Cueva de los Verde and Jameos del Aqua

Wherever he saw a hole he always wanted to know the depth of it.  To him this was important” – Jules Verne “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”

In my previous post I told you about not going down into a cave.  This was a cave that I did visit in 1983…

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Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge

It was a bitterly cold morning when we left the hotel and talk a short walk around the village before setting off for the short drive to the nearby town of Kirkby Lonsdale. Someone told us that there had been a frost overnight but I am not too sure about that.

The journey took us out of the county of Yorkshire and through a small wedge of Lancashire and into Cumbria and to Kirkby Lonsdale which is only a part of Cumbria by a whisker, just a mile or two over the county boundary.

It is indeed a very charming town, the sort of place that when visiting I decide that it would be rather nice to live there but after a look in the Estate Agent’s window the asking prices confirm that I am happy enough to stay where I am.

There is not a great deal to do in Kirkby Lonsdale it seems except to walk around the picturesque streets and public footpaths. We visited the Thursday market which consisted mostly of artisan craft stalls which didn’t interest me greatly and then followed a walking route that took us along the side of the very attractive and free running River Lune as far as the fourteenth century Devil’s Bridge.

According to the legend the original bridge was built by the Devil because it was too difficult for mere mortals to achieve this feat of engineering.  Probably because of the weather the Devil had never been to Cumbria before but sometime around the eleventh century he dropped by.  As he wandered about admiring the scenery (no one has satisfactorily explained why he didn’t go somewhere even more scenic, such as Lake Windermere for example) he came across an old lady who seemed rather upset.

 ”What’s the matter? he asked (or possibly roared).

“Oh, I’m in such a terrible muddle and I don’t know what to do! My cow has wandered across the river and I can’t get her back”.

Ah!” said the Devil “What you need is a bridge and I am just the man to build you one. Why don’t you go home, and in the morning there will be a bridge waiting for you. All I ask in return is to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge”

That night she wondered about this stranger who would build her a bridge. ‘What a strange request!  Why should I cross the bridge to get my cow back if he gets to keep me in exchange? Mind you it is very tempting offer”

The next day she got up and called for her faithful dog. Together they went down to the river. 

“I told you that I would build you a bridge” said the Devil. “Now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain”.

She started to walk towards the bridge. But just when she got there she stopped, took out bone from her apron pocket and hurled it across the bridge and the dog chased after it.  Dogs are hopelessly stupid creatures that will do  dumb things like that.  A cat wouldn’t. 

“FFS”  exclaimed the Devil.  I don’t believe it! Your dog has become the first living thing to cross my bridge. It’s no good to me” he screamed and then vanished and I can understand that because I am not what you call a dog lover myself. 

After this the Devil was apparently never seen in Cumbria again – some say it was because he was so embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady but I suspect that it more likely had something to do with the wet weather!

Actually, it turns out that Satan is quite a prolific bridge builder and Wikipedia lists at least a hundred Devil’s Bridges, mostly in Europe and almost always with the same story.

We returned now to Clapham and on a gloriously sunny Autumnal afternoon took a long countryside walk alongside the River Wenning which led to Ingleborough Cave which claims to be the finest show cave in all of England and had a £9.50 admission charge and no discount for seniors.

Reminding ourselves that all such places make these sort of extravagant claims we decided against going underground today and besides we have been down caves before elsewhere and one is much like any other.

On the way down we passed by an effervescent waterfall so congratulated ourselves on not paying for the Ingleby trail the previous day. Like true Yorkshire folk we were saving money every day. We were practically honorary Tykes.

 

Freiburg at Walt Disney

My A to Z of windows reached F and I included Freiburg in Germany and that reminded me of a sequence of posts from 2012 that very few people read.

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A to Z of Windows – F is for Freiburg in Germany

To give it its full title, Freiburg im Breisgau is one of the famous old German university towns, was incorporated in the early twelfth century and developed into a major commercial, intellectual, and ecclesiastical centre of the upper Rhine region.

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A Skinflint in The Yorkshire Dales

We planned a few days away in the Yorkshire Dales but the trip began rather badly when we woke on day of departure to grey leaden skies that hung like a wet army blanket and heavy persistent rain that stubbornly refused to move on.

