Friday, September 30, 2011

Riverboat on the Thames at Hampton Court

We had travelled to London for a day's exploration on the Thames and curls of mist swirled around our heads as we made our way to Victoria Station, then down into the bowels of the city where the underground trains, like dragons, gobbled up and spewed forth passengers.

My daughter, experienced with the workings of the London Underground, guided me expertly through jostling crowds and onto a waiting train to Charing Cross Station.
The London Eye, England's Millennium Wheel
England’s great river, although dwarfed by the 2,560 mile Mississippi and sedate in comparison with the rapids that swirl and tumble through the Grand Canyon, nevertheless has a long and impressive history. As a clear bubbling spring it rises at its source in Cirencester. Two hundred and fifteen miles later, its swollen tides sweep into the English Channel.

Crossing its wide expanse on the Hungerford footbridge I leaned over the railing to watch water taxis, ferries and other small craft bustling, like ‘riverboatmen’ insects on a pond beneath us.

Westminster Bridge, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

London’s river thoroughfare is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. Travelers can undertake a circular tour on a river ferry, alighting or disembarking at any one of three stops between Westminster and St. Katharine’s Piers to explore such places as the National Theater, Southwark Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the New Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. Serving as Britain’s seat of government this outstanding example of gothic architecture is in fact a royal palace that replaced the original destroyed by fire in 1834.

Today, as you pass on the ferry at teatime you may witness an illustrious gathering of Earls and Dukes, the Prime Minister and numerous Parliamentarians. The country’s leaders assemble daily on the patio overlooking the river to enjoy that most English of rituals, afternoon tea.

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Friday, 30th September, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Great Ceremonial Hut

As evening approached at Shakaland, guests gathered for sundowners at the U Kamba bar. The low thatched shelter was open down one side and furnished with tall stools around tables made of upended logs. Lanterns swinging from the roof provided a dim romantic light, and a gently swishing ceiling fan cooled the night air.

Whilst James drank Lion beer with two conservationists, I chose a quiet corner to write my journal and watched black and white chickens with long yellow legs twitter and cheep as they stepped daintily between the logs, pecking at the dirt floor in search of stray peanuts. Their soft mutterings turned into squawks of alarm when the resident Staffordshire bull terrier playfully darted in their direction.

After dinner, at 8.30 sharp, the sound of drums and the thud of feet on compacted earth heralded the approach of dancers. As they moved in single file between the guests a deep mysterious chant filled the enclosure. Although not many understood the leader’s Zulu speech inviting us to an evening of dance, it was obvious that we were to follow, and we did.

One by one we entered the Great Ceremonial Hut through a metre high opening and settled ourselves on raised seating around thatched walls. The dark interior was hazy and the smell of wood smoke burned my nostrils.

The drummers were already in place, one on each side of the hut. Animal skins were pegged out against the curved interior walls, whilst in its center a fire burned, filling the air with a strong herbal aroma.

As we waited for the dancing to begin a young Zulu woman passed in front of us carrying a pot filled with smouldering wild heather. With a graceful sweep of her hand she encouraged us to brush the herbal smoke towards our faces whilst breathing deeply. “It will frighten away evil spirits”, Dube assured us.

Suddenly, with a thunderous crash of drums, the male dancers leaping, gyrating, whirling, entered the hut. Their voices filled the smoky interior with a Zulu chant that sent a tingle up and down my spine. These were the sights and sounds of a distant past, primitive as the African jungle itself.

For the next hour we were treated to an amazing spectacle. The drums thundered until I thought my ears world burst, then whispered as the drummers brushed their hands across tightly stretched skin surfaces.

Beside the entrance, a man crouched on the floor playing a primitive bow-like instrument. Its music, a weird drone produced with the aid of a stick and his lips, accompanied the drums throughout.

The chief, Baba Ngemo, wore a circlet of leopard skin around his head. Expressionless, he sat facing us in dignified silence.

