Date: August 18 - September 17, 2006
I've taken four weeks off of work to spend some time traveling and taking pictures with my new camera. One week before my flight 21 people were arrested for plotting to blow up planes over the Atlantic. This resulted in a ban of any types of liquids and any hand baggage. People were only allowed their documents and money (medicine too if it was certified). Any electronics would have to go into the hold. My heart almost stopped at the thought of putting my precious camera and lenses into the hold. After about 3 days one piece of hand luggage was allowed with decreased dimensions of what normally was allowed. My camera bag with the gear (7kg total) fit into the dimensions just barely.
I flew to London Stansted airport where I stayed at the Radisson Hotel just walking distance from the airport.
Made myself at home with my gear unpacked.
After a nice long shower I made my way to the train station and bought a two way ticket to London. With no map in hand and no real directions from anyone except street signs I made my way to the London Bridge and the Tower of London (at the time I did not know the name). Found a nice pub close to the London Bridge where I ate my first meal in UK. My first impression of London was that it's a great and happening city with great people. I even managed to see a play by the London Bridge. Back at the hotel I made sure to catch up on some news on the TV.
The London Bridge, September 19, 2006
Next morning I went back to Stansted to catch a plane to Szczecin where my family would come to pick me up for my 3 week stay in Poland. First few days were spend with the family and on Wednesday evening my dad and I took a train to Krakow.
Kitten I found at the family farm.
My first visit to the forest where I used to pick mushrooms.
Swans at the Baltic Sea.
The great thing about trains and going places is that you take a train at night and in the morning you arrive at your destination and you have the whole day to explore. In the morning (about 8am) we put our bags in the baggage hold (4 zlotych for 24hr which is about $1.50) and went to meet a friend of mine who came back to Poland. We met at University of Toronto during PIWO meetings (Polish Engineers in Ontario [translated]). He gave my dad and I a little background on current issues with work and social issues. Then he talked about the history of Krakow which was interesting as I've never had Polish history lessons [note to self - read God's Playground by Norman Davies].
Krakow main square.
Krakow main square at night.
You can find these visually interesting places all over Krakow. From the outside the place may not look like much, but you can find a treasure inside.
Walking around Wawel Castle you can find many architecturally interesting structures. This is part of the Wawel defense wall.
Wawel Castle Church
Windows in the back alleys of Wawel Castle
After a long day of playing tourist: cappuccino break.
Two days in Krakow and we bought a train ticket to Zakopane for two days. It was my first trip to the Polish mountains. I've lived in the Rockies, but never seen Tatry in Poland. We went for a hike into the mountains. We were so tired that we did not even attempt hiking up a little mountain (seen in the fourth picture). Plus we were not dressed for the occasion. Of course, next time I go back to Poland I will have the proper gear and will take a hike up the mountains. It's something on my to do list.
More of the great views. Just sitting there felt very peaceful.
No attempts were made that day to climb this "little" mountain.
Poison mushrooms I found on the way to and from the mountains.
This one looks so tasty.
This is how they look when they "grow up".
View of the mountains from downtown Zakopane.
When we came back to Krakow we bought a two way ticket to Prague which cost about $70 for two. We got to Prague by 9am and took the whole day to explore with no map in hand (in my opinion the best way to see a city).
Prague - You have to be there to appreciate the view.
River going through the city.
View over the city of Prague.
This was taken using my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens.
Another closeup of the rooftops.
I think we underestimated the size of Prague. It's so much bigger than Krakow. It's also a very expensive city. One day is surely too little time to spend in such a big city, but for us it was enough. We saw how people live, tasted the food and had a great time. It was time to go back to Krakow.
Another interesting feature in a biulding wall.
Carved men holding up walls can be found around entrances to buildings.
Back in Krakow for the day.
From Krakow we went to Wieliczka which is a salt mine and still operational (about 700 years to date).
