Costa Rica 2011 Part 1

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.

CIMG1949Our 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.

CIMG1950The 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.CIMG1953

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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.

P1030010However, 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.

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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.

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First sight of the lodges at Corcavado Lodge

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.

CIMG1969We carried our bags up the hill to find our lodge, a wooden building with mesh windows, and a balcony facing the ocean.

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The view from our balcony.

We still had some daylight left so wandered down to the exquisite beach.

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The beach was covered in tiny hermit crabs, making it appear as if the sand was alive.

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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.

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USA Part 4, Onwards to Boston, MA

So with the wedding celebrations over, we leave Sturbridge and head towards Boston.

As we couldn’t book another night at the lodges, we had arranged an Airbnb in Westborough, not too far from either end.

When I mentioned this to Jenn, she asked ‘Why?’.

We had told the host we thought we would arrive around 17:00, so she had got painters in. But we arrived earlier, so stopped in town for lunch. And as Ian put it ‘You can’t even watch the traffic lights change, as there aren’t any’.

But we had a pleasant pizza and lasagna, and then stopped at a nearby reservoir for a while.

 

Our Airbnb was a huge rambling old house, full of lovely furniture and decor. Our host, Geraldine was very welcoming, explaining she was going out for that night. Then she mentioned that there was a lodger who had been in the loft for 4.5 years. Oh, not up there all the time, he did come down sometimes!

After some card games to end Ian’s birthday, we all needed some sleep so had an early night.

As we only had the hire car until the afternoon, Kirsty requested we visit Boston Zoo, as zoos are a bit of a family hobby. When we arrived at the zoo there was a marathon being run though the zoo, but a policeman guided us the wrong way up a street and to some parking, and we set off into the zoo.

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a lego gorilla

The first animals we saw were red pandas, a favourite of us all, and they were very active, we we stayed here for a long time.

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Red Pandas

While this is a fairly small zoo, and some enclosures were rather mean, overall it was good, and we had a good visit. I won’t bore you with yet more animal photos, as I know I have posted a lot before.

One exhibit we got excited about was a kiwi, which Kelsey said must have got lost on it’s way to their wedding.

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With car return time looming, we got permission to enter our Boston Airbnb a bit early, so once the cleaners had left, we settled in and Jason returned the car.

We then walked along part of the greenway to Back Bay Fens before deciding we were hungry.

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Kirsty and Jason chose The Cheesecake Factory, and as reviews suggested it could be busy we headed there early.

We needn’t have worried, we were seated right away, and presented with a HUGE menu, including dozens of cheesecake options.

I decided to be sensible and leave lots of room for dessert, so chose a delectable small beetroot and avocado salad, but Jason opted for a chicken sandwich – there were two huge battered chicken breasts topped with a bun and chips, and Kirsty chose the burrito – about a foot long. Of course, I helped them out when they couldn’t finish their meals.

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Then to choose dessert! Go check out the menu

I had Key Lime, and we all decided they were heavenly, and were pleasantly surprised by the low cost of the meal, given the huge mouth-watering portions.

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So fully fed, we headed back to the apartment, which sadly only had comfortable seating for three, and our bed creaked every time we moved, and the second bed just had a futon mattress. For some odd reason it also only had 1 fork, and 3 knives?

On Monday Kirsty and Jason had a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery, while Ian and I decided to follow the Freedom Trail through Boston, a walk recommended by our guide book. The route is marked by red bricks along the pavements, and takes you to the prominent places in American Independence history.

We started in Boston Public Gardens, where a children’s fun run was taking place – this was Columbus day weekend, so a holiday.

 

It was a very interesting walk, with lots to see. We stopped in the Haymarket for a bagel for lunch, which we ate in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, then continued over the bridge to USS Constitution museum.

 

From here we caught the inner harbour ferry across to near the Aquarium.

and continued around the Harborwalk

until we reached the Tea Party Museum.

We then strolled back along the Greenway

and through China town. As Kirsty and Jason were not very hungry, we walked round to Frenchie restaurant, for a light meal, delectable mussels for me and a succulent beef bourguignon for Ian.

And so we reach our final day, but as our flight was early evening, we dropped our bags at a Bagbnb, and caught the ‘T’ railway to Macy’s, where we had to buy some beautiful clothes for my future granddaughter.

Ian and I then followed the South Side walk in our guide book, through the stately houses and elegant streets,

then back to the park to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue

We met Kirsty and Jason again, they pointed out that we had seen the fake Cheers bar, the real one was next to the park.

