Joined June 2017 Message
  • Day4

    Are you insta-ready?

    June 10, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    On Monday evening we had booked tickets to enter the ticketed area of Parc Guell. We'd briefly visited the Parc on Saturday afternoon but realised that we would have to come back in order to see all we really wanted to.

    For me, Parc Guell was important as it was the iconic images of the two ginger-bread house style buildings and the curved mosaic wall that had been my image of Barcelona for as long as I could remember. I needed to see it from all the best angles in order to recreate the shot I'd seen time and time again on postcards and travel guides. This brings me neatly to my main theme of insta-readiness.

    Let's start at the beginning. Since the dawn of the handheld camera, it rapidly became the norm for people to take holiday snaps and capture a snapshot in time of themselves in a place of significance. As a photographer I've always seen the importance of documenting moments, recording them for the sake of history and for the recollection of memories in later life. Then came the phone camera and at around the same time social media and the dreaded 'selfie'. Whilst selfies are still popular, since the advent of Instagram, a new form of photography appears to have emerged and it's an obsession with getting an insta-worthy shot. This can't be just a standard snap of you stood in front of a landmark nor a handheld selfie. Oh no. A lot of thought goes into an Instagram shoot. Follow any of the big instagrammers and you'll know this, as often they'll provide behind the scenes videos and shots detailing how they got 'the money shot'. As a side note, the term 'money shot' is a term coined by the film industry and is the shot that really makes the film and therefore is considered to be the one that will bring in all the money. It can also mean the shot that cost a disproportionate amount of the films budget to create. My point here is that these insta 'money shots' aren't made to make money. However, often they may depict individuals in locations they've paid a lot of money to get to and know they've only got one shot to get this image! Regardless, the shots aren't to make money, they're made for 'likes'.

    You can spot an instagrammer by the following attributes: they will have planned their outfit and it will perfectly compliment their surroundings in terms of style and colour; they will have a photographer (it can simply be a trusty friend - the good ones work in pairs); they will almost definitely take a shot with their backs to the camera and rarely take shots looking directly into camera. They need something candid. Creating 'candid' always look ridiculous to any onlooker but what could be more candid than having your back to the camera as if you didnt know it was there?

    Parc Guell on Monday night was the perfect exemplification of a swarm of instagrammers all fighting to get the perfect shot and likely none of them succeeding. For starters, a large area of the grounds is being renovated at the moment and therefore space was limited and the perfect wide shot from the postcards was unobtainable. Secondly, whilst the sun was perfectly behind us, it was low and therefore casting shadows on the subjects whether it be their own photographers or other people. Thirdly, time was of the essence. A new swarm arrives every 30 minutes and whilst the majority of people are polite and take their turns, a select few hog the favoured spots and simply refuse to leave their chosen spot until they're satisfied they've got the perfect shot. When did we all become such perfectionist image makers?

    This mildly stressful situation aside, our visit to Parc Guell was a good one. The weather was gorgeous and we enjoyed walking around the grounds before and after our 'insta-shoot'. Recognising the limitations (listed above), Kate and I went old school and simply made sure we had a number of nice snaps, depicting us in the photogenic surroundings. But yes, I did dress in attempt to compliment the backdrop that day and we did attempt a candid, back to camera shot. I'm not proud but at least I was insta-ready. Were you?
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    Simon James

    Wow incredible photos, so beautiful. Plus never knew about the instra-ready candid stuff, have seen it and never understood the back to the camera shots until now, photography lesson 101

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  • Day3

    When backpacking across western Europe..

    June 9, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    Whilst starting to explore Park Guell on Saturday afternoon and getting a better perspective on the city, I spotted a little church on top of a mountain with a colourful ferris wheel on top. Naturally with my love of all things colourful and ferris wheels I had to investigate and was tickled to find this was the infamous Mount Tibidabo. Only true 'Friends' fans will appreciate the reference as it features in Joey's infamous seduction story which Rachel uses on Ross the night Emma is conceived. Needless to say it didn't quite fit that this mountain was in fact a relatively small mountain with an amusement park on top. We worked out that is was relatively easy to get to and even more impressed that our zone one travel passes got us all the way there without additional charges. This included the metro, overground train, funicular train and bus which took about 45 mins in total.

