Israel Jewish Personal Religion Travel

Ein Li Eretz Aheret – I have no other land.

My heart is ALWAYS heavy in the departure lounge at Ben Gurion Airport. In fact, when I arrived on Sunday 1st October, and peered down into the giant bowl of departures before the happiness of the ramp, I felt a glimmer of sadness.
Sadness that I knew that in just 2 weeks time, I would be back, down there, around the fountain, waiting to leave.
I waxed lyrical before about how we as Jews never say “Goodbye” and only L’hitraot (See you again). Every time I’m here, I cry, I weep, and I stare out the window with sadness as the plane lifts off the ground, knowing I have a homeland of my people I can come back to.

I’ve a history of extending or trying to extend my stay, prolonging the time I’m in my homeland for. One more hummus, one more schwarma, one more walk along the tayelet (promenade) one more stroll down Sderot Rothschild (one of the central streets of Tel Aviv).

This time is different. Not just because I am here 4 days earlier than planned. But because my heart isn’t just heavy. My heart ACHES. It hurts. It’s screaming.

The tears started in the car from just south of Haifa. But truly, the tears started in Tel Aviv, early on Saturday morning, where distant missile interceptions woke me up… As I was coming to terms with the news, the sirens sounded, warning us of an incoming missile, jarring me fully awake as I moved quickly to the shelter.

The loss is unprecedented. The largest number of Jews lost since the holocaust. We are sad, we are scared, but we will not give up.

Amid the loss, the sadness, and the chaos, we managed to make a wedding for a friend; we were greeted by over a hundred members of the town who had come to take the place of the guests who couldn’t come, and celebrated a moment of sheer joy under a makeshift chuppah of a tallit that survived the holocaust belonging to the bride’s grandfather.

Yet as joyous as the joy was, my phone didn’t stop. People checking I was ok, and people informing me, of the suffering of my friends and their families. A friend’s best friend missing (now found murdered) another friend missing 5 of his family. Quicker than the way we hastily created joy at the wedding, all sense of joy vanished from my body. I was, not okay. and there was nothing I could to do change it. While usually the always happy one in a group…. I was broken. Just like the rest of Am Yisrael, I was not okay…

When we say the world is small, it’s even smaller for Jews… 6 degrees of separation is usually only 2 or 3. Everyone Jewish, and I mean EVERYONE knows someone impacted by this. As days go by, the number of those folk impacted is going to grow, and Jews worldwide will face even more pain. It sickens me to see Hamas terrorists on TV saying they didn’t kill civilians and that they were “just resisting.” There are folk on the internet celebrating the deaths.

I’m on a plane to Cyprus, to get me out of Israel and then on a plane from Cyprus to London. London where “Free Palestine” has been daubed on rail bridges in Jewish Areas, where pro-hamas rallies have taken place, where I never fully have felt safe to proudly, openly and outwadly be a Jew.

On the way to the airport, as ever, I found myself placing my Magen David (Star of David) back inside my shirt. Hiding away my identity. Concealing my Jewishness.
For 5km on the highway, I found myself fighting in my own head, over the right thing to do, Jewish and proud, or Jewish but hidden. In every generation, there’s been someone that tries to kill us – At the Passover seder each year we read: V’hi She Amda l’avotenu: “And this is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and the l-rd saves us from their hands.” This is a statement that is as true today as it has ever been over the last 2,000 years of our existence. We hurt now, we are sad but we are not defeated and we are strong.

About 5km north of Netanya, having passed 2 checkpoints in the road a numerous IDF vehicles, I noticed something. The municipality had been out and placed Israel flags in each of the lampposts. A reminder that this state is still here, is proudly Jewish and is going to prevail.

The scenes at the airport are unusual. Families queueing to check in with as much luggage as they can carry, parents with kids, dogs, cats… people wearing multiple layers of clothes. It’s reminiscent of pre-holocaust escape stories you’ve read in history books, or heard as testimony from survivors….

…and yet downstairs, in arrivals, you can hear the sound of a large number of people, filling the arrivals hall, singing their hearts out to welcome home soldiers, reservist and normal citizens, arriving on one of the few flights to land here today.

