On 20th October 2021, 2 years to the day since I went to New York and 21 months since my last holiday to Sydney I set off for Inverness in Scotland. While this is not a foreign holiday it is still the first away from home.
Originally I was going to go around the same time in 2020 unfortunately a lock down prevented this. This was also Plan B for my holiday this year but again cancellations and Covid prevented this.
My initial plan was to catch the train from my home town of Chesterfield up to Inverness, however, the cost of the train ticket was too expensive compared with other modes of travel. For example the train ticket alone was £600 return, I normally use the advance saver tickets to reduce the cost where I book a specific train and time of travel. As there were none available it turned out cheaper ( I got train tickets, hotel(s) and flight for similar price) to fly and not from a local airport either.
A short stay of 5 nights staying just outside Inverness I got to visit some of the sights: The famous Loch Ness, Castle Urquhart, Eilean Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye.
The first full day in Inverness was a half day coach tour of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, the following day I used the hop on/off buses to see the local sites, the third day was a all day tour of the Isle of Skye including Eilean Donan Castle (as seen in the films Highlander  and James Bond – The World is Not Enough ).
For my first venture out since January 2020 I decided to visit the UK’s capital city of London. At approx 150 miles or 240km I decided to sit back, relax and take the train and by booking 3 months in advance I managed to get 1st class tickets for £35 each way (about $50 US / €40 / $64 AUS).
Its been a few years since I last visited London other than passing through St Pancras and Paddington on my way to Heathrow Airport. It was back in 2014 when I went to see the WW1 memorial poppies at the Tower of London.
A warm sunny day on the 8th June, I arrived in London St Pancras at around 10:40 and headed for the south bank. Unfortunately the Palace of Westminster was under going some renovation work and the Elizabeth Tower which house the clock bell known as “Big Ben” was covered in scaffolding.
Due to the aftermath of a post Covid 19 world the city was deserted compared to a “usual” day, even on The Tube during rush hour there were few people about. Normally the platform is full to capacity and people are squeezing onto every carriage of the train. I was able to stand with plenty of space and even got a seat. Most of the souvenir stores were shut and many restaurants were full of empty tables.
On the 12th July 2020 at 01:52 I was working nights and heading back to base for a break. In the north west, low in the sky we saw a strange smudge. It was comet Neowise.
In the UK we have a moderate amount of light pollution which can make seeing the deep sky or faint objects difficult, even in North Derbyshire the cities, towns and villages lights can be bright. As we moved away from the town and down the country lanes the more severe light pollution eased with only the distant lights of Sheffield approximately 10 miles away. We pulled the ambulance over and looked in amazement at the comet.
Using an iPhone with a 10sec timed exposure I was able to get the image of the comet. Whilst not as good a picture that could have been taken with specialist camera and telescopes I was still impressed and pleased with the result.
One thing you cannot tell from the picture is just how dark it really was, it seems very well lit due to the timed exposure.
After this night the weather changed and I was not able to see the comet again. At least I got to see it and this time had a picture to prove it unlike when we had the magnificent comet Hale-Bopp back in 1995 which looked amazing both with the naked eye and through binoculars.
July was also a good month for some interesting pictures of the sky.
Exactly a year after my previous visit to the city I returned for a second visit. Armed with the new camera’s to get better pictures and video than last time, I explored previous locations as well as a few new ones.
This year the trip took place under the shadow of the bush fires that have caused so much damage and cost many lives. The air would smell like burnt paper and you could see the blue haze across the street on a bad day. It was also the start of the Covid-19 out break in China that would eventually encompass the whole world.
As 2019 comes to a close it’s been the year of travel for myself. Just over a year ago in November 2018 I had my first holiday and flight since 2012 when I flew to Los Angeles and stayed in Hollywood and made a trip that I’ve always wanted to do since being around 7 years old. In 2019 I really made up for the lack of travel in the previous years. In January I flew to Sydney Australia via Singapore to visit family and tick off another “always want to do” thing off my check list. May 2019 I returned back to Los Angeles and stayed in Santa Monica, October 2019 saw a trip to New York and seeing all those famous landmarks.
For the next year 2020 I plan to visit Sydney Australia in January. It will be a year to the day since the last time I flew there on the same flight BA15 and again calling at Singapore to refuel before the final leg to Sydney. Once there I’m looking at visiting either Brisbane, Melbourne or Adelaide. Nothing is planned yet and no destination has been finalised.
At this time no other trips have been planned in 2020, it is a large world and there are many other places that I wish to travel to. I have always wanted to fly to Canada, New Zealand as well as return to Los Angeles or Australia. Other European destinations are also open as I’ve always wanted to see Pompeii, Rome or return to Switzerland.
Have a great Christmas and New Year, all the best for 2020!
On October 22nd I set off from London Heathrow for New York and after about 7 ½ hours I landed at JFK airport. A short taxi ride through the city and I arrived at the Paramount Hotel in Times Square.
The first thing to note about New York it is very busy, being the biggest city in the USA. Manhattan is very dense with skyscrapers covering the whole area. Traffic is always busy and noisy, with it being compulsory to sound your horn at every intersection or stationary vehicle no matter the time of day. The second thing to note is that for every night you stay you have to pay a “resort fee” of around $40.
