Tag Archives: Culture

Cheapskate Travel – Part One

Commenting on a recent post, a long term blogging pal of mine (who knows me so well) suggested that I am a cheapskate traveller.  I am so proud of this, it is like being nominated for an award at the Oscars, like winning an Olympic Gold Medal, like getting a mention in the New Year’s Honours List.

It reminded me of this post that I put up first in February 2014…

Complimentary Shampoo and Shower Gel…

“I still enjoy travelling a lot. I mean, it amazes me that I still get excited in hotel rooms just to see what kind of shampoo they’ve left me.”  –  Bill Bryson

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A to Z of postcards – X is for Eixample in Barcelona

The modern parts of Barcelona are a triumph of urban planning.  We were staying in the Eixample district which was planned and built about one hundred and fifty years ago by a man called Ildefons Cerdà and is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues and square blocks with chamfered corners all of which means that the traffic always flows freely in a slick one-way system and it is easy to navigate on foot.

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A to Z of Postcards – W is for Wroclaw in Poland

Following the coffee break we returned to the streets, walked through the Market Square and out the other side and at this point alarm bells started to ring because it soon became obvious to me that Kim was leading us directly towards the shopping arcades.  I knew the signs, I have seen them many times before, the sniff of the perfume, the glitter of the sparkly things catching the corner of the eye  and the smell of shoe leather.

For a while I fell behind after stopping to buy a doughnut from a shop with a long and patient queue but after the purchase I caught her up and queried this but was received an assurance that this was a complete coincidence – but I wasn’t entirely convinced. And as it turned out I had good reason not to be entirely convinced because suddenly we were outside the entrance to a modern shopping mall and the tractor beam that attracts women into shops was working on maximum draw power.

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A to Z of Postcards – T is for Tenerife

I visited Tenerife in 1989 and stayed in the tourist resort of Los Christianos near Playa de Los Americas in a hotel complex called the Parque Santiago.  One day I took a coach tour to the Teide National Park.  It wasn’t a long trip in terms of kilometres but the bus left early because it happens to be an awfully long way to climb to the top.

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Portugal – Setúbal and Seafood Dining

The nearest beach was about three miles away to the west so we laced up our shoes, packed our bags and set off.

First stop was the city market, said to be the largest covered market in all of Portugal, which was a wonderful experience, so much better than next door Pingo Doce supermarket, especially the fish section at the back with slabs and slabs of fresh fish and more varieties than I could ever have guessed at.  And it was selling fast as local shoppers gathered around squabbling over choices and prices.  It was like a rugby scrum.  So we thought that it might be a good idea to come back later and make our own selection for our evening meal.

Next, a second market down on the sea-front, this one exclusively fish and also enjoying brisk trade and then past a harbour of fishing boats where rugged men with weather beaten faces and  hands with broken knuckles were cleaning down and mending nets in preparation for going out to sea again later.

Unsurprisingly this was an area full of fish restaurants and some interesting street art including a boulevard decorated with leaping dolphins and we examined the menus in anticipation of lunch later on. 

We were heading for the Praia Portinho da Arrabida and I was fairly confident that I could plot a course along the sea front to get there but sadly I was badly mistaken and a couple of dead ends required retracing our steps turning the three mile walk into a five mile walk and all the time Kim’s patience slowly draining away and then after only a short while quickly draining away.

We came across some beaches but there was no one on them and there were warning signs saying not to swim there.  They didn’t explain why but the skull and crossbones persuaded us to carry on to our intended destination.

A seafront statue/tribute to the fishermen of Setúbal …

So eventually we arrived at the beach, a rather sad and deserted beach as it turned out and although we rather liked the idea of a swim the previous warning signs had put us off, that and the fact that no one else at all was in the water.  So we went to a beach bar instead, Kim had a coffee and I had a beer.  I refuse to buy tea or coffee because I consider it to be extortionately overpriced.  Why buy a coffee when it costs more than a beer?  It doesn’t make any sense.

 Another Portuguese navigator/explorer – Jose João Besugo

With the beach plan in tatters we had to rethink our day now and as we sat and chatted we went through the menu and we wondered why something called Choco Frito was doing there; we had assumed that it was something like a deep fried mars bar but Google came to our rescue and explained that it was a cuttlefish dish which turns out to be a local speciality.  We agreed that on the way back it was only polite to try some.

