September ’22 saw us taking a family trip to Somerset with my daughter, younger son and their families, so 6 adults, 2 young children and 5 dogs, quite an adventure!
The converted barn was very comfortable, with a large secure garden and a hot tub.
On our first day some of us decided to visit a beach, as the weather didnt look too great for the rest of the week. We chose Brean, as we’ve camped there a few times and love the expanse of beach.
The new puppy, Hugo, enjoyed running around with his doggy family.
Rainy days were spent relaxing, soaking, and playing board games.
Ian and I chose a day trip out to Glastonbury and Wells.
If you’ve never visited these, they are nearby twns, but very different in character.
Glastonbury is best known for the Tor, which has myths about its past, and the Festival, and the spritual theme continues into the town, with lots of supernatural themed shops and cafes.
There is also a large Abbey, mostly in ruins, in the town, which was a delight to wander around.
The whole city is very colourful and hippy.
Next we drove on to Wells, which in contrast is very upmarket and almost staid, and serious. The Cathedral was a pure delight, they dont charge entry, just suggest a donation, and dogs are allowed in, which is a first for us.
The building is exquisite and ornate.
As the weather was threatening rain we didn’t climb the steep hill to Glastonbury Tor, so on our return back to the Barn we stopped at Burrow Mump, a smaller hill to climb. I’m sure this ruin is very atmostpheric at night. you can just make out Glastonbury Tor in the far distance.
our only other trip out was the what I think is the best garden centre I have ever visited, Monkton Elm. I could have spent a fortune here, if only we had space in the car to get them home.
I did buy a banana plant in the reduced sales, I’ll try to keep you updated on its progress, and as Pete got one too, this is a competition. So far, about 6 weeks later, its had 3 new leaves, so is progressing well.
All in all, we had a great trip, time to spend with our grandchildren and children, and visit new places, and also a few more souvenir pencils for my collection.
Following on from Part 3, we travelled over to the Arenal volcano, the most active cone in Costa Rica and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The last major eruption was in 1968.
We stopped at a checkpoint hut, where we changed for a cycle ride, but the cloud was low, and rain was threatening, so we didn’t get any decent photos of the volcano, and after a wet ride, returned to the hut to get dry and changed.
Our stop this evening was in Sarapiqui region where they grow banana, pineapple and palms.
I realise I haven’t mentioned much about Costa Rica in general – it is very progressive in its Environmental policies, and hopes to become carbon neutral next year.
It doesn’t have an army, USA looks after its security, and has spent the money on education instead.
The lodge is next to the Sarapiqui river, and they feed the birds in the central lawn, so the afternoon was spent with out binoculars in hand.
a little bird that flew into the restaurant and landed on our guide’s shirt.
the bird table
Woodpeckers trying to take over
The lawn was home to dozens of tiny strawberry, or blue jean frogs, that chirruped constantly.
That evening there was an optional bat viewing trip, which we decided to miss, but when we strolled around the cabins, found our own bats in plain view, roosting under the roof of one of our huts.
The second day started with a jungle walk, where we saw lots of creepy crawlies, and birds of course. We stopped for lunch next to a pineapple plantation, and our guide cut fresh pineapples for us to eat – you’ve not tasted real pineapple until you have one that fresh.
That afternoon we had the best activity of the trip – a zip wire through the rain forest.
After a climb up through the forest, and then up ladders up the trees, we then travelled down a series of zip wires, ending with a long wire across the river.
I will drag you away from exotic travels for a quick trip to the Peak District, while its fresh in my mind. Having had a busy Christmas and start to New year 2020 with appointments etc, we decided to escape for a couple of days before my granddaughter arrives on the scene.
As the weather has been very wet, we opted to leave Connie campervan at home, and go Airbnb. After a busy day, we arrived in the dark, and settled in with an Indian takeaway. The cottage was very cosy, and quiet despite being on a busy junction, but had no garden or yard to let the dogs out.
The following morning was bright and sunny, so we set out to investigate the town, starting with the park.
Next to this splendid park is the Pavillion Gardens. Sadly, dogs couldn’t go in, but the shop was full of goodies, arts, crafts and food I would have loved to buy, but I restricted myself to a souvenir pencil.
and we continued through the park
and on up to town.
There are lots of elegant sandstone buildings, all very gentile and lovely, with interesting shops.
We found an arcade with bright stained glass roof and a little cafe up the steps that allowed dogs in.
Having warmed up with a Baileys Hot chocolate, we wandered round to the Crescent, which is a full semi-circle, unlike Baths’ Crescent, and is currently being converted into a spa hotel.
It should be very splendid when complete, Buxton is a spa town, as warm waters rise here.
