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Whewww. 1 week till I arrive in Porto at the beginning of my Camino 2017 : 7 days : 168 hours : 10,080 minutes 😂😂😂 and just 10 days till I start walking the Portuguese Coastal Route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. In fact by this time next week I will have landed in Porto…all being well.

inspirational quotes

Sometimes we have to stop being scared and just go for it. either is will work or it won’t. that’s life!

I can’t express just how excited and trepidatious I am feeling. My mind is swirling with thoughts like; have I got this, do I have that, what if I lose my meds, should I carry this or that or the next thing, will I have enough money? Will my shoes be suitable? Have I enough clothes? Do I have the right clothes? Do I have enough time? Can I find my way?

Blah blah blah and horrors…. what if I find I can’t walk 25kms+ for 11 days in a row!!! With a 7.5kg backpack on my shoulders. 😦 😦 😦 I’m under no illusions as to how heavy it can get after walking for 6-8 hours per day….even though I only walked for 3 days each journey last month. Southwark to Canterbury ‘in the footsteps of Chaucer‘ and Ramsgate to Canterbury ‘The Way of St Augustine‘.

So yes, all the fears, all the uncertainties and all the excitement of the experiences I’ll have, the issues I’ll face, the challenges ahead, the places and wondrous things I’m going to see are whirling like dervishes about inside; my mind is in turmoil as the date for lift off approaches and all I want to do is go home right now and I bloody can’t because I’m working 😢😢😢 I’m not sure if I should cry, scream or laugh… I’m trying to focus on the latter.

So OMG 7 days. This all seemed like such a brilliant idea 18 months ago. 7 years ago it seemed like even a better idea!!!! LOL urgh. I love travelling. I love going to new places. I love exploring. So why am I so conflicted about this trip? I’ve trained and trained and trained some more. The #walk1000miles challenge has been brilliant for encouragement!

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂 – heading now towards 1000 miles

I’ve done dozens of practice walks, climbed hills and down dales, through fields and along rivers. I’ve practised with the poles…still can’t quite love them, but they are useful. Got proper shoes and breaking them in. Tested 4 different types of socks (found the best ones) and learned that it’s never a good idea to walk in wet socks 😕😕

packing for the camino de santiago

By the time I get back from my Camino, I will have walked 1000 miles..however these are not the socks I’ll be wearing. But those are the poles I’ll be taking.

I’ve experimented with the backpack… Which I think is really the crux of the matter. It’s bloody murder carrying that thing. Sigh. Oh well.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

I’ve researched and read dozens of sites and packing lists…what should I take? What will I need? Is this useful? Do I have the right shoes? Will I need a rain-jacket? I have to keep reminding myself I’m going to Portugal and Spain, not outer Mongolia!! I’ve already ditched 1.5kgs of stuff…..I guess my intentions to minimalize my life before I buy my motorhome are being put to the test. This is a good start.4 camino packingBesides all that, after my phone crashed in July, I’m a little fearful for it happening again, so I bought a 2nd phone as back-up (like I need the extra expense) and for the last few days I’ve been transposing all the VIP information from the Camino spreadsheet to my phone calendars and into a small notebook that I’m carrying in case my phone gets lost or I can’t get wi-fi – I’m an old fashioned gal, I still like paper and pen 😉

I took this image in March while on holiday in Torquay with my beloved daughter and it seems perfectly apt right now; I’m a ‘wreck’ 😂😂😂

camino de santiago porto to santiago

7 days to the start of my Camino 2017 – Porto to Santiago

I read a lovely quote in the notebook “The beginning is always today!” Mary Shelley. I guess that yes, today is certainly that; the beginning; of my countdown to Porto…this shit is getting serious now. I can’t understand why I’m so conflicted though. I think the seeds of my fear were sown back in 2016 when I stumbled upon a blog written as a memorial to all the people who have died on the Camino routes in the last 10 years or so. Prior to that, it had never entered my head that people actually died!!! while on Camino. I was horrified. I think that knowledge may have played a part in my cancelling the trip I was going to make in September last year. Since then my daughter has become engaged and due to be married in May 2018. ❤

Although I try to not think of it, I am fearful that I too may die while on Camino. It’s not like I’m ill or anything, but some folks were healthy enough when they started and had a heart-attack enroute, some were knocked over by traffic and one lady Denise Theim was murdered. Now as I say, although I’m not focusing on death, the niggling is there in my mind. I would hate to let my daughter down…I’m meant to be walking her down the aisle when she gets married and it would be heart-breaking if I wasn’t there for her special special day. I’ve asked her to promise me that she’ll ask her father to walk her down the aisle in the event I’m not there…but meanwhile I’m visualising me escorting her….actually I can’t wait for the day, she looks absolutely gorgeous in her dress 🙂

So back to the Camino. One thing that has been really good is reading other people’s blogs and facebook updates on the various pages I’m following. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my fears. So many women and men have posted at how fearful they feel in the days preceding their start, how nervous…many with exactly the same fears I have.

