Journal of Alice


13 November ’15

There’s a sweet spot for exploring London.  Late enough for everything to be lit up and pretty, early enough that the city workers aren’t too drunk.  I’ve been exploring the area from Barbican to the Millenium Bridge this evening, seeing St Pauls Cathedral and the Guild Hall as well as modern sky scrapers and brutalist architecture.

I’ve been at a database conference all day in the Barbican Centre, and it’s a confusing place.  Take a wrong turn and you go from the brutal concrete and glass bridges to tropical gardens.  I’d love a proper tour of the place, but all too soon I have to go back to Yorkshire.

Planning on spending some of next weekend in York, mostly for the railway museum.

Oh, and I think I’ve finally found a simple Tumblr theme which works on desktop and mobile for all content types.  I don’t get why that’s a difficult thing to achieve.

The journey home and where next

10 November ’15

It’s been pointed out that I never wrote about getting home from Istanbul Atatürk airport. Only, I didn’t go home - not really - I’m a foreigner everywhere, everywhere is my home.

They say home is where the WiFi connects automatically - many airports and hotels around the world.

They say home is where they know your name - Manchester airport Hilton, Leeds Bradford VIP lounge, Giraffe Heathrow.

Home is where your heart is - all over, from Connecticut to Seoul.

So yes, I flew back to Manchester, caught a train to Leeds and a bus back to my flat; but no, that isn’t home.

I’ve been reflecting on the lessons learned from my fellow travellers, and I have a vague plan for a round the world tour. Drive from Alaska to Argentina, visit Antarctica and get a boat to Southampton via the Atlantic islands. Travel by train to Istanbul then bus/train to North Korea via Iran and central Asia. Fly down to New Zealand and travel across it before island hopping across to South Africa. Drive up to Morocco, hop across to Gibraltar, and back up to England. It’s mostly pipe dream, but it could actually work.

In the mean time, my only definite travel plans are Disney World in January.

Kurdistan Day 8

5 November ’15

Kurdistan Day 8

A very early start in order to cross the border. There’s a man in military uniform hanging around in the hotel lobby.

Our bus turns up two hours late, and we eventually head towards Turkey. The Iraqi border guards are bemused at the sight of so many tourists on a bus but quickly allow us through to the scrum that is the Ibrahim border crossing.

We take a rest stop and spot some Syrian currency at the shop which also does currency exchange. I consider getting some for the woman who handles my currency exchange, but decide that Iraq Dinar and Turkish Lira is already going to raise enough questions.

We pass close to the Syrian border again in an effort to get to the airport on time. We drop Liam off at the airport and we’re all surprised how modern it is after seeing the arrivals hall. Clearly they’ve built a brand new departures building within the last 6 months.

We head out into Diyarbakir for Burger King on the night before elections. HDP flags are everywhere. Military helicopters flying overhead. Locals telling us we’re crazy for choosing to be here on election night. People want to take photos with us assuming we’re famous journalists. The people back home who thought Iraq was scary know nothing. I know more Turkish than Kurdish, which isn’t a good thing to be showing right now.

It’s Halloween, and unsurprisingly there’s no sign of this in Diyarbakir at all.

Kurdistan Day 9

Another very early start in case of being delayed getting through security. The taxi driver takes the back streets to the airport to avoid the police and we’re there in plenty of time. Diyarbakir airport has just 4 gates but is very modern, they appear to be planning on it expanding and have the beginnings of an international departures section.

We arrive into Istanbul and make the last of our goodbyes. This has been by far the best group tour I’ve been on, with everyone being a keen traveller even if they don’t have much experience. I hope to travel with some of them again.

I check into the HSBC lounge, there’s deserts and Fanta plus it’s clean and relatively quiet. I start editing these posts.

kurdistan day 7 we spot our first oil field on the

4 November ’15

Kurdistan Day 7

We spot our first oil field on the approach to Lalish, the most holy Yazidi village. Lalish is a strange place where the people have ancient traditions but also selfie sticks and many speak great English.

The rest of the group are shocked at how different Lalish is, but it feels similar to many of the squatted social centres and protest camps I’ve spent time in - just with more superstitions and lots more children.

The highlight of the trip, the amusement parks, is cancelled due to rain. Slight drizzle by English standards, but enough to close all the parks. Instead we go drinking again.

We stop off at a mall, very western and modern, with entertainment being added. Horse racing, bowling, pool, table football and an amusement arcade.

The town we’re in is towards the borders of Syria and Turkey, it’s a conservative place rapidly becoming more liberal. In the last few months shops and bars have started openly advertising alcohol. We’re told that the first place to open which did this got burned down by the locals. We stick to an underground place similar to a working men’s club and get talking to the friendly locals through our interpreter.

Tomorrow we head north into Turkey.

kurdistan day 6 we wake up to news of a police

4 November ’15

Kurdistan Day 6

We wake up to news of a police raid on an opposition tv channel in Istanbul. I skip breakfast on account of how dirty the hotel room was; apparently it was the best breakfast so far.

Speeding along the road to Halabja we pass a refugee camp. I’ve never seen a refugee camp before and even passed at speed it’s more moving than the visit to the Red Prison yesterday.

Halabja was one of the sites of Saddam Hussain’s chemical attacks on the Kurds, and there’s a museum/monument for this as well as mass graves in a graveyard.

We lunch at a take away in Halabja. It costs 40p.

We head up towards a waterfall very close to the Iranian border. We get stopped at a security checkpoint and asked about where we’re going, we don’t remember the name of the waterfall so the guard takes all our first names and nationalities. There’s some argument with him over whether Ireland is just a part of Great Britain or not and the presence of Canadians confuses him. We’re allowed to continue and the guard uses his only English - “have a nice day”

The waterfall is a ten minute walk from the road, up a well made stepped path with shops along the side. An elderly gentleman at the top welcomes us. It’s a 3 hour hike to the border where three Americans were arrested by Iran a few years ago.

The fastest route back to Erbil is via Kirkuk according to Google maps. Instead we take a more direct route on roads it doesn’t know about. We pass from the green zone to the yellow zone, the PUK area to the KDP area. The passport checks at security checkpoints become more frequent, but they’re mostly cursory glances; the Canadian passports continue to confuse them.

A few of us go drinking with our guide, and spend time talking about our lives in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Paris and Erbil.