Tuesday, 11 April 2017

First day in paradise: Samoa 2016

We landed just before sunrise at Faleolo airport and were welcomed by the resident band playing local music and singing and as soon as the luggage arrived we joined the queue for the bureau de change.  The Samoan tala isn't a closed currency but it is very difficult to obtain especially in the UK so most visitors take Australian dollars and get it changed at the airport.  As expected, the queue was rather long and by the time we emerged, dawn had broken ...



We were given gorgeous fresh flower leis from our drivers Joe and Chris and once the vans were packed up we set off across the island to our first accommodation; Coconuts Beach Club

One of the first tourist hotels on the islands, Coconuts has a bit of a history including almost complete destruction when a tsunami hit the islands in September 2009.
Our drive took us from the airport on the west of the island, right across the middle to the south coast, and less than an hour later we were checking in and sipping coconut cocktails (yes, at that time of the morning!)
Hannah and I were sharing a 2 bedroom beach fale which, as the name suggests, was beach front with the South Pacific just a few steps away.  Despite the rain (which featured very heavily during our trip unfortunately) I took myself off for a quick paddle with my coconut, as you do...


We has time to freshen up before having breakfast and then having a full tour of the property; the original accommodation known as the tree house (a small block of rooms was built back in 1992, the beach fales which were completed in 1994 and finally the over-water fales which were the first ones in Samoa back in 1997 with more added in 1999.
The tsunami pretty much wiped out the whole property but by February 2010 they were ready to accept guests again and were fully operational in no time...



We then met up with Chris and Joe and they took us the short journey inland to the Lupe Sina Treesort...



I've never seen anything like it before!  Designed and built by owner Jack (an American who has lived on Samoa over 30 years) it is certainly unique!  The main accommodation is the Samson suite, built within the branches of an ancient Banyan tree (over 300 tears old they think) climbing the narrow stairs up 12 metres into a tree was like being transported to a mythical land and the view was just stunning - I can only imagine what it must be like on a clear sunny day looking out over the rainforest to the ocean beyond.  Some members of the group criticised it for being very old fashioned but I think bright modern fixtures would look totally out of place in the heart of a tree.  I certainly wouldn't call it luxurious but it's definitely a once in a lifetime experience...


Unfortunately we couldn't view the other tree house (Star Gazer) as there were guests staying but the view from their deck area was just so beautiful...


The Star Gazer is around 10 metres up in an Ava tree and the bedroom has a glass ceiling so that you can watch the stars from your bed - and with very little light pollution I can only imagine it to be spectacular.
We were invited to the main house for refreshments and were treated to fresh coconuts and home made chocolate cake, I love this place already!

We were scheduled to do a gorge walk in the afternoon but after extremely heavy rains it turned into a river walk - some of us carried on and had a great time and the rest of us (me included) headed back to Coconuts and relaxed for a while.

Dinner was in the lovely Mika's Restaurant, listening to the tales of the river walk and then the Fia Fia began...

Fiafia is a celebration of everything Samoan:  filled with colour, music, song dancing and of course fire!

video

I was invited to take part in the 'ava ceremony and stood up, raised the coconut shell cup and said my first Samoan words "la manuia" which has a multitude of meanings: happy, well, good.  I then (having watched a couple of people before me) took a drink and then threw the rest of the contents over my shoulder - symbolising the throwing away of misfortune!

video

After such a long and busy day (London felt like forever ago!) it was time to head to bed.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

An epic journey - Samoa 2016

I hope you don't mind travelling back in time with me for a few posts, I didn't get a chance to blog while I was away in Samoa last year as our days were very busy so I thought I'd do a year on (like I did with the USA) mind you, its crept up on me quicker than I thought 😮

Back in November 2015 I attended a training evening based around the islands of the South Pacific.  I was sitting next to Alison from the Samoa Tourism Authority whom I'd met before at another event, she knew about my love of rugby and that I wanted to visit the South Pacific, anyway, as normal with these things there's a little prize draw after dinner, and there's usually a good selection of goodie bags, wine, accommodation and fam trip places up for grabs.  Alison's prize was accommodation in Samoa and guess who won?! Yey!!
Alison later explained I could swap my accommodation for a place on the Tourism Exchange which was taking place the following April. I said I'd love to and that was that.

So on April 6th 2016 I caught the train from Newcastle to London for the first 247 miles of my "epic journey"; as Samoa is on the dateline, I suppose it's the furthest place from home without leaving the planet!  The sun was shining in London when I arrived at Kings Cross...


I made my way over to Heathrow and enjoyed a night in the Travelodge before getting up bright and early the next morning to head over to the airport to meet Alison and the group and set off on leg 2.
Blimey, these places work like clockwork 24 hours a day I really don't know why I was worrying so much.  A couple of minutes on the hoppa bus to terminal 5 and then I was on the Heathrow Express to terminal 2 eating my "grab 'n' go" breakfast of tea and a croissant.  Just a few minutes later and I was at the check in desks :)

Now, meeting up with friends and family isn't too stressful as you know what they look like, however, meeting a group of people you've never clapped eyes on is a bit of a nightmare!  Alison arrived and we checked in together as everyone else had already gone through.  A quick meet and greet with Elizabeth, Hannah and Nicole at the gate and before we knew it we were called for boarding...