After taking advantage of the bread and scones kindly left by the cottage owner, we set off to the Monsal trail for a walk. This is a 8.5 mile walking and riding track made from a railway that closed in 1968, and it is well surfaced and almost flat, so a good walk for soggy days.
We started at the Buxton end, where a pay and display car park starts the walk along the river, then up some steps to the viaduct above and the start of the trail. In summer there is a cafe and cycle hire shop near the start.
The Pulis enjoyed the chance to run around, and we saw a dipper and some mandarin ducks in the river.
There are several tunnels along the route, some short, others longer and lit during daylight hours, so check your time before you go in winter. This photo is a long exposure, and I’m not that steady, but it gives the idea.
Look away now if you are scared of heights, as the path goes over some impressive viaducts, crossing the river and road many times.
Millers Dale station has a cafe if you need a break along the way. We turned around not far after this, and retraced our path back to the start.
We had planned to dine out in Buxton that evening, but eventually decided to fetch fish and chips, a rare treat for us, and sit by the fire with a glass of wine.
Wednesday was leaving day, so up and packed. Ian wanted to visit the marvelous Scriveners bookstore just around the corner, and they allowed myself and the dogs to sit in a cosy chair while he browsed the 5 floors.
We then set off for The Roaches, a prominent rocky ridge above Tittesworth Reservoir. The weather was putting on a great show, with sunshine interspersed with cloud and mist and fog. On the way there I had to stop to catch the wide scene.
At first we thought this might be a waste of views due the fog dropping, but were relieved when it lifted.
There is a moderately steep climb up to the ridge, and it was muddy and rocky, which made some of it hard going, as we kept the dogs on lead for safety. But the views were awesome.
View down to Tittesworth reservoir
Along the top there are pools and views across the moors, as well as the rock structures.
The walk down involved a climb down steps carved into a sunken path between the cliff rocks. There were a couple of school parties enjoying the climb too, but from the size of the laybys, it must get very busy in summer.
There is a private house set against the cliffs near the bootm, and the path goes through old larch woods.
We finished our visit with a rest at Tittesworth reservoir visitor centre, where it was luckily warm enough to sit outside as dogs were not allowed in. We had a tasty bacon bap, and set off for home after a good break.
After a tranquil nights sleep, we were woken by the sounds of the jungle, and some cheeky white faced Capuchin monkeys crawling around the site.
Any food we took into our cabin had to be shut away in the lockable cupboard, as these monkeys happily climb in and raid the cabins.
Todays activity was a Nature walk, and boy, did we see nature!
The scarlet macaws are very noisy, but you wouldn’t believe how well they hide in trees.
After all that adventure, Ian decided to try the sloth way of life
And another sunset to end day 2 here
Day 3 activity was snorkeling on the reef, one of my favourite activities, but Ian is not a great swimmer, so was not as excited.
Off we set in a small boat to the island of Cano would could see from camp.
En-route, our guide spotted a sea snake swimming along – these are deadly, and can jump from the water, so after a quick look we moved on
A few other boats were visiting the reef, but it was very organised, and I was soon enjoying the sea life
Eventually I had to end this adventure and head back to the lodge.
This was our last night here, but we ended with a night nature walk – no photos, as it really was dark, but very interesting – we saw a tarantula hiding in a log, and narrowly avoided a venomous Fer-de-lance snake resting in a branch we crept under.
We left Corcavado Lodge by boat again, and picked up our van for the rest of the trip, plus the remainder of our luggage, as the small plane couldn’t take it all, they had arranged for some bags to be left behind.
First stop was at Canta De Ballenas Hotel, in Bahia, a short distance from the Marina Bellina National park.
I don’t seem to have many photos of this park – I think I might have forgotten to take the camera. The park is shaped like a whales tail, jutting out into the ocean.
This park has a split personallity – it has stupendous wildlife all through it, but it also hosts some of the worlds best beaches. In order to maintain the park, there is a limit on the number of people in the park at any time. Despite this, I felt some resentment to people there just to sunbathe, with no interest in the scenery or wildlife.
As soon as we walked into the park, we saw sloths, weird insects, tree frogs and spiders.
However, when we took a rest on the beach, the raccoons soon appeared, and more monkeys, all very cheeky and unafraid of the people.
You can see why the beach is so popular – Ian even had a swim – this is almost unheard of, but the water was bath temperature.
One animal we hoped to see in the park was the squirrel monkey, but none appeared. But at breakfast at our hotel Manuel Antonio the next morning, this pair turned up, sat on the kitchen roof, so we didn’t leave disappointed.
