Thursday 28 October 2021

Brom becomes King of the Castle


Here I am again. And this time I am going to tell you all about the day we went and saw the castle. You may remember I love seeing castles and there was one quite close to where we were staying. And it was free as well!

First though we went to Newcastle. Mara and Gera tried to find as many Newcastles in the world and realised there wasn't even one in the Netherlands. There is one in Northern Ireland though, and that's where we stopped first for a reason. When Mara had packed her suitcase, she had forgotten to take some knitting with her, so she needed something to do in the evenings. Mara and Gera knew there was a nice wool shop in town, so that was where they were headed.

After browsing and eventually buying lots of yarn and a crochet needle, they made their way back to the car so we could go see the castle. They had brought lunch with them and of course they stopped on the way to eat their sandwiches. In the mean time I was hopping up and down! Come on!!!

Anybody home?
Eventually we made it to the castle in Dundrum. Well, I say castle, it was more of a ruin. There was nothing left. But we did go on a walk around it, which was quite funny. First there was a steep hill down and at the end there was a steep hill up again. I think that it would have been very hard to attack back in the olden days. 

Finally we made it to the castle ruins themselves. I could see why they had built it there, as the view was fantastic all around. Mara took me up some steep stairs so I could see for myself. You could still see where the fire place had been and the garderobe (the toilet for regular bears). 

When we had seen everything and used the toilet for ourselves (no, not that one, a proper one), we made our way back to the car and back home. But we didn't go home, we took a detour and drove through the Mourne Mountains to see a bit more.

View towards the Mourne Mountains from the castle
Mara even recognised some bits, as she had driven a coach there. I thought she had been mad and she quite agreed, but that was her job. She was glad she was a passenger in a car now though and could take photos when she wanted or when Gera was able to stop the car in a safe place anyway.

You can see the Mourne Wall in the photo as well.
She managed to find a small parking spot from where we had a really lovely view all around. We got out and took some great photos of the area. Even of the burnt trees in the next field. That happened a few years ago when it was really hot and there were a few fires in the area. 

We drove home after that. It had been a lovely day again.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Brom goes cultural


On the day of the fish, we went somewhere else in the afternoon. Mara had seen signs for a Saint Patrick Trail and thought: why not follow that? There would probably not be enough time in one afternoon though, so first we went to Downpatrick to see the Saint Patrick Experience.

I knew Saint Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland, but didn't know much else about him. Well, apart from Saint Patrick's Day on March 17th, when the world goes green. But Mara said that didn't really happen when he was alive. She thought. 

And she was right. I learned that Patrick was living in a nice home in England somewhere when he was captured and sold as a slave to Ireland. He possibly already knew about Jesus and God and when he was herding his sheep and pigs while freezing his behind off (bears have it easy), he started praying more and more. 

He eventually escaped back to his family. From there he went to France and trained as a priest or something similar and then he wanted to return to the country where he had had such a bad time. He was not the first missionary to arrive, but he made the most impact. He landed in the area where we were as well and that's why the trail was there. 

We also saw a film that made me a bit seasick, but was very interesting as it showed his life and travels even better. He really made an impact with all the monasteries he helped found. He wasn't the only one though, there were others who were there at the same time or just a bit later. 

Through time his story became a bit of a legend and things that never happened, suddenly happened. Like the snakes that he supposedly cast out of Ireland. There were never any snakes to begin with, but Mara said it was most likely something that was more a metaphore (whatever that is) than anything else. 

And so Patrick died, but his words flow on
from Ireland to Dark Age Europe and Beyond
When we had finished, we asked about the trail and were given a map which showed a very long trail, taking us from Armagh (close to where Gera lives) via Downpatrick to Bangor. We decided it was a bit too long to do and we would only do a few things in and around Downpatrick. But that was for another day, as we were heading home to enjoy our cottage.

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Tuesday's Travels 28

There will come a time when I get you all flummoxed, but not this time. Because of course Harm and Yamini knew this was the Pont d'Avignon in France. Both get a point.
My story? I once did a school trip to the Provence and we stayed in Avignon. I had one day off and went to see the local sights. And this one was right next to the campsite I was staying at. I was able to take several photos of it, but I think this one was the nicest. 

On to this week's challenge. Where is this? Have you ever been? What is your story? Answer next week.


