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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Dinner (always very important)
30/06/2012, Shanghai

From here we meandered back in search of dinner. Two of the Rough Guide ones did not exist (shame!) so we ended up in a Korean restaurant six floors above the busy Nanjing Dong Lu. (Lu means Road in Chinese. This road, one block up from the hotel, is roughly equivalent to London's Oxford Street.)

It was great fun to barbecue the enormous amounts of meat and fish on the little pot and dip them in a variety of little bowls with mysterious spices. We really must get to grips with Korean cooking.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we're going to find one of the famous Shanghainese spas. In the last few weeks, we've had some lovely trips (Malta,Wales, Greece, Italy, Norfolk) and packed up our house. The new tenants moved in yesterday. So a proper massage and luxuriating seems a good idea, in amongst the explorations.

Places and people
Arrival in China
30/06/2012, Shanghai

Here we are. Wow!

Our hotel is about 0.5km from the world-famous Bund, the riverside road created by the colonial powers. Their palaces and godowns (warehouses) were built along here. Today many are still there, though a large highway seperates them from the raised walkway and the river itself. On the other side is Pudong, where modern Shanghai scrambles upwards in ever more futuristic skyscrapers.

We were exhausted after the long trip. Four hours sleep had made it possible to face the city but wasn't enough for the full onslaught. We walked from the hotel to the Bund as dusk grew. Not that you could tell for sure: a strikingly important feature of Shanghai is the air pollution. It makes the views hazy and burns your throat. Air conditioning is welcome for the cool (it's 34 degrees) and relief from 70% humidity) but most of all to escape the smog.

Enough with the grumpiness! The Bund was thronged with tourists (mostly Chinese) and promenaders. We walked as far as the pier where you can get a ferry across, and then turned back. It was getting dark and the extravagant lights were coming on across the river. It's a bit like the light display of Hong Kong; not (yet) as spectacular but much, much longer. This cruise ship, her masts outlined, came by. In the background you can see the gaudy bauble which is the Oriental Pearl Tower - Shainghai's own TV and telecoms tower completed in 1994.

Places and people
Up up and away
Changing!
29/06/2012, London

Today we fly to Shanghai. Next Friday we arrive in New Zealand.

This year's adventure will not be cruising, thanks to Sarah's finger. So instead we're going to Pip's home country for a while. This gives us a chance to spend time with Pip's mother Beryl and explore NZ a bit. We'll be back, though, with a boat, a business and a house in the northern hemisphere.

We'll be blogging about it all, so keep an eye on the site.

Places and people
Kiwi coffee - simply the best.
26/06/2012, London

One of the features of Kiwi cuisine is bringing together food ideas from those overseas experiences to create something amazing. Some New Zealanders then take pity on benighted places and bring their high standards to bear in their chosen home.

Oh! And the coffee. Those guys really care about good coffee. They don't try and sell it somewhere that already does it well (there are few Kiwi coffee bars in Italy), but London is an obvious target.

Hence OzYour text to link...one, the wonderful new cafe bar attached to the eponymous roastery. It's at 11 Leonard Street, just by Old Street station in London. We have just had the smoothest coffee. With it Pip enjoyed an ace eggs benedict with perfect, fresh hash browns. Sarah's baked eggs were a revelation. Made with a tomato base, including lentils and chickpeas, halloumi floating on top, every mouthful bursting with subtle flavour. This is bunch taken to a whole new level. Plus one of the best cheese scones this side of the Equator. (And good choices for vegetarians too!).

Their home base is in Taraniki, but that may be a long way to go. So if you're in this part of town, looking for good coffee, free wifi and ace food, come by here.

Places and people
Suffolk Pride
Cold and windy
16/06/2012, Ipswich

Pip spent the day scooping ice-cream with our friends of Galley Slaves. It was Pride in Christchurch Park.

The weather sadly kept people away but friends were there and it didn't actually rain. Here's the stand, under the trees. Look out for them next time you're at an outdoor event in this part of the world.

Places and people
Athens at last
06/06/2012, Athens

Sarah had never, to her own dismay, visited Athens. This despite a childhood obsession with the classics and a lifelong interest in the practice of democracy. On the way back from Skyros, we had ten hours in Athens. Thanks to Aegean again checking our luggage through we scarpered for the Acropolis.

Even in June heat and cruise liner crowds, it was a fantastic feeling to walk on the marble of the processional way, to see the curving columns that fool the eye into perceiving straight symmetry, to admire the splendid views and imagine Theseus sailing home to hear his own black sails had betrayed his father to a suicidal leap.

This is the front of the Parthenon as it is today, still in the huge project of conservation and restoration. We then visited the splendid Acropolis Museum, where there are reconstructions of the friezes that would have graced the higher pediments. This end would have shown the great context between Poseidon and Athene for the patronage of the emerging city, flanked by assorted gods and heroes.

The museum is definitely worth a visit. It has lovely views of the temples, and an excellent cafe too.

Places and people
Questions, questions
03/06/2012

John took us the sandstone quarry in use for hundred, maybe thousands of years. The sign, saying Ancient Querry, is its own attraction.

Behind the photographer is a tiny strait to another small island, notorious for shipwrecks. it is deep but a fast current runs through it, and there are little chapels in the querry and on the facing island.

