Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fishguard to Wexford

Travelling in Ireland

Fishguard - Lower Town
Our Stena Line ferry on which we were booked to travel from Fishguard to Rosslare in Ireland was running late. This provided us with an opportunity to explore the lovely little seaside town on the Welsh coast of Fishguard.

We even had time to commence a little watercolour painting each until the rain came and drove us under cover.

On board - crossing the Irish Sea

The ship is quite a surprise package and (fearing that Glenys would not cope with the potential for seasickness) we had paid for Premium travel which was like being in a Qantas Club lounge for example. The crossing therefore turned out to be very smooth except little kids playing with sausage balloons that friendly clown on board had given to them at the on Halloween Magic Show party.

We arrived at Wexford around 7.00 pm and found ourselves a very pleasant B&B, negotiated the local streets to get ourselves an evening meal. Wexford was in the midst of its annual Opera Festival but we found the streets somewhat deserted and eating places not in abundance. Everyone was obviously busy being occupied with things cultural.  For the second night in a row we got caught in the rain walking home from dinner - you think we would have learnt to take the umbrella by now!!

Much to our delight after drying off we turned on the telly to discover a replay happening of the International Rules match earlier in the day between Australia and Ireland. There to our joy was Mick Malthouse coaching and lots of familiar footballers including Nick Maxwell, Tyson Goldsack, Jack Riewoldt and of course Dane Swan was best on field, and the Aussie's won.  Whohoo!

Waterford Cathedral - crystal chandeliers of course!
 After yet another cooked B&B style brekky we headed for the 10am Eucharist at Waterford Cathedral.  The Dean was very welcoming to visitors and he sends his greetings to Bobbie Moore whom he remembers.

We visited the Waterford Crystal Showroom and after viewing the amazing crystal creations we headed off for Tipperary, Limerick and Galway.

The countryside around Tipperary and Limerick is stunning. We have not mentioned that it is autumn in this part of the world and the colours of the trees are vibrant against the green fields. We crossed abundant rivers and streams - it was a beautiful drive.

We stopped off at Banratty Castle for a late lunch at 'Durty Nelly's" pub - photo is included here particularly for Nell McInnes.

We made our target to be in Galway at the end of the day and so far we haven't been disappointed with Galway. It is Halloween here and there has been another festival of some sort also happening here. This University City is alive and buzzing tonight with so many folk and families out and about and restaurants everywhere taking up the Halloween theme. Our B&B here is near the centre of town.

Not so much travelling tomorrow as we intend to do some shoe shopping here in Galway for Ray who has worn his favourite Hush Puppies out! After that we intend to a casual drive to Athlone.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Cornwall to Wales

St Michael's Mount near Penzance
We are really getting into the way of B&Bs now in the UK. Today (Friday) we had another full English breakfast and could have even had kippers if we so desired (which we didn't).

Mind you the day outside lent itself  to eating something warm and hearty. After loading the little car we were immediately aware of massive waves crashing across the road dumping seaweed in our path. The wind was blowing a gale and the tide was in and hence no time to wait to make the land crossing to the little island called St Michaels Mount. On top of this island is a former monastery. Today the house is more or less a tourist attraction.

As I was going to St Ives.....

St Ives

Our only wayside stopover today was at St Ives which is not far from Penzance and still in Cornwall. This village we think could be worth a lot more time and from the high vantage point of the tourist road it really did look spectacular.

The rest of the day has been basically about catching up on travelling time - we experienced the heavy traffic and long queues that seem to plague English motorways - on the A30, then the M4. These roads took from Cornwall to South Wales a distance of nearly 300 miles - and took nearly all day!

Nevertheless we enjoyed the countryside and not having to drive through business centres. We also were able to reflect on the many happy times we have had so far both on the pilgrimage and our holiday here in the UK.

We arrived at our next stopover the Carlton Hotel at Mumbles near Swansea late in the afternoon and quickly got organised to do a walking tour along the beachfront. We imagine that Mumbles is a kind of Lorne or Rosebud for the Welsh people.  The Carlton Hotel, apart from a seaview window, served up a great meal  - lamb shanks for Glenys and steak and ale pie for Ray - magnificent!

Main Street Mumbles

Early morning Mumbles

Off to Ireland tomorrow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Rob, George, James, Kate, Sam, Cynthia and John and
Belle the dog
United Kingdom
Visit to Cynthia, John & Family

Our arrival in the UK was a day of travel and queueing but in the end all worthwhile as we managed to get our little hire car at Heathrow, find our way to a Tesco to purchase a GPS (Sat Nav as they call it here) and then on to Sanderstead where we caught up after 20 years with Cynthia and her family as pictured.

