Category Archives: Hotels

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunset Sunday – Katapola in Amorgos

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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…

Travels in Croatia – Gradac to Hvar

After a drive to Mostar in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina we returned to Croatia to the seaside resort of Gradac and booked into the Hotel Marco Polo that was located directly on the beach and had a room with a balcony and a view of the perfectly blue Adriatic Sea.

After settling in we walked along the seafront looking for a bar with a view of the sunset but as the town is situated in a bay and faces south this proved stubbornly illusive. We found a nice restaurant that was entertaining a noisy birthday party and we agreed that this looked good for later on.

When we returned the party had gone and it was much quieter but I think the staff were worn out and weren’t in the mood for doing any more cooking because most of the menu was unavailable and the waiter presented us with a choice of fish starter, fish soup and fish of the day. This turned out to be a real bonus because the octopus salad starter was delectable and the fish was succulent and delicious.

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Travels in Croatia – Split and Diocletian’s Palace

 

Leaving Skradin we drove south along the delightful Dalmatian Coast and as we did so the weather started to deteriorate with huge bilious clouds building over the Mosor Mountains that rise to almost one thousand four hundred metres and were collecting the grey and preventing it moving north as they rushed in from the sea and built instead into columns of threatening anger.

To the west by contrast the sky was clear and the sun was shining but to the east and over the land it was not nearly so pleasant.  We drove past the town of Primosten and the city of Trogir, leaving these for another day, and carried on to Split, which is Croatia’s second largest city after the capital Zagreb.

Because of its strategic importance Split suffered damage during the war and probably the most tragic incident of all occurred in November 1991 when the Yugoslavian frigate named Split fired shells at the city. The damage was insignificant and there were only a few casualties but this was the only time in history that a city has been bombarded by a military vessel bearing its own name.

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