Category Archives: Uncategorized

On This Day – A Ghost Town

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 2nd October 2015 I was in an Italian Ghost Town in Sardinia…

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Thursday Doors – Caminha in Northern Portugal

Caminha 06

In July 2008 we were visiting Galicia in Northern Spain and one day took a car ride south and crossed into Portugal and the Province of Minho named after the river that marks the border with Spain.

After a short while we came to Caminha, which is an ancient fortress town overlooking the river and is rich in historical and architectural importance. It didn’t look too promising down on the river but a short walk to the centre revealed a most appealing town with manorial houses and medieval defensive walls, a Gothic church, and a very attractive main square with cafés and a fifteenth century clock tower.

Especially interesting were the houses with colourful tiled walls in bright blues, greens and yellows.  There was one of those old fashioned hardware stores that you rarely see in Europe anymore and all of the houses had first floor doors that led out to rusting metal balconies that overlooked the sunny streets.

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For some reason which I can’t explain I bought a Tea Towel souvenir in the shop there…

Portugal Tea Towel

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

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Early Days, 1957 Part Three – The BBC Spaghetti Tree Hoax

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Originally posted on Have Bag, Will Travel:
By 1957 most people were beginning to get television sets in the home and on 1st April the BBC broadcast one of its most famous ever programmes; a spoof documentary about spaghetti crops…

The Story of an Aussie in The English Fens (Part One)

Crowland Bridge 01

John is a blogging pal from Melbourne in Australia (John corrects me and tells me that is Melbun if you are an Aussie but I stick with the Pommy, as in Lord Melbourne, after who the city was named) and we have followed each other for several years and have become good friends.

Recently John announced that he was travelling to England for just a few days and hoped that there might be a possibility to meet up.  I told him that he was welcome to come and stay in Grimsby but as he only had a single spare day in his busy itinerary that this would be quite difficult.  Grimsby is a great place to go to but not a great place to get to, it just takes such a long time.

The solution was to find somewhere practical where I could drive and John could get to easily from London.  Looking at a map I settled on Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, a ninety mile drive for me and an hour train journey for John.

We met early one evening and over evening meal John explained that he had little interest in visiting castles or cathedrals or stately homes and such and that he would prefer to see the countryside.  With a an interest in farming he had read about the area of England called The Fens and was certain that he would like to see the farmland and the marshes of what some people might consider to be one of the least interesting parts of the country to visit.

The Fens

This made it easy for me, I lived and worked in Spalding in the heart of The Fens for ten years between 2000 and 2010 so before going to sleep that night I came up with what I hoped was an interesting itinerary for the next day.

After an excellent breakfast the day started to go badly.  There was a thick fog across the entire area, my SatNav wouldn’t work and there was a road closure due to an accident that blocked the road to my first intended destination.  This is when I remember that it is a good idea to put a paper road map in the car but of course I hadn’t so I was confused and making driving decisions without any useful assistance.  (A passenger from the other side of the World was, I have to say, not a lot of help).

After a long, and as it turned out an unnecessary detour, we crossed the mist shrouded fields and arrived in the small town of Crowland just as the fog disappeared and the sun began to shine.  That was a relief because this part of England is quite beautiful in sunshine but desperately dreary in any other sort of weather conditions.

Crowland is a long way off the tourist trail and was surprisingly busy today which took me by surprise but maybe it was because it contains two sites of historical interest, Crowland Abbey and Trinity Bridge.

Trinity Bridge

We started at the bridge which is a scheduled monument built in the fourteenth century and the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom, perhaps even Europe, perhaps even the World!  The bridge has three stairways that converge at the top. Originally it spanned the River Welland and a tributary that flowed through the town and was a clever and economical solution to the crossing of two watercourses at their confluence, reducing the need for three separate bridges to a single structure with three abutments.

The River Welland doesn’t flow through Crowland any more, it used to inconveniently flood so it was diverted some time ago away from the centre of the town and flood defences were put in place.

