N navigates North Shields, Nguiu and Nuremberg

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today’s places are scattered far and wide.

N is for North Shields (Northumberland)

North Shields is all about the sea, then and now. © P Cass 2010

North Shields lies between Tynemouth and Newcastle on Tyne in Northumberland. In its heyday there were busy shipyards with all the associated workers. Among the workers and residents of the nearby poorer areas, were my ancestors, the Gillespie/Gilhespy families, including my 2x great grandmother Margaret Gillespie. In the course of my research I’d read a number of references, and thought I had a pretty good idea of the layout of the town before I got there. Even so I was surprised to see how much the maps and Google Earth had helped me to understand the place. We were also impressed to see a huge slab-sided freighter come into the harbour: like a massive big box on the sea.

The wooden dolly is a feature of North Shields. © P Cass 2010

North Shields reminded me a little of Leith when I first saw it. Very much rooted in its working docks history, with hints of upcoming gentrification. Online searching had indicated that there were some very flash apartments near the river at North Shields. I’d say the Global Financial Crisis put paid to that idea for some time, as the construction site was a wasteland of inactivity. Empty shopfronts sit cheek by jowl with burgeoning quality restaurants. It will be interesting to see how it all evolves in coming years.

I enjoyed doing a tour of the area looking at their well-placed and informative historical signage. Because it covered a fair distance it became a driving tour, and the rain was driving as well. I managed to see most of what I’d hoped to, before I became soaked to the skin and had to call it quits…it was November, and cold!

N is for Nguiu (Northern Territory, Australia)

Nguiu waterfront, Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory. © P Cass 2002

Nguiu is an Aboriginal community on the Tiwi Islands and was my daughter’s first teaching posting. The Tiwi people have a rich cultural heritage and their art work, carvings and fabrics are popular collectors’ items. There are all sorts of wonderful places to visit but you require a permit to go on the island (except on Grand Final day), so you need to take a tour or have family/friends on the island. The Tiwis were our first real exposure to Indigenous Australians in their own environment and we learnt so much from our daughter’s stay there. Not much use to my distant overseas readers, but maybe some of my Aussie geneabloggers will add a visit to the Tiwi Islands to their touring wish-list.

N is for Nuremberg (Bavaria, Germany)

The Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt: a sea of striped awnings. © P Cass 1992

For a certain age bracket of readers, Nuremberg will evoke memories of the post World War II Nazi crimes tribunal, as it did for me. Putting that aside what you’ll find is a Bavarian city rich in culture.

If you visit at Christmas, as we did, your focus will be on the city’s fantastic Christmas markets. It provides a sensory overload of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch combined. Stalls bristle with bratwurst on crispy white rolls with mustard, drunk with mulled wine to combat the chill, and decorated gingerbread for a sweet-treat or roasted chestnuts grilled over braziers.

Gorgeous horses and carriage tour Nuremberg © P Cass 1992.

Through the darkness the twinkle lights overhead mix with the coloured lights in the stalls to bring happiness and atmosphere. Stalls sell glittering Christmas decorations of all descriptions, large and small, inexpensive and pricey. A lovely nativity scene sits in sight of the ancient church in a square flanked by buildings. Beautifully groomed horses with golden manes clop by pulling old carriages for anyone who wants a sight-seeing ride. Lucky tourists may see the area dusted with snow. Truly magical!

And for anyone who is interested I’ve added Murphys Creek to my “M is for” list. I don’t know how I omitted it, given its significance to my family history.

In the A to Z challenge you might like to look at:

Coffee Lovin’ Mom on Galway

Family History Fun has a great “M is for…” post on Scottish sources.

Advent calendar of memories 2011: 5th December – Outdoor decorations

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers is encouraging us to celebrate the 2011 Christmas season with a series of posts called the Advent Calendar of Memories. This is today’s entry.

Did people in your neighbourhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?

Christmas lanterns from a children's street parade in Nuremberg 1992.

I don’t recall anyone much having outdoor decorations, other than wreaths, when I was a child but perhaps I mis-remember. At any rate houses decorated with lights were not on my radar at the time. A Christmas wreath on the door was the likeliest outdoor decorations.

Lights really come into their own when it’s dark and gloomy northern hemisphere weather –they add a happy glow to the surroundings. When it’s light until at least 7, and later in the southern states, they’re more a treat than a necessity. In recent years, decorating houses with lights of varying complexity has become much more common and people take bus tours or do drive-bys to see the wonders of the lights. It’s a lovely tradition.

At our house we set our outdoor lights so they’re on each night and hang out a home-made wreath on our door, which luckily is under cover. With tropical downpours there’s a limit to how much outdoor decorating you can do at this time of the year.

Having just watched a cable TV show on Australia’s Christmas lights-spectaculars in streets around the country, I’m thinking that I’m the one out of kilter. I’d love to include some images of lights but haven’t found any Aussie ones yet among my collection, so will have to add an overseas one until I do.