First Stop Copenhagen!

There is nothing quite as exciting as travelling to somewhere that you have never been to before!  That feeling of not knowing what lays around the next corner, what you will see and whom you might meet, are all good reasons to venture to holiday destinations which you have never tried before. I had never been to any of the Scandinavian countries I was about to visit on this trip, and obviously, I was very excited to discover the cold North, as well as travelling to my dream travel destination of St. Petersburg, Russia.

The trip began in Copenhagen which was pleasantly cool after the heat wave in Cyprus, which had sent temperatures soaring before we left. It was a nice place, although smaller than I had imagined. We had taken a trip around the city and to be honest, you could have walked around the city center or taken a hop-on-hop-off bus just as easily. As on most guided tours there was a lot of historical information, which is great, but I probably only retained a small amount of this and am not going to bore you with lots of facts, particularly as most of the information was about the river, port and new buildings, which to be honest, looked a little unexciting.

The nicest part of the city is Nyhavn, this is the area with the fish restaurants and bars next to the canal, and it’s a very good spot to relax, take in the atmosphere and have a cold Carlsberg if you are so inclined. After our city tour that’s exactly what we did, before our trip to the ice bar, which turned out to be a lot more fun than we had imagined that it would be.

In the Reflections Ice Bar (the only one of its kind in Denmark, they seem to like to tell you – it opened about a month ago). The walls, tables, and bar are all completely covered with ice and there are some sculptured ice pieces too. It feels as if it is freezing, although it’s probably a few degrees above. It cost around 20 euros for entrance (this is a conversion price from Danish Krone) and for that, you got to wear an enormous cape, which stops you from literally freezing ( although you do end up looking like you have just escaped from an old episode of Dr. Who) and your first 2 drinks. There is a shot of vodka or whiskey served in a molded ice cube, and a cocktail mix in a plastic pot, that resembles one of those plastic dispensers that you use for washing powder! This is a traditional kåsa or cup, apparently. I can report that both drinks were delicious and the bar was very lively and a lot of fun.  Thanks to our enormous hooded cloaks we were able to stay on, for our full forty minute slot.…

Helen Dunmore∼Your Blue-Eyed Boy

Your Blue Eyed boyWhen a writer whom you admire immensely, dies, and you have to start referring to them in the past tense, even though you know that their work will endure, long past their own personal expiry date (5/6/2017), the question is, which book of theirs do you review?

Should it be Helen Dunmore’s last book, Birdcage Walk, which contains insightful references to the illusory nature and often damaged durability of life? Or perhaps it would be more meaningful to pay homage to the novel whose influence, if you are kind enough to look for it, can be seen in my own writing (especially in the flash fiction, Winter Baby).

As both a writer and reader, I cannot resist opting for the novel which impressed me the most, the book I have read endless times, whose characters gained my attention years ago, and were seemingly unwilling to let me go. So for me, in remembrance of her brilliance, it’s got to be, Your Blue-Eyed Boy.

The novel is about blackmail, ‘the most intimate of crimes’  it’s about how it makes you feel, how it entangles and corrupts your soul and the lengths to which it can make you go, in order to keep your dark, shameful secrets from destroying your already troubled life.

“The wind blows harder and your house begins to move on a sea that was always there, beneath the crust of the land. And you are afraid, but you are beginning to move with it.”

Simone is deeply in debt, she has taken a job she doesn’t want or enjoy, in order to support her family, through her husband, Donald’s bankruptcy and subsequent emotional breakdown. Donald is gravitating towards suicide, his attitude of relentless negativity is wearing Simone down to a point in which things look very desperate indeed.

Add to the mix, a disturbed middle-aged man, recently released from prison, who was once her lover and has become her nemesis; the prognosis is not healthy, the characters are horribly damaged and appear to be on the verge of dissolution and disintegration.

“He has consumed himself. He has made himself not exist anymore in this middle-aged man with bulky flesh and face. He has lost his fine sharpness. He is loose and blurred, like a photograph out of focus, stickered with a note from the laboratory that tells you where you have gone wrong. I look for what I knew before.”

The writing is beautiful, dark and uncompromising in its willingness to explore what it feels like to face a serious threat, only to discover, that perhaps the most deadly danger of all, was already lingering, malevolently, inside of you.

Why do I enjoy her writing so much? It is her style, which is unique; her special combination of poetry and prose blending seamlessly, giving a sense of transcendence as if she is pushing at the boundaries of what it is possible to express.

