A Travellerspoint blog

Graduation in a city well worth visiting

sunny 17 °C

We really do like Newcastle Upon Tyne, and not just because our daughter has been there for the past 5 years, firstly as a Netballer from New Zealand playing as an import in the UK Superleague team Northumbria, and then as a student of Law at Northumbria University (and still playing netball), but because it is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do, good streetscapes and roads (although I did get captured in the one-way system which was no fun), quality restaurants (and the girl tells us nightlife too - but we didn't venture out to see the Newcastle after dark dress code). All in all we found plenty to do and enjoy.

I visited the Laing Gallery which had a couple of interesting exhibitions and some surprising works in the collection.

The graduation came and went so swiftly for four years dedicated study to be almost obscene, however a great night out with her best friends and family topped off the reasons for coming this far. Now to renew a visa and to find a job are the priorities.

Congratulations once more. So happy to have been there on the day.

Posted by claptonisgod 13:02 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Graduation in a city well worth visiting

sunny 17 °C

We really do like Newcastle Upon Tyne, and not just because our daughter has been there for the past 5 years, firstly as a Netballer from New Zealand playing as an import in the UK Superleague team Northumbria, and then as a student of Law at Northumbria University (and still playing netball), but because it is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do, good streetscapes and roads (although I did get captured in the one-way system which was no fun), quality restaurants (and the girl tells us nightlife too - but we didn't venture out to see the Newcastle after dark dress code). All in all we found plenty to do and enjoy.

I visited the Laing Gallery which had a couple of interesting exhibitions and some surprising works in the collection.

The graduation came and went so swiftly for four years dedicated study to be almost obscene, however a great night out with her best friends and family topped off the reasons for coming this far. Now to renew a visa and to find a job are the priorities.

Congratulations once more. So happy to have been there on the day.

Posted by claptonisgod 13:01 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Black and white.

overcast 14 °C

Nothing in Ireland is black and white, and yet everything is as different as black is from white. There is still a black and white nature to Belfast, the leafy green and upmarket side where we stayed in our hotel, and the side that is grey, bleak and as vacant of houses as a ghetto. I recall Ireland in black and white, in the days when the 'troubles' featured on our TV screens every evening, but I was too young then to remember now the slant on the troubles from an NZBC perspective, although I do recall the "tut tutting" by my parents and grandmother (who lived with us then) as we dutifully watched the News at Six. I imagine that the Empire ruled our house and our minds and the "left footers" (as my dad called them), were always at fault.

My life as I grow older is punctuated with memories of the past, and small segments of the troubles in Ireland, armoured Police stations and vehicles (still to be seen today), and the Vietnam War are occasionally played out in black and white in flashbacks in my mind. It was some of these that persuaded us to take a Black Taxi Tour in Belfast. The tour itself is of the sections of Belfast where events occurred (in many cases - little changed, the two up two downs with outside toilets and no hot water from the 60s are still there, some derelict some being repurposed) and where tributes and memorials now punctuate the landscape of 2016. The tours are taken by veterans of the events, hard to know or be able to guess the depths to which each has been involved, but our tour guide, (a man in his mid 60s) remained distant from a direct connection apart from letting slip on one occasion of the scar he still wears on his calf as a result of a rubber bullet.

The tour, which was to be 90 minutes, ended after two and a half hours as we chatted and were taken to more and more historical sites. To be honest there were many moments when the conversation was bleak, the reasons behind the anger, the repercussions and reprisals for criminal acts on both sides, the status held for people whose acts can be described as nothing other than cold blooded murder, their shrines visited and accorded sacrificial status left me bewildered and sad.

Parts of Belfast are still walled off in an evening and opened the following morning, this was initially to protect sides from violence, but in recent times has precipitated a new violence of drugs (crack cocaine and heroin) by feuding gangs within the walls. Of the rest of the city the walls to divide still do their job and have a strange domination over sides segregated by religion. To see houses that nestle up against the wall with their own steel designed protection shelters for their backyards (similar to prison yards) was chilling and yet there to protect from a still real threat. Sharon asked if "this was living?", and I guess it is but it's hardly free for body or mind.

There are loads of ceremonial walls and gardens where the names of the killed, murdered, and lost are carved in bronze, where murals are painted and where connections are made between the martyrdoms in Ireland conflicts with those across the globe in Nicaragua, Cuba, South Africa and Iraq, where recently the word Orlando was added in tribute to the mass killing. The imagery on one side is memorialised though images and sayings, flowers and emblems, the other inflammatory images, guns and death. Even in these there is no black and white.

