The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

The blog that's full of discussion, advice, travel and ramblings!

Category: Holiday

North Atlantic Adventure: Prince Edward Island

I’m half way through my two week adventure as i head to the wonderful Island of Prince Edward Island. A great part of my trip with fantastic weather, sunsets, views and friendly people!

Charlottetown not Charlotte’s town as I was calling it for most of my trip is a place for some unknown reason I’ve always wanted to visit. Not just the town but the island itself, the island that is known as P.E.I (Prince Edward Island). I’d love to say it was down to an advert where I was captivated by the deep red cliff and sands of the Island, the abundance of sea wild life and the stories of the many lighthouses dotted around the place. I’d love to say it was due to the famous book Anne of Greengables for which this island is most famed for but no neither of them. While I’d seen adverts, my curiosity and desire to visit this place was almost innate, a draw to this island for no particular reason. It certainly wasn’t the book, I only heard about it when I was doing my research for what tours to take while on the island and despite visiting her house on this trip, I’m still very unclear what it is about the book that has captured the hearts and minds of so many!

Today was a pretty long travelling day as I head south from St. John’s. Awaiting me was a 2 and a half hours flight to Halifax before waiting for an hour to catch a 30 minute flight on a teeny tiny plane across the Gulf and into the Island that is Prince Edward Island. More on that flight later!  The short taxi ride to the airport the skies continued to be grey and the thermometer hovered between 2 and 3 degrees above freezing. Before I left the hotel I checked the weather in Charlottetown, a lovely 25c! That weather was to stay for the rest of the week and was going to be in the 28’s in Toronto. Lovely! As a Brit we rarely get anything above 17c after the first week in September and after spending the past two days in -5 wind chill I was certainly looking forward to blue skies and warm sunshine.

The flight from St. John’s to Halifax was just as beautiful as my flight over, passing over tiny islands and plenty azure blue water. After a quick club sandwich in the airport café I went down and waited for my flight. I was super excited about this short hop over the Gulf for one reason….a reeeeaallly small plane! Jets are great and all but there is a thrill about getting a plane that only holds ten people and it’s so small there is no door to the cockpit so you can see right out of the front! That’s a very rare thing in today’s high security aviation world. Getting up close to the plane, the co-pilot greeted you at the door and this is an experience you just don’t get in the UK anymore and I couldn’t wait for those engines to spool up.

The flight was boarded up quickly and I watched as the propellers began to turn and the vibrations messaged my seat. It was quite the sight to see the pilots working through their checklists just before take-off. The noise on take-off was quite simply, deafening! I’ve been on many loud planes before, heck I’ve been hanging out of the back of a C-130 Hercules over the Bristol Chanel in my RAF cadet days and I thought that was loud but it was nothing compared to the ear splitting pitch of a Beech 1900D on take-off. If you ever do happen to find yourself on one of these tiny planes bring ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones, your ears will thank you for it! That to me though just added to the excitement of it all, real old school flying but I know it won’t be for everybody. Flying so low and slow across to the Island was a real treat and I greatly enjoyed what felt like a mini private flight.

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Like flying over the amazon!

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Upon landing I thought they had landed at a local flying club rather than an airport but no this was P.E.I’s airport. Again, tiny. Advantages of that is I was waiting for a taxi with my bag 4 minutes after getting off the plane. As the airport is so small there was only taxi and the next was not going to arrive for another 10 minutes but “more were on the way” I was assured by a woman who I’m pretty sure offloaded my bags and was checking people in! Behind me in the queue where two Canadian businessmen with their brief cases talking about if they’d make the start of their conference in time, I turned to them and offered them to take the next cab rather than me as I was in no particular rush at all. They declined politely and instead asked where I was heading and if I was visiting judging by my accent. I explained about my travels and he welcomes me to his Island and says jump in the cab with us and I’ll make sure the driver drops you off at your hotel first, you’re a guest to Canada I’ve got it. What a lovely gesture! Turns out they’re JCB type truck owners and there is a big conference at one of the hotels on the island in Charlottetown where I was heading. He was one of the biggest sellers on the island and it was really cool chatting to both of them! They both had family in Missagura where my family live and they had family from England so it was nice swapping stories for the 20 minute drive into the town. I shook their hand and thanked them as I departed the cab and walked into my very grand hotel which was apt considering it was called the Holman Grand. It was fancy! Check-in was a breeze and I headed up to my very comfy and lovely room which had a super view!

I dropped my bags off into the room, grabbed a shower then headed out for something to eat and grab somethings for the room and for tomorrow’s tour. As always I just head out aimlessly to explore a new location. I wanted to head towards their waterfront as I had read there was a nice boardwalk that went around this part of the Island, so off I went. It was late afternoon by time I had arrived the warmth felt so lovely after such a cold few days! Every street I turned onto I felt I had to take a picture of. Yet again this was a place like no other, a common theme on this trip. This place had captured my heart instantly. From the amazingly presented quaint old wooden houses, to the bright flowers to the old gas lamps to the friendliness of the people I was blown away. Everyone said hello. Everyone. Young or old it didn’t matter. It had that small village feel to it despite it being a town, quite possibly the prettiest town I’ve ever been in that’s for sure.

After a few pictures and walk along the waterfront I ended up on the main high street which was oddly full of red bricked buildings, something I really did not expect to see. I shouldn’t have been so surprised with this being the oldest part of Canada, in fact this place is exactly where Canada as a nation was born! Lights hung across the street, flowers and manicured vines went up the side of buildings, bunting fluttered in the wind. Simply stunning. I wandered into an Irish bar called the Old Dubliner which to be fair to them actually looked and had the vibe of an Irish pub. After a whiskey or two and a steak I was suitably refuelled. If you find yourself in Charlottetown which I hope you do, I fully recommend it! I stopped off at a convenience store before I headed back to my room. I was going to relax and have a quiet evening after all the travel but I noticed some clouds around and they were beginning to change colour. I had a great feeling about the weather and had that photographers feeling that this sunset would be good. I slipped my shoes back on, packed my camera gear and headed towards Victoria Park that hugged the water via a boardwalk just outside of the city. It was only a short walk and I was ultimately captivated by it all. It was so incredibly peaceful and Mother Nature gave me one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever had the pleasure to have seen. The birds chirped, owls hooted, the waves lapped the shore. A moment in time I’d love to replay constantly. Ultimate at peace with the world, yourself and everything!

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P.E.I Sunset

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I had my tripod set up and people kept saying hello, chatting about the sunset and two people came next to me to ask about camera settings. All locals, all incredibly friendly. I cannot express enough how warm everyone was I have never and I don’t think ever will visit such an incredibly friendly city as here. The walk back to the hotel as night fell was surreal. Walking through leafy gas lamp lit streets as the moon rose above the city. I stopped on the corner of a street and just paused for a second. I had fallen in love with this place and I felt like I had come home. I had no idea why I’d always wanted to visit this place but here I was thousands of miles away from home in a place that had captured me like no place other. I was home. It felt like a part of me needed to come here and here I was. I’ve heard stories of people saying they’ve found their place in the world or reciting stories of places that they’ve left a part of themselves in. I’ve loved many places I’ve visited but I always thought that was people being melodramatic. Now I understood. If I was to ever move to Canada, it would certainly be this place and I have missed it every day since I left!

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Nice sunny day on P.E.I

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After a great sleep and breakfast the next morning I headed out onto a pre-booked tour. It was me, a guy from Australia, a mum and daughter from Oxford and two old American couples. One of which was so incredibly loud and for some reason the guy decided to befriend me. He was this giant of a man called Bob Johnson from Chicago. He was so loud! I got talking to him while we waited for the bus to arrive and he loved Victorian England history and visited “CornWaaaall” where his wife’s family lives every other year. He decided to refer to me as “Hey England” for the entire 6 hour tour. I didn’t mind, he was funny and cool and his wife was just as mental. I would say mental but realistically they were just American. The tour took me to a little shop in the middle of the Island that made a variety of Jams and Chutneys. They had so many and I was well full after trying so many samples! After a short drive we headed up North to the area of Cavendish where the famous red cliffs and sands are before visiting and having an hour around Anne of Greengables house.

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Anne’s House

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Lovely setting and this was the reason everyone was on the tour. For me it meant nothing so I just explored the forest instead! After there we stopped at a few fishing ports and learnt about the Lobster quotas and listened to a local fisherman explain how they catch them before heading back to the city. The tour guide Roddy MacLaine was a fantastic tour guide. So much so I asked if he did private tours and he did. I gave him some cash and he said he’d take me on a tour of the Island tomorrow! That evening I went and tried out some Fish and Chips which was very good but not as good as St. John’s before taking some fantastic sunset pictures again in the evening.

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P.E.I sunsets are unbelievable!

My final day on the Island was a private 8 hour tour of the Island. Roddy was a really cool old Islander who had so many stories and was such a joy to spend time with him. Such a personalised tour was very special. We visited one of the longest bridges in the world the confederation bridge that spanned the gulf between the island and the mainland. I suppose a when in Rome moment did occur on this tour. He knew all the store people well and he explained that many of the tourists literally come to this store to get their picture taken as Anne from Anne of Greengables. After a mini protest I thought fuck it and proceeded to dress up as Anne. Why the hell not! No regrets. I think I suited it to be honest.

My personal highlight however was ending up in a small town called Victoria on the coast which had a lighthouse dominating the view. Roddy knew the owner of the lighthouse, a guy who made candles for a living who shipped these fantastic pieces of art all over the world! He opened the lighthouse up for me and gave me a tour. What an experience! You just simply would not get this kind of experience anywhere else! I really enjoyed my time on this tour and of the Island. Not one place was not beautiful, not one place you would not wish you had more time to explore in.