    The views from the top were beautiful and whilst there was a separate larger amusement park, the wheel, carousel and plane ride were all €2 a go. The plane ride amused me the most, a small plane on the end of a crane that flew around in circles. However, I later learned this had some historical importance which enchanted me. According to the parks official website - young and old will enjoy taking off in the Avió plane - the Park’s most stand-out attraction and the first ever flight simulator. It is a replica of the first aircraft to fly from Barcelona to Madrid in 1927. Powered by its own propeller, since 1928 Avió has flown visitors on a flight of sensations that make the imagination soar.

    As both a flight simulator and piece of aviation history, needless to say I'm now pretty disappointed we didn't go on it.
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    Geoff Beard

    Must be a unique attraction 😊 Why was she crying and what happened next?

    Simon James

    The One with the Videotape. Great episode.

  • Day2

    Stunned in The Forest

    June 8, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    After successfully reuniting with my number one travel buddy late the night before, we had a nice slow start and made our way to the infamous La Sagrada Familia.

    We had deliberately left our itinerary fairly loose. Kate had just spent two weeks racing around the continent by train and I just needed a good break so we agreed to make the trip as leisurely as possible with only a few sights on our must-see list. Almost all of them were Gaudi oriented.

    La Sagrada Familia (translation 'The Holy Family) is a church like no other. Most large churches and cathedrals have a wow factor. But the interior of this one literally stops you in your tracks. I've never seen anything like it. Unlike many buildings of this nature, this one was only started in the late 19th century and is still under construction with the intention it will be completed in 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. It will have 18 spires (8 of which are completed) and the largest is designed to be one metre less than Montjuïc (a mountain within Barcelona) as Gaudi believed the work of a man should not surpass that of God. These multiple spires (according to the audio guide) create a sensation of verticality 😏

    Inside is like a forest and the use of light is phenomenal. Even the crypt has daylight pouring into it. The stained glass windows are deliberately colder on one side of the church than the other to accentuate the morning and afternoon light. No part of this construction is without carefully considered thought.

    The strangest part of it for me was the disjointedness of designs. Despite constantly being told that designers post Gaudi's death were given strict guidelines on how to continue his vision, you can see the artists in them have left their own marks in style.

    We took over 2 hours independently wandering and exploring the inside of the building before reuniting to take some photos of the exterior. It was here we had a near tragedy and Lego Joey fell onto the edge of the lake in front of La Sagrada. Thankfully Kate went to the rescue, and being the more agile climber was able to retrieve her whilst I kept an eye out for Polizei as we were fairly sure we were trespassing. Our cover story was that Kate had dropped her camera. We didn't think they'd buy a 30-something losing a Lego Mini-figure. Whilst thinking she was gone forever, a slow montage started to play out in my head recalling all the places Lego Joey had been and in reality, how much of her was original Lego Joey.

    Lego Joey was first created in the summer of 2016 in the Lego store in Cardiff. The only original pieces remaining are her hair and camera as she underwent a remodel in May 2017 prior to our big travels. The only change since our American adventures and later Berlin is a recent change from her polka dot skirt to pink stripey trousers (courtesy of the Cheshire Cat). I'm sure you really needed to know that. It at least satisfied me that she wasn't akin to Trigger's broom. Thanks again to Kate for rescuing a big kid's toy and averting inconsolable heartbreak.
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    Geoff Beard

    Really pleased to see you back amongst the penguins. Recommending Kate for a Royal Humane ( Lego) Society Award .

    Simon James

    Lego Joey obviously had her own adventure ideas in mind

    Simon James

    WOW just incredible

    Jackie Beard

    Glad you having a great time and Lego Joey is safe xx

  • Day50

    Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere

    August 17, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    On the eve of my next great adventure, I decided it was time to finally finish and close my 'American Adventure' blog which has also given me sufficient time to reflect on the highlights everyone has asked me for.