No chance.  This being Sunday everyone in  Setúbal was out eating and every café/ bar/restaurant had a line of people waiting for a table.  I thought there was a global cost of living crisis but obviously not in Setúbal. We had spotted a place we liked the look of earlier down a grubby back street close to the fish market.  Not a hope in hell, the place was overflowing, the queue was a mile long and selections were being regularly wiped off the chalk- board menu.  So we moved on.

Back to the city market which was now closing up for the day and most of the fish had gone.  I know that they eat a lot of fish in Portugal but this was quite something and slabs that had been overloaded this morning were now quite empty.  Another plan that now required a rethink.

On Setúbal seafront boulevard we continued to search. At one we were lucky, there were a lot of people in groups of four or more but a waiter called us through for a table of two.  What good fortune.

I don’t as a rule take pictures of food but in this case I made an exception…

We ordered the cuttlefish of course, everyone else was, we declined the optional starters which was a good decision because the main event was huge, a big helping of Choco Frito, a really large portion of fries and a massive plate of salad.  I have to tell you that it was delicious, I like squid and octopus so it was inevitable that I would also like the cuttlefish.

The size of the mid afternoon portion ruled out any thoughts of evening meal so we finished off the chicken from the previous evening with a simple salad.

Later we walked to the sea front again and watched the twinkling ferries making their way back and forth across the waters of the estuary and agreed that tomorrow we would make the crossing in search of a proper beach.

Later, I walked to the supermarket for essential alcohol supplies and by chance passed by a McDonald’s.  I am always interested in what McDonald’s have on their alternative menus across the World and wasn’t so surprised that in  Setúbal I came across fish fingers…

A regional variation in France. is served on a baguette..

And in Spain inevitably there is patatas bravas…

In Greece the burger is served in a pitta bread which looks rather tempting..

but Poutine in Canada looks like slop and needs a leak-proof box…

What is your favourite McDonald’s meal? And I don’t believe anyone who tells me that they have never been there and tried one!

 

 

A to Z of Postcards – R is for Richmond in Yorkshire

The next morning we debated what to do.  The majority decision was to visit a nearby attraction called ‘The Forbidden Corner’  but due to bureaucratic planning restrictions tickets could only be bought on-line and without communications at the cottage this had been quite  impossible.

We drove there anyway and at the entrance they confirmed that entrance was only by advance booking so we took a bagged a spot later in the week and drove off to look for something else to do.

The children thought they might like to visit the chocolate factory in nearby Leyburn and even though all of the signs seemed to suggest that it was open it was in fact closed so we had an empty car park to ourselves to debate what to do.

We decided to go to the town of Richmond.

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A to Z of Postcards – P is for Puglia in Italy

“Evidently, the God of the Jews didn’t know Puglia, otherwise he wouldn’t have given his people Palestine as the Promised Land.”                                            Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Puglia (1194 to 1250 AD).

We had travelled to Italy before, to Pisa and Tuscany, Naples and Sorrento, the islands of Sardinia and SicilyRome of course, to Venice and the Veneto and the EPCOT World Showcase, but we had never before visited the far south east, the heel of the boot.

Not a postcard but a Tea Towel that I spotted in a tourist shop…

Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.

The food was wonderful and although we didn’t have time to try all of the two hundred varieties of pasta I am certain that they would all be just as delicious as those that we managed to sample – the sea food pastas were especially good.  We also liked the pizzas and I have to confess that my favourite meal was the horse meat stew in Lecce but please do not tell my granddaughters.

A postcard souvenir of our travels in Puglia…

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A to Z of Postcards – O is for Oviedo in Spain

Oviedo is only a small city, only just scraping into the top twenty largest cities in Spain and it isn’t even the largest in Asturias so it didn’t take that long to walk around the historical centre and after a brief stay we continued our drive south.

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A to Z of Postcards – N is Northern France

Guidebooks say that Abbeville was once an attractive place but it was destroyed in the German blitzkrieg of 1940 when the town was reduced to rubble as the German Panzer divisions advanced towards the English Channel but I have to say that I found the rebuilt modern town to be very attractive itself, so attractive as it happens that I can only begin to imagine just how picturesque the original town might once have been.

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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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