Carrickfergus

Travelling north from Belfast, we followed the coast to Carrickfergus, hoping to explore the magnificent Norman castle perched on the northern edge of Belfast Lough.

1.east side & keep

We were once again disappointed to find, not only was it closed for the winter season, the imposing entrance was covered, undergoing restoration.

2.entrance under repair3.west side

In 1177, Sir John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight, decided he wanted some lands for himself. He gathered a small army and headed to northern Ireland. After a few battles along the way, he conquered eastern Ulster and built the castle as his headquarters. Strategically placed, surrounded almost entirely by water, the fortress has withstood invasion by the Scottish, Irish, English and French over the centuries. No wonder there is always someone on guard.

4.soldier

We would have liked to wander around the castle and the historical displays that are housed within. We had to settle for a glimpse of the 17th century cannons just visible along the battlements.

5.cannons6.cannon

Seseh village

Our villa accommodation on the west coast of Bali was nestled adjacent to the tiny fishing village of Seseh. One morning, we walked the short distance to have a closer look at our neighbours. The main street was quiet at that hour of the morning,

1.main road

the children heading off to school.

2.off to school

We passed colourful shrines

3.shrine

and regal roosters

4.rooster

on our way to the centre of the village. Like most villages in Bali, Seseh practices the daily rituals of the Hindu faith. We awoke each morning at 6am to the pre-recorded call to prayer, repeated again at 6pm. There appeared to be so many beautiful temples in the village, it was hard to discern if it was one very large temple or numerous smaller ones.

The detailed carvings and decorations were magnificent.

At the edge of the village, we reached the beach.

18.Seseh Beach

Revered by the Balinese as a sacred beach, Seseh had a relaxing sense of tranquility.

22.Seseh beach

If I lived in Bali, I would like to live in this house.

24.house Seseh Beach

We wandered back through the village, the landscaped gardens

25.village street

a sharp contrast to rural life.

26.village life

The imposing stone gateway at the entrance to the village marked the end of our excursion.

27.village gates

Montepozzo

We have finally settled back into life in Tasmania after four wonderful weeks in Italy. I would normally write about our travels from the beginning of the trip but we were so enamoured with the gorgeous farmhouse we stayed in for our last ten days, I couldn’t wait to share it. I could just give you the link to the website because there are so many beautiful photos of the property. Chances are, just like me, you would be thinking, “there is no way this place can be this good.” It was. We received directions and information weeks before we left from host, Jacque, and had no trouble finding the gate. Although close to a town, the rural setting is very private and peaceful.

1.sign

Arriving at the property,

2.driveway arriving

we followed the instructions and drove around to the back of the house where we tooted the horn loudly.

3.exterior front4.exterior side5.exterior back6.exterior back7.exterior back

We were greeted by Molly the dog and host, John, who kindly helped us with our bags.

8.loggia arriving

After an introductory tour, we were left to unpack and wonder at the magnificent surroundings we were to enjoy for the next ten days. The living area was light and spacious, capturing the sun at every angle throughout the day.

9.sitting room

Just off the dining area, the well equipped kitchen was a pleasure to work in.

10.kitchen

The bedrooms were inviting, the main has an ensuite

11.main bedroom

and down the hallway

14.hallway

are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Once we had settled in, Jacque welcomed us with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco, we wasted no time opening it to share. We really felt at home, surrounded by family treasures and beautiful furnishings.

The afternoon sun filled the loggia, the perfect venue to partake of aperitivo.

30.view from loggia

Come for a walk around the garden.

31.loggia steps

There was so much to explore, a cave with spectacular phosphorescent lichen, I admired from the outside.

44.cave

The shed was a work in progress, a fabulous project for the future perhaps,

45.shed

to complement the finishing touches on the exterior of the house.

46.exterior side

We didn’t get the opportunity to dine under the vines, perhaps next time?

55.vines

Let me introduce you to Molly, a delightful bundle of energy who was a very welcome addition to the package.

