Category Archives: Food

On This Day – Boat Ride to Bodrum

On 30th September 2014 I took an ill advised boat trip in Turkey.

After the debacle of the IMX excursion to Ephesus and Pamukkale and the road side break down we seriously considered cancelling our next IMX  trip to Bodrum because this was by boat and whilst breaking down in a car is bad enough, in a boat it could be catastrophic.

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Staycation 2020 – North and South of the Humber

Growing weary of the tedium of the lock-down and with holiday plans to Sicily in tatters we decided to meet with our friends and spend an evening together for a meal in a nearby pub. Kim tracked down an excellent deal of only £50 each for bed, breakfast and evening meal at a well recommended place with a two star AA rosette. Unlikely as it sounds owned by chef Colin McGurran who was a winner one time on ‘Great British Menu’.

It turned out to be a very good deal, placed on the south bank of the Humber Estuary, comfortable rooms, good views and an excellent meal. Kim had posh burger and I had East coast mussels.

The Hope and Anchor (above) is in the unfortunately named hamlet of Ferriby Sluice and is at the point where the River Ancholme drains into the Humber Estuary via a sluice gate and a set of locks. A hundred years or so ago it was a busy marina and a departure and return point for the leisure and packet boats that regularly used the Humber.

Boats have always left Ferriby (the clue is in the name). The Romans stopped here in Lincolnshire at the end of their great road, Ermine Street which linked London and Lincoln before continuing to the Humber and then crossed the river to the north bank to continue into Yorkshire. The Romans were famous for straight roads and the section from Lincoln to the Humber, a distance of thirty-five miles is one of the straightest in England.

Ferries on the Humber continued to be important until the construction of the Humber Bridge in 1981. 

After breakfast we walked for a while along the banks of the River Ancholme butI have to say that it is not an especially thrilling or picturesque sort of place, a carpet of smelly algae on the river (thank goodness for coronavirus masks), a redundant cement works and a marine breakers yard. It does however have a National Historic Ship – The Amy Howson, a sloop that once worked the Humber and the Rivers and tributaries along the way to towns and cities as far apart as Grimsby and Sheffield.

It was rather chilly so we didn’t stay long this morning before driving across the River Ancholme and away along the south bank of the Humber.

This was a day for crossing rivers and driving west we crossed the Trent and then turning north the Ouse, the third and fourth longest rivers in England (after the Severn and the Thames). We were more or less at the point where they converge to form the River Humber. Other rivers contribute as well, principally the Don and the Aire and we crossed those as well.

Actually, the Humber isn’t really a river at all because for its entire length of only forty miles or so it is tidal so technically it is an estuary (I only mention this here in case someone challenges me on this important point of detail).

It may be one of the shortest rivers in England but it is also one of the most important as it deals with natural drainage from everything on the east side of the Pennines, the North Midlands and the Yorkshire Moors.

We rather rudely passed through Goole, Britain’s furthest inland port without stopping, I must go back and visit one day, but today we continued to the market town of Howden, a place that I have wanted to visit for some time.

Howden is a small historic market town lying in the Vale of York in the East Riding of Yorkshire, three miles north of the port town of Goole, it regularly features in lists of desirable places to live and is high up on a standard of living index. I liked it immediately and not just for the fact that it has free car parking.

All roads in Howden lead to the attractive Market Place next to the ruins of the sixteenth century Abbey and Minster, one of thirteen in the county of Yorkshire. Here is a curious fact, Howden was granted to the Bishop of Durham by William the Conqueror in 1080 and the town remained an enclave of Durham until 1846.

I imagine the Minster was once a fine building but it lost its status during the Reformation, was vandalised by Parliamentary soldiers in the English Civil War, the roof collapsed in 1696 and over the next hundred years or so the site was looted for its stone for alternative construction projects in and about the town and whilst the Minster lies in ruins the town has a network of streets with very fine Georgian buildings.

The Minster is currently undergoing restoration and we found it closed today which may have been due to the work or alternatively the dreaded coronavirus.

We found the town very agreeable and liked it very much so we walked the streets of the historic centre before stopping for coffee and cake at a town centre tea shop. We left in mid-afternoon and followed a route along the north bank of the estuary before crossing over the Humber Bridge back to North Lincolnshire which completed our quest of crossing all major rivers of the area.

