25 March 2013

St Patrick's Day 2013 in London

St Patrick's Day is big all over the world and I have yet to be anywhere on my travels that does not have an Irish pub to celebrate in!

London really goes for it with Trafalgar Square dressing up to be at the centre of all things green and gold. This year brought us a chilly day with quite a bit of rain but spirits were not dampened for one moment. The square and surrounding streets were full of Irish and non-Irish but everyone was Irish for one day and covered themselves in Irish themed clothes, scarves, hats and wigs - yes, lots of red hair sprouting from strange hats!

There was Irish dancing and Irish bands such as Yngve and The Innocent, Irish DJ sets and a big sing-along to finish off the day. 

No St Patrick's Day is incomplete without a parade so London gave us a suitably quirky version which incorporated the Hare Krishna folk in Irish colours!  Not sure what the dragon was about but perhaps someone can help me with that?

Enjoy some photos from the day - only iphone quality I'm afraid but hopefully you'll still get into the swing of London's Irish day!

Always good to be sure you are at the right event

Having fun in the parade
Hare Krishna getting their Irish groove on...
Dragon, pink wig - anything goes in the parade

Great hair and beards

Plenty of dancing on the stage

Hair, hats, scarves, pints of Guinness - got it all!

Dressed for the job

Of course - the pointy hats

Top branding from the black stuff

No need to say any more

Spot the green...

It's either cold or wet in London at the moment but we are ready for spring to arrive very soon. In the meantime there are tons of indoor activities to visit so you are never stuck for something to do in London whatever the weather.

Bye for now

18 March 2013

It's great to be back in London!

I've been on a big adventure in Tanzania for the last 2 months doing a couple of volunteering projects followed by some travelling. I love to travel but it's great to be back in London again.

There are 2,200 photos documenting this latest trip but you'll be relieved to know that I've chosen just a handful to give you and idea of what I've been doing and where I've visited. Tanzania is a wonderful country with extraordinary wildlife, history dating back to early man and wonderful people but it has great poverty too and needs our support. 

My first voluntary project was based just north of Dar es Salaam where we were building a new hut for a small school for young kids set up by a man who wanted to make sure his daughter had a school to go to. We dug holes, nailed posts, tied lateral wood pieces, wove coconut palm leaves, secured them with string and worked with one saw, one hammer and a few school benches for a ladder! The new hut will act as an extra classroom, somewhere for the kids to eat their meals and to play under, away from the burning sun.  It was 3/4 finished by the time I left but I know the volunteer team completed the roof the following week so it will be in use by now.

Here's how the hut was built:

Getting dug in!

Working on the roof

This is who I was doing it all for

Weaving coconut palm leaves - not easy!

Constructing the roof

My second project was on the wonderfully named Mafia Island - would you believe the capital is shortened to Kili but no Sicilians with machine guns in sight!  Mafia is a most beautiful tropical island with coconut palms, white sand beaches, blue/green warm sea and villages with sand roads. I was on a conservation project surveying bird populations, charting mangroves and cleaning up beaches to clear a path for newly hatched turtles. 

Drift away with these photos:

Whale shark approaching!

Wonderful Maasai dancing

The living conditions on Mafia were very basic so I treated myself to a fabulous safari afterwards to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti. We were lucky enough to see hundreds of fabulous animals close up, enjoyed the wonderful geography of the Crater and were amazed by tales at the Oldupai Gorge, often called the 'cradle of mankind'.

Enjoy and wish you were there:

Zebra crossing...

No zoom used

Ngorongoro crater

Hands off my food

The final leg of this big adventure took me to Zanzibar where I stayed a couple of days in Stone Town. I loved this exotic town with its Arabic style architecture, hundreds of fabulous doors for which it is famous, great markets and good bars and restaurants. Of course I took a spice tour but mostly just wandered around getting lost and finding new alleyways. It was a centre for the slave trade so has a sad and horrific history from the time for which there is little visible evidence except for the preserved slave pens.  Shuddering, you emerge back into the vibrant world of modern day Zanzibar. 

Busy market street

One of the famous decorated doors

A slave pen for 75 people...

The beauty of the beaches and the dhows
Tanzanian men are mad about football and keep up to date via television but also very handy street scoreboards:
Football mad

My next blogs will be all about London again but I wanted to share my Tanzanian adventure before normal service resumes.

Bye for now