Clad in no more than aprons of wild cat tails in the front, fastened to skirts made from unborn nguni calfskins at the back, fluffed up cow tails around arms and knees, and for the sake of modesty, black underpants that could be seen between the swinging cat tails, the men danced until their bodies gleamed. As they leapt into the air, ribald comments rocketed back and forth between them.

Each dance had its own name; among them the Bull dance and the Pondo dance. During the latter a thunderous roar of “Haw dammit” every minute or so conveyed the gist of the dancer’s feeling. With each explosive “Haw Dammit”, the audience roared with laughter and the dancing girls screamed their approval. Not tapering to a quiet finale as some performances do, this one ended with a mighty shout, a leap into the air and it was over.

Then it was the turn of the girls. Without any translation needed it was obvious that they intended to outdo the men. Ranging in ages from 10 years to 20, scantily dressed in only beaded skin aprons, the girls leapt to their feet and with no preliminaries launched into the most energetic foot stomping dance I have ever seen. They rocked, stamped, screamed, flung their legs so high that their knees touched their foreheads. Everyone, audience included, shouted and clapped to the roar of the drums. The whole hut rocked with sound.

During cultural experiences in countries around the world, I have seen the traditional dances of the North American Indian, Spanish flamenco and the energetic red-booted Ukrainian folk dances. I have seen English Morris dancers waving handkerchiefs and crashing sticks together and Scottish dancers stepping daintily between sharp swords, but never before have I seen such dancing as we saw that night in a smoky hut in Africa. It was a raw, awe-inspiring display of youthful vitality. It was magnificent.

Just after dawn the following morning while photographing a herd of goats wandering between the huts, I met one of the dancers and asked him whether he had suffered any after-effects following such energetic exercise the night before. He laughed heartily, “You are thinking we are feeling some pains on the bums. No way”….It was my turn to laugh.
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Wednesday, 21st September, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baba Ngemo, Shakaland chief

After a hearty breakfast the following morning we were invited to visit the iSangoma (diviner) who is in contact with the spiritual world and looks after psychological and spiritual matters.

Her badge of office, the tail of a wildebeest which she shakes and points in a menacing manner, is used to seek out mischief makers. Her hairdo, an elaborate concoction of black and white beaded braids decorated with inflated gall bladders, held me enthralled.

Also present was the Inyanga (medicine man) who is responsible for the health of the community. He prepares natural remedies from roots and bark, berries, tubers and animal fat.

When my husband James told him in all seriousness that he found it hard to get out of bed in the morning and did he have a cure, the wise old man came up with the answer immediately. “Haw Inkosi, it is because you are lazy.”

After our 'interview' we made our way to a dusty arena where young warriors challenged some of the more adventurous German tourists to a spear-throwing contest. Sitting on a boulder beside a fire, another warrior made the lethal looking weapons.
More to follow ...

Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Tuesday, 20th September, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Funnel of the Bianca C, the island of Grenada

For nearly 50 years, the ‘Titanic of the Caribbean,’ the Bianca C, has rested on the ocean floor in Grenada’s coastal waters. October 24th, 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of the sinking of this massive ship.

This once majestic cruise liner is iconic amongst the diving community and is considered one of the top 10 wreck sites in the world. At 600ft, the Bianca C remains the largest and most impressive shipwreck in the Caribbean.

“October 24th will mark 50 years on Grenada’s ocean floor,” said director of tourism for the Grenada Board of Tourism, Simon Stiell. “When the Bianca C sank in 1961, our community rallied together to assist in rescue efforts. This year we’ll be paying tribute to those who helped get the crew and passengers to safety.”

A number of events will take place in Grenada to commemorate the sinking. The community will be given the opportunity to view treasures retrieved from the Bianca C, along with photos and stories of those who assisted in the rescue efforts 50 years ago.

