Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Johnstown Castle

Johnstown Castle is a place we regularly took our small children for a walk. The last few times I have been back in Ireland I have wanted to go back there for a visit and of course take my camera. But with the mad swirl of things to do, people to see, there never was time.
Beautiful grounds
Yesterday, I spent in torpor, a bad start one might think, but maybe a good start to the New Year, actually giving myself permission to be lazy. Today dawned bright and sunny and so I decided to make hay while the sun shines, as they say, and head off. It is just a short drive from Wexford town.
Not quite the 40 shades of green.

 Luckily, for once I checked my camera before heading out the door, no memory card. It was still in the laptop. I also changed the battery. I was all set to go.

It was evident as I turned into the driveway, it is still a popular destination with families, I heard more Polish voices than the familiar drawl of the  Wexford accent. The car park was full and I was lucky to get a space as another car pulled out. There were young families, the little ones bringing their bikes, the dog walkers  and there were some elderly couples

Enjoying the winter sunshine.
It was bright but it was cold. I had no gloves and by the end of the walk my hands were almost numb from holding the camera. In spite of the cold I don't think I have ever seen the place as busy.
The castle

One of the fountains at the castle
Playing with different shutter speeds on the fountain

Here, very season has it's own beauty. I especially love it when the rhododendrons bloom in May, or in the autumn when the ground is littered with the bright colours of the fallen leaves Today the winter trees were reflected in the lake.

Looking back towards the castle from the end of the lake,

The algae breaks the reflection

The building in this picture houses an agricultural museum and the tearooms.

I couldn't decide whether I preferred the colour or the sepia photograph. What do you think?
My girls were all home last week, but are now scattered again, As I walked around the lake in my mind  I heard again, their excited young voices as they fed the ducks and swans and raced their leaf boats in the stream that runs from the lake to a second lake hidden behind the trees.. It may have been over twenty years ago, but it seemed like yesterday.

This is where the girls raced their leaf boats, they went under the concrete "tunnel", First leaf out  the other side was the winner

The swans would not co-operate. I know you shouldn;t take pictures of "go away birds" but they just did not want to look at me....and I hadn;t my zoom lens.

Showing me a "clean pair of heels" though one is a reflection of the other.

If you look carefully, you'll see someone doesn't want to get their feet wet.

Most of all, I smiled as I remember the laughter around the table last week as No 1 daughter put the fear of God into Daughter No 3's boyfriend! Daughter No.3 was bringing him to visit the castle for the first time when the eldest slid it nicely into conversation that the castle is now a great wedding venue. I am not sure boyfriend is ready to plan a wedding yet.
But I can just see the family photos taken on these steps. Ssssssshhh don't tell D. Maybe when the rhodenderons are in bloom. :-)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Beginnings............ again.

Today is the first of January 2017. The weather is a mixed bag here in Wexford, a mixture of sunhine, wind and showers. As I am recovering from a bout of flu I decided not to risk getting wet but instead opened my window, stuck my head out like a dog does in a moving car, and got my breath of fresh air. I am now sitting at the kitchen table having decided to be a little retrospective.

 For many of my friends 2016 was a bad year, several lost loved ones. Many agree the world has gone crazy, the country where I live has undergone traumatic events, bombings, a coup and the devastation of its tourist industry. Many wondered how I could return to Bodrum after a visit back to Ireland last summer. Mum's birthday was July 16th and the only topic of conversation was what on earth was I doing going back to Turkey the following week.

 I explained it was like living in Ireland in the seventies. When foreigners asked about the war, we would look at them in puzzlement and wonder "What war? The penny would drop and we would say "Oh you mean the troubles?" In the south east of Ireland the problems in the North barely touched us. And so it is with life in Bodrum, for the vast majority life goes on as normal.  We still sit outside in the cafes and drink our coffee. I swam in the sea daily until the end of November.

