Whistlestop tour of Vilnius
This trip really got me into the Christmas spirit. I've been feeling so stuck and not as festive as usual and I know I needed to get out of my comfort zone and do some travelling. It works its magic every time.
We started the tour with a bit of a heavy one, visiting Lukiskes prison (which only closed in 2019) and then the KGB prison and museum, but I felt it was necessary if you want to learn about the country's past - a bit like the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide prison and museum in Phnom Penh - heavy and deeply upsetting but so important to understand what a country has been through. The contrast between what Lukiskes was (a horrible prison full of the worse kind of people) and is becoming (an entertainment venue) is quite difficult to comprehend and learning about the torture that went on in the KGB prison is unsettling and horrific. I told you it was heavy!
We ended our first day taking a tour of some of the TV series "Chernobyl" filming locations and sets. I haven't seen the show but it's on my list now.
Day two was the morning exploring Trakai castle and the afternoon a walking tour around the old town including a visit to the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. It was so snowy and Christmassy!
And I'm not saying anything about England Vs France, except... that referee was shocking.
Waking up in Vilnius
So here I am waking up in Vilnius on a short introductory tour of the country Lithuania - I think this is my 44th country - and I've had about two hours sleep! We got to the hotel around midnight and some of us decided on a little pub crawl. Always a nice way to ease into a new group of people who have never met before. Seeing the old town all christmassy with a smidge of snow was lovely. We tried out Who Hit John, The Piano Man and Mr Pub before hastily making our way back to the hotel as the temp was dropping fast and it was freezing with the wind chill!
I have a jam packed itinerary ahead of me so I really need some coffee, but not before mentioning that England beat Wales and then beat Senegal to get into the World Cup quarter finals!!! And I've booked a couple of comedy gigs for next year - Dawn French's "Dawn French is a huge T*AT" and, with my sisters, off the back of seeing Joanne McNally in October and finding it a riot, "My Therapist Ghosted Me" which Joanne is doing with Vogue Williams - and I love their podcast together of the same name. They laugh so much and it's infectious. They have definitely helped me adjust to working from home. I'm also still waiting for some more 2023 London dates for Ricky Gervais's new show "Armageddon", but so far no luck.
World Cup win and trying to unstick
So our Qatar World Cup campaign has taken off with a win! Still a long ways to go yet...
And I'm still trying to get "with it" but this flu cold thing is really clinging on. I've had more massage and chiro to treat my achey muscles and I'm trying to feel Christmassy and get organised because this is my favourite time of year now with the rundown to Christmas. I've ordered an arty advent calendar which is really for kids, but I'm so excited for it. I feel seriously stuck at the moment and I know creativity will get me out of this funk if I can just motivate myself to get involved. The perfectionist kicks in and bolsters the procrastinator so then it's like a double whammy. But art is art, especially when it comes to art in therapy. It doesn't matter what it looks like. It doesn't matter what form it takes. What matters is that I've done something creative in the first place. Gotten lost in myself for a while because that really rests the brain.
I have used my BA credit with my old company and rebooked a nice, chill holiday in Malta with mum for next March. I'm also off to Lithuania for a familiarisation trip with my new company at the start of December. That's pretty exciting because I have no pre conceptions about the Baltics. Another couple of new countries to explore!
I always thought I would know if I'd slipped a disc in my back and I knew it was something I never wanted to happen to me. Well, it turns out, it can happen without even being aware. I went to bed one night feeling fine and I woke up the next morning in horrendous pain - and I can't tell you any more than that!
So that's what the doctors think now and I'm paying privately for chiro and massage and signed off for another two weeks. I don't know how people cope when they can't afford private treatment. I can only imagine they suck up the pain and carry on going to work thus further injuring themselves.
4-6 weeks recovery - I have been depressed about this - and the rigmarole of getting enough painkillers. I drive to and from the surgery and the pain is so intense and I'm hyperventilating and I basically almost pass out every time I have to make a trip. First that horrible bout of anxiety and now this. It's a relentless last few months of my 30s.
Mum and I also had to make a decision to cancel Dubrovnik next week. We had a cracking itinerary planned including day trips to Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. We're really gutted but I wouldn't have been able to do anything.
Instead I'm trying to refocus and use this sick leave to fully relax and heal my back. I don't think I've watched this much tele in all my life!
