Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Life in Liverpool and beyond

After a merry train ride in first class (surprisingly cheaper than the standard ticket) complete with drinks and food, I was welcomed into the arms of my dear friend Sarah Oliver. We first met in Benin 2009, on the ship and have been so blessed to see each other every year since!
We spent the next few days walking around Liverpool, catching up with another friend from the ship, Ginger, re-visiting the iron men on the beach, who seem to be a little worse for wear- now mostly covered in moss and some sort of shellfish. We also went to a recreation of Central Perk from the TV show Friends!


At Central Perk

After a few days in Liverpool Sarah and I headed down to London, stopping for a day in Reading to visit a friend, Paul. With him we traveled to Windsor and saw the Queen's current residence, walking The Long Walk, wandering around Windsor, seeing Ascot racecourse but most excitedly and unexpectedly for me, hearing Chop My Money (an often played and favourite African song) played by a riverboat. I think my jaw almost hit the ground and unintelligible squeals erupted from mouth in excitement as I tried to explain to Sarah and Paul the source of my joy!

Windsor Castle

The following day the adventure continued in Surrey, London.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Wales, then Scotland

Landing in London I was met by a cold wind and rain- yep, typical English weather! I stayed the night in Hatfield with my friend Hannah, who then accompanied me the following day to Cardiff,  Wales, where we were met by four more friends, (Rachel, Danielle, Noel and Melissa) who'd all worked together as nurses on the ship in Sierra Leone 2011.

That afternoon we headed out to Tredegar House, a huge old English home. It had beautiful gardens, with manicured lawns, shaped hedges and blossoming flowers. Inside the house was set up as it used to be years ago when it was lived in.

The following day we went to St Fagans, a Welsh historical town and explored the culture a little further.

Onwards to Scotland!
After a 12hr bus journey, including four bus changes and a good book, The Hunger Games, I arrived in Perth, Scotland. I was met by another previous Mercy Shipper, Emma, and Noel and Melissa again and we drove to Emma's huge family home, 45 minutes from Perth, on a big area of land, between beautiful green grassy hills that begged to be climbed.

The weather, being much further north, was of course much colder and every night we had an open fire burning even though it was the middle of summer!! I wore my ski jacket, scarf and hat and, although possibly overdressed at times, enjoyed the cold weather for a change.

We enjoyed some Scottish culture attending a small town's Junior Highland Games, where we saw highland dancing, tug-of-war and sack races.

We also visited the Queen's Scottish home, Balmoral castle. It is very beautiful!  A nice place for a holiday I think!

Rain slowed our plans at times but we jumped at a break in the rain to walk the hills surrounding the house. There is something just so breath-taking about a cold breeze in your face, water bubbling down the brook, green, rolling hills as far as the eye can see, sheep roaming from place to place keeping a steady eye on your presence, wildflowers waving in the wind, gumboots treading on wet ground, dogs running ahead up the hill and your heart beating steady in your chest as the climb gets steeper and then the view which shows you how high your feet have taken you!

Saying goodbye to Emma, the three of us girls headed to Edinburgh for a few hours before I headed a different direction.

We walked around the city, dizzily climbing a tall monument with 287 steps, while hearing the sound of bagpipes carried on the wind. Plenty of cathedrals and beautiful old buildings, some covered with moss because of the constant wet weather, adorned the city with a huge castle sitting on the edge of the hill.

We parted ways and I was off to Liverpool, which, by the way, was named the New York of Europe, in 1886.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Summer adventures begin in Switzerland!

Grüezi! (Swiss greeting)
My holiday began with a stay with my friend Annette, who is a fellow nurse and friend from the ship.  I woke up, after arriving the evening before, to breakfast laid out on her balcony in the beautiful sunshine. Breakfast with fresh, creamy yoghurt, cereal, soft brown bread and cheese and juicy stone fruit. The sunshine warmed my skin and the breeze was perfect as we gazed out over her shared yard with flowers and children happily playing on the jungle-gym. Yep, this is going to be a great holiday!

Over the next few days we explored Zurich, the Rhine falls and Lucerne, not only admiring the beautiful architecture, cute shops and riverside cafes, but also giggling at the hundreds of tourists with their matching hats or backpacks, big cameras slung around their necks, following their fearless, flag-waving tour guide.


Rhine falls


We spent a gorgeous day hiking the alps, seeing the mountain side covered in green grass and an array of colourful flowers. There were also large patches of snow, some of which still sat as ice in the bright blue lakes.

My friend Annette had also just returned home from 2 months on the ship, so I accompanied her visiting friends and family. My limited German speaking skills were tested as I listened to many conversations, some of which were kindly translated for me, some not and some I understood without translation (which I felt quite proud of!) I discovered that the Swiss often like to eat their main meal in several rounds. I tried and enjoyed many traditional foods and drinks.

After six beautiful, relaxed days, I hopped on a plane to London, sitting next to a chatty eight year old Swiss girl who tested my German and listening skills, but provided a lovely companion for the flight towards my next adventure.


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