We were a bit on the tired side and omitted to take a photograph of young John (Mac), his wife Marguerita and their dear little baby Kyri.

On the morrow, after meeting up with Kate's children and husband, Rob, we travelled to Taunton in the South west of  England and stayed their the night as Ray was a bit off colour.

The next day we headed for Exeter and its Cathedral.  This is one of the great medieval Cathedrals of England and we were not disappointed. A lovely surprise is the magnificent old clock with its pendulum and long ropes. Apparently mice were running up and down the bell ropes which were greased with animal fat so that Bishop of the time cut a hole in the door (pictured) to the bell tower to enable his cat to eradicate the mice. Hence the beginning of the nursery rhyme "Hickory dickory dock".

Exeter Cathedral - vaulted ceiling
the largest in the world

The Bishop's door at Exeter Cathedral
with cat hole


We travelled on from there to Torquay - the home of Fawlty Towers fame and found a 2 star B & B but the landlord was not a bit like Basil Fawlty (thank goodness!). Torquay is a lovely seaside village, in fact they call it the Riviera of the UK.

Travelling through beautiful Devon countryside we then stopped over for lunch at Plymouth - a large University town and buzzing with families as it is school mid term holiday break in the UK.

We moved on then to Truro and discovered another great Cathedral, this one  built in the 19th Century but with some current 21st century additions happening to the tower and spire.

Our destination was reached at Penzance in the far south west corner of England, in Cornwall. It is spectacular to see a active fishing village that also obviously is a hub for boats going out to the Isle of Scilly and other tourist destinations. Unfortunately we were a little late to make the trip crossing to St Michael's Mount which is a tiny island just off the coast that can be accessed at low tide. A monastery sits on top of this little pyramid shaped island. 

Penzance foreshore.....hopefully some better photos to come
We found a delightful B&B with free Wifi (hence this blog!). A stroll along the Cornish beach front was followed by a drink in a typical English pub and then a yummy meal fish and chips.

We need to make a lot of ground tomorrow to get to our ferry rendezvous on Saturday midday so unfortunately we must leave this area almost as quickly as we arrived.

Watch this space....... and keep the comments coming .. we love them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Cairo Time
Guess where?....  Giza
Arriving middle of the day on our wedding anniversary in Cairo we were met by our new guide - Sayeed and our personal Egyptologist - Radwa and driver Mohammed (of course).

Our first stop was the pyramids and the sphinx on the outskirts of Cairo, at Giza. We keep pinching ourselves - its hard to believe we are here. Apart from all the expected and amazing historic antiquities we were surpirsed to find that there was also a "Big Day Out" type rock event going on at the Sphinx with many young people wearing special pink and white t-shirts - to raise funds for Breast Cancer Research - and at the same time cheering on the bands.

We are returning to the pyramids and sphinx on Sunday night (tonight) for the Sound and Light Show.

Our Egyptologist taught us this
traditional action shot...

....and this

In the manner of all things since the beginning of this Egyptian holiday we were delivered to the Sonesta Hotel to find ourselves endowed with yet another 5 star hotel room with cakes and fruit awaiting our arrival!

We were fortunate enough to celebrate our 39th Wedding Anniversary that evening on board Nile Crystal -  floating restaurant cruising the Nile in the heart of Cairo. Our guide had arranged a window table and we enjoyed a fabulous buffet meal with a bottle of the best Egyptian red, a time on the upper deck and then we returned to our table to enjoy the floorshow.  Yet another whirling dervish and belly dancer - both very good at their craft.  The professional photographer captured a cheeky photo of Ray eyeing off the belly dancer. 

Sunday morning and the Egyptian Museum

Radwa - our Egyptologist and Glenys
A tour of the Egyptian Museum is an essential part of being in Cairo. Built 110 years ago it houses a huge collection of antiquities which mostly have been preserved over the centuries because they were buried in tombs of the Pharoahs.  We are starting to get a handle on the mythology and history of the dynasties. This massive collection is about to be moved to the world's largest Museum presently under construction due to be opened in about 2 years time.

