After breakfast we took a mini-bus taxi to the seaside town of Jurmala, which was another bargain at only 15 Lats. It was a sunny morning and we walked through some houses in various states of disrepair and renovation towards the beach. The houses were fascinating, mostly made of timber and in contrasting styles that suggested that the owners had had fun building them in a competitive way each determined to eclipse the efforts of their neighbours.
These were once grand seaside villas accommodating only the most wealthy Russians who used to like to come here for their summer holidays and we were relieved to see that thankfully many were being restored, rather than being demolished to make way for modern structures. The town has an official list of four hundred and fourteen historical buildings under protection, as well as three thousand five hundred wooden structures. Sadly, we were told that every so often there is an unexplained fire, the historic building disappears only to be removed by a modern building.
I am hoping that later this year I will be able to on annual holiday with my grandchildren. In 2019 we went to Cornwall to the fishing village of Mevagissy and made our arrival amidst a mighty Atlantic Storm…
Hopefully we are on the countdown to overseas travel but until that happy event happens I continue to trawl through the archives. On 11th April 2014 I was in the town of Sigüenza in Spain…
It was raining so we took our time over breakfast and it was mid morning by the time we left the hotel and there was a simple choice – up the hill to the Alcazar or down the hill to the Cathedral. We decided to start at the top of the town and make our way to the bottom.
Lined on each side with caramel coloured houses with terracotta tiled roofs, the Calle de Valencia followed the line of the old medieval town wall and half way to the castle we passed through the Puerto del Porto Mayor which was once the main gateway into the narrow streets of the old town and from here there was a final twisting climb to the Plaza del Castillo and the inevitable Parador Hotel.
You don’t see many balconies in Iceland, neither the weather or the landscape is conducive. This one looks rather precarious, a good job that alcohol is prohibitively expensive.
Approximately three-quarters of Iceland is completely barren of vegetation and plant life consists mainly of grassland. The only tree native to the island is the northern birch but most of these are only a memory now because humans of course have damaged the delicate ecosystem as these birch forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber. Deforestation resulted in a loss of critical top soil due to erosion, greatly reducing the ability of forests to re-establish themselves. Today there are very few trees in only a few isolated areas of the island and none where we were driving.
I am cheating this one a little bit because this is a ferry ticket to the Spanish islet of Tabarca on the eastern coast of Spain near Alicante.
We just about made boat departure time, which was a good thing because the next one wasn’t for about two hours or so (in high season they run a lot more regularly) and after purchasing our tickets we made our way to the top deck and selected seats in the sun ready for the short thirty minute crossing and after being invited to view the marine life through the glass bottom in the boat (really not worth it) we arrived in the small port and disembarked.
Before 1700, the island was known as Illa de Sant Pau or ‘Saint Paul’s Island’ on the basis that this is where Saint Paul was washed up about two thousand years ago. He must have got around a bit because he seems to have been washed up in quite a lot of places in quite a short space of time which begins to make him look very unlucky and me sceptical about the whole thing.
Personally, if I was inclined to believe any of it then I would come down on the side of the story of St Paul’s Island in Malta. The Acts of the Apostles tell the story of how Paul was shipwrecked on an island (somewhere) while on his way to Rome to face charges. You can call me a coward if you like but I wouldn’t have been going back to Rome to face charges that might result in crucifixion or beheading and I would have been inclined to stay on the island wherever it was but to be fair you don’t get to become a Saint by hiding in a cave!
In the eighteenth century it was used as a convenient base for Berber pirates from North Africa who regularly raided the mainland coast so in 1760, to put a stop to it, Charles III of Spain ordered the fortification and repopulation of the Spanish island.
A group of Genoese sailors who had been shipwrecked near the coast of Tunisia, mostly coming from the islet of Tabark, were rescued and considered convenient settlers and the islet was renamed Nova Tabarca. The Genoese were moved to the island together with a Spanish garrison.
The King ordered a fortified town and as a consequence of Royal Decree walls, bulwarks, warehouses and barracks were built. The garrison was removed in 1850 and the buildings began to deteriorate and collapse through lack of maintenance but the Genoese stayed put and now a hundred and fifty years later it is a tourist destination and a thriving fishing community.
We maybe could have done with another hour on the island but if we missed the next ferry back we would be there for another four which was too long so we made our way back to the small fishing port of the island and boarded the boat back to Santa Pola where we had previously found a nice pavement restaurant with a very reasonably price Menu Del Dia and we simply sat and let the afternoon slip through our fingers.
Later we sat on the terrace and drank wine and ate pizza and just wasted the rest of the evening away as well!
In 2007 we took a train ride from Salzburg to the nearby village of Hallstatt. I liked it immediately. The village was thoroughly charming and I was straight away prepared to accept its claim of being the most attractive village in Austria
The village is set on piles driven into the lake with an intricate system of intersecting timber ramps, butresses and ascending terraces like hanging gardens creating an air of mystery and the eeriness of mirage, a village that seems to be almost lost in the middle-mist of folklore and fable. The mountain flanks rise sheer from the lake, leaving no room for a road and all but the smallest of vehicles are prohibited from entering the centre of the village.
We walked through streets with houses sometimes built into the mountain, sometimes hanging on to the mountain and at other times on top of the mountain and on the other side they were built right up to the edge of the lake.
“The vaporetto on the Grand Canal beats too, softly as a human pulse, faltering and renewing itself after every hesitation which marks a landing stage.” – Lawrence Durrell, ‘Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’.
Along with Riga in Latvia I have visited the Italian city of Venice more than any other. On 5th April 2005 I took a water taxi ride on the Venetian Lagoon from Venice to Burano…
Burano is situated seven kilometers from Venice, a short forty minute trip by Venetian public transport motorboats called Vaporetto. We waited at a stop on the Grand Canal and when one arrived waited for the boatman to secure it and then invite us to go on board and climbed to the upper deck where there was a good view of the city and the other islands.
I am in the Greek Islands again this week on the island of Milos. I include this picture because of the attention to detail in the peg work…
It is almost a perfect 10 but if you look more closely what lets it down slightly is the unequal distribution of colours – eight red and six green. Seven of each would have been perfection. This has led to a simple error because the red-green red-green red-green sequence is not carried through along the whole length of the washing line. A real pity that.