 

My Lead Soldier Collection – The Spanish Conquistadors

Conquistadors

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon”  Gerald Brenan

Many of the sixteenth century explorers and adventurers who carved out the Spanish Empire in South America came from Extremadura and as well as Pizzaro, there was Hérnan Cortés, who defeated the Aztecs and founded Mexico, Hernando De Soto, who explored Florida, and Pedro de Almagro, who accompanied Pizzaro and they all came from this south-west corner of Spain.

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On This Day, The Greek Island of Ios

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 27th August 2007 I was on the Greek Island of Ios in the Cyclades…

Ios Greece Last Night's Catch

The walk to Valmas is interesting because of the derelict terraces and dry stone walls that separate the hillside into individual plots of land.  Ios is just one large inhospitable rock that has been baked in the sun for thousands of years but as recently as only fifty years ago people here were scraping away at the thin soil and the stones to try and make a living or to feed the family by growing fruit and vegetables.

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On This Day and Bother with a Bat

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 22nd August 2015 I was on a family holiday in Mid Wales…

Talylynn Railway

The first day was a washout but that isn’t unusual in Wales.  In 1972 I went to University in Cardiff and spent about 90% of my student grant on raincoats and umbrellas.

We went to bed but sometime about one o’clock Kim woke me to say she could hear something – something fluttering.  I told her she was imagining things and that she should go back to sleep but then I heard it too.  A gentle quivering high in the beams, probably a moth I reassured myself but then Kim demanded man action so I got out of bed and turned on the light.  Oh My God it was a bat.  A bat.  A bloody bat!

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Little brown bat

On This Day – Boulogne, France

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 11th August 2010 I was in France in the Northern port city of Boulogne.  I have been to Boulogne several times and I am happy to declare it one of my favourite cities in all of France.

Boulogne Old Town

I like Boulogne, I like Northern France, I especially like Northern France in August because all of the French people have gone south leaving the north for us Brits and the asylum seekers trying to get a boat to cross the English Channel.

The old town is built within the original Roman walls and has recently been well restored and it was in complete contrast to the concrete and glass of the sea front and the modern glitzy shopping streets.  Here is the beating heart of a medieval city with history gently oozing from every corner with a castle, a cathedral and narrow streets lined with charming properties, little shops, inviting cafés and bars.

Boulogne 02

From the car park we walked along the main street full of interesting shops and busy restaurants and under the walls of the huge cathedral which was rebuilt in the nineteenth century as a symbol of the revival of the French Catholic Church.  During the 1789 Revolution the old cathedral had been closed, Catholicism was replaced by order of Robespierre by ‘The Cult of the Supreme Being” and Christian worship forbidden.  The Church was declared the property of the State and then dismantled and sold for building projects, stone by stone.  In 1802 Napoleon reinstated the Catholic Church in France.

The medieval cathedral was the site of a shrine to ‘Our Lady of Boulogne’ a representation of a vision that appeared in Boulogne in or around the year 646 and which arrived in a boat without sails, oars, or sailors, on which stood a wooden statue of the Virgin holding the Child Jesus in her arms.  The French Revolutionaries didn’t have a lot of regard for this sort thing and so at the same time as they destroyed the cathedral they burned the priceless wooden statue as well.

Anyway, the church was rebuilt in the nineteenth century complete with a massive dome, one of the largest in Europe, and inside there is a modern replica of ‘Our Lady of Boulogne’ which is one of four that were sculptured in 1943 and toured France until 1948 when it was known as ‘The Lady of the Great Return’ and is today symbolic of the reconciliation between nations.

This was nice I thought, such a shame that we in UK have foolishly chosen to turn our back on Europe…

Boulogne 01

From the cathedral we walked along the Rue de Lille and negotiated the pavement table barricades scattered almost randomly across the pedestrianised street and then to the Hotel de Ville with its immaculate gardens like a green  oasis in the centre of the cramped city where we stopped for a while and enjoyed the hot sunshine and the contrast of a cool beer under the shadow of the city’s twelfth century UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval Belfry.