2016 was a very mixed year for me, I spent the early part of it dealng with the frustration  of the broken arm I sustained in Vietnam and wrestled with some major life decisions. On the other hand, I travelled to the Maldives and  Iran and celebrated my Mum's 90th birthday, my daughter's wedding and also that of my nephew, with family and friends. So in many ways it was a year of joy. One friend said to me, she is so tired of the constant negativity expressed daily around her, we still belong to the privileged people, sometimes it is good to shift perspective and remember. This resonates with me. It is easy to become weighed down under the weight of our own and others problems. It is important to shift our perspective and hold onto the joy, the good things and the people who walk beside us and offer to share our load, to remember we are the lucky ones who have choices!

Over the past few days I have had the urge to write again. How long this will last I don't know. I have had this impulse before. and it has fizzled out. I logged onto my blog and found several draft posts from my earlier travels, going back to 2014 all awaiting the addition of photographs. My last post was in October 2015  as I started my travels to Vietnam and Cambodia before I fell and broke my arm.

It is not as if I have been sitting down doing nothing since then, the adventures never stop. I refuse to become an "Altin kiz- golden girl" though my hair and wrinkles belie this. I remain a cilgin kiz. When I did sit, it was to work on my hexipuff quilt, which is now complete...minus a few threads to be tidied up.

Therefore, I have a lot of fodder for my blog. I can't and won't promise what form it will take in 2017 or even if my refound desire to write will continue. However, I promise if it continues it will reflect me, it will probably it will be as disorganised and as messy as my mind.

Like my mind. it will probably wander backwards and forwards, There may be posts from past travels mixed with past and present photos and random musings, including my recent brief stint as a chicken minder, but always the adventures of a cilgin kiz.

After a brief thought that I should  change the title from  The Adventures of Cilgin Kiz. to the Adventures of Altin Kiz, I can tell you now it is not going to happen. While my friend decided instead of sitting in she would go out and dance in the New Year, I will stick my nose out into the wind and breathe in God's good air.

Through the open window, definitely light on the horizion.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Flight.

We flew to Bangkok with Turkish Airlines. Our original plan was to fly to Hanoi separately, Kathleen from Dublin and I from Istanbul. Searching for the best value flights possible, I suggested to Kathleen that she fly to Bangkok return and buy single flights, then on to Hanoi she could then get a return to Bangkok from Siem Ream. It made good sense as multi city flights were coming in around €1000 and the return to Bangkok was €498 return with the flight to Hanoi just under €70.

I planned to fly with Asiana from Istanbul to Hanoi and return with them from Siem Reap. This came in just under €800. Once I knew Kathleen was flying to Bangkok and thinking she might stay a couple of nights, I decided to get the same flight from Istanbul. It would be cheaper again.....or so I thought. But I was wrong. To get on Kathleen's onward flight from Istanbul would cost me €800, €300 more for two flights less. 

I decided to spend the same money as originally budgeted, fly back to Ireland, see Mum and then join Kathleen. Amazing! Four extra flights and almost the same cost as flying from Istanbul,  €800.

Turkish Airlines are a comfortable airline to fly with. The food is good, there is in flight movies and the seats are comfortable. The second leg of our journey from Istanbul to Bangkok took just over 9 hours, I watched several movies, did my knitting. Hurray for bamboo needles, there is no problem bringing them on a flight and knitting both relaxes me and helps me pass the time. The thing I did least of on this flight was sleep even though I was supplied with a "flight kit" from the airline.

Landing reminded me of Ireland. We came down through thick grey cloud. It didnt bode well for the next couple of days.


The Holiday begins.

On Thursday we did a whistle stop tour of Sultanahmet, but not before we had a lazy breakfast on the sixth floor of the And Hotel. Kathleen was in her element, olives and tea on tap, not to mention the wonderful views of the Aya Sofya and The Blue Mosque.
I loved the cloud in this photograph of the Aya Sofya

The Blue Mosque by day

Looking towards Topkapı
We parked our overnight bags in the storage room and set out to see the sites.

As we only had a day, I suggested Topkapı Palace

The gates to Topkapı but who is that lady posing in my photo?

There is so much to see there and it is ideal for a lazy amble. I was pleased to note the short queues. I have been here before and they can snake back for miles. I renewed my museum card, one of the bonuses of having a residency permit. At a cost of 40tl for the basic or 50tl to for the Muze + card you get free entrance to most of Turkey's museums. We also bought the extra tickets to visit the harem. It would be such a waste to visit the Palace and not see the harem.