Having been to the west coast and Los Angeles I thought I would try the east coast, there are many famous land marks such as the State of Liberty, the Empire States Building, World Trade Center, and of course Central Park. The best way to see these is through the City Pass system where you buy a book of tickets and see the various attractions.
As before I used public transport to explore the city. Like most other large cities New York has a metro system and extensive bus network and these can be accessed with a Metro Card which can be purchased giving 7 days unlimited travel for $33. Most journeys however due to the congested traffic can be quicker if walked. The staff on the Metro are not as helpful as in Los Angeles, London or Sydney. It took another commuter to explain that certain busses, even if you have an unlimited card, require you get a paper ticket before hand from a machine at the bus stop. It certainly wasn’t as good value as other cities to buy a 7 day card. Using a New York yellow cab is certainly an experience, all rules of the road seem to be exempt from these.
The hotel rooms are also very small for the price you pay, for the same price as I paid for 7 nights I would have gotten a much larger room in LA and with facilities to be able to make drinks and prepare simple food or even a fridge (this was available for extra cash and if the room was big enough or they hand any spare). With the resort fee on top of your room fee you can’t help but feel like you are being ripped off even if it does include free phone calls (local, long distance and international) and access to wifi.
Having been to New York and seen the sights there I would not necessarily go back there again, never say never though. A flight to Washington DC was booked but had to be cancelled due to getting a stomach bug and not being able to fly. I would like to see other places on the east coast such as Florida or Washington DC.
On the 21st October I will be setting off to London and Heathrow Airport on the start of a 7 day trip to the USA East Coast. During this visit I will be staying in New York Time Square as well as having a day visit to Washington DC on the 24th.
I will be flying from New York’s La Guardia Airport to Washington DC’s Reagan Airport on a Domestic flight with American Airlines.
In both NYC and DC I have planned to visit iconic world famous land marks such as the Statute of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, World Trade Center Memorial, Washington Monument, Lincoln Monument and of course The White House. Expect plenty of picture and videos of this visit.
Again flying from Heathrow Terminal 5 on 7th January 2020 I will be returning to Sydney. Staying in the city and visiting family and friends that have moved out there. I am currently looking at visiting either Melbourne or Brisbane, though nothing has been booked at this time.
A walk on a summers day with my camera along the Chesterfield Canal between Brimington and Hollingwood Hub. The Hollingwood Hub is on the site of the old railway station build in 1892 and which closed in 1963 under the Beeching cuts. The station crossed the canal above the lock and headed towards Staveley and Chesterfield.
Photo’s were taken of the remains of the station which has now been over grown by nature. One side of the banking has been lowered and levelled to provide parking space to the Hollingwood Hub.
Finally got around to editing together a video of my Los Angeles, Santa Monica trip in May. Video was recorded on an iPhone 8 in 4K and still shots taken on my new Canon G7X Mk II camera.
Locations include Santa Monica Pier, La Cienega / Jefferson Blvd, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Vermont, Griffith Observatory, Venice Beach and Malibu.
The video is on YouTube and can be found here. It was recorded in 4K and should be viewable on YouTube at this if your device can playback.
As before I am not a professional video editor or recorder, the video was edited using iMove on my MacBook Air.
I have not included the California Science Centre in this video as that is covered in the Space Shuttle video and in the Gallery.
This trip was more enjoyable than the first time I was in LA as I was now used to being in LA, knew the area a little better and was in a more tourist friendly area for restaurants, shops etc than the area of Hollywood I was before.
When you’re in Los Angeles and it starts to rain there is always something to do. The California Science Center is one of those things you can do, it also has the advantage of hosting the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
I can remember as a small child watching on TV the first launch of the space shuttle, it got a bit boring due to the delays and postponements, but it was an amazing thing to watch. The shuttle differed from the ‘conventional’ rockets that had launched so far in the fact it was not a capsule attached to the end of a rocket but a ‘space craft’ that could land and fly again.
When first launched the Space Shuttle would make space travel routine and cheap, two words that access to space wasn’t in the 1970’s or 1980’s and to be honest its far from cheap and routine even today well into the 21st century. It’s ironic that at the time of writing this the only manned space vehicles operating are the Russian Soyuz (which pre dates even Apollo and the Space Shuttle) and a Chinese version of Soyuz. It’s also ironic that the three ‘new’ American space craft Orion, Starliner and Dragon have all returned to the ‘capsule’ design although they are now or will be reusable.
The original mission for the Space Shuttle was Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and specifically to the Skylab US space station launched in the 1970’s by the last of the Saturn V heavy lift moon rockets. Unfortunately due to delays in the shuttle program Skylab fell out of orbit and burned up before the shuttle first launched. Later the shuttle would perform satellite repairs (Hubble Space Telescope) and help build the International Space Station.
Seeing the iconic orbiter in person was a dream come true, so many times watching the shuttle on TV, playing with the shuttle toys as a kid and reading about its operation in many books, I never dreamed I would actually see it in real life.