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Private Lighthouse

This didn’t feel like Canada at all, it was very unique and a place I highly recommend you come visit. I can honestly see why this is seen as one of Canada’s jewels in the crown and why so many people sing its praises. It’s a mystical magical island of red sands, dripping in history and surrounded by friendship and warmth from the locals. It was unlike anywhere I have ever visited and I wish I could go back. It was a real highlight of the trip!

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Real treat to be invited into his home workshop

I was sad to leave this warm beautiful Island as I took one last stroll as the sun began to set on my time here and it gave me one last unbelievably stunning sunset. I sat on the rocks and watched the birds roost as the moon rose and the waves lapped on the shore. I had found paradise and I long to return.

Tomorrow I start my final leg of this epic journey as I head to Toronto, one of my favourite cities and I finally get to meet up again with my beloved Canadian Cousins for my first Canadian Thanksgiving. The thought of that softened the sadness of leaving this place.

Flight Videos for you avgeeks

St. John’s Departure: 

Halifax Arrival: 

Halifax Departure: 

Charlottetown Arrival: 

 

 

Look back on my year via Instagram: Part one January to June

 

As 2017 is coming to a close i thought i’d take a step back from writing my travel blogs and dive into my Instagram to find some of my favourite shots of 2017 that i’ve taken. Each picture i’ll explain why i like it so much, it may be the story behind it or the subject to just the colours and setting. I’m writing this as i go though my Instagram in chronological order so i have no idea what i will find! What i do know is i suspect plenty of landscapes and friend selfies that’s for sure! This first blog is January to June So here we go…

Ah yeah what a nice start to the year it was in the world of the PhD office! We all hit rough patches while doing a PhD and mine was definitely between the months of January and May. This post in particular was a culmination of nothing but crap for like three weeks and on that Monday morning i had an email which just topped the lot! But sweets made everything better :D. I like this picture because it sums up those who i share this journey with, they always pick you up when the PhD knocks you down.

It was nice to have my first trip of the year to see the Irish family and on the way back on a particularly cold February morning the frozen Welsh mountains gave a lovely sight on the flight home! I never get tire of taking pictures of landscapes from the air.

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His and hers 😂 #cycling #roadcycling

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I gained a new cycling partner in Laura in 2017, i just think the size difference and looks in our bikes is just cute and therefore worthy of a mention! It is super cute tho.

This was an odd day, sitting in front of TV cameras giving a speech about your PhD research! Was really cool to do and kind of felt like i was on the news!

A video this time! Storm Doris hit Merseyside with 90 mph winds…of course me and Rosie thought it would be a good idea to leave the relative safe confines of the office to walk in it! At least now i have proof that i’ve walked in nearly hurricane winds!

Had such a good time with Em in March for our little trip away. We did indeed feel like a King and Queen looking out onto the sprawl of Amsterdam at midnight. It was a great trip with a long and well loved friend and sometimes you get those perfect nights. It was a pretty cool view that’s for sure! What i love most about this photograph though is a definition of our friendship, no matter what we’re always at each other side.

This picture and the caption makes me laugh as it pretty much sums up our expressions 90% of the time that we’ve hung out for 12 years! 😀

Not long after i arrived back from Amsterdam did i go ahead and book the 2 week solo adventure to Iceland and Canada for September and October! Here it was jotted down in my notebook. I like this picture because having done this trip its crazy to see it written down at the time of booking on one piece of paper. A few months later that page would travel thousands of miles with me!

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Packing the bike up for Ireland

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In April it was time to grab the passport out again and head to Ireland for a few days cycling! This was to be the first time i’d ever taken my bike outside of the UK and my travel bag worked a treat!

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First time faster than a plane!

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This was pretty cool cycling away from Dublin on stage one of the tour of Ireland! That turned out to be the easiest ride of them all and that route is something i’ve wanted to do for ages!

By far one of my favourite personal moments of 2017 captured in this photograph. Of all of the years i’ve been cycling and been travelling to Ireland i’ve always wanted to cycle up the Iconic Howth Head climb. I finally got the chance and not only did i get up without stopping, i smashed it with 2nd quickest of the day! This moment proved to me that all hard work on the bike over the winter paid off, it showed that mind over matter always works and that sometimes goals are only achievable if you work for them. Despite the 30mph winds and brutal 16% incline i was chuffed and still am!

Sticking with the cycling theme, this is one of my favourite shots of my bike. This was at around 7 a.m on a spring morning training ride and the sun was just perfect. As a photographer i couldn’t just pass this bridge without taking a picture!

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Gulp. First assessment day.

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Still get sweaty palms just looking at this picture! After months of revision and online modules it was the first day of three days of Civil Aviation Authority RPAS Pilots licencing exams. Still one of the hardest things i have ever done and certainly the most pressured thing. If i didn’t pass these exams i would have no PhD…So no pressure at all.

3 days later and right after a touch and go practical exam i became the UK’s newest qualified RPAS pilot. A dream and a goal i’ve had since i was 5 years old was to have a pilots licence and i finally achieved that. What better way to celebrate than a pint before my three hour train ride home. Deffo 2017’s “You finally did it!” moments. That never tasted so good!

By time May came around i was having another of my Birthday’s outside of the country! This time i spent it in Berlin in a bar full of monkey’s while being beat at Darts by Wolfgang and his bitches. Quite a surreal way to spend your 25th birthday if i’m honest!

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Brandenburg gate! #travels #Berlin

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Berlin was a lovely city and i recommend you visit it at least once! Luke’s stag do was a brilliant few days away in Germany, with cars, bratwursts and a football game!

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My RPAS pilot wings came today! 🛩

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My RPAS Pilots wings came and within that small metal pin badge is a lifetime of trying and goals achieved. Means a lot to me that does getting that and i wear it with pride while flying.

PhD life summed up in one picture…Coffee and Computers. PhD at this point was heavy going with having to create from scratch a 20,000 word Operations Manual for my UAV. It was one of the longest and most frusrating things i’ve ever had the displeasure of doing but as with all PhD’s there are hurdles like this that you have to plough on with and win. I got there in the end…

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Cya work hello three day weekend.

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Following on from that Operations Manual it reached a point by June where i ran out of fucks to give with the PhD and everything in between. Logging out for the weekend like…

Probably 2017’s most random thing award has to go to the man who was standing in a field playing the bagpipes. I mean as you do right?

It still amazes me the rollercoaster of emotions you get on a PhD. Only 9 days before this post i was at the point of no fucks having been worn down by writing the ops manual and i was in need of a win. It came with the news that a paper i submitted in March had been accepted for publication! My first ever journal article! Another goal achieved this year and i was very proud to have got my first one under my belt. 😀

This things you do for your bro…i get a call asking if i’m free. I didn’t expect it to end up lugging a 60kg log through the woods for his back garden! In his defence it’s now a lovely plant holder in his garden and i’m proud that i didn’t die doing log PT for a mile!

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Hiking!

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June i was off to the Isle of Man for the British National Road Race Championships. It was my first time on the Island and what a beautiful part of the world it is! I greatly enjoyed my time on the island and especially Snaefell!

What a great way to cap off the first half of the year surrounded by beautiful Isle of Man scenery!

Part Two July to December coming up next!

Prague Trip Report: Day 1 – Arrivals day

I wake up with that familiar feeling before a new adventure, a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to this year. It’s that feeling of excitement and anticipation that comes with travelling. Luckily, for the first and only time this year, that my flight out to Prague was at 4pm in the afternoon rather than the usual crack of dawn starts. That allowed me the beauty of feeling that pre travel feeling for a bit longer. Usually that feeling fades by time I get into the shower and tiredness from a 3 or 4 a.m start replaces it!

One of the great things about an afternoon flight is the luxury of leaving the packing until the morning. It’s usually the last thing I do before I go to bed. For someone who plans a lot of things in life, you would think I’d be super organised with packing but no…definitely not me! More last minute the better, it’s part of the fun of travelling! I guess I have it easy as a guy anyway, especially travelling to a central European country in the height of summer. All I need is enough boxers and socks to cover me for the five days away, five different t-shirts, two shorts (with a preference for jean shorts as they have more pickpocket proof pockets, gotta’ keep that in mind travelling!), one smart shirt for the evening meals and I always wear jeans and a jumper for travelling in. Sorted. As a guy at least I don’t have to worry about strappy or long tops or different types or shoes etc to wear, unlike my two travel companions for this trip! All of that means my packing which I’ve got down to a fine art by now, took me less than ten minutes. I could get five days’ worth of stuff, toiletries and camera gear all in my trusty expedition day bag. Usually if I had a case with me I’d take more, especially my walking shoes. I elected to take the gamble and leave them at home. Last time I left my walking boots at home for a city break I came back with Plantar Fasciitis in my foot from walking so much in less than ideal shoes. My walking boots are size 11, they’re massive and they’re heavy. Great for the stuff I do but not so great for hot city walking and plus they were still covered in sand and sea water from my trip to Crosby with Katie, so they would probably begin to smell after a few days of heavy use in Prague! Both Laura and Katie certainly don’t deserve to be subjected to that!!

I bought myself a pair of Sketcher walking trainers. I know, I know, I can hear you groan at me for buying sketchers. However, for the price, lightness and comfort of them they proved a great alternative to my walking boots. Despite sleeping in and watching TV, the morning dragged on for what seemed like forever. Even getting my DNA results back didn’t pass the time as much as I hoped (disappointingly 98.9% British and Irish!). Time always drags for travelling, I think time does actually slow down as soon as you’re about to leave somewhere.