With a couple of hours left, we asked to visit the Mapparium, a huge stained glass globe created in 1935 of the world as it was then, that you can walk through. We were just in time for the next tour, and found it fascinating, noting changes in ‘ownership’ of the planet. Sadly, they don’t allow photos.

Oh, did I mention, we popped into The Cheesecake Factory again, well, it was scrumptious?

And so our time in Boston, and USA came to an end, picked up our bags and set off on the T to the airport, meeting Pete and Jess there.

Thank you to Andy and Kelsey for giving us a wonderful reason to visit, and choosing the best time of year, and to New England for putting on a grand show for us.

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Our favourite places were Wilmington (in Part 2) and Boston.

Can’t wait for our next adventure, see you soon.

USA Part 3, Portland to Sturbridge

and THE WEDDING !!

If you missed part 1 and 2, here they are : USA Trip Part 1, and Part 2.

You find us on day 8 of our trip, leaving the peace and tranquility of Toddy Pond, near Surry, and setting off down to Portland, retracing some of our step from 2 days ago.

This time we took pictures of the Penobscot Narrows bridge, and Fort Knox on Verona island as we passed by, plus a house with crazy stuff outside. I love the watering cans feature.

As we had to leave Portland early the next day, we hurried this trip to give us time in Portland.

Our Airbnb was a good walk out of town, but through a nice park. However, having arrived in town, we struggled to find anything of interest. After a lot of walking around, and finding a restaurant recommended by Kelsey, but finding they only offered sea food, and the men saying no thanks, we split up (not with the men!).

Ian and I stopped for an ice-cream, then wandered around the few posh shops we found, and saw a couple of old buildings.

We then decided to just find food, and go back to the apartment.

We dined in Rosie’s, and cut across the hill, a rather dull and uninspiring walk until we reached Back Cove Park. We realised later that Kirsty and Jason had dined, in the same seats even, as us, just before we arrived at Rosie’s.

That evening I googled what to do in Portland for a day, and most of the suggestions seemed to suggest drive out of Portland! Sorry Portland.

Even though we had to leave early, I insisted we stop at at least one lighthouse while on this coast, so Jason drove us over to Bug Light, a cute light lighthouse across the Fore River for a few photos.

Satisfied with that, we set off down the coast, and as I never obtained a pencil (did I mention I collect Souvenir Destination pencils?) or a patch for my camera bag from new Hampshire, we stopped off in Portsmouth, as it sits just below the border from Maine.

IMG_1355After a couple of circuits of the one-way system, we parked and wandered into town, finding more cute shops, and a patch, but no pencil. We had a delicious Maple Mocha coffee and set off again, and arrived early afternoon at Old Sturbridge Inn Lodges

The plan had been for me to join a hike with Kelsey and Co as part of her hen do, but the weather was turning wet, and our delays travelling and checking in to the Lodges meant I was too late. However Kelsey, Jen and Susan had a good hike despite the rain.

We got ourselves ready for the evening. The men were off to a relatives barn for Andy’s stag do, and we girls first went to Cedar Street Grille for food to sustain us.

Most of the ladies chose the Cedar Mac’n’Cheese and were not disappointed, while I opted for the Pumpkin and Squash Risotto with Scallops – this was definitely the best meal of my trip, delicious. It was also a great chance to finally meet the ladies in Kelsey’s family.

We then moved on to Rapscallion Brewery for beer, and fun and games, and a few tears when Jen played the video of messages and photos the ladies had sent in for the happy couple.

Being a sensible bunch, and as many of the party had driven out to the brewery, we all departed fairly early (and fairy sober), back to our residences.

I later found that the men were not so well behaved, and Andy (the groom-to-be) was so drunk, he had fallen over and cut his eyebrow, and was taken back to Richards where he was sick in his bed. Men! Luckily, the wedding make-up artist managed to cover his black eye for the wedding.

Thursday was a free day until the evening, so after breakfast at the Hotel ( a very poor affair with lots of single use plastic dishes/cups etc), we wandered around town to while away the morning.

Later on we visited Old Sturbridge Museum, a village of buildings rebuilt or recreated to show New England life in the past.

It is really pretty and lots to look at and do. The tavern here was the venue for the wedding reception tomorrow.

 

Pete and Jess arrived that afternoon, and a minibus came to take a crowd of us to the wedding rehearsal meal.

This was held at The Lost Towns micro brewery, they had named 2 beers after the bride and groom, and a mobile catering van provided a delicious spread for us.

