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A Passage to India

India - Mahabalipuram

 

India - Mahabalipuram

Just a quick post today since I have important writing stuff to do. Smile

During our visit to Mahabalipuram, in Northern Tamil Nadu, India hubby and I were wandering around the various temples taking photos. We came across this group of students who were also visiting. The teacher (the lady in the sari) barked out a command. All the kids lined up and grinned at us while the teacher indicated we should take a photo. We were frightened to disobey cause she had a stick! She was one fierce lady.

The top photo shows some of the awesome carvings. I have a soft spot for elephants. Notice the detail. Just amazing.

A Visit to the Barber

Visit to Barber, Jaipur, India

During our visit to India, hubby used to visit the local barbers for a shave. Most of the guys traveling with us did, and they all used to rave about the great shaves they received.

Shaving seems quite a social occasion in India. We’d walk into the barber shop, and if there wasn’t an empty chair, they’d usually shunt someone out to make room for my hubby. They’d also clear a space for me to sit, then proceed to watch us both avidly while making comments to each other.

LOL It always made me feel like a film star!

Next would come hot towels, shaving foam and a cut-throat razor. There’s a scalp massage and at the very end they slap on the aftershave. When I say slap, I mean slap. Maybe it was to make sure hubby was awake!

I used to enjoy the process as much as Mr. Munro. The people watching was excellent, and I think we gave the locals something to talk about for weeks afterward.

Would you trust a man welding a cut-throat razor?

Bushwalking in the Waitakere, Auckland

This year I’m trying to do some of the things I’ve thought about doing for years but haven’t got around to for one reason or another. Last week I took time out from writing to do some bushwalking with author friend Tessa Radley. We joined a group walk that left from Cascade Kauri in the Waitakere. I haven’t really visited this area in the west of Auckland before, but managed to do a creditable job of map reading to the meet area.

We were a small group of seven with varying levels of fitness. Once we left the car park—we were informed three bus loads of kids were due to arrive at any moment for a camp—the bush surrounded us, and it became quiet and peaceful.

This area is known for its kauri trees. Although I’ve seen kauri trees before and have visited the largest one in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta, I haven’t seen a forest of them before. The kauri were prized by settlers for their timber and also the gum they produce. Large forested areas were cleared, but luckily this area was turned into a reserve.

Kauri Tree, Cascade Kauri, Auckland  Cascade Kauri Park, Auckland

The walking tracks come in various levels. Some are easy and suitable for pushchairs while others have huge steps that challenged my long legs and paths full of treacherous roots and mud. We took our time, watching birds and identifying various trees, plants and seeds.

Kauri Tree, Auckland  Waitakere Reservoir, Auckland

After about two hours walking, we reached the Waitakere Reservoir where we took a break for lunch. The view was gorgeous from the bottom of the dam—trees and green as far as the eye could see.

Cascade Kauri, Auckland

Our return walk was via a different route. We were almost back and walking on a flat gravel path when I saw a fantail flitting above our heads. “Look at the fantail,” I said to Tessa. I opened my mouth about to tell her she was really close to the edge of the bank when over she went. I grabbed her daypack and stopped her from rolling further down the bank and hitting her head on the trees, but she sprained her ankle and pulled muscles. A terrible end to a great day, but she assures me she’s all right now and is ready to go on another walk next month.

Do you like bushwalking?

A Doggy Tale: Greyfriars Bobby

Most visitors to Edinburgh, Scotland can’t resist this heart-warming tale of a loyal Skye terrier who guarded his master’s grave for fourteen years.

Bobby was the watch dog of John Gray, a police constable in Edinburgh. The pair often took walks to Greyfrairs Place, a coffee house owned by Mr. William Ramsey and were a well known sight. John “Jock” Gray developed tuberculosis and died in Feb 1858.

The funeral took place, and Bobby refused to leave the graveside. Dogs weren’t allowed in the Kirkyard, but Bobby stubbornly remained at his master’s side. Locals took pity on the loyal terrier and started to feed him. They continued looking after the tenacious terrier until he died 14 years later in 1872.

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland  Headstone, Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

According to records, Bobby had a stumpy tail that constantly wagged and a courageous character. He didn’t like strangers, yet was devoted to family and his master. Disney made a movie about Greyfriars Bobby, which I remember watching as a child, so I was thrilled to visit his statue and headstone during our visit to Edinburgh.

A truly wonderful story.

Have you seen the Disney version of Greyfriars Bobby? Cartoons aside, what is your favorite Disney movie?

Do not Steal the Daffodils!

Firstly, I’m visiting Brinda Berry today where I discuss peanut butter, writing and my latest release, Cat Burglar in Training. I’m also doing a giveaway.

One of the pubs my husband and I worked in while we lived in London was called the Grosvenor Arms. This was a small pub, on Grosvenor Street, a stones throw from Bond Street and right in the heart of Mayfair.

When I was a kid I loved to play monopoly, so it was a thrill to actually live and walk down some of the streets bearing the familiar names from the childhood game.