Thank you Jacque, John, Alex & Molly for the very special memories, we hope to meet again…..Salute!

59.wine time

http://montepozzo.it/

Belfast

We had a lot of ground to cover after leaving Newcastle, and so spent only a brief time in Belfast. The inclement weather didn’t encourage us to explore too far but what we did see was extraordinary. Founded in 1868, this fabulous wedge-shaped building was originally called the Shakespeare, the clientele mostly from the theatre. We should have ventured inside Bittles Bar but it was a bit early for a pint, even for us. The traditional Victorian Bar is apparently adorned with interesting artwork and portraits of Ireland’s literary and sporting heroes.

1.Bittles Bar

Adjacent to Bittles Bar was a rather ornate bright yellow drinking fountain. The Jaffe Memorial fountain was erected in 1874 by Otto Jaffe, Belfast’s first and only Jewish Lord Mayor, to commemorate his father. Daniel Joseph Jaffe was a merchant from Hamburg who came to Belfast in 1850 and set up a linen export business. He was quite the philanthropist, funding the building of Belfast’s first synagogue and Otto followed in his footsteps, giving much to the community. This is without doubt the most spectacular drinking fountain I have ever seen.

2.Jaffe Memorial fountain

I did not expect to see a giant Ferris wheel in the centre of the city. Belfast’s answer to the London Eye, the Belfast Wheel opened in 2007. There was much controversy over the location of the wheel, it had been built around and on top of the Titanic Memorial on the grounds of Belfast City Hall. Following objections from the Belfast Titanic Society and the Environmental Agency, the Belfast Wheel closed for business in April 2010.

3.The Belfast Wheel

The criticism was based on the location, not the wheel itself, it had proved to be a great tourist attraction. It did seem out of place next to the majestic City Hall for which planning began in 1888 after Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria and construction was completed in 1906. Built mainly from Portland stone, it covers an area of one and a half acres. The four copper-coated corner towers and central dome are the distinctive green seen on other Victorian buildings.

4.Belfast City Hall

The 53 metre lantern-crowned central dome dominates the city skyline.

5.Belfast City Hall

There was so much more to see in Belfast, we may have to return one day.

Bali Elephant Camp

Although there is some controversy about the keeping of elephants for the entertainment of tourists, it was something I wanted to see for myself. Bali Elephant Camp is home to a herd of Sumatran elephants, brought to Bali as part of a government program in 2004. The aim was to establish a protected remote population, to care for the elephants and promote the plight of these beautiful creatures. A declining natural habitat and the sickening actions of poachers has seen the Sumatran elephant population decrease by 70 percent in the past two decades. I was surprised by the distance from ground to back of elephant and the rocking gait took a while to get used to.

2.starting out

Our pachyderm was named Ari. He gently swayed his way along the path

3.down the path

guided by his personal mahout with the twitch of the rope and a whispered word.

4.nice hat

We stopped briefly, very glad we weren’t following behind.

5.when you've gotta go...

With a lighter load, we continued through gardens

before the landscape became a verdant, tropical jungle.

10.jungle

13.jungle

The nerves were jangling as the path neared the edge of the precipitous valley, hoping our mount was as surefooted as he appeared.

14.jungle15.jungle

At the end of the thirty minute trek, Ari cooled off in the wading pool while we remained high and dry.

16.cooling down

Returning to home base, Ari posed for a couple of photos

before enjoying some delicious fresh fruit and vegetables.

It was time for us to do the same, lunch at the restaurant didn’t disappoint.

23.restaurant

An afternoon downpour was very welcome and alleviated some of the heat.

24.afternoon shower

These elephants are well fed and well cared for and the funds raised from riding these magnificent creatures help protect their wild cousins in their native habitat in Sumatra. I know there are two sides to every story and this may not be the life an elephant should be living but it is far better than this.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/erin-the-elephants-plight-casts-spotlight-on-conservation-in-indonesia