Skyros may have a tiny population but they've been there a long time, so the bones of the dead mount up. It's also very rocky and land suitable for digging is too precious to use for large grave yards. Until quite recently, the solution was to exhume the old bones but instead of an ossuary, to throw them into this narrow strait. Presumably the bones get swept away in the current as the water hasn't got shallower.

Places and people
Threshing
03/06/2012, Skyros

Skyros is home to a native breed of tough and muscular diminutive pony standing about 1m, or 10 hands high. They're struggling back from the brink, partly helped by tourist interest. In the old days, before mechanisation, the early harvest was threshed by laying the corn out in a circle, rounding up some ponies and driving them round in a line of three of four.

John took us on a trip around the island, and by luck we found a display of the technique. Several of the participants were wearing traditional dress. The driving is a skilled job, as the ponies roam wild across the hills and see little of humans the rest of the year. They're too small for anyone but children to ride, but you do see other ponies being trekked. That would be fun in the cooler months of the year.

The trip also took us to Rupert Brookes' grave, away to the south. The simple marble is enclosed by an low iron palisade, and the base is engraved with lines from 'If I die, think only this of me'. The grave sits in an grove, under trees, with a trickle of admiring visitors but otherwise presides over a setting of romantic nostalgia befitting the man's poetry and beliefs.

Places and people
Belated blogging (all will become clear!)
Hot, sunny, yummy!
29/05/2012, Skyros island

On 29 May we flew to Greece. This journey, compared to our Malta experiences, went very smoothly. Aegean Airlines did us proud and even took our baggage straight through to Skyros. Our only excitement was self-inflicted, when we forgot to make sure that our Heathrow duty free champagne was secured for transit and had an emergency and heated discussion with security at Athens domestic departure gate.

Why the champagne? Come this September Pip's twin brother has a big 50 birthday. We won't be getting together then, so this trip was partly an early celebration. What was as important was our chance to spend some real time with John and Zoe's three month son, Felix. Pip was ecstatic with her first chance to feed him. Thanks to J & Z for being such generous and loving parents with their gorgeous boy.


Places and people
The sea eats away at the rocks
Cool, breezy, beautiful
15/05/2012, Skrinkle, the far west of Wales

Our dear friends Wendy and Graham moved off their boat Vencedor for a new adventure in a house. They bought a project in Pembroke Dock and have turned it into a comfortable home complete with hibernaculum for slow worms.
Today, they've begun showing us round this remote and lovely corner of the country. Pembrokeshire is a home for Celtic Christianity, with rounded crosses and rock-bound hermitages to be found. We walked a short distance of the Pembrokeshire coastal path (apparently 186 miles long) at Skrinkle. The very edge of the Atlantic meets the fierce limestone here, carving archways and clefts to inspire speculation.

Places and people
Different Bays
Sunny, calm, but cool
13/05/2012, Penarth, South Wales

This spectacular view is across Cardiff Bay to the new developments around the Millennium Centre. The centre itself is the big copper curve in the middle, with the hotels and shopping area to the left, various other official buildings to the right, and the hills behind.
We are staying with our old friends Jenny and Liz in their splendid new house, with this spectacle from all the north facing windows, including our bedroom. It's a never changing panorama, with boats, ferries, the wind playing with the water and clouds passing overhead. On a clear day you can see the Severn Bridge some 25 miles away. The English coast of Somerset is 7 miles across the grey water.
It's lovely to see our friends, and remember what a friendly, bustling city is Cardiff. Penarth is full of cultural life and yet has the calm pace of a small town.
After a previous blog and email we realised that lots of friends are at different places in knowing our plans. For those who don't know, Sarah fell and dislocated a finger in February. Trivial though this sounds it has turned out to be major problem, as she cannot hold a rope securely. Originally we hoped it would be good to go by now, but it isn't, being still swollen and painful (some of the time) and weak. The doctors say it may be ok by July.
Our plans are therefore still changing, but we are not back to our sailing life, more's the pity. The silver lining is the chance to visit friends and support the UK economy with all that domestic tourism we are exhorted to enjoy. This is travelling - hence blogging.
For those of you who don't know, Sarah also keeps another blog at www.sarahtanburn.wordpress.com. That's more about writing, art, and the opportunity to have an occasional policy rant. Today's post will be about a photo exhibition we went to here in Penarth.

Places and people
The Ladies of Valetta
Still hot and sunny
03/05/2012

Today was a day off from boat work. We took the water ferry across Marsamxett harbour to Valetta. (Oh, the joy of even five minutes actually afloat and the clear horizon glimpsed through the crabclaw points where the capital nearly touches Sliema.)
The tiny, fortified city is austere and controlled, as befits its foundation by warrior monks. Behind the strict fa├žade and trompe d'oeile ceilings of a knightly auberge are the treasures of different eras in Malta's rich Museum of Archeology. The oldest stone buildings in the world are found on these tiny islands, and within them some of the oldest human figurines. They are women.
These are women who have given birth, with rich hips and nipples which point proudly to the floor. Many are headless, for the heads were made separately and got lost. Or maybe the heads were destroyed in some unknown funerary rite. After 6,000 years it's impossible to know the behaviour of a cult which had no writing. This sleeper, who may of course be dead, still bears marks of red ochre, and so we can imagine she was rich in colour as well as form and dignity.
Afterwards, we had a rather good lunch of pizza and spare ribs. In the afternoon sunshine, we watched a small girl playing grandmother's footsteps with the fountains outside the President's Palace. Valetta is not yet too hot or too crowded so early May is a good time to be here.

Places and people

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