    First of all though, I've been accumulating some statistics about the trip which I feel summarise it quite neatly. Here goes:

    Steps Walked - 556,311
    Photographs Taken - 9152
    Miles Driven - 1900
    US States Visited - 17
    Air BnBs Stayed in - 9
    Number of different transport methods used - 9
    Timezones Visited - 4
    Towers Scaled - 4
    Endangered Species seen in the Wild - 2

    "So what was the highlight of the trip?" I can't answer that question with a straight answer I'm afraid. The entire trip was amazing. There were no low points or places I'd never wish to visit again. However, as I am running out of words I decided to let my favourite pictures show you the true highlights instead. These were the places and experiences that made me feel the most whether that be for happiness, natural wonders, friends or family.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I do not underestimate the luck and good fortune I have had in undertaking this incredible journey. Thank you for sharing it with me. The next adventure is just beginning.
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    Geoff Beard

    In April in Brixham the lady next door said that the family were off to Dartmoor to create memories. Well I wonder just how many you created on a trip of a lifetime?

    Joey Beard

    Too many to count DB xx

    Margaret Morse

    Dear Joey, I have so enjoyed following your adventure. You write so well. I do hope you keep a journal of your next adventure so that in a few years time, I am sure it will be a fascinating read. Lots of love A. Margaloo

  • Day49

    There's No Place Like Home

    August 16, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Being woken at 4.30 in the morning for breakfast made me feel a little nauseous but knowing I'd soon be reunited with Mum and Dad was a lovely feeling. They have been so supportive every step of the way and I couldn't wait to share my adventures with them in person.

    I waited with slight nervousness at the baggage carousel for Douglas and Petunia. This was the final test of luck. I had some doubt as to how Douglas would fair and had nightmares of him being torn open in the hold. However, there he was intact albeit separated from Petunia who was hanging out with other luggage of her pedigree. Poor Douglas.

    So many people asked me what it was like to be home and my most overwhelming feeling was one of thankfulness and relief. I was in amazement that I'd pulled off a trip of this scale with no drama. I still am in amazement. I'm not a religious person but I really do feel that someone was looking out for me the whole time. No one is that lucky. Perhaps I have become too cynical.

    Mum and Dad welcomed me at Heathrow in style and I couldnt be happier to see them. I was home safe without ever having seen a witch or a wizard - wicked or otherwise. But it wasn't a dream. It was a place. And you and you and you...and you were there. But you couldn't have been could you? Doesn't anybody believe me? But anyway, Toto, we're home! Home.
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    Jackie Beard

    It was so lovely to see you and have you safely home xx

  • Day48

    Fly Away Home

    August 15, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    With a late evening flight I had another whole day to spend in Manhattan. My Air BnB host was kind enough to let me keep my luggage in her front room so I ventured back into the city to explore the wonder that is Intrepid - Air, Sea and Space Museum. With flying in the blood, this seemed the perfect way to spend my last day. My only sadness was that Dad wasn't with me to share the experience as he would have loved every part of it. Needless to say I sent him multiple photos and phoned home whilst eating my lunch under Concorde. It has to be said I don't think one day would have been enough for him here. I struggled with only 5 hours and was there until they shut.

    The BBC Weather app failed me massively today as it had not forecast any rain whatsoever yet it was torrential for hours. So much so I had to buy an umbrella to be able to get out on the main deck to see my beloved Blackbird. I have not ceased to be amazed by this aircraft and only wish I had been lucky enough to see it fly. My heart literally skipped a beat when I caught my first glimpse of her from the dockside. I was similarly in awe of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Such a collection of amazing aircraft and history in one place. I would put it on a par if not better than the IWM Museum at Duxford.

    I ventured back towards Brooklyn via Grand Central Station. I'd never been and so it was another one crossed off the list. It was then the start of the journey home. I was ready now.

    Petunia, Douglas, Pluto and I took our last Uber to JFK. British Airways did me proud once again and flew me home in style. Fittingly I fell asleep watching Beauty and the Beast looking forward to being home when I woke up.
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  • Day47

    Retail Therapy

    August 14, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    I had set aside my last full day in the city for SHOPPING. Frivolous after the last 7 weeks I know but I figured having come this far - why the hell not?

    I started my day with a long awaited breakfast at Denny's. The diner franchise had been a popular favourite of Mum and Dad's in the 80s and they had taken me there in the 90s so it was nice to finally cross it off the list. Their pancakes were easily the best I'd had.

    After breakfast I ventured into Chinatown to find Mum her coveted Louis Vuitton fake but much to my dismay the fake handbag industry in Chinatown has either disappeared or gone seriously underground. No fake handbags to be seen anywhere. This was a huge disappointment!

