Bay Bridge in the wet

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

The TC, bless her cotton socks, paid a flying visit to San Francisco yesterday. It was a trifle wet. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge faded poetically into the drizzle.

Jonathan was there too, of course. Here he is, coming in to land with his usual flair:

Seagull coming in to land, with Bay Bridge in the background

Even a seagull looks bedraggled in the wet:

Bay Bridge in the wet

The posh end of London

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Last time this worm wrote to you, me and the TC were in Japan, stopping over on our way to the UK. Now we’re in London, and at the posh end of it too. Our apartment is just round the corner from Buckingham Palace. So we popped out to see if the queen was in residence.

Take my hand, let me lead you on the thirty-minute walk from Buckingham Palace, down The Mall and The Strand, to Covent Garden. If you stop less often than the TC did for photos and ooh-ing and aah-ing, the walk will take you less than half an hour.

My impressions? Wintry grandeur.

The book I’m in

Never Somewhere Else, by Alex Gray. A short, engaging whodunit.

Recommended dining

There’s something for everyone at Covent Garden.

Travel tip

The Heathrow Express offers an efficient way to get from the airport to central London. There’s a train every fifteen minutes, and it gets you to Paddington Station in about twenty minutes.

The photos

Who, me? Yes, and my very own TARDIS, a London telephone booth:

The posh end of London

Me perched on a lamp post on The Mall, with Buckingham Palace behind me, while I consider dropping in on Her Majesty for tea:

The posh end of London

A puff of smoke from the chimneys of Buckingham Palace. Is the queen toasting muffins? The flag is flying, so I guess she’s in residence:

The posh end of London

The Queen Victoria Memorial statue, with Buckingham Palace behind it:

The posh end of London

The Mall, a long and grand street leading up to the palace:

The posh end of London

Mounted soldiers, on a side road approaching The Mall:

The posh end of London

A wintry view of the gate into St James’s Park, on The Mall:

The posh end of London

St James’s Park, long shadows, winter sparse:

The posh end of London

A lone tree in blossom in St James’s Park

The posh end of London

Imposing gates leading into Trafalgar Square from The Mall:

The posh end of London

Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column:

The posh end of London

Charing Cross Station, on The Strand:

The posh end of London

Outside Covent Garden:

The posh end of London

Inside Covent Garden:

The posh end of London

That’s all for today, dudes.

Stopover in Narita, Japan

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are on our way to London. It’s a long, long trip from Sydney to London, so the TC decided to stop over in Japan. It so happens that the Tokyo airport is sixty kilometres outside Tokyo. If your stopover is just part of a day, it’s probably not worth travelling all the way to the big smoke and back. The town of Narita is close to the aiport, and the townsfolk have cottoned on to the fact that many travellers will think the same as the TC did: “Let’s pop into Narita and see what’s happnin there”.

There’s a lot happening, especially in the area of the Naritasan temple and the street leading from the train station to the temple.

My impressions? Busy calm.

The book I’m in

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. Written way back in 1985, this book nevertheless comes across as surprisingly modern. It’s about a lad who is co-opted into the military at the age of six. The date is some time in the future, after the first couple of invasions by an alien race of bugs. The Earth survived the early invasions, and is now gearing up to ensure it can survive the next one, whenever that may be.

(This is another of those ebooks, so to be fair I must confide that I’m not exactly in the book. I’m a real-life, three-dimensional creature, not one of those electronic bookmarks. Nevertheless, occupying a unique place in the TC’s consciousness as I do, I can reliably inform you about such books.)

Recommended accommodation

Crowne Plaza Ana Narita, 68 Horinouchi, Narita, Chiba Prefecture 286-0107, Japan.

Travel tip

If you have an Apple Mac and are staying at the Crowne Plaza Ana Narita, you may need to ask the hotel for a wifi router. My room had only a network cable connection, which my Mac can’t use. After a bit of discussion, the hotel staff were very happy to find me a router, but I had the impression they’re in short supply.