Inside the town hall there was free entry to the Tower that included a guided tour and history of the building which was helpfully given in English as well as French.  There was a long climb with a couple of stops for informative narrative and there were good views from the top of the tower and we were lucky to be part of only a small group of visitors because we had time and space to enjoy the rooftop vista.

Boulogne 09

We left the old town by a gate next to the Castle Museum and I am forever amazed at the bits of trivia that I pick up on my travels because who would have guessed that inside is the most important exhibition of masks from Alaska in the whole world?  I couldn’t help wondering why the most important exhibition of masks from Alaska isn’t in Alaska?

After the break we walked half of the walls and then returned to the car to go to the fishing port to find some lunch and after we had some difficulty finding a parking spot we strolled casually down the hill into the town past the Nausicaa Aquarium, one of the largest aquarium museums in France.

We strolled along the busy docks which, it turns out, is the biggest fishing port in France and there is a large fishing fleet including deep-sea trawlers and factory ships, as well as smaller sea-going and inshore fishing boats.  A third of France’s fresh fish catch is landed here, and a huge quay-side fish processing factory makes 20% of the nation’s tinned fish, and half of the frozen fish, fish fingers and other fish based ready meals.

Boulogne Fish Market Postcard

At a seafront restaurant we asked for menus but things went spectacularly wrong when an unexpected strong gust of wind blew my glass of beer over straight over.  It was getting quite windy now so we tried two or three different tables and then abandoned the seafront lunch idea and returned instead to the shelter of the old town where perhaps we should have stayed in the first place.

Here we selected a restaurant on Rue de Lille and ordered what we thought was going to be a snack but turned out to be quite enormous meals which, although we didn’t know it at the time was going to spoil our evening meal.  Mum didn’t enjoy her Welsh Rarebit, Alan had an oversize omelette, Richard had a pizza that would have been sufficient for all four of us but I did get the pot of moules marinière that I had been promising myself.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

On This Day – Aldeburgh in Suffolk

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

Just a couple of years ago on 7th August 2018 I was in East Anglia in the UK visiting the town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk…

Aldeburgh Family

After a visit to the seaside resorts of Southwold and Lowestoft we travelled a little further south today to the town of Aldeburgh pronounced Awl borough, famous most of all for being the home town of the English composer Benjamin Britten.  Place names are like this in East Anglia – Mundeslea is Munslea and Happisburgh is Haze-brrr.

I wondered if my grandchildren would like it because Aldeburgh is an old fashioned genteel sort of place where people of a certain age (mostly my age, I confess) visit to amble along the pebble beach.  The objective for most is to pass judgment on the scallop sculpture which seems to be the most controversial thing about the place (half the town love it, the other half hate it) and later find a tea shop for a cucumber sandwich and a slice of Victoria Sponge cake.

Aldeburgh Suffolk Beach Scallop Sculpture

Aldeburgh is that sort of a place, a bit upmarket, a bit fond of itself, snobby really.  In 2012 the residents fought an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to prevent working class Tesco from opening a supermarket in the town because they didn’t consider it appropriate, they probably would have preferred middle class Waitrose.  Tesco got its approval and is still there but in nearby Southwold the town objected to Costa Coffee, it opened in 2013 but closed down in 2019 citing local opposition.

I confess that I like the sculpture (I also like Tesco) and it seems that a lot of other visitors do also because they are drawn to it like moths to a flame.  I would welcome something like it in my nearby seaside town of Cleethorpes for sure. Local people  claim that it spoils the beach and regularly petition to have it removed.

When I say local people I wonder just who they are because according to official statistics second homes make up about a third of the town’s residential property.  This is an attractive and sought after location for people with lots of money that work in London.  A sort of Chelsea by the Sea.  This is the sort of thing that local people should be campaigning against.

Aldeburgh Beach Walk

So we visited the sculpture and the children climbed on it and used it as an alternative playground and then we walked with some difficulty along the blue flag beach with pebbles crunching under our feet and occasionally leaking into the space between our feet and our sandals requiring several stops to remove the offending sharp articles before we could comfortably continue.

Along the way we passed the fishing boats drawn up onto the shingle, rugged craft with peeling paint, rusted rigging and knotted nets, their work done now for the day and undergoing basic maintenance and essential repairs and the overnight catch being sold in the simple wooden huts with chalk board signs along the side of the road.  I bought some overpriced smoked fish filo pastry parcels and looked forward to them later with my tea.