    Next stop was Fifth avenue for the Lego Store and Saks followed by a return to Times Square for the big Disney Store. Whilst sitting for a quick breather by the Rockefeller Centre I was approached by an old man who insisted on taking my picture. I tried to resist but he was insistent. He took my phone and took multiple snaps and then returned the phone to me, shook my hand amd walked away. One of his results is below and needless to say I was really chuffed with his results and further encouraged by the kindess of strangers on my travels.

    My final stop was, of course, Target where I procured Douglas the Duffel along with many chocolate hugs and kisses. It has to be said that I knew Petunia woild not be impressed with Douglas but he was cheap, he was functional and quite frankly she could do worse!

    After a long day on my feet, I had a lovely chilled evening in my Air BnB slowly packing and eating Jack Daniels Honey Pulled Pork and Chocolate Chip Eggos!
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    Geoff Beard


    Geoff Beard

    Never seen such a posh one before.

  • Day46

    The Last Train

    August 13, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Today I took my very last Amtrak train from Niagara to New York. I had splashed out on booking and paid the extra $30 to travel business class. I have to say I was disappointed that I bothered. It lacked the same sense of community and comfort as the standard class carriages. The furnishings were old and tired and whilst the seats were bigger they were less comfy. Quite frankly it was a bit lonely too. I was disappointed to learn there was no observation car on this train which is where Kate and I had made several friends before. There was plenty of American sass though. I'm not sure if I've talked about sass before but Kate and I had come to really appreciate it. For some reason we always seemed to get it the most from people in customer service positions. This only seems to add to the humour as in the UK you wouldn't dream of getting that kind of attitude from someone in the service industry. Still, sass aside, I did manage to persuade our conductor to give me a children's goody bag which kept me entertained for about 5 minutes!

    My newfound loneliness on the train lead me to do a lot of reflecting and soul searching. This was the start of my journey home. It had been one hell of an adventure and more significantly one rollercoaster of a year. Despite the heartbreak and trials at the start of the year, I was feeling very thankful for the positive experiences more recent months had brought me.

    After watching an amazing sunset along the Hudson River from the train we eventually pulled into NY Penn around 10pm. I'd messaged my Air BnB host about crossing the Subway at this time of night and she had been very encouraging. It would still be busy. Unfortunately the NY Subway is not like the London Underground for navigating. For some reason it is much harder with little information on closures and disruptions until you're already on the wrong train! That being said, I made it to Brooklyn safely. I was so relieved this would be my last cross city journey with Petunia and co. With tiredness and the heat, I was exhausted by the time I reached Brooklyn.

    My Air BnB could not have been a more welcome sight. It was a beautiful Victorian house with a wonderful big room which would be my home for my last two nights in the states.
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  • Day45

    Chasing Waterfalls

    August 12, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Despite having visited Niagara when I was 14, on finalising my itinerary it seemed daft not to stop by this natural phenomenon on the way back to NY. I'd booked myself into the HI Hostel which was in a very sleepy part of town about 25 minutes walk from the falls but conveniently less than 5 minutes walk from the train station.

    Steve and Monica very kindly dropped me down to the station in downtown Toronto. I was really sad to leave their warm family home but was also starting to feel ready to return to my own family home back in Gloucestershire. I've been pretty good on the homesickness front to date. I've been far too busy to really have time to experience it. However I did experience my first bout of utter loneliness today. I'll get to that later.

    Niagara was a short train ride away and once I'd dropped my cases at the hostel, I set off along the river towards the falls.

    I still found their sheer size and power mesmerising and was glad I'd made the added stop to my trip. I'd resolved that I wouldn't be doing any of the tourist activities as I'd either done them previously or had heard bad reviews - 'Maid of the Mist' for instance is notorious for being an overcrowded soggy boat ride on which you cannot easily take photographs. As you can probably imagine that didn't really appeal to me. However, I was not expecting to discover two new attractions which did draw me in. One was a zipwire which ran down towards the horseshoe falls for about 2000 ft and looked appropriately frightening. Another was a big wheel which overlooked the falls from the Vegas style strip further back from the river. In a quandary, I sent Dad a text asking which I should do. His response was simple - 'BOTH!' As most people know I don't often go against my Daddy Beard's advice so both I did. The zipwire was phenomenal. It was actually my first zipwire ever so it was a little frightening on a number of counts but I felt exceedingly safe and was glad to have done it. Having done this in the late afternoon I opted to leave the big wheel until after dark.