The photos

Me in Narita. The TC has this slightly dangerous habit of photographing me near script that she can’t read. I do hope this stone says something nice, or at least interesting. It was outside what seemed to be a civic centre near the Narita train station:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Since you can never have enough of a good thing, here’s me again, this time in the gardens behind the Naritasan temple (and again, I’m trusting the sign behind me to be at least polite):

Stopover in Narita, Japan

The TC was impressed with the symmetry of this sign, which we encountered on our way into Narita by bus:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

When researching Narita before we left, the TC had difficulty finding any maps. So she snapped this one, which the Narita townsfolk have kindly posted on a signboard near the station. It shows the station on the left, and the Naritasan temple complex in the green patch on the right:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

This is the famous Omotesando Street (sometimes spelled Omote Sando) leading from the train station to the Naritasan temple:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Most of the buildings are made of wood, and some of them seem quite old and are definitely picturesque :

Stopover in Narita, Japan

A view down a side street:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Colourful shops line Omotesando street, selling food and tourist wares of all sorts:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

The crowd gets quite dense at times, but everyone is happy and friendly:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

The entrance to the Naritasan temple complex:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Inside the complex are a number of buildings, gates, towers, shrines, and places to relax and contemplate life:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

A magnificent statue of a lion, with a pigeon posing behind it:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

The temple grounds are on different levels, offering lovely views of rooftops and courtyards:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Another of the temple buildings:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Bronze statues of Buddhist disciples scattered across a rock face:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Another of the buildings in the temple complex:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Next is a look inside the Buddhist Scriptures Hall, erected in 1722. The centrepiece is a revolving bookcase, carved with colourful representations of the guardians of Buddhism. Underneath are eight demons, holding up the bookcase.

Stopover in Narita, Japan

Behind the temple complex is a park full of tall trees, winding paths, and interesting bits of art:

Stopover in Narita, Japan

That’s all for today, dudes.

Published in: on 8 January 2014 at 7:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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Sydney under smoky skies

New South Wales, Australia, is battling more than 90 bush fires. The last few days have been scenes of fierce horror and deep sadness for many people. Approximately 1500 fire fighters have been battling the blazes throughout New South Wales. Close to 100 homes have been destroyed. Our fire services and volunteers are hard-working, efficient, smart and heroic.

For those of us in the city of Sydney, the fires brought smoke-filled skies and showers of ash. The weird lighting yielded some beautiful effects. It was as if someone had thrown a sepia filter over the city.

These photos show the Sydney city skyline on Thursday this week, as seen from Pyrmont.

Sydney under smoky skies, seen from Pyrmont

Clear skies to the south

The lighting changes minute by minute

Pyrmont Bridge

Pyrmont Bridge (demolishment of monorail is in progress)

From the side of Pyrmont Bridge

A closer look at the crane on the water

Published in: on 19 October 2013 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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A quarrel of cockatoos

Ever wondered what the collective noun is for a group of cockatoos? I’m proposing a “quarrel of cockatoos”. Check out my video to see why!

Internet wisdom suggests a few group names for cockatoos, like a chattering, clattering, or crackle of cockatoos. Those are good. Quarrel is used for lawyers and sparrows. But let’s add a “quarrel of cockatoos” to the collective wisdom!

Cockatoos high in a tree at Manly Dam nature reserve, New South Wales, Australia.

Published in: on 25 August 2013 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Google in Mountain View, CA

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in Mountain View, visiting the main Google campus (often called the Googleplex) and Silicon Valley.

My impressions? Shiny happy people having fun, and working hard.

The book I’m in

Outer Bounds: Fortune’s Rising, by Sara King. This is an excellent book, with varied characters and an intriguing fantasy world. Take it with you on your travels and read it when you want a comfort zone to snuggle into. It’s full of action, goodies, and baddies.

(To be precise, I’m not exactly in this book, because the TC has decided to read it on her Kindle. I’m a real-life, three-dimensional creature, so I don’t fit into an ebook. Nevertheless, occupying a unique place in the TC’s consciousness as I do, I can inform you reliably that this is a book not to be missed.)

Recommended food store

Ava’s Downtown Market & Deli, 340 Castro Street, Mountain View, California.

Recommended chocolate tasting

The Chocolate Garage, 654 Gilman St. Suite G(arage), Palo Alto, California.

Travel tip

It’s useful to have a car when visiting Silicon Valley. The towns are wide spread, and there’s plenty to see.

