Category Archives: Hotels

The Algarve – A Tense Walk to Albufeira

 

“By the end…it was clear that … spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms… 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’.

I understand that breakfast service at the Tui Blue Faleseia was once used as an initiation test for new recruits to the SAS but it was discontinued because it was considered too tough even for this.

The food, it has to be said was very good indeed but the restaurant ambience was rather like Dante’s inferno!. Wooden chairs being scraped across tiled floors, cutlery being dropped on the floor with a clatter, great training for the ‘World Pushing In Championships’ and the constant attention of the cleaning up crews who, if you weren’t careful would whip your plate away from under your nose even before you had finished.

It was in the dining room that I first noticed the tattoos, because the amount of body art on display here was absolutely incredible.  Personally I cannot understand why anyone, unless they are a Maori, would want to disfigure themselves in this way but here at Tui Blue it seemed as though they were almost in the majority.  Here there were bodies decorated with lions, wolves and dragons, goblins, fairies and skulls, a comprehensive A to Z of boy’s and girl’s names and more Indian braves than General George Armstrong Custer  had to fight at the Battle of the Little Big Horn!  Why do people disfigure themselves in this way I wonder.

So we started off to Albufeira but as it turned out it wasn’t an especially good walk and less than half way there Kim began to complain.  Too hot, too hilly,  too touristy with which I had to agree but keep it to myself.

We walked through the resort town of Santa Eulalia which I remembered from thirty years ago as a quiet place with a couple of modern hotels.  Not so anymore, it is a noisy place with a couple of d0zen modern hotels and a nasty strip of English bars, ticket offices touting tours and car rental places.  Quite horrible.

But, if that was bad we (I) managed to take a wrong turn and we found ourselves in little Liverpool, a place for lads and tarts, tattooed from neck to knee, nursing hangovers and already drinking mid morning.  Praia do Oura or more correctly Praia de Horror was a dreadful place and this diversion didn’t improve Kim’s mood a great deal so I was glad to reverse the mistake, get out and carry on.

Thirty minutes later we arrived In Albufeira.

Up until the 1960s Albufeira used to be a small fishing village but is now one of the busiest tourist towns on the Algarve and has grown into a popular holiday resort for tourists from Northern Europe and even though this was early May it was surprisingly warm and there were a lot of people about this morning.

This was Albufeira when I first visited in 1985., the year the town acquired city status.  It is called Praia dos Pescadores. More fishing boats than sunbeds in those days.

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I have to say I found Albufeira both interesting and disappointing in equal measure.  It has clearly long abandoned its fishing heritage and the economy is now driven by tourism.  The Old Town is street after street of bars and cheap beach shops, travel agents selling tourist excursions and waiters waiting to ambush at every street corner.  We were looking for a tradional Portuguese restaurant that we had enjoyed three years earlier but when we found it it was closed and had clearly been so for some time.

Looking carefully beyond the shop facades and up above it was still possible to catch a glimpse of old Abufeira but sadly you will have to be quick because it is only a matter of short time before it is certain to go.

 

I am getting to sound like Norman Lewis now.  I suspect the place once had an easy sort of charm, fishermen’s cottages on the beach and whitewashed house with blue doors and elegant balconies in the old town but much of this is now hidden behind fast-food places and Chinese and Indian restaurants.

People have probably always complained about development and progress, it is quite likely the Saxons looked back at London with fond memories and complained about the Normans building new castles and Cathedrals.

After the discovery that the Portuguese restaurant that we had walked six miles to see was no longer there we stopped just long enough for a pavement beer and then took a taxi back to Olhos de Agua.where spent the remainder of the day on the balcony of our room.

 

 

 

The Algarve – A Stroll Along Praia da Falésia

“Imagine the Grand Canyon sitting on a beach. Welcome to Praia da Falésia. The beloved beach is characterised by its incredible red cliffs. In fact, the translation of the beach is Beach of Cliffs. Falésia beach is one of the best beaches in the Algarve. Even if you are not a beach lover, this beach is definitely worth a visit.” – Algarve Guide

It was a glorious morning, we took breakfast in the hotel dining room, watched sad guests bagging sunbeds and applying bucket loads of sun cream and preparing for a hard day around the pool and then set off to walk the four mile Praia da Falésia towards Vilamoura.