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Helen Dunmore & her poetry: Passionfood-three poems about love.

 

Please note that I will be taking a two-week holiday break and then I will be back with some travel reviews

 

You’re Not Supposed to Cry ∼ Gary Duncan

After I mentioned this book by Gary Duncan in the previous post (when I was interviewed by Fiona Mcvie), I thought it would be a good idea to write a book review – as hopefully, you will already be aware, I try to keep  a balanced  blend of books, travel pieces and my own writing on this site, and I haven’t reviewed any new books for almost a year!

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So why this one? Obviously, I really enjoyed reading it or I wouldn’t be posting this; but what was so special about it? This book is actually a collection of flash fiction – around 60 in total, each one beautifully crafted and insightful from writer and editor Gary Duncan, who runs the website Spelk, which is dedicated to amazing pieces of flash fiction. Do I have a personal favorite? , Yes of course, for me it got to be Better Than This,  in which a young man with sex on his mind, is lured into babysitting for a woman who appears to have no moral qualms about deceiving him, or leaving her young children with someone she barely knows; in order to enjoy a night out with her equally horrible boyfriend. The story made me smile, but horrified me at the same time!

In this collection, the situations and characters are very flawed and human, and there are many layers of complexity, which draw you into a fragmented, but instantly recognizable, fictional world. But instead of  me wittering on  endlessly about how much I  enjoyed it, here is my actual review:

This superb collection of flash fiction offers readers a perfectly formed, miniature world of other people’s wishes, desires, dreams and regrets. The elegant but understated writing style creates a dynamic tension between the simplicity of the stories, and the complexity of the lives and actions of the beautifully formed characters, which we are observing. Each story, memory, fragment and feeling, has been crafted with a very poignant sense of emotional intelligence.  Some stories are subtle; some will make you smile, while others are uncompromisingly honest. This book is a kaleidoscope of multifaceted characters and situations, whom you will remember long after you have finished reading; finding their hopes, fears and very human humiliations, have somehow, quite imperceptibly, blended into your own.

Yes – it really is that good – but don’t just take my word for it! – check it out for yourself…

 

Gary’s book at Vagabond Voices

At Amazon co.uk

Here is my interview with Sonia Kilvington

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Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

I’m Sonia Kilvington and I’m 53.

 

Fiona: Where are you from?

I was born in Hartlepool in the North East of England. My family on my dad’s side came from the Headland. My mum and her family lived in the museum, where my granddad was curator. I havelived in various locations around that area for most of my life, before moving to Cyprus 11 years ago.

 

Fiona: A little about your self (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

Icurrently live in a lovely Cypriot village called Oroklini with my husband Derek. I have been working as a journalist and freelance feature writer/editor on local and glossy magazines for the last 9 years; but writing fiction has always been…

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An interview with Tom Vater ∼ writer& publisher

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Here is my interview with the multi-talented Tom Vater!

Tom is a crime author, journalist, documentary writer and the co-founder of Crime Wave Press. If that wasn’t enough, he can write in two languages and his work has been published in an impressive variety of cool places such as: The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Guardian, The Nikkei Asian Review, Marie Claire, Geographical and Penthouse, as well as being The Daily Telegraph’s travel’s destination expert for Thailand!

Although his publishing imprint is based in Hong Kong, Tom is always on the move somewhere in Southern Asia; his last known whereabouts being Cambodia, where it was great to have the opportunity to catch up with him and ask a couple of pertinent questions!

You first travelled to Asia in 1993, to document indigenous music for the British Library’s International Music Collection, and have remained there ever since writing novels, documentary screenplays, and travel features and guides; why do you find Asia so fascinating?

I suppose, after fifteen years in the UK, where I studied and then played guitar in punk rock bands, I felt it was time to move on. Two friends invited me and my then partner to India and I was hooked from the minute we touched down in Delhi.  Everything I’d learned in school and life could be upended here. I realised that one could think about reality and live life in a way that was diametrically opposite to the way one lived in Europe. I also understood that as a European one could live outside of Europe however one chose to. Of course that is part illusion but when you are in your mid-twenties, it’s very real. We stayed five weeks in India. I think I never slept. We returned to the UK, sold all our belongings and hit the road for five years, traveling around India, Pakistan, Nepal, Iran, Turkey, The Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Of course I needed something to do beyond recording music for The British Library who graciously supported me with a small grant, so I started writing. I needed to deconstruct and then reconstruct my new reality to make sense of it, but also to celebrate it. I fell in love with India and by extension with Asia, with its people, its outlook, its culture, its bright and its dark side, and it has never let me go.