Finally 12.30 arrived on the clock and we pulled out of the drive way to head over to Katie’s house to pick her and Laura up to go to the airport. My Dad very kindly offered to take us to the airport (and that’s why he’s just the best Dad ever!) saving us a taxi or at least a train and bus ride. I was really excited at this point as we headed towards South Liverpool. I honestly couldn’t wait to get away with both of two people that I really appreciate in my life and just absolutely love spending time with. Every day is a laugh and I had a feeling that this trip was going to be really special and above all a really fun trip! As we got closer to the house I gazed out of the window at the endless grey clouds and couldn’t wait to go to Prague were sun was forecast for five days with a bit of heat thrown in too!

After picking both of them up and admiring Laura’s excellent parking skills, under 20 minutes later we said goodbyes to my Dad and we were walking across into the terminal. I’ve mentioned it before in my travel blogs how that first step into an airport still gives me that buzz. There is an energy about the place that’s always fascinated me even as a kid. A sense of adventure awaits amidst the chatter and sound of wheeled cases. Despite having checked my bag a billion times and knowing I have absolutely nothing out of the ordinary on me, I still get really nervous and on edge going through security. Every single aspect of flying I am totally relaxed with…except this part. As soon as I am through I can relax and know the holiday has started, until then I just can’t. It makes no sense and I agree it’s illogical and weird! Maybe as Katie said it’s just because I’m Scouse. She has a point! I think it’s in the blood like a survival skill to be naturally cautious around police and security personnel haha! I do have a valid reason to be sceptical travelling through Liverpool airport though. We have a long and at least relatively recent, turbulent history together. For a time I felt like I was public enemy number one due to my Undergraduate dissertation research findings which cost them quite a bit of money back in the day. Ooops! That much that I actively avoided travelling from there for two years until management moved on. Three times I’ve flown out of there this year and three times the metal detectors haven’t gone off but I’ve got a thorough pat down anyway. Now I’m not saying there is a link but three times I’m starting to question the “random search” algorithm! This patdown was particularly intimate. I mean holy shit, he really went to town on those legs and up around the crotch area. Which was of course to great amusement to both of them two! Looks like I took one for the team in the search area as both of them breezed through security without any issues at all! I guess one thing we found out, if you’re a girl and you’re travelling with straighteners don’t take my advice and take them out because they can be left in your bag. So I guess I learnt something new and shock horror, I was wrong for once!

Now that we were though security I could relax and look forward to the holiday. After coffees for them and tea for me to wash down the pain of paying close to £8 for a meal deal (WHSmith in airports are nothing but daylight robbery!) we headed for our gate. Me and Laura had priority boarding and I did feel guilty having to leave Katie to stand in the long ass queue by herself and even more so when she was outside of the first 90 and had to check her bag in. Luckily there is no charge for that in Liverpool, unlike the hassle on the return leg with bags! Argh! Plus don’t get me started on the utter waste that priority boarding is, I really should have learnt my lesson from Berlin!

I knew we’d have a flight delay as my FlightRadar app told me so and the distinct lack of our aircraft outside the window only seeked to confirm it. I knew we were going to be standing for ages. Just under 40 minutes we were standing up for until we eventually boarded the plane. I’ve mentioned it before how I’m really not a fan of the interior of Ryanair aircraft. The sea of plastic yellow and dark blue actually makes me feel nauseous. I still question how the interior design team ever signed off on that scheme and thought it looked good. Add to that the plastic headrest and the fact the plane was one of the oldest in the fleet at 12 years old. My tray table moved more laterally than it did vertically when stowed! Welcome to RyanScare.

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Our Flying 12 year old Tubaware box.

I had the window seat, I learnt my lesson from my trip to Amsterdam with Emma earlier in the year that you should never say “I’ll play you for it” because you’ll lose. Once bitten, twice shy. So that window seat was staying mine! Laura had the middle seat and Katie the aisle. After a pre-departure selfie which would be the first of very many on this trip, we were strapped in, doors shut and on our way for our much needed holiday!

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Pre flight selfie!

Or well we thought…

We were held at the holding point just before the runway for a good five minutes. Usually that’s due to waiting for a plane to land. After five minutes we taxied onto the runway but I noted it as odd that a plane hadn’t landed. I tried to think in my head what that delay was for. I reasoned that it was probably a slot issue, especially as we were already late. I explain to Laura what would be happening next, how the pilots would throttle those CFM engines to 25% wait for them to stabilize before going to full thrust and then leaving the ground at 140-160 mph. Sure enough those engines got to 25% and stayed at 25%. In my head I was like “Come on guys. Thrust!” Suddenly the engines went to idle and the brakes were applied and we taxied off the runway. Fuck I thought. Big problem.

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Squawk 7700

As this wasn’t a based aircraft if there was a technical fault there was no way we were going to be leaving today. I guess that five minute delay was them trying to rectify a fault which must have been unsuccessful. As we taxied back to stand a fire engine pulled up next to the aircraft, I really had a sinking bad feeling about it. An issue serious enough to abort a take-off is usually going to be a lengthy one to fix. However as soon as we pulled onto stand the Captain made an announcement that there was a medical emergency on-board. Gutted for them but relieved that it wasn’t a fault with the aircraft! Of all my years flying and with hundreds of flights that was my first ever RTO! Thank god it wasn’t just before V1 or after departure. It felt like a late call but the crew made the right decision. As the old aviation saying goes “it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were up there, than be up there wishing you were on the ground”. It turns out a woman was ill and was complaining of chest pains. It took a while for the Fire service who are trained in first aid to attend to her before she was offloaded with her partner. I really did feel sorry for them, especially as her Husband apologised to us all and went “we were really looking forward to this trip”. His apology felt misplaced among the few passengers who offered up a comforting awww. It’s not really her fault and I guess him saying that probably didn’t make her feel much better! I hope they eventually got to go away and that she makes a full recovery.

After a delay we taxied onto the runway for our second attempted take off. This time it was successful and we were finally on our way to Prague! Nothing like a bit of drama to kick off a holiday right? We were in the air for less than a minute before the tears of laughter started. In my attempt to explain the principles of air particles and lift on the wing surface I accidently used a hand gesture that’s much more appropriate for the bedroom than an aircraft full of passengers. I didn’t actually realise what I was doing by simulating the perpendicular force of lift up against a wing surface with two fingers until I was told to “never do that gesture in public ever again!”. When I realised what I had done that provided plenty of laughs for all three of us and became a recurring joke throughout the rest of the flight and holiday!

The rest of the 1 hour 45 minute flight was uneventful. We chatted, listened to music, read some books and before we knew it we were descending into a Prague sunset. As always I try to film the landings of new airports. Both so I can look back on them and upload them to Youtube so my fellow Avgeeks can view them. Of course they both find that hilarious and took the absolute piss out of me for the entire video down, although I did nail our landing time! I’m not even mad because it was fucking funny :P. I can probably never upload that video to Youtube ha-ha! Good job I love them both!

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Sunset Arrivals

From landing to going through passport control to waiting for the bags took less than 15 minutes! Probably the quickest entry to any country! We were all starving and it would be at least a 45 minute bus then metro ride to the apartment. So we decided to have our first Czech meal which was the very traditional dish of…McDonalds!

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Tasted so good and much cheaper than in the UK

For 300 Czech Koruna you can get a 72 hour pass on all transport and we just made it in time for the 119 bus. By this point it was pitch black outside and after the short bus ride it was onto Prague’s Merseyrail. Which were clean, on-time and their stations are really cool! They really reminded me of a Darlek!

Entering the city of Prague I didn’t realise how central our apartment really was, right in the centre of Wenceslas Square. I’m so grateful for my free European data as I used Google Maps to navigate the streets to our apartment. Instantly I knew I’d like this place. The vibe was really cool and there was a concert going on in the centre of the square. Even though it was just after 10pm it felt entirely different to the feeling of being in Liverpool at 10pm I can tell you that! We found our apartment which was tucked away inside a courtyard off the main street and we punched in our access code, climbed what would become a brutal four flights of stairs each day into B402. Our home for the next four nights. It was small but sufficient and for what was basically £25 a night there was certainly no complaints from us!

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Looking forward to spending the next few days with these guys

After a quick unpack we headed out to find some water and snacks. We came across a 24 hour shop which we didn’t realise how much we got ripped off until we went back to the apartment! More on that tomorrow!

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Entering our apartment for the first time!

We played some cards and ate weird tasting paprika crisps to unwind and Katie taught us a new card game which was affectionately called Shithead. After a few games of that and many laughs it was already into the early hours of the morning and bed was beckoning. However sleep never really arrived…

 

August Blog: Summer on campus, Crime Scene Toilets, DIY SOS and the three Amigo’s go on an adventure ;)

Hey guys, its blogging time again! See I am trying to be more regular with these blogs like I promised so here is this month’s blog, almost exactly a month since my last one which you can find here A perfect weekend: A wedding and Friendships.

So it’s the summer time here, well I use the term summer lightly. It’s been a pretty awful August weather wise. I know this because I’ve been trying to fly my drone all August for PhD work and out of the 24 days so far only 2 have been within the aircraft limits to fly! Just 2! Either it’s been torrential rain or when the sun has occasionally graced us with its presence, the winds have been too strong. No wonder people don’t holiday in this country anymore! It can be pretty annoying seeing the rest of Europe basking in one of the hottest summers on record while we’re experiencing one of the coldest. I didn’t think Brexit included weather but I guess I was wrong.

