower we were looking down on some form of rooftop studio… I wouldn’t be surprised if you see the footage on the Eurovision song contest entry for Tukey this year….
Inside the tower, on the way down was a collection of pots, pans an ornaments from Istanbul over the years, some of which were pretty cool!
The stairs were incredibly tight and I bumped my head a number of times but they made a great aesthetic and seemed more legit than the lifts…
My favourite exhibit in the collection however, was this….
From the Galata Tower, I started to walk down to the Golden Horn and snapped a photo of a street cat, who then turned around to star face on in the second attempt…
I walked down to the Atatürk Bridge and crossedt he Golden Horn, taking far to many photos of the train that stops halfway. (I might do something funky with them later on…)
Once on the other side of the Golden Horn, I wondered the streets a little – it’s very easy to just go for a wander and take in the endless market style shops and stalls and look at all the things you have no reason to buy… and some thing you want anyway!
I stopped for some dinner, before walking to the Basilica Cistern. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the many underground cisterns in Istanbul for water storage, and dates back to the year 527!
It’s super beautiful so I will let the photos do the talking…
The lighting changes tone every few minutes revealing different aspects of the stone work…
Also, toward the back are two rather strange columns with carvings of Medusa!
I walked back toward the Golden Horn via the very pretty Gülhane Park, and took some photos of the lovely flowers, while locals partook in their Iftar meals in the grass…
My walk took me back past Yeni Cami, one of the lesser known but still incredibly pretty mosques (Dating back to the 17th Century)
I wandered across the Galata Bridge, looking at all the restaurants on the underside of the bridge (while the tram/road goes on top), before snapping this, ft. Moody sky…
Finally, I was lazy and went on the incredibly creatively named “Tunnel”. The second oldest underground train in the world (after the Tube!) with literally just two stops, it bought me nicely up to the hill by my hotel! (More on “Tunnel” to come, I’m sure!)
Right… I’m off to the giant indoor jacuzzi in my room (I’m not sure why it’s there… I didn’t book it.. but I’m embracing it…) and then bed because I’m shattered!
I don’t want to question the artistic license used for the classic film the Sound of Music, but I do start to wonder what on this earth they feed the Nuns at that monastery if they think they can climb ‘Ev’ry Mountain’
Today, I climbed a mountain. *insert nun jokes about not making it a habit etc. here*..
Let me tell you, I’m not ready to climb another any time soon.
Whilst talking to some folk in the rain forest yesterday, I got the suggestion to do the Storm King Trail. Turns out “Storm King” is actually a mountain… and it’s Far-King Steep!
The day started with a leisurely drive down to lake crescent where I spritely hopped out the car, kitted out with the layers and rain protection and headed off down the paved track, under highway 101 toward Storm King.
About half a mile down the track, there is a sign for Storm King. At first, I thought it was a mistake. It pointed to some stumps and a muddy “path” that ran up the side of the hill.
It was no mistake.
The path was narrow, and steeeeep and relentless… but I appear to like a challenge so off I trolled up the mountain.
The path wound round the edge of the foot of the forest. You could see the trees that had fallen and become nursery logs, giving life to other trees…
The path continued to be steep and was filled with switchback on switchback on switchback. Sometimes it was actually hard to tell where the path was going as it was so steep and unpredictable.
Eventually you noticed you were starting to reach the top of some of the trees…. some.
The sense of excitement was soon gone, when you realised you were simply at the foot of the next trees just further up the mountain!
More trees meant more switchbacks and more steep climbing.
During one of the many breaks I took, I had the time to reflect on the happy, spunky liveliness my deer American counterparts. I’m stood there standing sweating like I was shaking hands with the sun, a hot mess barely able to breathe… while someone passes, uphill and manages to barely get out a wheeze but a happy wheeze of “Hey, How you doing?!!”. Same as you pal… same as you.
Eventually the ascent paid off, and we were given the most amazing view of Lake Crescent.
From the viewpoint, there is the option to go further. On the Non-Maintained trail… because I’d suffered so far, I decided I had to summit this damn thing.
I was in two minds, but looked at the folk up ahead and the folk coming down and decided if they could do it (pretty sure they were bus pass eligible) then so could I.
The path turned into rocks…
And sometimes the rocks came with ropes…
And other times there were no ropes and no paths.. and it was a bit of a scramble.
And then eventually I reached the peak… Worried how the view was going to be after all that work because we were in the clouds by now…
At first, it was hazy…
So we focussed on some wildlife shots:
Eventually, having stood round for a little while, eaten some lunch, and patiently waited, watching the clouds ascend from the lake to the sky. (Literally I watched clouds grow…)…
The view cleared!