Cameras were handed to security at the door, as has been the case with several of the very popular sites - both to preserve the antiquities and probably more importantly to keep the huge crowds moving. Whilst we don't have any photos the highpoint of this particular morning was the fantastic array of items that Howard Carter, the English Egyptologist, discovered in the 1930s in the tomb of the child Pharaoh - Tutankarmen (phonetic again!). Absolutely spectacular - so we bought a little guidebook.

Thousand seat cave Church of St Simon (Samaan)

Entry to St Simon Church

Radwa and crew took us through the winding back lanes of one of Cairo's poorest neighbourhoods, the city of garbage collectors to the church founded and probably run by Coptic monks. This church is partially open air and seats 1000 people and ministers to this local neighbourhood. We were warmly welcomed by Adel a Deacon at the church who explained with Radwa translating how the church came to be here. It seems it took a couple of pretty amazing miracles that got the ball rolling.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped off at a souk (market) to haggle with a couple of vendors and then we bought a falafel and were glad to have a couple of hours' break from sightseeing.

It is 27 deg. here in Cairo today (a cool day by local standards) but tomorrow we head for London where the temperature is likely to be around 10 deg!

Off to the Sound and Light Show at the pyramids - our guide - Sayeed tells us 5.14pm! he will pick us up.

Still looking forward to any comments you would like to make.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Aswan - Luxor (Egypt)

Faluca in foreground and Movenpick Hotel
Elephantine Island, Aswan - Nile River

Our tour guide dutifully met us around midnight at Aswan Airport and delivered us to our Hotel pictured right. 

Next day, after a late checkout including a swim, we were again dutifully delivered to the MS Moon Goddess ready for our four day cruise on the Nile.

 The ship is one of over 250 cruise ships and our guide told us it is in the top 15! Our cabin was one of two guest suites and there are 47 standard cabins also. We had received a welcome letter to "esteemed guests" - we felt very special on this 5 star upgrade which continued on into Cairo.

After a sumptious lunch we were taken sailing on a faluca as depicted. We returned to the ship to join again our table guests and some other Aussies on the tour.  Dee and Im from Townsville were to be our constant and very friendly companions for meals for the rest of the cruise.

Temple of Philae - Sunroom

Temple of Philae
Our first full day on the cruise began with a bus trip to the massive Aswan Dam, the unfinished Obelisk and the Temple of Philae which was relocated from one island to another on account of the Dam and the height of the water. Our group took one of the hundreds of little boats that shuttle the thousands of tourists who are swarming over this and similar sites up and down the Nile. We returned to the ship for another delicious lunch and we set sail along the Nile for Edfu. Along the way we had a stopover at the Temple of Kom Ombo. This was near the home town of our guide. The temple is even bigger and more impressive.

Edfu Temple
 Edfu Temple is bigger yet again, of course, and in immaculate condition for its age. The hieroglyphics and stories carfved the stone columns and massive blocks tell the stories of conquest, of keeping in with the gods and of life in ancient times in graphic detail. We were blessed to have a guide with enormous passion to tell these stories. We didn't yet feel like information overload but that was coming.

Our group for these trips off the cruise boat comprised 4 American couples and a delightful family of 3 from Leicestershire including 12 yr old Joe.

 In the evening  we had dinner on the sundeck an Egyptian bbq followed by Galabaya night which means fancy dress Egyptian style.

Glenys with Samya (from Egypt) and Dee from Townsville
all dressed up for Galabaya
 Our last full day with MS Moon Goddess was spent around Luxor at the fantastic ancient sites - of Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, the tomb of Queen Hot-chick-soup (phonetically spelt!!) and in the afternoon the temples of Karnak and Luxor.

Its hard to describe how incredible all of these sites are - massive, impressive, monumental, ornate and huge numbers of tourists and their buses moving efficiently throughout all the sites amid high security.

It gets better and better as one moves from one tomb to another and from one temple to another. For example Karnak was built over a period of some 1700 years and occupies over 60 acres. At one point 132 30 metre high granite columns stand close to each other to form the superstructure of the roofed area of just one temple.

Karnak Temple - one of the many

Evening approaches at Luxor Temple
 Our day ended on board MS Moon Goddess with superb a-la-carte dinner followed by a show of a whirling dervish and a belly dancer. Then off to bed to prepare for an early start as we fly to Cairo and the next leg of our tour.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 15

Farewells - Amman

The Grand Mosque - Amman
All the pilgrims were happy to have a sleep in and a lazy start before our final few hours together o the tour. After the usual peculiar "Jordan style" breakfast we headed for what our guide called "a panoramic of the City".