This is a throwback special. A friend has said they have booked flights to Costa Rica, and wanted to know if I had blogged my trip. This was before my blogging days, so lets do one now!
The trip was Ian and my main honeymoon, we got married the year before, but wanted to miss the rainy season, so chose February 2011 for our trip.
We had no idea where we wanted to go, and I didn’t know where Costa Rica was exactly, but this trip stood out in the travel brochures. It was also an activity trip, whereas we wanted to see the wildlife, but it turned out the best option.
Our holiday began with flights into San José, the capital, and an overnight stay at the Rosa Del Paseo Hotel on the main road through the city. It is a quaint Victorian building, within easy walking of the centre, and here we met the rest of our party and our tour guide.
The second day began with a flight from San José out to Palma Sur airport in a tiny plane, where they had to weigh us as well as our luggage, and they decided that our bags had to follow on the next plane out.
The flight was not going high, so was not pressurized – this meant it could have huge windows, giving us a great view of the scenery as we travelled.
Soon we reached a Palma Sur airport, and transferred to a coach, and then travelled down to the river Sierpe, where we were loaded onto a barge like boat, and set off towards the sea.
However, we had noticed that this boat had rather impressive outboard engines, and once out of the town, the gentle trip turned into a white water ride! Wheee.
After an hour we reached the sea, and then went down the coast to reach our next stay – the Danta Corcavoda Eco Lodge, on the Pacific Coast of the Corcadavo National Park.
There are few roads in the park, so boat is the best way to arrive, even if this meant paddling ashore from the dingy to the beach.
We carried our bags up the hill to find our lodge, a wooden building with mesh windows, and a balcony facing the ocean.
The view from our balcony.
We still had some daylight left so wandered down to the exquisite beach.
The beach was covered in tiny hermit crabs, making it appear as if the sand was alive.
Back to the lodges for dinner, and then time to relax on our balcony. My one ‘must see’ on this trip were Macaws, and on our first evening we saw several fly across the jungle between us and the sea – Wow.
Sunset across this peaceful corner of our planet – bliss.
Around this time last year, my oldest son announced that his wedding was going to be in New England in October 2019, so the family set about organising our trip.
First stop was New York. We had a good flight, as we booked early and got seats with heaps of leg room.
A minibus took us to near our Airbnb, where we dropped our bags at a Bagbnb – brilliant idea, saved us lugging them around until we could check in.
So, free from luggage, but a bit weary, we strolled over to Central Park.
feeding the squirrels
We fed the squirrels and saw American robins and Blue Jays, and stopped for Bagels.
Revived a little, we then headed back and checked into our apartment, before setting off for an evening wander.
Time Square and leftover pizza
We found a great Italian restaurant, Pasta Lovers, for great pasta, salad and pizza, and taking our leftovers, we paid a quick visit to see Times Square, which was along the same street to our Airbnb, then headed back for some rest.
The next morning we decided on a good American breakfast of pancakes, yummm.
Its healthy, it has fruit!
Some sights along our walks, I love the small old buildings huddled between huge skyscrapers.
We then caught the subway to the 911 memorial, where we were awed by the beautiful and touching memorial.
911 Memorial Plaza
so many names
World Trade Center
Rainbow in the waterfall
The white rose is placed in the name of a person on their birthday
A white rose is placed in the names of each person on their birthday
World Trade Center
World Trade Center
World Trade Center
World Trade Center
The entrance to the World Trade center.
This image would have reflected the twin towers, a very sobering thought.
The day was very warm, around 30°C, and muggy, so we decided to take the Staten Island ferry for some fresh air, while Pete and Jess visited the Museum.
So we walked down to Battery Park, and caught the ferry to Staten and back.
View of the Staten ferry Port
View of the Staten ferry Port
Looking back to NY
Looking back to NY
Statue of Liberty
Looking back to NY
Can’t miss a good yacht in front of Ellis Island in front of Ellis Il
and another yacht
Some great views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then just off the ferry, run round and back on for the return journey.
Back at Battery Park, we spotted some Monarch butterflies in the gardens.
After a cool beer, we set off back towards the 911 museum.
The museum is a startling timeline of events that day, something that our internet world allows in amazing detail now, but it is also very personal, showing glimpses of the lives affected that day.
After a sobering and thought invoking visit, we decided to take a short section of the High Line, an old raised rail line that was converted to walkway and garden after it had fallen into dis-repair, despite our feet hurting from all of our walking. A lovely patch of greenery above the city..
There were also sights and art work to be seen from this raised walkway.
Not sure I would like those balconies
We had booked tickets for the Rockerfeller Top of the Rock the previous day, so we caught the subway there for our sunset trip.