The weather was quite simply appalling and the first part of the journey north on the A1 was spoilt by continuous stair-rod rain that meant any plans that we might have had just had to be abandoned. I don’t mind getting wet but I draw the line at getting drenched.  These days I won’t even play golf in the rain.

As we approached the elegant town of Harrogate there were some breaks in the weather so with a little optimism we diverted from our planned route and made our way to the Brimham Rocks which is a geological feature left over from three hundred and twenty five million years ago (that is an awfully long time, even older than Mick Jagger) and with subsequent erosion have assumed twisted and contorted surreal sculptures with grotesque and unusual shapes.

The Brimham Rocks is a National Trust Site and the National Trust sure know how to charge. The minimum rate in the car park was £6 which is completely outrageous. It isn’t even a proper car park, no tarmac, just a muddy puddled field. My blogging pal John Knifton has this to say about the National Trust…

“It’s quite amazing how much they dare charge. The last time we went to Godrevy in Cornwall, it was £7 to park in a field and that was nine years ago. Again, very little to maintain. The cars kept the grass down.”

I was once a member of the National Trust but in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic and the  national lock-down when nothing was open to visit they invited me to renew my membership for the full price without any discount. Without any discount.  I turned down their obscenely less than generous offer.  Thanks to Covid I have now saved two years membership fees.

There are car parking charges everywhere now, it is a giant rip off, I read recently that after Council Tax the biggest revenue streams for English councils is car parking charges. The National Trust slavishly follows their example.

There was no way in the world that I was going to pay £6 especially as the weather was looking rather dodgy again so we took a risk that the car park warden was on lunch break  and walked a short way into the rocks for twenty minutes or so which was enough really and then we returned to the car, satisfied ourselves that there was no parking offence ticket attached to the windscreen and  continued our journey.

The Brimham Rocks was almost like being in Jurassic Park and reminded me in a way of Arches National Park in Utah USA which I visited in 1995.  Clearly there is no need to fly four thousand miles to see rock sculptures.

I will go back again when the weather is better.

This wasn’t at all difficult but there was some considerable weather improvement as we drove further west but because of the change of plans we arrived far too early in the village of Clapham where we were staying at The New Inn so we drove a few miles further to the town of Ingleton.

Ingleton has a very fine railway viaduct which is now disused but continues to dominate the landscape and a circular walk which features a number of waterfalls.

I was shocked to find that there was a charge to take the walk of £8 each and there was no way that I was going to pay that especially as the weather continued to look decidedly unreliable so we abandoned that idea and with the savings that we had made today we bought a bottle of wine and some beer from the local Co-op and then made our way to Clapham.

In a complete transformation from earlier in the day the sun was shining now so after checking in and approving our accommodation we took a short stroll through the impeccable village which was perfect in an Emmerdale Farm sort of way.

More about waterfalls…

This is Hawdraw Force in Yorkshire that I visited in 2001, claimed to be the highest unbroken single drop waterfall in England.  I don’t know how much it cost to visit in 2001 but it is £4 now.

This is Aysgarth Falls near Leyburn in Yorkshire where car parking charges are £2.30 for two hours.

This is a the Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland that I visited in 2007 and has no charge but there was a long drive to get there…

So, let me tell you,  I didn’t feel as though I had badly missed out by not seeing the Ingleby Waterfalls.

People Pictures – The Curse of the Mobile Phone

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken at Sintra near Lisbon in Portugal…

Like a lot of people you come across these days on holiday they are not talking to each other they are too busy checking their social media accounts.

On a visit to Warsaw we had dining difficulties but luckily the hotel restaurant could accommodate us for a special Valentine’s Day buffet and we enjoyed a fine, if rather expensive, meal and a glass or two of wine.

One thing that intrigued me was that although this was Valentine’s Day with a special menu there were a number of people around us who seemed preoccupied with their mobile phones.  A young couple at the next table barely spoke a word to each other as they endlessly scrolled through their digital lives rather than attempt a conversation with each other.  I wondered if they had booked a table for four, him and her and their two tablets.  It seemed like a waste of money to me to pay for an expensive meal and spend so much time on Facebook!