Monday 25 October 2021

Brom gets fishy


I told Mara to help me write these posts about our holiday, but she had to work again and didn't have that much time. Not even to make a Photo on Sunday! But here I am again and I will tell you all about the rest of our holiday in Northern Ireland. 

Guess where I am? NOT IN THIS PICTURE!!!
Because of Mara's gammy knee, we had to take it easy a bit, but Gera had found the perfect outing: the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry. I thought it would be really close to where we were, but it was a long drive. And a short ferry ride as well. But then we had arrived and we went to see the fish.

As you know I am a bear and I think bears and all other animals should live their life in their natural habitat (mine is with Mara). Sometimes that is not possible and in that case a zoo or aquarium might be a solution. 

The Exploris aquarium did not only have a lot of beautiful fish, it also was a baby seal sanctuary, where hurt and wounded seals would be cared for until they could be returned to the wild. We saw how two of them got fed (and a whole load of opportunistic gulls as well).

The keeper had to use this big stick to keep the birds in check,
so they wouldn't eat all the fish meant for the seals.
There was an otter family that was part of the repopulation program. The two adults were in one pen and the four girls in another as they were already old enough and that was what would happen in the wild as well. The girls would be moving on to other zoos to mix the bloodlines.

The otters were fed mice this time.
And then there was a large crocodile that was rescued from someone when it was only a few hands long! The person who had wanted to sell it, was perhaps not too sure about how big it would get! It was massive, as you can see from the photo at the top! And don't worry, there was glass between us, I would never ever ever stick my head in a crocodile's mouth.

It was a great day out and it hadn't even finished yet, but I will tell you more about that on Wednesday.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Brom sees red


The day after we had arrived in the cottage, we went for a hike in the Mourne Mountains which were just behind our cottage. We drove for a few minutes and parked in the Silent Valley car park. Now, Mara would normally have been okay with the longer hike, but as she has a gammy knee right now... a short walk it was.

Which was still quite tough, as we were in the mountains. The Mourne Mountains may not be as high as the Alps or the Pyrenees, but they do go up and down. The area we were in was called Silent Valley and just have a look at the video and you will hear nearly nothing! So nice. 

The Silent Valley Reservoir provides the water for most of county Down and the city of Belfast and was created in the twenties and thirties of the 20th century. We saw the houses they would have lived in and the one in the photo was actually a home to somebody until 2006. Not in the park itself, because after the reservoir was completed the houses were sold to people in the area. When the lady who lived in this house had passed away, it was bought and brought back to the park.

This was a home for a family with three children!
There was also a school for the children of the workers and several other large buildings still on site. There was one larger corrugated iron structure that was now used as a tea room, but was probably for some overseer or perhaps a workshop.

Mara's squirrel
We did want to get some hot chocolate, but while Mara was waiting for Gera and me to come back with a face mask (mandatory, yet forgotten), she spotted a red squirrel. She took some photos from afar. Once we had come back she told us about the squirrel and even saw another one pass behind Gera. 

Our squirrel!
Then as Mara went to the toilet, we saw one ourselves. Sitting right on the next table! Gera took a few photos before it shot off again. Bad luck Mara!!

There was one other thing that was really interesting and that was the Wall of Mourne. It was created during the depression to make sure people wouldn't go idle and they recently have renovated large parts of it. You still can't see it from the moon though or so Gera said.

Mara conquered the steps up to the top of the wall!
You can actually do a hike following this wall and it is really challenging. Perhaps when the gammy knee is sorted?

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Brom goes on a holiday in a holiday


A long time ago (well, February), Gera told Mara she had booked a cottage by the sea and did we want to come over as well. This was back in February when traveling was nearly impossible and even going to the shops was very hard, so Mara said perhaps. And then she got the house and she didn't think she could do it financially.

We were on our way!
In the end though, she managed to get some time off, found some money somewhere and booked us a flight and off we went. Which was really good. And on our second day we packed the car and started driving. We went to a place called Annalong (see Mara, I remember!) and we arrived late afternoon. 

This was our home.
I thought we would be right by the sea, but sadly we weren't. We had the Mourne mountains at our back (see the top photo) and then the Irish Sea out front. But a long way away. We did see it though, which was really good. Gera had picked that cottage especially for the sea view as well, which had been very clever.

