24 May 2018

Guernsey and its Little Chapel

Island with a population of 63,000 people. In 1215 King John promised a special charter, the locals would not have to pay taxes to London or obey Westminster laws as long as they recognized the Queen as their sovereign in her capacity as "Duke" (not Duchess) of Normandy.  Apparently Queen Victoria loved it and came to visit no less than five times.

Today it is not part of the EU though it applies all standards to such things as food. Mints its own coins which are on par with the UK pound, but they are not accepted outside the island. If you get sick, good luck because neither NHS nor European Health Insurance Card are accepted here.

Funny to think about it now but French official language until 1920s. The switch began in the 1880s with English newspapers becoming more  and more popular. Lawyers must study French even today because of old laws in French. French language killed off in WWII when kids went to England.

It was occupied by Germany but Churchill did not attempt to retake it until the end of the war.

The property market has two separate tiers: a) a local market only for residents average 400k and b) an open market property for all but only 170 houses, very expensive 1.5mill at least. 

An honor system for selling milk cheese and veggies produced by private people, no license just pick up and leave money in a jar.

In the past privateers, pirates allowed with the letter of the mark by king if they pay 60pc of their loot to him, and pirates from here caught Spanish Dutch and French ships. Today, our guide says, the main industry is banking , a sort of modern piracy ! Then tourism ...

Interesting little music box in some shop we visited on the island.



Visit to Little Chapel, the smallest inthe world, they say. Here is the description of Little Chapel from the Visitguernsey website:

The Little Chapel was a work of art and labor of love built by Brother Déodat, who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France. The version you see today is actually the third version.

The first, measuring a tiny 9 feet long by 4.5 feet wide, was criticized, so Brother Deodat spent the following night demolishing the building. He soon set to work again and, in July 1914, the grotto was completed and officially blessed. This survived until September 1923; Brother Deodat demolished it in that month because the Bishop of Portsmouth had not been able to fit through the doorway.

He soon set about the construction of a third chapel - which we see today. The building operation proved laborious, collecting pebbles and broken china to decorate the shrine. Then suddenly the Little Chapel became famous, thanks to an illustrated article in the Daily Mirror. Presents poured in from around the world and Islanders brought colored china to Les Vauxbelets with the Lieutenant-Governor offering remarkable mother-of-pearl.

In 1939 Brother Deodat returned to France because of ill health. After his departure, the care of the Little Chapel was entrusted to Brother Cephas, who continued to decorate the building until his retirement in 1965. In 1977, a committee was established to restore the chapel and today it falls under the care of The Little Chapel Foundation.

There is no charge to enter the Chapel as it relies totally on public donations.






Tribute to the crew in kitchens and restaurants at the end of the cruise!

22 May 2018

Smallest house in Britain, Conwy, Wales



Today I visited the smallest house in Britain. It was a real house, with someone living in it until it became a museum.

The last occupant was, ironically, a very tall man!

And to finish a walk on the "dancing bridge"

21 May 2018

Belfast and Giants’ Causeway




As we disembark we see piles of coal at the harbor, they tell us it is still extensively used for home heating! We have a guide who is obviously a Catholic nationalist, here is a few points from his explanations during the day.

Now Northern Ireland is trying to revive the shipbuilding industry concentrating on repairs, 800 workers, used to have more than 25000. The Titanic, of course, was built here. Biggest exports from Northern Ireland are farm products, lamb cheese, and machinery.

Belfast now has 500,000+ inhabitants, 10th largest city in the in the UK. In 1888 queen Victoria gave Belfast city status.

Giant causeway, since 1996 UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only one in NI. It was formed 50 million years ago by volcanic eruptions and is made up of about 40,000 stones.

According to mythology a giant from Scotland and one from Ireland were fighting. The Scottish giant bigger Irish ran back and wife.

The Vikings ruled here from the 9th to 11th century, then Anglo Saxons in 12th , build castles. Later English and Scottish domination take best land, Irish discriminated against.

1588 shipwrecks of Armada, uncharted waters on West coast of Ireland

1845 to 1852 famine 1 million died, another million migration to America
Catholics persecuted, Gaelic language prohibited during protestant reformation

Why the UK keep North Ireland after Irish independence in 1922:

- strategic reason: feel vulnerable to attack from Atlantic
- economic: 6 counties in ni richest, textile shipbuilding. At partition Northern Ireland had 80% of the island's gdp, today 9%.
- just over 50% in Ulster wanted to remain in the UK.

Unionists wanted NI to be a "protestant priority" land. In the late 1960s lots of catholic uprising, they were inspired by the American Civil rights movement, discrimination against Catholics similar to that against blacks in the USA
even segregation, created enclaves, separated by so-called peace walls still visible.

The army was sent in. In 1971 cases of internment of Catholics without trial
powers to army directed against Catholics, up to 5 years in jail without charge.

Demonstrations in Derry but the UK deployed parachute regiments
barricaded and 28 civilian shot 14 dead on bloody Sunday 1972

Belfast very divided city, conflict until 1994 the start negotiating. Good Friday agreement in 1998. But still divided, built more "peace walls" after the Good Friday agreement.

In many ways a backward country, everyone got the right to vote in local elections 1973, before that one had to be a  landowner!

Giant's Causeway at Cobh, Northern Ireland




Stop at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland's only Unesco WHS. Rainy day but fun to see this unusual site and waves crashing on the shore!