Grand as the views were, we all know the old saying… what goes up… must come down… and as I started to descend, the clouds did too… gentle rain to cool you down.
Let me tell you, the burn going downhill is just as bad as the burn going uphill!
Eventually, I made it back to the trailhead path, and decided… I’d walked so far, I’d take the short stroll to the Marymere Falls… I’m glad I did!
From Storm King, I decided to race on down to Rialto Beach (about an hour’s drive) to try and see the stacks and, to take the stroll along the beach up to the Hole in the Wall.
Sadly, on arrival, not only was it high tide… but the heavens decided to drop a storm.
The huge waves, flat stones and and uprooted trees were super cool, but I was soaked through from about 15 mins of being outside!
From Rialto, I headed back to Port Angeles, where I had the most delicious pizza!
Tomorrow is the last day before a week of work in Seattle.. I’m not quite sure yet where I’m going stop on the way back to the city, but I do know the first stop for me right now, before bed is the whirlpool to undo some of the aches of the day!
Now, I’m not saying to ignore all of the advice that T-Boz and Left-Eye once gave out. (Yes I had to google them)… Not giving out your number to random people is probably for the best, even when sitting on the passenger side of your best friend’s ride… but I digress.
Specifically, don’t listen to Tionne and Lisa when it comes to chasing waterfalls.
This morning, I started the day with a cinamon waffle and maple syrup, before jumping in the car and heading to Sol Duc falls.
I had to pass Lake Crescent again, which naturally meant more photos…
To get to Sol Duc Falls, you have to drive for about 20 miles from the main road, deep into the National Park, passing lots of great views of the downstream river, and a supposed Salmon Cascade.
From the car park, its about another 0.8 miles stroll to the falls, so off I set to find them.
The Sol Duc falls are hidden way in the forest. Not just any forest but a rainforest. (yup, they have them here!)
The falls themselves were spectacular and worth the stroll. The power of them and the spray was pretty intense and it was great to be up so close to them.
From Sol Duc, I hopped back in the car and headed round to the Hoh Rainforest. I stopped on the way in Forks. (Twilight fans, this apparently will mean something to you?) While in Forks, I stopped for “Gas” and while paying was told that the way I talk was “Enchanting”. (eeeek.)
From Forks, I headed down to the Hoh Rainforest… a temperate rainforest here in the Olympics… Again with a long drive in containing some spectacular views.
In the rainforest, there were two short trails, meandering through trees and stumps showing all the mossy lined trees that grow in such a damp climate.
About halfway round the first trail, we met the river.. where I took some shots of this bird who was looking for prey!
The second trail was the “Hall of Moss” and wow did we see some mossy things!
From Hoh Rainforest, I headed back towards forks, stopping off in this…. ‘curiously’ named park. (I had to rub my eyes and double check…)
From ‘The park’ I headed back to my base… passing the lake again and finding yet another reason to take a photo.
From the lake I popped into Safeway… It was like a time warp! Where I got some more bread rolls for lunch… before ending up in the Golden Arches to get some late food (everything shuts so early here?!).
The car decided not to start in Maccies and I had to call for recovery… thankfully after about 20 mins I thought I’d give it another go and the car worked! I shall be keeping a close eye tomorrow.
Greetings reader… Welcome back to those who have trodden this corner of the internet before, and welcome to those of you who are new here. (We don’t take ourselves too seriously! When I travel to new places and go out doing fun things, I sometimes write about them…)
So, I’ve ended up back on the West Coast of the USA. Next week I have a bunch of meetings in Seattle, and I thought I’d take the opportunity thanks to Queenie having her Jubilee to escape the UK a few days early and come and visit the Olympic National Park, Washington State!
The flight out was pretty fine all things said and done… Excellent taxi service, I managed to avoid check in queues at Heathrow… a slight queue for security… and then after a 20 min delay, straight on the plane!
I got an exit row and not only did I manage to stretch my legs a little, I managed to get a bit of sleep! (only a couple of hours but anything helps when you have a 10 hour flight with an 8 hour time difference)
Flight complete, We got to walk over the new airbridge at SEA-TAC and I have to say it was pretty cool to watch a plane roll on underneath us (even if the escalators and travellator are super slow!)
After a long wait for bags, and a quick whisk through the border (Thanks Global Entry!) I was off to pick up my car…
From the car pickup, I headed to get some kosher bits from a supermarket and then headed to the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry!