camino de santiago porto to santiago

Inspirational quotes

A couple of days ago I got a sudden burst of excitement and wanted to just go already…now! I posted this on instagram: “14 days to go and I’ll be on my Camino. I had a few options for this number but I quite liked the story in this. The unicorn reflects my dream to walk the Camino, now just about to come true, and the words ‘seeds’ reflects that I’ll be sowing new seeds (experiences) in the garden of my life.

my camino 2017 porto to santiago

sowing the seeds of my adventures

I wonder what will grow from this journey? New friends? New feelings? New emotions? New thoughts? New perceptions? I suspect it will be all the above. I do know for sure that new adventures await, new photos (of course), new places to be seen and new challenges await… My feet hurt just thinking about that! 😂😂😂 I hope you don’t mind that I’ll be posting my #countdown from now till I go. I’ve suddenly gone from trepidation to excitement and now I just want to GO ALREADY. In fact it brings tears to my eyes… OMG what an adventure. Although I’m sure that within 3 days I’ll be saying OMG I must be mad!!! What am I doing!!????”

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes

And yes, just 4 days later, that euphoric emotion has passed and I’m back to wavering between fear and excitement.

I love travelling. I’ve travelled all over the world entirely on my own. I have stumbled through the language barriers. I have enjoyed meeting people. I have loved being solo…..but for some reason, this trip feels different. I guess it’s probably because I’ll be moving constantly for 11 days; walking between 18.5 – 32 kms at different stages staying at a different hotel/hostel/alburgue each night bar 3. 184.2 kms is an awful lot more than 66.91 over 5 days and 109.01 split over 3 days – 2 weeks apart!!

I’ve planned and replanned my route, changed the distances between stages, reduced some days and increased others. Cut out two days of travelling and reduced the distance from 235kms to 184kms.

Somehow this looks awfully far…..

 

 

 

I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for ever such a long time and Porto has been my top destination. In Spain it’s Barcelona which I’ll be travelling to after my journey to Santiago. I’m so excited to be seeing those places….and yet the 11 days between Porto and Santiago are looming large in my head. I’ll also be adding to Project 101; 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Porto Historic Centre, Coimbra and Santiago. I’ll be visiting a number of cathedrals….I’ll count them once I’ve been, a few walled cities, and crossing a few rivers, and ancient bridges. And besides that…..I’ve no doubt that I’ll be visiting a LOT of churches 🙂

All that remains now are for the days to march on by and soon I shall be on ‘my way’. Porto to Santiago de Compostela along the Portuguese Coastal Route….

camino 2017

Camino de Santiago

Buen Camino….

Porto to Santiago de Compostela - my pilgrim's passport and the scallop shells

Porto to Santiago de Compostela – my pilgrim’s passport and the scallop shells

Other blogs I’ve written about the impending Camino

Camino 2016, my way

My Camino the journey so far

My Camino 2017

On the road and what to pack #Camino2017

Pilgrimage – the road to Santiago

The Spirit of the Camino

Walking the Camino and lessons learned

Harrassment on the Camino

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Today, just a month ago, I landed in Pisa, Italy on the first stage of my #Florence2017 trip! Ever since my visit to Venice in 2004 I dreamed of visiting Florence. I’d seen photos of the red roofs, the dome of the cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio….it all looked absolutely marvellous. But the years came and went and so I dreamed on.

I love to travel to new places for my birthday which falls in spring in the northern hemisphere, and since coming to live in the UK I have had the good fortune to be able to visit some amazing places; many on my South African wish list, never dreaming that I may actually get there one day.

finding firenze

Ponte Vecchio Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence, Italy. Street Art Firenze – the city’s Coat of Arms Torre San Niccolò

Although Florence wasn’t as high on the list back in South Africa as what Venice had been, overshadowed by places like Antarctica, Austria, Switzerland and Japan, it was on the list. Now I’ve been to Florence and the other 4 are still on the list!! LOL

So when the time came to decide where to go this year, I put my travel cap on and tried to make up my mind; where to go? Originally I had planned on walking the English Way of the Camino de Santiago, especially since I had not fulfilled that plan in 2016! However, once again as the time drew nearer to make a decision I postponed…..just not yet. The Camino will let me be ready when I am ready. So instead, suddenly inspired by a photo I saw on instagram, my desire was kindled and the flame burned bright; to Florence I would go! The time was right.

The amazing medieval city of Florence, Italy

The amazing medieval city of Florence, Italy copyright @notjustagranny

Before my mind or budget had time to reconsider I looked at some dates, did some research on prices/times/locations etc then booked my ticket. I was on my way to Florence! Whew, my excitement levels knew no bounds! My main ambition was to see Ponte Vecchio, that evocative bridge I had seen in so many photos on instagram and in travel magazines….and therein lies a story of it’s own…more later!