One of the top dive destinations in the Caribbean, Grenada is home to the world’s first Underwater Sculpture Park, found at Molinere Bay. Originally designed by Jason deCaires Taylor, divers and snorkelers can float amongst dozens of beautiful sculptures that have helped regenerate marine life in the area. In honour of the Bianca C, a replica of the ‘Christ of the Deep’ statue will be placed amongst those at the Underwater Sculpture Park. Costa Line gave the statue as a gift to the Government and people of Grenada in recognition of all that was done to rescue and host passengers and crew.

A commemorative plaque will be placed on the Bianca C and another on the ‘Christ of the Deep’ statue. Locals and visitors alike can gather on Grand Anse Beach for a picnic to take part in this historic event. For avid divers and those simply interested in Grenada’s culture and history, this is an event not to be missed.

Posted on Monday, 19th September, 2011

Zulu maidens at Shakaland

For overnight guests Shakaland’s programme includes two sessions conducted by Blessing Dube, Shakaland’s Cultural Advisor. His knowledgeable and sometimes amusing commentary gives visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the lives of the rural Zulu.

Gathered around a miniature family kraal, Dube explained the rituals of courtship and the lobola system, whereby a bridegroom pays for his bride with a gift of cattle to his new in-laws.

Etiquette, we discovered, is strictly observed in Zulu society. For example it would be disrespectful to walk uninvited into a Zulu man’s kraal. “How would you like it if you found me right there in your flower garden doing my own thing?” Blessing asked.

We learned how to make Zulu beer and sipped some of the brew from a hollowed out calabash shell. It was thick, pale- coloured and sour.

Being South Africans we were not surprised to see young bare-breasted women walking about the garden with clay pots balanced on top of their heads. The Zulu custom is for single women to wear only the tiniest of mini skirts and to go topless.

Once a woman marries her dress is more modest. Her breasts are covered with a beaded antelope skin and she wears “a married woman’s skirt” made out of a cow skin cut into strips and sewn together to form pleats. The hide is softened by rubbing it with wild animal fat, and colouring it with charcoal. She also grows her hair long, rubs in a mixture of fat, herbs and clay and braids it into an elaborate head dress which requires sleeping with her head on a wooden cradle at night.

In Shaka’s time, married warriors who spent many months away from their wives when at war, had to wear a penis cover devised by their ingenious leader. “It was called ‘the mad man’s hut’ and it controlled feelings”, Dube explained.
More to follow ...
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Monday, 19th September, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shakaland Boma

Shakaland's setting is perfect. Nearly 200 years ago, the great African chief Shaka, at the height of his powers, established his military headquarters close-by.

Modelled on a traditional Zulu umuzi (family kraal), the complex was built around a boma. The hotel bedrooms, beehive huts built of mud and thatched to within three feet of the ground, are grouped in clusters of 10 or so, each with a Zulu name. There is Kwawuhlamehlo (place of the closed eyes), Kwabonamanzi (place where you see the water) and others.

Kwabonamanzi - Place where you see the water
 When we visited in the spring time the path to our hut in Kwabonamanzi was lined with wild gardenias and thorny acacia trees. Hanging from tree branches, lanterns lit our way after sunset.

Inside the hut it was cool and dark; its single window a shuttered square cut into the clay looked over a valley where at night the waters of Umhlatuze Lake shone pale silver in the moonlight.

It was an enchanting place but not without surprises. As I stepped into the bath later that evening I pushed the rickety shutter covering the bathroom window expecting it to open just a fraction. Suddenly, with a deafening crash the shutter fell to the ground leaving a gaping 1 metre square hole in the wall. Directly opposite the opening, a path of light streamed from our neighbour’s front door and I stood stark naked in the spotlight.
More to follow ...
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Sunday, 18th September, 2011

Zulu in traditional dress, Shakaland
There was a time long ago when the tribal lands of the Zulus in South Africa echoed to the sounds of stamping feet, chanting, and the clang of metal as Shaka’s warriors prepared for war.

