Category Archives: travel

Leaving, Again

Kings Cross train station at rush hour. A business man walks across the frame pulling a suitcase.Does saying goodbye ever get any easier? It’s all a bit strange, this leaving thing, when you think about it. Traveller or expat, I’m sure we all feel it to varying degrees, this need to get on and do what we need to do and be where we need to be jostling alongside the emotional pull of the other life, the familiar life and of folk ‘back home’.

So here I am, on the first of many long haul flights. I’m leaving England, again, and although I’m excited to be returning to friends in Australia, the sadness of saying goodbye to my family just a few hours ago took me by surprise. In the end I could barely talk.

And I wonder why I get this lurch of sadness, more pronounced the older I get. When I lived in England I saw my family maybe four times a year, if I was lucky. Life just happened. We were all busy. Now I see them every year and a half, if I’m lucky, and when I see them I do feel lucky, because we all make an effort to make the most of this limited time together.

Something happens when you’re flying high above the world, at least it does to me. Maybe it’s the physical disconnect with the ground that makes me reflective, or it’s possibly the forced situation of not being able to busy myself with duties and distractions. Either way, thoughts about life and location bubble up.

After over a month of catching up with family and friends, I’m now back acquainted with some me moments, and as I fly half way around the world I have time to ponder on what has changed and what might change again before I next revisit the Great British Isles.

And I wonder, will the next time I leave be any easier or will it be as much of a wrench? I’m curious to know how other long-term travellers and expats experience and deal with this.

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Wordless Wednesday #12: Flying High

Looking out of a plane window at a blanket of fluffy clouds above Tasmania

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Wordless Wednesday #11: Depart One Place, Arrive Another

Finola Wennekes and Dane standing in front of a departures sign at Brisbane Airport

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Wordless Wednesday #10: Celebrating friendship at the top of a tor

Four friends celebrating a climb up Roo Tor in Dartmoor, England

© 2013 Rose Knapton

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On the Banksy trail in some random little art town in the Netherlands

Banksy-meets-Basquiat-Exhibition-Holland-2013

Welcome to the small town of Laren in Holland, where you apparently stumble across big names.

It’s early Saturday afternoon and I’m in Laren, an old, affluent arty town some 30km southeast of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

I’m here to attend a Banksy exhibition, something that I find a little absurd. How can you take a street artist and put them indoors, restrained and commercialised? It seems almost to be bad form. And yet, here I am supporting it, kinda.

It just so happens that the day I’ve chosen to visit is the day that the Lionel Gallery have spread out the red carpet, trayed up the champagne flutes and parked a Maserati and a Ferrari on the driveway. It’s some sort of open day.

I am sporting a black hoodie and scuffed shoes. I have seen better days. In terms of dress code, I am definitely not the one expected to walk down the red carpet and part with big money, but not wishing to judge (or more likely, not wishing to miss out on a sale should I just happen to be one of the rich who likes to look like a scruff) the gallery staff treat me with the same niceties as all the suited and trendy media types who are mingling around me.

Prints for sale. Genuine ones. Not the $12 ones you might have seen in your local bookstore.

Prints for sale. Genuine ones. Not the $12 ones you might have seen in your local bookstore.

Banksy prints are dotted around this small gallery. The Bristol legend is sharing the stage predominantly with Basquiat, but I also notice gilded butterflies by Damien Hirst and some typically lavish LaChapelle prints added to the mix. There’s even a solo Picasso piece, tucked around the corner. An unexpected treat.

Basquiat, LaChapelle and Hirst

Basquiat, LaChapelle and Hirst

The pièce de résistance is an original Banksy, a spray can depiction, stenciled Fragile and framed. Banksy captured. There’s blind bidding taking place for this modern art piece, and some chats later I realise that:

  1. There is a whole different breed out there who collect art purely for investment;
  2. I would kinda love to hang a Banksy, but even original prints without a signature start at over US$8,500 and I’m really not that bothered about the spray can; and
  3. I’m not really sure how I feel about Banksy being commodified, put INSIDE and made exclusive. Street art? High art?  Money art?
Banksy captured.

Banksy captured.

Months later, other than the fact that I like some of Banksy’s social commentary, I’m still not sure what to think.

And, to make matters worse, I never did get a glass of that champagne.

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The secrets of Amersfoort

I’m standing inside a room, if you can even call it that. It measures maybe two by three metres. My shoulders are hunched, my head lowered, and I’m listening to the house owner tell me how an entire, extended family used to live in this room.

In geographical context: the historic, medieval city of Amersfoort

In geographical context: the historic, medieval city of Amersfoort

Just a few days earlier I was gliding along the canals of Amersfoort, onboard a boat, huddled on wooden benches with my aunt, uncle and a handful of strangers. A burst of budding leaves and flowering trees lined the waterways as the sun shone down on cobbled walkways and historic buildings.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to explore this ancient Dutch city.

Listening to the tour guide, I tried to pick out words but often referred to the English cheat sheet, noting dates that aged Amersfoort back to the late 1200s.

Seeing Amersfoort, Netherlands from the water

Setting off by boat

The western boat route took us by houses built into the first city walls and provided glimpses of Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren, a 98m high tower that not only provides a visual reference point within the city but houses the middle point of the Dutch grid reference system. We slipped under bridges and floated alongside water gates and the birthplace of the famous Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian.

Houses that make up the city walls, Amersfoort, Netherlands

Houses that make up the city walls

Sturdy water gate entrances, Amersfoort, Netherlands

Sturdy water gate entrances

Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren,  Amersfoort, Netherlands

Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren

Drinking in the age of this little city, it was apparent that she had been well looked after. Despite her years, she was neatly presented, breathing out secrets of a long, knowing life.