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Summer time in University is a pretty weird place to be. The whole place feels empty because well…it is. Your supervisors are off on ‘fieldwork’ not ‘holidays’ for like two months, although in the case of my Professor that’s just a normal working month (and good for him! I wish I’m in the position to jet off to these exotic places every week for fieldwork one day!), every other staff member is ‘working’ from home and the only people you see on campus are admin staff, cleaners, the café people and fellow PGR students. I haven’t actually minded the peace and quiet this summer, it certainly has felt different this year at LJMU than it ever did at Chester. Chester in the summer felt like when you would go back to school in the night to help out, for say an open evening. It felt weird, empty, as if you just shouldn’t be there. We’re kept out of the city centre and way out in the sticks on a hill in Aigburth here at Marsh, so it’s always been a quieter campus away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I like that and that’s certainly not a complaint. The view from the office window and that walk across campus looking out onto the Mersey with the Welsh hills in the background is lovely. Certainly beats the hockey pitch and canal view I had in my old Chester office. So with no students about it’s been very peaceful! Well that was until the foreign exchange devils, sorry kids. Damn autocorrect! Came for two weeks. I should be thankful it was only two weeks at Marsh. In Chester those annoying fuckers were there for the entire summer making our lives a misery. That constant jibber jabber and why they have to scream all the time is beyond me. I get that its extra money for Universities to host these kids but dear lord some of us have to actually work and do things without hearing noisy bastards, who by the evidence of the boys toilets, which while spotless first thing in the morning, would descend into a murder scene. By time I’d go for a wee in the afternoon I half expected to step under a police cordon tape and see some CSI guys working away, while two detectives looked on in the distance while a police chief tells them they have 48 hours to solve the case. Language barrier is one thing but I can’t see not knowing that your wee goes in the toilet and not around the seat is not a universal thing and obviously to flush is something that hasn’t translated. If that wasn’t bad enough they would blast out the Verves – Bitter sweet symphony at the end of the every class. EVERY CLASS! The irony wasn’t lost on me either to that song name as I wept with PTSD every time it played.

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As soon as the violin kicks in for the billionth time.

Apart from those annoying kids the PhD has progressed over the summer and is ticking along. I finally managed to get my first model done. Which was super exciting! It’s been frustrating to be held down by red tape and procedure documents while the rest of the office have really got stuck into data collection. I know my PhD is vastly different to theirs and as a more procedural PhD my data collection was never going to be the same as theirs but its still been frustrating none the less. Data collection is the part where you actually feel like a proper researcher because it’s finally your own work. Writing procedures, literature reviews and methodologies are someone else’s words that you’re using. Anyone can do that with enough patience and coffee. When you go out and collect data and start analysing that’s your work and your voice and that’s the key driver and passion in research. It is for me anyway. Instead I’ve been writing a 22,000 word operations manual. An Ops Manual basically governs absolutely everything I will do with the aircraft for the PhD. So everything from Aviation Law to aircraft specifications which have to go into as much detail as (how do you plug the charger in) to writing down as many possible risks that can occur. You’ve all read a manual at some point right? Actually no. Who does? But people like me still have to write them. Then, you send it off to get checked and they tell you to change every “will do” to “must/should do” in a 22,000 word document, that’s after you wrote the first 22,000 words and they tell you there is a new template so you have to re-write those 22,000 words. Its soul destroying. That document was the most boring and frustrating thing I’ve ever had the displeasure of writing.

The worst part of it all was I then had to condense those 22,000 words into a methodology which is what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks. While using UAVs in fieldwork may sound fun, the sad reality is 90% of it is writing about flying than actually flying the aircraft! I really cannot wait to start proper data collection in the autumn so I can escape my desk!!

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Going on fieldwork like…

Away from the frustrations of the PhD writing, it’s been a frustrating month health and bike wise. I’ve had a persistent back pain niggle (I’m getting old and have to accept that ha-ha) that has been such a twat since I wrote about it in my last blog. That kept me off the bike for a few weeks and then the bike decided to break on me. I was debating on an upgrade for a while and took the plunge, a nice £450 plunge for a new groupset. So that took another week in the bike shop to get fixed. Then when I pick it up it gets a puncture on the way home and I have to walk 5 miles back and then two rides later I get another puncture! So that was an entire month off the bike and only two rides since getting it back. Annoying. But the bike looks Pro and feels a lot faster and lighter. Which is the opposite to me, a lot slower and fatter!

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Look at the 105 upgrade! Pro bike!

Apart from those frustrations though it’s been a very funny month, as always lately! As always that’s down to those special people I spend nearly every day with. I’m trying my best to not use the term PhD friends here. I got a stern talking to in the office for referring to them as PhD friends as that sounds like that’s all they are to me and they weren’t too happy about that! That couldn’t be further from the truth as they’re not only friends but very good friends at that both inside and outside of the office. PhD friends is just their identifier. Same goes for my “Uni” friends, “Maricourt” friends, “Chester” friends, “Legacy” friends and “other” categories. But anyway I’ve done enough grovelling 😛

While last month was highlighted by the epic trip to Formby woods, this month had a few new adventures in store. The first was certainly a new one for me, helping Vic to paint her house while an actual TV crew filmed it. Vic has been one of the very lucky people to buy one of those £1 houses in Liverpool and its either Chanel 4 or 5 who are documenting the transformation. So me, Laura and Katie along with a few of Vics friends all rolled up our sleeves and got stuck into painting. It’s certainly my first Paint Party! I don’t really do DIY. I’m more of a write the manual on how to do DIY than to actually do it. Which is pretty evident by my masking taping skills. I look forward to every tradesman taking the piss out of that when that comes on TV. As if trying to not fuck up your mates house wasn’t enough pressure, having a camera crew film you, while asking you questions, while you’re shaking like a shitting dog because you’re standing on a step ladder and you’re scared of heights was certainly interesting, to say the least. I’m really excited for Vic because it’s such a brilliant project to be involved in and the house looks amazing so far! How often do you get to effectively design your own home from scratch! Really cool project, with a really cool spin on it from a really cool chick. I can’t wait to see the finished project and I can’t wait to see if I’m on the documentary for 5 seconds, hopefully editing out numerous mentions of the PhD and my god awful masking skills!

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#nailedit

However I am used to painting, I painted my room and I’m used to painting aircraft models as a kid albeit that was on a much smaller scale. Me, Laura and Katie were assigned one room and boy did we smash it! Seriously if the PhD ever falls though I’m pretty sure we can make it in the painting and decorating business! It was a hell of a lot of fun which I’m sure the paint fumes added to. Of course me and Katie are big kids, so while Laura was the sensible one, me and Katie had a paint war. In the end we called it a draw or more importantly Laura told us to “grow up”. Rematch is deffo on the cards one day you! A worthy adversary ;). I’m still unsure on what was the most effective weapon for a paint war. I had the brush which was great for the dabs to the face, whereas her roller technique covered more area but was less agile. It’s a tough one to call!

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“We weren’t fighting…honest”

Speaking of Katie I had my first shopping experience with her this month. Worst. Female. Shopper. Ever. ;). I do joke. Certainly a contrast to my shopping trip with Laura though to which we went into M&S about 5 times before buying the shoes we saw the first time we entered. Thankfully I’d happily go shopping with either again. I’ve been shopping with some women before were throwing yourself down an escalator is a much more appealing prospect. Thankfully that thought never crossed my mind with either of them! It’s good to know that my B in GCSE textiles and numerous girl shopping trips growing up hasn’t failed my eye for picking out excellent women’s fashion. That and watching numerous next top models and say yes to the dress episodes. I’m not even ashamed. If you’re going to be a bag carrier, you might as well be an informed one. Straight Gok Wan at your service (n.b.  I actually just mean Gok Wan because I think he’s a very clever man and isn’t actually gay, think about it and tell me I’m wrong.)

The tour of Merseyside continued this month for Katie as I took her to one of my three favourite spots in Merseyside. Formby Pinewoods had already been ticked off, the next was Crosby beach. It’s a go to spot on the bike and for walks for me and you can’t live in Liverpool and not get a selfie with the Iron Men. It’s written into scouse law. So it was an honour to complete Katie’s honorary Scouser initiation. That was a really fun day and I still think I have sand in places that shouldn’t haha.

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New rendition of I am the Walrus by the Beetles 😉

It’s been well over a month since I did any travelling. The last being at the end of June in the Isle of Man for the British road race championships. It has been nice to have a month off travelling but now I can’t wait to go on this next Tony Travels adventure with the girls. Don’t forget to follow the usual hashtag of #TonyTravels when I’m away. I set out at the start of the year to go away every month of 2017. While that failed straight away as I didn’t go anywhere in January #fail, I managed to get away to somewhere every month since until July anyway. I’m about to embark on my next adventure to Prague. Then it’s Iceland in September followed by the North Atlantic coast of Canada in October. These next three trips will probably and sadly be my last of the year, so I don’t think I’ll be away for 11 of the 12 months but 8 of the 12 isn’t bad at all! That’s for a few reasons I guess. I’ve tried to arrange plans to go away for a Christmas market but schedules and locations clashed and cost which sadly made those final two trips a nonstarter. Sadly too by time the new academic year kicks in the PhD is really going to ramp up in terms of work load. While my supervisors wouldn’t mind me taking a few days off a month, I really wouldn’t want the extra pressure of trying to catch up on work. Especially as that will be my data collection phase. Finally, it’s time to be an adult. We’ve had serious discussions about moving in together and I couldn’t really afford to rent a house and still go off travelling! But that’s okay, I think it will be nice to start a new adventure at home.

