Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

I asked Sue for the first travel-related thing that came into her head when I said the word Green. “Ireland’, she replied, without hesitation, invoking memories of one of our earliest trips together, back in 2002.

scan0005Our very first stop upon arriving on the Emerald Isle was Dunluce Castle. This medieval fortress occupies a stunning location on the North Antrim coast, less than five miles west of the Giant’s Causeway. It perches 100 feet above the sea, atop a headland of sheer basalt cliffs, and is only accessible by means of a bridge.

scan0001The oldest archaeological evidence of human habitation at Dunluce dates from the 10th Century. The current castle was begun during the late 13th or early 14th Centuries by Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, although historical records indicate that it was in the hands of the MacQuillan Clan by 1513.

scan0002Ownership of Dunluce Castle passed to the MacDonnell Clan in 1565, after they twice defeated the MacQuillans in battle. Despite temporarily losing the castle more than once, the MacDonnells own Dunluce to this day, even though the building was abandoned in the late 17th Century.

scan0003Beneath the castle is a large sea cavern, known as Mermaid’s Cave.

scan0004In 1588, the Girona, one of the ships from the ill-fated Spanish Armada, was wrecked on the nearby cliffs. More recently, Dunluce Castle has been used as the basis for the House of Greyjoy in the TV series Game of Thrones.

scan0006This post was inspired by the theme Green from Cee (of Cee’s Photography). Apologies for these images being of a lower quality than normal, but our visit to Ireland pre-dated Rich’s first digital camera, so these are scans of actual photographs.

While you’re marvelling over spectacular Dunluce Castle, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Meteor Crater, Arizona

Did you know there’s a subtle difference between a meteor and a meteorite? A meteor is an object that approaches the Earth from space, but burns up during it’s flight through our atmosphere. If, however, part of that object manages to reach the Earth’s surface, it gets promoted to being a meteorite.

So technically, Meteor Crater in Arizona should be known as Meteorite Crater. Because after visiting it, you’re left in no doubt that something not only reached the surface, it smashed into it! With a capital SMASH!

Approaching Meteor Crater

Approaching Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater was always high on my Bucket List. So seeing it in 2011 was a dream come true.

Me at Meteor Crater

Me at Meteor Crater

If you read my post The Day I Saw A Space Shuttle Launch, you’ll know I’ve always been captivated by anything to do with space. So how could I fail to be impressed by a crater almost 3900 feet in diameter, 570 feet deep, and with a rim that stands 148 feet proud of the surrounding flatlands, produced when an asteroid slammed into the Earth?!

A stitched panorama from the upper observation level

A stitched panorama from the upper observation level

Approximately 50,000 years ago, the Canyon Diablo Meteorite struck what is now the Arizona desert about 27 miles east of Flagstaff. Scientists (who incidentally call Meteor Crater, the Barringer Crater, in honour of Daniel Barringer, who first realised what it was) estimate that the nickel-iron asteroid was roughly 160 feet in diameter and weighed around 300,000 tons when it crashed into what was then a grassland plain.

A brief break in the clouds

A brief break in the clouds

At the time of the collision, the meteorite was travelling somewhere between 28,600 mph and 45,000 mph. It’s sudden stop upon reaching the Earth’s surface released the equivalent energy of a 10 megaton bomb.

Looking down into the crater

Looking down into the crater

Remains of a mining operation in the bottom of the crater - if you look very carefully, you might be able to make out the mock up of a NASA astronaut

Remains of a mining operation in the bottom of the crater – if you look very carefully, you might be able to make out the mock up of a NASA astronaut

The rocks from the point of impact were flipped outwards, such that the normal geological layering is reversed in the crater rim. And in the bottom of the crater, you have to go through 7-800 feet of ruble before reaching relatively undisturbed bedrock.

The outside of the crater rim

The outside of the crater rim

The reversed geology of the crater rim

The reversed geology of the crater rim

Unsurprisingly, the asteroid all but destroyed itself in this inconceivably violent impact. In fact, a large proportion of it simply vaporised! The remaining fragments were scattered over an area at least 5½ miles in diameter. The largest piece of the Canyon Diablo Meteorite recovered so far is known as the Holsinger Meteorite and weighs 1409 pounds.

The Holsinger Meteorite in the Meteor Crater museum

The Holsinger Meteorite in the Meteor Crater museum

Being privately owned, Meteor Crater isn’t eligible to be a United States National Monument. It is, however, classed as a National Natural Landmark, and quite rightly so!

IMG_5403This post was inspired by the theme Broken from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Fly from Sue (of A Word in Your Ear).

If you’re as awestruck as I am by Meteor Crater, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

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Copenhagen’s Nyhavn

Despite being Danish for ‘New Harbour’, Copenhagen’s ‘Nyhavn’ is almost 350 years old. It was constructed by Swedish Prisoners-of-War between 1670 and 1673, to link the inner harbour to Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square) in the heart of the Old Town.

The view west along the north side of Nyhavn, with Kongens Nytorv in the distance

The view west along the north side of Nyhavn, with Kongens Nytorv in the distance

As I understand it, until it was given a facelift in the 1970s, Nyhavn had become a little unsavoury. Yet today the area is one of the Danish capital’s most popular attractions.

Visitors are particularly delighted by the brightly-painted buildings that line the north side of the harbour, many of which have been converted into canal-side restaurants and cafés. The oldest building along Nyhavn is Number 9, which was built in 1681.

Number 9, the oldest building in Nyhavn

Number 9, the oldest building in Nyhavn

Three of other buildings (Numbers 18, 20 and 67) were home to the author Hans Christian Andersen for a total of 18 years.

The outer part of Nyhavn, with one of Hans Christian Andersen's residences in the background (Number 67 - the tall white one, third from the right)

The outer part of Nyhavn, with one of Hans Christian Andersen’s residences in the background (Number 67 – the tall white one, third from the right)

The inner part of the canal itself now houses a beautiful collection of old ships.

Looking west along Nyhavn - the red sliver on the very left is Number 20, another of Hans Christian Andersen's houses, with Number 18 just beyond it

Looking west along Nyhavn – the red sliver on the very left is Number 20, another of Hans Christian Andersen’s houses, with Number 18 just beyond it

This post was inspired by the theme Vibrant Colors from Cee (of Cee’s Photography).

The inner part of Nyhavn from the bridge, complete with old ships

The inner part of Nyhavn from the bridge, complete with old ships

While you’re enjoying Nyhavn’s vibrant energy, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Thanksgiving in Canada (Revisited)

Everyone has heard of Thanksgiving. In the USA, it can be traced back to 1621, when the Pilgrims at Plymouth gave thanks for the first successful harvest after their arrival in the New World. Abraham Lincoln declared the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War.

Today, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, and in many ways it’s bigger than Christmas there – a fact I can personally confirm, having spent Thanksgiving in upstate New York a couple of years ago. That’s perhaps part of the reason I’m looking forward so much to spending it with friends in Connecticut this year.

However, if you’re not from Canada, you’re perhaps unaware that Canadians have a Thanksgiving celebration of their own. And you’ll probably be surprised to learn that the first Thanksgiving in Canada occurred in 1578, over 40 years before the one at Plymouth.

You have to be thankful for your friends!

You have to be thankful for your friends!

Canadian Thanksgiving takes place closer to harvest time, on the second Monday in October. Which just happens to be today!

For us, Thanksgiving 2012 was particularly special, since it fell on the 1st birthday of Rich and Sue’s Goddaughter, Abi, who was visiting (along with her parents) from the UK. To mark this double celebration, we spent the day at Niagara Falls.

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

We even got to do something I’d never done before in all my visits to the Falls – walk across the Rainbow Bridge, which joins Canada to the USA. (I’ve crossed it many times in the past few years, but always in a car.)

After marvelling at the cascading waters from both sides of the border, we enjoyed our Thanksgiving/Birthday dinner overlooking the Falls from the Canadian side, watching the sun go down behind the plume of mist.

The perfect end to a perfect day. The kind of day that makes you thankful just to be alive!

Sue and Abi

Sue and Abi

Today, I’m especially thankful for all my wonderful friends here in the blogosphere! To celebrate how many people have discovered my blog in the last two years (and seem to like), I thought I’d update this article, which I originally posted back when I was basically writing for Rich’s Mum and Dad!

View from restaurantIf you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, next month, or just on general principles, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

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San Marino Dreamland

Similar to the Vatican City, the Republic of San Marino is like a tiny land-locked island surrounded by the sea that is Italy. And at just 24 square miles, with a population of around 30,000 people, it’s a tiny island at that.

IMG_2359IMG_2361IMG_2362Yet while San Marino may be the third smallest country in the world, it’s big on history. In fact, it claims to be the ‘oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world’, with its foundation dating back to 301 AD.

IMG_2364IMG_2365IMG_2366San Marino is situated on the eastern side of the Apennine Mountains, which run down the spine of Italy. The ancient citadel within the actual City of San Marino is perched at an elevation over 2400 feet, on the lofty summit of Monte Titano (Mount Titan). Together, the fortifications and mountain are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

IMG_2367IMG_2369IMG_2372Unsurprisingly, the historic towers along the walls of the City of San Marino normally command impressive vistas down towards Rimini and the Adriatic, just 10 miles away across the coastal plain.

IMG_2375IMG_2376IMG_2377But on the evening we arrived, in the interior of the Old Town you could barely see your hand in front of your face, thanks to one of the thickest fogs I’ve ever encountered. It was as if the whole mountain top had been transported into the interior of cloud. Wandering around the deserted streets was like an eerie dream, I can tell you!

IMG_2380IMG_2381IMG_2382This post was inspired by the themes Dreamy from Michelle (of the Daily Post) and Interior from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?).

IMG_2383IMG_2384IMG_2385If you’ve enjoyed these spooky scenes of San Marino, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Upper Lakes: With Prstavci waterfalls in the distance

Upper Lakes: With Prstavci waterfalls in the distance

Founded in 1949, it’s easy to see why Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes was the first National Park in all of Southeast Europe. It’s also no surprise that it became one of the earliest natural landscapes placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, back in 1979.

Upper Lakes: About  to cross Lake Kozjak by boat

Upper Lakes: About to cross Lake Kozjak by boat

Plitvice is located in a karst region, an area where soluble limestones are heavily eroded by flowing water. Of course, the calcium carbonate dissolved by rivers and streams in such landscapes has to go somewhere, and that’s what makes Plitvice so special.

Upper Lakes: Boardwalk climbing between the Burgeti and Kozjak Lakes

Upper Lakes: Boardwalk climbing between the Burgeti and Kozjak Lakes

Within the upper part of the Koruna River valley, the dissolved calcium carbonate is redeposited as a sediment known as travertine, to produce a series of stepped barriers. This is one of the reasons Rich was particularly excited to see Plitvice, since his Ph.D. thesis (and subsequent scientific positions) centred around a special type of travertine, known as tufa.

Upper Lakes: Boardwalk across Burgeti Lake

Upper Lakes: Boardwalk across Burgeti Lake

In Plitvice, the sequence of travertine barrages form a natural staircase of 16 lakes of varying sizes, each at a lower altitude than the preceding one. The first 12 of these constitute the Upper Lakes, while the remaining four are known as the Lower Lakes. And over the barriers separating these lakes tumble countless waterfalls.

Upper Lakes: Lake Gradinsko & Prstavci waterfalls

Upper Lakes: Lake Gradinsko & Prstavci waterfalls

Upper Lakes: Prstavci waterfalls

Upper Lakes: Prstavci waterfalls

Upper Lakes: Gradinsko Barrier

Upper Lakes: Gradinsko Barrier

In some instances the water bubbles over itself, seeming almost to boil as it rushes across the travertine.

Upper Lakes: Gradinsko Barrier

Upper Lakes: Gradinsko Barrier

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Barrier

In other places, where the barriers are taller, the water falls as veils, which often become little more than a spray of mist by the time they reach the lake below.

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Labudovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Labudovac Barrier

Lower Lakes: Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall - above) & Sastavci cascade (below)

Lower Lakes: Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall – above) & Sastavci cascade (below)

Lower Lakes: Sastavci Cascades

Lower Lakes: Sastavci Cascades

Lower Lakes: Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall)

Lower Lakes: Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall)

And wrapping around the lakes, the travertine barriers and the streams and waterfalls that connect them, is a network of remarkable raised boardwalks.