The river in Crowland grows reeds which produces some of the finest material for roof thatching in England.  Sadly it is expensive to process and has been undercut by cheap thatch from Eastern Europe.

John was taking pictures and blocking the pavement and as a consequence entered into conversation with a busy woman with a shopping trolley who was anxious to get by without stepping into the road.  He apologised and explained that he was just patiently waiting until he could get a picture of the bridge without people.  She gave him an old-fashioned look and asked how he expected to achieve that on Market Day.

We looked around but could see no market stalls and sensing our confusion she told us that there is no street market any more but everyone still comes into town on a Friday anyway.

Street markets in small English towns are difficult to find these days, they are no longer economical or viable, just like the thatch food is cheaper in European supermarkets.

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Travels in Spain – Madrid, Don Quixote and a Royal Celebration

Madrid Royal Palace

When I am in Italy I look out for statues of Garibaldi and when I am in Spain I try to find statues of Don Quixote to add to my collection.

Perhaps the most famous statue of him is in the Plaza de España at the extreme western end of the Grand Via and quite close to the Royal Palace and the Cathedral so early one morning I selfishly walked us all down there just to get my picture. This was to end in disappointment because the entire square was closed off behind ten foot high wooden boards hiding a lot of building work as the square was being completely restructured.

I caught an ellusive glimpse of the statue but not clearly enough to take a picture so I bought this postcard instead…

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Don Quixote is a novel written by the seventeenth century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and is regarded as the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age.

It is the story of a man who believes that he is a knight and recounts his adventures as he rights wrongs, mistakes peasants for princesses and “tilts at windmills” mistakenly believing them to be evil giants. As one of the earliest works of modern western literature it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published. In 2002 a panel of one hundred leading world authors declared Don Quixote to be the best work of fiction ever written, ahead even of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

don-quixote-book-cover

Cervantes has also been credited with shaping modern literary style and Don Quixote has been acclaimed as “the first great novel of world literature”. Since publication in 1605 it is reputed to be the most widely read and translated book on the planet after the Bible. I tried to read it once but found it rather heavy going so gave up quite quickly but as we walked along I resolved to have another attempt.

The others superficially sympathised with my disappointment about the failure to see the statue but I could tell that they didn’t genuinely share it as we walked next to Parque del Oeste to see the Egyptian Temple of Debod.

Madrid Egyptian Temple

I was surprised to find a genuine Egyptian Temple in Madrid but it turns out that in 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to help.  In 1968 as a gesture of gratitude for the assistance provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples that were due to be flooded and lost forever the Egyptian State donated to them the temple of Debod.  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture that can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.  Well, who knew that?

The Temple was closed to visitors today due to unexplained ‘technical reasons’ but there were some very good views over the city from the top of the park so we stayed for a while and then continued our walk towards the Royal Palace gardens, the Jardines de Sabatini.

Madrid Palace Gardens

There were lovely walks though the gardens but a lot of police ‘do not cross’ lines and we were soon to find out why when we left and made our way to Palace itself where there were crowds of people outside all waving tiny Spanish flags and trying to see through the gates. It turned out to be part of a celebration of five years of the reign of the King of Spain Felipe VI who was crowned here in June 2014.

Our intention this morning was to visit the Palace but this plan was now in tatters because the place was closed while the celebrations inside continued. So we made our way to nearby Plaza de La Armeria which separates the Palace from the Cathedral and from where there were good views inside the Palace courtyard where we could see the military displays and the arrival of the distinguished guests.

The Royal flag was flying from the top of the Palace which was a sign that the King (full name – Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia) himself was there today but to be honest we were quite unable to pick him out. Eventually the soldiers and the military bands all marched off and the crowds melted away into the shadows of the side streets and feeling lucky to have been there at the right time for once we slipped away ourselves back to the city centre.

We thought it might be better to return to the Palace for the visit the next day when it was most likely not to be so busy so today instead we found a nice shady restaurant for lunch and then more or less repeated the guided tour of the previous day but this time at our leisure.