We had no desire or intention to walk as far as the resort. We visited Vilamoura previously  in 2019 and immediately wished that we hadn’t.  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  with roving packs of British golfers in between golf courses. And Chavs with tattoos.   We prefer ‘dilapidated charm’ and are certainly not ‘super-rich’ so stayed no longer than half-an-hour or so before quickly leaving without a single glance in the rear-view mirror.   As it happened on that day we moved on to Olhos de Agua and had lunch on the sea front but I had completely forgotten about that.

So we set off on the walk…

This was Olhia de Agua in about 1960.   It has changed a lot obviously.  I read a book before the holiday bu someone who lived in the Algarve in the 1960s and was forever going on about how development was ruining the place.  If he could come back now I tell you that he would have a mental breakdown.

This is not a great picture, it shows the village about sixty years or so ago and was on a menu at a local restaurant,  No concrete, no boulevard, just a sandy shelving beach and a fishermen’s village beyond.  Sigh.  Double Sigh.  Double Double Sigh.

I am not really a great fan of beaches, except for walking.  I cannot sit on a beach for a long time, about one hour is my absolute limit and that includes a fifteen minute paddle/swim.

This isn’t Portugal, believe it or believe it not it is Skipsea in Yorkshire, England and that is the North Sea…

Falésia is a good beach for a walk, soft sand, cool Atlantic water lapping over  ankles,  driftwood and shells to collect.  I always add a little bit of driftwood from each new beach that I visit to add to my own creation …

And wildlife.  We weren’t sure if this was dead or alive, Kim invited me to poke it to see but I declined the offer…

I was intrigued by the cliffs, sandstone eroded over time to reveal dramatic sculptures and I amused myself by looking for faces in the stone.  This one reminded me of the Semana Santa in Spain….

This one of a Viking Warrior…

It was a good day, it was a good walk, we enjoyed it…

Cofete Beach on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands still remains my favourite…

A to Z of Cathedrals – J is for Riga near Jurmala

I am really cheating with this one.  I feel like Boris Johnson.  If I was an MP I would be obliged to report myself to the Parliamentary Standards Board.  Johnson won’t so neither will I.

For my At o Z  of Cathedrals no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t find a a J.

This is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Riga.  Jurmala is about ten miles away.  In my defence I have been to Jurmala and I honestly didn’t realise that it wasn’t in Riga.  Just like Johnson didn’t realise that he had been to a party.  I have posted this in all good faith.

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral in Riga is a magnificent and impressive building that sits between the old town and the new and was built in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883 at a time when Latvia was part of the Russian Empire.  It was the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces.

Read the full story here…

 

East Anglia – Bury St Edmunds and The Patron Saint of Pandemics

Bury St Edmunds was another town that I had never visited. A few years ago I drove through it and was struck by the elegant market place with a tall cathedral and fine Georgian buildings and I made a note to self to pay a proper visit one day.
This was it.
In terms of the weather we had unfortunately picked a very bad week to be on an English staycation and we weren’t too disappointed to be leaving the holiday home (caravan) so we packed up early and headed away from the coast and into rural Suffolk and drove through villages which had seen significant overnight snowfall. I thought that I was in Alaska. Contrary to popular folklore March had roared in like a lion and instead of going out like a lamb was going out the same way.
Fortunately the further west that we drove the weather began to incrementally improve and there were even some glimpses of elusive blue sky. We arrived in late morning which was too early to book into our chosen hotel so we made instead for the centre of the town. Local folk call the town Bury but being from the North I always think of Bury as being in Manchester so I prefer to think of this place as Bury St Edmunds. It sounds posher.

After Ipswich and Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds is the third largest place in Suffolk and we liked it immediately. After tea and biscuits in the Cathedral coffee shop Kim and Mum made directly for the High Street shops and I went off to investigate the Abbey Gardens and the Cathedral.
The Abbey of St Edmund was once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in all of England. In 869, Edmund, King of the East Angles was murdered by invading Danes when he refused to renounce Christianity. For his stubbornness he was tied to a tree and shot through with arrows and had his head cut off to make sure. No half measures in those days. I wonder sometimes about medieval torture, surely the victim was well and truly dead before the torturers had finished. Vladamir Putin would have been a medieval torturer I am sure.

