Tower of London, England. Tales of Treasure, Murder & Mayhem ****4stars

A Lesson in English History

UK_0134  UK_0138

It was such a glorious, sunny day. After St Paul’s Cathedral I visited the Tower of London which was not far away. Just follow the path along the river from St Paul’s up towards the Tower Bridge. The Tower of London is a world heritage site and one of the historic royal palaces. There’s a maphistory and things to see and do here and even a 1000 year timeline on Facebook which are found on the Tower of London’s excellent website.

UK_0136   UK_0150

Royalty and castles are not the norm in Australia and consequently all that pomp is rather alien to us. Nevertheless, I ventured through the 13th century Middle Tower to join one of the Yeoman Warder’s tour. These are soldiers with commanding voices who live here amongst the endless throng of tourists and provide extremely informative and entertaining tours. The ravens are an integral part of the tower’s history and have their own keeper or Ravenmaster. There is an old saying that if the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall. Consequently, they are well looked after, although Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials, and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub.

UK_0144  UK_0145UK_0152  UK_0156

Besides the Medieval Palace & Traitors Gate, White Tower & Bloody Tower, Crown Jewels, Royal Mint & Fusiliers Museum, Scaffold site & Wall walks there are many interesting diversions. While walking along the walls and taking photos of the Tower Bridge I came upon some mock battles by the White Tower. Tales from the Royal Menagerie or Zoo are found in the Royal Beasts exhibition. It was a little startling to see really life like baboons sitting on top of one of the walls.

UK_0148

Sculptor, Kendra Haste created four sets of animal sculptures for different locations around the Tower. ‘Made from galvanised steel wire, life-size lions, baboons, a polar bear and an elephant will tell the story of the wild creatures that were kept at the Tower from around 1210. The roars and growls of the lions would have been an intimidating first impression for visitors entering the fortress.’ I found the baboons & lions, but how could I have missed a polar bear or an elephant? Sorry, but no scones.

Posted in London, Sightseeing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Simply Stunning *****5 stars.

Magnificent St Pauls, pity about the awful scones.

UK_0119 UK_0120

My first stop in London is St Paul’s Cathedral which truly deserves to be on the top of every tourist’s list of destinations for London. I ventured up to the whispering gallery & out onto the balcony. Look closely inside the dome and you’ll be surprised that it’s all painted & not real stone and mortar. It’s such a long way down too. What a fantastic space! Outside you get to look across the Millenium Bridge over the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I don’t think I need to go to the top of the Shard. St Paul’s is quite high enough for me. I’m happy wondering around the balcony & taking plenty of photos across the city.

UK_0108 UK_0103UK_0104 UK_0111

Never eaten scones sitting in a crypt before, it’s a bit weird. The scones here at St Paul’s are from another dimension as they are very small and rock hard. Probably good to keep your teeth clean. Looking around me, I have to wonder about eating amongst the dead bodies. I’m not sure if people realise what a crypt is. I had to go and ask an unsuspecting clergymen who said there were no graves at this end just memorials. This section wasn’t ‘known’ to have any bodies as the original medieval church was on a different alignment. I wasn’t particularly reassured as Nelson, Wellington & Wren’s tomb aren’t far away in the crypts. Glad I didn’t ask about the plague!

UK_0112 UK_0113

A nearby table was full of ladies enjoying their morning tea right in front of a memorial with half naked angels. There’s a strange juxtaposition between revered & real. While munching on these curiously dry English scones I wondered about who had been here before me. Even the floor your walking on is paved with tombstones. It gives the taking of tea & scones a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? Go anyway!

Posted in Britain, London, Scones | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dawn of Sconeology

The Blending of Science & Fiction

Anthropology is the science of humanity that endeavours to understand the diverse nature of people and their cultures. Sconeology explores the nature of people searching for great scones and great places to enjoy them. Their quest reveals the stories and adventures of the many people and places they encounter while searching for new horizons through scones.
Image
Reminds me of Star Trek. To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations. All in the name of Sconeology. To this end I recently embarked on a journey into the unknown. Twenty four hours later I landed in LONDON!
Never before having endured the perils of long haul flights I contemplated staying forever rather than returning to the sardine can of economy. At least, I’d enjoyed a spectacular electric storm at night as we descended into Hong Kong for our brief stop over. Nine hour time difference between Sydney and London & we arrived at Heathrow at 5.30am!
With a week in London & three weeks on an Insight Britain and Ireland Discovery tour there was so much to see & do.  No sleep allowed yet so it’s time for breakfast and a resconnaissance of the city. Now which way to Trafalgar Square? Where on Earth am I now?
Posted in Flight, London, Sconeology, Tour | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canberra, ACT. Turner from the Tate.