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A to Z of Windows – E is for Elvas in Portugal

Elvas is located in the far east of the country and of the Alentejo region and it seems that many tourists rarely consider visiting which is a shame because those like us who make the journey are rewarded with a fascinating town rich in history and beauty.

A border fortress city naturally required strong defences to protect the country and Elvas is among the finest examples of intensive usage of the trace italienne (a star fort) in military architecture, and has been a World Heritage Site since 2012. A star fort is just that, a celestial shaped design which made it easier to defend and difficult for besieging armies to successfully attack it.

Elvas, it turns out is the biggest fortified town not only in Portugal but all of Europe. Inside the fortress town we walked through the ancient whitewashed streets, cobbled streets which were painful to negotiate in tourist sandals. Along narrow passages lined by houses with blistered wooden doors, Shutters thrown back like the wings of butterflies basking in the midday sunshine. Sagging washing lines groaning under the weight of the dripping laundry. The rich aroma of lunch time cooking seeping out from open windows. Outside of the front doors pots of flowers in various stages of bloom and decay. Fabulous.

Carrickfergus Castle and Halloween

I have mentioned before what seems to be my exceptional good luck with the weather in Ireland. Except for a whole day washout in Galway in 2017 and the ten minute squall at the Gobbins Coastal Walk this year I have always enjoyed good weather.

Today was no exception so after an excellent full Irish breakfast (in a stack) we left the Titanic Quarter, crossed the river and made our way to the railway station because today we were visiting nearby Carrickfergus (what a great Irish name that is) to see its mighty castle.

On the way we passed the Belfast Big Fish. There is a sign saying no climbing but William missed that and clambered onto its back regardless. William is good at jumping and climbing.

The train journey alongside the western shore of Belfast Lough took just about twenty minutes and we arrived at about midday in a curiously subdued (for a Saturday morning in a fair sizes market town) Carrickfergus town centre. With nothing to distract us such as a market for example we made our way directly to the harbour and the castle.

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle, the oldest , biggest and best preserved medieval building in all of Northern Ireland built on the north shore of the Lough to manage and protect the entrance to the emerging port of Belfast and the navigable River Lagan.

It was here that King William III landed in 1690 on his way to the Battle of the Boyne, a decisive battle in the struggle for supremacy in Ireland in which William was victorious and secured Protestant domination in Ireland for over a subsequent two hundred years. Carrickfergus remains even to this day a staunch Unionist/Protestant town.

There is a statue of King Billy with his massive hat close to the harbour.

We were looking forward to visiting the castle but the door was firmly closed. I told William to go and knock and he pounded so hard that anyone inside might have imagined it was under siege. A young man emerged and told us that the castle was closed today on account of this being Halloween weekend and an unofficial public holiday. This seemed odd to me, why would you close a tourist attraction on a bank holiday when you might expect higher than normal visitor numbers.

The man said ‘come back on Monday’, I said ‘We are going home tomorrow (Sunday)’ and he helpfully suggested ‘Come back next time you are in Northern Ireland’.

I was intrigued by this but it seems that Halloween is rather important in Ireland and people here tell you that Halloween traditions were begun and influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, the beginning of Winter, the dark months, which are believed to have pagan roots. Some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Christian Church.

Anyway, whatever, The Irish claim ownership of the Halloween tradition. Apparently they used to carve turnips and light a candle inside to represent the souls of the recently and dearly departed. Carving a woody turnip I can only imagine to be extremely hard work so the Irish must have been glad to find that when the emigrated to America that there were no turnips and pumpkins were abundant and much easier to work with.

We all know what happened next, over the years the USA hijacked the Halloween tradition and turned it into a commercial bonanza which has spread across the World. In the process the historical and cultural significance has sadly been swept away in a tsunami of tacky consumerism, much like Christmas and Easter.

We all do it…

In the UK I personally lament the fact that Halloween has completely eclipsed Bonfire Night and the ‘Penny for the Guy’ tradition but I suppose the environmentalists will applaud the fact that we no longer light thousands of polluting bonfires on November 5th.