The photos

Me on a Google bike, on site at Google, Mountain View:

Me on a Google bike

The bikes are dotted around the Google campus. You can tell them by their colours. Googlers pick them up and drop them off on their way from office to office. It takes half an hour to walk from one end of the campus to the other, so the bikes offer an efficient and healthy alternative.

The Google Android building:

Google Android building

You’ll find an appetising array of cupcakes and cookies next to the Android statues:

Google cupcakes

The TC spends much of her time in the training building, which lies behind this restful pond. Note the blue hammocks under the white umbrella, awaiting weary Nooglers as they emerge from the orientation classes:

Pond near training building

Stan the dinosaur, a T-rex that inhabits the Google grounds:

Stan, the Google dinosaur

Downtown Mountain View is pretty, well kept, and well supplied with restaurants:

Castro Street, Mountain View

Another shot of Castro Street, Mountain View:

Castro Street, Mountain View

The Mountain View City Hall is rather magnificent:

City Hall in Mountain View

If you’d like the TC’s perspective on the life and chocolate at Google, try her post: Report from a new Google technical writer.

That’s all for today, dudes.

University of Queensland in Brisbane

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC popped over to Brisbane last week, to check out the two main campuses of the University of Queensland (UQ). My previous post includes moody shots of Ipswich and some fish in a library. Now for the lowdown on the big smoke itself.

My impressions? A university with character, in a city of character, owned by a river full of attitude.

The book I’m in

The Intercept, by Dick Wolf. Fast, believable action.

Recommended accommodation

Manor Apartment Hotel, 289 Queen Street, Brisbane. It’s in the centre of the city. The service is friendly, the rooms are roomy, and the breakfast is excellent.

Travel tip

Take a ferry trip down the river. It’s not always the fastest way of getting from A to B, but it’s a great way of seeing the city and relaxing at the same time. The ferry ride from the Eagle Street Pier to the UQ campus (St Lucia) takes about half an hour.

The photos

Me on a map of Brisbane, on a podium, on the top of Mount Coot-Tha:

Me and a map of Brisbane

The dark squiggly line running across the map is the river.

A view of the city of Brisbane, from the viewing site on Mount Coot-Tha:

Brisbane seen from Mount Coot-Tha

The St Lucia campus is further inland by a couple of bends of the river. In this picture, you can see the wall of the great court that lies in the centre of the UQ’s St Lucia campus. It’s to the right of the patch of river, in front of the four poles rising up from the bridge:

Another view from Mt Coot-Tha

St Stephen’s cathedral, Brissie:

Cathedral of St Stephen in Brisbane

“Brissie”, pronounced “Brizzy”, is the locals’ rather irreverent name for their city.

We took the ferry from the CBD to the university’s St Lucia campus. Here’s the striking Kurilpa Bridge, seen from the ferry:

Kurilpa Bridge

Before depositing you on shores academical, this worm would like to take you on a diversion semiotical. Take a look at the sign below, which this worm spotted on a lavatory door at the end of a queue of women:

Lavatory sign

The women in the queue ignored this door. Instead, with great patience and forbearance, they were waiting in line for a single toilet, which had a sign containing just three pictures: the figure of a woman, a wheelchair, and a baby-changing platform. The patient queue assumed the first toilet (shown above) was for disabled people only, and the second was for everyone. The TC, bless her cotton socks, piped up that she was sure it was OK to use the disabled toilet. Imagine her delighted surprise, and that of everyone else in the queue, to discover six vacant toilets behind the above door, all ready and waiting for “ambulant” people’s use.

So, this worm muses, past experience has conditioned us to expect a special toilet for disabled people and to assume the difficult word “ambulant” is yet another term for “disabled”. And we don’t read.

Here’s another diversion. This worm as vastly amused to see the following sign in the hotel lobby. Shades of Sweeney Todd?

Doors at the end of the hotel lobby

A closer look:

The words on the sign

Moving on from dark humour to the light of academia, this is the outside wall of the magnificent great court at UQ’s St Lucia campus:

Outside the great court

Inside is spacious and restful:

Inside the great court

The detail on the walls:

The inside walls of the great court

One of the grotesques, rather gentler than many of that ilk:

A close view of one of the heads on the wall

That’s all for today, dudes.