My and Mara's bedroom
There were two large bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living/dining room and a nice kitchen. I thought it was lovely and so did Mara and Gera. And Mara took a lot of photos of the view. I just enjoyed the peace and quiet, because the only thing you could sometimes hear were the calves in the field next to the cottage. 

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Tuesday's Travels 27

Did you get it? Did you know it was the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland? Of course I didn't make it too easy and showed you the view from above, but some of you weren't fooled one bit! Points go to Gera, Yamini and Fun60. 

Another view
My story? Well, when my sister first moved to Northern Ireland and me and my parents visited, this was a site we had to see. So interesting to see those large hexagonal basalt pillars in real life. The path leading off to the top in the photo is actually a 'path' leading all the way to Scotland, which is quite close. Although you would have to have pretty long legs if you were to stay dry.

On to this week's challenge. Where is this? Have you ever been? Tell us your story. Answer next week.

Monday 18 October 2021

Brom goes to Westeros


It's me again and I am back from my holiday! Mara and I stayed with Gera and we LOVED it! It had been nearly two years since we last saw each other, so it was really good. And we saw so many things as well. 

I was NOT going in that field!
On our first full day in Northern Ireland, Mara had to take a test to show she was Covid negative. It was a home test and we then had to drop it off somewhere so it could be tested (negative). And then she said she wanted to go to Westeros. 

I had never heard of Westeros in my life and to be honest, neither had Mara or Gera, but they told me it was where a very popular television show called Game of Thrones was set. Which we had never seen. But a lot of the series was filmed in Northern Ireland and we went to see one bit. But once we arrived we first had to have lunch and then we walked up to the Dark Hedges as they are called in real life.

Unfortunately, several storms in recent years had caused a few trees to fall down, so there were some gaps, but it was still beautiful, even if the weather wasn't really.

After we had seen the Dark Hedges (which are massive trees really), we drove back home. But on our way home we stopped several times. The first time in a small village by the sea where Mara wanted to take a photo of the sea and the mist and the mountain. They also took a selfie there, but Gera had her eyes closed and I wasn't in it, so I am not showing that!

Armoy round tower
Our second stop came only a few miles further on, when Mara saw a church with a round tower. She told me that round towers are very particular in Ireland (which includes Northern Ireland). We didn't go into the church itself, but we did take a few photos. 

After that we drove home, where we enjoyed spending time together. 

Thursday 14 October 2021


No more quagmires for a while
You know I have this goal. I want to walk a certain amount this year. Several reasons: last year was a dud. I like walking. It brings me mental and physical advantages. However...

It also brought me pain. Which led me to see the doctor last year: over exertion after doing nothing for a while. Go slow and cycle. I don't like cycling.

Regardless of the pain, I was able to slowly get better. 1 km became 5 and then 10. Recovery from the pain went from 1 week to 1 day, even with longer distances. 

No more walks with my Dad in the snow for a while
Then I got the news of the move and I stopped walking. I didn't stop moving about though. Goodness, how I moved. I crouched, I sat on my knees, I went up the stairs and down and up and down... And my knee got sorer and sorer. To the point of nearly crying with pain when I just sat behind the wheel and was not even moving the knee. 

I had planned on getting back to walking, but this was no fun anymore. Back to the gp. Who thought it might be osteoarthritis. Fortunately the x-rays showed it wasn't, but the pain was still present. On to the physiotherapist. 

No cute cows for a while
She listened, she looked, she felt. And then she showed. Basically the cartilage on the inside of the knee is inflamed and a bit swollen. When I stretch the knee, the cartilage touches: pain. When I walk, it gets stressed and hurts. 

What to do then? Well, I have to dangle. Not me as such, but the leg. Sit on a stool or a table and just let my left leg dangle and sway. That way gravity pulls the lower leg down a bit, easing everything and giving it some rest. Less pain. Walking is bad. Cycling is good. Sleeping on my stomach (which I love) is bad, sleeping on my back with a pillow under my knee to stop it from straightening is good. 

Basically the knee is alright. No excessive wear and tear, the ligaments are fine and strong and correctly placed, nothing broken. I just overdid it a bit. 6-12 weeks at least. 

No long walks by the seaside for a while