Walking along a Wall


Latimer: There are lots of things to be excited about when you’re going on holidays; you don’t have to worry about work, you’re going somewhere new and you can relax and do what you want – it’s a great feeling. Aside from the food, which is one of my most favourite things about being on holidays, one of the best things is getting to see famous places you’ve only seen on the TV!

In Beijing there were lots of famous places to stamp my foot on.



You can’t go to China and not go to the Great Wall.

To me it was one of those places that I’ve known about my whole life; it’s a place of massive human achievement, but had it been overhyped in my mind – could it really be that good?

Yes, as it turns out! It was as amazing as people say.

Getting to stand on the Great Wall and stare around the valley (like a boss), as it criss-crossed the landscape, weaving up and down like a great stone snake slithering over hills through smog into the far north of China – spectacular!!



The Great Wall started its existence as a series of small walls that were unified into one Great wall by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (namesake of the Qin Dynasty). This is the Emperor who also built the Terracotta Army – a busy man right? Up to a million people died building the ‘Great Wall’ and are actually buried within the wall itself. So there’s an eerie feeling walking along the wall and thinking about that!



The part of the wall that I was on is called the Jiangshanling Great Wall; it’s a bit of a less touristy spot. It was great because there was hardly anyone else on the wall. It was basically empty, so it was even more incredible to be able to stand on one arching swell and look into the distance and see nothing but the wall and its watchtowers 🙂

As I walked I noticed that there was a lot of graffiti – people had carved their names into the wall. This started a conversation about how if the graffiti’s been there long enough it becomes historic (is a 400 year old piece of graffiti terrible… or historic?).


When people used to visit Shakespeare’s home (a long time after his death), they used to write their names on the windows to say that they were there. Lots of famous writers (Dickens etc) signed the windows, and now they are a museum piece within the house.


It’s an odd one and it happens everywhere; I’ve seen names carved into the stone at our own Newgrange (which is 5,000 years old, which makes this really bad).


It is sad, and you do shudder at seeing it; ‘I’d never do that! That’s terrible’… but then if enough time passes… does it become alright? Do you start to think; ‘someone in the 1800s was standing where I am now, in awe of this thing I am seeing that they once saw too… (of course they were busy carving their name into it, so we aren’t really experiencing it the same way, but still!)’

People like to write their names on things because it says; ‘I was here, I existed once and I was here’. And I get that, but…

Argh, it’s a tough one; but people shouldn’t be doing it anymore – that’s what the visitor’s guestbook is for!

While on the wall I ate the bag of Hula Hoops I’d gotten in Dublin airport (and failed to eat on the plane – I told you we’d be seeing those food items again!)… That was bizarre!

Then it was on to the Forbidden City (give or take a day, ha). That place is amazing.



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It was built according to the rules and laws of Taoism – the cultural religion of China. For example, Taoism is crazy about numbers. The number 9 (and 5) is very important and lucky in the religion. The doors of the city’s gates have gold circle embossing – there are nine rows with nine circles across.

The Forbidden City is also said to contain 9999 rooms; the Emperor is the only one on earth who can have 9999 rooms. This is one less than the Jade Emperor (the King of Heaven in Taoism); only he can have 10,000 rooms. The Jade Emperor sounds cool doesn’t he?

There’s a lot to see in the Forbidden City, I found myself just wandering on my own at one point, enjoying my own novelty as a white foreigner (I’m hardly ever exotic, so that was fun!).

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It wasn’t long before my time in Beijing was at an end, but I did manage to check out the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Cube before I was off on an overnight train (13 hours!) to Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors, but that’s another post 🙂

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Previous post: Middle Kingdom Musings and next post: The Art of Terracotta

I’ve a Horse in the Attic

1272874_10151647138863683_334812153_oRidley: I was at a wedding in Bellinter House in Navan recently, where a handfasting ceremony was carried out.Handfasting-1

They also had a ring warming ceremony. Both types of ceremonies were new to me, I had heard of them, but I’d never seen them carried out before, but I found it quite beautiful, there seemed to be a lot of meaning behind them. With just close friends and family, it was one of the most intimate and warm weddings I’ve ever attended.16613387

Now the house itself, Bellinter, where the wedding was held, was magnificent. It was once a functioning estate house, that has since been transformed into a hotel. bellinter_house

bal1imagesbellintertreeSet in the green rolling countryside, the grounds sprawl out either side of the house. Originally it once encompassed 600 acres of parklands. It’s situated on the banks of the River Boyne, just upstream from the Stone Age megalithic tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth (if you’re coming to Ireland, you need to visit Newgrange, you won’t regret it) It is also quite near the Hill of Tara, which was where the Celtic High Kings of Ireland had their strongholds.

Now apart from the rich history that surrounds it, the house also has some fantastic tales of its own, stories that I just drank in for the few hours while I was there. bellinterOne of the owners, a Gustavas (Gussy) Briscoe, inherited the estate in 1892 and seems to have been one of the most colourful (read mad) owners. He had a massive party one evening, with no doubt lots of wining and dining, and in order to win a bet, he rode his horse up the main spiral staircase. After which the horse refused to come back down. black-beauty-1994-movie-posterThe poor animal spent three weeks in the attic before a beam and pulley could be erected to lower it back to ground level (feel bad for the horse, but the image of him living in the attic like some giant mouse or something kinda makes me smile). Have to say, I would have loved to have met Gussy, don’t think I’d have been able to keep up with him though!!