Aldeburgh Boat and Beach

Eventually we reached the town, the children had ice cream and we stopped for tea and cake at the Cragg Sisters Tea Room which served a mighty fine cup of tea and some excellent cake and scones.  As I anticipated the children were tired of Aldeburgh now and anxious to get back to the swimming pool at the Kessingland holiday park so while they went back without us I found myself in a street of expensive shops with Kim and my Mother, both determined to return with an unnecessary purchase.

I left them to it and wandered the High Street until I came across a long line of people all patiently queuing for something, rather like a line of Russian housewives lining up for bread in a time of shortage.

It was a fish and chip shop, a famous seaside fish and chip shop as it turned out that is regularly voted the best in England and clearly a lot of people agreed with this judgment.  I would have liked some fish and chips but I am not very patient in a queue and I had just had a cheese scone and tomato pickle at the tea room so I declined to join the end of the line and went instead to the beach to photograph the boats.

But I couldn’t get the desire for batter and grease and salt and vinegar out of my head so later I had fish and chips in nearby Lowestoft because few things capture the spirit of the English seaside quite like the furious sizzle of a fillet of haddock in a deep fat fryer.

Chips, Crisps or Fries – How Do You Eat Yours?

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On This Day – On George’s Boat in Corfu

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 28th July 1983 I was enjoying a boat ride on the Greek Island of Corfu…

George's boat 1984

This was George’s boat and at mid morning we joined about thirty other holiday makers when we arrived at the untidy concrete quayside opposite the hotel.

We were welcomed on board by George himself, a man with a big smile and a flamboyant sense of humour who worked hard to get us all to enjoy ourselves before casting off and steering the brightly coloured boat with the steady rhythm of its chugging diesel engine away from Corfu and out into the Ionian Sea.

George's Boat Corfu 1984

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On This Day, Palermo in Sicily

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 20th July 2007 I was in the classical Italian City of Palermo in Sicily…

Palerm 10

A couple of years ago I suggested to some regular travelling pals that we should go to Naples in Italy for a few days.  They were horrified by the suggestion because of the city’s reputation as being rather dangerous.  They said that they would prefer to go to Barcelona in Spain even though I pointed out that the Spanish city is the pickpocket capital of Europe and had recently suffered a terrorist attack.

I couldn’t persuade them to reconsider so we travelled to Naples by ourselves.  We thought of ourselves as intrepid adventurers stepping out boldly into a dangerous Italian city.  For us this completed a trio of visits to so-called risky Italian cities because previously we had stayed in Bari in Puglia which enjoys a similar reputation and Palermo in Sicily, the home of the Mafia.

Michael Corleone

I have often wondered where all of these crime stories come from and are they true?  It seems that they are linked to a web of crime syndicates that operate across all of southern Italy.  Sicily has the Cosa Nostra, Naples the Camorra, Calabria has the ‘Ndrangheta and Puglia  the Sacre Corona.

In preparing this post I did a little research and was surprised to find that not one of these cities is in the top ten hazardous places in Italy with the top three spots being taken by Milan, Bologna and Rome all of which are all further north.

I think it is fair to say that a tourist is at more risk from a street pickpocket attack than an organised crime syndicate.

A year later we went to Madrid and my friend, who thought Naples was dangerous, had his wallet stolen in the street.

Click on an image to scroll through the Palermo Gallery…

 

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Arizona, Desert and Deadly Snakes

Arizona Desert

We stopped at a desert recreational area and took a walk amongst the Saguaro cactus which are sometimes called the ‘desert monarch’  on account of the fact that they can be fifty feet tall and up to two hundred years old.  We walked among them a short way but became understandably nervous when we read a warning sign about rattle snakes and we remembered Mike’s gruesome stories of painful venomous deaths where blood turns to cement and you die in seconds so we didn’t stay very long.

I think Mike was exaggerating. I looked it up later.  There are about eight thousand reports of venomous snake bites every year in the USA but on average only five people die which is about twice as many in Australia.  That is about the same amount of people who die from dog attacks in the UK each year.

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