Tag Archives: Postcards

A to Z of Windows – G is for the Greek Island of Corfu

In the 1980s Corfu was expanding rapidly as a tourist destination and was acquiring an uneviable reputation as a party island and magnet for unruly British tourists on boozy Club 18-30 holidays.   They were drawn in the main to the hedonistic town of Benitses which was well known for heavy drinking, beach parties, wild behaviour and street fighting.  There was a story at the time that even the island police were frightened to go in there after dark but I am not sure if this was really true.

Over the next twenty years or so the locals who lived in the village grew tired of its  reputation and ill-disciplined guests and made a determined effort to throw off its bad ill-repute.  Benitses set about reinventing itself with the addition of a swanky marina, up-market hotels and a string of classy bars and tavernas.

The rowdy youngsters were carefully redirected to Kavos in the the far south of the island where they were kept as far away as possible from families and the mostly well behaved.

Read The Full Story Here…

Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge

It was a bitterly cold morning when we left the hotel and talk a short walk around the village before setting off for the short drive to the nearby town of Kirkby Lonsdale. Someone told us that there had been a frost overnight but I am not too sure about that.

The journey took us out of the county of Yorkshire and through a small wedge of Lancashire and into Cumbria and to Kirkby Lonsdale which is only a part of Cumbria by a whisker, just a mile or two over the county boundary.

It is indeed a very charming town, the sort of place that when visiting I decide that it would be rather nice to live there but after a look in the Estate Agent’s window the asking prices confirm that I am happy enough to stay where I am.

There is not a great deal to do in Kirkby Lonsdale it seems except to walk around the picturesque streets and public footpaths. We visited the Thursday market which consisted mostly of artisan craft stalls which didn’t interest me greatly and then followed a walking route that took us along the side of the very attractive and free running River Lune as far as the fourteenth century Devil’s Bridge.

According to the legend the original bridge was built by the Devil because it was too difficult for mere mortals to achieve this feat of engineering.  Probably because of the weather the Devil had never been to Cumbria before but sometime around the eleventh century he dropped by.  As he wandered about admiring the scenery (no one has satisfactorily explained why he didn’t go somewhere even more scenic, such as Lake Windermere for example) he came across an old lady who seemed rather upset.

 ”What’s the matter? he asked (or possibly roared).

“Oh, I’m in such a terrible muddle and I don’t know what to do! My cow has wandered across the river and I can’t get her back”.

Ah!” said the Devil “What you need is a bridge and I am just the man to build you one. Why don’t you go home, and in the morning there will be a bridge waiting for you. All I ask in return is to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge”

That night she wondered about this stranger who would build her a bridge. ‘What a strange request!  Why should I cross the bridge to get my cow back if he gets to keep me in exchange? Mind you it is very tempting offer”

The next day she got up and called for her faithful dog. Together they went down to the river. 

“I told you that I would build you a bridge” said the Devil. “Now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain”.

She started to walk towards the bridge. But just when she got there she stopped, took out bone from her apron pocket and hurled it across the bridge and the dog chased after it.  Dogs are hopelessly stupid creatures that will do  dumb things like that.  A cat wouldn’t. 

“FFS”  exclaimed the Devil.  I don’t believe it! Your dog has become the first living thing to cross my bridge. It’s no good to me” he screamed and then vanished and I can understand that because I am not what you call a dog lover myself. 

After this the Devil was apparently never seen in Cumbria again – some say it was because he was so embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady but I suspect that it more likely had something to do with the wet weather!

Actually, it turns out that Satan is quite a prolific bridge builder and Wikipedia lists at least a hundred Devil’s Bridges, mostly in Europe and almost always with the same story.

We returned now to Clapham and on a gloriously sunny Autumnal afternoon took a long countryside walk alongside the River Wenning which led to Ingleborough Cave which claims to be the finest show cave in all of England and had a £9.50 admission charge and no discount for seniors.

Reminding ourselves that all such places make these sort of extravagant claims we decided against going underground today and besides we have been down caves before elsewhere and one is much like any other.