From Kingston (No, Not Kingston in South London) I took the ~90 min drive to Sequim (apparently pronounced “Skwim”) on the Border of the Olympic National Park.
I popped to Walmart to pick up some things I forgot when shopping earlier… I tried as hard as I could to keep awake but eventually the tiredness got to me and I headed to bed.
This morning, I decided to head out to Hurricane Ridge…. WOW What a view.
Just driving through the park to the visitor centre was incredible, and I had to stop the car a number of times to take photos…
From the Visitor Center I thought I’d take the short stroll (about a mile) down to the far car park (the road was shut to cars). The view on the Car Park Road was good, and at the end of the roadway, I decided to take the 1.6 mile path up Hurricane Hill.
I was not expecting a 2 hour battle with rocks and snow, but it was 100% worth it! You could see for miles, were about the clouds and it was SO quiet!
Thankfully, I made some pals on the way and we helped each other thorough the snow and mud!
Having taken in the amazing views up in the mountains, and following the return hike. (It felt much quicker to get to the road, and much longer to walk up the road!) I decided to go and visit Lake Crescent… named cos… yup it’s a crescent.
Lake Crescent was super cool – again, I stopped a load of times to take photos… and thanks to me being a fairly foolish tourist, I followed my Sat Nav… ended up driving multiple miles down a single track gravel road (unideal) and had to do a pretty hairy turn around.
As well as redecorating my car, I did get some pretty good views too!
From Lake Crescent, I headed back toward Port Angeles, stopping off at the Elwha River. I had a wander along the wide river bed…
Before walking the incredibly short Maddison Falls trail to see the Maddison falls!
From Elwha, I headed to Port Angeles and had dinner in “Gastropub”… Not quite what we call a Gastropub at home but the food was tasty enough.
From Gastropub I headed home, had a 20 min dip in the Whirlpool to loosen up the muscles, and then battled with the SD card from my camera which appears to have corrupted itself losing all my photos. (Recovery attempts underway!) These photos are all from my phone… I hope I can recover the ones from the camera. 😬
Haven’t quite decided where to head tomorrow… think I might go and see the rainforest!
When terror wrecks havoc here and I’m at home it hurts. It angers and it pains. But when 3 hours after I land in Israel, a gunman opens fire on civilians in the street killing another 5 just for being Jewish, it hits differently.
It hits differentl as I look down from my hotel room over Dizengoff Square, some the heart of Tel Aviv. It’s art deco buildings from the 1930s bustling with people, living life. it could have been them tonight.
It hits differently as I look out across the Tel Aviv Skyline. The sky scrapers and buildings that change and increase every time I visit. Just a year ago, under a barrage of rockets with the same intent, to kill.
It hits differently to the abuse I have received in the past. The threats, the casual racism, the school bus being stoned, being beaten up on the way home.
It hits differently yet the root is the same. Antisemitism is anti-Semitism, be it with words, with rockets or with a gun.
It hits differently when you’d had such a positive start to your trip. When you were astounded by the mix of folk working in the COVID testing centre. From the Kippah wearing man on the door, to the Black lady directing the traffic and to the Muslim lady in a hijab who took my test. My arrival was a reminder of the somewhat normal. Coexistence. The Peace we should have.
It hits differently when you’re given such a stark and harsh reminder that you’re an indiscriminate target.
It hits differently when you’re in your hotel room, sad, anxious, worried, and you know really close by, people are celebrating tonight. Celebrating murders. Celebrating death.
It hits differently when you’re here. A 74 year old ‘safe’ haven. A haven for the Jews, to ensure we can be safe.
It hits differently because this land is a reminder. A remember that Am Yisrael Chai.
… damn, I’ve been considered an adult for a while now. But ask me what I thought of being “a grown up”, I’d have probably laughed a bit and shrugged it off with a sort of “mmn but I’m not really a grown up” sort of response…
Except I guess, it all caught up with me tonight… as I packed the last of my essential things into the car and thought about leaving the house to go… home…
You see, as much as I tried to ignore the fact, I’ve been a grown up for a while; I have a scary job, a far too big car, I somehow now love olives and I’m starting to enjoy wine… and for a couple of weeks, as much as I’ve tried to ignore it… I’ve own a flat. (Well, I and my dear friends at Nationwide building society…!)
I say I have tried to ignore it… it’s part in turn thanks to waiting for internet to be installed so that I can work from home… which in turn was a great excuse not to move all my things in and just commute the mile home to work.