What was particularly interesting was the allowance by the authorities of communities to fly illegal flags, hold illegal marches and do nothing when huge fires are built to celebrate events. We saw a bonfire being built in a square very close to houses but our driver told us that the houses are boarded up and the people moved away. The pallets at the base of the bonfire were worth €10 each and there must have been 1500. Tell me that's not mad, but then I remember the driver saying "don't try to bring logic to the troubles, you'll end up on a mental institution".

When the tour concluded our driver dropped us off at the indoor Market full of life, music, food and treats, we shared a table with a couple for an hour or more and spoke about Ireland and New Zealand. We spoke about the 'troubles' and it's hard to imagine this Belfast Market as anything other than a homogeneous sample of the city population, living, working and enjoying each others company. But then this is but a few days after BREXIT, and now those who can are trying to secure Irish passports, so these people say. Another case of black and white.

Our new dining friends even drove us back our Hotel and promised to look us up if they ever came to Christchurch, and have a daughter coming next year. Maybe we'll see her.

Posted by claptonisgod 13:12 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (0)

Budget doesn't have to mean less than acceptable service

rain 14 °C

I've done many things in my life on a budget. Been a poor artist most of my life often requiring budget thinking and deeds. I have bought budget clothes and shoes, marked down food products and saved my pennies by budgeting on many aspects of everyday living by balancing one product, one company or one actuality against another through a budget. However to call your company Budget shouldn't mean you offer a lesser service for the same product I can get from another company, and here of course I speak of Rental Cars. I have a Gold Card for using Hertz in NZ, but here in the UK we had a car booked for us to save costs. We picked it up this morning. Nothing special, silver Opel, bigger than a shopping trolley and smaller than a four seat spa pool.

What should have been a simple matter of signing the paperwork and going, turned into a long process which ultimately led to me suggesting that the company was building the vehicles from a pile of flat packs in the carpark, bolting on the wheels when another renter turned up. I was told by the nice Budget desk dweller, Rebecca, that my wait would be 10 minutes, however on taking a seat next to a nice couple from Utah (who informed me that they had already waited 35+ minutes) I realised that I too was to slowly watch my holiday disappear before my eyes. Rebecca did say that they had 400 cars booked for rental today, but knowing that should have streamlined the process, not compounded a fraught, and somehow acceptable level of corporate ineptitude. It almost appeared as if cars being dropped off needed to cleaned and turned around for new rentals. That's just rubbish and has never been something I've seen in any country before. From entering the building and queuing, (the international sport of standing about waiting, which the British Isles has repeatedly won gold medals in), to leaving with a set of car keys took nearly an hour. Outrageous and mindlessly inefficient.

I did wonder at one stage whether any of this would have happened if I had booked one of the fleet of Mercedes in the front row, but that's not how to keep to a budget.

Anyway, doing things on a Budget doesn't have to mean budget service. But in this instance, that's what we got.

Posted by claptonisgod 12:18 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Zurich, the 200m to gate 31D

overcast 15 °C

Our travel to Dublin on Swiss Air, a great travel provider with great food and drink service, is hindered by its home base where our travel required a stopover in transit. Not allowed to see the outside of the terminal, I can only comment on the interior, and can honestly say that compared to Changi where the spaces are filled with art and a profusion of plants and flowers, this treminal has all the grace and warmth of the deep end of an Olympic swimming pool, lined as it is with tiles and chrome. Then of course (to keep the analogy going) we were confronted by the pool guard adorned with the obligatory medals for compliance, who demanded that we relinquish some of our dangerous liquids and chemicals. Not that any of these has been an issue in any of the other three dependencies we had already been checked by during our travels, but here, in transit, in the swimming pool we were to swim no more than 200m from the check, apparently we had too much. The ridiculousness of this bureaucracy can't be lost on anyone. Our threat to the world as we know it consisted of two small (under 100ml bottles of shampoo and conditioner, bought especially for the trip because of their size, a very small bottle of nail polish remover, and an even smaller bottle of face cream), all, apparently because we had too much and would be weighted down in our quest for gold in our chosen event, the 200m getting to departure lounge 31D.

It was raining as we departed, and my hope, as always, was that this precipitation would cleanse the mindlessness of bureaucratic ridiculousness from this dreary world, now the domain of life guards (without obligatory whistles the only saving grace), whose sole role in the swimming pool of life, is to make certain no one has any fun in the deep end.

Posted by claptonisgod 21:16 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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