Time and Travel


Have you ever noticed how time seems to warp while you’re travelling?  I’m leaving today for our short break in Betws-Y-Coed in Wales and I’ve reached that crazy, frustrating point where I’ve realised I’m just not going to get everything done before I go. Oh well, such is life.  I’m looking forward to four days without Internet access and with lots of castle-hopping, reading and hill climbing.

See you all in July!

This photo was taken in one of the restaurants in Heathrow airport.  It was a gorgeous restaurant and I loved the design and style of it.  It was a lovely nod to the golden age of aviation. 

The Scottish Town of Pitlochry

Athol Road Pitlochry

On the third day of our trip to Scotland last year, we headed up to the beautiful town of Pitlochry.  As you enter Pitlochry and drive past the Bells distillery, you can’t help but notice how beautiful it is up there.  No matter which direction you look in, there is always a glimpse of the Highlands in the corner of your eye.  Pitlochry has a distinctive style of architecture (the Scots Baronial Style) and we were treated to many rounded turrets and gothic looking fa├žades. 

The Scottish Town of Pitlochry

It is safe to say that I loved the architecture and scenery so much in Pitlochry that I went a bit crazy with the photographs.  I’d love to put up each and every photo individually and wax on about how beautiful it is up there but I’ll spare you.  Click on any of the images for an enlargement.

Pitlochry Scotland

Pitlochry is less than an hour’s drive away from where we were staying at Loch Monzievaird near Crieff and it is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on.  Our main reason for driving this way was so that we could visit the Heathergems Visitor Centre and Factory Outlet Shop.

HeathergemsFactory Shop Pitlochry and Old Pitlochry East Church

Above the Heathergems outlet you can see the old Pitlochry East Church which has since been converted into nine swanky apartments and is now known as John Stewart Court.  John Stewart was a famous visionary and Pitlochry resident, known for establishing Pitlochry Festival Theatre which still runs today.

Scottish Heather

Heather (Calluna vulgaris) grows all over the hills and highlands of Scotland.  It has a limited lifespan though and after a couple of years, the heather becomes woody and has little nutritional value to grouse or other animals.  This is what the people from Heathergems harvest and by doing so, they enable new heather to grow and the land to become fertile again.

The Making of Heather Gems in Pitlochry

They collect, cut and clean the heather and then dye it with natural dyes.  Red, green, purple and yellow dye are primarily used.  The heather is then compressed into big blocks which are cut into slices.  Shapes are cut out of the slices which are then polished and lacquered to produce the most colourful and beautiful jewellery.

 The Making of Heather Gems

The jewellery and accessories are surprisingly affordable, considering the skill and artistry that goes into making them.  You can see the whole collection of their products at the Heathergems online shop.

Victorias Coffee Shop and Restaurant

After Heathergems, we relaxed for a while in Victoria’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop.  The most intriguing aspect of this restaurant is that they elevate the drinking of tea to a form of art and they had a huge variety of speciality teas.  I somehow managed to restrain myself from stealing one of their menus but the quote on the back of the menu above reads, “Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time, the comforts of solitude and the pleasure of company”.

Church of Scotland Pitlochry

Pitlochry is a beautiful old Victorian town and I can see why it was such a popular tourist destination in the Victorian age.  We only spent a day there but I could easily imagine spending a whole week there, going on long walks in the surrounding hills and browsing in the speciality shops.

Glimpses of Pitlochry

Out of all the towns we visited in Scotland, Pitlochry was my favourite.  If you do visit, be sure to look out for the Sweeney Todd barbershop in the photo above.  (You just have to love the Scottish sense of humour).  The barbershop is next to a butchers where I bought the best Scotch pie I have ever tasted in my life.  Yum.

Pitlochry War Memorial

Closer Than Ever or A Million Miles From Home?

As an expat, people often ask me whether I get homesick or miss the people back home in South Africa.  I often tell them that I don’t really, because platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it feel as though we have simply carried on chatting everyday, and I still get to share in births, engagement parties, dinner parties and annual holidays.  I tend to go home for the weddings!

To mark their 100th birthday, Nivea have commissioned psychologist Professor Geoff Beattie to conduct research into how social media affects levels of closeness in Britain.  It is an interesting study and they hypothesise that far from encouraging shallow and meaningless relationships, the relative anonymity of the Internet encourages us to share more with others and therefore, we become closer. 

So when I see photos of my friends on Facebook, it is as good as catching up over a cup of tea and because the Internet encourages me to share more about myself, I become closer with the people I interact with.  When friends ‘like’ or comment on something I post, they are responding to me which in turn fosters positive regard and mutual understanding.