As I was packing up my things… the bits and pieces not already moved that I probably need to move, I started to feel myself getting anxious. It was clear I was anxious because on going downstairs to load up the car, Mum asked me if I was okay way above the threshold of her usual “are you ok?” SLA.
I don’t do anxious often… I never used to do anxious at all. But a couple of years ago, thanks to some medication, I found myself having a minor panic attack as the DLR pulled into Westferry Station on the way to work. Strangely I remember the moment so clearly… everything was a “What if”… the world was spinning a little… I wasn’t really sure what was going on.
Thankfully, getting off the train and walking onto the Wharf was enough to calm me down (and maybe perhaps the huge pastry bought from Paul on the way into the office!) … but three days later I found myself unable to get out of bed.
I’m pretty sure that opened up some neural pathways that weren’t there before… Thanks to stopping that medication I’m pretty much okay. The occasional flutter here and there, lots of over thinking and generally liking order and process I seem to get by… even when the world around us seems to be crumbling… but it’s always there just lurking… ready to get me.
The last nearly 2 years have been tough on us all. I’m sure when lockdowns started and we ended up at home 24×7 lots of us picked things we wanted to achieve. I wanted to play more music, finish my AWS SA training and take the exam… and for 7 weeks when I was locked in the house thanks to my immune system via my psoriasis treatment, I wanted to go outside!
Did I do those things? For a bit. Did I finish the course… yup! Did I take the exam… nope. Did I play piano and clarinet for 10 mins alternate days? Nope! Do I think I failed in the last 2 years… not at all.
In hindsight, and we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing, I’ve done far the opposite – It’s been incredibly stressful and full of both highs and lows, but I think it turned out okay;
I’ve changed jobs, Twice (you might even say thrice!)… Firstly, having to cancel all made plans due to the pandemic, I left my “have you tried turning it off and on again” comfort zone, and working out how on earth we could onboard new employees totally virtually, during the pandemic. I’d run some programs before, but nothing quite like that… I solidified that with an actual change of Job Title in May switching from Engineer to Technical Program Manager (TPM).
People fit is a huge thing for me – I was blessed to spend 3 years working for an amazing team and manager, and I “bought” the direction… but, sometimes things are not quite to be, and after a minor desk based breakdown and a chat with a friend, I realised perhaps, it wasn’t me that was the problem!
To be passionate about something, I really have to believe it. I’m not good at faking it and I guess ultimately, I’d lost the belief in where I was and what I was doing. I’d always been intrigued by Cyber Security and am still in complete disbelief that I have managed to switch teams and am now TPM’ing for part of the Security Org. (AAAH).
The pandemic also meant we didn’t get to spend so much time with Grandma. Sunday afternoons at Rosetrees were no longer a possibility and we didn’t see as much Grandma as we used to. When she passed away in December, we were incredibly lucky to be able to go and say our goodbyes and to hold her hand one last time… I really miss her stories, and toward the end, the strange snaps of lucidity which caught us by surprise – One afternoon having said very little all visit she saw Jeremy Corbyn on the TV and exclaimed “Well… he’s not a very nice man is he!” She would most certainly had an opinion on the new James Bond film, and without giving any spoilers away, I don’t think she’d have approved of that ending!
It’s hard to be sad about someone you love passing away, when you’ve watched them deteriorate for 3 years and they’re no longer the person you knew. In some ways, I guess the pandemic saved us from more visits when grandma didn’t know who we were. She did however, maintain her famous stock answer to the question “How are you feeling?” Right up to the very end… “With my hands!”
So how am I feeling? Anxious. (And, naturally with my hands… is that Handxious?!) but, thanks to past Steven buying chocolate, milk and a fancy coffee machine with a steam wand, present Steven has cobbled together a sort of “hot chocolate” (aka hot milk and chocolate sludge)… and I think we’ll be ok.
I’m blagging it with hot chocolate, like most folk are actually blagging it with life… I’ve come to realise none of us really know what we’re doing. One moment we’re finishing school and before you know it, we’re signing mortgage documents and trying to work out what to do with the pile of BSP (Big, Scary, Paperwork!!! – I’m led to believe stuffing bills and things into a drawer is not a good plan on life.)
No one makes it out alive, and no one really knows how things work… I guess we just have to try our best and hope no one notices we’re all just making it up!
And if you’re passing through the Barnet area – let me know, pop by and I’ll make you a chocolate sludge… but you’ll know I’m blagging it. (Ask me nicely and I’ll make tea or coffee!)
