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“It’s called the Rainbow Gathering”, repeated the seemingly innocent blonde-haired girl, as we perched on the pavement amidst the hustle-and-bustle of Mexico City’s largest market: El Mercado de la Merced. “It’s hard to explain exactly what it is… I can’t even tell you where it takes place”. I felt that familiar sense of intrigue that comes with envisioning something so completely unfamiliar, a rousing excitement, which urged me to find out more. “You’ll just have to try and find this place yourself”, she said, as a faint smile spread across her face. The idea grew in my mind until it became almost too much to bear; I had to discover this secret location and the mystery that lay within.

Four weeks later, I found myself sitting in a very different spot, gazing in awe at what had been absent from even my wildest visions. A new world, one so far removed from the ‘real world’ had been created in a remote jungle setting, where humans and animals interacted freely with one another and everybody was naked, bar the expressions of peace and contentment they each wore across their faces.

Imagine waking up on a bed of dirt and leaves, sunlight beating down on your semi-nude body, then beginning your day with a ‘bath’ in the cool stream. Imagine serving your morning coffee with a ladle from a large, dented metal pot gently bubbling over a campfire, before drinking it from the closest thing resembling a cup that nature could provide. Imagine singing and chanting in a circle, hands interlocked with unclothed strangers, as a meal of fruit, grains and more of the jungle’s offerings miraculously appears before your eyes. Finally, imagine attempting to smoke from a pipe that runs through the earth, witnessing a talent show take place on a stage composed of mud and topping it off with a colossal fire, around which people were dancing wildly and losing themselves to the hypnotic rhythm of drums – that was my first day at the Rainbow Gathering.

Before arriving here, my imagination wasn’t able to stretch that far. I learned more about humankind, once stripped down to its simplest form, in that day than I ever had done before. Here were people who had found peace and harmony in the most unlikely of places; people who were satisfied living with the absolute bare minimum; people who had managed to create so much from so little. I will never forget the events of my first day, nor the rest of the week I spent here, during which I gradually began to adapt to this way of life myself. Upon my return to the city, I felt incredibly self-aware, the various sights and sounds all around me too much to bear, for my senses were so heightened. I did, of course, readapt to what we know as ‘normality’ after a short while, but I forever think back to that very first morning in the jungle and often yearn to be there once again.

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Shakespeare Birthplace

William Shakespeare, author of “Romeo & Juliet” and giver of spine shivers to pretty much all students who have had the pleasure to study his works, was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. Personally, I’ve always been a fan and when the opportunity to visit London has surfaced, I immediately wanted to figure out a way to get to the famous birthplace of one of my favorite playwrights.

You know how you tend to think of a favorite quote in any given situation? Or is it just me? Anyway, as I was putting together the details for my day trip from London to Stratford-upon-Avon, I immediately thought of this:

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” (Merry Wives).

I can plan my friends’ trips to the smallest details but I have yet to find the patience to do that for my own travels. So, while there is a train station really close to the house where Shakespeare was born, I figured it’s easier to just rent a car. In my years of traveling I’ve discovered that cars give you that added flexibility that you cannot have when you have to stick to a timetable.

Getting there

The driving distance between London and Stratford-upon-Avon is under 2 hours. Do yourself a favor and make sure your rental car has sat nav system (GPS) and if you are not used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road, you may want to hire a driver, too. Once you get to the city, the best option is to leave your car in one of the many car parks available and tackle the scenic city on foot.

The Shakespeare family home

The Shakespeare family homes include a lot more than just his birthplace (thanks to not doing that much of a research this came as a surprise to me as well). But the Shakespeare Birthplace is the house which everyone comes to visit (of course).

If you do want to visit all five places, consider getting a combined ticket (Adult: £23.90 and Child: £14.00 – prices correct as of May 2015). If you have limited time on your hands, at least consider seeing his grave aside from the birthplace (Adult: £15.90 and Child: £9.50).

