Category Archives: travel

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

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Xmas by the SeaSide

Winter Street

_ The inn

by

Elin Hildebrand

A NetGalley Review

Winter Street inn is in Nantucket.  This was once a whaling town and island and rather boisterous in its past life. But now is very sedate and even boasts a private resort. nantucket

It is normally considered a summer holiday resort with sandy beaches  and a population of less than 11,000 and as of April 2015 an unemployment rate of 5% as many of its inhabitants are involved in the tourist trade.

However, there is a lot of competition amongst the tourist accommodation – and looking on the ‘real’ visitor site there are over 40 places offering B&B or calling themselves Inns or Hotels on the island, not to mention the privately rented homes and now of course Airbnb will be available. With a US economy  that is struggling, taking holidays that are expensive, is one option many families are willing to forgo.  Reuters state that consumers now expect deals and discounting for most products that they purchase and this must surely apply to holidays as much as any other purchase.  And with the  discounting, travel abroad may become more viable and additionally, in Nantucket the island is very quiet indeed at Xmas and of the 40 plus places I found on the island listing only 2 or 3 were open at Xmas. It thus is perhaps not a place to spend anything other than a very quiet indeed break.

Note here. My husband and I have often gone away just after Xmas to seaside resorts in the UK and it is almost impossible to find somewhere to eat or to spend time in out of the bad weather. We much prefer to go somewhere warmer!

So back the fictional Inn.

There are a cast of characters that represents what one might call a ‘normal’ family now in the US. A family of many parts where there have been divorces and children mixed from many relationships. Siblings, half-siblings and step siblings all mingle together. Fathers, mothers, step mothers and aunts, uncles, step aunts and so it goes on.

Each of the chapters in the book is written from a different character’s viewpoint but not repeating the action – moving the story along from their vantage of here comes Xmas Eve – can they come? Do they want to come? Who turns up anyway because of what else happens in their life – and so the Inn collects its family together.

And then Xmas Day comes along and there are traditions from the first family and then the second family and which shall be enacted? And thus what food should be cooked?

I found that the writing style just carried you forward in time and space and characters and their lives as each time a character ‘spoke’ their chapter you knew their musings and emotions as events took place.

I found this a very appealing book.

4 stars

Cross the Borders and Deceive

For the Dignified Dead

By

 Michael Genelin

A NetGalley Review

A tensely written story that crosses Europe and cultures. A female detective makes the links across multiple crimes, deaths, and countries, that culminate in a most unexpected outcome.

The writing style impressed me as it felt Eastern European in its cadence and grammar and the preciseness of a detective whose mind could make these links across so many clues and occurrences, in so many different countries.

This book did not read like an American novel. It read like a translation from a Baltic or Slavic language, which, from a western writer, was I thought impressive.

The story was complex and complicated and involved many disparate countries and police authorities. The detective amassed an enormous amount of travel miles – she hopped on planes like they were buses, in her quest to find the truth and to help find a lost boy.

In the end, she was surprised by the truth or the crimes and who committed them and just how far the conspiracy spread and who was involved and who was the mastermind, and thus just what her own role in the conspiracy turned out to be

Pop in, Pop out and go Pop!

PoP Travel

by

Tara Tyler

This is the first book in a series by Tara Tyler. She gave the book to me to read after I obtained the second book in NetGalley for review and suggested I read this first as it sets the scene. And what a scene it is…

Here we see how we will travel in the future. As in Star trek we will be using transporters that break us down into our essential atoms and then put us back together again – hopefully, with everything in the right place! There were a few accidents it is true when they were trying to perfect the concept but now-a-days it was no problem. Or so everyone thought and happily popped around the world time after time after time – much more frequently than was recommended it was true, but then it was all safe – wasn’t it?Star-Trek-Transporter

But some people have doubts. And so does our hero Cooper after he meets Phisner and starts to investigate his missing sister. And then there is the hot agent who is supposed to stop Cooper but…

I really enjoyed reading this story – it ‘popped’ along at a good pace with some interesting concepts in it, even tough one must say not necessarily new ideas. And of course, the conspiracy buffs will have all their fears recognised here, and I do love a good conspiracy myself.

The writing was fresh and clean and accessible. We weren’t overwhelmed with jargon and science as such a book could have done, but were told just enough to understand the theory and principles.

So worth a read and I’m giving it 4 stars. I shall read the next book Simulation shortly and look forward to it.