On the way down we passed by an effervescent waterfall so congratulated ourselves on not paying for the Ingleby trail the previous day. Like true Yorkshire folk we were saving money every day. We were practically honorary Tykes.

 

Carrickfergus Castle and Halloween

I have mentioned before what seems to be my exceptional good luck with the weather in Ireland. Except for a whole day washout in Galway in 2017 and the ten minute squall at the Gobbins Coastal Walk this year I have always enjoyed good weather.

Today was no exception so after an excellent full Irish breakfast (in a stack) we left the Titanic Quarter, crossed the river and made our way to the railway station because today we were visiting nearby Carrickfergus (what a great Irish name that is) to see its mighty castle.

On the way we passed the Belfast Big Fish. There is a sign saying no climbing but William missed that and clambered onto its back regardless. William is good at jumping and climbing.

The train journey alongside the western shore of Belfast Lough took just about twenty minutes and we arrived at about midday in a curiously subdued (for a Saturday morning in a fair sizes market town) Carrickfergus town centre. With nothing to distract us such as a market for example we made our way directly to the harbour and the castle.

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle, the oldest , biggest and best preserved medieval building in all of Northern Ireland built on the north shore of the Lough to manage and protect the entrance to the emerging port of Belfast and the navigable River Lagan.

It was here that King William III landed in 1690 on his way to the Battle of the Boyne, a decisive battle in the struggle for supremacy in Ireland in which William was victorious and secured Protestant domination in Ireland for over a subsequent two hundred years. Carrickfergus remains even to this day a staunch Unionist/Protestant town.

There is a statue of King Billy with his massive hat close to the harbour.

We were looking forward to visiting the castle but the door was firmly closed. I told William to go and knock and he pounded so hard that anyone inside might have imagined it was under siege. A young man emerged and told us that the castle was closed today on account of this being Halloween weekend and an unofficial public holiday. This seemed odd to me, why would you close a tourist attraction on a bank holiday when you might expect higher than normal visitor numbers.

The man said ‘come back on Monday’, I said ‘We are going home tomorrow (Sunday)’ and he helpfully suggested ‘Come back next time you are in Northern Ireland’.

I was intrigued by this but it seems that Halloween is rather important in Ireland and people here tell you that Halloween traditions were begun and influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, the beginning of Winter, the dark months, which are believed to have pagan roots. Some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Christian Church.

Anyway, whatever, The Irish claim ownership of the Halloween tradition. Apparently they used to carve turnips and light a candle inside to represent the souls of the recently and dearly departed. Carving a woody turnip I can only imagine to be extremely hard work so the Irish must have been glad to find that when the emigrated to America that there were no turnips and pumpkins were abundant and much easier to work with.

We all know what happened next, over the years the USA hijacked the Halloween tradition and turned it into a commercial bonanza which has spread across the World. In the process the historical and cultural significance has sadly been swept away in a tsunami of tacky consumerism, much like Christmas and Easter.

We all do it…

In the UK I personally lament the fact that Halloween has completely eclipsed Bonfire Night and the ‘Penny for the Guy’ tradition but I suppose the environmentalists will applaud the fact that we no longer light thousands of polluting bonfires on November 5th.

With the castle closed and nothing to detain us longer in Carrickfergus we took the train directly back to Belfast.

Where we did some more sightseeing…

The Gobbins Coastal Path

Before driving into Belfast we had an appointment at another Northern Ireland tourist hotspot – The Gobbins Coastal walk Experience. An odd name for a tourist attraction you might think but the explanation is that it comes from the Irish word Gobán meaning headland.

The Gobbins is a cliff face walk up and down difficult and uneven steps, across iron bridges and through a tunnel that at one point runs below sea level. It all sounded rather exciting.

So we arrived at the visitor centre at the appointed time and after being booted and suited were given the first of a series of health and safety lectures followed by a bus ride from the centre to the east coast and the starting off point for the adventure.