About the Shakespeare Birthplace

It is the house where he lived from the day he was born up to five years into his married to Anne Hathaway. For those who like his works, this place will shed light into the man and his early years (and these things aren’t exactly taught in school when English is your second language).

The house, while keeping the features of the era it dates from, has been restored and altered through the years. Still, it’s a shrine to the famous playwright. By the way, did you know that both Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were pilgrims here?

The Treasures exhibition features unique and priceless objects linked to the great author. Among them you can find the only portrait which is believed to have been painted while he was still alive.

Allow as much time as you want exploring the places. The gardens (if you chose to visit them as well) provide the perfect place to stop and enjoy the scenery and the people around you. And if you are lucky you’ll catch the actors presenting excerpts from his work.

For the children, a visit here can be a great way to get to know Shakespeare’s work and life. For the adults, it’s the perfect opportunity to find interesting trivia and understand more about the playwright who has given us reasons to cry or laugh whether during school classes or in the theaters.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore, so do our minutes, hasten to their end.

Photo Credit: paul_appleyard via Compfight cc

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There is a quote by St. Francis of Assisi sitting smack dab on the very same page in the journal where I began scribbling the happy and illegible notes for this submission. What I call a “paper sandwich,” my journal has sat before me as a confidante for as long as I can remember, most of the writing being legible only to myself. There is poor rhyme and suspect reason clinging to each page. I sometimes write sideways or in gibberish because if I do not get “it” out, like now, it will make me sick. Like a pile of laundry, these words build up inside me, and if there were not regular washing going on, I would surely perish under a load of colors. Ew. That is why I burn these diaries during the season changes. Tossed into crackling dry fires, appropriate colors jump from a particularly high content of chemicals. The memories on those treated pages become nothing short of spectral.

Thankfully, the charming saintly quote give clear direction: “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Right on, Franky boy. I really had no desire to write anything of value and yet, here I sit with the needs spilling out like beans begging planting on the hill. It reminds me of another time I had brushed up against some force larger than myself, this time, though, it was in a much smaller garden in London, England.

Westminster Abbey in the late 80s was as popular as ever, I guess. It attracted throngs of churchgoers and like-minded, open-mouthed individuals, overly gawking and as impressed as I was by Lord Byron’s name in mosaic floor tile. Even though you knew his body laid at rest far from the Abbey, you still had the exaggerated sense that you belonged with this dead bard somehow, there, in the marble columns and perfect lines of English history. Incidentally, a similar experience happened in the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I knew Jesus’ bones were not there, but the magic of the residue that his imagery causes surely is present and sits enfolded in myself. Still, Tennyson is no slouch and I could feel his straight posture there in the Poet’s Corner of the Abbey, supporting my step with the other dead writers.

I have made it a point to discover the local church or temple everywhere I travel and, in so doing, I get a general sense of well-being. Traveling along those impersonal foreign roads, eating the unusual foods yet always aware of that one undeniable string links us all together; this keeps me calm. Praying is a serious interest of mine, the “how-to” of it. Because praying is a quest, it consistently tests in many different ways. One day I hope to stumble on real humility, personified.

I stood around with my mouth open in wonder for long enough and brass stenciled an odd twelfth-century figure on to black crate paper. Then I escaped to an outdoor courtyard to catch a breather from the Anglo hum of high culture. Along the way, I saw a small gate about the size of a card table with a sign written on it—in a clear and keep-out calligraphy—something to the effect of “Do not enter.” Yet the gate that stood between this sanctuary’s bowels and me was wide open. Natural dilemma! Portent portent portent! I, the natural explorer described also as a delicately inclined disobedient, saw this paradox as an opportunity to hang out with God. I was not a “believer” because I had known His presence always and therefore had no need for belief per se. I understood this as a direct invitation for investigation and by allowing the word “invite” to tumble from my mind I knew this was a greater gift than I ever could have expected that morning. Walking through those open doors, so grandly studded like huge dappled moth wings, secretly blessed me I think, and seemed only outwardly to be a simple entrance into a church.

