Welcome to the weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!
This week’s challenge is delicious.
My photo is from one of my extended trips to America. You may instantly recognise my picture as the syrup jugs from iHOP (international house of pancakes?), the most delicious place to get pancakes I’ve ever been to. I was alone in America and I wished I had someone to share the love of iHOP with.
Looking at that picture makes me wistful. Also hungry. Food is the best part of any travel adventure, I always think.
What can you come up with on the theme of delicious?
Here’s how to take part:
Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
That’s it! Super easy.
This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!
I spotted a point on my map* that said “Blackadder” near the Whiteadder river, so I went on another adventure in my car because I had to see this for myself. It was 2012 and I was on my way back from Edinburgh heading south.
Being, of course, a huge fan of Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson’s comedy show “Blackadder” I had to take a detour and see for myself that this was a real place. I wanted a photo of the sign that said “Welcome to Blackadder.”
I followed the route on the map (see also, my article on how to buy a good road atlas) until I reached the Whiteadder River, along with a signpost for the village of Whiteadder.
After driving around the open farmland of Northumberland for an hour, I spotted this handwritten signpost that said Blackadder Mains is this way (in Scots English, “Mains” isn’t part of the town/village name, it’s a short way of saying “town center” or “village center”). I was hopeful that there’d be some shops or whatnot that I could photograph, along with the “Welcome To Blackadder” sign I wanted to see.
I turned down the road thinking it must be past the two farm buildings I could see. Wrong. Turns out, despite what the mapmakers must have found hilariously funny, Blackadder isn’t really a village. It’s a hamlet at best, but probably actually a farm. There were a couple of buildings side by side and that was it. One of the buildings was a barn. The best part? When I stopped to take a picture, I discovered that visitors to Blackadder are so rare that the people here came out of their buildings to demand to know what I was doing. And asked me to leave before I could get a photo. There was definitely not a sign saying “Welcome to Blackadder.”
So the moral of the story is that maps are not better than Sat-Nav, despite what techno-luddites (usually trying to look good in front of old people) might tell you, they have their flaws. One of them being that generally the cartographers haven’t visited every place on the map and can’t always guarantee that the information is correct. I would imagine that Blackadder is only marked on the map because otherwise there would have been a big empty space, and mapmakers detest empty spaces on maps, they don’t want people thinking they didn’t do their job properly. Google maps, on the other hand, offers you a satellite view of your destination so you can check that you’re really going where you think you are going, and if you’ve got half a brain you’re not going to mindlessly follow the “turn left” instructions on a sat-nav any more than you would with a paper map. Maps can be useful, but sat-nav is more helpful.
I also don’t think places should have signs saying “Mains” if they don’t have at least one shop (or, y’know, three houses) because it’s misleading. Maybe that’s why the sign was written in marker pen. What it probably should have said was “Blackadder Farm.” At the end of the day, however, it’s sort of funny that this is the place that bears the same name as the scheming weasel of a man from the popular comedy series.
If you want to visit a nice place in this area, go to Berwick Upon Tweed. They have petrol stations and other modern conveniences such as shops that are closed on a Sunday and closed after 5 on a weekday, and they also have car parking. There is a nice river and they’re not too far from Lindisfarne (which I will write about soon) which is a great day out in and of itself.
*A map is a piece of paper that behaves like the screen of a Sat-Nav. For advice on choosing sheet maps, check out this article
This post gets quite gloomy. After a short break from this series (because I lost my notebook with all my notes in it) I am going to continue with my solo Interrail journey. The previous installment can be found here.
I awoke in the Novotel Hotel Rossi in fair Verona (of “Romeo and Juliet” fame) and it was raining. So apparently that happens in Italy from time to time, despite their best intentions. I was quite surprised because I’d never expected it to rain south of the Alps for some reason despite the fact that I know how ecosystems and desertification work. I guess I was having a blonde moment, which was odd because I was auburn at the time and I tend to be blonde when my hair is blonde.
So the day hadn’t started well, but I didn’t want to stay indoors because I wanted to get a better impression of Verona, given that at the time all I had seen was a) copious discarded syringes around my hotel, b) everywhere (except that one Japanese place) seemed to be closed on a Saturday night.
