Penny Lane, Liverpool, and more

I still have lots of Norway photos to share with you, but I thought I would relive our recent visit to Liverpool, we were staying with our good friends Martin and Sue in the north of England and they had arranged a Beatles open top bus tour. Close to the bus stop there are statues of The Beatles, they’re larger than lifesize, about seven and a half feet tall I believe. This actually looks better in the photo than it does in real life I think. My favourite – George, second from the left is particularly anonymous looking.

Four Liverpool Lads

Penny Lane sign

The first stop was Penny Lane. I don’t know what I had expected but I didn’t expect a quiet leafy road. Obviously the original road sign was nicked years ago, and I suspect they still are stolen because this one is just a modern plastic thing.

Penny Lane

Most of us piled out of the bus to take some photos anyway. Apart from being given Beatles information from the tour guide Damien, he was also quite handy with a guitar, so we had a sing-a-long too. There is still a barber there and a bank.

The other end of Penny Lane is residential although some of the buildings have been turned into workplaces. A few computer bound upper office workers are happy to wave back at you, maybe it brightens up their day to have a tour bus pass them every now and again.

Penny Lane

Strawberry Fields Forever – but not THE gate apparently. Yoko Ono took the original after John Lennon was murdered. I believe she put them somehere in the US. These replica gates were made, but I don’t think they should have allowed her to remove the originals. Strawberry Fields was of course the name of a Salvation Army children’s home and it had a lot of ground around it, the local kids used to play in there, it was their bit of paradise. It seems that fans have come from all over the world to scrawl messages on the gatepost.

Strawberry Fields

Meanwhile back; onto the bus and the street in the photo below is where Paul McCartney grew up. Apparently he still goes back there now and again, to show people where he grew up.

McCartney's Road

Then on to Aunt Mimi’s house below. This is where John Lennon grew up, staying with his Aunt Mimi when his parents lost custody of him, both being deemed unfit parents. He was lucky to have his aunt and uncle who stepped in to bring him up here. The people who own this house now must be really fed up with constant tour bus stops, they have the bedroom window curtains drawn and I don’t blame them.

Aunt Mimi's house

You can see the front porch has been fairly recently refurbished, but that is where John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to practice their guitar playing when they were kids. I think it was supposed to be less annoying for the neighbours if they were out there.

Aunt Mimi's house

If you are a Beatles fan then the trip is well worthwhile – even worth getting soaked as happened to us up the back of the open-topped bus.

I was a bit too young for the Beatles in their heyday but my sister was a teenager then so I grew up with their music. She was a fan and had George Harrison framed on her dressing table.

Meanwhile back to Penny Lane.

Flam, Norway

Our first port of call in Norway was Flam (pronounced flom as in from) , somewhere that I had never even heard of before so I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out it was perfect for us, just some shops selling the inevitable trolls and knitwear as well as T shirts and mugs, the usual tourist stuff.
Flam

We hadn’t booked any of the organised trips, preferring to be independent and strike out on our own, so that is exactly what we did. The weather was fine and we were keen to stretch our legs so we went a walk in search of the source of a large waterfall, sadly we didn’t find it as the route became too muddy after a long yomp uphill and we had to give up, in fact nobody seemed to have managed to get to the waterfall.
River
High above the river there is a small group of buildings as you’ll see if you click the photo below to enlarge it. I suspect that those places are only inhabited in the summer months. Apparently Flam only has 350 inhabitants.

Flam

Turf roofs are fairly common in Norway, in rural areas anyway.

Flam

The river is very fast flowing and noisy and it has a lot of fishing platforms situated above it, you can walk on some of them. Strangely though there are also ‘fishing forbidden’ notices there too. In the background you can see that waterfall we didn’t reach.

fishing platforms

The bird life and planting in this part of Norway seems to be much the same as in the UK, but I’ve never seen a tree like the evergreen one in the photo below before. It was very pretty with ‘fruits’ like teeny trees on it, lemon yellow.
evergreen tree

We passed a church at one point and luckily it was open so we were able to have a peek in it, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

From Lysefjord we sailed into Aurlandsfjord which turned out to be even more spectacular. It’s a branch of the much larger Sognefjord as in the map below. If you look to the right hand side of the map you will see Aurlandsfjord.