His death led to the building of the Abbey to house his remains and his shrine quickly became a place of pilgrimage. The Cult of Edmund flourished during the Middle Ages and he was temporarily revered as the patron Saint of medieval England until at some point he was replaced by Saint George.
Today he has the unlikely title of the Patron Saint of Pandemics so I imagine that he has been rather busy listening to prayers for the past couple of years or so. He is said to have been given this title after the French city of Toulouse (who claimed to have some important relics of his) became ravaged by plague in the seventeenth century. Residents of the prayed to Edmund after which the plague came to an abrupt end. As Michael Caine might have said “Not a lot of people know that”.

Maybe if more people had known this the World could have saved a fortune on developing Covid vaccinations and going into expensive lockdown. I wish that I had known that because if I had I would have said a prayer to St Edmund because a few days after returning home from East Anglia both Kim and I both tested positive for Covid.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s the Abbey naturally began to fall into disrepair and lots of stone was taken for alternative building projects around the town. I was quite surprised therefore to discover that so much of it remained in a vast well maintained town centre park.
Near the Cathedral there are houses built into the walls which reminded of Antoni Gaudi creations in Barcelona. I don’t suppose that Gaudi ever visited Bury St Edmunds but if he had he may have got inspiration here,

I spent some time in the Gardens, walked every path and read each and every information board.

Towards the end of the afternoon I made my visit to the Cathedral. Free admission by the way. Up to 1914 Suffolk didn’t have a Cathedral and was part of a wider diocese of East Anglia with the Cathedral in Norwich in Norfolk but it was then decided that it required one of its own. This presented the Church with a dilemma.

Ipswich is the biggest town in the County but Bury St Edmunds had the most famous church thanks to the St Edmund connection. The Church came to a compromise, Ipswich would get the Bishop’s House and be the base of the diocese and Bury St Edmunds would get the Cathedral and everyone agreed that that was a good idea except perhaps for the Bishop who has a hundred mile round trip every week to get to Sunday service which would have been much more of an inconvenience over a hundred years ago than it is today.

Ipswich is not unique, it is not the only County town without an Anglican Cathedral and there are others – Warwick, Cambridge (I mentioned that before), Northampton (I mentioned that before as well), Nottingham, Aylesbury and Shrewesbury are other examples. At the same time that Suffolk became a diocese so too did Essex with its own Cathedral in Chelmsford.

Not a brilliant Cathedral I have to say but it provided me with a pleasant fifteen minute visit, especially as the choir was practising which was very nice, before I left and rejoined the others at the agreed time.

I had enjoyed my afternoon in Bury St Edmunds and I was forced to concede that this was a town where half a day it isn’t long enough so I will have to make another note to self to return one day and stay longer.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Sunday Sunsets – Fazana in Croatia

In the sky the late sun and some occasional clouds were beginning to assemble into an impressive sunset ensemble rather like a bonfire in the sky and with Kim’s magic camera (if you remember, it can capture a sunset even if there isn’t one) it seemed certain that we would be able to get some good pictures.

Micky and I met first and after taking the pictures we took an outside seat at the tavern and over a beer we approved the menu by making sure that there were not too many slippery things from the ocean on it and there were some suitably plain alternatives for Sue and Christine and having satisfied ourselves that it would meet with approval we sat and waited for the others to join us.

Read the full Story Here…

North Yorkshire – Settle to Appleby by Train

In the morning we had a very fine Yorkshire Breakfast.  A Yorkshire Breakfast is really just a full English but most places now try and regionalise it  with some variations. 

The one above is my attempt at a Little Chef breakfast.  Keeping it simple, bacon, sausage fried egg with mushrooms, fried potato, black pudding and baked beans in a separate dish.  I do think that it is important to have baked beans in a separate dish.  I imagine the Queen has baked beans in a separate dish but Prime Minister Boris Johnson eats them out of the tin.

A Full Scottish Breakfast has haggis and potato cakes, a Full Irish has white pudding, a Full Welsh has Penclawdd cockle and laverbread cake and the menu is in a funny made up language and in Cornwall they have hog’s pudding an especially unpleasant combination of pork meat and fat, suet, bread, oatmeal or pearl barley and formed into a large unnatural looking sausage.  