I shouldn’t have to, but I wanted to explain myself. For my sake and for no one else.
If you follow me on Twitter normally you’d find a very random mix of Tech, Jewishness, Music, Football, and general crap that somehow falls out my mind, into my fingers and onto twitter. Yet, for the last two days, I’ve barely tweeted anything apart from retweeting reports of things going on in Israel.
I’m anxious. Last night I barely slept. Today I couldn’t concentrate. This afternoon, as rockets rained down on Israel, I scrambled to text friends, telling them I was thinking of them, checking they were safe. Some friends in shelters, some without shelters. One friend told me how her grandfather of over 90, a holocaust survivor, wasn’t fast enough to move the the shelter and she had to help him.
But that’s all thousands of miles away. Why am I REALLY anxious?
Because every time there is an escalation in Israel, Anti-Semitism outside of Israel increases. Living my life as a Jew thousands of miles from Israel gets more complex and scarier.
Complex because I feel I want to hide my identity. I’m proudly Jewish (and it just so happens, also proudly a Zionist.) Yet the moment there’s an escalation in Israel, I usually shut down that part of my personality among people I don’t know well. Why? Because the moment I declare my religious affinity, I get barraged with questions and queries, and accusations that I have done X Y or Z.
Scarier because you just don’t know how folk will react. Anti-semitism has already been on the increase in the last few years, and with tensions high in the Middle East, tensions get high elsewhere too. I know, and I am ever thankful to know, that quietly in the background while all this is going on, organisations like the CST are on high alert making plans to protect the UK Jewish community from whatever fall-out might occur here in the UK.
The media coverage of the events in Israel, and Gaza right now is poor. The bias is skewed, and the reasoning provided for actions often incorrect. A number of tweets yesterday showed Jews dancing at the Kotel (The holiest site in the Jewish world) while on top of temple mount, there was a fire. The tweets suggested the Jewish people were dancing with joy at the fire. Yesterday was Yom Yerushalayim – the day of the Unification of Jerusalem. The Jews were dancing because they could dance and pray there, as could their Christian, Armenian and Arab brothers, thanks to unification. (Before the 1967 war Jews were not allowed to visit the holiest site in the Jewish faith)… oh and the fire? The fire was a tree that caught light when struck by a firework fired from atop Temple Mount in the Al-Aqsa complex.
This is just one example of many, but equally is nothing new. Truth does not make for good news. The media doesn’t enjoy spreading balanced views and thrives on pitting one group against the other, fuelling the hate and enflaming the situation.
But really?… What do I think to what’s going on? I think THE WORLD can and should do better. How? ACTUALLY. DO. YOUR. RESEARCH.
Does Israel have an upper hand? It’s hard to argue against it… but why do they have the upper hand? Because the Palestinian people are failed time and time again by their terrorist dictatorship governments who have absolutely no intentions around the sanctity of the life of their people and focuses ONLY on the killing of Jews.
Did I say Jews and not Israelis? Yes. Why? Take a read of the Hamas Charter: https://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/880818.htm (Wiki on the “Hamas Charter”) Press Ctrl + F and type “Jews”…. Hamas is the organisation that governs Gaza.
Imagine if this was the UK government cabinet, and the word “Jew” was replaced with “French”! The UN wouldn’t stand for it. Peace and human rights activists worldwide would be up in arms. Other countries would send troops in to overthrow militant power and ensure order was ensued.
The world can do better because the Palestinian people in Gaza deserve better than a government that doesn’t care about them. A government that doesn’t believe in peace, doesn’t want peace yet only wants and thrives on war.
The Palestinian people both in Gaza and the West Bank deserve a government that spends money on infrastructure, on healthcare, on development, on education and on growth. On a government that promotes co-existence, peace and love. A government that doesn’t waste money on rockets and terror tunnels. Doesn’t fire rockets from schools and hospitals, and doesn’t brainwash it’s people into extremist ideologies.
I strongly believe in rights for our Palestinian brothers and sisters. (an Arab friend and I often joke we are far more similar than we like to admit). BUT, I believe the best and most sustainable path to rights and peace, is to ensure those leading way and leading the people are doing it with the correct intent.
To ‘Free Palestine’ is not “from the river to the sea” (a call for the destruction of Israel), is to free the Palestinians from their maligned government, and it will take the world to speak out, in order to do so.
Oseh shalom bimromav Hu ya’aseh shalom aleynu Ve’al kol yisrael Ve’imru Amen
He who makes peace in his high places He shall make peace upon us And upon all of Israel And say Amen