We started with wonderful nibbles, then had pulled pork, and some beef, all very tasty. The bad news is that Ian swallowed a chunk of pork belly Burnt Ends that was too large, and it stuck, meaning he couldn’t eat or drink any more, but hoping it would clear itself we stayed to the end, and had a good chat to Kelsey’s relatives and friends

IMG_4419The minibus driver eventually dragged us out and took us back. Ian was still not right, but felt OK, and managed to get some sleep.

However the next morning (wedding day!), he was still unable to swallow, so Jason took us to the local hospital, where they gave him a couple of injections, and when that didn’t clear it, suggested we go to a larger hospital.

But we had come here for the wedding, and while in discomfort, he wasn’t in any danger, we chose to go to the wedding, and then find the hospital, so he discharged himself.

So again we got our glad rags on, and all glammed up, set off to Richard and Susan’s house, where the ceremony was to take place.

What a gorgeous house, set in lovely fall woodlands.

The wedding ceremony was wonderful, with charming readings, and Andy and Kelsey had appropriate vows, and their dog, Higgs, got lots of mentions, and was there in cardboard form if not in person dogson. Thank you to the official photographer for these shots, I’m sure Kelsey will post more in her blog.

Congratulations to the happy couple, and welcome to our family Kelsey ❤️.

And a huge thank you to Richard and Susan for helping arrange such a wonderful day, and their great hospitality.

With my son married, the rest of the guests headed back to Sturbridge for the reception, while we went to Baystate Hospital, where we were treated like royalty, due to our finery, and us missing the wedding party, and eventually the offending Burnt End was removed, and Ian was sorted. So we caught an Uber back, and managed to join the last hour of the party. I won’t embarrass everyone with the drunken photos.

To finish on a happy note, the next morning was a post wedding brunch, in the Garden Room at Sturbridge Museum, and Andy had arranged a cake for Ian’s 60th birthday.

 

DSC_4995My crazy family!

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It all turned out well in the end, so I will leave here, to pick up the end of our trip in Part 4.

 

USA Part 2, Vermont, New Hampshire

Following our hectic few days in New York, USA Trip Part 1, on Friday we picked up our hire car and set off for New England, while Pete and Jess picked up another and set off for Rhode Island to start their trip. We planned this part of the trip with the help of our trust Lonely Planet guide, and using Google maps to plot the track and work out mileage and time for each journey.

It didn’t take us long to reach the forests in their wonderful Autumn colours,

and we enjoyed a few hours travelling through the incredible scenery along Route 100 until we reached our Airbnb in Wilmington, VT.

The apartment is above Ratu’s Liquor Store, a wonderful store with every kind of liquor. Part of the rental was a free growler, which Kirsty grabbed as they had an alcohol free beer, but Jason acquired some cans too, and we bought more still. Well, its a long trip..

The apartment backs onto the Deerfield River, with lovely views.

As it was still early afternoon, we wandered into Wilmington for a nosey, and loved the town.

It is full of quirky little shops and eateries, and pretty buildings and river views.

Ian found himself the second hand bookshop, which extended out into a yurt, full of books, cd’s, even 8 track tapes, while I found the Norton House Quilting Store and the 1836 Country Store, both full of gorgeous stuff begging me to buy them.

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We dined in Jezebel’s Eatery, a lovely cosy restaurant, where we enjoyed some Mac’n’cheese, before retiring to test the beers.

Saturday morning, we first stopped at the aptly named ‘100 Mile View’, where a walkway along the side of the Hogsback Mountain provides distant views, looking their best at this time of year.

As you can see, the weather was endless blue skies all day.

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and a wonderful gift shop full of maple syrup, moose souvenirs, and anything else you should want to remember your trip here.

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Still full from last nights dinner, we bought picnic supplies and set off up route 100 on the look out for a lunch stop.

And found the best! The end of Lake Penelope, a picture postcard place to stop.

Next we called in at Killerton for supplies, and the gentleman in the Visitor Centre told us to take the road opposite for a couple of miles, where we would see snow and fall colours together. We stopped at Mad Hatter’s ice cream cabin, where we found great photo opportunities, and saw the snow at the top of the ski resort in the distance.

After many more beautiful miles, and interesting buildings

we arrived in New Hampshire, and reached our next destination, Bethlehem.

Our Airbnb here was a little out of town (or we were feeling lazy) so we drove into town looking for somewhere to eat, but it seems the whole of Bethlehem eats out at 18:00 on a Saturday, so we gave up and bought dinner from the supermarket.