Today all that has changed. On the hilltops in KwaZulu-Natal one hears only the melodious song of the native people, the soft whiffle of coastal winds rustling through dried grass, and the shrill calls of herd boys tending cattle.

A scenic three-hour drive along the coast from Durban brought us to Shakaland, a place where an undulating landscape of hills and valleys rose and fell like waves on a wild sea. Many years ago we had lived close to this place. My daughter was born here and we knew it well.

Entrance to Shakaland

In recent years Shakaland, built in 1984 as a movie set for a TV series called Shaka Zulu, was acquired by the Protea Group, one of South Africa’s major hotel chains. It is now a gathering place where foreign visitors and South Africans alike can learn about and experience Zulu culture.

More to follow ...
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Sunday, 18th September, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

As a celebration of Halloween, the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Arizona, will offer special runs to its “secret pumpkin patch” on select weekends in October.

In addition to choosing a pumpkin to take home, guests will enjoy refreshments such as pumpkin pie and hot cider, a hay maze and crafts. Pumpkin decorating and face painting will take place at the depot as well.

The Pumpkin Patch Train will depart on the hour 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Oct. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23, 2011. Rates are $20 for adults and $15 for children 2-15, and seats are on a first-come, first-served basis. A pumpkin for each child on the train is included.

“Picking out a pumpkin for Halloween is good old-fashioned family fun,” said Bob Baker, general manager for the Grand Canyon Railway. “Going by train just makes the event more fun and memorable.”

In addition to special events like the Pumpkin Patch train, Grand Canyon Railway offers a variety of multi-night packages that include train travel to and from Grand Canyon National Park, accommodations and some meals.

Melanie Haiken, travelling in the Luxury Parlour on the Grand Canyon express
The train trip from Williams to Grand Canyon National Park takes approximately two hours and 15 minutes and runs 65 miles through ponderosa pine forests and scenic desert landscapes. The train offers four classes of service – coach, first class, observation dome and luxury parlor.

 The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel was designed to resemble the historic Fray Marcos Hotel and Williams Depot structures that stand nearby. The hotel is comprised of 199 standard rooms, 87 deluxe rooms, 10 suites and one luxury suite – the Rail Baron Suite – as well as a spacious meeting room available for wedding receptions, seminars and other functions; a large courtyard with barbecue and wet bar; a game room for children; a large enclosed crescent-shaped pool and hot tub and an exercise room.

Posted on Thursday, 15th September, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Champs Elysses

In a perfect location for touring, the Hotel Napolean is just steps from the Arc de Triomph and the Champs Elysees. The Arc de Triomph seen from the hotel is the largest triumphal arch in the world. At 49.5 metres in height and 45 metres wide, the daredevil Charles Godefroy in the early 1900s successfully flew his bi-plane right through its center.

Cartiers, the jeweled emporium frequented by the rich and famous is on the Champs Elysees. High priced restaurants and boutiques abound, but bargains do not. A cruise on the Seine at the foot of Paris’s famed boulevard provides a memorable and peaceful interlude and attractions are a dime a dozen along its banks.

Returning to the hotel that evening I came upon a message of love etched on a gilded railing that appealed to my natural curiosity. “Jean-Philippe + Luclivine = Amour Pour la vie”. Wistful but hopeful words that confirmed in my mind that Paris is a city for lovers.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Tuesday, 13th September, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A royal swan

Originally a gift to England’s King from Queen Beatrice of Cyprus, the swans that you see puddling around on the Thames river are known as ‘royal birds’, although now ownership is shared between Her Majesty the Queen and two London guilds, the Worshipful Company of Dyers and the Worshipful Company of Vintners.