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For now though, it’s ready for my travels again. This time I’m actually flying the furthest East I’ve ever been, to central Europe to the beautiful city of Prague with Laura and Katie. I’m really excited but I am a little well nervous isn’t the word but apprehensive probably is. I travel a lot on my own. There is a very deep innate joy in that, for instance I cannot wait to be walking in the wildness of Iceland or the red beaches of the North Atlantic Canadian coast alone. There is just a great sense of freedom and exploration with self-travel. However, that’s not to say I dislike travelling with people, far from it! It’s an amazing thing to do to share in these new adventures with people you care about. It’s just as good as solo travel, it’s just different that’s all. This year I’ve had a few travel partners, Emma, Shaun and Luke and the stag do crew. Where my apprehension lies is for example I’ve known Emma for far too many years now and we’ve been away on trips before to London etc. She knows all my quirks and likewise I know her and we’ve built up enough tolerance to each other to that spending a few days together in Amsterdam we didn’t feel the need to kill each other. I mean only once did that ever sort of happen and that was in London trying to find fucking platform 9 and ¾! I’ve never wanted to kill my sister from another Mr before or since, except for that day haha.

I’ve known Laura for just under a year now and Katie only five months. Which is crazy because it feels like I’ve known these two crazy cats for just as long as Emma or Shaun. I get on incredibly well with both of them, I mean it’s kinda’ scary how much we all do get on and are on each other’s wavelength. I dread to think how different the PhD and just life in general would be if we never met or never got on as well as we do. Plus it’s great that we’re still getting to know each other a little bit more each and every day. I know enough about them after spending most of my time with them that I don’t really see anything that would cause me to be annoyed on the trip to Prague. We’re very compatible. I’m more worried about them hating me or trying to kill me in Prague rather than me to them! I haven’t picked up on any such vibes…yet… so I’m pretty sure we’ll be okay. We all stayed over the other night, had some food and watched some tv and that was after a week together. So we didn’t kill each other that night, in fact it was a really funny night, so I guess we passed that test, so Prague should be a breeze! Although they weren’t best pleased with my 5.45 a.m. alarm call. Ooops. That will be firmly off in Prague!

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I’m really excited to spend five days away with them both. There has not been a day in each other’s company were we haven’t laughed our heads off. I know this trip is going to be one hell of a funny one and I cannot wait! It seems weird that it was only a few months ago me and Laura were sitting in Coopers Coffee which is actually starting to become this groups Central Perks! Where over the biggest full English I mentioned about my trying to get away every month idea and Laura mentioned how she wants to go to Prague. Prague has been on my list for ages, especially seeing the pics and the stories than Han and Dan had from there. We both agreed to go and two days later it was booked! We opened it up to the group and Katie gladly joined us. Its seemed ages away this trip and now its here and eeeek I really cannot wait! Beautiful city with two of the best peeps, it’s going to be a blast. Certainly blog worthy I suspect!

On a soppier note to end this month’s blog. They’ve both graduated into my inner circle. Which is a special place as a whole five people reside there. I have friends, good friends, close friends and then the inner circle of trust friends. Despite my blogs and social media being very open and honest, I am still a very private person. There is a lot of things I keep to myself and we all have personas that we display to different people. I am fortunate that the persona I give off is very close to the real Tony. However barriers exist to protect myself because trust is earnt and I place a massive emphasis on loyalty and trust. That usually takes a year maybe even two for me to fully develop enough confidence in someone that I can be me with. For me to completely trust them 100%. That comes from their interactions with not only me but how they interact and deal with others. But for these guys our friendship has progressed so much, so quickly and they’re such awesome people that I have enough to know that they’re special people in my life and I’m grateful for it.

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So it’s time to sign off for this month, pack my bags and go spend what will hopefully be five very fun days away! Be sure to check back in for a trip report blog soon!

Until next time!

Toe

Canada Travels: Blog 2 – Airport escort and Toronto Islands

In this blog I visit an A380, the CN tower and explore the Toronto islands following on from my first blog about my travels to Canada Canada Trip Blog 1: The long trip west.

What a way to start a holiday…

Taxying to the gate, I feel pretty refreshed and the flight went surprisingly quick. I felt a surge of relief that I’m finally on Canadian soil and after starting my journey here over a day ago, I’m glad to have arrived. A quick catch up on texts and before I know it we’re pulling onto the stand and the engines are whining down. I always love the multiple sounds of the seatbelts clicking and the chatter starting. Before I left, Barb and Betsey two of my cousins in Toronto had been in touch about arranging to meet up when I was in Toronto and to go to places like Niagara Falls. Barb even offered me a place to stay which was incredibly kind of her but I’d already booked my hotel for the few days! I’ve only ever really met them once and that was as a very young kid. My memories are sketchy at best, I remember a huge house, pool and a basement. Basements are alien to us British folk and having a pool in your back garden is too. I mean, we’d get like what? Two days of summer to use it and even then it would feel like an ice bath! I remember playing star wars with my cousins in there but I think I was about 6? I do remember how welcoming they were and how kind they were and upon evidence of our Facebook chats before arriving that kindness and welcoming certainly hadn’t disappeared. Before I left England, Barb’s Husband, Dave, works as a police officer in Pearson International. He’s known colloquially as the Mayor of the airport because he’s been there so long! There isn’t an inch of the airport he doesn’t know, not a staff member who doesn’t know him. There was a possibility that if he was free he would meet me off the plane. That would be cool I thought.

I was one of the first off the plane and I walked up the air bridge and into the terminal, I had a big smile to see he had indeed greeted me off the plane, in full uniform. I can only imagine what the passengers must have thought! Maybe I was British royalty with an escort or maybe I was being extradited, I do vaguely look like Edward Snowdon after all ! From the first handshake, it was like I had known Dave for ages. What a guy! So incredibly funny, friendly and welcoming. We walked towards immigration, catching up with how the family was doing on both sides of the pond and before I knew it I was through immigration and customs quicker than I am in my own country! While waiting for my bags, he tells me stories about the celebs he’s met and wow, if only he was into blogging because some of them are best sellers!

I placed my bags into his police cruiser outside and he says…

“Fancy a look around the A380? Private tour I have a pass for you? “

Jesus Christ! What an opportunity! As an avgeek this is right up there with one of the best things to do. Especially as it’s a working aircraft, in a working airport. The A380 is the world’s biggest passenger jet and now I’m going to go on-board and sit in the cockpit. What a way to start a holiday! After going through security again but this time the one the aircrew use and walking through back passages I didn’t even know existed and having the pleasure to walk on the ‘world’s fastest travellator’, I was waiting at the gate to board the A380. It had just arrived from Dubai and we were met by the dispatcher who would take us on board. While waiting outside of the door, we had to wait until all of the crew members were off. It was almost like those comedy sketches where people just keep coming out of a car. There are so many crew members! I also wonder what they thought, seeing an English man in a tweed jacket, standing with an armed police officer waiting to go on-board for a private tour! The wait was just ramping up the excitement for me. After a few minutes I was let on board and given a tour by Dave and the engineer who let me sit in the co-pilot and pilot seat! Dream come true.

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A380’s Newest Captain

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A380 cockpit after arrival onto stand.

 

I was amazed at how small the cockpit actually was for such a massive aircraft. I’ve read countless magazines and followed the A380’s development and I knew the cockpit is the same as the smallest Airbus, the A318, bar two extra handles on the throttle column and some screens but wow. The dream of being a commercial pilot never took off but damn I am so jealous of pilots and the job they have. Plus I’m very much an Airbus guy over Boeing so win, win! After that and hanging out of the window, I was given a further tour of the aircraft. Absolutely amazing and I’ll outline a little more in my aviation blogs of this trip.

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Who else starts their holiday’s hanging outside the captains window of the A380?

Now on a complete high and after many thank you’s I was back inside the terminal. Can I just say a massive thank you to Dave and to Emirates airlines for giving me such access to your aircraft when on ops. Truly wonderful experience! Dave took me to the Union Express station. Basically a high speed train that takes 20 minutes to get into downtown Toronto from the airport. We exchanged numbers, had a few more laughs and said we’d meet up for a meal tomorrow evening. I couldn’t thank Dave enough for this experience, what a great way to start an adventure!

The train was busy on the way into Toronto but with free Wi-Fi and aircon I couldn’t complain. A mixture of dehydration and excitement I was really thirsty by this point and warm. Really warm! It didn’t help lugging around a giant suitcase much, despite it only being 15c outside. The hotel was in downtown Toronto about a 15 minute walk from the station. I never like getting cabs in cities if I can avoid it, I prefer to walk and explore that way, even with a heavy suitcase! I didn’t have a window on the train so when I finally exited the train station and out onto the street, I had to stop and take it all in for a few minutes.

When you’re from England, our cities are like 5 stories max high, usually three at best. Looking up at this giant concrete canyon above you is quite amazing when you’re in North America! You feel so incredibly small, the concrete, the glass, and the logos. So cool.  Then the noise of the city hits you, the traffic, the horns, the smells, the chatter, it’s a real slap in the face to the senses. Especially as it was rush hour, there were just streams of people walking towards me to get on their trains and I had to fight my way upstream like a salmon to my hotel! I’m not a city person at all, I much prefer the countryside due to its peace and quiet and relaxed way of life. I can understand those on the go loving the rushed vibe of the city and I do like that for a few days until it grates on me. As this was me just arriving, I got a real buzz from the walk to the hotel.