But first it was time to do some research; ‘things to see and do in Florence’. The list grew and grew, and as I researched things to do in Florence other places popped up; Siena, Lucca, and San Gimignano…now that was one place I had wanted to visit. Now I could.

As is usual when I go to Europe for my birthday, I planned on staying in Italy for a minimum of 10 days. So as to make the most of the time I planned 3 day trips: first up of course was San Gimignano, in fact I planned to visit the city on my birthday 🙂 I love to take side trips when I visit Europe, you just never know what you might find. As in discovering the absolute gem of a town; Sirmione in 2004.

travel in europe

I dreamed of Florence, and Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca 😉 all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites except Lucca which seems to possibly be…

Finally with a list of places to go and the top 10 things to see in Florence, I packed my bag and with passport in hand I made my way to the airport.

As mentioned in my earlier post and due to the fact that Florence doesn’t have an airport, but Pisa does, my flight landed in Pisa. Very late I might add; Easy Jet had an oil leak on one of their engines (thanks – great to hear that just before taking off, very encouraging), and after sitting on the tarmac at Gatwick for ages we were finally shepherded off that plane, bussed back to the terminal and sent over to another gate, finally to board another plane; and eventually we were off!!

travel to europe

sunset above the clouds

Eventually we took off and landed in Pisa at 11:15 pm – 2 hours late!! Whew, was I ever glad that I’d planned to stay in Pisa that night. I couldn’t imagine the stress of trying to find transport at midnight to Florence – there isn’t any besides taxis which no doubt cost a ruddy fortune. Either that or sleep in the airport – but hey!!! I had booked to stay at the Helvetia Pensione in Pisa. So my taxi only cost 15 euro instead of 100!! Yes, that was the price quoted to someone else for the trip to Florence!! Midnight robbery.

After standing in the taxi queue at the airport for 15 minutes, finally I was next in line and quickly jumping into the taxi I gave the driver my destination, and in no time at all we arrived at the Pensione. I’d had the foresight to phone ahead and advise them of the delay so they kindly stayed up till I arrived to let me in.

The host Michel was super welcoming and friendly. “No problem, no problem” when I apologised profusely for the lateness of my arrival. He checked me in, copied my passport, gave me my room key, explained the layout of the hotel and about the hours the hotel’s front door would be open/locked, we agreed I would make payment in the morning. And then, to my surprise and everlasting delight and gratitude he suggested I drop my bag off in my room and even though it was so late, I should walk over to see the Tower. It’s very safe 🙂 even at midnight! And THAT is where the magic began.

Pensione Helvetia in Pisa, Italy

the wonderful Pensione Helvetia in Pisa, Italy

And so I did. And fell in love with a leaning tower. Even now as I write I can feel my eyes misting over with the memory. It was sheer magic!!!! With just a few other late nighters about it was quiet, still and magical. I was overwhelmed, entranced, delighted, amazed and sobbed my heart out. OMG the Leaning Tower of Pisa!!! I was standing just a few yards away from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Never in all my years (and they are plenty) did I ever imagine I would actually see this place. In fact I had never really had it on my list of places to go??? Why??? I ask myself now!!!

I cannot tell you how magical the night; a gentle breeze, still warm from the heat of the day wafted by and curled around my body, the Cathedral; Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta and Baptistry of St. John appeared like ghosts in the night, seeming to float above the ground with an ethereal glow emanating from their walls; quite surreal.  Just beyond the perimeter of the Piazza dei Miracoli, the 12th century medieval walls of the city, begun in 1155, loomed high and dark, providing a protective aura – keeping the barbarians at bay. I spent ages in the area, just walking around, absorbing the magic, looking at everything and taking photos…of course 😉 The magic of Pisa!!

piazza dei miracoli unesco heritage site

Piazza dei Miracoli, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Santa Maria Assunta and Baptistry of St John in Pisa, Italy. UNESCO World Heritage Site

There were a couple of young men nearby who wanted their photo taken, so I had them take one for me too!!

Eventually I walked back to the Pensione and to my surprise, Michel was still up, waiting for me to return. Bless him!! I was so touched by his kindness. It was almost 1a.m. and they usually close up at midnight!! I gabbled away at how ‘bellisimo’ it all was…..with Michel just smiling and nodding at my very obvious joy and excitement. Saying goodnight was hard, I could barely contain my joy and gabbed away, but once I reached my bed….falling asleep was not. My eyes were closed before my head hit the pillow and I was out of it. Nevertheless I was awake early that morning, dressed and out the door by 7:30….a recommendation from Michel – to see the place before the crowds arrived. And oh my word was it ever so worth the lack of sleep.

Sheer magic. The day had dawned early, bright and warm; a bright blue sky and that gorgeous orb that I see so seldom in the UK shone brightly!! I flung back the shutters to be greeted by the vibrant colours of Italy! I love that the buildings are so brightly painted; ochre, citrus, tangerine…the colours of the sun.

