Category Archives: Beaches

A to Z of Windows – S is for Santorini

By 2008 I had been to Santorini three times before, in 2002, 2004 and in 2006 and although I rather like it I have to say that it is no longer my favourite.

The trouble with Santorini is that once you have been elsewhere it simply becomes less impressive.  Everyone says ‘Oh, you are going to Greece, you must go to Santorini!’  but generally these are tourists who haven’t been to Amorgos, Sikinos or Folegandros and these islands, let me tell you, are many times better that easily eclipse Santorini despite its stunning caldera and unique scenery.

Read the full Story Here…

A to Z of Windows – P is for Primošten in Croatia

It was our last day in Croatia and we were driving north from Dubrovnik to the airport at Zadar.

Travelling north-west with the Dinaric Alps soaring above us inland and catching a few clouds as they rushed in from the sea we spied orange roofs, blue sea, white beaches  – the idyllically typical Central Dalmatian village of Primošten which occupies an especially pretty little promontory jutting out from the mainland into the sea.

In the past Primošten was situated on an islet close to the mainland and was protected by walls and towers and it was connected to the mainland by a draw bridge.

When these protective arrangements were no longer required the draw bridge was replaced by a causeway and in 1564 the settlement was named Primošten after the Croatian verb primostiti which means to span. This old part of the town is built on a hill and is dominated by the parish church of St. George which was built in 1485 next to the local graveyard from which there is a stunning view over the sea and the surrounding mountains.

This was probably the most picturesque of all of the Adriatic towns that we passed by or visited on our journey and it was lovely here today but I imagine that it can get a bit overcrowded in high summer.

We only made a very short stop because time was moving on but we found time to sit on the side of the harbour and have a drink in the sun next to some expensive looking charter boats that were moored up nearby and a table full of racing push bikers all looking ridiculous in brightly coloured skin tight lycra and insect shaped helmets.

We carried on along one of the best parts of the journey and the old old main road took a scenic route that was never more than a few metres from the sea and the shingle beaches and with good views over the Adriatic Sea and the inviting looking islands.

Except for the fact that the road wasn’t at a high elevation with imminent danger of crashing over the side of a mountain this did remind me a great deal of the Amalfi drive in Italy.  The road snaked along the coast with its inlets, yacht harbours and picturesque coastal villages and always running directly underneath the limestone mountains that rose dramatically just a few hundred  yards or so inland.

Apart from the location and the view Primošten is quite unremarkable, no famous people were born there or lived there, nothing notable happened there in history and according to Wikipedia the only thing that seems to happen there these days is an annual donkey race.

Travels in Croatia -Šukosan and Zadar

 

It was getting dark and the sun was sinking but the drive to the nearby village of Šukosan just outside the city of Zadar was surprisingly easy with a nice straight road and with only a little difficulty in the gloom finding the location of the Apartmani Vilma, which was tucked discreetly away behind the main road on a quiet residential street.

This was a curious place, not really a hotel at all but more like somebody’s house with some rented rooms attached.  The owner had been waiting for us to arrive and showed us immediately to a clean, basic but adequate room.

Read The Full Story Here…

A Return to Alicante

My sister has a place in Spain near Alicante so we have been there several times.

In a week in Iberian Autumn we did the usual things, sat in the sunshine, walked the beaches, lunchtime tapas, joined the ex-pats Brits for evening meals and watched the golfers humiliating themselves on the first tee.

It was mid-November and the weather was just perfect.  Shirt-sleeve weather in fact with sunshine and big sky so after breakfast we were away to the nearby city of Alicante which I was sort of surprised to discover is the eighth largest in Spain.

Read The Full Story Here…

 

Voices of the Old Sea – Guardamar de Seguara

“By the end…it was clear that Spain’s spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms.  Spain became the most visited tourist country in the World, and slowly, as the foreigners poured in, its identity was submerged, its life-style altered more in a single decade than in the previous century.”-  Norman Lewis, ‘Voices of the Old Sea’.

After almost two years we took the official paperwork challenge and risked a flight to Europe, to Spain, to visit my sister at her overseas home near Alicante.  I was nervous about that but I have to say that everything about the outward flight went perfectly.

After a couple of days lounging around, drinking San Miguel and eating tapas Lindsay pulled a surprise – we were going on a bike ride.  I like bike riding but not in the UK where the roads are dangerous but in Spain there are miles and miles of cycle paths where there is no real danger except for the occasional potholes.