 Each year a traditional ceremony called swan-upping takes place on the Thames when representatives of the three owners set off in a fleet of skiffs to comb the river for unmarked birds. Each skiff has a special banner fluttering at the helm and the ‘swan herds’ are dressed in colorful uniforms. The Queen’s men lead the procession in scarlet and white, the Vintners in dark green and silver and the Dyers in blue and gold. All wear caps sporting a jaunty swan’s feather.

When the birds are caught they are dragged into the respective boats and marked; one nick on the beak for the Dyer’s birds, two nicks for the Vintner’s birds and the Queen’s, nick free, are dropped back in the water to paddle away, regal dignity intact.
This is just another of England's quaint traditions.
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Sunday, 11th September, 2011

Representation of Charles de Gaulle in the
Canine art gallery in Paris's Hotel Napoleon

Like a magnet, this city and the Hotel Napoleon have attracted fame and celebrity. Numerous stars, writers, artists and even royalty; among them King Constantine of Greece, Errol Flynn who called the Napoleon “the place”, Orson Welles, John Steinbeck, Salvadore Dali and Ernest Hemingway who as well as writing his now classic stories was also at one time the Toronto Star’s man in the Paris bureau, have all enjoyed the hotel’s hospitality.

We had our own brush with celebrity when riding the elevator to the breakfast room the following morning. We struck up a conversation with a charming American who thrust out his hand and introduced himself as Constantine Orbelian. He was, we discovered, the conductor of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, “the greatest chamber orchestra in the world” according to Dmitri Shostakovich. Much admired in Russia and worldwide, in 2004 Orbelian was awarded the title of “Honoured Artist of Russia” by President Putin.

On our way to breakfast I was drawn to a pseudo art gallery displaying a series of comical oil paintings. Depicting members of French society, some in full military dress…..all had canine faces. When I questioned the maitre’d about the paintings he agreed that “Some may not like them”. But then, unbowed and with a glimmer of sly humour, he leaned forward and whispered, “but we do”.

More to follow ...

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Sunday, 11th September 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Youssopov Suite in the Hotel Napoleon

The hotel’s 101 rooms including 47 suites provide extraordinary luxury and comfort for guests. Decorated in the Empire style favoured in Napoleon’s time, colours are rich and gilding plentiful. The Youssoupov suite, our home for two nights, was a dream setting fit for an emperor. A leopard skin print carpet was an exotic addition.

Named in honour of Prince Felix Youssoupov, the suite’s wall décor included photographs of the prince and his wife Princess Irina Alexandovna. Prince Felix, as those au fait with Russian history would know, had seen it his duty to Russia to rid the country of Tsaritsa Alexandra’s favourite holy man Rasputin. When lacing wine and chocolate cake with potassium cyanide failed to fell the “Mad Monk” as he was called, Prince Felix resorted to shooting him.

More to follow ...

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Saturday, 10th September, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

My room with a view at the Hotel Napoleon

Some wedding present! In 1928 when he married, wealthy Russian émigré and hotel owner Alexanae Pavlovitch Kleaguine bestowed upon the love of his life Paris's Hotel Napolean. And yes, as time revealed, that young and very beautiful Parisian art student was indeed the love of his life. The romantic pair married, raised their family and lived out their lives in the hotel’s grand surroundings. To this day the Napolean is a family-run operation.

Paris's famous Eiffel Tower
Looking across the rooftops of Paris through a mist of red geraniums, I was enchanted by the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Nightly, 20,000 flash bulbs decorating Paris’s tallest structure ignite, lighting the darkness with scintillating brilliance.

As I marvelled at the view from the Youssoupov suite I couldn’t help smiling as I thought of Hitler’s soldiers having to climb the equivalent of 81 storys on the Eiffel tower to hoist the swastika after a group of wily Frenchmen had cut the elevator cables. To add insult to injury, no sooner was the huge flag installed than it billowed out and took off in the wind.

Opening the French doors onto the balcony, the warm fragrant scent of the city drifted in. High above the racing traffic on Avenue de Friedland I leaned out and could see the Arc de Triomph close-by, gleaming golden in the night.