Now, some days later I find myself as a guest inside the tall windowed grandeur of one of Amersfoort’s oldest houses, peeking in through secret doors and into the more recent history of the Second World War. A Jewish family hid away inside this little, little room.

It’s this kind of history, the human component, which really resonates with me. I stay for a short while, hunched and imagining how one lives a confined life, and a life full of fear.

And then the owner pulls away some wood to reveal a tiny window with views directly over to the synagogue. There, within those views, I realise, must have lain some comfort.

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Wordless Wednesday # 2: Gloucestershire breather

#2 Coopers-Hill-Gloucestershire

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Wordless Wednesday #1: Encouraging parents

Swan and cygnets in Bibury, "the most beautiful village in England" according to William Morris

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The beauty spots of northeast England

The northeast of England is, despite what anyone might say, full of hidden beauty spots, should you care to look.

My visit back to the UK coincided with the start of summertime and I wanted to show D-man a little of my English life. We had left Stroud and Gloucestershire behind, crossed through seven counties in five hours and were now cutting through the northern section of the North York Moors.

Revisiting the North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Revisiting the North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Five minutes away from our destination I stopped the car and stood and gazed over the fields of my childhood, this green valley of protection and dry stone walling. Down there was my family home, down there were my mum and dad and many of the people who knew me through my growing up. It was the first time I’d been back to the North Yorkshire Moors National Park in nearly two years and I felt a flutter of excitement. Spring sunshine sealed the feeling.

Some days later I headed over to Farndale to catch the end of the daffodil season. Like the dwindling display of flowers, the crowds too had left this beauty spot, and we walked quietly and undisturbed through puddles of squelch alongside river banks loaded with long grasses, wild garlic and forget-me-nots. The river ran brown and swollen and spilled out over the pathway.

The daff walk at Farndale begins

The daff walk at Farndale begins

The last of the daffodils

The last of the daffodils

Sharing the path

Sharing the path

Garlic goes wild

Garlic goes wild

My favourite childhood tree

Revisiting my favourite childhood tree

Views out of the tree

Views out of the tree

Moving on to more historical and quaint sights, I took trips out to Saltburn, Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby. From winding mazes of tightly packed streets through to pirate graves and a history of smuggling, I was transported back to my childhood.

A Saltburn pier stroll

A Saltburn pier stroll

Saltburn pier views with a fairly crowded lineup out in the surf

Saltburn pier views with a fairly crowded lineup out in the surf

Surfers braving the North Sea chill at Saltburn

Surfers braving the North Sea chill at Saltburn

Robin Hood's Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay

A moody day at Robin Hood's Bay...

A moody day at Robin Hood’s Bay…

...and yet the icecream van was doing business.

…and yet the icecream van was doing business.

The snug streets of Robin Hood's Bay

The snug streets of Robin Hood’s Bay

Whitby Abbey with the whalebone arch in the foreground

Whitby Abbey with the whalebone arch in the foreground

Views down from Whitby Abbey

Views down from Whitby Abbey

Pirate graves at Whitby Abbey

Pirate graves at Whitby Abbey

Finally, a drive to York saw us dodging ambling sheep and took us past the Millennium rock and along the Roman road past Castle Howard. The city streets resonated with tourists and shoppers and echoed with the click of cameras. We sat down to a British pub dinner at one of the oldest inns, right in the heart of the city, glimpsing York Minster through gaps in the cosy courtyard.

Roman roads near Castle Howard

Roman roads near Castle Howard

York Minster intricacies

York Minster intricacies

Stepping back in time

Stepping back in time

D-man runs up to Clifford's Tower in York

D-man runs up to Clifford’s Tower in York

And then before I’d had time to consider touching the Roman heritage of Hadrian’s Wall and the wild beauty of the Scottish borders, to trek the coast-to-coast route or amble up the landmark of Roseberry Topping, our time up north was over.

The northeast of England is, despite what anyone might say, full of hidden beauty spots, should you care to look.

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Going green in Gloucestershire

Sun blazing down on us, a bitey breeze keeping things cool, it was one of those perfect British days where you drink in the freshness of the air and turn your face up to a lightly white streaked sky.

Marching across the green grass fields of Gloucester towards a spring festival at an alternative education centre, I felt cheery being back in the UK. If I’d known that within a few minutes I’d be playing the moon in a zodiac demonstration and introducing D-man to my yearly childhood practise of maypole dancing, then maybe there would have been an even bigger bounce in my step. Maybe.

England, my sister said, was showing me its best side, a gold explosion of dandelions and sunshine, new life bursting out of branches and the otherside of a wintertime, warmth finally giving all its inhabitants some vitamin D therapy after two long, wet summers.

England, my sister told me, was persuading me to not give up on my home country, totally.

Views down over Stroud

Views down over Stroud

Sisters reunited, nephew introduced

Sisters reunited, nephew introduced

Country traditions live on

Country traditions live on

The following day brought more moments in amongst the greenery, this time within the grounds of an imposing country manor. We walked off a locally sourced Sunday lunch and played poohsticks on a trickling stream where swans and cygnets persisted to paddle against the current. We ambled up past crumbling stone buildings and into yet more green fields, nodding good afternoon to other walkers.

Some English formality

Some English formality

Hotel room with a cemetary view

Hotel room with a cemetary view

Trimmed lawns

Trimmed lawns

Springtime in an English country garden

Springtime in an English country garden

Cygnets choose the hardest route

Cygnets choose the hardest route

And it all felt, well, quintessentially British countryside. Far from the rugged and somewhat aimless adventuring I’ve been doing in the last two years, it was not without charm.

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