After a week of fun in the South Poland we went back to bother the family. There we did some mushroom picking which is a lot of fun. I used to pick mushrooms when I was a child in Poland with my brother and mother. I could do without eating the mushrooms, but the picking is a lot of fun. Something which reminded me of when I was a girl.
After two days we went to Gdansk. Another beautiful European city. It's filled with a lot of little cafe's, restaurants and a lot of Jewelry stores filled with amber goods. I bought two table lamps made from amber which I regretted not buying last time I was in Gdansk. So this time I bought two.
There are a lot of tourists in Gdansk. They mostly come from Germany and a small percentage from UK, but this is changing as Poland is becoming a popular vacation destination.
Features of buildings around the old Gdansk.
Interesting sewer cover.
Fountain in old Gdansk.
Of course I had to have my cappuccino. This time tried it with whipped cream.
Another example of men carved around an entrance.
Part of old Gdansk as seen from a tour boat.
After the trip to Gdansk I spent most of my time mushroom picking and doing photo shoots of willing and unwilling subjects. My best photo shoot was of my childhood friend who really got into the "model" role. We took over 200 pictures. Next day I took pictures of my aunt who is running for Mayor of Wolin and she needed some professional pictures. I was more than happy to use my skills and my equipment.
The rest of my four week vacation was spent back in Britain. My dad and I landed at Stansted airport and took a train to Peterborough where we stayed with his friends.
King's College-Cambridge University
One way to see the University is through taking a boat down the river which flows through the University.
Sneaking about the University and admiring the architecture.
I'd love to go to school there.
We spent three nights in Peterbourough and managed to go to Camebridge and Stamford. Cambridge is a great city with many interesting places to see which of course includes the famous Cambridge University. At Stamford we went to an Estate where the owners still live there. The lands surrounding the house were filled with deer and gardens. They also have horse racing facilities on the estate. The Estate and the city of Stamford were both used in the Pride and Prejudice film. At the end of the day we took country roads to go back to Peterborough.
Burghley House in Stamford.
Back of Burghley house.
Burghley House was where Pride and Prejudice was filmed.
Deer can be found walking about the property of the Burghley House.
Posing for my camera.
Alley in Stamford City.
The last three nights we spent in London beside the Kings Cross rail station. It was central to everything we wanted to see in London. First trip out of London was to Salisbury from which we then took a bus to Witshire. The Stonehenge stood on a hilltop when approaching with a bus. The say was cloudy and a few drops of rain dropped now and then. But this only added to the mystery of Stonehenge. Of course my dad was not impressed with the "rocks in the middle of a field" and said that he would talk to his brother to create something similar on his farm and charge people money to see it. We took a bus back to Salisbury where we explored the city and experienced some more English food and people.
Stonehenge "Rocks in the middle of a field"
The hardest job of taking photos is capturing the object without tourists in sight. It all requires time and patience.
Grounds of the Cathedral.
Inside of the Cathedral.
Interesting water feature in the cathedral.
Worn out stairs over time in the Cathedral.
We spent the evening and night exploring London. I also used this time to capture London at night.
Parliament building and Westminster Abbey can be seen in the photo.
On the last day before our flight back to Toronto we took a train to Portsmouth Harbour. My main reason for going to Portsmouth was the HMS Victory as I'm building a wood ship model of. I should be currently working on it, but have not worked on it since 2003. Of course before going on the ship we took a tour of the harbour on a boat. The HMS Victory was visible from the ship and I could not wait to go on it and take some pictures (pictures inside the ship are not allowed). This whole trip took most of the day and by the time we got back to London it was already night. The last stop was the London Bridge at night. We headed back to the hotel to do some final packing before the flight.
Overall the trip was great. Being in London made me realize that I have to come back and visit the city again. It's a great city with great people and food.
Closeup from HMS Warrior 1860
Under the deck of HMS Warrior 1860.
From the tour boat I could see the Victory. I could not wait to go on board.
A very willing HMS Victory poses for my camera.
The front of the Victory.
Closeup from the front of the Victory.
Back in London at night at the London Bridge.
Taking a last walk along the Thames River in London.
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