When you had your first article was published in 1997, was it a pivotal moment for you as a writer, maybe a sense of being in the right place at the right time?

Absolutely. I was living in Kathmandu and had met a couple of cyclists who’d ridden their bikes from Switzerland to Nepal. They were writing about their experiences but needed help to get the stories into good enough shape to sell them. So I accompanied them to the offices of The Rising Nepal, the government daily. I edited their work and watched the editor pay them for their efforts. A light went on in my head. I asked the editor if he’d take one of my stories and he agreed if I had anything interesting to say. I knew a little about Nepali music, so a month later I was back with text and photos and they gave me the weekend supplement and I never looked back. I’ve been making a living from writing ever since. Definitely an epiphany.

You seem to live a nomadic existence, travelling far and wide across Southern Asia – is this purely for work projects or does this ‘on the road’ lifestyle fuel your own writing?

After some twenty-five years on the road it is both work and life style, it has become second nature. It is for work of course. I am writing these lines in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Last week I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Next month I will be back in Thailand, then in Hong Kong, then on to London, France and Germany. From there back to Cambodia. And so on. I have my usual stomping grounds but I also live exploring new destinations. I was in Sri Lanka for the first time last year. In January 2018 I hope to be traveling to Colombia. Most of the travel is work related but as I have friends in lots of corners of Asia, the travel has become life. I don’t think I have been anywhere for more than three months in the last two and half decades.

Your detective novel, ‘The Cambodian Book of the Dead,’ is incredibly atmospheric and engaging, how were you able to create such an amazingly authentic sense of place and time in your book?

I first came to Cambodia in 1995, illegally on a speed boat from Trat to Koh Kong. Someone wrote that Cambodia is the most dangerous country in the world, first you fall in live with it and then it breaks your heart. Someone else had told me that a kilo of weed was one US$ in Cambodia. I wanted to find out whether either was true. And it was, and there was more… the realities of forty  years of conflict infused with the superficial, trivial cultural reference points I brought with me – Apocalypse Now, the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields movie.

When I had returned to Had Lek, on the Thai side of the border, a man called out to me from the Cambodian side, asking me if I was going to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh and whether I might be able to deliver a letter for his wife whom he had not seen for years. We talked through the wire until the Thai soldiers shooed me away. One fate in millions, terrible, broken by war and life that has reverberated with me to this day. I could not help him.

I returned in February 2001. I made a film with my brother about the future of Angkor (we were too conservative in our imaginings) and began to write about the country, the people, the politics. I travelled everywhere and sucked up as many stories as I could for a few years. I was at the current king’s coronation and the grave of Pol Pot. I saw Khieu Samphan (since convicted for mass murder and crimes against humanity) in the street in Pailin. I interviewed the sons of the elite about their hobby – gang raping impoverished sex workers. Because of the Khmer Rouge history and the subsequent venal government that rules the country to this day, the appalling were and are common place and I was mesmerised by this for a long time. Everything one could point to as corrupted and unjust in European society was amplified by a thousand times in this beautiful and terrible country.

And I am writing these lines in Cambodia. More than fifteen years on, there are roads and a couple of hospitals now but by and large the venality has not changed. My eye has changed and I am more detached now. But I still think Cambodia is a very special place, full of lovely people. And some right bastards. So all that sucked me in and enabled me to write The Cambodian Book of the Dead.

One of your collaborations with the renowned photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat produced the bestselling book ‘Sacred Skin’ – what drew you to this unusual project and did you discover anything that you hadn’t expected to find?

Having been based in Thailand for years, I wanted to write a book about the country that was not about monks, beaches or elephants. I also wanted to write a book about working class Thais who almost never get a voice in their own country – the elite dictates the cultural discourse and looks down on darker skinned people, indigenous people, foreigners, really anyone who’s different from the top 5%. Sak Yant, the country’s sacred tattoo tradition was the perfect subject and with Aroon, I submerged myself in this mystical world of mantras, hidden meanings and blood for a year.

You are the co – founder of Crime Wave Press, an indie publisher based in Hong Kong – this seems like a brave move as the area is not best known for its crime fiction – has your publishing imprint proved to be as successful as you had originally hoped?

