Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The next, and next-to-last, stop on our around-half-the-world tour was Edinburgh, home of all the Venters(es), my mum's family. Cousins, aunts and uncles whichever way I turned. It was nice to spend time with family since we're so far away from home most of the year. Our visit was short but sweet. It was also nice showing Patrick the city that was once (for a brief period in my youth) my home! Unfortunately my camera had died by this point, so most of the pictures in this post were taken by Pat (or locals!) and many are repeats from his post about Edinburgh (which he posted in a much timelier fashion).

It's such an old city, it breathes history!

Pat, me and Auntie Mary, mum's sister.

Me and my ole pal, Greyfriars' Bobby, the best little dog there ever was!

In the Greyfriars' kirkyard, many years ago, I found the grave of Tom Riddle (Thomas Riddell, close enough!) and I swore I would find it again. When I stayed in Edinburgh in 2001, Harry Potter was just starting to take off. Since The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the series, is just up the road, I am convinced the authoress walked these quiet paths amongst the old gravestones for inspiration and solitude. Up along the way you'll find the gravestone of William Topaz McGonagall, the worst poet in the history of the world (great name, though, right?)

Clutching my Irn-Bru, trying to look spooked at Voldemort's family gravestone.

A view of Edinburgh castle from below.

We got lost in the alleys and cobblestone streets, but it was so atmospheric we didn't mind (Auntie Mary did a bit, though, when we were late to meet up with her).

Uncle George and Aunt Viv drove us to an old church near the Forth Bridge, where they had found the layouts of an old Roman arm base and set up a site dedicated to them, where you could walk along the paths and it would tell you where the mess hall, sleeping quarters, officers' rooms, etc., were.

In the Princes St. Gardens - not too many flowers... yet!

Another view of the castle, from another graveyard.

Edinburgh was wonderful! We crammed so much into our few days there - a bunch of museums, sightseeing, visiting with most of my relatives and we even saw a play! The weather was miserable for part of the time, but for Edinburgh at the tail end of winter we got quite lucky! I can't wait to go back and spend even more time showing Pat around and hanging out with the family.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Wow, it has actually been 2 months since I posted! I have an even bigger backlog now! To be fair, I've been very busy - directing Charlotte's Web, which is now up and running, having guests visit, working full time, writing a 2nd draft of my book, and getting ready to come home to get married! Hurray!

I will now take you back to... AMSTERDAM!!

Yes, Amsterdam is full of "coffee-shops" (places to buy/smoke pot), prostitutes and bakeries that are open all night selling chocalate covered waffles, donuts, eclairs, pizzas. There are also plenty of tourist (like us) trying to decipher maps on every corner. But, Amsterdam is also full of beautiful flowers, spectacular architecture, canals, cats and bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles.


Everything was quite expensive, but we saw things you couldn't see anywhere else, like a cat licking whipped cream out of a shot glass on a bar and the world's largest collection of Van Gogh as well as some Rembrandt and Vermeer. We also went to what was probably the best vegetarian restaurant in the world - De Boelhoed (The Bowler Hat). Expensive (but probably not that expensive for Amsterdam) but huge portions, nice staff and a friendly kitty. Every store/restaurant had a cat. Heaven!!

We went to De Poezenboot, which is a cat shelter on a boat on one of the canals. We made a few friends, some more shy than other.

A view from a bridge of the Bloemenmarkt, the flower market - not just tulips, but cacti and roses as well as Dutch touristy trinkets.

The Christmas Palace - all Christmas all the time!!! Christmas stuff the whole year 'round!

Amsterdam is full of little alleys, some only narrow enough for two people to slip through. Someone will always try to ride a bike through them.

A big beautiful church. One of many.

Tourists in the Red Light District!

Pat, enjoying the tilting buildings. They are so old and so narrow that they lean into each other or lean forward. Some of them even have material built in to fill in the gaps.

More bicycles, beautiful buildings and canals.

Amsterdam, like all major cities, has a Chinatown, complete with Buddhist temple.

Another gorgeous building along the canal.

The university theatre.

Me n' Rembrandt.

Pat in the heart of it all.

Me, at my new favourite store in the world - De Kunstboer, where I bought a new wallet and phone case. Everything was bright colours, cute animals and polkadots!

It was probably a good thing that I had run out of money/room in my suitcase. It was nearing the tail end of our European holiday and I could have spent thousands on beautiful, unnecessary crap in Amsterdam. Like little fairy-pigs. So cute!

By then, the crocuses were all starting to sprout. It was cold at night, but the days were breezy and sunny. We were a little early for the tulips, but one day we'll go back and see them! Three days was simply not enough to see this amazing city!