An inner courtyard in the harem
It was our first stop. I love this building and I find myself transported into another age. The first time I visited here, it was 2006 I think, there were actual guided tours, so much better than the audio guides available now. You can't beat the human touch, someone to answer questions, add the extra bit of information and to crack a joke. I imagine myself living there in Ottoman times.

Comfy places to sit and read.
However, in reality, instead of, as I imagine myself, a beloved wife of the sultan, lounging on cushions, sipping coffee (sorry even in my dreams I can't bring myself to drink tea) I am sure I would have been the poor servant girl, dragging buckets of coal for the fire.....now don't spoil this this fantasy by telling me it was the eunuchs that performed this task.

Doors tiles and domes, you need to look left, right, up and down,

After a wander around some of the other rooms, including the circumcision room,  it was time for coffee overlooking the Bosphorus. These are places I only read about as a child, never dreaming that I would visit them later in life.

The Bosphorus.

The next plan was to visit the Treasury and also the displays of clothes. One look at the queues for these sent us hurrying in the other direction towards the kitchens. We also had a quick run around the Weapons room. I can't imagine how they hefted some of those swords.

With time marching on, we headed for the Blue Mosque. It was Kathleen's first time inside a mosque. It is a beautiful building,  once you have fended off the tour guides and the carpet sellers on the way in and out. Speaking Turkish helps. I found that while they still chatted for a couple of minutes, they quickly gave up on the hard sell.

Inside the Blue Mosque

It was time to return to the hotel, grab our bags and head for the airport! My holiday is about to begin.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Room with a View.

Yesterday, my friend Kathleen and I set off on our big adventure. I had been planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia for over a year. I had planned a solo trip but then Kathleen decided to celebrate a significant birthday by joining me.

We then tweaked the original itinerary, a 17 day/ 16 night tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, a GrabOne Voucher, with the help of the ever patient Mr. Anthony of Go Asia Travel, until we ended up with a glorious 5 week trip of a lifetime.

 On the first leg of our journey, we flew from Dublin to Istanbul. It is Kathleen's first time in the city. Therefore I presented her with her birthday present, a room with a view. Of course this was a "rebound" present as I get to share the room too.

Aya Sofya

The Blue Mosque
Interestingly, I discovered I felt the holiday begins for me tonight when we fly to Bangkok. Flying into Istanbul, I just felt I was coming home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Diary of a Desperate Housewife Part 2. Jak, Reflections and Fly Spots!

Jak has a lot to answer for. He has over twenty people dementedly wandering around praying for a calm day to take photographs of reflections in water,  taking photographs of windows, sunglasses, anything with a reflective surface. Click on the link to see what Annie was up to on Hydra

The pressure is on. At our last photography workshop, Jak went from singing our praises and telling us how wonderful we were to telling us we had disappointed him with our  " Shadow" homework. It wasn't creative enough.

This one passed the test. I "borrowed" the idea from  Darek Grabus, I found it on Pinterest. The original I tried to recreate is here

Shadow or reflection? This is the shadow thrown by a wine glass. I was holding the glass in my hand. I never thought of shadows in terms of  colour so maybe this is a reflection?

I got approached by a member of staff  outside of Carrefour moving these trolleys around to take their photograph. I told him I was doing a photography project so avoided being arrested for being crazy!

It is not our fault if we set the bar so high in the beginning. We were bound to hit a wall somewhere. So we had three weeks to redeem ourselves with our "Reflections" homework.  We were warned to submit good work. He knows what we are capable of. He has seen some of our pictures in mirrors. We were warned not to submit any more. These were not what he is looking for. 

Jak wants reflections in water. It would be good if it would rain, I could do with a puddle or two. I am five minutes from the sea but anytime I have gone there it has been breezy or the sun has been too high. 

I have all the excuses in the world. For two weeks I have been building a garden....not finished by the way. And now I have finally started to spring clean the house. Again doing photography homework for "Portraits" I was horrified to see how the camera exaggerated - not -  the dirt and sand blown onto my windows. My story is, "I am a pensioner and I cannot afford net curtains." After all, there are 10 windows and 5 sets of double patio doors in this house. It is much more cost effective to let the dust build up and stop the neighbours peeping in. That is until visitors come.