This is set at the top of the Comcast building, allowing you to walk around the top 2 stages of the roof. We did this trip rather than the Empire State building, as our tour book suggested it was quieter, less queues, and good views of Central Park. We were not disappointed, but some bad weather was closing in, removing the views as the sun set.
In the rain, we walked back to the apartment.
Thursday was forecast to rain all day, and with blisters on our feet, we decided to visit the American Museum of Natural History, catching the subway directly there. These mosaics are along the subway tunnel to the Museum entrance.
We found one of the most incredible beaches, almost deserted
With the weather forecast for Scotland looking warm and sunny, yes, that’s right, we decided to make our desired trip to Scotland in May, when the midges are not yet in their thousands.
So we sat down and planned a route, as since the North Coast Road has been turned into a must-do drive, the campsites can be busy.
After spending our first night at Lytham St Annes for a family visit, our next site was Hoddom castle a beautiful site near Lockerbie, set in the grounds of the castle, and with facilities inside the castle. It was special to take a shower inside a castle.
doorway at Repentance Tower
View from tower looking down at castle and site
bridge over the river
where the Salmon go
under the castle arch
view from the field behind
There are also lovely walks around, including up to Repentance Tower, and along the river. They also have cute pods if you don’t have your own accommodation.
After a lovely quiet night and a morning walk along the river we set off north, stopping briefly at Lochmaben Castle, very much a ruin, and most of it closed off due to crumbling masonry.
Rita getting delusions of grandeur
This part of the journey took us past Glasgow on mainly motorways, but there were still lovely sights to see.
Our next night was spent near Oban at a site set within a walled garden. You can walk down to the loch shore, but there is a Fish farm factory alongside. However from the back of the site there is the delightful balcadine walk through the woods, with fascinating iron railing down steps to an enchanting chasm.
Wrought iron gate looking through walls to site
sun dropping through the trees
the chasm pool
ooh, that looks a bit scarey
The shore near the site
tree growing in fence post
From here we stopped in Fort William, a fairly drab town, for some supplies, then detoured a little off our track to visit Fort Augustus and the bottom of Loch Ness.
While the town is small and mainly filled with tourists, it is charming and the locks on the canal are worth a walk up, and then walk down to Loch Ness. Of course, everywhere we go Reggie and Rita create a stir.
We set off on the A87, enjoying the mountains and lochs, and crossed the bridge to the Isle of Skye. However, we didn’t find Skye as enchanting or picturesque as other places, and our site, though lochside, was a bit bleak, but did provide a colourful sunset and a bright start to Thursday .
Our next stop was Applecross, the the faithful among you will travel the famous Bealach na Ba road, with hairpin bends and steep hills, but we decided Connie was a bit big for the road, so we took the alternate road up to Sheildaig.
En route we stopped by a loch for lunch, and I walked down with the Puli to the lochside, started taking photos, when 3 deer appeared and calmly walked towards us.
The road from here becomes single lane, but with plenty of passing places. The road is popular with not only campervans, but motorcyclists and flash cars, but was not too busy to enjoy the drive.
Shortly before arriving in Applecross, as we were early, we stopped at a small car park, and found one of the most incredible beaches, almost deserted, with a vast stretch of clean soft sand.
The pulis has a wonderful time, and we even caught a glimpse of a seal in the bay.
the perfect beach for hide and seek
Rita came for a paddle
shaking off after a paddle
The site at Applecross had been in a list of top 10 site on NC500, but as they were building a new shower block, the existing facilities were very poor, with insufficient showers, and the field we were on did not have much view. Hopefully this will improve later this year.
For dinner we walked down into Applecross and had a delicious meal at The Junction, where they allowed the dogs upstairs, and there was a great view across the shore to Skye.
As we had 2 nights here, on Friday we took the walk to Applecross walled garden and beyond, a lovely walk with forest, rivers, hills, and the sweet gardens where we also stopped for lunch and both had Haggis and Cheese melts – mmm.
On our way there we met 10 red deer, just standing by the public footpath that goes along the roadside. They didn’t care about Reggie barking at them, and just stood grazing and watching us pass within a few metres of them.
On Saturday, after revisiting the wonderful beach just up the road to gather more sand into the van, we swapped driver and set off towards Ullapool, passing many pretty fishing towns and lochs.
One pit-stop was to Inverewe Gardens, a lovely sub tropical garden, kept warm by the Gulf Stream. The azaleas were in bloom, and the lovely handkerchief tree.
Wrought iron gateway
Walk along the terraces
Office with a view to die for
Luckily, the weather had stayed warm and sunny, reaching 22 degrees some days, and not too many midges had found us.
Stay tuned for week 2, as we head further North and around the top of Scotland.