It was only later we realised the irony of this, there was no room in the inn for my pregnant daughter, in Bethlehem! Only that story didn’t end with frozen pizza, beer and TV.

Sunday we set off for Surry, stopping at Walmart, Jason wanted to see if they had a gun store, just out of curiosity. They didn’t, so we just stocked up on food.

Miles and miles of scenery passed by.

The cog railway for Mt Washington.

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Then we called in at Belfast, a coastal town with some nice shops, for a leg stretch.

We found a great children’s shop where we bought baby stuff and a 2000 piece jigsaw just made for me!

We eventually reached our cabin, set right on the shore of Toddy Pond.

We had bought marshmallows, with the plan of lighting the fire pit, but by then it was getting cold and dreary, so instead we got the fire inside going, and cosied up in the blankets for a relaxing evening.

With showers forecast, we drove into Bar Harbor, a pretty harbour town, but now overrun with souvenir shops selling Bar Harbor t-shirts and hoodies.

I finally got my lobster roll!

The weather was drizzly so we decided to drive around Arcadia Park, rather than go for a walk, and then went back to the cabin for cards, food and TV.

Next morning was still and bright, after heavy rain all night, so more photos of this gorgeous spot. I thought I spotted a Loon, but it might have been a cormorant instead, but we did see chipmunks.

I will leave you as we set off down the Maine Coast to Portland, back soon..

Scotland NC500 and more, Week 2

We went into Dunbar the next morning, and I love the place

I trust you have read the first part of this blog Scotland NC500 and more, week 1, and you pick up our trip as we leave Inverewe gardens.

Our Saturday night was spent at Ullapool. where the site is right next to the town, on the shoreline. There is a walk down to the shore where the Puils had a great time running through the dunes.

The views from the site are spectacular, especially under the clear blue skies.

We ate fish and chips on the shore in the sunshine.

The road from here goes inland, and is more moors, but when you reach Loch Assynt you find Ardvreck Castle.

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Can there be a more typical ruin? And with a waterfall across the road for added interest.

The coast road then follows a B road around the next part, and rejoins the A road near Unapool. For the past few days we had been kept company by drivers following the ‘Knights of the Islands 2019’ road trip, with their vehicles all over 20 years old.

We met some on various site and view points.

Finally we reached the North Coast, and stayed at Sango Sands, again, right on the coast, with a walk down to the beach.

This had to be my favourite beach, with wild waves crashing on looming rock, and 2 crazy beasts dashing around like loons.

 

No wonder the van is full of sand! But I declared this our Happy Place and would happily have stayed all day/week.

After a morning bacon buttie, and another visit to the beach, we took the short trip to a nearby beach where enterprising souls had set up a Zip wire across the bay.

We had to have a go!

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Looking across the bay

It was a peaceful glide, enjoying the views across the bay.

Adrenaline fix over, we continued along the top of Scotland, with wilder scenery but still many great beaches.

Our site for the night was Thurso, but as we had made good time, we headed first for John O’Groats, a tacky touristy place with a quaint harbour, for ice cream, and Signpost selfies.

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Reggie at the signpost
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John O’Groats harbour

 

Then we continued to the real top of Scotland, to Duncansby head, with its lighthouse, and true end of the country feel.

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Duncansby Lighthouse
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Stacks

There were many people looking out for Dolphins and whales, but we didn’t see any. However, 2 Orca were spotted from the ferry here the very next day.

Thurso Bay site was yet another shore site, this time with steep cliffs down to the beach, and a short walk into town. We also found that the nearby Lidl was open on a Sunday evening, so restocked our cupboards.

From here, everything goes downhill, or South anyway.

The coastline down the east of Scotland Highlands is more about the fishing industry, with Herring harbours and fish farms.

One delight was Dunrobin Castle, this one is not a ruin, but a fairytale castle.

 

The road crosses some spectacular bridges, and the scenery changes constantly. However, drizzle was starting to arrive after a quick visit to Inverness.

Our next 2 nights were in Glenmore near Aviemore. I was expecting a small quiet site in the Forest, as this is run by Camping in the Forest, a joint venture between Forestry Commision and the Camping and Caravanning Club, but this was the largest site we visited,and we were close to a shop and bar. It was also raining, and our pitch was a puddle. The site was quiet and the staff very friendly and helpful.

To cheer us up, we spotted a red squirrel a few feet from the van, but he scuttered off before I could grab my camera.

