Sunday, May 29, 2011

North to South; West to East

A very brief catchup on my travels...

Cotswold Way Walk, UK
On 3 May (was it only a few weeks ago?!), Jo and Tony and I met up in Stratford Upon Avon to start our walk along the beautiful Cotswold Way, south from Chipping Camden to Bath for 160 kilometres through woods and up and down rolling hills. We had a fabulous time. Stayed in B&Bs and pubs in Stanton, Cleeve Hill, Little Witcombe (where great pals Peter and Amanda and daughter Elizabeth met me for dinner), Middle Yard, North Nibley, Tormarton and Bath. Our lodgings ranged from 4 star to 1 star, but the breakfasts were always good.

We celebrated reaching Bath by having a cream tea at the famous Pump Room. We have a couple of ideas for next year's walk. I'll look forward to it, and to spending more quality time with Tony and Jo.

Saw Suzie again back in Thames Ditton before catching a cab into London and over the London Bridge to City Airport for my commuter flight to Luxembourg.

I spent four days here. The first two were spent mainly at the Islamic Financial Services Board annual summit. I edit the standards produced by the IFSB. Good to see Abdullah Haron (we had a meetup in Kuala Lumpur in January), Isma and Erni from KL.

I walked around the old town and checked out the fabulous art gallery, designed by IM Pei. The city was *very* quiet over the weekend. I worked and went to see a couple of films. I was ready to leave by the Monday.

Loved Berlin! Very user-friendly city, with so much to see and learn. It's on my list of places to return to and maybe spend a couple of months. I checked out a number of museums, including the Berlin Wall one at Checkpoint Charlie, just near my hotel in the former East Berlin area called Mitte. Ran under the Brandenburg Gate and in the Tiergarten. Fabulous to spend a few days with Di and Ron, friends from the week I spent in Ubud, Bali, when I first left Oz on 24 May last year. We spent one morning seeing another side of Berlin through the eyes of photographer and documentary filmmaker Jonnek Jonneksson (Ron's birthday present to Di). Di and I also saw a fantastic 3D film by Wim Wenders about Pina Bausch, the German choreographer. Stunning.

Ate lots of great Vietnamese food, and German chocolate from Fassbinder & Rausch. Also had dinner with Abdullah, who had flown in after returning to KL from Luxembourg the week before.

I arrived in Singapore on Wednesday this week from Berlin via Frankfurt. Caught up with Betty from Towers Watson, and for lunch with Janis and Joel from John Wiley. Also managed to get to a good hairdresser for the first time in ages! Had dinner on Friday at Clarke Quay with Dead Runner pal Ellen (from Ho Chi Minh City, where she and I had dinner in late 2009). We took part in the Sunset Marathon last night, which started at 10 pm. For a number of reasons we decided even before we had started that we would pull out at the halfway turnaround. I walked the half in 3.5 hours and was back at my hotel by about 2.30 am.

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Kuching :-))

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Catching up with friends in the UK

I stayed in Thames Ditton with Suzie and her family. (We last caught up in August in Alnwick, just before the Coast to Coast walk.) Fun to see her again so soon. Our great pal Deb, from our Helena May days, came over to spend the morning watching the royal wedding. I hadn't seen Deb since about 1989. Fabulous to see her again. She's mad for dogs and has got her pilot's licence.

On Saturday I took the train to Exeter in Devon to meet up with Linda (last visited in 2007) and her sister Pam. I met Pam in Sydney in 1994 after I moved back to Oz from Hong Kong. We spent a great four hours or so talking and checking out some op shops for gear for my Cotswold Way walk.

On Sunday, Suzie and David drove me up to Stratford-upon-Avon, to meet with Jo. Jo was one of our group that did the Coast to Coast walk. On Monday we drove over to Warwick for lunch, and for Jo to have a Reiki massage session. On Tuesday I worked, before we met up with our pal Tony for the start of the Cotswold Way walk in Chipping Campden.

Great pals Peter and Amanda were also able to meet up during the walk near Cheltenham ...

Anzac Day, Gallipoli

I spent 18 hours on the Gallipoli Peninsula, from about 8.30 pm on 24 April to early afternoon the next day, attending the Anzac Day dawn service at North Beach (next to Anzac Cove) and the Australian (at Lone Pine) and New Zealand services. So many people attend these now, it's a huge logistical exercise. Once you cross the Dardanelles on the car ferry, there's no way out except by the bus you came in on anywhere from 18 to 21 hours later. It was very moving having some knowledge of what happened there between 25 April 1915 and the evacuations at the end of that year, but I hated the whole experience of being corralled and herded about for all those hours, and of feeling chilled to the bone during the night. Was it *really* necessary to deposit us there eight hours before the dawn service?

I was very relieved when it was all over. I left Canakkale the next day and took a bus to Tekirdag, on the western shore of the Sea of Marmara in a region that used to be known as Thrace. I stayed the night there before heading back to Istanbul the next day. The following day I flew to London.