Piazza dell'Arcivescovado Pisa

the sun rises over Pisa. Piazza dell’Arcivescovado – The Archbishop’s Palace today is the result of renovations under the prelate Philip de’ Medici (mid 15th century) by the architects Francione and Baccio Pontelli, who created the inner courtyard surrounded by white marble columns.

The Piazza dei Miracoli and the buildings it encompasses are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was delighted at this discovery, now I could add Pisa to Project 101.

Piazza de Miracoli, Pisa.

Piazza de Miracoli, Pisa Leaning Tower of Pisa Duomo Santa Maria Assunta Baptistry of St John and the Old City Wall

The Leaning Tower was just as extraordinary by day as it was at midnight, a mere 7.5 hours earlier. I could not believe just how beautiful the buildings look by day; just as beautiful as they had at night. I strolled around just absorbing the magic. At that moment I felt like I never wanted to leave. I had fallen in love with Pisa.

the colours of pisa italy

The colours of the sun; Pisa in the morning

I did after all actually cut my stay in Florence by a day and booked another night at the Pensione Helvetia  just so I could spend more time in Pisa before I left. I’m ever so glad I did.

But Florence was still in the future, with all her extraordinary discoveries still to be made. Meanwhile there was this magical place to explore……

The magic of Pisa……

 

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One of the first things I did last year when I had first made serious plans for walking the Camino was to find out what equipment I needed and what I should wear. I confess I did go on a mad spending spree while in South Africa last year in May and bought a whole load of clothes and things at the duty free store LOL!!! I’m sure they saw me coming with my bushy tail, bright eyes and Rands (£’s) to spend!! I also went a little bit mad last year when I got home and I’m sure my purchases increased the profit margin of Mountain Warehouse quite substantially. Since then I calmed down a bit and did the sensible thing: research!! I found a fab link that I downloaded immediately

Printable Packing List

a most sensible list

So, in light of all this excitement, and especially since I have now booked my plane ticket, and the journey is real, I have set up various spreadsheets and done loads of research;

Equipment – what do I need, what’s useful and what can I realistically leave behind?

2016-05-31-17-09-27-1262409555510161159_231798962

Lookie looook!!! 🙂 Some of my #Camino2016 gear has arrived!! In keeping with the colour of my jacket and rucksack, I’ve bought as much as I can in purple…can’t help myself; colour coding LOL. So in this pile is a Summit 250 sleeping bag, an emergency foil blanket, survival bag, waterproof pouch (for carrying stuff with easy access), poncho, BPA free water bottle, IsoCool t-shirts, microfibre travel towel, travel bottle set. All of which will be useful for future walking trips and camping too.

I bought a lot of equipment/accessories while I was in South Africa, and so far the tops and pants I bought are going with. The jacket has been converted from two layers to one; the fleece will go with me, the outer rain-jacket will stay at home (too bulky). The gloves will go with, as will the woolly cap. Not sure I will actually need them, but I don’t want to spoil my experience by freezing. The khaki bush-veld sun-hat I bought, although totally unflattering 😉 will go with me. Trainers I bought in SA are totally not suitable and hurt my feet like blazes, so they have been traded in for a different pair, which so far, although quite comfortable, will also not be going with me…not quite right. So the search for suitable walking shoes is still on, although the sandals I bought are amazing. I foresee lots of walking along the beaches of Portugal in those!! Pants; found the ideal type, only problem is that they are men’s. Why don’t they make women’s pants with the same accessories….like leg pockets on both legs??? You have no idea how useful those pockets are for accessibility and storage. Oh well.

Clothes and accessories – again, how much do I realistically have to have.

Fortunately I have a sister and brother-in-law who do a lot of hiking and camping out, so they have given me some advice. Of course being a woman, my inclination is to take enough for every eventuality, but common sense is struggling to prevail and I am already mentally discarding this, that and the next thing. The Facebook pages I joined have been very useful as experienced Camigas have posted updates on what they took and what they discarded as the days went by and the pack got heavier (funny how that happens!!). One thing I have decided on is that I will cut my hair very short before setting out. Save on carrying shampoo and conditioner, and also for ease of wear. I tried on a monk’s outfit at Torre Abbey In Torque earlier this year! Perfect!! I’m seriously considering…..