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Braving the Canberra Cold for Art As it was minus five degrees in Canberra there was no hurry to visit the National Gallery of Australia. Much more pleasant to let the morning crowds go first and have pumpkin quiche for … Continue reading

| Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mt Tongariro, N.Z. The Joys of Rocks, Rubble & the Rest *****5 stars

And All the Way Down Again

Tongariro_0281

Our brain is a curious thing. We think of all sorts of things as we walk along and even break into song at times but on the return journey our perspective is always completely different. A sense of elation and relief is tempered by discovering the many marvels we bypassed while focusing on that uphill climb, tricky section of track or active volcano. Fortunately, we were able to take our time and sing many more songs from our extensive repertoire, unlike the poor souls who had a deadline in the shape of a bus to catch at the bottom. California is a very long way from Tongariro but it still seemed appropriate to sing ‘California Dreaming’ as we cooled ourselves and ate our mini muffins by the stream at Soda Springs and sang I went for a walk….. 

 On a Sunny Day

Imagine our delight in finally reaching the carpark (and toilets!) to find our driver from Walking Legends awaiting us with drinks and a most welcome picnic! Quite a crowd of envious onlookers as we tucked into our feast. Back in Whakapapa village we headed for the closest stream and a chance to soak our feet in the comfort of its crystal clear waters. Bliss, but rather cold.

Perhaps a rest and another tune or two before dinner. Any requests?

Posted in Bushwalk, National Parks, Tongariro National Park, Tour, Volcano | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mt Tongariro, N.Z. Rising to the Challenge *****5 stars.

The Only Way is Up.

Tongariro_0232

As always, an early start is best for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on New Zealand’s North Island. Here’s a website with info and a Map. Signposts indicate distances and times and help to track your progress. Are we there yet? We covered the first three and a half stages and returned the same way as the track was still partly closed at the time.

Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs       Grade: Easy, allow 1 to 1.5 hours

This first section is fairly flat with boardwalks over the wet areas which enable you to gather some pace and keep warm until the sun gets higher.

Soda Springs to South Crater        Grade: Difficult, allow 4o mins to 1 hour.

The Devil’s staircase is steep but on such a lovely clear day there’s plenty of opportunity to rest and catch a glimpse of Mt Taranaki in the distance. It seems to float above the earth on a cloud.  Just couldn’t quite catch the magic of Taranaki with my camera so I later hoped to find a picture along our travels. The landscapes of  Diana Adams usually capture the sense of these places well but nothing was quite what I had envisaged.

South Crater to Red Crater      Grade: Moderate to Difficult, allow 1 hour.

Quite  a relief to cross the flat South Crater but there’s still the risk of loose rocks although the most difficult ascent was still ahead of us, up to the Red Crater. The rocks and scoria were loose and it took time and concentration to remain vertical so there aren’t any photos of this section. Our guide from Walking Legends was a great help in traversing the most difficult loose sections.

Red Crater to Blue Lake     Grade Moderate, allow 30 mins.

Such a relief to get to the top, catch your breath and marvel at the Red Crater and the valleys below. Still more loose rocks and with a few more slips and slides we managed to reach a rocky outcrop with the marvellous Emerald Lakes below and rest our bones, briefly.

After a quick lunch and a rest perched at a safe distance from the edge, it was time to descend back through all the rubble. I did not venture down to the Emerald Lake as it was too loose for me and even harder work to get back up! Regardless, it was a  glorious day and quite spectacular!

Tongariro_0274 Tongariro_0276

Posted in Bushwalk, Maps, National Parks, New Zealand, North Island, Tongariro National Park, Tour, Volcano | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mt Tongariro, N.Z. Sharing Life’s Joys and Challenges****5 stars

Anything’s Possible.

Tongariro_0274

Never climbed an active volcano before. It’s a good idea to take a friend just in case it erupts. Walking with a local guide is also an excellent idea. Even though, the weather is glorious and picture perfect you just never know… There’s definitely no cafe or scones anywhere around here but fortunately there is one toilet stop, so you must be grateful for modern ingenuity and conveniences.

Tongariro_0225

Heading off on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing so it’s an early start with a pick up from Chateau Tongariro by Walking Legends who are able to access the back roads. The last eruption had increased the traffic congestion so everyone had to do a round trip rather than the usual one way walk from the Mangatepopo parking area to Ketetahi parking area. Normally it takes 6-7 hours and is nearly 20km. GOOD NEWS! The whole track will be reopening on the 8th of May, 2013 so you will be able to continue on past the Blue Lake Saddle but the area is still considered an active volcano zone.  Here’s a map. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) has plenty of information about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the latest eruption hazard information so you can be well prepared. Take plenty of water as it is advised not to drink from the volcanic streams and lakes (and you have less chance of falling in or over). I only just discovered another benefit of genius and technology in DOC’s app Tongariro Crossing Pocket Ranger which tells the ‘unique stories of the awesome landscape of the Alpine Crossing’. How clever! Today, there’s plenty of enthusiastic hikers out enjoying the sunshine but from now on, it’s all uphill. How steep can it get?

Posted in Bushwalk, Maps, National Parks, New Zealand, North Island, Places, Tongariro National Park, Volcano | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments