Shetland February 2011

Finally got the chance to get back up to Shetland.  It feels like a long time since I was shovelling away the Christmas snow.

This was also the first time we’ve come up by boat in winter.  I’ve tended to regard the boat as the summer mode of transport and plane as the winter one.  However the pile of ‘things to go North’ in Oxford was getting inconveniently big, so a car/boat trip was required.

After several days of ferries between Aberdeen and Lerwick being cancelled or delayed it was a pleasant surprise that the ferry left Aberdeen on time.  The ‘pleasant’ bit lasted until we reached the end of the breakwater at Aberdeen Harbour – at which point we reached for the seasick pills and I retired to bed requesting that I be woken when Bressay was visible.
After a bumpy night – on a few occasions the boat seemed to keep rolling further and further (before eventually rolling back) - we docked in Lerwick pretty much on time.  There had been warnings that the MV Hrossey would need to slow down if it got really rough - but it clearly that hadn’t been deemed necessary.

We spent several days (some of which were pretty wild, wet and windy) at or near the house at the south end of the mainland, getting a few walks and taking a few pictures.  We finally saw some sunshine on our day in Lerwick, doing the things that need to be done there (i.e. coffee at the Peerie Cafe, lunch at Hay's Dock, and a wander round the fantastic Shetland museum).   The current visiting exhibition at the museum is the Lewis Chessmen, I heard about them before but never had a chance to see them, and I'll try and get back to see them again before the exhibition moves on.

The ferry south was heralded by more dire warnings, and we had a fairly rough passage back down to Kirkwall – from there south it was at sufficiently flat for some sleep to be had.  It was certainly a shorter return to Shetland than we had wanted – but we did get a bit more done to the house it’s now feeling much more like a northern home rather than just a house on Shetland.  It'll soon be ready for visitors!

Next trip only a few weeks away – this time I’ll be taking the plane….

Shetland February 2011

Utrecht February 2011

I’ve always felt a bit guilty about Holland.  

I’ve had it on my ‘been to’ list for years, but I think that was as a result of going to a Sunday market somewhere just on the Dutch side of the Holland-Germany border many years ago. (So long ago that it was actually the Holland-West Germany border)

A meeting of the IMS Global Learning Consortium finally provided the excuse to properly add the country to my list.

Flying into Amsterdam Schiphol let me see how well joined up the air and rail network is in Holland – about 20 minutes from getting off the plane to stepping onto the train.  Later reflection made me think about the complexities of not only combining this with roads and motorways, which many countries do, and with lots of waterways which is a bit more unusual.

Utrecht is a lovely small city, particularly the old part along each side of the canal.  The canal provides a very easy reference point for navigation, whenever you get lost just head back towards the canal.

Despite the need to spend a lot of the time in meetings (always the drawback of work trips), I did get a brief chance to wander around with a camera.  Pictures below.

At the end of the trip, I completely overlooked the efficiency of the Dutch rail network so I wound up getting to the airport far too early.  This gave me plenty of time to visit the branch of the Rijksmuseum in the airport (splendid idea – don’t recall seeing a branch of the National Gallery or the Tate anywhere in LHR T5).  And having done that I was able to tweet about it via the free wi-fi (again - don’t recall seeing any free wi-fi at Heathrow).

Utrecht February 2011