Grosvenor Square and the American Embassy were a few minutes down the road. Hubby and I would go for walks, even on days that were a bit nasty to get a breath of fresh air. At that time pubs used to close from 2.00pm to 5.30pm, and we had a few hours off.

Shelley, Grosvenor Square, London

 

London during the winter can be very gray. Not only did all the workers wear black, but the sky and buildings were often a sullen gray color, which was depressing for everyone. I loved the spring when the daffodils would pop out of the ground and bring a touch of sunshine with them.

Now and then, during our walks, hubby and I would “liberate” a few daffodils and take them back to our room to keep in a vase. I liked to enjoy the spring indoors too, and hubby indulged me.

One day, we’d just picked a few daffodils and a policeman walked along the footpath. I quickly hid the daffodils under my coat (see said coat – exhibit A – in the photo). He must have seen us, but luckily ignored our transgression and walked on.

The policeman scared us, since it was an unwritten rule not to pick the flowers. We never stole another daffodil, instead saving our hard-earned pennies to buy a bunch at one of the markets. I still love both daffodils, spring and walking though. Some things never change.

Now, in a totally unrelated subject – I’m on the hunt for a cheesy name for the fictional strip club I’m writing about at present. My mind is blank. Does anyone have a suggestion for a name for my strip club?

A Visit to Bam, Iran

Mud Town, Bam, Iran

During our trip from London to Kathmandu we traveled through Iran. One of our stops was the town of Bam. This is the old mud town, which was fascinating. We arrived about half an hour before closing, so it was a hurried visit, but we were the only tourists around.

Most of the village was intact. I’d never seen anything like it before with the high wall surrounding the buildings, the round towers and the maze of buildings inside. The town sat on a hill. We raced to the highest point and looked out over the entire town. The setting sun made the mud bricks glow in an incredibly rich color. It was beautiful.

Tragically an earthquake struck the town of Bam a few years ago, and much of the town was badly damaged.

Spying on Dolphins

For years I’ve thought about going on a dolphin watching trip on the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland. I mean, it’s my own backyard and I should explore. I first took the trip in January. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a single dolphin, but I received another trip as compensation.

This time, the weather was a little overcast with rain. Hubby dropped me off at Z pier, and I boarded the MV Dreamweaver.

View from Z Pier, Auckland Harbor Bridge

The staff on board the Dreamweaver were brilliant. They were hospitable and knowledgeable about the different dolphins, whales and birds we might see during our trip.

The weather cleared and yachts and fishermen came out in force, ready to spend a day out on the water. We motored past Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s youngest dormant volcano at around 600 years old, and past several of the other Gulf islands including Rakino.

Rangitoto Island

My fellow passengers ranged in age from about three-years-old to grandparents. The kids were well-behaved—much to my relief—and they were the ones who spotted the pod of dolphins first. It was the bottlenose dolphins we saw. This species aren’t as friendly as the common dolphin but they hung around our boat as we travelled slowly along. It was a thrilling experience, looking over the bow of the boat to see the sleek bodies of four or five dolphins surfing along with us.

Dolphin pod, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

There were about 40 dolphins in the pod with several youngsters, almost hugging the bodies of their mothers as they swam along. We saw splashes of water when fins and tails broke the surface, and the water is so clear we could see the flashes of white bellies and their long pointy noses when the dolphins went under water. Since dolphins are mammals, they come up for air, and it was easy to hear the gasp-like sounds they made each time they surfaced.

Cameras clicked frantically, and both children and adults alike exclaimed with sounds of loud excitement. Yes, me too!

Dolphins, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

 

Some of the trips see orcas and Bryde’s Whales. This was the only dolphin pod we saw, but we did see several Little Blue Penguins and watched gannets fishing too. The Australasian gannets plunge into the water at great speed, making a huge splash. Over time, the gannets go blind and die of starvation. The blindness is caused by the continual diving, which damages their eyes.

It was a rewarding day, and once again, I was impressed by the beauty of the Gulf. It’s so handy and is easily accessible to all with many ferries operating in the region.

Central Auckland Cityscape

We sailed back into central Auckland, extremely satisfied customers. If you’re ever visiting Auckland I highly recommend a trip out on the harbor with Dolphin Planet. They go out of their way to make your day memorable. I certainly enjoyed my day trip.

Is there any type of animal that you’d like to watch in their natural habitat?

London: Haunt of a Cat Burglar in Training

London. It’s a place I dreamed of visiting after hearing the poem about Christopher Robin and Alice as a child. Do you know the one I mean? Here’s the first verse:

Buckingham Palace
by A.A. Milne

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
"A soldier’s life is terribly hard,"
Says Alice.

Luckily I was able to persuade my husband that London was a good idea, and off we went on our overseas experience. Fast forward many years, and it was inevitable that some of my experience would find its way into my writing.

Today is the release date for Cat Burglar in Training, which is partially set in London. Eve Fawkner, my trainee cat burglar attends balls in various London locations and her receiver lives in Kensington, an area I’m familiar with since we lived there for several years.

Here are a few photos from the Kensington/Knightsbridge area. These are places Eve sees or drives past on a regular basis. (Scroll over the photos for info or click on them to enlarge.)