A Full Australian Breakfast looks very similar but the Full American loads it up with waffles and pancakes and they can’t cook bacon properly.

So today we were going on a train journey on the famous Settle to Carlisle line across the Pennines, the so called backbone of England.  We were going from Settle to Appleby so not quite all the way to the border town.

In terms of distance it was only a short drive to Settle but Yorkshire roads are very narrow and at times unpredictable so it took rather longer than anticipated.  And at some point we missed an important turn so now it took even longer.  After an hour or so we arrived at the Ribblehead Viaduct.

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle railway across the fabulously named Batty Moss Valley and was built a hundred and fifty years or so ago, it is thirty miles north-west of Skipton and twenty-five miles south-east of Kendal and is a Grade II listed structure.

The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument. Because it was so far from any major settlements the workers and their families lived in three navvy settlements called Sebastopol and Belgravia and best of all Batty Wife Hole – there is an appropriate monument to commemorate them below the arches.

We stopped and admired the viaduct but the clock was ticking so we pressed on to the town of Settle.  When we set off this morning we thought we might have time to look around the town but  now only made it to the train station by the skin of our teeth and purchased our tickets just in the nick of time.

Settle Railway Station is like piece of 1950s history, it belongs on a model railway, a brick ticket office with exterior wooden features painted maroon and cream in classic English railway station colours from over half a century ago.

The train arrived on time and we bagged our seats.  The route crosses the most remote and scenic regions of the Yorkshire Dales and the terrain traversed is among the bleakest and wildest in England.  It takes an hour for the train to make the journey at an average speed of a sedate forty miles an hour.

The railway’s summit at 1,169 feet requires a sixteen mile climb from Settle to Blea Moor so it is rather slow going, almost all of it at a gradient of 1 in 100 and  because in times gone by steam trains didn’t cope well with gradients it was known to train drivers as “the long drag”.

This stretch of the line has fourteen tunnels and twenty-two  viaducts and the most notable is the twenty-four arch Ribblehead.  Soon after crossing the viaduct the line enters Blea Moor tunnel, 2,629 yd long and 500 ft below the moor, before emerging onto Dent Head Viaduct. The summit at Aisgill is the highest point reached by main-line trains in England. At an altitude of 1,150 feet and situated between Blea Moor Tunnel and Rise Hill Tunnel immediately to its north, Dent is the highest operational railway station on the National Rail network in England.

Corrour Railway Station in Scotland At 1,340 ft is the highest mainline station in the UK.  At 3,000 feet the highest railway station in Australia is Summit Railway Station in Queensland,  The highest station in the World is Galera in China at 15,700 feet above sea level which to put that in perspective is about half as high as Mount Everest and half the cruising height of most modern aeroplanes.

This was a delightful and scenic journey as we crossed viaducts and disappeared into tunnels  with wonderfully descriptive names – Stainforth Tunnel, Dry Rigg Quarry, Blea Moor Tunnel, Arten Gill Viaduct, Rise Hill Tunnel,  Shotlock Hill Tunnel, Ais Gill Summit, Smardale Viaduct and Scandal Beck.  And stopping at stations – Horton in Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, Garsdale, Kirkby Stephen and Appleby. 

Into the County of Cumbria we spent an hour in the town of Appleby which I have to say was not the best part of the day before making our way back to the train station which was probably the best thing about the place because it meant that we were leaving and took the train back to Settle.

Sorry Appleby.

Ljubljana – Bridges, Markets and Art Nouveau

There was one more morning to spend in Ljubljana and so after breakfast and check out from the Hotel Park we repeated some of our earlier sight seeing through the city.  First of all we walked through the market, which was especially busy and vibrant this morning on account of it being Saturday I guessed  The stalls were colourful and exciting and the vendors were enjoying brisk trade as the market heaved with hectic activity.

Read The Full Story Here…

Travels in Slovenia – Ljubljana and the Park Hotel

Some of our travel journeys are impulse decisions, usually in response to a last minute bargain flight deal, but the trip to Ljubljana was planned well in advance because we were acting upon a recommendation and because it was a destination that sounded interesting and that appealed to us both.

Read The Full Story Here…

Sunset Sunday – Katapola in Amorgos

Read The Full Story Here…

People Pictures – Hvar in Croatia

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken outside the Cathedral in Hvar in Croatia…