While I was sure of waiting until my original flight on Sunday to leave, the false alarm yesterday that had us in the Mamad (safe room) for over an hour, and the lack of sleep and high level of anxiety means I know, that in order to best serve Am Yisrael, I need to preserve my self.

The terrorists haven’t won by me leaving. The terrorists have lost. Because I will fight with all my might to spread the message of the massacres, share the stories of those killed and to celebrate the heroes both in the IDF and civilians who survived.

The terrorists haven’t won by me leaving, because they’ve strengthened my already strong identity. I will continue to speak out against the slander, the misinformation and the antisemitism.

The terrorists haven’t won by me leaving, I am not allowed to help directly in the efforts here. I don’t have an Israeli Passport/ID card so I can’t give my tech/cyber skills. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help from home… and most importantly it doesn’t mean I can’t start the process to become a citizen.

Israel is going to need us over the coming days, weeks, months and years. I am so goddamned proud of this small slice of land, the size of the state of New Jersey, surrounded by hostile neighbours, and while Aliyah may not be what I want to do for now, I will without a doubt be looking properly at how I can become a dual citizen… because After all;

Ein Li Erez Aheret –

I have no other land
Even if my land is burning.
Just a word in Hebrew pierces my veins, my soul, in a weak body, in a broken heart.
This is my home.
I will not stay silent because my country changed her face
I will not give up reminding her
And sing in her ears she will open her eyes.”

Istanbul Travel

Carry on up the Bosphorus…

… and getting scrubbed like a Sultan!

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!

A pretty nice view from the Port of Eminonu.

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….

Dolmabahçe Palace

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

Rumeli Hisan
Not sure what this was but it looked cool…

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…

Some stones in the shape of a castle.

What was lacking in castle was certainly not lacking in view!

There I am between the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge bridge… Thanks Ed!
An artsy one…
The view south toward Istanbul!

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.

Questionable… We giggled.

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

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.

The Ceiling from the changing area…

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’m not sure this look will take off!

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…

Sometimes small is beautiful!

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.

This is a pretty medium sized Chonk!

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!

Istanbul Jewish Travel

Synagogues, Mosques, Churches and Palaces

…and lots of walking!

Welcome back to Istanbul (not Constantinople) part 2! I’m back in the rocking chair on the balcony writing for the second evening running…

The hot tub in the background features later in the day…

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.

The Chandelier makes the shape of a Magen David

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.

Turkish Sephardi Torah Scrolls

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

Neve Shalom from the Ladies Gallery

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.

The Exerior… Note the hidden Chanukiah!

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…

One of the buildings the sultan himself lived in
A fun reflective shot…
My new sofa arrives Tuesday…
Some of the painting was breath taking…
…and so were the tiles!
A wild me in the sultan’s drawing room!
Even more tile porn.
Interesting courtyard tile art!

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!

But a large cross was visible!

From the Hagia Irene, I wandered out and over to the Blue Mosque… which was closed…

Closed for Refurbishment…

So I wandered back over the square to the Hagia Sophia…

Not closed!

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.

Guardian Angels on the ceiling…

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…

Mary hides behind the white sheet…

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!

A proper Turkish in Turkey!

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!

Istanbul Travel

It’s nobody’s business but the Turks!

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.

"service currently unavailable" on the screens at heathrow

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

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?

Views Views
More Views

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!

Ancient Pots and Pans

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!

The poor man in this photo thought he tried to help me by taking a similar photo of me… but my camera didn’t take the photo… I don’t speak Turkish, he doesn’t speak English and we had a hilarious non-language conversation… alas, no photo…
This particular column dates back to the end of the 4th Century!

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!

To be continued!

America Olympic National Park 2022 Travel

Climb Ev’ry Mountain*

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.

A steep and windy start…

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…

Nursery logs are fallen trees that become the root home for new trees – the rainforest floor is too dense to root straight in!

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 top of some of the trees…

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…

More trees meant more switchbacks and more steep climbing.

One of the many steep switchbacks.

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.

It’s so pretty!
Plandid or candid?

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…

Rocky path…

And sometimes the rocks came with ropes…

Is this going uphill or downhill? 🙂

And other times there were no ropes and no paths.. and it was a bit of a scramble.

Errrrm what?

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…

The last little bit to the very top of the summit…

At first, it was hazy…

Something down there? I’m literally in the cloud…

So we focussed on some wildlife shots:

Not sure what sorta bird this is…
Spot Alvin and/or his friends.

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!

It also cleared enough for much clearer lake views.
You could see over the clouds out to the strait of Juan de Fuca!

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!

Pretty impressive!
Got a bit arty.

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!

Crazy uprooted trees…
Crazy Waves!
I did an artsy flat stone thing.

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!

Olympic National Park 2022 Travel

Ignore the advice of TLC

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…

More Lake Crescent!

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.

I left all three behind as I set off down the narrow rocky path….

The Sol Duc falls are hidden way in the forest. Not just any forest but a rainforest. (yup, they have them here!)

Some crazy tree growth!

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.

Go on… Chase them!
rosperous Jacket the 2nd Makes it’s US debut.

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.

Just off the side of the road!

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.

Mossy things
Funky Trees
Crazy Stump! Those are tree roots growing from a stump! The ground is too dense to the trees take to the old trees that have fallen down!

About halfway round the first trail, we met the river.. where I took some shots of this bird who was looking for prey!

I am bird…
I does flying…

The second trail was the “Hall of Moss” and wow did we see some mossy things!

Much Moss… In creative form
Mossy Arch
Mossy tree
Me on a mossy log!
General Moss.
Some AMAZING roots!

From Hoh Rainforest, I headed back towards forks, stopping off in this…. ‘curiously’ named park. (I had to rub my eyes and double check…)

You’d rename it, wouldn’t you?!

From ‘The park’ I headed back to my base… passing the lake again and finding yet another reason to take a photo.

You can just about see the glimmer of the rainbow as it disappeared!

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.

…And with that I’m shattered, it’s time for bed!

Olympic National Park 2022 Travel

Taking part in the Olympics

No, Not the Olympic Games… Don’t be ridiculous!

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!)

This plane had just rolled under us!

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!

I’m on a boat moth… oh nevermind.

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…

On the way up…
Visitor Center View
I’m still not sure what animal this is…

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!

Selfie at the top!

For a 360 View from the top, click here!

Thankfully, I made some pals on the way and we helped each other thorough the snow and mud!

Yes… parts of the path there are basically non-existent!

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.

Lake in one direction
Lake in the other direction
Filthy car.

Artsy sphere…

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…

Real Funky River Bed Vibes

Before walking the incredibly short Maddison Falls trail to see the Maddison falls!

I know you’re not supposed to go chasing waterfalls, but I can’t help it!

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!



Montserrat & It’s Cog/Funicular Railways

Following conversation in a work IM group… Here’s some photos form my trip to Montserrat, Spain in 2019…

I hope to add some more photos from trips soon!

Montserrat Rack Railway
View of the Valley
Funicular machinery
Funicular car
The Furnicular
Bottom to top….
Top to bottom!

A bonus…

“Funicular Aeri De Montserrat
Iceland Personal Travel

Iceland Day 3: The Land of Ice and Fire

That should probably be more Snow and hot water…. I’ll talk to the tourist board about that…

Tonight’s location is the bar of Foss Hotel Reykjavik. (that’s my hotel, I’ve not just wandered into a random hotel!) To be clear, the bar is in the corner of the room. The room being the breakfast room with a couple of lit candles and the lighting on dim…. a tad less inspiring than the Hamilton DC. (I’m going to get kicked out mid-writing this…. as the bar shuts strictly at 11!) They do serve a lovely Icelandic Orangina (same idea different name)… it was £3.50 but was still the most reasonable thing I’ve bought today. (EVERYTHING IS SO DAMN EXPENSIVE!)

Last night, about 1.30, I decided to go out for a drive to try and see the northern lights.  I’d noticed a gap in cloud cover on the forecast, thought it lined up with Þingvellir so thought I’d drive out there and have a look.

On the way, nature decided that a snowstorm was in order. This made for fairly interesting driving conditions. Once in Þingvellir national park there were no other tyre tracks on the road which was cool. There was also next to 0 light pollution too.. so even at night you could see the clouds as white on the dark of the sky.

I soon watched another car go past… I didn’t see any others before that in over 40 mins!