University of Queensland in Ipswich

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC hopped up to Brisbane and Ipswich last week, to visit the two main campuses of the University of Queensland (UQ). Our first stop was Ipswich, about 40 kilometres to the west of Brisbane. The UQ Ipswich campus caters for students in the medical and health sciences, as well as arts and education.

My impressions? There’s more to Ipswich than you might think.

The book I’m in

A Nameless Witch, by A. Lee Martinez. This is a truly delightful book, especially for those of us who like a good dose of fun with our fantasy. The hapless hero of the book, a witch without name, suffers temptations both carnal and carnivorous, and manages to conquer an evil sorcerer to boot.

Recommended restaurants

Urban Pantry, 181 Brisbane Street, Ipswich. A great place for coffee, cakes, pastries, and lunch. The welcome is friendly, the food good. Photo below.

Travel tip

Look out for cane toads. Disappointingly, this worm spotted nary a one, but I’m reliably informed the city of Ipswich is hopping with them.

The photos

There’s no photograph of me, your intrepid Travelling Worm, in this post! I do assure you I was there, but I managed to dodge the TC’s camera for a few hours. Rest assured, there’s the obligatory homage to me in my next post, snapped when we were making our way to Brisbane. For now, please enjoy these images of Ipswich.

We climbed to the top of the water tower on Denmark Hill, to get a view of the city of Ipswich. This is the tower, with the staircase leading up to the top:

Water tower on Denmark Hill

A view of sky and layered hills, from the top of the tower:

A view from the top of the water tower

The Old Flour Mill in Ipswich is currently undergoing renovation. A few shops and restaurants have already opened their doors inside this attractive building:

The Old Flour Mill

Another interesting edifice on Brisbane Street, Ipswich:

A building in Brisbane Street

Goleby’s building in Brisbane Street:

Goleby's building in Brisbane Street, Ipswich

Another aspect of the same building:

Another aspect of Goleby's building

More of Brisbane Street, including the Urban Pantry – an excellent lunch venue. It’s to the left of the middle of the photo, on the ground floor, with a light brown facade:

Urban Pantry on Brisbane Street

We strolled around the Ipswich campus of the University of Queensland. It’s nicely laid out, with plenty of space and pleasing spaces. This is a view of a main thoroughfare, taken from inside the medical school:

On the UQ Ipswich campus

The library is gorgeous. This bookworm was sorely tempted to take up permanent residence:

The library

A river runs through it. Yes, through the library. With fish:

Fish in the library

Join me in my next post for a look at the big smoke, Brisbane, and the UQ campus there.

That’s all for today, dudes.

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC spent a couple of days in New Orleans this week. One morning we braved the thunder storms and the warnings of flash flooding, to go on the Honey Island Swamp Tour with Cajun Encounters.

My impressions? Trees, trees’ knees, reflections of trees, and hidden danger.

The book I’m in

Wool, by Hugh Howey.

Travel tip

In my last post, I recommended that you watch out for people who don’t blink, as they may not be what they seem. Now this worm can inform you that alligators do blink, so you can trust that they are what they seem.

The photos

Me, your intrepid travelling worm, about to set out on the swamp tour:

01-IMG_4772

At the start of the tour we were on a wide river with swampy banks on each side:

02-IMG_4777

This vertical-lift bridge is in working order. The entire bridge, including the house in the middle, rises up the towers to let higher craft pass underneath. Our boat captain said you need to call about four hours beforehand if you want the bridge to lift:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Water lilies on the river bank:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Witch’s hair lichen drapes the trees:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Are those all lily pads amongst the trees? The powerful zoom on the TC’s camera reveals a usurper:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

A snake coils comfortably on a tree trunk. I’m not sure what type of snake it is. Maybe a Copperhead:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Reflections of trees wobble in the boat’s wake:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Another quiet scene of lilly pads, trees and reflections. The TC is fond of such scenes:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

All is quiet, nothing stirs:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Yet danger lurks ever close by. Here, in the bank next to the boat, a Cottonmouth rests:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Locals build their houses safely above flood level:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Right next door, someone thinks the safe level is even higher. A reaction to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, our guide informs us:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Alligators smile on a log:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Inexorable beauty:

Honey Island swamp tour in New Orleans

Do alligators like marshmallows? Watch this video to find out:

That’s all for today, dudes.