Upper Lakes: Boardwalk across Burgeti Lake

Upper Lakes: Boardwalk across Burgeti Lake

Upper Lakes: Gradinsko Barrier

Upper Lakes: Gradinsko Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Upper Lakes: Galovac Barrier

Lower Lakes: Wet feet beside the Sastavci Cascades

Lower Lakes: Wet feet beside the Sastavci Cascades

Lower Lakes: A damp boardwalk up the Kaluderovac Barrier

Lower Lakes: A damp boardwalk up the Kaluderovac Barrier

Lower Lakes: Crossing the Great Cascades, with Supljara Cave in the background

Lower Lakes: Crossing the Great Cascades, with Supljara Cave in the background

This post was inspired by Cee’s Which Way Challenge (from Cee’s Photography) and the themes Spray from Sue (of A Word In Your Ear) and On The Water from Ed (of Sunday Stills).

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Falls & Lake Galovac

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Falls & Lake Galovac

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Falls

Upper Lakes: Batinovac Falls

Upper Lakes: Not the best boardwalk beside Lake Galovac

Upper Lakes: Not the best boardwalk beside Lake Galovac

While you’re marvelling at the beauty of Plitvice, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

Lower Lakes: Lakes Kozjak (above) & Milanovac, separated by the Kozjak Barrier

Lower Lakes: Lakes Kozjak (above) & Milanovac, separated by the Kozjak Barrier

Lower Lakes: The Great Cascades

Lower Lakes: The Great Cascades

Lower Lakes: Lakes Gavanovac (above) & Kaluderovac with the Great Cascades between

Lower Lakes: Lakes Gavanovac (above) & Kaluderovac with the Great Cascades between

Lower Lakes: Me above the Great Cascades

Lower Lakes: Me above the Great Cascades

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Two Days in Central Park

We all know that Central Park in New York City is big. Lengthwise it stretches 51 city blocks or about 2½ miles, widthwise it’s three looong city blocks or roughly half a mile. It covers an area of 843 acres, or in other words, nearly 6% of the land that makes up Manhattan.

Central Park from the Top of the Rock, the Rockefeller Center

Central Park from the Top of the Rock, the Rockefeller Center

But statistics are easy to calculate and even easier to recite. And it’s not until you start tackling Central Park on foot that you realise just how BIG it really is. Put it this way, it took me the best part of two whole days to investigate this iconic piece of real estate, and I know I didn’t cover everything!

My Two Days in Central Park were actually separated by about 2½ years. The first time I spent any considerable time in the park was a blazing hot day in September, 2008. That day we mainly stayed south of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which takes up most of the park between 86th and 96th Streets.

Steps cut straight into the bedrock

Steps cut straight into the bedrock

Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle

Delacorte Theatre from Belvedere Castle

Delacorte Theatre from Belvedere Castle

Central Park Great Lawn across the Turtle Pond

Central Park Great Lawn across the Turtle Pond

The San Remo Building across The Lake

The San Remo Building across The Lake

Bow Bridge, crossing The Lake

Bow Bridge, crossing The Lake

Looking south across The Lake

Looking south across The Lake

The Naumburg Bandshell was constructed in 1862, during the creation of Central Park itself

The Naumburg Bandshell was constructed in 1862, during the creation of Central Park itself

Looking north across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Looking north across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Despite a friend telling us, “Don’t go north of the reservoir!”, that’s just what we did in February, 2011, walking the entire length of Central Park from 59th Street to Central Park North. Although we kept our wits about us and left the park before dusk.

The weather couldn’t have been more different from our first visit. Scorching September sunshine was replaced by dismal February drizzle. But we still had a great time.

Southern Central Park in the winter

Southern Central Park in the winter

Umpire Rock, in the south part of the park

Umpire Rock, in the south part of the park

The Pool, in the north part of Central Park

The Pool, in the north part of Central Park

It's hard to believe you're in the heart of Manhattan!

It’s hard to believe you’re in the heart of Manhattan!

Blockhouse No. 1, a small fort from 1814 in the northernmost part of the park, is the oldest structure in Central Park

Blockhouse No. 1, a small fort from 1814 in the northernmost part of the park, is the oldest structure in Central Park

Entrance to Blockhouse No. 1

Entrance to Blockhouse No. 1

Looking south across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Looking south across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Midtown Manhattan across the frozen surface of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Midtown Manhattan across the frozen surface of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

This post was inspired by the theme A Change in the Weather from Nancy (of Nancy Merrill Photography).

If you’re as fascinated as I am by this incredible urban green space, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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