Investigating is one of my favorite things to do. Be sure. There’s no mistake in following your heart, and just know that you will always be rewarded with the same like when you reach your destination. My present arrival, into a small garden I had found immediately chiming to my left as I passed through the gate, was in perfect rhythm with the smile in my heart, which I had dutifully followed. There was a space just big enough for a lichened stone bench, a bit of well-tended grass and a bust of some cardinal or other chiseled into an immortalized honor of rock. I sat down on the bench, deep in wonder at how much history had passed before me and how the aeon will pass ever long after I am gone. In other words, I came to a clear state of recognizing my own mortality. Ugh. In exaggerated contemplation, I heard a rushing sound swishing closer and closer. The swish drew in at a latitudinal distance crossing me. I saw a row of eleven priests who silently, except for their long, jet-black robes brushing against the pavement, walked quickly yet without haste to another class or prayer or lunch or whatever Westminster Abbey priests do.

Well, the last priest looked my way. With a barely perceptible facial comment, he suggested I was trespassing (with a notable amount of delivery on the esses in “trespassing”). I had forgotten that fact and was even about to take a small nap when it occurred to me that yes, I was trespassing. With that, I stood up and returned to my place of wandering tourists, wishing all the while that I could move as gracefully as any one of those priests. I do know we have our place, and although we may never discover it, it is surely clear when we do find ourselves out of place.

This is an interesting subject to confer on, finding one’s place. This has always been my immediate goal in life and it was only recently I understood that if the conditions for our inner study are always correct, just as they are, then I am in my place already and always have been.

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My shoulders are burning. My ankles feel like they are made of broken glass. I still haven’t showered; my clothes are stubbornly holding onto the scent of burning wood and sweat. Probably why the seats adjacent to me on this bus are empty, despite it being rush-hour. I just got back from wild camping in the Peak District, and I’m feeling a strange sense of tranquillity as I’m heading home through the bustling city.

Out of the four of us, none had wild camped before. We have just entered our twenties; life is now beginning to unload its torrents of relentless responsibilities and monotonous expectations. We all felt the same – we needed to get away, out of the city, out of consumerism and commercialism and the concrete world we are so accustomed to.

It was raining when we arrived in Buxton. All we knew about this town came from the bottled water brand of the same name – further evidence to our capitalistic credence and ignorance of anything not found within a Tesco Express. Stepping off the bus we had taken from Manchester, the first thing I noticed was the smell. As much as I love Birmingham, the city I was born and raised in, it’s not a pleasant smelling place. You don’t really reach this revelation until you go to a place like Buxton.

The air smelled clean, the people looked happy and the streets were tidy and quirkily laid out. Our stay was short though; we were determined to reach the Peak District with plenty of time before the sun began to set. Using our smart phones and the advice gleaned from helpful locals, we managed to find our bearings and set off in the direction of the National Park.

Our packs were heavy but our spirits surged with every step down the country road. The landscape around us became increasingly alien and mystifyingly beautiful the further we travelled; I noticed that our conversation topics changed as soon as we entered the wild. We delved deep into spiritualism, told fantasy stories where we affected strange accents, and frequently broke into spontaneous song like some wayfaring a Capella group. It occurred to me at one point that we must have looked extremely bizarre to anyone who witnessed our antics. The beauty of this trip, however, was that we were finally, wholly free of the inhibitions and social etiquette one has to uphold in the city. It was truly a refreshing and intoxicating feeling.

I went on to take a lot of photos throughout our trip. 923 to be exact. I can’t bring myself to start editing them yet though – just a quick glance at them on my camera stirred up an intense feeling of restlessness in my core. I’ll need to readjust myself to the city life before I get started on these pictures. I’m quite certain this restless feeling will never truly leave me though; not until I go back into the wild.

About the Authour: Joey Whiston is a 22-year-old English & Media student, fuelled by caffiene and the urge to create. An avid writer and photographer, he views the world in terms of narrative and adventure, and is always eager to see where the next path goes.