Margate by the Sea: an unexpected delight

We went to Margate to visit the new(ish, 2011) Turner Art Gallery and the Grayson Perry exhibition.

We were slightly disappointed by its architecture – not the shape but the colour – dull grey. Apparently when opened it was coloured by banners but not now and whilst the sun was shining – quite remarkable for this end of summer this year, we could envisage it being very dull indeed on a wet grey day by the sea.85-turner-contemporary

It is positioned right at one end of the huge series of bays that form the Margate sea front. By the harbour wall of what was once Meregate a small fishing village . it has been inhabited since probably pre-historic times and certainly the Romans lived there but constant invasions made life difficult during the 8th, 9th and 10th century.

Margate is situated on the coast of the Isle of Thanet, which of course, hasn’t been an island for a long time. But it was still an island when the Romans lived there and a bridge wasn’t built until the 1400s. In the 1700s you could still reach it by ferry, but the channel silted up and Reculver is now on dry(ish) land. The land still needs to be defended against the sea trying to gain its channel back and so there are sea defences all along the coastline.

Margate – which is on the outer edge and thus faces the English Channel, was part of the Cinque Ports through the control of Dover, but became independent from their control in 1857.

It is claimed to be one of, if not the first, coastal resort for sea bathing which greatly changed its status from a fishing (smuggling) harbour to a fashionable bathing town bringing with it not only boats carrying traffic down river from London but eventually also the railway. Turner lived in Margate for some years coming down by boat from London and then leaving by boat to cross the channel from there. Very convenient – and thus the Turner Gallery was built here.isle of thanet

However, after the flush of post war holidays in seaside resorts within Britain and then the holiday camps of Butlins  and Pontins etc decline in the 1970s, when cheap Spanish holidays came in for the masses, Margate declined.

I went to this area of coastline often as a child staying at Broadstairs, just along from Margate in a bed and breakfast establishment of which there were huge numbers. These high terraced houses are now in sad repair but, since 2011 and the Turner Gallery, some are being bought up and refurbished and becoming boutique hotels such as the Crescent Victoria where we stayed, just along from the Gallery.

The Isle of Thanet has a most amazing coastline. It is really all sand and yet more sand. Great depth of beaches that are shallow in slope so good for kiddie play which is why the area was so popular when I was a child. And now there is a seawater pool in the middle of one beach for safe swimming.

Margate is tatty round the edges but has some interesting areas around the Old Town where they seem to specialise in vintage clothes and furniture. We found two really nice places to eat – Harbour Café which did the most amazing chips; and the Ambrette which is a modern Indian – even does roast Sunday lunches with venison and other exotic meats. However, rather lacking in vegetarian food which was a shame. Still good reviews from the meat eaters – even some suggesting it is worth a Michelin Star!

And then of course there is the Shell Grotto. No visit to Margate is complete without a visit to this very interesting but unexplained and without know history, underground cavern.shell-grotto

Stories about when it was created range from the Phonoecians in very early history (yes they did trade with the UK) as a religious place – with an altar at the far end of these underground passageways. Or a Folly of course. Or something else entirely.

What is certain is that all the shells apart from 4 are English, it has been around a few hundred years and has been open since the 19th century to the public, and the shells have been added, altered etc at different times but some are clearly very old. Many of the patterns are symbolic eg A Tree of Life; A Corn Goddess; A Ganesha; A skeleton; A Perseus and so on….

Spooky as it is all underground and quite large – 104 feet.

What is a really nice thing to have is the Viking Trail. This is coastal path for bikes and pedestrians which is very smooth and wide and goes all around the island’s coast passing through Ramsgate and Broadstairs and Reculver too. It is 25 miles in length so you can run a marathon if you wish – but the one running when we were there did a figure of 8 and came back to its start!viking trail

Hot and steamy and up in the hills – tea anyone?

The Tea Planter’s Wife

By

Dinah Jeffries

A NetGalley Review

The Tea Plantations owners and their way of life feels hot, steamy, immensely privileged, full of snide gossip and hidden secrets.

tea_plantation

We really feel the atmosphere of Ceylon before the Second World War, as it was then known, when we read this book.