Well, we are still here after five years. We have published 31 titles to date. We have sold thousands of books. The company keeps itself afloat. One of our books The Curious Corpse by Nick Wilgus, will be made into a feature length movie. But selling books is a hard slog and we can’t compete with massive advertising budgets of the five large publishing conglomerates. And of course most people read terribly conservative crime fiction pap. The days when incredible writers like Raymond Chandler, Chester Hymes, Jim Thompson or Ross MacDonald shifted copies have given way to shallow authors like Jo Nesbo which I find simply mind-numbing. There are some exceptional crime fiction authors around today. I am a big fan of Philip Kerr for example. But the publishing business is so totally profit oriented and readers by and large want to be comforted, not challenged, so a lot of real talent is not published or ends up with tiny imprints like ours. And me and my partner Hans Kemp are quite eclectic in our choices of what we publish. But I love publishing exceptional crime fiction and am very proud to have provided a platform for many writers who might otherwise not have been published at all

 Are all of the crime books on your list about Asia or written by Asian writers?

Initially we wanted to publish only titles set in Asia. But we could not find enough good titles and did not want to publish bar girl novels or Vietnam War reminiscences – that’s what most of the submissions we initially received boiled down to. There are an awful lot of retired white men living in Southeast Asia, most of them insufferable conservative bores, who feel the need to put their rather modest fictional ideas to paper.

So we branched out and now sign authors from all over the world. That said, our two most successful writers, American Nick Wilgus and Kiwi Brian Stoddart both write crime fiction series set in Asia. We currently only have one Asian writer in our catalogue, Kalyan Lahiri from Kolkata, who writes wry whodunits set in West Bengal.

In ‘The Man with the Golden Mind, which is the second in the Maier detective series, the story originates in Laos, where you filmed a revealing documentary about a clandestine CIA War; are there more secrets for Maier to discover in this new novel?

Indeed, the research for The Man with the Golden Mind was largely derived from a documentary I co-wrote with director Marc Eberle called The Most Secret Place on Earth about the CIA’s largest clandestine mission at the time in the 1960s in Laos. The film, broadcast in thirty countries to date, demonstrates how the US committed crimes against humanity on the sidelines of the better remembered Vietnam War and whether this has informed US military adventures since. The novel is a meditation on foreign intervention but it is also, as it turns out, a father son story as Detective Maier encounters his long lost dad and is confronted by very serious personal questions – what does it mean to be adrift in this world without home or roots for example. And Henry Kissinger gets a cameo.

That was interesting! Any closing thoughts Tom?

Thanks very much, Sonia, for the opportunity to answer your thoughtful questions.

My pleasure – I feel a little closer to exotic Asia, after this interview!

More info on Tom Vater

 

 

 

 

 

The Path∼Cult Issues

 

It’s all been going on in season 2 of The Path! Murder, bribery, extortion and poisoned town water, not to mention Hawk getting his hair cut! Sarah is now co-guardian of the light with creepy Cal and Richard has gone berserk! So much excitement in such a small community!

If  like me, you are wondering why the cult drama, The Path, which finished recently on episode 13, has left so many questions in its wake, you will be relieved to know that a third series has already been commissioned! So hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out what is going on with our favourite cult drama.

It may be a little surprising to find out that The Paths’ religion of Meyerism is not a real religion at all, although it encompasses many secular elements from other high functioning cults – most notably Scientology; although the producers have stated that it definitely not Scientology in disguise. One of the characters even said “We are not Scientologists,” in a horrified tone in series 1, which was really amusing; to counteract the lawsuits from self-appointed god squads, no doubt…

On the compound everyone looks healthy and well fed, there are no obvious signs of abuse, but what do these people do all day, apart from a indulging in a little gardening, baking delicious pies and smoking weed? I know – it all sounds like great fun, apart from the brain washing. But if you’re hedging your bets on the lazy side of life, and would enjoy guardians of a higher authority (the light) telling you how to think, dress and relate to everything around you; then cult life could be for you!

With Steve (Dr. Stephen Meyer) their spiritual cult leader on his death bed with cancer, the newly emerging leader Cal (who has been sexually abused as a boy by ‘Saint Steve’ as it turns out) is a tormented individual and a recovering alcoholic with many personal demons and also a monstrous mother (played by Kathleen Turner – if your still remembering her fondly from the eighties, take a deep breathe, caution is advised). With the seemingly psychopathic Cal leading the divine way at the community – what could possibly go wrong?