The Gobbins was created by an Irish railway engineer called Berkeley Deane Wise. He designed and built the path as a tourist attraction for the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company and it first opened to the public in 1902 with visitors paying 6d to enjoy a ‘perfect marvel of engineering’.

Almost immediately the Gobbins drew worldwide acclaim, with one newspaper review extravagantly declaring that the varied beauty of this cliff path baffles all description’.

Because of its proximity to Belfast with convenient railway links for a while the Gobbins Path was even more popular as a tourist destination in Northern Ireland than The Giant’s Causeway.

Thousands visited The Gobbins in the first few decades of the twentieth century advertisements of the time declared ‘the new cliff path along The Gobbins Cliffs, with its ravines, bore caves, natural aquariums … has no parallel in Europe as a marine cliff walk’. High Praise indeed.  However, the railway company got into financial difficulties during the 1930s, essential maintenance slipped and the path was closed in 1936 and gradually fell into serious disrepair.

There was a restoration project between 2011 and 2016 which restored a part of the pathway. The cost was almost £8m with over half of the funding coming from the European Union. Who says Brexit was a good idea? Where is the money going to come from for these sort of projects in the future?

There was a long steep path down to the entrance and then the walk began. It was interesting but not nearly as exciting or dramatic as I had imagined it would be with long stops for explanations from the tour guide which were impossible to hear because of the wind and the pounding of the waves and these frequent stops made it rather tedious at times.

And then there was an unexpected rain shower, more of a nasty squall than a shower as it happened that lasted for ten minutes or so and being exposed as we were on the cliff face managed to soak us all right through. I enjoyed most of it except for the part where we walked through a tunnel of roosting pigeons and lots of bird shit to try and avoid.

An interesting experience but I wouldn’t do it again. The best bit was when Kim spotted a pod of dolphins swimming close to the land. There is something special about seeing dolphins.

From the visitor centre we drove directly to Belfast and to the Premier Inn Hotel. I like the Premier Inn hotels, they are reasonably priced and you know exactly what you are going to get – a quiet room, a comfortable bed and no nasty surprises.

Later we walked into the City in search of somewhere to eat but is was rater busy which shouldn’t really have surprised us because measured by population it is the twelfth largest city in the United Kingdom. We struggled to find somewhere that could accommodate us and without success finished up at a Wetherspoons bar where the food is cheap and includes a free drink but it is not what you would call by any stretch of the imagination a fine dining experience.

A to Z of Statues – Y is for W B Yeats

“In a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.” – W.B. Yeats

This rather unflattering statue of the poet stands in the centre of the town of Sligo in Southern Ireland.

Read The Full Story Here…

A to Z of Balconies – West Yellowstone in USA

W has been a bit of a problem but I eventually came up with this one, taken in 1995 on a coach trip holiday of the National Parks of the USA..

After visiting Yellowstone National Park we stayed at the Stagecoach Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana which was a modern building built to a quaint design with wood panelled walls, paintings depicting the wild west, animal trophy heads and a piano in the bar that Dad had a less than melodic plonk on.  I liked this place and at the end of the fortnight was happy to declare it the best accommodation of the holiday.

 

People Pictures – Stubborn Occupation

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 in the resort town of Paphos in Cyprus…

From our hotel a lot of the two mile walk into Paphos was completely dull and uninteresting, a strip of charmless grey car hire offices, car parks, travel companies, estate agents, every so often an Irish Pub and a modern but unfortunate McDonald’s restaurant. There is always a McDonald’s restaurant.

I thought that you might need some McDonalds facts here. There are eighteen McDonalds in Cyprus and that is about one per 47,000 population, roughly the same as the UK. For comparison USA and Australia have a restaurant for about every 25,000 and the highest in Europe is Andorra with one for every 15,000. Iraq has only one restaurant for its population of forty million, I don’t know whether to sympathise with them or congratulate them.

Closer to the harbour and the older sections of the town there was a more interesting mix of history and styles.