BTW – London was everything I dreamed it would be!

Harrods, Knightsbridge, London at night Kensington Gardens, London

Kensington Palace after a snow fall, London Albert Memorial, Kensington near Royal Albert Hall

The Goat Tavern, Kensington, London.  Horseguards, Rotten Row, London


CatBurglar_SM

Here’s the blurb:

Eve Fawkner had no intention of following in her father’s footsteps. But when the thugs harassing him to repay his gambling debts threaten her young daughter, Eve is forced to assume the role of London’s most notorious cat burglar, The Shadow. The plan is simple: pull off a couple of heists, pay back the goons and go into permanent retirement. But things get messy during her first job when Eve witnesses a murder, stumbles across a clue that sheds some light on her past and, worst of all, falls for a cop.

Inspector Kahu Williams would be the perfect man, if Eve were looking, and if there wasn’t the little matter of their career conflict. The man is seriously hot—and hot on the trail of a murderer. A trail that keeps leading him back to Eve…

Purchase today from Carina Press

Is there a place you dreamed of visiting as a child?

The Rebirth of Napier

On Feb 3 1931, at 10.47am an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the seaside town of Napier in New Zealand. Fires soon broke out, destroying buildings that had survived the earthquake. 157 died in Napier due to the earthquake and resulting fires.

Instead of rebuilding the Victorian-style town straight away, the townsfolk formed a committee and made a careful plan for the new town. The decision to go with the Art Deco style was a practical one. The buildings were robust, should there be further earthquakes. They were cheap to build—a consideration since it was the depression. And finally, Art Deco was fashionable.

The first building to go up after the quake was the Market Reserve Building. The builders used rivets on the steel frame, instead of welding it. They wanted to create as much noise as possible to send a message of hope to the the people.

These days the Art Deco features are a real feature and bring a lot of tourists to the town. I rather like the plain block-type style of the buildings and the intricate zigzag and starburst patterns. Egyptian and Mayan designs are also visible on many buildings. Leadlight glass designs were also a common decoration, but I don’t have any photos of those. 

Napier 082

This is the former Hotel Central, which was built in 1932. It has balconies, balconets and zigzag and sunburst decorations.

Napier 065

This shot shows the interior of the current ASB Bank. This building features a Maori design in red, black and white. This photo really doesn’t do the decor justice. It’s breath-taking. I stood inside the bank and gawked.

Napier 094 Napier 137

Napier 148 Napier 199

Napier 144 Napier 088

Top left: Colenso House, done in Spanish Mission style.

Top right: Daily Telegraph Building. This building contains most of the Art Deco styles including zigzags, fountain shapes, and sunburst.

Middle left: Thorps building as a Mayan flavor to its facade.

Middle right: The interior of the Masonic Hotel.

Bottom left: The exterior of the Masonic Hotel.

Bottom right: A view of the buildings in Emerson Street, the main street of Napier.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Napier 112 Napier 116

Napier 176 Napier 181

The Art Deco flavor is enhanced with music, souvenirs, cars, and costumes. Even the fountain is designed to blend with the buildings around the town. Visitors can take a tour or do a self-tour. It’s a pleasant walk with lots of cafes and pubs along the way to take a break. The perfect way to while away a few hours. I highly recommend a visit to Napier, if you’re ever down this way.

Do you like the Art Deco style?

Travels Through Africa

Today I’m taking a trip down memory lane and posting several photos from my African trip.

sw baby elephant, Kenya

We spent seven months in Africa,  starting our journey in Harare, Zimbabwe. From there we travelled down to Botswana before returning north again. We visited twenty-five countries including Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zaire, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco then on to Spain with a quick flit through Europe on the way back to London.

Our trip was an overland one with a company called Dragoman. We mainly camped with the odd hotel thrown into the mix. After suffering through many cold washes and more than a few cold showers, I grew an appreciation for hot water and specifically hot and cold running water.

I’d always wanted to visit Africa, the animals and the wilderness being the main attraction. I was certainly spoiled for choice when it came to seeing animals.

giraffe

While in Nairobi, we visited a giraffe sanctuary. I love giraffes, but their tongues were a real surprise. They’re so long! We had lots of fun feeding them a few snacks from the feeding platform.

sw Batering in Zim

Part of the overseas experience is interacting with the locals. It’s always interesting visiting the local markets and shopping for meals. This photo was taken in Zimbabwe, and I have fond memories of the avocadoes. They were delicious!

sw Ballooning in the Serengeti

Hot air ballooning in Kenya. As is traditional with hot air ballooning, we were up at the crack of dawn to get ready for our ride. Notice the pith helmet? We finished our flight with a champagne breakfast. So civilized!

sw elephant & buffalo, Kenya sw gazzelles, Kenya

sw lion Kenya sw hyena, Kenya 1

The above photos were all taken in Kenya. Top left: water buffalo and an elephant “butt” shot. Top right: Thomson Gazelle. Bottom left: Lion enjoying the sun. Bottom right: Hyena and pup.

 

Given the choice, which African country would you most like to visit? Which animal would you like to see?