I will bring you back to the Palace in the next post.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

A Previous Visit to Morocco

Epcot World Showcase

The Disney Web Site introduces Morocco like this: “A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way into this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosaics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has 2 fascinating sections: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.”

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Portugal, Recommendations

As a general rule I am happy to recommend anywhere in Portugal – not this public bench in Tomar however…

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France, La Croix du Vieux Pont Campsite and Fishing

One of the popular activities at La Croix du Vieux Pont Campsite was fishing.

These days I can’t really understand the point of catching fish (if fox hunting is illegal then why isn’t fishing – it is the same thing) but I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.  I had a three piece rod, two parts cane and the third part sky blue fibreglass with a spinning reel which, to be honest, I never really got the hang of, a wicker basket, a plastic box for my various floats and miscellaneous bait boxes for bread, cheese, garden worms, maggots and ground bait.

Fishing was generally quite boring but one day became quite lively when my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a home made rod and line.

He had turned up just as we were about to go to the canal so we made him a rod from a garden cane with a bit of string and a nylon line and hook and persuaded him, against his better judgement, to join us.  One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water, spluttering and gasping and generally struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and left him dripping and bedraggled on the doorstep.  We didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

This story was not all childhood fantasy I have to say and had some dubious foundation in fact because there was always a story that there was a big fish lurking in the reeds on the opposite bank to the towpath that was alleged to be a trophy pike which is a rather big fish that can live for thirty years and grow to over thirty pounds in weight – always supposing that no one is going to drag it out of the water on the end of a fishing line that is.

We never really caught very much, a few greedy perch, the odd roach and loads and loads of gudgeon but there was never enough for a good meal.  Sometimes if we were fishing too close to the bottom we would bring up a crayfish and the only sensible thing to do was to cut the line and throw it back, hook and all.

Actually by the time I was thirteen I had tired of fishing in the same way that I had tired of Boy Scouts and Saturday morning cinema because by this time I had discovered girls and the only good thing about the canal towpath after that was that it was a good place for snogging.  I didn’t really like catching fish at all, I thought it was cruel, so used to dangle a hook in the water with no bait attached while I concentrated on adolescent activities.

Water always had a special attraction and when we weren’t messing about on the canal there was always Sprick Brook where we used to fish for minnows and red-breasted Sticklebacks and take them home in jam-jars in the days before goldfish.  Sprick brook ran under the railway bridge on Hillmorton Lane and was just the sort of place where you could have an accident and no one would find you for days until someone organised a search party.

I still find fishing completely pointless and I am always amused by people who have twelve foot rods and sit on one side of the river and I always want to ask them why they don’t just get a shorter one and go and sit on the opposite bank?

Ponte de Lima Portugal

Maybe it is because fish are just too smart.  One time in Portugal at the  the ancient town of Ponte de Lima I walked across a bridge that crosses the River Lima into the town and watched some men optimistically trying to catch the huge carp that we could see clearly swimming in the water below and teasing the optimistic fishermen on the bridge above.  They were big fish and had been around a long time so I don’t think they were going to get caught that afternoon.

If it was a pike that pulled Colin into the canal that afternoon I like to think it knew exactly what it was doing!

Confused!

JUST SAYING…

Every now and again you write a post and you think “That is a good one” you think “I am going to be busy dealing with responses to this one” and then no one stops by to read it, comment on it or even just press the like button in passing.

Hey Ho!

I wish I understood WordPress and the people who use it.

 

Travels in Spain – Pedro Bernardo in the Gredos Mountains

Pedro Bernardo Spain

Driving out of the Castilian city of Talavera de la Reina was not too difficult except that we emerged from the underground car park onto a one way street and managed to cross the River Tagus twice when we didn’t even need to cross it at all until we found the road that headed north towards the Gredos Mountains.