Amman is a city of over 3 million people, in many places it feels like it is half constructed. It is not at all pretty but a lot of money is flowing in to the country via the entrepreneurial attitude of its King of whom they are very proud. There are currently elections due and thousands of poster are decorating the streets with portrait pictures of candidates. The city is also festooned with national flags and pictures of the King.We stopped at a couple of spots including the Grand Mosque for pictures. After that a long stop at the obligatory tourist souvenir "handcrafts" centre where apparently "the locals shop!" (We heard oinking sounds overhead as the guide made this comment!)

Farewells after final lunch
 We returned to the courtyard of our Hotel "Al Fanar" where we had falafel sandwiches followed  by prayers and goodbyes.

Peter Tuohy made an impromptu speech expressing his appreciation to both the group for their fellowship and to Ray and Glen for their leadership.

We left Peter, Judy and Di at the Hotel for another night and the rest of us headed for the airport. We stopped on the way for Ray & Glenys to buy a new suitcase, to replace their injured one wheel suitcase!

So after 15 fantastic days the Group of 18 went in different directions -  party of 10 returning to Melbourne; 2 to Sydney; one to Hong Kong and Ray and Glenys off to Egypt.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our Holy Land blog and we thank Carmen of Mission Travel for her work in putting this pilgrimage together.

We wish our readers every blessing.

Ray & Glenys

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 14

Looking back at the village of Petra
Petra to Amman

Today the pilgrims had a long and bumpy bus journey from the wondrous place of Petra to Amman the capital of Jordan.

On the way as we drove slowly through the Bedouin village that services the tourist industry in ancient Petra we saw the locals beginning their trek down the hill for their day's work at the main site. We also noted children being dropped off at school from their camels and donkeys!

 Apparently the donkeys can find their own way to work at the site and back home again at the end of the day.  Not bad for an animal who is said to be silly!

Helen & Di (fearless) atop the Crusaders Castle
 Next stop for the pilgrims was Ash Shawbak, an 11th Century Crusader Castle. This is a huge structure that, like all Crusader Castles, perches high on a mountain top overlooking the surrounding countryside. This one was built slowly and the residents lived in caves in the surrounding area and have continued to do so up until the present time. There are in fact some people still living in caves in the surrounding hillsides.  Inside the castle ruins there is a Byzantine church in relatively good condition complete with Baptistry.

The Promised Land from Mt Nebo

Next stop for the pilgrims was Mt Nebo the place where Moses also arrived a few years earlier to look out over the Jordan Valley to the Promised Land. It was from here that he could see like us Jericho, Jerusalem and a whole lot more. He sent spies to scout the land and bring back a report on the produce and inhabitants. They returned with a great report on the produce but were more than a little concerned about the inhabitants.

Our reflections on Israel today are nearly all positive. We have had a wonderful time on pilgrimage and at the eucharist which Ray celebrated in a chapel provided by the Franciscans we gave thanks to God for this and for the many blessings of which we are all the more aware. We have now almost completed a loop of the Dead Sea in the latter part of the pilgrimage.

Winifred and Marcia at the farewell dinner

Helen and Judy at dinner

Shila Lal at dinner

Our farewell dinner was held in Amman at a restaurant with a Bedouin theme. This seemed entirely appropriate after our long trek through the deserts (Negev) of Jordan. The food was absolutely fantastic and such a relief after lots of Hotel buffets.

Tomorrow the pilgrims rise late, have a few hours to take in the sights of Amman and then we break up into various groups - some returning to Australia, some staying put and others heading off in other directions for more holidays.

Thank you for following the pilgrims on tour in the Holy Land.  From now on Glenys and Ray will be
holidaying in Egypt and the UK and will post blogs when we can on this site. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 13


The beginning of the Petra story
 The Grandview Hotel overlooks a mammoth valley with Mount Hor on the opposite side. On this mountain is the shrine of Aaron (Moses' brother). After a bit of co-ersion all 18 pilgrims take the short bus ride to the start of the Petra Gorge.

James, our Jordanian guide, did a terrific job on this day explaining the way this great wonder of the world came to be. The geological and human history of this place is a wonder. In recent times, he told us, the UN have taken control of the site and the Bedouins have been given a new housing estate not far from the caves within the village they have lived in for hundreds of years up until recently.

The human history of this place is amazing. The ancient inhabitants were incredible carvers of stone and their best work was done on building tombs. These are elaborate to say the least, full of symbols and meanings. There are other carvings like camels and shrines and of course their own homes - though these were by no means as nearly as elaborate as the tombs after all a tomb would be home for eternity.