It was a lush day being a tourist amongst the thousands of tourists at Buckingham Palace with my friend Claire on Saturday. The State rooms were amazing! We also visited the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery where there was a Japanese exhibition on. Another Royal Residence ticked off and it was great to see London tourism booming post pandemic. I did wonder whether we’d ever return to normal during the dark months of lockdown..
The year of Finallys continues
I booked these tickets in 2019 and we finally got to see Michael Buble at Bath Royal Crescent on Friday! It was such a great venue and the weather was stunning; we got so lucky.
Mrs Brown's Boys and Pevensey Bay
It was such a joy to finally see Mrs Brown's Boy D'live Show The Musical. I bought the ticket in December 2020 for June 2021, then it got rescheduled that month for a year later - and here we are. Although I miss Rory and Deano, it was great to see the rest of the cast on stage. I would've hung around to try and get some autographs afterwards, but I had to get down to Eastbourne for a wedding the next day. We stayed in an air bnb in Pevensey Bay which was delightful and right opposite the beach. Such a great location! That was my first time in an air bnb aswell. I was very impressed.
Unfortunately I was working Friday through Sunday, otherwise I would've been in London for the whole 4 days soaking up the atmosphere on the Mall where history was being made. I am so proud to be British!
The weekend before, I was in Windsor with a friend, taking a tour of the Castle. This is part of our ongoing touring of all of the Royal residences. It was wonderful to be in the Queen's hometown enjoying the sunshine and the build up to the festivities. There was a definite buzz in the air!
My favourite part of the Castle was the Waterloo Chamber room where we learned that behind all of those pictures, there are paintings and drawings from the Queen and her sister, as they used to put on plays to the rest of the family in that room. I also loved listening to the choir in St George's chapel and lighting a candle and learning that 10 kings are buried there. So much history, it's truly amazing!
Oh my god! It's Everest!
Back to work today boo! I just cannot believe that this time last week, Mum and I were taking the scenic flight to see Everest. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time. The weather was perfect as you can see from the photo and it was so worth the extremely early start. It surprised me that we had to check in like a regular flight. It's all taken very seriously. I guess considering where we are and how quickly the flight could go wrong, that's a good thing. Our landing into Kathmandu was pretty rocky and that's the first time I've ever really worried about being on an aircraft - and I've been on some dodgy flights!
The rest of Nepal - Pokhara and Chitwan - was a whirlwind of enjoyment and lovely hospitality at stunning accommodations (Pavillions - The Farm and Tiger Tops), long drives on bumpy and broken roads (it's so wonderful to be travelling again!), mooching around Pokhara the much more chilled out sister to Kathmandu, temples, pagodas and boat rides, getting lost trying to find Tiger Tops, just missing a male tiger bathing, sweating on safari (again, so fab to be back travelling!) and ending our stay in Nepal with a walk with the mahouts and their elephants down to the river for them to bathe, whilst we enjoy a perfect sundowner to celebrate 3 weeks of amazing adventures on the road. I mean, what could be better than that!
wonderful to get away from the town and noisiness and watch the tea pickers in the sunshine though.
We then had a short pitstop in Gangtok in Sikkim just because and nearly got stuck when heavy rain flooded the river and broke some of the bridges! It was lovely to be welcomed as the first British tourists they have seen for two years.
After Gangtok, we arrived in Kalimpong and met up with new found family. That was really special. We visited Dr Grahams famous school where my Nanna went 100 years ago and St Joseph's Convent where my Grandpop's sisters went. We found my Great Grandfather's estate - which called into question whether he did live in Darjeeling - and my Great Great Grandmother's grave along with her boyfriend's! The villagers who remember my Great Grandfather, were able to give us bits and pieces of information, but there is so much more to discover. It's rumoured it takes two days to ride around the estate on horseback. Unfortunately the Indian government claimed the land from my Grandpop's sister who remained in India and now use it for farming. The villagers don't hesitate to ask us why we never claimed the land and sadly because my Great Aunt has now passed, we don't have answers for them. I was gutted we ran out of time and the mist was descending rapidly. We did learn that most of the bungalows from the estate were burned to the ground in the 1986 riots when the local people wanted independence from West Bengal. This was another piece of devastating news, along with the fact that nobody seems to know where my Great Grandfather's grave is. I think I have more questions than answers from this trip!
Staying in the Mayfair Himalayan hotel which my relatives used to own and run was some consolation. I tried to soak up as much of the history as I could despite the hotel being full of conference types. I definitely would have liked to have seen it pre Mayfair ownership.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.