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Hotel room, 5/5

 

I was finally glad to check in to the Double Tree Hilton and lie on my king sized deluxe bed on the 20th floor. What a great room! For £200 for three nights I got a top class hotel room, with breakfast and a welcome cookie. In the UK for the Geography formal I spent £60 for one night in a Travelodge, no breakfast and the bed didn’t even have a duvet on it! Just goes to show you how ripped off we are in the UK.

I jumped straight into the shower to wash away the travelling, got myself some food, watched some god awful TV and before I knew it I was fighting a losing battle. 8pm Canadian time and I was out like a light.

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Welcome to the concrete canyon

 

FFIRST FULL DAY IN TORONTO

DAY THREE (DAY ONE (part I) IN CANADA): EXPLORING TORONTO

Rolling over in the huge king size bed, I rustle my head into the pillow. I don’t want to open my eyes yet but I can feel my body waking up, yearning to jump out of bed and explore. With a stretch I take off my eye mask fully expecting it to be daylight of sorts. It was a real struggle to stay awake until 8pm last night, I’ve slept like a log after being up for nearly a day straight with the travel yesterday, not to mention the time difference. However nothing but the dim glow from under the bathroom door across the other side of the room provided any light. It was still pitch black outside, 4 a.m. to precise. Of course my body clock thought it was 9 a.m. As far as my body was concerned I went to bed at 2a.m now I’m awake at 9, perfect amount of sleep. It is probably the only time and the last, that I’ll ever feel that awake at 4 a.m. as this morning. As it was a Saturday here in Canada breakfast in the hotel isn’t served until 7 am. I thought about going back to sleep for a bit but I knew that was a futile task and I doubted TV would be any good either in the wee small hours of the morning. After catching up with text messages and Facebook and watching all the videos I’ve taken from the flights over here, the first signs of my first morning in Canada appeared.

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Ready to explore

 

Opening the curtains looking down from the 20th floor into the heart of the concrete canyon, the deep black of the night had turned into a shade a deep blue, getting lighter by the second. I’ve always loved civil twilight. In the morning it feels like the world is waking up but isn’t quite there yet. As a photographer too, I love the way everything looks, silhouetted against a brightening sky. I like early morning’s in cities too. It’s quiet and peaceful before the storm of the people arrive for rush hour and the city comes to life.

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8 a.m Welcome to Toronto

 

After another very long shower and a check of the weather I headed down for breakfast. Canadians have a lot of things right in their country. Breakfast is certainly one of them! A quick scoot back to the room and to collect my camera and coat and by 7.25 a.m. I was out walking in the city.

CN Tower

I still was taken aback by the size of the skyscrapers as I walked towards the harbour front. My plan today was to explore the Islands. Despite being to Toronto a few times, I’ve never got a chance to explore it with family. Now I’m on my own it was a perfect chance to explore them for the first time before meeting up with my Canadian cousins in the evening. On my way to the harbour it’s hard not to miss the CN Tower. I’ve been up the CN tower at different times of day and in all seasons but as soon as I saw it I knew I had to go up it again. The view never really changes but I just absolutely love it. Weird for someone who doesn’t do heights particularly well!

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CN tower to the top of the world

 

I was the first in the queue as I waited for them to open up. Spring hadn’t really taken full hold in Toronto yet, so at 10 degrees it felt cool and crisp and a lovely blue sky above I knew I’d see some great views. After a quick stop through the airport style security, I was racing up the lift to the observation deck. I spent a good hour and a bit walking outside, inside, on the glass floor, just enjoying the views and taking way too many selfies. I took one that looked like I was about to skydive and couldn’t resist posting it to Facebook to scare friends and family!

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Toronto

 

 

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Standing on the glass floor

 

After coming down I finally felt like all the stresses of the past few weeks had gone. I was really enjoying myself and the sense of adventure was rippling through me. I was so made up to finally be away and exploring on my own!

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Ready for my base jump!

 

 

 

Toronto Islands

I carried on after the CN tower towards the harbour, stopping every five minutes to take pictures. Toronto is such a picturesque city and the fact it sits on Lake Ontario makes it a great place to explore.

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Railroads passing through the city

 

For $7 dollars you get a return ticket to any one of the three Islands. Ward, Central and Hanlan. They’re all linked by bridges and walk ways, central being the main one. I decided to take a trip to Ward island first and planned to walk the 13 miles from there right the way around to the final Island of Hanlan point. I’m glad I did! Ward Island was a lovely quiet idea. People live on the Island and Ward is where they live. As a countryside person I could think of no better way to live than on the beach on this tiny island! It was so incredibly quiet and peaceful. Walking along the boardwalks with nothing but the chirps of the birds and the gentle lap of the waves. So beautiful.

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On the ferry to Ward island

 

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Ward Island Boardwalk

 

I walked and walked for miles, going down different paths, exploring things, the beauty of single travel. I knew the city was on my right somewhere and I noticed a small trail through the woods over a bridge over a small inlet called Snake Island. Why not? So I bush whack through the woods, after three minutes of pushing bushes out of my face and contemplating turning back, the woods gave way to the best bench I have ever seen. What a view! I sat on that bench for a good 30 minutes, taking photographs and just relaxing, watching the world go by. I was disturbed by a German couple who stumbled upon this little piece of paradise too. I took some pictures for them and then left them to enjoy the serenity of it all. It was weird to have such a beautiful spot of nature and then across the water was sprawling metropolis of Toronto city.

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What a bench

 

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Stayed here for ages

 

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Thanks to the German couple for this photo!

 

I carried on walking for miles, more and more people appeared as I got closer to Central Island. I decided my feet needed a rest, grateful for bringing my hiking gear, so I decided to stop in a small restaurant. Chicken fingers and Plum sauce are the best combination ever created and plum sauce in Canada is, well I can’t describe it. Me and my family adore it. I ordered 15 chicken fingers with plum sauce and fries and I don’t even think they touched the sides at all!

After a rest, I continued walking down trails, stumbling upon untouched beaches, wildlife and scenery. It felt weird to be so far from home, at times completely alone on an island but a good weird! It’s a Saturday. Back home I might watch the match and go on my bike other than that, not a great deal. Here I am this Saturday, exploring a wonderful island.

 

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Hanlan Point

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Central Island

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Gibraltar point

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I ended up doing some plane spotting at the local airport on the island and waiting for the next ferry to take me back into the city. I had been on the island since 10.30pm and it was not 3.30pm and I’d walked 15 miles so far today. Even though it was cool I could feel that my face was sunburnt already!

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Walking back into the vibe of the city to my hotel felt a world away from where I had been. I finally got back to my hotel room and put my feet up, got a shower and got ready to meet my Canadian cousins for the first time in over a decade!

Next blog will be all about family and Niagara Falls.

Canada Trip Blog 1: The long trip west

Well what a trip, that’s all I can say. In fact no, what an adventure more like! The trip to Canada was one of the best trips I have ever been on and through a series of blogs I’ll try to outline why. I’ll be interlacing my thoughts with snippets of my diary as I went along. I’ll have a few blogs such as the travelling aspect (upgrade on the way back!), two for Toronto and two for Edmonton and probably a concluding one. Expect plenty of ramblings and pictures. I really hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed living it!

Pre-trip thoughts

This trip had come just at the right time for me. I needed this holiday, not just for a break but to regain some form of sanity. Working in academia is amazing and rewarding but blimey, it is mentally and emotionally draining. Add to the fact I haven’t been on a proper holiday since the Valencian grand prix in 2012 (research trips aside as they’re very much not holidays!) I was so looking forward to going away. Especially with the uncertainty around my contract and then with a PhD interview the week after the holiday looming which I really wanted to get, it was nice to go away, forget about everything and recharge. I have no doubt in my mind that I nailed the PhD interview only because I was in a nice calm and relaxed head space post trip.

Before I left I wouldn’t say I was nervous about what lay in stall but I was a little apprehensive by a few things. Those of you who know me well and follow my life through these blogs or social media, know random crap is never far away. I firmly believe I’m on some sort of TV show in a parallel universe although I can’t quite put my finger on if its a comedy show, a drama or a soap opera… So I was apprehensive in the sense that this trip would either be absolutely amazing and a classic episode in my life, or could turn into one where everything could go wrong. I mean I have form in that department, getting a puncture on the bike and having to walk 12 miles back into Valencia in 42 degree heatwave is just one of many moments abroad where shit happens. Above all of that though I was excited, not least for the eight flights ahead of me, two of which were on the 787 (avgeek squeal!). I was very excited and couldn’t wait to see family and keep the anglo-canadian/Irish links as strong as ever and above all it was Canada. A country I’ve loved since I first went as a child.

I leave with one question in my mind that I haven’t told anyone about, due to the uncertainties around my job and that was “Could I live there? Could I actually move here and start a life here” by the end of this holiday, that question would be firmly answered. I’ll know in my heart and my head if its meant to be. I’m at that age now where these decisions will be clear. So it’s now the night before I leave to travel thousands of miles across the ocean and what an adventure I hope I have in stall for me. The plans for the next few weeks are to fly to Ireland, then to Heathrow, then to Toronto, then to Edmonton, then to Calgary, then to Heathrow, then to Dublin and then finally back home. With a bag that was full to the brim, it’s time I get some sleep and its a time to leave.