Sogne Fjord map

The photographs don’t look that wonderful, it was a grey day, but I think you can get a flavour of the ethereal atmosphere with the wispy low clouds.

Aurlandsfjord

I think of Norway as being just like Scotland – with knobs on! It always amazes me that trees can thrive in such grim growing conditions, this is a very heavily wooded mountainside and the trees have their roots in the rocks.

Aurlandsfjord mountains

Aurlandsfjord leads to the small town of Flam (pronounced flom as in from) and on the way there there are small communities, wherever there are some small patches of greenery people have settled there. These pieces of fertile land are few and far between, most of Norway is too rocky for growing crops. That was the whole reason that the Vikings had to get on their ships and look for somewhere else to live, the land couldn’t support all of the inhabitants.

Aurlandsfjord houses

Some of these houses are only lived in during the summer, they look idyllic to me but I can imagine that the winters are long and grim.

Aurslandfjord houses

I was quite happy with our grey sky views of the fjord but if you want to see other people’s blue sky photos have a look here.

The next Norway post will be of Flam.

Lysefjord, Norway

For the first couple of days in Norway we sailed through some fjords before actually getting off the Black Watch.

Lysefjord

There are loads of waterfalls tumbling down the sides of the mountains. It’s all quite magical, so atmospheric.

Lysefjord in Norway

Pulpit Rock below is famous, it’s a flat piece of rock about 25 metres square and people go up there to sightsee, I’m not sure I fancy that!

Pulpit Rock

These are just a wee taster of our first fjord on our trip, I have loads more photos. Sadly they don’t capture just how spectacular the area is – but I’m sure you know that feeling when you look back at your own photos, they still bring back the memories though.

Lysefjord

I’m back!

I really enjoyed our trip to Norway, it was something I’d wanted to do again for donkey’s years, and often when you’ve looked forward to something so much it can be a wee bit of a disappointment. But Norway lived up to my expectations, I don’t suppose the fjords ever change, except when some more scree falls down the mountains, just making it even more scenic than before.

As ever, the food on the cruise was excellent, but luckily we were able to go for long walks when we got off the Black Watch, we were just about the only ones to do that, although one couple did hire bikes to travel up to the lakes at Flam.

Queensferry Crossing

The cruise started off from Rosyth though and we were lucky enough to be the first cruise ship to sail under the newly completed Queensferry Crossing which was being officially opened by the Queen the next day. It had been closed to traffic to allow 50,000 people to walk across the bridge over the weekend, it’s not a pedestrian bridge normally. There was a lottery for the tickets so as you can see there were people waving at us as we sailed under the bridge. The bridge isn’t open to pedestrians at all now so that was a rare opportunity for them – and for the passengers who were out on deck waving back to them, quite emotional really.

Queensferry Crossing

All going to plan tomorrow’s post will be in Norway!

Off again – Norway

Just a quick one to let you know that I’ll not be online for a wee while. We’re going to Norway for a week, I’ve been pining for the fjords since I first went to Scandinavia when I was just eleven years old, I was on one of those great heavily subsidised educational school cruises that we had way back in the 1960s and 70s – on the MS Uganda. That was when I discovered that I enjoyed a good rough sea as it was wild, the roughest that the captain had ever experienced, but I seemed to be the only passenger not afflicted with sea sickness. Since then whenever I’ve been on a ship it has been a disappointing flat calm, so I’m now left wondering if I’m still a seasick free zone!

After coming back from that trip we’ll have one night at home and then we’ll be going off to visit friends in the north-west of England. Some other very good friends have taken to calling us the nomads and I sort of see what they mean as we have been travelling around a lot during the last year, but it’s good to have something to look forward to when you’re retired.

