Tønsberg

Our first 24 hours in Norway, it rained (our first three days in Norway it rained).  A constant drizzle with intermittent torrential downpours that ensured that shoes were soaked through and hands became clammy and cold.

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We had arrived at Oslo Torp and made our way to Tønsberg, the oldest town in Norway, were we spent a day exploring in the rain and visited the tower on a hill in the middle of the town.  For the most part the camera stayed firmly in its bag, tucked up behind the waterproof cover.

We wandered down to the riverside which appeared to be where the most was going on, and stumbled across a viking shipyard.  The boats were under the cover of large canvas tents constructed with a simple timber frame, and the air smelled of wood and tar.

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Unusually (is there a usual way to build a viking ship?), this boat appeared to be being constructed by a pirate.

Tønsberg boasts 1200 years of maritime history, and at the quay is a replica exact replica of the Oseberg viking ship, and several smaller vessels are under construction.

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The Oseberg ship was built around 800AD and was excavated in 1904-5 from a burial mound along with the skeletons of two important female figures, and plenty of treasure in the form of ornately carved carts, sleighs, and ornaments.

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Maybe all that treasure is why the pirate is hanging around…?

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Upstairs

Lyme Park, in all of its rugged beauty, captured my attention from the moment I set eyes on it.  Course grassland and rocky crags hide interesting architecture from a time gone by, giving way to a house designed to impress and impose.

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Home to its 600 year old red deer herd, the park rises up from the house nestled within, onto the aptly named Park Moor and the edge of the Peak District National Park.

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After several rather fleeting visits to Lyme, last weekend I managed to find the time to go inside the house.  I’ve a love of stately homes, and Lyme didn’t fail to impress.  I can’t help but try to imagine what it would have been like to live here, in a time before the red ropes.

 

Did they collect artifacts from around the world and bring them back to exhibit in their homes?  Which of the many hundreds of books in the library did they read whilst they sat around a crackling fire in the drawing room after dinner?  What really went on below stairs, and who played that organ?

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Long corridors seem to ask more questions than they answer…

And finally one of my favourite rooms in the house – the dining room.  A room that fascinates me in any stately home.  How many conversations have taken places around this table? Good news shared, worse news contemplated, business discussed and children chastised for poor manners.   It’s a room of entertaining and extravagance, yet there’s something so ordinary about sitting down to a meal with family that it brings it all down to earth slightly.  And all the while ancestors look down from walls of ornate wood carvings, warmed by a fire in a marble hearth.

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Of course, we don’t all set the table with candelabras.

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Laugh, Kookaburra

Keeping up with the blog has failed completely miserably.  I think, now, that I’ll still write the rest of the Canada blog posts, but I’m going to do them in between other things.  Today I want to share some photos with you, that I’m very pleased with.

My cousin runs a business with birds of prey, keeping owls, raptors and even a kookaburra for the purpose of education.  She visits schools, events, runs children’s parties and, along with a local photographer, runs photography days.  I was lucky enough to attend one of these days a couple of weeks ago and can’t believe the difference it made having someone standing by me, teaching me how to set up my camera and set up the shot.

First came Edna, the blue winged kookaburra.

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Photographer Tim Doggett had brought a reflection pool, so we stuck Edna on a log and let her pose.  Kookaburras are a type of kingfisher, so she was quite happy sitting by the water.

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Edna loved to pose for the camera!  The title of this blog is a bit misleading, blue winged kookaburras don’t laugh in the way laughing kookaburras do.  Edna, however, loves to chatter away to you.

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Despite not being the quickest flier, a combination of her relatively small size and clumsy nature meant getting a good photograph of this bird in flight really was challenging.

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Kookaburras are native to Northern Australia, living in open woodland and Melaleuca swamps where they eat fish, frogs and small mammals.

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And, like most birds of prey, when she was full she just wanted to sit.

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Next up we brought out Sparrow the Ashy Faced Owl.  Whilst they look a bit like a grubby barn owl, these owls come from the Caribbean, hence Sparrow being named after Captain Jack!

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Their dusty colour hides them well in the dry shrubland they live in.

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Like all owls, they have poor eyesight of close objects, and use the fine feathers on their face to identify where their food is.

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And finally, Igor the Kestrel.  Named after Igor Sikorsky, credited as the inventor of the modern helicopter, because one thing kestrels are known for is their ability to hover!

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He enjoyed stretching his wings in the sunshine and I think the patterns on the underside are just beautiful! I particularly like the heart shapes on the feathers.

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A much faster, lighter bird than the others, and much more of a hunter.  Native to Europe and Asia, you’ve probably seen one hovering over verges looking for unfortunately placed mice!

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Igor is only a young bird, but isn’t he gorgeous?

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Of course there were many, many more photos but there are only so many hours in the day! I’m hoping next time to be able to photograph some more of the birds, particularly the natives as I love the idea that I might see them in the wild.

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For more information on the birds and photography days, please visit http://www.thefeatheryfolk.co.uk/

All pictures taken using Nikon D3200

 

Los Gigantes

At the start of February we decided we needed to escape the endless cycle of rain, sleet and snow and head to sunnier climes.  We wanted to visit the Canary Islands, having never been and hearing good things about the winter weather, and finally decided on a trip through Thomson to Tenerife.  The chance to go to the top of a volcano, Mt Teide, was also a pretty strong influencing factor for me!

The view from our room Luabay Costa Los Gigantes

We stayed in Playa de la Arena, about an hours transfer from Tenerife South Airport and just along the coast from Los Gigantes.  Our hotel was absolutely enormous, in many small blocks and several pools, bars, restaurants, entertainment halls, mini golf, high ropes… the list goes on.  One thing I hadn’t really anticipated was just quite how touristy the area was going to be.  I purposefully chose a hotel away from the tourist central to the South, but even so nearly every building was a hotel.  But Playa de la Arena was a nice little town with lots of shops and beach with the natural black volcanic sand (some beaches have white sand imported, which I think is a shame really).

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Playa de la Arena

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The Thomson rep at the hotel was great and we quickly booked onto several excursions.  One was to the neighbouring island of La Gomera which is what I imagine Tenerife was like before it got too touristy.  We could see La Gomera from our hotel so it was great to go over there.  Being mainly agriculture and forests which survive because the top of the island is always covered in mist, La Gomera is a lot greener than it’s neighbour.

La Gomera at sunset We visited several villages and learned a lot about the local culture.  We also visited a fantastic restaurant where the local whistling language was demonstrated.  In a similar way to yodeling this ancient method of communication was used to pass messages across the mountains on the island.  Agriculture consisted of mainly bananas, potatoes and tomatoes, and a few goats.  There are around six cattle on the island.

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Potato Fields

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Another great trip was Flipper Uno – dolphin watching from a pirate ship under the huge cliffs of Los Gigantes.  We were told that these cliffs are the second biggest in the world, after only the Grand Canyon, while we ate paella, drank wine, admired the scenery and watched dolphins swim around the boat.

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On our last full day on the island we booked a trip up Mt Teide.  We had managed to catch a glimpse of the 3,718m high summit from the aeroplane as we flew in, but for the rest of the week it had hidden behind the clouds.  The National Park was like another world, and definitely worth a visit.  Unfortunately there had been snow overnight and the top was very icy, so the cable cars to the top weren’t running.  This was a shame as I’d been looking forward to going to the top of the volcano for months, so I would definitely be making the trip again if I go back!

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We did so much in our week long visit, I’ve hardly mentioned half of it here and there are so many things on the island that didn’t get a look in, so in my opinion Tenerife is really worth a visit.  The only thing I would change? More sunshine!