More to follow ...

Posted on Friday, 9th September, 2011

                ENGLAND NEWS ...

The World Shakespeare Festival
Running from April - November 2012, the World Shakespeare Festival is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare's Globe.

The Festival features major new productions, groundbreaking international collaborations and radical interpretations of Shakespeare's work by some of the world's leading theatre companies, alongside a range of exhibitions, events and interactive online projects.

All Over the UK
Productions and events will take place across the UK, in locations including Stratford-upon-Avon, London, Newcastle/Gateshead, Wales and Scotland, as well as online.

Explore the Festival Website,

The Best of UK and International Creative Talent
The Festival is an unprecedented collaboration involving theatres, companies and cultural organisations from across the world, including:
Almeida Theatre
Anglo Mexican Foundation
Artistes, Producteurs, Associés
Barcelona Internacional Teatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company
Brighton Festival
British Council
British Museum
Chekhov International Theatre Festival
Companhia BufoMecânica
Compañia Nacional de Teatro
Contact, Manchester
Dmitry Krymov's Laboratory
Edinburgh International Festival
Hall for Cornwall
House of Fairy Tales
Iraqi Theatre Company
London International Festival of Theatre
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
National Student Drama Festival
National Theatre
National Theatre of Scotland
National Theatre Wales
National Youth Theatre
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
Newcastle University
Ninagawa Company
Northern Sinfonia
Northern Stage
The Nuffield, Southampton
Oily Cart
Pilot, Questors Theatre
Riverside Studios
Royal Shakespeare Company
Sage Gateshead
School of Dramatic Art Theatre
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Shakespeare's Globe
Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center
Sherman Cymru, Cardiff
Stratford Circus
Tate Modern
Teatr Warszawa
Theatre Royal Newcastle
Voluntary Arts Network
The Wooster Group

Festival Supporters
The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, by Arts Council England and by BP, Founding Presenting Partner of the Festival.

The World Shakespeare Festival is part of the London 2012 Festival.

Posted on Friday, 9th September, 2011

                 HONG KONG NEWS ...


The coming of September heralds a wonderful musical event for Hong Kong: the HK International Jazz Festival, scheduled to take place over eight days from 25 September to 2 October. Over 300 musicians will come from 24 countries on six continents to offer over 60 performances, workshops and exhibitions designed not only for lovers of jazz but also for fans of other musical genres.

In addition to traditional and modern jazz offerings, audiences will be thrilled by flamenco and gypsy swing, folk and ethnic music, capella concerts and the full range of what is known as ‘world music’. Performers include Poncho Sanchez, Terence Blanchard, Ted Lo, Freddy Cole (Nat King’s youngest brother), Maria João and many others. Ensembles include the Kurt Rosenwinkel Standard Trio from the USA, Chico and the Gypsies from France, the Stouxingers from Germany, the Amsterdam Klezmer Band and many others. Language will certainly not be a problem… for the international language of music will be heard all over Hong Kong during those exciting days.

In addition to the musical performances, scheduled to be held in a variety of locations, there will be musical workshops and an exhibition of photographs chronicling the many tours and performances of luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and others.

Many of the Jazz Festival events will be free, while ticketed events will carry deep discounts for seniors and students.

Posted on Friday, 9th September, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Medieval banquet in Cardiff Castle

Way back in 76AD Cardiff Castle started life as a Roman Fort.  Today the castle is an integral part of a lovely city where modernity mixes effortlessly with a past watched over by a 12th century Norman Keep.  The castle's sumptious Victorian interior; stained glass windows, richly emblazoned walls and ornate ceilings that rival any I've seen in Spain and France can be attributed to its wealthy patron the Marquis of Bute.

Catherine Evans with Barney the Red-tailed Buzzard
In keeping with its past, an on-site falconry center re-enacts for the public the medieval sport of hunting with birds of prey.  Confined within the castle's battlements, a Red-tailed Buzzard named Barney clings with wicked claws to the leather gauntlet of falconer, Catherine Evans, while brilliant peacocks sweep majestically across emerald lawns.