With the castle closed and nothing to detain us longer in Carrickfergus we took the train directly back to Belfast.

Where we did some more sightseeing…

The Titanic Experience in Belfast

“Certainly there was no sailor who ever sailed salt water but who smiled – and still smiles – at the idea of the unsinkable ship” –  Charles Lightoller (Surviving Officer) in ‘Titanic and Other Ships’

Two weeks after returning from Northern Ireland I went there again, this time to take my grandson who has a great interest in the story of the Titanic.

The Titanic Museum and Experience has been built on the site of the previous Harland and Wolff workshops  right in front of the slipways that were built for the construction of the Titanic and the sister ship Olympic.  This area which has become the Titanic Quarter was previously called Queen’s Island but twenty years ago it was a no hope area of rotting buildings, dereliction and silted up docks and the transformation is truly remarkable.

Inside the building was equally as impressive as the exterior and after collecting our pre booked tickets (10% saving) we made our way through to the exhibition which started with a history of nineteenth century boom town Belfast before taking us to the top floor for a shipyard ride with various displays of the construction process and then descending through various galleries that dealt with the launch, the fitting out, the maiden voyage, the passengers and the sinking.

The exhibition has a good mix of exhibits, interactive displays, full size reconstructions and plenty of information and facts.  My favourite was the story of the riveters who worked in a five man team and were expected to fix six hundred white hot metal rivets in a day.  One man heated it in a furnace before throwing it to a second man called the catcher who collected it in a bucket before passing it to the three man finishing team who hammered it into place.  All of those jobs sound dangerous to me but I imagine the catchers to be the most so.

By the time that we left the final gallery about the search for the ship we were all happy to declare this to be among the best experience museums that we had ever visited and what good value at only £12.50 and I would certainly be happy to recommend anyone to visit this place.

There are many theories about the reason for the sinking.  The Captain has been blamed for being reckless, the White Star Board for trying to set a speed record despite the danger but currently the most popular is the rivets.  Apparently those used at the bow and the stern were made of iron rather than steel and contained high levels of impurities.  They only had a 5 mm tolerance and as a consequence of the collision they shattered and popped their heads and the steel plates of the hull undid like a giant zipper.

From the very day that she was designed she was almost doomed…this (the use of iron rivets) was the Achilles heel of the Titanic.” – Paul Louden-Brown, White Star Line Archivist.

So, everyone knows that the Titanic sank but as we came to the end of the visit I began to think about what if it hadn’t?  To begin with the three millionaire U.S. businessmen who died that night, John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim and Isidor Strauss might have gone on to be even more successful and who knows what they might have achieved.  Thomas Andrews, the designer of the ship might have built something even bigger and better and Captain Edward Smith could have carried on crashing into other ships.

For sure I wouldn’t have met the American visitor who was looking at a list of the victims and comparing pictures with a faded photograph that she was holding.  She told me that it was her great uncle who was one who drowned that night.

Just maybe someone on board emigrating to the New World might have gone on to be the U.S. President and this isn’t as unlikely as it sounds because fifteen of forty-six  Presidents (30%) claim ancestral heritage from Ulster (Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S Grant, Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the current President Joe Biden).

We certainly wouldn’t have had that awful film ‘Titanic’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and we would never have had to endure Celine Dion singing ‘My heart will go on’.  As a point of interest there have been twenty-two films that are directly or indirectly based on the story of the Titanic and if you want my opinion (you are going to get it anyway)  the best of all was ‘A Night to Remember’ made in 1958 and starring Kenneth More playing Second Officer Charles Lightholler (see quote above).

Before leaving the exhibition we had a good value Titanic themed lunch in the ground floor restaurant and then after visiting the slipway overshadowed by Samson and Goliath in the Harland and Wolff shipyard which are claimed to be the two largest free standing cranes in the World and have become a canary yellow symbol of the city.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

 

A to Z of Windows – D is for Dinan in France

 

We visited the charming town of Dinan in 2015.  I liked this window and flower display.  The red, white and blue capture the colours of the French Tricolor.

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