Determined not to let this weather stop us, we cooked a hearty meal onboard Connie, and the next morning the rain stopped for long enough for us to walk around the Loch, and after lunch at the non-dog friendly visitor centre, we walked up to the green loch, An Lochan Uaine, despite the shower that turned into rain.

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A quick visit into Aviemore before we set off, and the weather brightened as we headed south.

We crossed the new Forth bridge, but panels along the bridge prevented any reasonable photos.

In bright warm sunlight we reached Dunbar. The site is high on hills past the town, with great views across. We quickly emptied the wet awning and dogs beds, towels etc. out onto the bank and with a stiff breeze, soon had everything dry again, while a skylark sang away just above our heads.

The site has its own small castleIMG_4007

and a walk from the back of the site takes you to the lighthouse.

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As the site was not in town, we went into Dunbar the next morning, and I love the place.

It has a great little castle, very cleverly upgraded with information and gardens, and a small amphitheater where they hold concerts, a working harbour, and other interesting shops and buildings.

 

Next stop was St Abbs, with the intention of another lighthouse visit, but we decided against the walk round, and just visited the harbour and shops instead.

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St Abbs church
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Gate with St Abbs head
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St Abbs harbour
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2 Puli waiting for us outside the visitor centre

Lunch at the cafe near the car park, and off on the road again.

We followed the coast road down past the wonderful Northumberland castle of Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Alnwick, and views across to the Farne Islands and Holy island. A leg stretch and run on Seahouses beach refreshed us all.

Our last night was at a small working farm site in Gibside, Rowlands Gill, with views across the green farmland, and horses and sheep in the nearby fields.

From there it was a walk on Seaham beach, where I had stiff competition for my sea glass collecting, but still managed a few very pretty  items. Ian said most people on the beach had their heads down.

Further research says this is one of the worlds best sea glass beaches, as a glass factory used to sit at the top of the cliff and multicoloured waste scraps were thrown away into the sea. I didn’t find any of these wonderful, prices, but I will return to this beach whenever I can.

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And then through the Yorkshire moors and home. Two happy sunwashed humans and 2 sandy happy tired Pulik, with loads of great memories and many photos.

One thing I failed to mention is that at almost every site and pit stop we heard cuckoos calling, and skylarks were everywhere.

But we must start planning our next trip with Connie already, once we have removed the sand from inside Connie and the dead flies from the windscreen.

Scotland NC500 and more, week 1

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.

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.

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.

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.

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The obligatory Loch Ness selfie

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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The pulis has a wonderful time, and we even caught a glimpse of a seal in the bay.

 

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.

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Showing how close people were passing the deer
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deer and more wild deer

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.

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.

 

Lighthouses and Windmills

We sailed in the North and South Ionian this October.

Despite a few days worrying about our Monarch flight out, when they went bust, Sailing Holidays soon sorted us a new flight, and we arrived in Nidri late on Sunday and were shown to our yacht, and then enjoyed a quick drink at the bar to get into holiday mood.

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On Monday morning, we had our boat briefing and set off for Sivota. winds were light so we stopped in a bay for break, and Mary-Ann and Colin, friends from previous flotillas met us for a quick chat.

That evening we enjoyed a meal with the rest of the flotilla crews.

We made the most of light winds the next morning, but as i needed my first swim we motored to One House Bay on Atoko island.

The sea was blue, and warmish, and lots of fish for me to enjoy

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Light winds took us to the nights port of Kioni, a pretty village we first visited in 2006.

Destination for Wednesday was Fiskardo, the setting for ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’.

It is a very pretty village, but maybe too popular with tourists. On the plus side, it had old Venetian lighthouse and other ruins in the hillside, and as we had to arrive early we had the chance for a walk around the hillside.

Next stop was Ay. Euphemia

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The next day was a free sailing day, and despite the distance, and our yacht having a very poor engine/prop, we decided to head for Kalamos.

George, the owner of the taverna at the end of the harbour, helps everyone moor, and can always find more space. Luckily it wasn’t busy and we also had time for a stroll around town, which is so steep the locals drive golf buggies.

The next morning, as winds were light again, we headed over the hill to see the windmills, and for a swim.

This lighthouse would make a wonderful holiday let.

While there is an air of decay about the place it still charms us.

We even found a project for Jason on the end of the pier

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After our stroll, we headed off for Little Vathi, but not before we were approached by ‘pirates’, OK, crew asking for our spare diesel for another yacht in our flot who had engine problems.