20 May 2018

Killybegs, Ireland

Biggest hand-operated loom in the world made with Canadian pine wood. The lady said she can do 1000 knots per hour!

These carpets are in Irish embassies around the world and other major public places.

At a local pub, some musicians and crew singers from our ship fraternize.

The town sports a small "cathedral" and lots of fishing boats. A quiet walk under the warm drizzle.


19 May 2018

Isle of Skye

Some consider it the most romantic island of Scotland, and maybe it is, but kind of windy and cold for that purpose today.

We take a leisurely tour of the perimeter and soak in the landscape.

Peat cutting was a major industry for centuries, was then abandoned as uneconomical but it's been resurrected by demand of peat for whisky.

The tomb of Alexander McQueen is a highlight, the fashion genius rests here.



Royal Dinner for the wedding of Harry and Meghan



Evening "Royal" ball on our chip Queen Victoria :)

15 May 2018

Whisky Museum in Dublin, Ireland



What better way to spend a rainy day in Dublin than in the whisky museum?

Notes from a guided tour.

Uisce is the Irish word for water
beatha means of life

book of Kel 1405 first record of the word whiskey, it was then made by monks.

Was the original purpose communion, instead of wine?

Used as perfume, originally from Iran came with with moors to Spain

must be aged at least 3 years by law

Angel share lost to evaporation is about 20% per year, therefore old whiskey expensive: you pay for lost whiskey!

the more you lose to angels the faster whiskey ages

Shibeen illegal distillery in Ireland

Pogee? unaged whisky

malting, germinating by soaking in warm water 3 days, starch changes into sugar

Stop the process by drying with hot air or burning peat to make smoky flavor get grist.

Yeast to transform grist to alcohol, about 12pc beer is the result

Whiskey is distilled beer in a nutshell

In Ireland cìit is allowed to make whiskey at home but not sell or even give away because fear of methanol.

... and also because of tax revenues suffered!

There 8192 illegal stills in Ireland in 1834 , more than ten times more than in Scotland

Triple distillation in Ireland makes for smoother alcohol.

Stills made of copper

Add sulfites as in wine to stabilize

Toasting barrels just 20 seconds or so to get flavor caramel and vanilla from America oak barrels, only use barrels once.

Also continuous still, can get as much alcohol in one week as normal in nine months. Started in 1937 with continuous stills.

Learned to blend now 18 stills up from only 2 before they turned to continuous, more to open soon

no spitting in whisky tasting! must get ending with swallowing
can dilute however, only reason to swirl is to look fancy! no use...

Tasting today:

1. glendalough single grain see photo, double barrel
Smooth

2. powers gold label
malted and raw barley together
started because maltée barley was taxed more traditional
aged in bourbon barrels only
round long

3.the Irishman power reserve
70 pc single malt
spicy

4. Tullamore 12 yo
youngest whisky in bottle is 12yo.
60pc single grain 20pc single malt
smoothness because sulfites lose burn over time.

Just next  to the whiskey museum is the famous Peterson pipe shop, I cannot not go in, and after a good chat with the salespeople who give me a good discount I end up buying two pipes to add to my collection.

End the day with a walk around town looking at some typical architecture.


14 May 2018

Cork, Ireland

Took some time to get ashore as they had to check Lifang's passport. As a UK resident and married to an EU national she does not need, and does not have, a Schengen visa, which the cruise staff should know... So we had to wait for a chubby Irish official to board the ship and check the documents of all non-EU passengers and she, of course, smiled and said all is OK and we can go ashore...

Cork is the 2nd largest natural harbor in the world after Sydney, it has a huge 5m tide which requires skill to operate in. The river is navigable 12 miles up to the city of Cork. It was a poor town for a long time, lots of emigrants going from here to the USA.

Now it is doing very well. Ford established its first factory outside the USA here, but now it is Apple Computers which is the largest employer.

20,000 students at university and 25 million euro golf course bought by Chinese investors!

Only 15pc of population speak Irish as main language but all must study in school

Cork means marsh in Gaelic

Main road called Patrick, was a canal, now lamp posts like ship masts

Lots of billboards in every street for and against the upcoming abortion referendum

Interesting fish at a local market!


10 May 2018

Film review: Youth (2017) by Feng Xiaogang, *****

Synopsis

When Xiaoping joins the military, delicate dreams are dashed by the events of a China undergoing revolution. The devastating Sino-Vietnamese war crashes into 1970s China, changing the lives of the Army's young new recruits forever.

In this epic spanning several decades, Youth shows Comrades of the People's Liberation Army fight amongst themselves as much as on the battlefield – and cause as much damage as the war that tore their lives apart.


Review

Incredibly passionate and captivating historical film about life in China during the huge transformations that took place after Mao's death. A love story starts during the excesses of the cultural revolution with the "great helmsman" still in power, and the trauma of the war against Vietnam in 1979. After that, rapid reforms make many Chinese rich, and many officials corrupt, but the human story of the protagonists carries through the ages. One man's good deeds are taken for granted and not appreciated any more.

The film was supposed to be released just before the 2017 party congress but it was held up until after the congress itself for some reason. Maybe because it contains thinly veiled criticism of Mao and also raises many questions about the new system of the country.

A strongly recommended film about how China became what it is today.

See other film on China reviewed in this blog.