Backpack – I have taken to accosting people at airports and train stations when I see a backpack that looks like it might fit the bill.

camino luggage

some ideas for the equipment

LOL The wearers have so far been very accommodating and happy to answer my many questions. So many aspects to consider….who knew??? But so far, the backpack I was going to borrow from my daughter last year has been found wanting, my backpack has been found wanting, and after much research and 5 columns on the spreadsheet to compare features, and the many I have seen on the Camino forums, it seems that Osprey will fit the bill – now to decide on which one. It’s a toss-up between two models: Osprey Sirrus 50 L or Osprey Tempest 40 L – urgh. Decisions, decisions.

the portuguese route to santiago

A map showing Portuguese Routes to Santiago

Distances – how far can I walk each day to accommodate my time allowance without killing myself!! My average speed/gait that I walk normally, is 4 km’s per hour. That means I can comfortably walk 24km’s in 6 hours. However, there is the backpack to consider, the heat to consider, the terrain to consider, and my durability to consider. The towns where I have decided to overnight (this is open to change) are all within 20-26 km’s apart with only 1 day being 32kms; Tui to Redondela. I am therefore staying in Valenca for 2 nights and a day to recover/prepare for the next stage. So far the total route is either 260 km’s or 285 km’s depending on which site you read. I’ve done a google distance calculation from town to town, added on a km to each and hoping for the best. Except for the last 100 km’s which you have to do consecutively in order to qualify for the certificate; Compostela, I can if necessary use the occasional bus or train. But I feel this would spoil it somehow so hoping to manage to walk the whole way.

Walking!!! Yes this raises all sorts of issues: care of feet, the correct shoes, types of terrain and poles!

Gosh, who knew that poles could be such a contentious issue? I posted an update just the other day to say that I had bought a paid of Nordic walking poles and had anyone on the group any comment? Yes, they did. 90% were positive but one or two were quite patronising and scathing. LOL. Anyway the concensus is that they are a good thing to have, now I just have to learn how to use them properly…there is apparently a special way of walking with them for maximum benefits. If they save my knees and ankles, then baby I am there!! Besides the training, it seems you need the rubber tips for cobbles and spikes for beach. Hmmm, who knew? I’ve also found a fab site, Camino Ways, and although I haven’t booked any tours with them, their foot care advice has been most useful. http://caminoways.com/footcare-when-walking

Accommodation – where to sleep each night?

sculpture of a pilgrim in dublin

I saw this truly evocative sculpture at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin

The obvious choice would be alburgues, but from what I’ve seen on the various forums, this is a bit tricky. They are cheap and highly sought after and in many instance ‘pilgrims’ jump ahead by using taxis to get to the next town early and secure the accommodation before the ‘walkers’ get there. Seems a bit ludicrous really and not at all in the spirit of the Camino. To each his own hey! So I think I shall take a mix of AirBnB, hotels and the pilgrims alburgues. The AirBnb would give me the benefit of a private room, a place to prepare a proper meal, a comfortable bed and a dedicated shower LOL. Hotels likewise except for the meals, but mostly they include a continental breakfast….the alburgues are very basic, communal facilities and bedrooms with bunks, but mostly with kitchens where meals can be prepared, so I shall balance the 3 to both enjoy the experience and stick with the pilgrim aspect. From what I’ve seen on the forums, except for the purists, this mix appears to be the norm.

Food – what to eat?

I recently spent 10 days in Italy between Pisa and Florence and as usual was so busy exploring and tramping the streets trying to see as much as possible, I didn’t get to eat much…as a result of which I have suffered terrible cramps in my feet and legs since getting back home. Obviously my body couldn’t cope with the burning up of nutrients without being topped up!!! Lesson learned. I asked on Facebook and got some useful advice that I shall follow. Meanwhile I’m beefing up on protein. Being vegetarian this is a bit tricky but research has given me some fab food groups to incorporate into my diet. Nutrition is going to be key for a healthy Camino. So lots of fruit and vegetable protein will be on the menu. I’ll have to do some research on what’s available for my very spoilt British palate. We have way too much variety and choice in this country!!

Locations – this is the best part for me. I adore history, so my research on the different locations along the route have provided hours of pleasurable reading. Oh my word! So much extraordinary history. It’s almost unbearable. I wish I had twice the time I have allocated so that I could spend 2 nights and a day in each location. But I have chosen the highlights and of course; my favourite venues – the churches and cathedrals, anything Roman and of course amazing architecture.  Some snippets:Portugal is a country I have wanted to visit for some years and although not top of my dream list so to speak, it’s history has intrigued me and of course there’s the stunning scenery. I’m also intrigued by the fact that they are such a small country, surrounded by sea and Spain, and have yet maintained their independence through thick and thin.

My Camino de Santiago will start in September from Porto:

Porto, a coastal city in northwest Portugal, is Portugal’s 2nd largest city and known for its stately bridges and port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes, and is also a UNESCO world heritage Site. São Francisco Church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors.

I cross over into Spain from Valenca and so to Tui; from there will complete my final 100 kms to qualify for the Compostela (Certificate).

The gateway through which the Portuguese Way passes into Galicia was, and continues to be, Tui.

I am currently working on a project called ‘Project 101’. Many of these locations will fulfil some of my objectives and to my delight I have discovered some UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some fantastic cathedrals and Roman towns on the route. I’m planning on spending 3 days in Porto before I start walking, to acclimatise and of course, most importantly to explore the city. It too is a UNESCO heritage site and last night I discovered that the town of Coimbra (which is a place I’ve wanted to visit) is only an hour by train from Porto, the University is a UNESCO World Heritage Site…so that too is now on my Project 101 list, and a must visit while I’m in Porto. Gosh will I have enough time to do it all??