So with a visit to Ireland looming, cat sitters coming and Reflections homework to do I decided it was time for the spring clean. In spite of what Jak said about reflections in water - I have a few of those in the archive - I thought I would capture a few reflections in all the glass.

Unfortunately I submitted this one when the topic was trees.

So there is this one, though I have not got the sky right.

My evil grin.
After all windows are not mirrors and I can be creative by how much I angle the window. And it just might mess a little with Jak's head.

Not my door but they are my cats, reflected, if you look carefully. 

Decided to go the whole hog and do a reflected selfie!

Which led me to my present plight. I have successfully cleaned the middle floor of my house, my main living space. Today, the plan was to clean the cat sitter's room, the one which originally called attention to the grimed windows - think in terms of Dickens - and the dust elephants and hippos that gamboled under the bed.

 I am pleased to announce that the hippos have been reduced to bunnies. I know all their secret hangouts and now deal with them on a slightly more regular basis. Which led me to the shutters and the windows. 

Shutters no problem. Water, sponge and Cif had them shining in minutes. The windows should have been no problem. With my trusty Karcher window Vac I should have them dealt with in half an hour. That is about as long as the battery lasts which is good news for me. It gives me time for a leisurely coffee break while waiting for it to recharge.

I would be lost without my Karcher, It cleans windows in a jiffy and insists on being recharged at regular intervals, perfect for those who need a coffee break! Please ignore the colour of the water......and you thought I might be exaggerating!

I started well.  The first window, the offending one from the portrait shoot, was dealt with in minutes. So on to the next one. This is where disaster befell. FLY SPOTS!!

Half way through cleaning I was writing this blog post in my head. I grabbed my phone and snapped a couple of pictures for the post. Those black dots to the side, by the way, are on an electricity pole, they are not the offending spots.

The window is a double window. Amazingly there is not a single fly spot on the left hand pane, whereas the outside of the right hand pane was dotted with them. I tried everything. I soaked them in hot water, I used window cleaner, I used Cif cleaner. I tried gently scraping with a knife, knowing I was likely to scratch the glass. But fly spots? How would I ever capture a clear reflection in the window? Oh dear, Jak will not be pleased.

I swear the window was not this bad. This is just the way the light fell trying to take the photograph with my phone.

  In the end I sat down and googled easy ways to remove baked on fly spots. Believe me they are baked in this heat. It was 29C yesterday, and who knows maybe they are there since last summer...oops did I actually write that. Not true, not true at all.

Consulting Google, I learned that  apart from lots of water and elbow grease there is no easy solution. I also learned the fly specks could be a) fly poo b) fly spit.....after it regurgitates its food or c) be nothing at all to do with flies but shooting spores from the cannon fungus projected on to my windows. To be honest I don't care what causes them. I want to know how to remove them!

I have managed to bleach them from all the household products I sprayed on them, I removed some, I have also slightly scratched the glass in places. At one stage I considered getting a marker and joining the dots. I think it might have made a pretty picture. If there are glow in the dark markers I definitely would have done it. It would have resembled several new constellations. I could drive my visitors mad by telling them I had drawn a map of them for them to locate these constellations in the night sky.

What the window could have looked like, only I didn't fancy cleaning it when the novelty wore off.

This story does not end well. The "fly spots" remain though they are now bleached. I spent over an hour wrestling with one window pane. I have checked my room, it's next on the list and yep, they are on the lower left hand pane of one of the windows there too. So if anyone, anyone, knows of a way to remove them easily please let me know as soon as possible.  There most be a home brew, a natural concoction that can cope with pooing, spitting flies or fungi. The sun is shining, I want to go out and play.

View through the cleaned window. I can't see the fly spots. All occupants of this room will have to look at the view through the camera lens.

The reflection of the opposite hill. Hard to find those bleached fly spots. I might even go back and play with this reflection with my "real" camera, if time allows.

....and the reflection through the other window.

Seriously Jak, instead of saying you have a lot to answer for, I should tell you I am very grateful for all your hard work putting the workshops together.. You are challenging me creatively and also inspiring me to finally clean my house! I hope you are learning to deal with the Irish sense of humour.