 

According to the author it is set between 1925 and 1934 and all the events that happened to the Western world have their impact on Ceylon but often some time later as information was passed along much more slowly then.

sri-lanka-map

The author lived in Malaysia as a small child so she understands the culture of Ceylon as it might have been then and the issues surrounding skin colour and who it was correct to talk to, socialise with, and even marry. The same issues were of course reflected in India at this time – the whole of the old order of the British Empire was breaking down – and the differences in lifestyle became not only more obvious but more iniquitous. Unrest amongst the workers became more common and Ghandi was speaking in India and the concept of autonomy and self-rule were suddenly being discussed amongst the natives of all the British Empire.

And yet to fuel this Empire’s economy workers had been drafted from all parts of the Empire to work in different countries where they were regarded as third class citizens – perhaps not even citizens with rights even though they may have been born in the country in which they lived and worked. All of which gave fuel to the growing unrest.

Currently Sinhalese constitute the largest ethnic group in the country, with 74.88% of the total population. Sri Lankan Tamils are the second major ethnic group in the island, with a percentage of 11.2. Sri Lankan Moors comprise 9.2%.

Tamils of Indian origin were brought into the country as indentured labourers by British colonists to work on estate plantations. Nearly 50% of them were repatriated following independence in 1948. They are distinguished from the native Tamil population that has resided in Sri Lanka since ancient times.

There are also small ethnic groups such as the Burghers (of mixed European descent) and Malays from Southeast Asia. Moreover, there is a small population of Vedda people who are believed to be the original indigenous group to inhabit the island. [wikipedia]

This multi-ethnic  and multi-cultural country did not in fact achieve independence until 1948 – after the Second World War but a universal franchise was achieved in 1931. However, the Tamils were left as a minority in the Govt as a result of this – they later demanded 50% representations for the Sinhalese and 50% for other ethnic groups but they did not receive this and the Sinhalese dominated the legislature.

The result was the Sri Lankan Civil War which began in  1983, with intermittent insurgency by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), an independent militant organisation which fought to create an independent state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009.[Wikipedia]. Of course, the way in which the plantations had been run and the Govt were the root causes of this war.sri-lanka2

But the war had not started when this book was set although we begin to see the actions that began it through the treatment of the Tamil workers on the plantations.

There are also many secrets in the family histories of the plantation owners that they kept hidden away. Family blood lines were ‘cleaned’ up to represent the line they which they had rather than the one they really had. And these family secrets begin to destroy the wife of the title as her marriage comes under increasing strain.

I don’t usually read these type of books but was intrigues by the book description and the idea of a tea plantation. As they seem very foreign and very romantic and I could almost see myself being seduced enough by the idea to become a planter’s wife – almost – but it was a very isolated life, very remote, and very formal – which really isn’t me at all!

I did enjoy the book and would probably be tempted to read the next book by this author especially having read on her website it will likely be set in Vietnam. Far Eastern travel by book…and some fascinating periods of history too.

 

The Irish Experience: Cork and Blarney

Well I guess Ireland lived up to expectations in that it was largely wet. And green.

We visited three towns whilst we were there: Cork; Limerick; and Dublin. Each town being very different in its culture and thus experience.

We actually stayed just outside Cork in a country hotel  set in a golf course with weddings every day – it was certainly wedding season! This meant that we had to drive to get to our experiences which included a wonderful wild-life park: Fota Wildlife Park. http://www.fotawildlife.ie/.  As you can see from the webpage they were great fun to visit. We saw herds of giraffes, flamingos, orang utans, tigers and other large beasties. and generally had great fun.

There was even a wallaby mum who brought her baby onto the general path and just lay there and sun-bathed.20150814_121632-1-1 20150814_120951 20150814_120958 P1030982 P1030949 P1030950

One of the more interesting areas was their newly laid out seal enclosure, where you could go downstairs to an area which was at water level to see the seals and penguins. it looked very weird from the path of course as they appeared to be in the water…

This wildlife park is only about rare and endangered species and breeding. Some animals have become incredibly rare in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching etc.

We also went to Limerick whilst in Ireland as well as Blarney and Dublin.

Blarney Castle is great. They have made a wonderful garden and generally a good experience for all the family especially those people who knit! Now why would that be you wonder?

And to explain you would need to see what the knitters have done – a group of ladies have wrapped the tree trunks in fancy knitted cosies, some embroidered, some crocheted and others just multi-coloured.

And then the kicker – they went into the garden and adorned an arbour with pom poms!

Apart from the pom poms the garden is really nice with a wetland area and other good features including a witch’s cavern and children’s activities and nice planting.

There is even a poison garden which sends you aware paranoid about what you are growing!

And no, none of us kissed the Blarney Stone!

 

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