New Orleans views and vampires

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in New Orleans for just two days. This city is gorgeous. Colour and light, in the buildings and the people. Tourists at play. Locals working hard for a living.

My impressions? An abundance of stories.

And the vampires? Join me in a journey from light to dark, if you dare.

The book I’m in

Wool, by Hugh Howey. The TC is about half way through the book. It looks like the IT crowd are the baddies. This worm whole-heartedly approves of this choice of reading matter.

Travel tip

Drop in on Bourbon Street at dusk. It rocks. Literally.

And watch out for people who don’t blink. They may not be what they seem.

Pronunciation tip

To say “New Orleans” like a local, pronounce it as “Norlns”. And go heavy on the “or” part.

Recommended accommodation

Hotel Mazarin, 730 Bienville Street, New Orleans. Clean, comfortable, and conveniently located in the French Quarter. Just a single complaint from the TC: Our room was near a generator, which emitted a constant uncomfortable hum and high-pitched squeal.

Recommended restaurant

Olivier’s, 204 Decatur Street, New Orleans. Tasty Creole food, excellent and caring service.

The photos

Me on the streests of New Orleans, with the city seal:

New Orleans and vampires

A view from the aeroplane on our way in, showing the city centre on the bend of the Mississipi river The bridge is actually two bridges, forming the Crescent City Connection:

New Orleans and vampires

The beautiful, wide Canal Street, which runs along the edge of the French Quarter and leads down to the Mississipi River:

New Orleans and vampires

Jazz Gumbo in Canal Street:

New Orleans and vampires

The Mississippi River:

New Orleans and vampires

A tasty and colourful dish of Creole food from Olivier’s in Decatur Street:

New Orleans and vampires

A colourful row of houses in the French Quarter of New Orleans:

New Orleans and vampires

A mule wending its way through the French Quarter. The TC was taking a photograph of the gallery above, and the interesting door at bottom right, when the mule wandered into the shot:

New Orleans and vampires

Many of the buildings are decorated with ornate ironwork, which the TC calls “broekie lace”. This ornate gallery sports a drape showing the New Orleans fleur-de-lis, used all over the city to symbolise its recovery since Hurricane Katrina:

New Orleans and vampires

Renovating a lovely house:

New Orleans and vampires

Are you ready to share a slide down the slippery slope into another world? It begins here:

New Orleans views and vampires

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo:

New Orleans views and vampires

This worm, hob-nobbing with the zombies and voodoo dolls:

New Orleans views and vampires

A palm reader in Bourbon Street:

New Orleans views and vampires

As dusk draws in, Bourbon Street hots up:

New Orleans views and vampires

And the serious dudes move in. The TC and I dared to do a ghost and vampire tour with Lord Chaz:

New Orleans views and vampires

How does a vampire use a mobile phone? With a pen, of course:

New Orleans views and vampires

One of the eeriest spots on the tour was the nunnery next to St Mary’s Catholic Church. The attic windows are permanently closed, with dormers that are nailed shut. As our tour guide pointed out, this is most unusual in New Orleans, especially in edifices from the days before air conditioning. The attic windows form an essential cooling function. This sealed attic is the source of the belief that New Orleans has vampire inhabitants, and has had them for generations. We also heard perplexing and inexplicable stories of women shipped to New Orleans with arrays of 5-sided coffins, all to disappear into the nunnery. And hundreds of dead babies under the wall. This has to be the spookiest place to be, especially when you’re there with a being who doesn’t blink. As we were:

New Orleands views and vampires

This woman, all unknowing, is leaning against a lamp post on the most dangerous corner of  New Orleans. In the house above her, the Carter brothers murdered 18 people by drinking their blood through their wrists. A little girl escaped one night, after suffering through five nights of feasting, and the Carter brothers were at last brought to justice. But later when the city opened the Carter brothers’ graves, they found nothing. The brothers had vanished. And since then, so the stories go, New Orleans has suffered from numerous serial killers, some apprehended, some not. There’s one active right now ….

New Orleans views and vampires

That’s all for today, dudes.

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