The Bedouins lead donkeys, camels and ride horses and drive
sulkies with tourists on board into the valley
 Meanwhile for most of us trekking into the gorge is either on foot or via horse and sulky. A few camels are also used to make the journey which took us over 2 hours with lots of stops along the way to the centre of the village. Today the temperature has been in the mid thirties and it certainly was good to take on water and keep in the shade as much as possible.

Nevertheless we are fascinated by the number of tombs and the grandeur of the carving which seems to increase until we at last reached the "Treasury" - a piece of sublime work of mammoth proportions the pictures hardly do justice to it.  This is in all 47 metres high and almost 30 metres wide.  (8 metres of the total height is below current ground level).

The Treasury
 There was however more the come - an ampitheatre that seats 4000 all carved out of the rock, lots more tombs to the Kings and tombs for ordinary citizens.

Some of us sat and contemplated this gigantic scene as we ate a meal purchased from the Bedouins, which they called "a lunch box".

We returned mid afternoon to our hotel  - some to sleep and some to swim before prayers at 6.30 with dinner to follow.

Thanks for your comments - please keep them rolling in.

Holy Land Tour Day 12

Israel back to Jordan

The children of Israel grumbled to Moses in this desert -
can hardly blame them!

Our last day in Israel was mostly spent in the morning on the bus with regular stopovers at Kibbutz or 'Chapel of the Restrooms' as they have become known on our way south to the border crossing.  Our driver Saaed is the first Christian we have had as either a guide or driver. He comes from a little town between Nazareth and Cana. He is proud to show us pictures on his phone of his beautiful wife, Rosanne, and their 7 month old daughter Leen.

Saaed our driver to the Border

By late morning we had arrived at the border crossing and back into Jordan. We said our heartfelt thanks to Gadi (our Israeli guide) and it was time for some sad goodbyes. The crossing took about an hour and was a bit ridiculous but eventually we would make the 100 metre or so walk across neutral territory to the Jordanian customs and passport centre.

Our Jordanian guide, James, is also a Christian but has lived in the USA and speaks fluent English, in fact he speaks at speed so is a little difficult to keep up with him. We boarded a smaller older bus that took us to a remote village where we boarded 3 x 4 wheel drive jeeps to make a rough, bumpy and sometimes scary 5 mile trip over red sand into the furthermost point of what is called Wadi Rum. The huge sandstone mountains tower on each side of this magnificent desert valley. Our guide gives us a very interesting talk on the development of language using symbols and carvings on the rock walls as his blackboard.

On our way out we stopped over at a Bedouin camp for glasses of tea and to buy souvenirs. The tea is great and it is fun watching the locals smoke their hubbly bubbly and chat away on their mobile phones. A camel driver passes by on his animal with laptop at the ready. Peter took a terrific photo of a camel standing alongside a speed hump sign - sorry we can't put it on this blog. By the way our camera has lost battery power hence the shortage of photos on this day's blog. (And incidentally one of our suitcases has lots its wheel - these things only ever happen when you are in the desert!)
By the time we reached our hotel in Petra it was dark and late and we were not able to take dinner until 8.45 pm. So it was straight off to bed after a big day and some rest before another big one tomorrow.

Border Crossing  - Israel to Jordan in the south of Israel

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 11

Pilgrims in the tomb of Lazarus at Bethany
Bethany, Qumran,
Masada, Dead Sea

After six exciting days in and around Jerusalem today we packed up early and headed south in a new bus with a new driver for a totally new experience.

Although Bethany is only 2 miles or so from Jerusalem it is a 20 minute bus trip in a round about way into and through Palestinian villages. The contrast between Jewish settlements and places like Bethany, which is Palestinian, is stark.

The home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus is now a Franciscan church and the tomb where Lazarus was laid and where Jesus wept is only a few metres up a lane. We visited both places and were particularly struck by the lovely modern Church with its realist style mosaics.

Back in the bus and we are off to the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Along the way we passed the Good Samaritan Hotel and the city of Jericho and the hill of Jesus' temptation. The landscape in this area is lunar-like. Hardly a blade of grass to be seen but with the occasional oasis - like Jericho.
One of the caves at the site of the discovery of the Dead
Sea Scrolls in 1954

The Qumran community was monastic style Jewish order around the time of Christ with about 200 members. John the Baptist is thought to have been one of them for 2 years. This community had some peculiar rituals mostly they were about being pure and transcribing the scriptures. Their precious scrolls were hidden in pottery urns in caves and discovered by pure chance by a Bedouin shepherd in 1954.