So yes, time, like me, is marching on and I’m reading up on as many blogs, doing loads of research, watching videos, learning how to use my Nordic walking poles, and walking walking walking…… And exactly 4 months from today, I will have started walking…..my Camino 2017. I should have made inroads (pun intended 😉 ) on my 2nd 500 miles by then and I hope that I might just complete the full 1000 miles while I’m there…that would be awesome!!! #walk1000miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂

You can follow my journey on instagram

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Day 2: After a very disturbed night, and struggling to get back to sleep after being woken at 01:30 in the morning by a hell of a ruckus downstairs (I did look but couldn’t see who or what), I was tempted to just shut my eyes and snuggle back under the covers when my alarm went off at 7:30! Urgh. But, I had adventures ahead so after a most welcome cup of tea I got dressed, partook of the ‘continental’ breakfast the B&B had kindly provided for me, and set off for the bus to my first stop……Brading Roman Villa.

visit Brading Roman Villa on the Isle of Wight

Brading Roman Villa on the Isle of Wight

It was great travelling along a different route and of course in the daylight I could see so much more of the countryside. Before too long the driver let me off at my requested stop and directed me to the entrance to the villa. On the whole I found the bus drivers on the IoW to be very helpful. It was a real thrill to walk along the route that had possibly been traversed by the Romans nearly two centuries ago. I was quite early so I enjoyed a 30 minute excursion of the site before entering the building.

visit brading roman villa isle of wight

the outside area of Brading Roman Villa

The Brading Roman Villa heritage site is owned and operated by the Oglander Roman Trust and they have done a superb job of preserving the remains. There are a number of cabinets exhibiting ancient artefacts..fab!!

visit brading roman villa

Brading Roman Villa

I had a very entertaining guide give me a head start and then I was off to explore. Oh my gosh! I cannot tell you how stunning the place is. Imagine being able to see the stunning mosaics insitu as they had been laid all those hundreds of years ago. And they are astoundingly beautiful. It always gives me a thrill to walk in the footsteps of long ago civilizations…..I always wish I could just time-travel for an hour or so…just to experience what it must have looked like.

visit brading roman villa isle of wight

some of the stunning mosaics. what a wonderful way to decorate your house

After thoroughly exploring the villa I set off once again for the next leg of my journey to Shanklin. The route took us through Sandown and since I had already visited the town previously, decided to not get off there again.

whistle stop tour of the isle of wight shanklin

scenes of Shanklin

Shanklin was lovely and I had a fantastic walk around the town, discovered some beautiful places and managed a short walk along the clifftop before heading back into town centre to the little tea-shop I had seen earlier: Cinderella’s Tea Room and Dress Shop…how could I not stop off 😉

whistle stop tour of the isle of wight shanklin

Cinderella Tea Room and dress shop

Then it was off back uphill through the town and since my bus wasn’t due for another 30 minutes I decided to walk as far as I could before the next one was due. Along the way I passed the most delightful set of cottages you could imagine. Totally quintessential England. The Old Thatch Teashop was closed for the winter, I am most certainly going to plan a visit the next time I visit the island.

whistle stop tour of the isle of wight shanklin

Chocolate Box perfect – quintessential England – Shanklin Isle of Wight

Unfortunately the clouds had by now settled and it began to rain…I had already walked a fair distance so wasn’t too unhappy to wait for the bus – it arrived just before the heavens opened!! Glad of the snug warmth of the bus I enjoyed the scenery whizzing by. One of the things that surprised me the most about the IoW is how hilly it is. I thought it might be fun to walk around the island next visit, and that thought was uppermost in my mind as we traversed the hills and dales…..those hills will be a test of my endurance, that’s for sure.

Next stop was Newport. Located at the point where the River Medina splits into two; one branch, the Medina continues almost all the way across the island to the southern most point, splitting into lots of smaller tributaries and off shoots along the way, and the other continues as the Lukely Brook to Bowcombe where it peters out.

visit newport isle of wight

Newport Harbour and the River Medina, Isle of Wight

Newport, located in the centre of the island, is the principal town on the IoW and often referred to as the capital. With the town’s quay a short distance away, the town centre is made up of 2 squares surrounded by elegant Victorian and Georgian architecture.

visit newport isle of wight

scenes of Newport, Isle of Wight

With a historic past that goes back 40,000 years to the Neanderthal period, mousterian remains; tools made by Neanderthals were found in the 1970’s, there are also Roman remains and two Roman villas, as well as links to the Norman Conquest.  I spent an hour or so walking around and visited The Guildhall Museum which is a delightful showcase for the history of the island. Well worth a visit.