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Little Vathi was our last harbour in the South Ionian, so the next morning we set off under sail for the Lefkas canal

This canal separates Kefkas Island from the mainland and runs between swamps.

There is a boat bridge at the top end that only opens for 10 minutes each hour, but good timing meant our 2 flotillas all safely got through and headed on to Prevesa.

This town is off the tourist trail, but is now loved by locals who promenade along the seafront in the evening. We enjoyed a pleasant meal in the Mermaid and Crepes in the Tram Cafe.IMG_2379

That brings us to the end of week one, and the start of our North Ionian sailing – be back soon

Dolphin delights

And sailed gracefully out of the bay

Finally got around to adding the second part of our Sporades blog.

After un-tangling our anchor we set off for Planitis Bay, a secure bay set in the north end of Panagia Island, away from civilisation.

Once you reach the top of the island, you can see the secluded inlet, and we motored in and anchored in the bay.IMG_2488

It is a very quite and natural part of the island, the only downside is that the currents wash rubbish into the inlet, so the beach is littered with debris.

Nevetheless, the water was clear and I had a lovely swim in the bay.

As there is no taverna we dined on board, then say on deck into the evening to watch the stars as there were no steet lights to dim the view.

The next morning we had a fairly early departure as a thunder storm was forecast for that evening and we had a long sail to get back to a safer harbour, so we set off with a light breeze back down the north coast of Panagia and Alonissos Islands. The wind gave up fairly soon after departure so we motored on, thinking it would be a boring day, but we were proved very wrong.

We sighted a  pod of dolphins of our port bow, about 50 meters ahead, and were delighted when they started turning to join us, and we realised there were at least 20 dolphins including mother with babies. The sea was by now very flat, and we enjoyed half an hour watching them play in our bow wave, taking turns to stand at the bow. My video taken with my iphone turned out brilliant, here are some stills from it.

Eventually they left us to visit the rest of the flotilla behind us, and we motored on for a return visit to the Mama Mia Church – Church of Agios. This time the weather was in our favour.

Once we’d had our fill of this lovely church we noticed the wind had risen, and we set off around the north tip of Skopelos for a good sail. The wind got stronger as we progessed, so we reefed our sails and wizzed down the West coast at great speed (in a yacht this means about 7 mph).

Our stop for the night was Loutraki, a pretty village providing protection from the impending weather. Everyone (but me) wrapped up in waterprooks to walk to the taverna for the team meal, and we were entertained by the thunder and heavy downpour to accompany our delicious meal.

Luckily the rain stopped when the meal was over, so I didn’t get drenched.

Mondays trip was just a short hop down the coast, but as we were ready fairly early, and we’d seen dolphins in the bay before, we took the long route around Tsoungria Island, anchoring in the far bay for lunch and my best swim so far – lots of fish.

We sailed back over to Skopelos and rafted up in a beautiful bay of Panormos. The peace and solitude of this bay was broken by a loud crew on a nearby catamaran, and then into the evening by a taverna on the shore, but when we woke up all was quiet, so I slipped into the water for a quiet swim.

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Another long sail beckoned, so we set off under motor back to the mainland.

As I had enjoyed Koukounaris Bay on our first visit, we stopped off again for lunch and I had another wonderful swim. The beach was busier today as more holidaymakers had arrived, so we had an audience.

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Once we had lunched, the wind finally put in an appearance, and as soon as the anchor was up we hoisted the sails (not showing off at all, honest) and sailed gracefully out of the bay. Well, we have to provide them with photo opportunities.

A good sail took us to Kiriaki, a very pretty fishing town, not touched by tourism.

When we passed this harbour on our way out, we were intregued by masts aparently in midair on the shoreline. As we came into the bay we could see the Boat Building yard, with the boats up on metal ramps.

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As we had a smaller yacht, we were moored between the fishing boats at the far right end of the bay, along with Robin and David, which meant we had a pleasant walk through the village to the shops and tavernas.

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After a cocktail party on the largest yacht and dinner in the fish taverna, we had a quiet night in our corner of the harbour, while the sea rocked the boats in the main quay overnight.

Next morning, Mary Ann, Colin, Robin and David and ourselves decided to walk up the (steep) hill to the village of Trikeri. There is a lovely cobbled path up the hill, through flower filled countryside, with views down into the bay, and lots of butterflies enjoying the valerian.P1070531.JPG

The village at the top was charming, and provided us with a shady bar to enjoy a Frappe and Ice cream, and some group shots before working our way back down.