    I was on one last mission before leaving Canada the following day, this was to finally experience the supposed Canadian delicacy which is 'Poutine'. It's essentially just chips, cheese and gravy and sadly I was a tad underwhelmed. However, at least it could be ticked off the list!

    Once the sun had finally set I stood and got hypnotized by the cascading torrents illuminated in the dark for a while and then ventured towards the wheel. This was when the loneliness hit me. Unusually there were very few English speaking tourists at Niagara so aside from the lovely family of 3 that I shared my zip wire experience with I'd barely conversed with anyone all day. The only other acquaintance I'd made was the gorgeous husky 'variant' called Grey Fire (GoT fans will appreciate that name more than I did). Not only did he let me make a big fuss he unusually (apparently) settled down next to me. His owners were much amused and told me I must have a likeable demeanour as he very rarely settles down with anyone. If I could, I'd have taken him home.

    It transpires being in a big wheel gondola on ones own is a step too far on the loneliness scale. Disneyland was fine. Big wheel felt a little sad. Still, I've no regrets as the views were breathtaking and the loneliness only lasted 5 minutes. I don't think it helped that I was wearing a pink anorak and my polka dot straw hat and so felt extra special.

    Having done both attractions and eaten my poutine I headed back to the hostel for bed. This would be my very last hostel on the trip. Thankfully I had very friendly australian company in my dorm of 4 and the hostel was very homely and helpful.

    The countdown to my journey home was upon me but there was still a fair distance to travel.
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    Geoff Beard

    Very brave but following sound advice 😊

    Geoff Beard

    Memories flood back.

    Jackie Beard

    Weeeeeeee!!!! Go Joey Go 🙈xx

  • Day44

    Family Time

    August 11, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Today was my last day in Toronto with my lovely Canadian cousins. I took advantage of the opportunity to have a super lazy day and repack all my things ready for Niagara tomorrow. When I finally surfaced downstairs Demetri and I spent a good hour or more tinkering on his very nice Yamaha piano. We were both marvelling at each other's skills. I was very envious of his gift to learn and play ragtime music by ear as well as his composition skills. He meanwhile was envious of my sight reading skills. I've always said that in music you are either naturally talented or 'musically educated'. Being the latter I've always been saddened by the fact that I can't simply approach a piano cold and sit down and play something. I need music in front of me and some time to practise. Still, I'm very grateful for my skills and enjoy playing nonetheless. Demetri on the other hand is naturally talented and I hope he continues to utilise that talent and share his music with others.

    I spent a fair amount of time with both my younger cousins that afternoon. Mostly we attempted to take the cat into liking me. We failed but the efforts by the boys were appreciated.

    Around mid-afternoon Monica, Steve and I wandered down to The Damforth which is the Greek area of the neighbourhood in which a large food festival was about to get underway. We indulged in multiple Greek delicacies - my favourite being funnel cake which was topped with ice cream, oreo crumbs and chocolate sauce (see picture). Needless to say I struggled to eat it all!

    Once our appetites were satisfied and we were not too full to still walk to the subway we took the train to the CN Tower.

    Having done the CN Tower in 2000, I hadn't originally intended to visit again. However on discussion with Steve and Monica one night it was agreed I couldn't come to Toronto and not go up it and so Steve kindly booked us all tickets. We arrived just before sunset so we could enjoy the views in both daylight and darkness. We were suddenly engulfed by a number of thunder storms which made the visit all the more exciting! I stood on the famous elephant glass once again and enjoyed watching the lightning strikes across the city.

    After scaling the CN Tower, we walked to City Hall where the illuminated Toronto sign proudly stands. Steve was very good in humouring my artsy photographic attempts (results below). From there we walked back to the subway via the Eaton Centre where a wonderful hanging sculpture of flying geese is suspended from the glass ceiling.

    On our return I shared some of my photos from the days in Toronto with the boys and headed up to bed ready for an earlier start the next day. I would be very sad to leave this warm family home.
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    Geoff Beard

    Inescapably two Rodds !!!

    Geoff Beard

    And a bear !!


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