guildhall museum visit newport isle of wight

Guildhall Museum, Newport, Isle of Wight – only £2 entry fee, it’s so worth a visit

As mentioned previously, the buses are not exactly very regular so instead of waiting for 45 minutes for the next one out of town, I walked to Carisbrooke Castle which was next on my agenda. Carisbrooke was for centuries the Isle of Wight’s capital and was once called Buccombe or Beaucombe, and means the ‘ fair valley’ and I’m sure on a fine day it would be an amazing sight from the top of the hill across the valley.

visit Carisbrooke, Newport, Isle of Wight

Carisbrooke, Newport, Isle of Wight

I so enjoyed the walk; it took no time at all and I was within sight of the castle…only at the top of a great big bloody hill LOL. I wasn’t in the mood for climbing!!! Jeez. Anyway, I put on my big girl panties and started trudging uphill. Ever so worth it.

visit carisbrooke castle newport isle of wight

Carisbrooke Castle – Charles I was detained here before his trial

Carisbrooke Castle is stunning!! Carrisbrooke, an historic Motte-and-Bailey castle, originally a Roman fort, is located in the village of Carisbrooke, not too far from Newport. The castle was built soon after William the Conqueror came to England and the following centuries saw a tumultuous history with a number of owners. In 1293 the castle became the property of Edward I and the crown. In 1647 Charles I took refuge at the castle, but this later turned into his prison from which he tried to escape in the months prior to his trial. His daughter princess Elizabeth later died there aged 14. Also managed by English Heritage the castle was unfortunately closed on weekdays at the time of my visit. I’ll definitely have to visit again.

carisbrooke isle of wight

the village of Carisbrooke with the castle on the other side of the river Lukely

The village of Carisbrooke appears to be split in two by the River Lukely with a major part of the town on one side and the castle on the other.  The views from the hill on which the castle perches are outstanding, even though it was a grey and glum day.

From there I made the insane decision to make the long journey to see The Needles. I had planned on doing this as part of my whistle-stop tour, but the day was already closing in, it was raining and I was cold and hungry. But after a quick whatsapp discussion with my daughter I drew breath and started walking…yes, you guessed…the next bus was 37 minutes away and I don’t like standing endlessly waiting!!! ….LOL I tell you it was a real challenge getting around the island with the ludicrous bus timetable. On the way I passed through the village of Gunville, of which I saw little besides the name and a convenience store where I bought something to eat….I was famished by that time : 15:30!! I decided at this point to wait for the bus….the road out of the village was narrow with high hedges and it was raining…..I didn’t fancy becoming a statistic on the Isle of Wight!

Located at the South Western tip of the Isle of Wight above Alum Bay, The Needles, an iconic image, immediately spring to mind when you think of the island.  Am I ever so glad I decided to go!! We got to The Needles tourist area at 16:50 – completely deserted. The bus I arrived on was due to leave again at 17:05. It was raining. It was getting dark. The next bus after was at 17:35…..I did not feel like hanging around. So I dashed over to the viewing platform, had a quick look, took some photos and dashed back to the warmth of the bus. Wow, what a thrill to see them in the distance even though the light was fading rapidly and I could barely see.

visit the needles on the isle of wight

The Needles above Alum Bay on the south-western tip of the Isle of Wight

An added bonus was being able to see the Marconi Monument. Located at The Needles, the monument marks the precise location where Guglielmo Marconi undertook his pioneering work at the end of the 19th Century.  This led to radio and all telecommunications as we know it today.

The Needles and the Marconi Monument, Isle of Wight

The Needles and the Marconi Monument, Isle of Wight

And then we were off and on the way back to Newport where once again and for the final time that day I had to change buses to get back to Ryde.

A magical day, albeit exhausting. I got to see 90% of what I had planned on seeing and even though it was a whistle-stop tour, it was fun. I was however really really glad to get back to the B&B and bed!

The following day; Saturday was my final morning on the Isle of Wight and I had planned a trip to see Osborne House; once the seaside home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

For more about my first day of adventure….

Day 3 – 1/2

 

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I have just spent the last 12 days at a job in a suburb of Preston, Lancashire and although I haven’t been able to explore the city (we’re just too far away), I have been able to explore Preston Cemetery 🙂 Although Preston Cemetery was established in and opened in 1855, the earliest year of a recorded death was 1781. I did search all over for this particular grave but was unsuccessful.

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery

The cemetery is a 5-8 minute walk away from the house and en-route to the store where we collect the newspaper, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to visit during my breaks…which have been a tad tricky to arrange, but I’ve deliberately made a plan to get out, even if just for a hour….or on my way to the store 😉

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery, Lancashire. the newer section at 09:36 in the morning

I initially thought that the section I walked past was it…but one day as I explored farther afield, and wondered at the fact that most of the memorials appeared to be fairly new, I discovered the older, original section….now we’re talking.