As we walked we strayed away from the main streets into backstreet areas where some people hang to the past like stubborn barnacles clinging to a rock. Houses from the past which take up space that modern developers would love to get their hands on but people will obviously not give them up easily. Mostly old people of course and I imagine that once they have gone their families will happily sell up and cash in.

This elderly couple were managing what I would describe as an urban smallholding.

A to Z of Balconies – Furadouro in Portugal

The next stage in our journey was to the beach resort of Furadouro and we took the train from Coimbra to Ovar.

On arrival needed to travel about three miles west to the seaside town and rather unsure and completely disorientated we broke our no taxi rule for a second time in four days and hitched a ride to our hotel, the Furadouro Spa.

The taxi dropped us off outside reception and we went inside to register where on account of a nippy wind coming in off the sea the staff were in thick jackets and expressed surprise that we were wearing our summer clothes when, in their opinion, it was so cold. We explained about being from England and living on the North Sea East Coast.

After we had approved our accommodation and settled in, good but not as good as the last three in Lisbon, Tomar and Coimbra we stepped outside to take a look at Furadouro. This didn’t take very long, but we found a restaurant that caught our eye for later on and a nice pavement bar to have a beer and then we made our way to the seafront.

There was a strong wind blowing, towering Atlantic breakers and red flags flapping furiously, rather unnecessary in my opinion because only a crazy person would go into a sea as mad as that. Only half crazy we went into the sea but only up to our ankles with an occasional waist high splash and we walked the beach for about two miles or so.

Later we found a back street fish restaurant overflowing with local people so on the basis that this is always a good sign we requested a table We were having a lot of bad luck with restaurant closures in Portugal that was for sure!
and had a first class meal for a very reasonable price and we agreed, as we always do, that we would come back tomorrow. On the way out we attempted to book a table but the waiter told us they were closed now for an end of summer vacation.

The plan for our three days at the seaside in Furadouro was to take a break from travelling and the trains, the drag-bags and the packing and unpacking and to spend some time relaxing on the beach.

Unfortunately our plan was scuppered by the weather because when we woke the next day there was a thick sea mist which would have challenged anything that the North Sea can throw at us back home.

Trying as best we could to be optimistic about the situation we hoped that it would be blown away by the time we had finished breakfast but it was still there like a damp shroud when we left the hotel and ventured onto the streets.
The wind was raging and wild, someone told me later that it was something to do with Hurricane Irma on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and that may have been true, but then again maybe not.

As we walked along the seafront Kim continually complained about how cold it was and although I disagreed with her I have to retrospectively confess that secretly I was rather cold myself. Naturally I just shivered in silence but didn’t share this information.

There was a scything wind ripping in off the sea like the grim reaper, a dangerously high surf and a churning ocean like horses of the Camargue making a charge out of the rolling, twisting waves that relentlessly barreled and pounded the gritty shoreline.

By mid morning it was getting even worse so we finally admitted defeat, took our swimming costumes and towels back to the hotel and tried to think of some alternative entertainment for the day.

The wind continued to buffet the seafront promenade as we walked back to the hotel, it carried on howling throughout the night and it was still blowing a gale in the morning when we left the hotel after breakfast.

 

On This Day – Clairière de l’Armistice at Compiegne

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 5th August 2017 I was in Northern France visiting a site of major historical significance…

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Close by to where we were staying in Vic-Sur-Aisne was a particular place that I was keen to visit so one morning after breakfast I set off alone towards Compiègne and to the Clairière de l’Armistice, a historic site where the armistice of 1918 brought the First-World-War to an end and where just over twenty years later in 1940 Adolf Hitler dictated the terms of the surrender of France.

It is not a spectacular site, there is nothing grand about it, it is one of those places that you visit because of what happened there not for what you are going to see – two momentous moments in modern European history.

Read the full story here…

 

Postcard From The USA – Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Grizzly

Yellowstone was designated as a National Park in 1872 when President Ulysses S Grant signed a new law ordering ‘the tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River to be set apart as a public park’ and in so doing it became the first National Park in the USA and indeed the world.

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Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…