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PLAY ME, I’M YOURS slants across the side of it, white on wood. It is chain-bolted to the cement floor of Liverpool Station. London sunshine points through the window frames at cluster of seven Christian college students staring.

 “There it is. Finally, after two hours of Tube hopping… we found one.”

The stool bleats as a childlike woman pulls, acmompanied by a black-bearded man wearing a cross. They negotiate with their fingers as they skip down the ivories, finally deciding to perform ‘Where is the Love?’

Towards the end of the second chorus, a new voice warbles over all of the others. It is the sound of Broadway.

Broadway is a middle-aged blonde man with a gaping pearly smile who props his elbow on the edge of the piano top, leaning into the next line: “Father, Father, Father help us; need some guidance from above…”

Our seven voices snuff out. He beams; he embodies charisma.

“The name’s David.” He asks a few questions. We ask a few more.

“Music is my life. Sang on Broadway ten years ago. Got the lead for ‘Singing in the Rain,’ I did. Best time of my life; I’ll never forget the lights. Now I’m a choreographer in California.” Awe answered him. “Mind if I join your little chorus group?”

After a few rounds of jazzy runs, the jam session stutters towards its conclusion.

David breaks away from the piano ledge, gesturing towards another middle-aged man wearing a fixed disinterest in the chorus of twenty-somethings and a duffel bag.

“This,” he shares with the group, “is my boyfriend.”

The group waves, we smile nervously, evaluating; our hearts collectively skip a beat.

“How about another go?”

One-by-one they turn their heads just barely, to notice that across the hall David’s boyfriend’s shoulders are shaking. He keeps glancing towards their self-conscious little flock, holding back sobs, his face wet.

David explains: “He’s crying because he is happy for me.” He was holding back his own tears behind the crinkle of his cheeks, still smiling. “Three days ago, my cousin died in a freak car accident. That’s why we’re here; we’re on our way to the funeral. It’s tomorrow morning.”

“He’s crying because he knows that for three whole days, I’ve not been able to smile. Laugh. Even listen to a tune; it just hurt. Living for anything hurt.”

“But you all—thank God for you. Hearing your singing, remembering my love of music, I felt joy again! Singing with you has given me the courage to face tomorrow with a smile on my face, and know that everything is going to be okay.”

We feel an invisible fog suspended in that hall, heavy on our chests with conviction. With compassion.

“We’ll be praying for you both,” Black Beard offers, “while you’re at the funeral.”

“God bless you, thank you all so much!” David answers. With tears padded back, his boyfriend simply mouths his thanks.

The cluster of seven later walk soberly back to the Tube station; we’d unexpectedly found the love we were singing for.

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I walk out of the shady, pine-scented woods, and stop, mid-stride, frozen in fear and wonder. I can feel the panic rising up my throat, threatening to choke me. Below me, in all its miniature widescreen glory stretches the Yosemite Valley. Less than twenty-four hours earlier I had stood in that valley, craning my neck to look up at this very spot.

To my right, I can see the sensuous granite mounds of the Yosemite Wilderness, and, far in the hazy distance the jagged snow-crested teeth of the High Sierra beyond. To my left, looming above the tree-line, is the bald, grey pate that is Half Dome. It is my wildest dream and my worst nightmare all rolled into one.

I have travelled thousands of miles to be in this place. I have researched, planned, and trained for months so that I am prepared for the challenge. And yet, now that I stand here, staring in horror at the part-peeled onion layers of sheer rock in front of me, it might all have been in vain.

Since yesterday, I’ve climbed an arduous seven miles, over rocks slick with rainbow-hued waterfall-mist, and through root-tangled woods, still cool with lingering snow-drifts. My aching legs have been forced up sheer slopes that from a distance seemed impossible. There have been minor demons to conquer in the shape of wild camping, composting toilets, and a hungry young bear trying to take the rucksack out of my tent. And now my courage has failed me. I am terrified.

