Keith Southwell and Julia Roth

 

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Buddhist temple on island of Putuoshan

News from the Old Cottage 2001

    The highlight of the year was our seven week trip to China from August to October.  “Why go to China?”, you may ask!  I think one of the main reasons is still the sense of adventure.  We spent quite a lot of the time in places where there were few if any other westerners, and few people spoke English.  We had lots of opportunities to practise our Chinese and were the object of much curiosity!  

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Market tower in Ming dynasty town of Pingyao

We flew to Hong Kong, then to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, from where we took a 5-day bus trip to Jiuzhaigou, a mountainous area of dramatic scenery in the north of Sichuan.  From there we proceeded by train and bus, via Taiyuan in Shanxi to Pingyao, a beautifully-preserved Ming dynasty town.  We then moved on by train to Beijing, where we visited some of the places we missed last time, including the Qing dynasty imperial tombs, in Hebei, north east of Beijing.  From Beijing, we continued back south again by train via Xuzhou to Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius – a fascinating insight into Chinese history.  We then continued to Nanjing, an extremely pleasant city, and to Suzhou, famed for its gardens, but also becoming China’s answer to Silicon Valley.  En route, we visited a couple of other picturesque smaller towns.  We then spent a few days on the island of Putuoshan, which doubles as a Buddhist centre and a holiday resort, before returning to Shanghai, where we met the families of some Chinese friends in England, and visited their house. 

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Jiuzhaigou in northern Sichuan
In all, an incredibly varied 7 weeks – apart from the picturesque and the historical, one of our strongest impressions was of the extremely impressive speed of change and development, particularly in Beijing and the south-east.

Prior to going to China, we spent 2 weeks  in June sailing in the south Ionian sea, starting on Levkas and working our way down via Cephalonia and Ithaca to Zakinthos and back.  A very enjoyable and varied trip with nights spent both in town harbours and in deserted bays.  This was the first time that we had been sailing for 2 weeks completely independently, as opposed to with a flotilla.  As preparation for this trip, Keith spent a week brushing up his sailing skills around the coast of Pembrokeshire.   

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Modern centre of Suzhou (note Pizza Hut!)

Idyllic overnight anchorage in southern Ionian
In the coming year, we don’t have any major trips planned, although we are mugging up on our Spanish in preparation for a yet-to-be scheduled trip to South America.  We’re already finding that our limited grasp of the Chinese language is fading fast – a great pity, given the time we invested in learning it, but keeping it going would be a major undertaking.  We shall be spending a week in June walking in Italy with some friends, and shall probably go sailing in the late summer, maybe back to Croatia.  We might even find time to see a bit of Britain!

We continue to make many trips to the Wigmore Hall, plus the occasional foray to theatres and to ENO, and even south of the river to the South Bank.  Julia is continuing to devote much energy to her piano playing – both classical and jazz – Brahms in the mornings and “Smoke gets in your eyes” in the afternoons!  Roth Southwell Consulting continues to prosper with interesting work and congenial clients.

 

Keith Southwell  keith@rothsouthwell.co.uk

Julia Roth  julia@rothsouthwell.co.uk