Just before Christmas last year, I found out that I was going to have a month’s leave prior to this Easter. With Christmas over, I began to consider what to do with myself during this time off. My children would still be studying and my wife was unlikely to leave them alone for the whole time; perhaps this would be a chance for me to do ‘something significant’ – something that only I would want to do – but what? On a trip to Perth, Australia, between Christmas and New Year, the answer came to me. I’d hired a bicycle for the day and cycled from the city:
to the beach at Fremantle and back again.
It was ‘only’ 40 miles, or so, it took me most of the day and I ached afterwards. However, I’d enjoyed myself so much that I determined on the ride that my ‘something significant’ for my month’s leave would be to cycle from one end of Great Britain to the other – commonly known as ‘Lands End to John O’Groats’, ‘LEJOG’, or ‘The End to End’ . My ‘End to End’ would only require me to cycle approximately double my Perth day’s cycling distance and maintain that for 16 days continuously. OK, it would be during the months of ‘Windy March’ and ‘Showery April’ in UK (not the glorious sunshine of this Western Australian day) but, with 3 months to train and prepare for it, how difficult could that possibly be?……………………..…what a great idea……………………………………………!!!!
Having been called out to go to work on Christmas Day, my spirits were not so merry by the time I got to Perth, in Western Australia, that evening. This photo of the Swan Bell Tower was taken during a very nice sunset and has produced a most acceptable image, but acquiring it did little to lighten my mood that day.
A common means of transport around the islands of the Philippine archipelago is the Banca (or Banka if you prefer). These craft can vary in size from being suitable for just one or two, to large commercial vessels carrying over two-hundred. Regardless of their size they all seem to offer cheap, if not a little noisy and uncomfortable, transport. What is certain however, is that around the coastlines, you are going to be presented with a journey of very pretty views.
Having enjoyed the experience of 72 hours in a historic Indian city, we touched base briefly in Hong Kong in order to change over clothes and collect another daughter, then it was back to the airport for a flight to The Philippines. When we eventually settled at our destination, this was the view that greeted us from the balcony of our rented apartment. The quayside is that at Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro, and it sits at the head of a bay that is supposedly included in the ‘Club of the most beautiful bays in the World’ – it is certainly a most picturesque location
Continuing on the theme of colour, here is another photo from the Shilparamam craft village in Hyderabad. On such a bright and sunny day, the amount and variety of colour that was in abundance throughout this place was almost overwhelming.
Can you beat India for choice when it comes to buying items of fabric in rich and attractive colours? Here at the Silparamam Arts and Crafts Village, it is hard to argue that you can’t!
Falaknuma Palace has been owned by the Nizams of Hyderabad and their descendants since around 1897. Supposedly, the first ‘Palace Guests’ were King George V and Queen Mary and the last official guest was India’s first President, Rajendra Prasad. In the interim years, this Palace hosted many distinguished guests and witnessed many lavish balls and dinners. After 1951 and the decline of the Nizam’s power, authority and wealth, the Palace was closed. At the turn of this century, however, the Palace was leased by the Nizam’s family to the Taj Hotel Group and a 10-year restoration was undertaken. The Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel opened to paying guests in 2010. Just before Christmas this year, we booked in for dinner and were given a tour of the more public parts of the Palace/Hotel. Sitting on a hill 2000 feet above the city of Hyderabad, the Palace is absolutely stunning in both its setting and its opulence. Whilst in its heyday, diners would sit at at the world’s largest, 101-seat dinning table, with each guest attended by their own individual butler and with 450 chefs on hand to prepare their meals. The ‘menu’ was a series of paintings on the 24-carat gold-inlaid ceiling, at which the Nizam would point when he wanted a particular course. Our dinner was a slightly more casual and down-at-heel affair, but still featured some of those dishes favoured by the Nizams….and what a fabulous evening it was. There was a real sense of experiencing part of a gloriously extravagant, over-priveledged class of society and a fascinating period of history.
This photo was taken in one of the smaller, open air, dinning areas of the Palace and, as a result of the long exposure time, presents a ghostly image of butlers and guests. As such, I think it conveys a sense and feel of this Palace’s glorious past.