The lead crew had left Jake and his rib in the bay to ensure we didn’t have crossed anchors, as the fishing boat area had lazy lines galore. Lucky they did, as Robin and David required his assistance. But when he came to join us, the cord on his motor broke, so we took him onboard to taxi him to Trikeri Village round the headland.

As there was good wind, we then went out and sailed around Palio Trikeri, capturing some good shots of fellow flotilla.

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Thats a good angle!

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On our last day we motored back to Orei, and enjoyed the last team meal and award presentations.

I’d like to give a big Thank You to our Sailing Holidays lead Crew, Jake, Becky and Tom, who helped us have a wonderful holiday – we will be back (next 2 flots already booked).

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Sporades Sailing

There is a delightful walk up the hill in the old town

We travel further afield for my next blog – a 2 week flotilla sail around the Greece Sporades.

Late on Friday evening we arrived at our Beneteau 331 yacht to join the flotilla of 10 boats , 30 crew and lead boat Athina and her crew of Jake, Tom and Becky, in Orei harbour. After our first night onboard, we woke to a beautiful morning, and the first trip was from Orei to Ahilio. We managed a good 2.5 hours of sailing, and after the customary Ouzo and lemon, or beer, met for a team meal, and were blessed with a stunning sunset.

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After a swim in the harbour, our trip the next day would take us from the mainland over to Skiathos island, and the perfect Koukounaries beach. This beach is rightly classed as one the top beaches in Greece.

En-route we spied our first dolphins, but they didn’t come close.

The flotilla anchored in the bay, and the turquoise waters tempted me in for swim. The sand is white and water crystal clear.

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The bay is home to 3 swans, 2 white and one black, who visited each yacht in turn.

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Many of the crew decided to row ashore and dine in the village, but we stayed aboard and made a salad – Greek of course, and then sat on the deck watching the stars.

The next leg takes us across to Skopelos Island, and a new harbour of Nea Klima. As the trip was short, and we were eager for more sailing, we went to long way around the North of  Skiathos Island, but as we approached Skopelos the wind died, and we started motoring along, until we spied several dolphins. We slowed our motor and gently followed a pod of around 12 or more dolphins, who, while not coming to play around the boat, were happy to stay close by and put on a great show for us. Eventually we alerted the flotilla, and Tom from the lead crew zoomed out in his rib, only for the pod to disappear, but luckily, just after we decided they had gone, they returned and amused us for a while longer. I missed a great shot when Tom created a large bow wave, and 4 dolphins surfed it right next to his rib. After an hours bliss we motored into Neo Klima, a pretty and quiet village.

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I ventured for a swim in the harbour despite a few jellyfish.

We were entertained the following morning by this gentleman fixing his boat – first he used his main halyard to raise his ladder, then proceeded to fix something at the top of his mast – where are Health and Safety when you need them?

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This cute boat sat next to the quay. It looks like a boat a child would draw.P1070473

The weather forecast for Tuesday was for strong winds, and due to issues with our mainsail, we motored around the top of Skopelos to the town of the same name. On our way we passed the church where Mamma Mia was filmed, but dull weather and high waves meant photos were not good, so we hastened into the safety of the town quay, where were remained for 3 nights.

The sea wall was large and constructed of huge rock, then a wide concrete pier where cars could drive, and our yachts safely tucked behind, but the winds were able to send waves crashing over and reach the deck.

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There is a delightful walk up the hill in the old town, with incredible views down over the bay, if you could catch your breath from the wind.

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Luckily Skopelos had quaint shops and many tavernas to entertain us during our enforced stay. The lead crew organised a quiz one afternoon, and helped by Mick and Tash from yacht Eirini, our team won the prize of a bottle of gin.

At last the winds died and we travelled on to Steni Vala, on the South of Alenissos island.

This finally felt like real Greece, no tourists, and not many other yachts in the small fishing quay.

I had a great swim, and we had a team meal in the sea front taverna.

 

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Lets have a closer look:

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Hm, not sure the red fishing boat is one of us. Our yacht, Aristi is to the right, with the England flag, and I’m offering a prize if you can identify our second flag.

We had a pleasant stroll up the hills surrounding the bay and watched large ants, and lizards basking in the sun.

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As this marked the end of our first week, I shall leave here, back soon.

Stairs, Stiles and Steps

A trip closer to home, but still over the sea

A trip closer to home this time, but still over the sea –  a few days with the dogs in Anglesey. We started with a winding route across the A55 along the north of Wales.

First stop was Talacre – the lighthouse on the end of the Dee Estuary, set in a large sandy beach. As this was April, not many visitors were around.