An event not to be missed for visitors to Cardiff,  is a medieval banquet in the cellar of the castle.  Guests are treated to a traditional meal accompanied by mead, a drink made of honey and wine 

We dined on Glamorgan sausage, Caerphilly Cheese Souffle Tart served with cream and herb sauce.  And then my favourite, Welsh Honey Cream Mousse topped with raspberries and chocolate served with a Danzy Jones creme anglaise. 

Alun Saunders our Welsh host at the banquet was in top form.  His group of entertainers were in full voice serenading us with the songs of a people that love to sing. Saunders invited us to join in if we knew any of the songs and "If you don't know the words then shut up", he said.

At a later banquet, the Welsh Guards pictured here played a stirring rendition
of Tom Jones's "Delilah" much to the delight of all of us.
 Tom Jones, that famous singing Welshman - much loved by the ladies, including me - who took the world by storm with such songs as "Delilah" was ragged unmercifully throughout the night.  Saunders, after telling us that we were supposed to have peacock pie for dinner, doubled with laughter in his telling, "Tom Jones took the last peacock.  Apparently it's the only bird he can catch these days".  This followed an exchange with the castle chef when Saunders shouted for him to bring on the peacock.  The chef roared back "There ain't no peacock". Altogether it was a jolly evening, lots of clapping, laughter and powerful Welsh vocals.

At one point in the evening I suspected that Saunders had plans to call up some of the audience for a spot of fun.  And yes I was one of them.  Next time I shall sit well back from the stage.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Friday, 2nd September, 2011

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Now’s the time to appreciate low season travel to Britain, where you can avoid the summer crowds and enjoy great savings! Explore England, Scotland and Wales this November, December, January or February and save up to 20% off BritRail’s most popular passes.

Take the classic BritRail Pass: for just $149 CAD get 3 consecutive days of train travel in standard class. That’s less than $50 a day to have the freedom to travel on as many trains as you wish to your choice of destinations throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

And for those travelers whose focus falls on England, the BritRail England Pass is a great fit. Also offered with the low season discount, get a 3 day BritRail England Consecutive Pass for $119 CAD in standard class, which is less than $40 a day for unlimited rail travel throughout England.

BritRail Passes and BritRail England Passes are offered in a wide range of validities, including Flexi Passes for a period of 3, 4, 8 or 15 travel days to be used within 2 months or Consecutive Passes for a period of 3, 4, 8, 15, 22 days or 1 month of travel. You can also choose a first or standard class BritRail pass, where first class offers benefits on select trains such as free Wi-Fi, more spacious seating, at seat meal service, free newspapers and complimentary tea and biscuits.

Pass holders are always pleased to discover that a BritRail Pass really does cover it all; it includes travel on all trains throughout Great Britain’s National Rail network! Hop on and off trains at your leisure, without being restricted to a specific seat on a specific train, and keep to a flexible schedule all your own. A BritRail Pass even covers travel on Airport Express trains, the most convenient way to skip traffic from Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and Stansted Airport to central London.

Take advantage of BritRail’s Low Season Discount when booking a BritRail Pass or BritRail England Pass between September 1st, 2011 and February 15th, 2012 for travel in November, December, January or February. Get your BritRail Pass by visiting or or by calling ACP Rail’s Call Center today at 1 866 938-RAIL (North America). Remember to buy before taking flight as BritRail Passes cannot be purchased in Britain.

ACP Rail International is the exclusive, global BritRail distributor and an established world leader in the marketing and distribution of International rail products to travel agents, tour operators and consumers. If you are a travel agent interested in booking rail passes, tickets, seat reservations, tours and attractions for your clients please visit or contact for more information.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 1st September, 2011

Photo copyright Anne Gordon