I stopped for a while just off the main road at the entrance to a closed road. Safely parked and visible to any cars that might come (None – I hadn’t seen any in over 40 mins by now!) I switched off engine and lights and sat and waited. There was a lot of clouds and while I thought I saw something, a spot of further driving and cloud movement confirmed it was just the moon! 🙁

This morning I had a little lie in (I was shattered!) and got up, dressed and headed literally across the road from the hotel to look at the view!

The world is flat here in real life, I promise!

Then I decided to head out towards Reykjadalur – Steam Valley. I stopped just off the main road and had the most amazing salad for lunch (Create your own, Chop’d style) with incredible smoked salmon. So good and so big that it came with me as a dinner too!

From there I drove a bit further towards the foot of the Reykjadalur trail to go to the hot springs…. I could have taken the very easy road of going to Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon, paying a ticket fee and sitting in the geothermal springs… but I decided to opt against commercialism and go eau natural.

The website said that the hike too about 30 mins… Great I thought… except it was throwing down snow like you can’t imagine. Now back home, the Met office would thrown Black, Red, Sparkling flashing and fizzing warnings out to everyone to lock up their children, buy tinned food for 9 years and not to go outside. Here, the weather was decidedly “Fair”.  (Someone even said “this isn’t even winter here”).

Thankfully I started, turned round to pop my camera back in the car and met some people on the way – 2 foresters from Canada and a brit who has become a Glacier guide here in Iceland. Without the company I’d most certainly have given up very early into the hike and gone back to the warm car.

White, just white everywhere

To semi-quote the sound of music, we pretty much Climbed Every Mountain.  Up, Over and down the small peaks we went. Frankly this was the most challenging thing I think I’ve ever done and conquered. It has meant that I now have a bit of a want for walking again…. lets see how I get on with keeping that up!

About halfway I fell foul to what we thought was a bridge – one of the girls went over first, I soon followed to find that the bridge was actually snow and that my right foot was about to get a soaking! (A warm soaking mind you!)

Eventually we knew we were getting closer to the springs as pools emerged smoking, bubbling water with signs warning you that the water was ~100 Degrees centigrade. Unsurprisingly these were not the rivers for swimming in! (They are like mini Geysirs and you can see the water bubbling like a saucepan on a hot hob!)

As Colbie Callaitt said… Bubbly!

After what felt like about 3 years but was more like 2 hours. We reached the top, where we found some, erm… windbreakers. In the thrashing snow, we stripped off, popped on swim gear, nearly froze our feet to the floor, and jumped into the river. My laces had become frozen together so took a little defrosting before I could even start!

It wasn’t as warm as we hoped – The snow doesn’t help! But the experience was incredible. We were up a mountain, in the snow, in hot water.  (Laying there and keeping yourself from moving was a great core workout, I thoroughly recommend, but everything is going to hurt tomorrow!)

I got in the water! I promise!

Eventually we were brave enough to jump out. OH SWEET LORD WAS IT COLD! Thankfully my coat had held down sheltering all my stuff and soon I was dried, dressed and ready to roll.

We started to descend and the snow had decided to hold off for a little bit. The amount that had fallen was incredible and in places we were up to our knees in snow!  At one point I slipped a little and my water bottle (Courtesy of Hilly Jilly Dilly of Hong Kong Fame) decided to jump out the side pocket of my bag and take a slide. Thankfully it went cap first, and got lodged just a meter or two down so I could slide down (Myself already on the snow) and retrieve it!

The Descent!

As the snow had stopped, the view had cleared and we had the most amazing views of the valley and hot pools as we descended! Strangely the descent was shorter than the ascent (Employing sarcasm here!) and soon we were back at the car.

Bit of thermal river action… the water was much cooler here though!

When the snow stopped you could see the amazing views!

I finally understood the reason that car manufactueres invented heated seats and heated steering wheels! I treated myself to a coffee and a cake at the bakery I’d eaten lunch before heading back to the hotel.

The snow was back and it was a little more tretcherous than before. Worst in the city centre where a run in with a taxi driver nearly ended up with me bespokely redecorating the side of my car. (Thankfully I saved it!)