After deliberating about whether to go out over fresh coffee surprisingly tasty cheap wine in juice boxes that would fit in a child’s lunchbox (seriously), I wandered out into Verona. I was glad I did.
The Roman Arena in the town centre (amphitheatre) was stunning – smaller, but more complete than the one in Rome, much more manageable to walk around and a really nice thing to find in the city centre.
After that, I went to the thing I’d wanted to see the most in all of Verona – the Casa Di Giulietta. It’s in a little square and the house is a museum to Romeo and Juliet. After making my way through the exhibition (which was really professional despite being in a small-ish 16th century house), I got to the piece de resistance – Juliet’s balcony. Now I will be the first to say (as they do say at the Casa Di Giulietta) that it is highly unlikely that this is the actual house that Juliet lived in. For starters, as far as anyone knows she was a fictional character in a play made by a man who lived 800 miles away. Regardless of that, it was nice, just for a little moment, to forget the reality and just imagine that it *was* real, that Romeo somehow scaled the sheer walls and got up to this balcony… after all, isn’t the whole point of fictional and theatrical narrative that we get to imagine realities other than the one we occupy??
Afterwards, I found coffee at McDonalds because it was lunchtime and all the restaurants wanted meal-buying customers not coffee drinkers. The girl behind the counter who served me was so skinny that she looked consumptive. She will always haunt me. I have never seen anyone that thin before for their skeleton size (if you see what I mean). I still have nightmares about her. There was literally no muscle mass on her arms just an unnatural and mesmerizing consumptiveness. I wanted to know why. Did she have an illness such as AIDS or TB that she was fighting through? Was she not making enough money to afford to buy food? I have obviously seen underweight people before, myself being one of them (chronically) but I have never seen anyone as malnourished as this woman. She looked like she was in her mid twenties, and at death’s door with her gaunt, grey face and her neck silhouetting the rings of her windpipe and the hollows either side of it. If I’m a size US 2-4, she was like a size -2, and she was taller than me and I’m 5’6. When I returned the next day, she was on the counter again.
I think about her from time to time, even all these years later, and I always wondered what became of her, whether she got the medical treatment she so obviously needed or if she faded away. Healthcare is not free in Italy – and it shows in so many places.
She was extremely rude to me, but I just got my coffee and moved on, resisting the urge to wrap her up in a blanket, bring her home and feed her soup until she looked alive again.
It made me feel morose – then I got mad at myself because there I was, on an incredible once in a lifetime trip to Verona on Interrail, and I still wasn’t happy. And I realized it went deeper than my day-to-day mood, there was a cavernous, all-encompassing melancholy that had ensconced my soul so thickly that I had no idea what would make me happy. I should have been reveling in how wonderful everything was. Instead I felt like there was something missing, and I didn’t know what it was.
I think this was the first time I asked the question (to myself, in bed where nobody could hear me); ‘am I depressed?’ I quickly stifled it with a boatload of excuses.
The gloom gave way to a cracking migraine, so instead of going onwards to Venice as I’d planned, I extended my stay in Verona to 2 more nights and I went back to the hotel, where I sat in the dark wearing earplugs and downed a few co-codamol (Vicodin) with some wine to try and get the pain to stop.
I passed out, and when I awoke it was a bright new day.
I’m going to pick up where I left off last time, after I had just made it back to Zurich station and was now feeling like I was back in civilization having just spent the morning lost in the alps. I sat down over a coffee and wrote postcards to my Grandma and Aunt. This was 2008, a year after the EU smoking ban, which Switzerland was exempt from, so smoking indoors was a bit of a novelty and I did make the most of it (I don’t smoke now so I think I would hate to return to any country without an indoor ban on smoking). I asked two nice backbackers to take my photo with one of my disposable cameras.
From my travel journal:
“Next, I went to the station newsagent and negotiated stamps in German (all credit went to the pan-European phrasebook I’d packed). Next I searched for a post-box. “Excuse me?” I flagged down a passing man. “Hey there!” The friendly American accent warmed my soul. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen the nearest post box, have you?” “Sure! It’s just out there, on the left. It’s yellow.” He said. “Thank you very VERY much.” I replied. “No problem.” He said. I followed the directions and found the post box just outside the station, then posted my post cards and hoped that was actually a post box (that, or I’d just put them in a used ticket disposal box, but I hoped not because they were nice postcards).