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Reggie loved dashing around the sand, and Tez managed to find the muddly puddles by the lighthouse.

As this was only a pit-stop, and most of Talacre was shut (including the loos) we grabbed a quick drink and carried on our way.

Next stop was Llandudno – Kirsty and Jason had stopped there a few days earlier and suggested we call in. First we parked in a Multi-storey car-park and had to travel down 3 flight of stairs with Metal treads – Reggie did not enjoy this, and had to run down them all, dragging me behind.

We wandered down the prom, and tried to get the beasts to sit and have their photo taken, with limited success.

Next we drove through Conwy, and found out why they use Open topped buses :

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I’m not sure a normal bus would fit.

Eventually we crossed the Menai Straits and reached Anglesey, and as time was getting on, we went direct to our cottage.

We were staying in a renovated Gamekeepers cottage amidst the woods on the 500 acre Carreglwyd estate.

We unloaded the car and went to investigate the cottage. It was an upside down cottage, with a steep open flight of stairs up to the lounge, and we soon found that neither Tez or Reggie were willing to climb them.

As our plan for the week was to walk to beaches and pubs, we set off up a footpath towards Church Bay, but our plan failed, after passing through a field of very new born lambs (I daren’t try to use my camera), we came to a stile made of large rocks imbedded in a stone wall, and for the third time that day found that the dogs were on vertical strike, and so were we when we saw the huge puddle the other side, so we retraced our track and started out the main drive towards a pub, but once we reached the village, and had a decent phone signal, we checked opening time, and found it was shut until Thursday, so back to the cottage for salad.

I did get a lovely shot of the view from the drive on our return, looking across to Holy island and Holyhead.

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The next day, after being woken by the local pheasants, we started with a drive down to Church Bay, which was deserted, so Reggie had a good run around while Tez pootled about

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We walked a short way along the coast path before finding our way blocked by several young cows, who wanted to check out the dogs, but not before, we found these wonderful kissing gates, and this private staircase down to the beach.

The breeze was cool, so we got back to the car and drove north up the Island, looking for a warm drink, as again, the beach café was shut.

A sign to a Jam Factory offering Cream teas caught our eye, and a wonderful quirky place we found. Following storms that removed most of their slate roofs, they had only just started production and opened their café, which appeared to be the farmhouse lounge, but the owners collections, and a lovely cream tea in front of the fire did the trick.

We also bought some jam to take home.

Next stop was Cemaes, which turned out to be a lovely coastal village, with quaint shops and a lovely harbour.

Do you think that chain is big enough to hold the boat?

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It was getting a bit gloomy, but I couldn’t resist the pastel cottages.

We had lunch and travelled on to Moelfre, with a stream falling thought the middle of the village

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Another walk on a beach and my sea-glass collection was improving

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We walked round to the RNLI station and looked around the lifeboat

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This is for you, Kelsey and Andy – it’s called Kiwi

Last town of the day was Beaumaris, a delightful town with castle and posh shops

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And back to the cottage, with this lovely view over a walled garden

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and the gate through the wall

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As part of every sea-side holiday is fish and chips, Ian kindly drove back to Cemaes to buy dinner – yum.

Day 3, we started with a beach just south of the cottage, again, all to ourselves.

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and then crossed over to Holy Island, and visited the South Stack lighthouse, but as the steps were steep, and the dogs on strike, we left them in the car.

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and this tower is the RSPB observatory, rather grand.

Our last trek for the day was a longer walk around the south coast of Holy Island to Silver Sands Bay. The car park was accessed via a zig zag narrow road, with several right angle bends – a bit scarey, but luckily nothing came the other way.

Starting in the bay, we walked the Coastal path over the headlands.

The full path does a figure of eight around the car-park, but Tez declared she had done enough walking after the first section, and she’s an old lady, we agreed

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After another busy day, we ventured to the local pub as it was now Thursday and open, and it proved well worth the wait. The Black Bull was very friendly, allowing dogs in, and the food was delicious.

We started our last day back down on Church Bay, but the tide was further in, so less room to run, but we still got Reggie out of breathe. Ian then started skimming stones, and Tez decided she’s try to catch them resulting in a wet dog in the car going home!

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Again, on Kirsty’s suggestion, we travelled back via Betwy-y-Coed, and then on to Llangollen, which we realised, despite having travelled past many times, we had never stopped in. We found a park next to the river to enjoy our sandwiches, and sadly left Wales behind for now.

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