The end of my journey is within sight. A mere mile. The trouble is, I know exactly what that last mile contains. Four hundred yards of vertical ascent and the Half Dome cables, nemesis of the vertigo-sufferer. I will myself to relax. Breathe in. Breathe out. Slowly. Stop the panic. Gradually, my pulse returns to something approaching normal, and I try to think rationally.

An iridescent flash of cobalt blue catches my attention as a Steller’s jay swoops from a nearby tree to land a few yards away on a low branch. It watches me for a while, head tilted to one side as if in question, before fluttering to a point a few yards ahead of me. Almost without conscious thought, I follow it. As I get near, he takes flight and, in a graceful arc, moves further along the trail. We continue our dance, moving closer together and further apart in an unconsciously beautiful meeting of species, before the jay, clearly bored by my pedestrian progress, glides effortlessly away from me and out of sight.

I look up, and realise that I am within a stone’s throw of the switchback – the first part of the final ascent. Nearly as steep as the cable ascent, though not as exposed. Suddenly, the decision is made for me, thanks to my feathered friend. I will go on, one step at a time, until I either reach the summit, or get so scared that I have to turn back, but there is no way I am backing out now.

The rest of the climb passes in a daze. The switchback is challenging but not too frightening. I struggle to walk over the narrow shoulder between it and the cable climb, but I surprise myself on the cables by climbing strongly and steadily for most of the way. I have to stop once to let someone pass me on their descent, and I foolishly look at the four thousand foot drop below me. Having briefly, but vividly, considered my mortality, I cling to the metal cables until my head stops swimming, and plod on upwards.

Suddenly, it is all over. I haul myself over the last step, and I am walking across a vast, flat plateau of smooth, sparkling granite. It feels as big, and as safe, as a football pitch. I still don’t care much for the drop below me, but as long as I don’t get too near the edge I can keep the fear at bay. I even manage to shoot a whole roll of film on the awe-inspiring views. I lie on a flat piece of rock and bask in the midday sunshine, along with some creature which I think, bizarrely, might be a marmot.

I let my mind wander back over the journey to here. The long trek up the Mist Trail, past, and through, the mystical beauty of the Vernal Falls, the hard slog up the side of Nevada Falls. The sleepless night, post-bear, in the Little Yosemite Valley. And now I have it all to do in reverse, including the cables.

I haul my weary limbs upright, and with a massive grin, start the descent. After all, I’ve done Half Dome – I can do anything!

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We lean against the damp brick wall in the candlelit building, rushing water and chanted intonations echo around us. One by one, the candles are put out and our attention is guided inwards. We meditate together, standing in the silence. Cold waters gush up from the ground.

Three knocks on the thick wooden door and it is opened to greet the light and the caller. A young girl, representing a goddess walks in with a single flame. From this all candles are lit once more and we welcome the return of the light.

This is one of the ways they observe the passage of the seasons in Glastonbury, in the south west of England. Imbolc, also Brigid’s Day is an ancient festival marking the first stirrings of spring. Historically widely observed around the British isles, it was originally a pagan festival associated with the celtic goddess Brigid. Later it became the Christian festival of Saint Brigit.  It is celebrated roughly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox of the northern hemisphere.

In Glastonbury on this day most locals and pilgrims (like us) visit two springs/holy wells.
My friends and I had gathered with the small crowd at the White Spring for the morning meditation and ceremony. The spring is housed in a 150 year old pumphouse now converted into a temple. In this dark candle-lit space you are immersed in the sound of perpetual flowing water.

After the White Spring it was on to the Red Spring a stone’s throw away. The Red Spring is situated in the Chalice Well Gardens, a beautiful reflective garden where they celebrate the earth’s natural cycles and rhythms with meditations on the solstices, equinoxes and mid-points. We sat in silence. The birds sang and sun shone around us.

Both springs are situated at the foot of Glastonbury’s world famous landmark – Glastonbury tor. The tor (or hill) reaches a height of 518 feet (158 metres) in a flat part of Somerset called ‘the levels’. It has been a place of pilgrimage for ten thousand years. When you see its undulating curves emerging from the green and sometimes misty landscape, you can feel a pull to walk up it. Thousands still do.