We’d discussed at the end of the walk the public pools and how they were great so after finishing my salad (yes I waited 30 mins Mum), I decided to go 4 blocks up to the Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. I actually decided against the pool but instead spent my time in the Hot Tubs (39 and 43 degrees). The hot tubs were rooftop so all the while the snow was lashing down on us. It was incredible.

The pools here are like an institution. This one in Downtown Reykyavik is fairly old but very well kept.   They are very strict on washing before entering and I’d read that regulars will send you back if you haven’t had a proper full on naked shower before you swim. (“Naked shower” was exactly what was written on the signs all over the showers!) You could tell who were the sort of people who could become “Shower police”!!!  (I didn’t get into trouble, don’t fear!)

Watching the people in the pools was incredible. (I love a good people watch!) Mainly due to the different types of people that were there. I was the only English speaker for the majority of the time so had to kind of guess what was going on but there was literally all walks of life there – Couples, Women friends meeting up for a natter,  “Lads” having a lad night out, (They’d be getting drunk and having fight at home!) Girls having a girls night out, and people just there alone for some peace and quiet!

All in all a fantastic experience for just over a fiver… which is  surprisingly comparable to home! If I had more time, I’d go again… It’s open til 10pm!

All watered out, I slid/drove back to the hotel (I just couldn’t face walking through the snow storm) and sat for a moment reflecting on the last few days:

Tomorrow I’m going to try and go inside Hallgrímskirkja the huge church before the flight home and then that’s pretty much it… I’ve got an afternoon flight, but have to be at the airport at midday and lord knows how long it’s going to take to get there so this could be the last blog post…. (I might update it with Hallgrímskirkja for my own record!)

Tomorrow not only marks the end of my holiday,  but also begins the end of the limbo I’ve been in for the last 2 months…. I’ve done some serious life evaluation over the last 2 months, (not just doing some of “The life changing Magic of Not giving a fuck” book that one of my old suppliers sent me and an excellent xmas present!) but I can honestly say I’m in a much better place that I was… probably actually this time last year!

I’ve learnt that no matter how much you think you love something, you really do have to check that you don’t just get into the rut of loving something for the sake of loving something…

Parts of the last 2 years I have really really loved, and I have made some amazing friends worldwide whom I know I will keep in touch with for years to come! Thanks to anyone who has put up with me, in person, down the phone, down a dodgy Whatsapp video call, or over email, snail mail or any other means… and thanks to those who stood by me while actually my soul was being eroded away inside.

I’ve seen amazing changes in myself not just mentally, but also physically with my skin clearing up (Partly helped no doubt by these new drugs… but assisted by circumstance) and it’s really amazing to hear from people “you just look generally so much better”… it really reinforces the fact that you’ve made some right decisons, for yourself. (especially when you’re looking much better on the inside too!) I have a habit of not putting myself first, which I finally understand the importance of doing!

I know a lot of people have asked me what’s happening next, and if you’ve read down this far, well done… I’m pleased to say that I’ll be starting at a little firm you may have heard of called Amazon in their IT Department. (No, I’m not delivering the parcels. Not funny anymore!)

Nervous, worried and excited  are only three words which describe how I feel now… (looking forward to a bit of routine again!) meanwhile I best go and get on packing… Suitcases sadly don’t pack themselves.

Peace out. Steveey P, SuperStiv, Stevo, Knobhead (Just you Angie!!), whatever you call me…. Over and out! 🙂

Iceland Travel

Iceland Day 2: Sometimes you have to ignore TLC’s advice…

Lots of people in this life give you lots of advice. Some you decide to listen to and some you decide to drop… “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rives and the lakes that your used to”…. is something I’m gonna drop. Today I chased all three! 🙂

So I woke up about 9, went down for some breakfast and made myself a couple of rolls which were wrapped carefully in serviettes and popped into my pocket ready for lunch. (Think March of the Living Sans Tuppaware, if you’ve been!)

From the hotel I headed towards “Road 1” or as some locals like to call it “The ring road”. Think M25, but also think often single lane, questionable weather, single lane bridges (i.e. one lane two directions) and think at some points, gravel! FUNs.

I headed south on the ring road hoping to get to Vik, practically the most southern point of Iceland, to see it’s cool cliffs and amazing black sand… I was not far out of Reykjavik on Road 1 when the conditions became interesting.  The road goes uphill quite steeply and the wind at the top was doing all sorts of things. I’m pretty sure I now know what a pilot feels like when a plane hits turbulence!