Having been somewhat interested in social research in university, I certainly can see where they’re going with this but I initial reaction was “yes, but…”

It all immediately made me think of this photo.  This was taken at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg in March 2007.  My brother has been living in England for a year and was returning home for a holiday.  That gleeful person there hugging him is me.  I was overjoyed to see him and more importantly, to actually see him in person.

No matter how much we share online and how we connect with each other, nothing can beat being with people in person.  We’re human beings which means we’re basically intelligent animals.  We need to be with people, to hear their voices and to touch them.  It is not just family either.  I try as hard as I can to email my friends back home but fifteen minutes spent watching the sun set in Johannesburg in December meant more to us than two whole years spent emailing and following each other on Facebook.

So, what do you think?  Is the Internet the way of the future where we can spread out across the globe and come to a point where physical interaction is engineered out of us?  Or do we need physical interaction as much as we need air and water?

Perhaps it is simple as discarding our cynicism and doubts and appreciating every single bit of intimacy and friendship we can get, no matter what the source?  It might not be as good as seeing them in person, but as an expat, I would be lost with Facebook, Twitter, email and this blog.

Secret London: Stepping into Cambridgeshire

When we arrived at Ely Place, we were half way through our Secret London photo walk. We began West of St Paul's and continued past the old Smithfield Market before arriving at Ely Place.

Ely Place

Ely Place is a private road belonging to the Crown and this is why it has a gate and guards. The public are allowed to enter, however, and when you do, you technically step into the county of Cambridgeshire. That is because Ely Place was originally the town house of the Bishops of Ely and Ely is in Cambridgeshire.  That is why we took the photo below of Kathy standing with one foot in Cambridgeshire and one foot in the City of London.  Just in case you are wondering, the counties of Essex and Hertfordshire lie side by side above London and you would need to pass through them to reach Cambridgeshire.

St Etheldreda Ely Place

Inside Ely Place lies St Etheldreda’s Church which was the town chapel of the Bishops of Ely from about 1250 to 1570.   According to the St Etheldreda website, it is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of only two remaining buildings in London from the reign of Edward I.

Ye Olde Mitre Ely Place

It was getting cold and dark by the time we found Ye Olde Mitre pub which is certainly the most hidden and secret pub in London.  It is just off Ely Place, down Ely Court.  We enjoyed a couple of half-pints of lager and some toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, which tasted incredible after we’d been exploring London for 3 hours.

Gresham College Barnards Inn

Feeling warmer and refreshed after our trip to the pub, we technically left Cambridgeshire, crossed over Holborn and came to Kathy’s favourite place along the whole walk: Gresham College.  Gresham College is housed in the last remaining building of the 15th-century Barnard’s Inn. 

Gresham College London

Established in 1597 to teach the illiterate masses, Gresham College is a unique college that offers free lectures to the public. They cover a fascinating range of subjects including history, politics, music and medical science but unfortunately, none were on when we visited.

We crossed through Gresham College and exited into Fetter Lane where we encountered the statue of John Wilkes, ‘A Champion of English Freedom’.

John Wilkes Champion of English Freedom

John Wilkes stood up to the government when they had declared him an outlaw and convicted him of libel for pieces that appeared in his satirical newspaper, The North Briton.  He was deprived of a seat in parliament on the basis that he was imprisoned and later campaigned successfully for the right of newspapers to publish verbatim reports of House of Commons debates.  

Maughan Library Kings College formerly the Public Record Office

We walked behind the Maughan Library which is the main library of King’s College London.  Built between 1851 and 1858, this neo-Gothic building is the former house of the Public Record Office and is a Grade II Listed Building.

Dr Johnsons House

We then made our way into Gough Square where we found the home of Doctor Samuel Johnson.  Dr Johnson is famous for compiling the Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 which was the pre-eminent English Dictionary until the Oxford English Dictionary was published 150 years later.  You can visit Dr Johnson’s House for an entrance fee of just £4.50 but we decided not to visit on this occasion.

Johnsons Court home of Samuel Johnson

Dr Johnson’s cat, Hodge, is equally famous and you can see his statue in the top, left corner above.  He was immortalised in James Boswell's Life of Johnson and was notable simply for being awesome (as are all cats).  The curator’s house adjoining the Dr Johnson’s house is visible in the top, right corner.  It is said to be the smallest house in the city and it is indeed minute.

You might need to click on the photo above to enlarge it, but the Oxo Tower is just visible in the distance in the photo above, bottom right.

In the next instalment of the Secret London Walk, we’ll visit Whitefriars, Blackfriars and finally end up back at St Paul’s Cathedral.