Later that day we chose to visit a different hill. Legend tells that Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury after the crucifixion, planted his staff on Wearyall hill, the staff took root and blossomed into the Glastonbury Thorn. Glastonbury is a place of many myths – this is just one of them.

As we walked up this hill at the end of a reflective but celebratory day, near the top we saw a local farmer with a twinkle in his eye. One moment we were saying hello, talking about how cold the weather was, the next we were following him downhill to the bottom of the ridge.

He had asked for our help to move two early newborn lambs and their mother, so he could take them to shelter, away from the plunging temperatures where they might freeze to death.

Nick and the farmer took a lamb each, Abi and I made re-assuring sheep noises to the ewe, encouraging her to follow us as we journeyed to the bottom of the field and the farmer’s car. The rest of the flock followed – a concerned tribe.

The bloodied lambs and large ewe with birth entrails hanging, were helped and lifted into the back of the farmer’s small fiat hatchback. The sheepdog sat in the front seat – watching.

Now dark, the farmer thanked us in his minimal regional accent and drove off. The full moon rose over the tor as we re-climbed the ridge.

Walking back we remembered at the White Spring they had talked of the origins of the word Imbolc, perhaps coming from the old word for ewes milk. With lamb afterbirth on our hands and clothes from our sheep encounter, we felt blessed by serendipity.

We approached the old thorn with a spring in our step – it felt good to have given.

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No one could ever doubt that the journey to this very spot was effortless. I have cried, slid ungracefully and I bitterly lost my phone in a certain powdered filled event. All on these very slopes.

I am a seasonaire.

One who has shamefully never skied on snow before landing and then living, on this very snowy and ski orientated resort.

This winter was meant to be purely about me become ‘tres perfect’ in French, spending my Gap Year surrounded by ‘les francephones’, speaking and listening with great envy as their native language flows from their practised mouths.

The motivation behind my four months in a place driven by a sport, a hobby which I have never thought to interest myself in? Is simply for that brief moment where my speech flows with a natives and conversation is struck in a dimension which had never seemed possible those few years ago, sitting in a classroom full of English students who were just as confused by the ‘subjects’ and ‘auxiliary verbs’ as I had then been.

Therefore, you can imagine my horror when I arrived and was almost immediately whisked to the local ski hire, up the bobble to a Red and then strapped in facing what can only be described as the beginning of an ice covered path, which drops frighteningly into nowhere.

Nowhere visible to the start that is to say.

That Red was the run where tears had seemed to flow with the snow scraped up into the air and down the gradient by those who knew better. The very slope where I had fallen on my front, each ski pointing up towards the top as I slid with my legs flapping before me down, gradually losing both poles and finally both skies. The only slope which I had somehow manages to ski parallel into the powder off-piste and then somehow opened my coat pockets, discharging my mobile into the white clouds which seemed to suffocate me.

Therefore, this moment, this very moment where I am surrounded my those  ‘white clouds’, which now are up around me instead of on the ground, and hurtling at an alarming speed to the bottom, you can understand why I feel that emotion of absolute pride.

Pride in myself.

Not only did I literally throw myself off the slope at the very top, into a pool of clouds which tampered with ones vision and makes it almost impossible to see, but I did it alone. Everyone else in my group has taken the day to rest and the others who’d been peering over the side with their skies angled away, have not yet followed.

However the thing which ironically ‘pushed me over the edge’, was sheer motivation to make up for the days spent cursing these beautiful mountains and to feel that accomplishment I receive when using a new word within a French conversation or by travelling alone because I know what suits me best.

This sporadic moment which makes me feel most brave?

Well I am fixed to two narrow lengths, unable to see anything but the fast moving snow beneath my   skies and I can feel the speed which I am going at by the wind which knocks harshly, but not without love, on the only exposed area of my face; the tip of my nose.