There is an extensive archeological site and despite blistering heat most of the pilgrims enjoyed a tour of the whole site and the audio visual presentation which preceded it.

Glenys and Di at Masada
Masada is probably the biggest surprise packet of the tour so far. This ancient fort of gigantic proportions sits on top of a huge mountain by the Dead Sea. It is a World Heritage Site, not because of its phenomenal Roman Architecture, many baths, cisterns, store houses, synagogue, Byzantine Chapel and last but not least the Palace of King Herod which terraces down three levels from the top of the mountain.

How they managed to build these extensive structures in Herod's time is amazing. We ascended the mountain in a matter of minutes by cable car (holding 80 people at once). But none of this makes it a World Heritage Site, it is the pristine Roman ruins of the temporary forts that surround Masada that qualify it for that status. Masada was eventually attacked by the Romans who built a ramp and used a catapult and fire and weapons of war to engage the locals however the thousand remaining Jews decided to take their own lives rather than fall into the hands of the Romans.

Shila and Ranji and others floated in the Dead Seal
Arriving at our magnificent hotel - Le Meridian - on the Dead Sea by mid afternoon with a temperature well into the 30s most of us were keen to strip off and give the healing waters of the Dead Sea a chance to do its thing.

There is no doubt this a weird experience the high level of salt makes it very easy to float but don't get the water in your eyes or your mouth because it really stings!

After our regular evening prayers we adjourned to the dining room for the best feast of the pilgrimage so far.. and that's saying something.

Keep those comments coming in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 10

Ray, Di, Marcia Judy and Helen and the rest of our
group gathered around the birthplace of Jesus

As the pilgrims made the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (about 20 minutes in traffic!) we sang Christmas Carols in preparation for our arriving at the birthplace of Jesus. The Church of the Holy Nativity Bethlehem had a queue (of course) but our Palestinian guide, Ramsi, said we were very lucky to be so near to the front of the queue from the start.

This ancient church is jointly run by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The Greeks here have the largest section and you enter the cave of Jesus' birth, which is located under the main sanctuary and to the side. The spot is marked with a silver star and a shrine (very Greek) marks the spot where he laid in the manger. At the time of our visit the church is almost  completely enclosed within with scaffolding. This is to do some preliminary photography on the roof which is leaking. The scaffolding will be removed in about a week and then the three churches will begin negotiating how and who pays for the restoration. The last restoration was done in the 15th Century and was sponsored by King Edward IV of England. The 21st Century Restoration should begin after Easter next year.

Modern fresco in the Church at Shepherds field
Just about 2 kms away from Manger Square is the church at Shepherds Field. The modern church that stands adjacent to the ruins of a Byzantine Monastery was donated by the people of Canada. The Church has terrific acoustics and the pilgrims tested these with some more Christmas carols.

From just outside this church you can look out over the small valley and see Jerusalem on the hill - just like on a Christmas card with the shepherds in the foreground!! 

We were then given an opportunity to buy souvenirs from Bethlehem which most seemed keen to do because this supports the minority Christians in Palestine.

On our return journey today we come up to the massive concrete wall that divides Palestinian territory (Bethlehem) from Israel. At the checkpoint before entering Jerusalem we had a serious looking Israeli soldier with his machine gun poised till the bus was ready to move on after passport checks. Graffiti on the massive concrete wall adjacent to the checkpoint on the Palestinian side read "to resist is to exist".

The Garden Tomb

Back in Jerusalem this afternoon after yet another lovely falafel we visited the Garden Tomb not far from our hotel. This is a little controversial because after all the 14th Station (tomb) is traditionally at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the old city. The Garden Tomb which is staffed by English people purports to be the place of Jesus' burial and resurrection. The case is very convincing although we don't think our Israeli guide is all that convinced. It has the great advantage of being situated in a beautiful garden where the pilgrims gathered in an outdoor chapel and celebrated the Holy Eucharist to end our pilgrim sites in and around Jerusalem.

Most pilgrims then headed for the Old City market to do last minute shopping.

Mass in the Garden - Ranji Lal (in the
background)  read the Gospel

Watercolour of St Georges' Cathedral -view
from our hotel. Painting by Ray

Thank you for your comments - please keep them rolling in.