The long trip west

I’ve grown quite fond of travelling on my own, there is a simple serenity in doing things the way you want to do them. There is a relaxed pace about it all which suits me down to the ground and above all I get the freedom to explore without having to please other people. Travelling around the UK or Ireland on your own is one thing. Travelling halfway across the world is a bigger kettle of fish. As much as I am an avgeek, travelling by plane is still stressful, at least the parts before you get on the aircraft. The hustle and bustle of the airport is exciting but can be a little daunting, especially when you have connecting flights in different countries to catch. I never really relax until I’m through security, there is just something that makes you think you have something on you even though you know you don’t, as you’ve patted yourself down so many times its boarding on weird. Yet never as weird as the guy who gives you the eye going through the detectors, you just know if that alarm goes off he’s going to love putting his hands everywhere. Seriously, I hope some of these people are vetted. I’ve been through airports before where it hasn’t even gone off but still got a free grope.

I have a long trip ahead of me that’s for sure and sitting in the living room of my house just before I’m about to leave and I know it’s going to be a long one and time is dragging. The first leg of my journey to Canada was to fly to Dublin first. Seems a roundabout way of doing things right? But starting and ending my Canada flight in Dublin saved me a massive £1000 believe it or not than flying out of the UK. I never know why Ireland is much cheaper, especially when you have to fly back to the UK to fly out to Canada but hey £1000 is a £1000. So with a return fare of £60 on Aer Lingus from Liverpool to Dublin I saved what was essentially my holiday spends.

I’ve checked my bags so many times that I probably could name every item and in what order it was in my suitcase! If this was supermarket sweep i’d make Dale Winton proud. The drive to the airport was fairly quiet and I was getting a twinge of excitement. I’d planned this trip for months and all of a sudden it was finally here. I hadn’t quite believed it yet and I wasn’t out of work mode yet either. The clouds around signalled some rain but of course its UK spring, whatever else!

Typical Liverpool airport fashion the airport was dead, it was a carbon copy of my flight out in November (outlined here: Day one of my Ireland Trip). As mentioned in that blog, I don’t get excited anymore flying to Ireland, it’s like getting on a train for me. After my parents said goodbye to me for a few weeks I trundled through the delights of security and then sat in Burger king with no-one but the cleaner looking out at a near empty and a now very wet apron. I don’t mind waiting for flights, I’m happy to get there super early, especially if I can do a bit of spotting but the only spotting I was doing was the raindrops on the windows. Liverpool is a great regional airport but when it’s quiet, it’s quiet.

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Lunch with a view

With a distinct lack of aircraft arriving or departing I decided to head downstairs to a little café’ I found last time I flew out of Liverpool, tucked away in the departure lounge. The peppermint tea was still as good as ever, as were the hot blonde chicks behind the counter. Easy job they have too, over the course of the hour I sat playing on my phone checking my flight had departed from Dublin and texting, they served a grand total of six people! Six people an hour. What a job. When you’re waiting for a flight, especially one which leads onto an adventure I was about to have, time stands still. With every gulp of warm tea it felt like minutes. When the gate finally appeared and we made our way to the queue I could hear the rain hammering down on the roof. Not great for flying in that’s for sure. I opened my aviation apps, looked at the METAR’s (Airport weather system) and it was red across the board. Strong wings, turbulent clouds and very heavy rain. There was no chance I’d be seeing anything flying today and I was glad I opted for a small lunch. At Liverpool you have to walk to the plane, no air bridges here. You could barely see the aircraft due to the weather. I haven’t seen rain that bad for a long time, people were running to the plane steps like I run for the last cake in a shop. What’s the point I asked myself? You’re going to be drenched either way, you would have been drier in a shower.

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Flight over to Dublin

 

Once on board and dripping wet, I noticed that once again this Thursday afternoon flight was completely dead. I head almost the entire rear of the plane to myself! Something I should have appreciated more, especially as every flight from then on, on that trip was always a full flight.

I’ve seen Eurofighter typhoons have a longer take off run that we had coming out of Liverpool. After a few bumps, a quick nap, 30 minutes later we were wheels down in my second home of Dublin. The original plan had been to pop into Ashbourne to stay with my grandparents and see them before I went off to Canada the next day. However with a change of flight time it would have meant getting a bus at 4 a.m. to get to the airport. With a long ass day ahead of travelling I opted to go to an airport hotel instead, the Radisson Blu. Great hotel, with great views of the approach into Dublin airport which I enjoyed while tucking in a really delicious burger which surprisingly was well priced for room service. After a bath and a few phone calls, I settled down for the night.

DAY TWO: Toronto via Dublin and Heathrow

Maybe it was the excitement of the trip ahead but at 4 a.m. I was wide awake and raring to go. After a quick shower I was in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the complementary shuttle service. I was amazed at how busy the lobby was at this unholy hour of the morning but then again, early morning is one of the busiest times of day for any airport so I should have realised that. However, everyone was very friendly, Italians, American’s, Spanish, it was a real mix of passengers in our little minibus to the airport. Early morning in airports have a really exciting atmosphere about them and its something I love. Outside is still dark, the world hasn’t really woken up yet but inside the terminal is a hive of activity. I love the excited chatter, the noise of the cases being hauled along and the smell of freshly brewed coffee filling the air. It really gets you in the mood for travelling. Especially as the way Terminal 2 in Dublin is designed is so bright and spacious that it’s a very smooth and stress free experience.

Queuing up to check in only took me five minutes and once at the counter the check-in clerk informs me…

“ I’m moving you onto the early flight of 6.20 am to Heathrow as they’re expecting severe delays in both Ireland and  London later due to weather and capacity issues. I’d rather you had longer to wait in Heathrow, than sit here worrying that you might miss your flight”.

He was very helpful and a great gesture as if I didn’t get moved I would have missed my flight! Lucky break number one on this trip already, good job that I was checking in so early. This now meant I didn’t have a great deal of time to get through a very busy security screening and by great deal I mean squeaky bum time deal. The stress o’meter was beginning to climb. The good thing about Dublin T2 is they’re very efficient and within a quarter of an hour I was through security but didn’t have any time to grab any breakfast. I only just had enough time to ping a text to my dad that I was on an earlier flight if he was up to track it. Of course I had enough time to take a picture of the plane though.

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Morning departure to London Heathrow with Aer Lingus A320.

After that it was straight to the gate to board Aer Lingus to LHR. The flight was a stark contrast to the one the previous day. There wasn’t a spare seat available and sadly I was put in the middle seat at check-in. Never fun, especially as the dick with the window seat was asleep the whole time, such a waste! Announcements were made for people to check in their carry-on luggage because the flight was so full but as I was connecting I didn’t have to worry about that.

I settled into my seat and claimed my elbow rests and got ready for the second flight of the trip, the first one of today.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking….We’ve got a delay with our slot time. There are delays in Heathrow and that means we have to wait for a new slot here at Dublin. We’ll be pushing back in around half an hour”.

Knowing I now had a three hour lay-over to play with I wasn’t in the least bit annoyed by that delay. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact I left my headphones in the overhead locker with my bag. There is only so many times you can read the safety card. After half an hour we finally pushed back and I counted 9 aircraft ahead of us waiting to take off. So it took another 15 minutes to eventually get off the ground at Dublin. Solid cloud all the way until on the approach to Heathrow. I so wish I was right next to the window as London and all of the landmarks were perfectly in view! Yes, he was still asleep until we pulled into the gate.

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Plane spotting at Heathrow

 

Luckily I was transferring in the same Terminal, terminal 2. This meant that from plane to departure gates including security was less than 15 minutes! Very handy and stress free. Terminal 2 has recently been renovated to the similar specs of Terminal 5 which I’ve flown out of a few times and love how much natural light comes in with great views of the runways. Duty free was bought, new sunglasses, whiskey and finally some breakfast!

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Terminal two at Heathrow, waiting for my flight.

 

Finally got to do some spotting which is great at Heathrow and before long I was waiting at the gate for the 7 hour flight to Toronto. I was flying premium economy so got to board first which really is a god send. Not to mention the huge seats and excellent food (I’ll do a full review blog of my flights soon, so I won’t bore you with the details!). The Boeing 787 is a fantastic aircraft, bigger windows, very quiet and all round great experience. After listening to music, stopping for meals and watching a film and taking pictures before I knew it I arrived in Toronto. The holiday finally was about to start and oh boy did it start!

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Waiting to take off into the storm at LHR

 

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Over Northern Canada

 

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Great food on the plane.. Vegetable Lasagne was delicious.

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Most scenic wee ever!

 

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Lunch with a view

(Blog two to come soon, including a police escort through the airport, a private tour of an Emirates A380 and my first full day in Toronto. Exciting day!)

 

Ireland Trip Part 2:Change of views, family and coastal walks

After a good night’s sleep in a bedroom that has barely changed in all the time I’ve been coming here, I felt refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Nan’s full Irish breakfast is always a good way to start the day. My Grandad often says I should come over more often as it’s the only time Nan will make his breakfast for him! There is something about Irish White pudding that just goes so incredibly well with bacon in a sandwich. Delicious!

However today was not about me revelling in the delights of Irish cooking (to which there are many delights I assure you!) today was about spending some quality time with my grandparents. Let’s not pull any punches here, they’re getting old. They’re into their 80’s now, not long had some major back surgery and the recovery hasn’t been as quick as they’d hoped. They’re both in pain and it’s showing and one of the reasons I make the effort to come over a couple of times a year is because I know I have much less visits left on the cards than I used to have. I want to make the most of my time with them while I can. Many people are very fortunate to pop down to their grandparents every week. I never got that luxury. Not when they live in another country. So your relationship consists of phone calls and then short visits. So I’m always mindful to maximise my time with them, share my life with them as much as they share theirs with me. I love all of their stories, they’ve visited over 40 countries, they’ve seen the world, and they offer great support and advice.