This moment would not be nearly as significant or climatic if it had not been for the troubles and bumps which I have had to encounter. It makes me yearn to yell at the uncertain beginners who stand the way I trembled and fall the way I tumbled that they can, that they WILL be able to do this too if they push all their weight forward and off the starting point.

Nothing has made me feel as free, nor brave as this moment where the sense of sight seems to have been robbed from me, and in its place, clarity has been bestowed.

I have made myself free, and that’s the bravest thing I could ever have allowed myself to be.

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England: Inspiration and Bravery Found Running the Jurassic Coast

            I sit, exhausted, on the coarse burred covered heather oblivious to the prickles and thorns biting into my trembling tired legs. Elation overtakes my exhaustion, “I did it Les, I conquered it, I told you I would” I yell out in triumph to no-one in particular. My words carry across Bournemouth’s cliff top and waft in the cool wind. I look towards a sheltered thicket which Bournemouth’s West-Cliff are is known for and where my brother use to sit in his wheelchair and sighed. The town of Bournemouth with its jagged cliffs is part of England’s 95 miles of Jurassic Coast and runs along England’s south west coastline. It is the first natural World Heritage Site in England and is particularly beautiful. My brother and I had been lucky enough to spend our carefree childhood years living here in the county of Dorset in idyllic Southern England, playing amongst Bournemouth’s famous Chines. Our weekends were spent hunting for million of years old fossils, clambering over oddly shaped rock formations, and pretending we were the long ago bootleggers who landed their illegal contraband on deserted beaches in the dark of night.

 

            My eyes drift down towards the beach and the 145 foot incline zig-zag path I had just run up. The Atlantic ocean which feeds the English Channel was causing Bournemouth’s sea to heave violently this morning, and the waves pummeled against the aging Victorian brick promenade. Quaint brightly painted little beach huts, over a hundred years old, stood poised and sturdy with their doors rattling against the wind. “I did it Les” I said this time mumbling to myself, tears suddenly welling up and rolling over my cheeks.  Only a few months earlier my brother had poked fun at my remorseful temperament during one of our conversations.

 

“Go on, do it, be brave, look around at where we live Sylv, open your eyes to the beauty which surrounds us here. I challenge you to start to run again, run from Poole to Bournemouth and take in the allurement of Branksome, Alum, and Durley Chine. That’ll be about eight miles of hilly terrain. Conquer that dreaded zig-zag path from West Undercliff promenade to the top of the cliff, bet you can’t” he said. It was a challenge easier said than done for me to complete after my recent amputation. “Run again? I’m not sure really” I said. With a knowing look and brightness in his eyes he stares at me, “Yes, run again Sylv, focus on what’s around you, don’t think of the pain you feel, find your inspiration in what you see, remember and picture the D-Day boats departing from Poole and what the soldiers must have been thinking when leaving-many never to return. Follow the trail of the illegal smugglers through the heathlands, and run through Bournemouth’s famous Victorian Gardens, and Alum Chine’s Tropical Gardens. Gingerly run over David Rowell’s Suspension Bridge which Winston Churchill, as a teenager, fell from during1892. I say gingerly Sylv, as I know you are scared of heights even if it is only thirty feet in the air and sways in the wind. Wave hello to the ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson as you pass by his ‘Skerryvore’ home. Jog around Sandbanks peninsula realizing you are running over the fourth highest land value in the world, and smile at the crew operating the working 1923 vehicular chain ferry. You can do it!” he said with a mischievous look upon his face.

 

            So reader, I did! I did it today. I took on my brother’s challenge and ran those long hilly seven miles ignoring the intense pain that resonated throughout my maimed foot. You see, the town of Bournemouth in the county of Dorset in England inspired my brother. It inspired him to live, it gave him the reason and ‘why’ to bravely battle and fight the consuming cancer which riddled his body and it inspires me as well. My short eight mile run along the coast is only a small part of the 95 miles of a wondrous geological marvel. Picturesque fishing villages and numerous coves dot the coast line. The splendid natural limestone rock arch over 140 million years old and known as Durdle Door is worthy of a visit, as are the white sea stacks known as the ‘Old Harry Rocks.’ Let your imagination soar when you visit11th century Corfe Castle that William the Conqueror built in the parish of Swanage. Travel through market towns built by the Romans, and be awed by Bournemouth’s 1000 feet historic pier. When the evening draws in head into town and visit the numerous restaurants, clubs, and vibrant and friendly nightlife. Soar 500 feet in the air on the ‘Bournemouth Air,’ a giant helium balloon and take in the breathtaking views.

