In the 1980’s my brother Richard worked in a car sales garage in Rugby for a man called Gordon Pitcher who owned a villa on the Algarve in Portugal that he used to rent out for holiday lets.
The property was in what was then a rather remote location called Quarteira, included in the deal was the use of a car for getting about. Quarteira is now an adjacent resort to busy Vilamoura. I visited Vilamoura again in 2019 but I didn’t like it. The official guide boasts that “Vilamoura is unlike any other Portuguese town, gone is the dilapidated charm, replaced with striking perfection, which is simply expected by the super-rich who frequent the marina.”
It is a modern purpose built tourist resort completely lacking in any sort of character. We prefer ‘dilapidated charm’ and are certainly not ‘super-rich’ so stayed no longer than half-an-hour before quickly leaving without a single glance in the rear-view mirror. I should have carried out better research.
Anyway, back to the story of the balcony, Gordon was a businessman who didn’t like unnecessary expenditure so as the car was UK registered he had to remove it from Portugal by a certain time each year so that he didn’t have to pay local vehicle tax and insurance.
Late in 1986 he asked Richard if he would do the job for him in return for a few days rent free holiday at the villa and Richard agreed so long as he could take his pals along to help with the long drive back.
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…
Will lock down end soon? Will we be able to travel ever again? Who knows for sure but in the meantime I continue to go through my picture archives. On 5th April 1996 I was on the island of Malta and took a ferry ride to nearby Gozo.
The white ferry boats with blue and yellow livery run almost continuously during the peak summer months so after we got off the bus at a bleak functional strip of baking tarmac there wasn’t too long to wait for the first ferry to arrive and we joined the pushing impatient crowd to get on board and find a seat on the top deck in the hot morning sun and as soon as it was fully loaded it cast off and began the thirty minute crossing to Gozo.
Lockdown continues so I return to the archives. In April 2015 I was on the Mediterranean island of Malta…
We arrived late in the morning and immediately found the bus connection to Mellieha Bay in the north of the island and sat back for the seventy minute journey through the centre of the island. I have heard it said that you either love Malta or you hate it, there are no half measures, there is no sitting on the fence.
I love it but as we crawled through the growling traffic, through the unattractive suburbs of Valletta, past the inevitable McDonalds and Burger King and through miles and miles of road works I wasn’t so sure about Kim’s initial reaction.
As far as I could make out the bus route map suggested that the bus stop was quite near to the hotel so as we got close I pressed the bell for the driver to stop. He ignored it and carried on so I walked to the front to take the matter up with him. He told me the bus didn’t stop there but in about another kilometre or so. To be fair to him he took pity on us and stopped the bus at the side of the road but he wasn’t terribly happy about it.
It turns out that for some reason the bus company doesn’t think it sensible to stop near the several hotels flanking Mellieha Bay where it is convenient for passengers to get off but thinks it is more useful to have one on a remote roundabout half way between two villages which is not really very much use to anybody.
Anyway, I could sense that Kim, just like the bus driver wasn’t terribly happy and her mood was sliding towards the hating Malta side of the scale…
One thing that I had forgotten was, that as a result of years of British rule, in Malta traffic drives on the left. Only four countries in Europe drive on the left. Just for a bit of fun, can you name them?
This one I spotted on the Greek Island of Koufonisia, I think it was the uniformity of the branding of the socks that really caught my eye and the nagging thought “who wears socks in the Greek Islands?”
In the apartment next to us there was a young French couple. They were like a couple of characters from a French movie – silent, quiet, moody and almost completely non-communicative as each did their own thing, he drinking endless cups of coffee and smoking his way through a packet of cigarettes, blowing smoke rings and contemplating the resulting shapes and she permanently connected to the internet through her laptop or staring blankly at her mobile phone.
Everyday there was a washing line full of clean clothes with what I for one thought included an abnormal amount of socks! I am not against washing on holiday, I quite like the smell of Tide, but it seems such a waste of time to be carrying out chores normally associated with home.
There was enough material here for a complete Luc Besson trilogy, here was the first – ‘Les Vacance de la Introvertis’ to be followed up I suggest with ‘La Maison de la Introvertis’ and finally ‘Les Jardin de la Introvertis’. It’s sure to be a winner!
Can you work out the embedded message in the colour order of the pegs?
In February 2017 my Grandchildren came to stay for a few days at school half term holiday.
I took them to the Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea.
I live close to the sea myself, near the resort town of Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day.
By contrast, Hornsea ia a real North Sea coast town with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.
I am inspired today by my blogging Pal Jo who has completed a thirty one day challenge to post in pictures and in words about a visit to Barcelona.
In 2018 I visited Barcelona and my friend and keen photographer Richard spent every spare minute taking pictures of Sagrada Familia. I am convinced that he possesses the largest collection of pictures of the Gaudi masterpiece in the entire World.
I am quite unable to compete with either Jo or Richard so I offer you these alternative images.
These are from the walls of the nearby metro station…
In January 2007 we made our third visit to the Latvian capital of Riga and on 28th January we took a ride to the nearby seaside resort of Jurmala…
We walked along the frozen shore and enjoyed every minute of kicking through snow and picking our way along tracks made of ice. None of us had seen a beach frozen solid before and none of us had walked on water before either.