As we made our way out of the city we began to slowly climb as we entered an area of green scrub land littered with huge granite boulders where the verges of the road were a riot of bragging scarlet poppies contrasting with demure damsel daisies.  Ahead of us we could see the mountains and the tops were covered in a few stubborn streaks of snow like paint streaks down the side of a pot that were in the protection of the shadows where the April sun couldn’t quite reach.

We were still in bright sunshine but ahead of us the sky was a dramatic dark grey, brooding, threatening, angry.

Poppies Castilla La Mancha Spain

A short way out of Talavera we crossed the site of a famous battle of the Peninsula War where Sir Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) won one of his most successful and famous battles.

On 27th and 28th July 1809 the Battle of Talavera took place between the Anglo-Spanish army and the French.  It was a total allied victory and during the fight Talavera was hardly damaged as Wellesley’s army expelled the French from the city and the surrounding area.  The battle is also the setting for the fictional event of ‘Sharpe’s Eagle’ the first book written in Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ series.

The drive north took us into the neighbouring Province of Castilla y Leon and  through the little town of Buenaventura, which was closed, and then the climb became more dramatic as we reached almost one thousand metres when we made the approach to the mountain village of Pedro Bernardo.

We managed to stay just short of the cloud and the sun was still shining as we drove through several tricky hair-pin bends and into the village and easily found the Hostal El Cerro in the middle of the village on a dramatic bend in the road overlooking the valley below.

Although only two star it was an excellent hotel with an exceptional room, a wonderful view and with excellent weather the ideal place for an hour or so of  relaxing on the very private terrace.  After a while the grey sky started to muscle in however and there was a drop or two of rain but it was sheltered and there were expansive views over the rural hinterland with forests of elms, pines, chestnut and hazelnut trees and tumbling waterfalls and racing rivers making the town a scenic paradise.

Pedro Bernardo Spain

The origins of Pedro Bernardo are not clear; the original name of the village was Navalasolana, and there is a popular local legend that talks about the leaders of two groups of shepherds, Pedro Fernández and Bernardo Manso. They started to fight and struggled to get the control of the village and finally, the feudal lord of the council came up with a solution and decided to change the name of Navalasolana to Pedro and Bernardo to achieve peace and stop the struggles between the two competing bands.

This sounds very much to me like the squabble between Steve McQueen and Paul Newman over who should get top billing in the film ‘Towering Inferno‘ and where there was an equally sensible solution – to provide dual top billing, the credits were arranged diagonally, with McQueen lower left and Newman upper right. Thus, each appeared to have “first” billing depending on whether the credit was read left-to-right or top-to-bottom.

In the early evening we walked into Pedro Bernardo, passing first through the Plaza de Torres and then the Plaza Mayor where groups of mainly old men were sitting in groups and discussing the big important issues of the day – whether to have a wine or a beer, shall I change my underpants tomorrow and that sort of thing.  We walked through the twisting narrow streets flanked by crumbling buildings with precarious wooden balconies and barely inhabitable houses and we wandered aimlessly through the streets until we arrived at the church somewhere near the top of the village.

Friendship

It was nothing special and really hardly worth the walk so we made our way back down and stayed for a while in the main square and had a drink had a bar where there was reluctance to serve us on account of the fact that the owner and bar staff were preoccupied watching a bull fight from Seville on the television.

The Hostel El Cerro was a perfect place, a rare mix of rustic charm and modern sophistication and we had no hesitation in eating in the hotel dining room.  It was only eight o’clock which seemed to surprise the staff but the chef was already there (in the bar) and we tucked in to an excellent Chuletón de Ávila.

Although it was still quite early, we had been a long day and had had an early start so after the evening meal we went back to the room and sat on the balcony with a final glass of red wine and from our elevated position watched the stars twinkling overhead in the velvet sky as though from the prow of a ship and stared into emptiness interrupted only by  the lights of the distant villages, Lanzahita, La Higuera and Ramacastanas lying like distant constellations in the vague immensity and then relaxed and content emptied the bottle optimistic that tomorrow would be another fine day.

Pedro Bernardo Spain