The really great thing about The Path is the issues about cult life which the series raises. If this were a real cult there would be limitations, but as it is a fake religion the writers are open to explore many troublesome issues and questions, evolving from different cults and organizations. I have listed some of the things the programme has already tackled, to good effect:

Why is the cult so engaging?

I think this drama hits a nerve, not just because it is about aging hippies or new age crystal wielding, seekers of spiritual enlightenment, but for those of us who would like to have their sense of purpose in life ordered and explained. This drama appeals to our sense of yearning to belong to something much bigger than ourselves, something which might stop us feeling so alone; and hey, if you were to get involved, maybe it wouldn’t feel so much like you had sold your soul to belong to the movement, but you were actually trying to find it?

So what is the lure of the cult?

Try and put your judgement aside and imagine for a moment; a place where you would never again, feel alone, unwanted or unappreciated – with this amount of emotional support and acceptance, what could possibly go wrong or lead you to doubt your divine sense of purpose?

How do you know it’s a cult, if the people involved deny this label?

Freedom of action and thought are a very strong indicators, if you are not allowed to mix freely with outsiders who don’t share your beliefs and are prohibited from expressing your own opinions which may disagree with the leadership, then despite what you are being told, it probably is a cult rather than an organisation with a cult like mentality, although the distinctions are often blurred.

If you are already submerged inside the cult – what could threaten your belief system?

Access to outside information – in the past cults always relied on their power of suppression to control the flow of information – information is power- too much information can lead to questioning core beliefs. The internet is banned, but what would happen if you Googled your own cult – what damaging information would you discover?

If it’s all about idolizing the leader – what happens when the leader dies?

Second generation leadership is often a very difficult transition – many cults are unable to survive it. In every cult you usually find one charismatic leader – but what happens when the all-powerful leader dies? Some cult leaders would prefer to destroy what they have built rather than hand the power over to the next generation of believers and this is when things can become very dark with mass suicides etc… It would seem that in many cases, second generation leaders are often less spiritually driven and more money and power orientated than their predecessors, and this can lead to a strong sense of disillusionment amongst original founding members.

Why do they always think that the world is going to be destroyed and they are the only ones with answer?

Power and control, frightened people are less likely to disrupt the cult or leave it, because they fear the consequences of doing so.

What is the price of losing your faith?

Disconnection – When you question the cult and are subsequently expelled or you actually chose to leave, you will subsequently become a subversive influence, a hater of the cult/religion and a bad influence on everyone around you, including your own family, who will be ordered to disconnect completely from you. Disconnection is a cult’s greatest and most powerful weapon.

Eddie (the marvelous Aaron Paul) is bravely challenging the cults’ policy of disconnection, and he remains our main focus of attention through put the series, and although we may believe that he is very delusional, we also feel the pain of his disbelief. We understand that to question everything and come up with nothing must be devastating – and yet, despite all of this negativity, there appears to be some other worldly wisdom in his visions. He is undoubtedly a weak and conflicted man, but it would seem that Eddie has been chosen to lead the way forward into the light, and as viewers we have little choice other than to suspend our disbelief and see where his path will leads us…

Jake ∼Out of the Gutter Online

Today my new flash fiction, Jake, is at up at Out of the Gutter Online’s Flash Fiction Offensive! If you haven’t already been there, it’s a great site with loads of exciting, brutal and beautifully written pieces of crime fiction. Here’s a little taster of Jake for you, and if you want to find out what’s going to happen next, there’s a handy link to the site at the end…

“It’s all your fault, you know that, don’t you?” 

I cast my eyes down quickly, away from his accusing stare. The knife in his fist was still dripping, the blood red, stark and angry against the metal blade. Jake’s face was glowing unnaturally. It looked so unworldly and strange against the darkening desert sky.

The truth, according to Jake, was that these situations were always my fault. And it’s true that I had wanted to stop at the gas station, but I hadn’t even noticed the woman who had spoken to him out of turn. So I knew that this wasn’t related to anything I had said or done. It hadn’t been my idea to follow her in the truck either…Read more              

Last Cruise ∼ Turkey

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After the stunning Santorini our next port of call on The Thompson Spirit was Marmaris in Turkey.  I hadn’t been there before and I must admit that my expectations were not that high. I had imagined a pleasant enough seaside resort, filled with budget bars, and shops in which you were hassled to buy stuff you had merely taken a passing glance at (my experience of Turkey years ago when every second shop sold handbags and if you dared to venture into a shop you would be lucky to get back out without buying anything).But I was in fact, very surprised at what I found.

