Category Archives: Food

A to Z of Postcards – M is for Montreuil Sur Mer in France

Montreuil was once an important strategic town on the English Channel but by the nineteenth century after the sea had withdrawn over ten miles away which meant getting a boat in the water was becoming increasingly difficult it had become a sleepy medieval town of no real importance except for passengers on the coaching road from Calais to Paris.

The weather was accommodating and we enjoyed good views across the surrounding countryside.  Our stroll returned us to the centre of the classic French market town and we walked through its attractive streets with its lively fountains and vibrant floral displays, its  shops, restaurants and cafés  and we finished back in the town square right next to a convenient bar where we had a drink before moving on.

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A to Z of Postcards – H is for Heidelberg in Germany

To get to the tourist old town required a drive through the busy commercial centre before arriving on the western bank of the river.  We arrived just after midday and we set about looking for a car park.  We were nervous about this because we visited the city once before in 2007 and had completely failed to understand the car parking arrangements and we had driven around in circles before stopping for only the briefest of stays and then giving up and going to nearby Speyer instead.

We were determined not to make the same mistake this time but despite, as I thought, following all the signs carefully we found ourselves missing them all and doing the circuit again.  I concluded that the signs are either very confusing or I am incredibly stupid!  Luckily lust a millisecond before my patience expired we found an underground car park right in the altstadt.

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A to Z of Postcards – G is for Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria was formed by a volcano that grew out of the sea and continued to spew enough lava onto the surface to break through the ocean and form an island.  It is circular in shape with a mountain peak in the middle which separates the island into two distinct sectors, north and south.  Viewed from above it looks rather like a beached jellyfish.

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A to Z of Postcards – F is for Friedrichshafen in Germany

The Ryanair website is like quicksand; once you are in there it sucks you in deeper and deeper looking for bargain flight offers and it is difficult to get out.

It is cleverly designed to work that way so that you visit more and more pages in a frenzied search for the best deals.  I really didn’t think that it would be possible to beat the £16 return flights to Pula so I was understandably ecstatic to find flights to Friedrichshafen for £15 return.

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A to Z of Postcards – B is for Benidorm

Sixty years ago Benidorm, although not a fishing village as such, was still a modest beach side community, a place of sailors, fishermen and farmers who patiently tended almond, olive, carob and citrus trees.  Early visitors would have looked out over a double crescent of virgin golden sand and rolling dunes that stretched out in both directions from a rocky outcrop that divided the two beaches where Benidorm castle is believed to have once stood.

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East Yorkshire – Skipsea Walks

I like going on holiday in England but as I get older and fuel gets more expensive I find driving tedious and frustrating.  East Yorkshire has everything I need, the roads aren’t busy and it is only fifty miles away.

I have written about it before so just pictures this time.

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East Yorkshire – Hornsea and a Litter Pick

On arrival I was immediately impressed.  I live near the resort town of Cleethorpes 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 but this was real North Sea coast 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.

 

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A to Z of Cathedrals – U is for Castro Udiales in Spain

Around the harbour side women were working under parasols repairing fishing nets and past the fish market at the far end of the harbour a set of weathered stone steps took us up to castle which stands on an elevated rocky outcrop.  We made the tour of the restored fortress and then walked around the outside of the impressive medieval parish church, the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, which had the external appearance of a much grander cathedral.

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The Algarve – Train Ride to Lagos

Life at the Tui Blue Hotel was rather tedious I have to say with a looping Groundhog Day daily itinerary so we decided to break out and do something different.  A train excursion to the city of Lagos, thirty-five miles or so west of where we were staying at Olhos de Agua.

There was an expensive taxi ride to the railway station at Albufeira one of those taxi rides where I watch the meter ticking away and increasingly panic about the cost and then to compensate inexpensive train tickets to Lagos at less than five euro each return (seniors rate). The price was right but the train was soporifically slow and stopped several times and took over an hour to reach our destination and we arrived just about midday.

I liked it immediately as we walked from the station to the old town.  So much nicer than Albufeira with a a retained history, a nostalgia and a satisfying whiff of the past  Some of my favourites – aged doors with sun blistered paint and elegant iron balconies, cobbled streets and whitewashed houses.  Really lovely, really lovely.

Lagos was once a Moorish city, the capital of the Algarve and one of the most important cities in all of what is now Portugal.  How the Moors must have loved life in Iberia, excellent weather (not as hot as North Africa), no deserts, an abundance of fresh water, good fertile soil for crops and not nearly so many flies.

This idyllic lifestyle came to a sudden and abrupt end after the Reconquest when the Moors were forced to abandon their city after a brutal siege by Northern Crusaders.  In Spain and Portugal they celebrate the reconquest but in reality it was the replacement of a benevolent and progressive regime with a barbaric and medieval reversal of progress.

Without the Moors the city rapidly became neglected, the port silted up and the city went into a long period of decline.  This is something that always intrigues me, it is rather like the Roman Empire, great civilisations provide advancement in human development but Barbarians always come along and tear it down and set progress back several hundred years.  Rather like BREXIT in the United Kingdom right now.  It really frustrates me because we learn absolutely nothing from history.

What happened to the Ancient Egyptians, the Native Americans of USA, the  Classical Greeks, the Romans, they all showed great progress in human development and then they disappeared and the process was reversed.  What lies ahead for us I wonder?

Down at the seafront was a statue of Henry the Navigator, quite possibly, no, almost certainly the most famous of all Portuguese sailors and adventurers.

I had seen him before of course in Belem in Lisbon at the The Monument to the Discoveries. Located on the edge of the north bank of the Tagus, the fifty metre (I hate Boris Johnson and I emphatically refuse to go back to imperial measures) high slab of concrete was erected in 1960 to commemorate the five-hundredth  anniversary of his death. The monument in the capital city is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry looking out to the west, perhaps contemplating another voyage of discovery. 

The statue in Lagos is rather less spectacular.

Lagos was an important port during the Age of Discovery when Portugal was a major maritime nation as it built a World empire.  It competed primarily with neighbours  Spain to make discoveries in the New World and in 1494  after years of challenge a Treaty was signed which gave Brazil to Portugal and all the rest to Spain. For Spain this might have seemed like a good idea at the time but it rates as a serious negotiating disaster  as it gave up the Amazon rain-forest and all of its riches for the barren Andes of Patagonia.

By the mid nineteenth century Portugal had the fourth largest European Empire but at only 4% of World territory was way behind France (9%), Spain (10%) and Great Britain at a huge 27%.  That is a massive amount of land grab but I wonder if the Roman Empire might have been even greater given that the known World was much smaller two thousand years ago.

We spent a very enjoyable afternoon in Lagos, it was different, it wasn’t the tourist Algarve of Vilamoura or Albufeira, much more similar to Silves and Tavira; had a very pleasant pavement lunch and then took the train ride home, had a few stressful moments trying to secure a taxi ride to the hotel but eventually made it back to our accommodation,

We had tired of the hotel catering by this point but had discovered a very nice Portuguese restaurant in the village which served traditional food so were we glad to abandon the school dinner hall tonight and spend an excellent evening with proper food.

From the Archives – Angling/Fishing

These days I can’t really understand the point of catching fish unless you are going to eat them but I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.

These days the only fishing I do is at the supermarket.

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