For a change I thought I'd make a slightly different post, and take you along on two school trips I made recently with work. I've been on these trips before, but decided to take my camera this time so that you can enjoy these visits too.
The first was to Chepstow Castle just over the border into Wales. Begun by the Normans in 1067 (only a year after the Battle of Hastings), this castle is magnificent, poised defensively on a limestone cliff overlooking the river Wye. From the outside it's very impressive indeed.
.Once inside it's a long, steep walk up through the castle to the far end. It towers over the river and the view is breath-taking. The sun had come out by now and it lit up the ramparts and silty water below.
Looking over the walls did make me feel quite giddy as I'm not great with heights, but what a view!
Down below a boat was moored in the water.
Lots of pretty little ivy-clad windows framed the view of the opposite bank and countryside beyond.
Inside, the ruined walls invited closer inspection, and I loved the architectural features and details.
There are several styles of window here, ranging from plain to ornate, and I loved the ragged edge of the walls' outline against the blue sky.
Although it was cold and windy it was a beautiful, timeless place to spend a spring day, and it reminded me how lucky we are to have such wonderfully-preserved places to visit.
The next trip I went on was to Bristol Zoo, a place we've been to with our own children a few times. Whatever your feelings about zoos may be, it is fantastic to have the opportunity to see amazing animals in the flesh. I stroked a hissing cockroach (never thought I'd say that), a snake and a very soft chinchilla. There were salmon-pink flamingos;
sleeping giant tortoises;
mathematically arranged monkey-puzzle tree leaves;
posing iguanas (and another giant tortoise);
this rather lovely iris in the reptile house;
alert, charismatic meerkats;
delicately-marked butterflies in the butterfly house (when they opened their wings they were a dazzling cobalt-blue)
and vividly-coloured lorikeets. This was the best photo I could manage because they fly very quickly, not staying still for too long. Isn't their plumage wonderful?
This is quite a random collection of shots, and I saw many more wonderful animals, but I was quite busy with our students, so only took my snaps when I was on my own. Such a lot of exotic sights in one day, and a breath of fresh air to be away from the normal routine. I was very tired at the end of both days and slept like a log - it's surprising how much ground you cover on visits like these.
Hope you've enjoyed coming along for the ride too!