You might not realise that my blog title Pining for the West is a bit of a pun on the famous Pining for the Fjords Monty Python sketch, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about you can see it below.

My garden update

A few friends have asked me how my garden is getting on, and I have been taking photos of it over the past couple of months, but just haven’t got around to blogging about it. It has been a weird year weather wise. The spring weather was quite late in getting here, then we had a very dry period, particularly while we were away in Belgium and Holland in early May. My garden was gasping when we got back home.

But since then we’ve had a lot of rain and wind to contend with. In Scotland we didn’t get the really hot weather that they had in England and Wales earlier in July, we’ve been getting one good day of weather followed by three or four bad days, sometimes feeling more like November.

The plants are coping though.

red broom

physocarpus and forget-me-nots

clematis

fir tree

acer and euphorbia

rosemary and geraniums

turk's cap lily

aquilegias

aquilegia

Most of those photos were taken in May so the garden looks quite different now, but I’ll leave those photos for another post!

Dutch dog walk – part 2

Back to that long walk we had with the dogs and family in Holland – one of the things I love about that area is that most of the houses are very individual, generally designed by the original owners and built by a local builder. So below are a few of the rural houses we passed whilst walking the dogs.

Thatched House

Dutch House

Dutch house + topiary

The hedge and trees in the photo below look like they’ve been trimmed by manicure scissors, and apparently the man who cuts it does it all by eye, no guide string required.
Dutch House + Hedge

The house below has ‘built in 1918’ on it, it looks fairly modern to me though. I find it difficult to judge how old the houses are as they are all built of the same sort of bricks as nowadays. I haven’t seen any stone built houses there at all. It’s rare to see an unkempt house and garden, Dutch people seem to be very houseproud.
Dutch house 1918

The photo below is one of the roads we were walking on, amazingly straight. If you have no hills to manouever roads around then there’s no reason not to have straight lines I suppose.
Dutch road

We were there in early May, the spring was late, so lots of the trees were just beginning to get their leaves.
Dutch view

Dutch view

The sheep were gathered expectantly at the gate for some reason, but we had to disappoint them, we had nothing for them.
Dutch sheep
We walked round in a big circle and must have gone about four or five miles on what turned out to be the hottest day we had there. Well it keeps you fit!

A Dutch dog walk

Back in May we were in Holland, visiting relatives, and although for once the weather there wasn’t great, we did have a few good days. On one of them we went on a long walk with the dogs and as the area in the north-west (Frisian) part of the Netherlands is mainly rural, we were walking around farmland.
Foals and horse in Holland

Foals and horses

Unfortunately it isn’t like in the UK where you can get up close to any animals in fields. Most of the fields are surrounded by wide drainage ditches, I really wanted to get nearer this mare with her foal, but unless I waded over mud it wasn’t possible.

Foal and mare

There are horses all over the place, a real paradise for horsey people, apart from the fact that you usually can’t get close enough to pat them. They were always interested to see us though.

horses

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral

After a few decent days of weather on Orkney a storm rolled in, terrible high winds and torrential rain, so we decided to drive to Kirkwall which is the main town on Orkney. We dashed from shop to shop in a bid to avoid the worst of the rain, not that there are that many shops in Kirkwall.

St Magnus Cathedral beckoned us over the road and although there were quite a lot of people inside – that didn’t detract from the beauty of the place. I usually much prefer the atmosphere in small churches (not that I am at all religious) as some large places of worship often have that ‘fear of God’ about them, but this cathedral felt like a place of peace.

St Magnus Cathedral back towards door

The floor is particularly lovely.

St Magnus Cathedral Floor

As is the font which is encrusted with semi-precious polished stones.
St Magnus Cathedral Font

St Magnus Cathedral altar

St Magnus Cathedral Wall

I love this model of a Viking ship.

St Magnus Cathedral Viking Ship

There are more images of the cathedral here.