Then I got the 9:00am train to Milan, which terminated at Venice. Depending on what time it gets in, I may just stay on the train rather than aiming for Verona. However, I would prefer to stay in Verona as from there it would be easier to get back to Calais. What followed was a wonderful train ride through the Swiss alps.
The scenery is beautiful, especially around Zug station – if I ever get a chance to go to Switzerland again, Zug is the place to go! Unfortunately, it also means I have already began using up my 3rd disposable camera – I’ll have to get another couple in Italy. The scenery of grassy fells, snowy mountains and powder-sprinkled pine trees is absolutely breathtaking. It’s much nicer to see the Alps from the ground than in an aeroplane! I’m glad not to have tried travelling onwards in the dark otherwise I would have missed this, which would have been unforgivable.
…I think I’ve just done my bit to ensure the continental opinion of English eccentricity; I took a photo of my compartment (because I’ve never been on a train with compartments before, this is like being on the Hogwarts Goddamn Express), but I waited until the other occupants had moved because it’s perhaps a bit over-zealous even for a tourist.
(a little bit later) As we emerge from the Alps, the architectural style has become markedly Italian, with the arched windows and straight-pitched, less high roofs. We are still in Switzerland, but signs for “ristorante touristes” are at the side of the road which runs parallel with the train track. There is also significantly less snow, but the sky is still that clear, brilliant blue, and the sun feels warm now. I feel less close to the sky again – being on the German side of Switzerland was like standing on a very high plateau, and it’s nice, but I’m glad to be at my normal altitude again. Hopefully it will be sunny in Verona and even more I hope that the tourist office is open so I can find accommodation between now and Tuesday (the Easter weekend is now upon us).”
Changing trains in Milan, I was profoundly disappointed. It was standard tall buildings type of architecture, nothing particularly chic or attractive about the place, it could have been absolutely anywhere. I decided to continue onwards. The next train was, now that I was in Italy, run by Trenitalia. It had dents all over the outside of the carriages and inside, there was no air conditioning, people were just crammed on top of each other. Opposite me, a woman sat down with a chicken in a cage. An actual chicken. It was squawking up a fuss and flapping its feathers everywhere, and she insisted, on this full-to-bursting train, that the chicken needed its own seat, even when a man tried to sit down. This tiny old woman clung to the chicken cage with a death grip and started shouting at him until he left the carriage. I was too timid to get a photo of the ridiculous chicken.
Later that evening, I disembarked at Verona train station and booked 3 nights in a hotel (Novo Hotel Rossi) in Verona, where I decided to remain for the rest of the Easter weekend. Annoyingly, despite it being the Easter Saturday, when everything is usually business as usual in the UK, in Verona, literally everything (apart from one Sushi restaurant) was closed and since I didn’t speak Italian (I do now, this trip is what prompted me to learn when I got back), I couldn’t understand the signs in the shop doors.
I found the aforementioned Sushi restaurant, only to discover that the staff didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Italian, so I ended up trying to order in Japanese. Turns out, only the elderly grandmother could actually speak Japanese but she invited me to share a pot of tea with her after I’d eaten, apparently she’d never met a gaijin who could speak Japanese before. I guess you wouldn’t, living in Verona. I don’t speak very much though (and I sure as hell can’t read it), so she probably found my conversation lacklustre. I’d like to learn more at some point so I can navigate Japanese cosmetics but that’s a bit off topic for a travel post!
Anyway, that was my first day in Verona, and I’d used up over half of my Interrail pass (any 5 days of travel valid for 10 days of travel and non travel), but I decided not to worry about that.
I will continue with my Solo Interrail journey here.
As a side-note, if you are wondering why my posts/response times are erratic, it’s because I’m back to work, now teaching at a facility for children who have been expelled from school, mostly young offenders, which is a very intense job, as well as being quite a drive from my house, and I’m a bit exhausted, but I am interested in everything people have to say still!!