The views while driving, which were meant to be stunning were unfortunately obscured by the low cloud and rain. BOOO.

I’d got over halfway to Vik, when I saw from the road an amazing looking waterfall in the distance. I was obviously going to stop and have a look!

What I found was the Seljalandsfoss and another which I’m not sure of the name of. I also found LOTS of rain…. and also managed to ensure that I saw all the usual candidates!  (I always say you can go anywhere in the world, and always find American and Chinese people!)

Featuring the river it flows into!

Ft. Chinese lady losing her coat.

Smaller falls nearby….

Around the Mountain….

Picnic anyone?

Sticking to the Rivers I’m used to…..

It was truly beautiful if not truly soaking! I wandered around and watched the water flow beneath the ice  – I uploaded a short video of it to Youtube here…

From there I got back in the car, took all the wet layers off (Thankfully I was wearing many layers)… was a little upset I hadn’t bought a spare pair of trousers…. cranked the heating up to full, laid the clothes out on the passenger seat like a clothes horse and set to dry as well as set off to Vik.

On the way I noticed I was passing the Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 causing all those delays/cancellations to flights. Turns out those waterfalls run off from the volcano! (they say it’s the land of fire and ice and they ain’t wrong!)  Sadly it was so cloudy I could only see the very bottom of it! 🙁 (Bastard in 2010, still a bastard in 2017!)

Eventually both the clothes dried and I arrived at Vik. Initially going directly to Vik, and stopping in the food/icelandic wear shop (Useful stop for the loo!) before heading back a little way towards one of the popular black sand beaches. (It was still raining and although I was already damp, I just couldn’t face the thought of a wet 15 min hike!

I arrived at the beach and took heed of the friendly warning signs….

Thankfully you can’t see clearly the bit about the Chinese man who got swept away…

…and then headed (Yes, VERY Carefully Mum, Aunty Nicky, and anyone else who will send me a warning. I WAS CAREFUL!) onto the beach.

It was truly spectacular and the waves were truly terrifying. I was stood a long way back taking a photo and the next thing you know the very end of the wave (the foamy bit) was lapping at my feet! The rocks are really cool too – the way they are shaped is to do with the way the cliffs were formed from magma cooling….. Ill leave that to the geologists, BUT THEY COOL AS HELL!

While at the beach I took a moment to stare into the space of the waves, in my own little space where it was quite and just reflect on things. ( a bit deep but really actually I felt so much better afterwards!) I thought for a while about the stress of the last 2 years and the effect it had on me as well as my upcoming challenge starting a week tomorrow. (AAAH)

Yup, that’s sand and it’s black

Cool rocks


Reality hit me as the rain became more aggressive (Dry is underrated) and I realized I should probably head back as light was fading. (We’re only getting light about 10-4ish). I tried to head to another waterfall but the light was gone so decided to turn round and head back home.

Even wavier than the crazy waves last summer in Mojacar… (hehe)

More cool rocks

I stopped to fill up on the way back and asked for directions for some good food locally. I was given VERY detailed instructions by people who swear their English wasn’t very good… to find you could actually see the restaurant, 200m down the road from the petrol station.

Fish and chips was nice, but VERY expensive.  I did worry as I was the only person in the place, and there was a lot of horsemeat on the menu. I’m pleased to say they didn’t mince me a make me into burgers. (the man was really nice and we spoke literally about the weather!!!)

On the way back, things were going to plan, until I hit the rather tall hill which was turbulent on the way out… It quickly turned in to a snow storm. Thankfully only a small amount of Large Car Toboggan took place, thanks to the 4WD and snow tires!

When I got back to Reykjavik, I stopped off at the Hallgrímskirkja just to get a photo at night… I plan to stop by in the day for a visit!

Breathtaking architecture

I’m now posting this and am off out again – it’s very cloudy here and chances of the northern lights are LOW due to the cloud… but I’ve seen a spot of the forecast near where I was yesterday which has little cloud. I’m hoping I’ll catch something as it’s forecast lower and cloudier tomorrow! 🙁

One day left! 🙁