 

            This morning I imagined my brother sitting at the top of the cliff cheering me on, perhaps he is in spirit, I would like to think so. His positive attitude and bravery he showed throughout his life was aided by the scenic ambience he lived in. So visit Bournemouth and be inspired as my brother was in its beauty, charm, and appeal. Walk, run, or merely amble along the cliff tops and coastline, and feel the enchantment of the Jurassic Coast and what it has to offer you. Conquer your fears as I did mine, defeat any obstacles which stand in your way as I did mine, and become your own superhero, as my brother was to me. Today,  I am also my own superhero!

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London the Hub Or the Brutal Congested City…You decide!

Do you share our Passion for travel? Would you like to see more of the world, do you think you have to save forever to take your first dream trip? Allow me to take you on a journey

Recently my husband and I decided to have some R & R in London as he was away for a month over Christmas & London…!

Now I consider London like being at home as I live in UK! So when we decided to head over to London  for a Business event in Ealing, we decided to also take some time out for “us” too :) Now Ealing is in the west side of London yet not really part of the London West end!

Last time I went to London I headed over to the Holiday Inn Kensington and enjoyed the Science Museum and The Ice Rink by the Castle! Dropped in at Harrold’s and enjoyed the ambience of The Borough of Chelsea!  So I wasn’t really expecting to be enamoured by Ealing town!

Keep in mind that we woke up at 4am to catch a 5am Train from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston and had to dash to the underground to get to Ealing Broadway for a 9am Start of the event.  Enter Ealing Broadway and we were pleasantly surprised indeed… Word of advice; If you’re going to be in London for more than a day, it’s worth buying a Visitor Oyster Card in advance, which they post to your home before you arrive in London. This is probably the best ways to get around London. If you do not do this and still plan to see London for more than a day, definitely buy an Oyster card at the Tube station…and by all means don’t get lost on the underground….Long story don’t ask :)

This part of London is definitely the Brutal congested rush hour City, Not very friendly!

But…we got to the Other side, though not the west end it was definitely A sight for sore eyes!

The streets were spotless clean… Oh you might wonder which parts of London I normally visit…but bear with me! Every time I go through London it’s never that clean! We headed over to The Ealing Town Hall and I fell in love with this part of London even more.

I love Old Architecture and the Town Hall is a handsome building that blends in beautifully with the rest of the street!

Ealing town is a lovely area to explore on foot, lots of lil cafes and shops. There are smaller shopping streets in the area. Don’t miss the Arcadia shopping centre for your generic buys!

Now we only stayed for the weekend and visited other places family and stuff, it was a kind of Whirlwind stop over but we made time to visit Walpole Park & Pitzhanger Manor House
An amazingly grand and gorgeous Manor House. (I did warn you I love old architecture). This work of art can be found at the entrance of Walpole Park. It is a grade 1 listed building and here is the bonus, there was a free art exhibition and apparently there are several all year-roundJ. And get this the park has some amazing landscaping; ornamental bridges, ponds, streams and a walled rose garden – one of my favourite sites. According to a local resident who chatted us up on our walk, in the summer months of July/August the area & park hosts a multitude of festivals  showcasing jazz, comedy, opera and, of course his fav, lashings of beer. Ealing indeed does have an abundance of lush meadows and parks; one is right across the Underground station that we walked through to the Town Hall!

Like I said I may not do this part of London justice as it was a whistle stop, so I hope I will do the city of Budapest More justice as it is our next stop over!

 Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.