Even though I’ve heard some of the stories a billion times I still sit and listen as something new always comes up, another layer to the story that wasn’t there before. I’m still fascinated by my grandad’s stories of the war. Despite thinking that watching Spitfires dogfighting over Liverpool with German Me109’s with stray bullets flying around you while you watch is awesome in your head. They very much come across as quite terrifying and his stories of his service for the army in Jungle warfare are as exciting, scary and detailed as the best action thriller. The Gurkhas he is forever in debt for, for their protection in the jungle.

So today, with them both not as active as they once were due to their backs, it was nice to be invited along to the “men’s shed” with my grandad. It’s a new initiative in the village, where retired men can get together to build things, have a place to chat and meet up. I think it’s a wonderful idea and to come along to such a place was very rewarding. The amount of knowledge and expertise in the room is amazing and despite all being later on in life, in their eyes they’re teenagers. I found it very funny too, as typical Irish some of the things they would come out with deserves a blog in its own right! It did feel like I was in an episode of Father Ted! Yes I was every five minutes asked would I like more tea…

One thing I took away from that visit to the men’s shed was a young man called Aaron. He was only a few years older than me, at a push, has learning difficulties, not much family around, some say he was in an accident as a child, others say he was born with it. The men’s shed invited him in as one of their own, to be a friend to him and give him a place to fit in. The men’s shed were given the task this winter of building the crib for the local church and on the day that I visited they were planning how to make it and what it would look like. Aaron was instantly, and I could see it in his face, pride beaming away, instantly took me through all of their plans. He took me on a tour of the facilities, took me on a tour around the Church, explaining in very accurate details how he pictured this crib would play out from his ideas in his head, to how they would look in real life. There was a real pride from him in the way he spoke about the project and the men’s shed. Almost akin to an artist pitching his ideas to prospective buyers. To me, when I arrived it was just a meeting place for older dudes to hang out and to build a crib for the church for Christmas. Nothing mind-blowing, at least not to me. Yet, this project and place was this guys home, he felt for once like he has responsibility, for once people here treated him as an equal. He has learning difficulties but it doesn’t make him any less of a human than anyone else. Why people think that is beyond me. He told me with such pride how he had finally been given a job “washing the big pans” in a local takeaway. His smile was a wide as the river Liffy. For me because I’m a dick wouldn’t even bother myself to do that, at a push I certainly wouldn’t be smiling about it. For him it was as if he had won the lottery.

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Me and Aaron. Very proud of the Men’s shed.

It amazed me, it humbled me and I went away that night lying awake in bed and had to re-evaluate my outlook on things. To not take things for granted and to be grateful for the little things. His passion he showed I can only describe as a child before Christmas or me when I talk about my research or cycling. That’s almost frowned upon in everyday life now. It’s a real shame, I think we can all go back to being enthused by the little things. With a very firm handshake and thank you from him to me for showing me around (despite me repeatedly telling him it is me who is thanking him for the tour! Again that struck a cord with me. He was so thankful for someone listening to him to give him the time of day. That to him should be the norm, not a rare gift) I left with my grandad after a few more hours with the guys there having spent a lovely day with my grandad and his friends. I may have left one mark on the project and that was my suggestion of using modelling artificial grass for the roof of the crib. Something they hadn’t thought of, so it is nice to know a little piece of Tony Cliffe’s idea is a part of the Men’s Shed 2015 Ashbourne church Christmas crib!

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The cribs outline and instructions

 

I was very touched by the day’s events and some very enlightening conversations and stories with my grandparents and before long it was 11pm and it was time for bed.

The next day I woke up with both my grandparents still asleep. The snores from both of them rattling through the wall of my bedroom as if a jackhammer was digging up the road outside. I elected to skip a shower that morning. A, as I didn’t want to wake them and B. climbing up a very large hill I was going to get pretty smelly anyway!

After Jam on toast I waiting for my Aunt Susan and Uncle Dave to come pick me up. I was really looking forward to today for a few reasons. Howth head, is a stunningly beautiful place in Ireland and the pictures throughout this blog will show that. I’m a Geographer, I love nature and the outdoors and walking in those environments is very recharging for the soul. Especially after a very stressful and busy few months in work it’s nice to cut yourself off from the busy world of deadlines and emails and just drink in nature’s beauty. More than that, I was really looking forward to spending a quality day with my Aunt and Uncle. Something I don’t think I’ve ever had a day on my own with them, I’m either with family or over with my dad, so to just spend a day with the two of them was really really nice!

 

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Stunning Howth head © Anthony Cliffe

 

Susan and Dave have the best sense of humour, extremely down to earth and are two people who work incredibly hard and have their heads screwed on. So despite the amazing scenery, it was really nice to spend a day getting closer to them both and laughing an awful lot! To have two locals as a tour guide on this walk was invaluable and I just about kept up with the pair!  Howth head is a stunning place and a brilliant walk if you ever get the chance. From sweeping Cliffs that drop into a deep emerald waters of the Irish Sea, to dense and colourful forests that suddenly give way to shimmering marbled outcrops that overlook the city of Dublin and the bay, to the popping greens of the fields. It’s amazing! A Geographer and a photographers dream.

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Amazing scenery © Anthony Cliffe

 

Even the typical Irish weather couldn’t dampen the spirits and made it feel even more like an adventure and blimey it was some walk! Close to 10 miles we walked and up some bloody steep climbs and some scary cliff walks! I loved it. I’ve been going to Ireland for many many years and I have to say that day was right up there with the best.

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©Anthony Cliffe

 

 

Just when I think the day couldn’t get any more awesome they took me to the quirkiest pub I have ever been to for tea and soup after the walk. It’s almost impossible to describe it. In fact I can’t! It’s called the Dog House and well you could be a traveller anywhere in the world when you were in there. Such a cool place!

I finished the day off with my nans famous Steak and Guinness pie. What more can you ask for!?

My final full day was spent driving through horrendous weather to head up to the boarder of Northern Ireland to see my great Aunt Essie. I always muse to myself at all of the glacial features there, so many drumlins! It’s only then that i realise how much being a Geography academic turns you into a nerd but ah well, I digress! She’s my Dad’s favourite Aunt and he would spend all of his summers on the farm with them all. In fact the Grays have been on that plot of land for hundreds of years. I love going “up country” because it really is like going back in time. SO remote and I mean remote! It was only a few years ago they stopped washing in the well because well (pardon the pun) modern civilisation just didn’t reach this part of the world. It still amazes me how basic it is there in a developed country. Crazy. It was the first time back since my great Uncle Tommy died. I wrote a blog about him when he did pass and it still felt like his presence was in the house, I certainly couldn’t sit in his chair where he always would sit.  As we backed out of the driveway after a few hours with her, I could picture in my mind Tommy backing us out, with that full head of hair and rosy cheeks, puffing away on his pipe or cigarette and waving like he always has done. My dad has recently come back from Ireland and it was nice to know he thought the same as he was backing out of the driveway too. The biggest thing about those who live there is they haven’t been corrupted by the modern world or celeb culture. They’re just real down to earth genuine people who cook THE BEST food around. Seriously if you want home, traditional cooking, where everything you eat has been grown within sight. That is the place to go. Still makes me laugh of the story when they said to my dad, “Fancy some chicken tonight?”
“Yeah sure”
“Okay, pick one”…You can’t get much fresher than that! Despite on that trip eating my own body weight in potatoes at every meal, Irish spuds are the best.

How long they have left there I don’t know? What will happen to the site that my family have been on for hundreds of years now there is no one really to take it on and up keep it? I don’t know and it’s a worry. The house that has been there for centuries is falling down, the forest was sold off, and farming in rural Ireland doesn’t support those who worked it for years anymore. I’m a proud family man and to see such heritage be lost is quite sobering. In the future i want to hopefully take a partner and our kids there one day and say, “Look part of your family grew up here, your granddad spent his summers here and so did I”. I want them to be apart of that and not look at a new estate or a pile of rubble. I genuinely fear i’ll never get to share that. Sadly modern day life has arrived and it has hit hard. Each time I come here I notice new builds of the rich city folk who’ve built mansions and large second homes on the surrounding land. Sure, the roads are still full of cattle and tractors who think they’re on a race track but there are more and more cars, more and higher end cars at that, appearing. It’s a real shame. That one place that was untouched by modern life is sadly dying away with each passing of those who live there.

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View from her garden © Anthony Cliffe

 

Despite that being quite a sobering thought it is one of positive, at least for me this trip was. It was a trip were I could switch off and spend some quality time with family. To reconnect with the simplistic beauty of nature and to remember a life outside of social media and my smartphone. Strengthening bonds between family members is important and above all cherishing those moments you have with them. Although I hope they all have many years left in them and I’m sure they will have, you do have that horrible thought in your head that as you step on the plane and you whisper goodbye to Ireland for a few months as you climb into the clouds back home. Is that the last time you’ll see them? Despite how sad that is, it makes those memories and the moments even more special and I hope I have many many more memories and moments to share with them. Especially my grandparents who have supported me through everything and without them I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am in today.

I’m back over in a couple of months where I’ll start a brilliant solo adventure to Canada. To see family in Toronto and then to travel right across the country to see Robbie my cousin, one of my best friends growing up and when he moved out to Canada from Ireland a few years ago I’ve been dying to go see him, Nicky, Luke and now baby Oliver. Yes I am so jealous he lives there! I’ll get over there one time but for now a week and a bit will have to do!

So remember always cherish time with family and go visit Ireland! You won’t regret it! Please click on the thumbnails below for full size images of some of the shots I took on this trip! Please comment too if you want to 🙂

Until next time.

Toe