Lindsay and Mick ride for miles several days a week but we are not used to long distances which after fifteen kilometres and sore butts accounts for our non smiley faces.  And we had still got to cycle fifteen kilometres back home.

Anyway, back to Guardamar. I confess that I love this place.  It fascinates me.

Like many Spanish villages on the coast it once relied almost entirely on fishing but it has the distinction of suffering three severe environmental disasters.  The original village was built between the banks of the River Segura and the Mediterranean Sea but heavy silting from the river and the encroachment of sand dunes from the sea overwhelmed the village and one hundred and fifty years ago it had to be completely abandoned and relocated to safer ground.

This is the site or the original village today which is a palm forest planted to try and stabilise the ground but Guardamar has new problems.

The linear park of palms and cactus and succulents are withering away and dying back as they struggle to fight some sort of pest or disease which one by one is killing the trees and plants that (I am told) once provided a stunning green park for visitors to wander amongst.  Such a shame.  A warning of just how ‘temporary’ life can be on Planet Earth!

In the 1940s the municipality agreed permission for local fishermen to build houses directly on the edge of the beach, something that would not be allowed today and would be regarded as rather reckless.

The Casas de Babilonia are a string of elegant beach houses built perilously close to the sand and the sea and over the years the advancing Mediterranean has nibbled away at the fragile infrastructure and undermined the inadequate foundations.

Families lived and worked at the edge of the sea. Today the houses are  retrospectively declared to be illegal builds that contravene the Spanish Coastal Law (ley de costas 1988) that defines a public domain area along the coast and a further zone beyond  where  restrictions apply to private ownership.

Moving on, later, in the 1960s came tourism but not from the North as Norman Lewis lamented but from the towns and cities of Spain itself and even today you won’t find package holiday deals to Guardamar de Seguara.

Trouble from the river and bother with pests has been followed by catastrophe from the sea in a massive wild Mediterranean storm in December 2016 which battered the coast and the fishermen’s houses and left them in a parlous state.  Almost unrecognisable, nearly gone, the victim of changing coastal dynamics, the battering ram of the sea when twenty foot high waves crashed into the decaying properties and did massive amounts of damage, washing away walls, tearing down terraces, breaking beams, trashing tiles and crushing concrete.

This is the coastline today…

Such was the fierceness of the storm that it rearranged the seabed and the coastal geography and removed the beach and the sand where fishermen once rested their boats and holidaymakers put down their towels and pitched their sun umbrellas.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

A to Z of Windows – L is for Lisbon

It was late afternoon and the heat was beginning to drain away into the deep shadows cast by the tall buildings and the sun was melting into the deep pools of shade in the doorways and courtyards so we enjoyed a walk to a shady park where we stopped for a beer and then took a stroll through the elegantly tiled but grotesquely graffiti scarred streets of the town.  I was shocked by the urban scrawl which some call art but I call vandalism.  I didn’t like it.

Read The Full Story Here…

A to Z of Windows – K is for Korcula in Croatia

The ferry docked efficiently just outside the medieval city and we drove the short distance to the old town and after a bit of parking confusion found a perfect spot just outside the harbour and we set off to explore.  Immediately it was obvious that Korčula isn’t very big and so, because we had all day there pencilled in for tomorrow, we decided not to do too much of it today.

We walked around the outside of the town and restricted ourselves to the main street that runs through the middle and then found a pizzeria with a table overlooking the sea and the Pelješac peninsular.  We choose a speciality pizza and the waiter asked if we wanted it cutting into six or eight slices, we said six because it was a big pizza and we didn’t think we could manage eight.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Read The Full Story Here…

 

A to Z of Windows – G is for the Greek Island of Corfu

In the 1980s Corfu was expanding rapidly as a tourist destination and was acquiring an uneviable reputation as a party island and magnet for unruly British tourists on boozy Club 18-30 holidays.   They were drawn in the main to the hedonistic town of Benitses which was well known for heavy drinking, beach parties, wild behaviour and street fighting.  There was a story at the time that even the island police were frightened to go in there after dark but I am not sure if this was really true.

Over the next twenty years or so the locals who lived in the village grew tired of its  reputation and ill-disciplined guests and made a determined effort to throw off its bad ill-repute.  Benitses set about reinventing itself with the addition of a swanky marina, up-market hotels and a string of classy bars and tavernas.

The rowdy youngsters were carefully redirected to Kavos in the the far south of the island where they were kept as far away as possible from families and the mostly well behaved.

Read The Full Story Here…

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…

Read The Full Story Here…

 

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…