The resort itself is gorgeous. There is a cosmopolitan feel to the place, with upmarket shops restaurants and very nice bars with clean toilets (another of my personal gripes from previous years). The area of the Datça Peninsula has a distinct lakes and mountain feel to it, which I had not expected, and it was really beautiful!

The town was quite vibrant, even for this early in the season, and had we had more time we would have visited the recently restored castle of Suleyman the Magnificent, which was only short bus ride away. I was on a bit of a shopping mission as the textiles in Turkey are amazing and the prices unbelievably low, and I bought a wonderful silk scarf a and cashmere pashmina; both of which are lovely.

Turkey is only a short flight away from us in Cyprus, so yes, I would definitely visit Marmaris or our second Turkish port, Alanya, which was also a very attractive seaside resort, with one of those cute miniature trains that transport you around areas of interest in the resort(for two euros amazingly!)

I would definitely recommend a boat trip from Alanya; ours cost only ten euros and for just over an hour on a very smart boat and it was wonderful experience in the sunshine, viewing the smugglers caves and a special “love cave” (heavens you would have to be desperate!) set deep into the cliff face, which a local young boy climbed up to, doing an extremely high dive back into the sea: to the delight of the tourists on board various sized boats, many of whom were having on board barbeques and having fun dancing.

It’s really sad that the Thompson Spirit will no longer be docking in Limassol, Cyprus, after the end of this season. The companies docking rites are due to expire. There have been rumours that the ship will dock at my own nearby town of Larnaca; but that was more of a case of wishful thinking on our part, unfortunately…∼∼∼

The last cruise from Limassol

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Come this time of year the population of my Cypriot village, Oroklini, tends to diminish due to the Thompson cruise liner which lands for a day in the nearby port of Limassol. With no flights to buy, no weight restrictions on luggage (hurray!) and a mere 40 minute drive from the village this cruise is a definite favourite with many friends and village residents – some of whom manage to get really good last minute deals!

Me and my family climbed aboard for many years as the cruise fitted in with my daughters school holidays and it had great kids and teenager clubs, which seem to work brilliantly until your child decides they are far too cool for such organised activities…

The itinerary changes slightly from year to year, often depending on what is considered safe at the time. This year Egypt is off the menu, although we have had some really amazing trips out there the past. Israel is always interesting and this time we stopped at Haifer, before visiting the gorgeous Greek island of Santorini.

I had been to Mykonos many times before, but Santorini proved to be a real treat with its stunning cliff top views, sensational white washed stone buildings and cobbled alleyways of enticing little shops containing art, bronze sculpture and traditional handicrafts. We were lucky in having a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the views were amazing and we had lunch in a lovely little place with excellent Greek food and wine.

There was more fun to come, but this was certainly the highlight of the cruise for me!

 

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara ~ A Doomed Romance

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It all began with a romantic honeymoon visit to the beautiful lakeside at Connemara in Ireland in 1850. This area of natural outstanding beauty captured the hearts of Mitchel Henry and his new bride Margaret Vaughan. Margaret fell in love with place and so Henry, in an incredibly romantic gesture, purchased the 15,000 acre estate as gift for her and went on to create one of the Republic of Ireland’s most treasured and iconic castles in her honor.

The couple went on to have an impressive nine children and enjoyed a carefree, charmed existence in their amazing home. Unfortunately tragedy stuck on a holiday to Egypt in 1874 when Margaret contracted dysentery on a train journey to Cairo. She died a mere 16 days later, having never reached her holiday destination.

Margaret’s body was returned to the castle in Connemara and entombed in a specially built mausoleum, which still stands in the castle grounds. An impressive Neo–Gothic Church described as “a cathedral in miniature” was built on the state by Henry as a heartfelt, lasting memorial to his beloved wife.

Kylemore Abbey is currently home to a community of Benedictine nuns who arrived after the destruction of their own Abbey in Ypres, Belgium, which was destroyed in WW1. The Benedictine Community opened a boarding school for girls and began restoration work on the Abbey, Neo-Gothic Church and stunning formal gardens, which have been beautifully restored and are currently open to visitors.

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