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery, Lancashire – the old section

Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. the Victorians really went all out on their extravagant memorials, some of which are quite simply outlandish…huge and ostentatious; urns, wreaths, broken columns, upside-down torches, obelisks, grieving women

preston cemetery lancashire

albeit a later burial; a grieving woman – Preston Cemetery, Lancashire

– many monuments in Victorian cemeteries are pagan rather than Christian, or classical (Roman) or Egyptian.

preston cemetery lancashire

Victorian funerary symbols

Victorian graves tended to be much more elaborate than modern graves. It was expected that a middle-class family would spend as much as it could afford on a monument appropriate to the deceased’s (and the family’s) social status. Monuments were usually symbolic – either religious (crosses, angels, the letters IHS, a monogram for Jesus Savior of Man in Greek), symbols of profession (whip and horseshoes for a coach driver, swords for a general, palette for a painter), or symbols of death.

preston cemetery lancashire

A wreath decorates the gates of Preston Cemetery

I’ve taken a load of photos of some of the memorials, but you can be sure there is a surfeit of extraordinary plots and memorials to be seen. Many of the memorials are unsurprisingly, but very sadly for babies and children of all ages, from the tiniest infant through to children of 10 and upwards into teens.

preston cemetery lancashire

memorials on the newer side

These early deaths are not limited to the Victorians, one memorial I saw was for two babies from the same family who died a few days apart at 3 months and 3.5 months, along with a number of other family members, different times, all young. Oh the tragedy.

preston-cemetery-3

this appears to be a family plot…so many all with the same name; some mere infants

In all my years of exploring cemeteries around the UK, I have never seen so many memorials for infants 😦

Although cemeteries have an air of sadness and desolation about them, they are fascinating places to visit with so many stories of lives lived, some long, many short, others in service to King and Country. Preston Cemetery is also the location for Commonwealth War Graves……too young!!

preston cemetery lancashire

Commonwealth War Graves – WW1

These cemeteries are also places of incredible beauty.

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery, Lancashire

I love the many graveyards and cemeteries I find on my travels around the UK, Preston has certainly been one of my favourites.

preston cemetery lancashire

life and death; autumn beauty in a Victorian cemetery

A couple of interesting, albeit gruesome articles about death, dying and cemeteries in Victorian England and London.

http://listverse.com/2015/06/21/10-odd-and-eerie-tales-of-londons-victorian-cemeteries/

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jan/22/death-city-grisly-secrets-victorian-london-dead

 

 

 

 

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This is a message I received from my Dad via email this morning. 

I would love to share it with you, coz it is inspiring to read about how people can live their dreams, even at the tender age of 80!!!  Yes, that’s right, my Dad turned 80 this last April.  Now nothing remarkable in that considering that we as a race are starting to live longer and longer, but what is remarkable is that my Dad had a triple by-pass operation about 17 years ago and the prognosis at the time was not good.  However, his Doctor told him to start running.  The idea did not appeal so he decided to cycle instead.

A long story short, he survived…. and has gone on to become a cycling nut.    He has cycled in many different in the world and has cycled the world famous Argus Cycle route about 13 times already.    He has followed the Tour-de-France, and cheekily in 2005 nipped in at the front on the final day and caused an uproar as people thought he was one of the competitors (he got hustled off pretty damn quick by the Gendarmes once they realised he wasn’t) 🙂 (30.05.10 and….apparently I have to make a correction here…my brother gave me the correct version…my Dad rode in BEHIND the cyclists and the Gendarmes just waved) Ah well, I though my version was much more exciting!!  🙂 Shame about that, I have dined out on that story for ages, now it will have to go!

He has cycled the Camino del Santiago through France to Spain and is now back, cycling through Europe. Here is where he is today.

 “Hi ! Just a brief note to keep in touch. All well.
Cycling up river along the Danube. This from a town Grien in Lower Austria.

Grien, Austria

So far mostly cloudy and rain. Not fun in a tent with a heavy downpour in the middle of the night !  Seems to be clearing today.

Spent a couple of days with K&T camping in a small town on the Danube.
They have had to head home for ‘work’, I’m cycling up-river to Linz (if you know where that is !! ) which will be a 58 km trip today. Stay over there one or two nights and then head back down river to Budapest.

Donauradweg (cycle route along the Danube)

Beautiful countryside. ‘Donauradweg’ i.e. Danube ride path is fab for cycling.  Along the river and mostly away from road traffic.   Just thru some small villages that the cycle path comes to an end.”

Linz, Austria on the Danube river

My Dad (p.s. that’s not his cycling helmet), I have no idea what he is wearing on his head and take no responsibility for that! 🙂

my Dad

thanks to http://www.letstravelradio.com/thisweek/2008/12-25/ for the photo of Linz 🙂

thanks to http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g190426-d1604170-Reviews-Schloegener_Schlinge-Upper_Austria.html for the photo of the Donauradweg 🙂

thanks to http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grein,_austria.jpg for the photo of Griend

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