I've not flown Singapore Airlines before and know they are one of the best so was looking forward to this...


the view from seat 53A of a dull and rainy London...


I was quite impressed by the room in economy (even though business class was almost empty we weren't important enough for an upgrade lol)  and we were given a little amenities kit - not had one in economy before, and I got acquainted with the entertainment system before the drinks trolley came around.  I had the whole row to myself so I popped my feet up and read my book before stretching out and having a snooze...


The food trolley woke me up and I enjoyed my shiitake mushrooms and vegetables in ginger sauce with fried rice.  Film time "The Lady in the Van" followed by a bit of crochet, another film "Star Wars" and some more sleep and before I knew it, we were somewhere over the Andaman Sea and the breakfast trolley was doing the rounds and the eggs Benedict were delicious...


Time to watch one more film (Suffragette) from my planner before landing.  
That was the longest leg of 6747 miles done.  We didn't have too long to wait in Singapore airport but had a wander around the shops and got to know each other a bit more.  


The Sydney flight was around 8 hours (covering 3915 miles) and as it co-incided with UK night time I wanted to try and catch up on a bit of sleep to help me adjust to the 12 hour time difference.  I checked my watch and realised I'd been on the go for 24 hours just as the captain announced we were flying over Ayres Rock - typical I was on the wrong side of the aircraft!  On the way into Sydney the sun was shining high above the clouds...


We met up with the other members of the group who had come from various other destinations across Europe so it was nice to finally have us all together :)
It was dark when we left Sydney for the final leg of our epic journey.  Only 2697 mile to go and we would be in Samoa!!! 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Photo Challenge Week 14: Pond

After missing the photo challenge last week, I made sure I was prepared early for this weeks post!

On my way home from seeing the lovely ladies at my local wool shop / crochet group  on my day off I made a little detour to the village pond.

Now, I admit it's been years since I was last down here but apart from being a lot tidier, nothing much has changed ...




Despite the dull weather the ducks were in fine form and making plenty of racket as they swam towards each other and then I spotted a beautiful swan heading towards me


My friend had told me earlier that a swan had nested right alongside the fence so I assumed this speedy bird was the owner of that nest, by the time she reached me she was hissing a bit too much for my liking so I legged it!




I'll come down again soon when the babies have arrived and try to get some pictures of the fluffies!

It's funny, being down there on a dull spring day reminded me of coming down here with the Brownies some 30 odd years ago and looking for frog spawn - blimey I hadn't realised it was that long ago and now I feel old!!


Monday, 3 April 2017

Goodbye March!

The last couple of weeks have been so busy all of the days have flowed into one at a frightening speed and I missed the end of March!!

And that means I don't get to look at one of my favourite pictures anymore ...



obviously I didn't take it but it was my idea and I'm so glad I got to do it.
You can find out more here about where it was taken etc in my previous blog post about my trip to America.

I didn't manage the photo challenge last week as my inspiration deserted me when it came to the subject "van" - I think I'm pretty much sorted for this week though so that's good.

I've been gifting a few makes which is always a good feeling :)  my new bunny pattern is lovely and everyone seems to like them too...


I've got one on the hook and another 2 orders, as well as an order for an old style.  And I'm SO excited to be able to finally share my penguin with you!  I fell in love with this pattern as soon as I saw it as it's the perfect penguin...


Isn't he gorgeous!? Even if I say so myself :)  Both him and the bunnies are from a lovely designer, called Amy over at Little Muggles - her designs are so sweet and the patterns are very easy to follow. I have a feeling I'll be hooking up more of her creatures in the future.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Photo Challenge Week 12: Historical

Oh my goodness - I could fill an entire library with historical pictures, I'm such a history geek!!
It's taken me all week but I finally decided on this one ...


This is the "Cooperage", one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle and has a great history..

I've always known it as a pub, which my Dad used to drink in occasionally (sadly, I've never actually been inside). 

The first storey of the Cooperage was built back in 1430 - the ceiling timbers supposedly came from a Dutch merchant's ship that had sunk in the river Tyne which runs opposite the building.  
Due to the close proximity of the old town wall at the foot of Castle Hill, there was no room to extend out so they went up and a new storey was added every century or so.

In 1531 the building was granted to the merchant Thomas Horsley and was then occupied by generations of prominent merchant families until around 1742.  Records show that silk dyer Mr J Robinson bought the building in 1841 but by 1853 it was listed as a grocery store.

In 1863 an established cooper (barrel maker) moved into the building.  Barrel making was big business as they were used were used to transport all kinds of goods from the river: beer, wine, butter and fish.  John Arthur Cooper bought the building in 1876 and carried on the barrel making business.  6 generations and almost a century later, the family moved the business to Ponteland and in 1974 it became a pub.

Long since closed, archaeological digs have taken place inside and pottery from the 14th and 15th century has been found along with Roman pieces.

As with most old buildings, it's said to be haunted.  One particular tale is that the ghost of a sailor who was nailed to a side door for attacking maid on the Long Stairs and he is still said to pound the door to this day 👻

The steps running up the side near the bottom right-hand are known as the "long stairs" which managed to survive the Great Fire of Newcastle in 1854 and they lead up to the castle keep.
The building next door (on the right) is the Michelin star restaurant House of Tides which is a fantastic place.

I love history, especially in my beautiful city so I hope I haven't bored you!! X