Montreuil was a source of inspiration for Victor Hugo who wrote the novel ‘Les Miserables’. It’s recently been televised by the BBC and so several of our friends were asking whether this was the reason we’d chosen to stay there … it wasn’t. We thought that instead of going straight home after our mammoth shop it would be a nice idea to stay somewhere not too far away from Calais. Montreuil is only an hour down the motorway and it turned out to be a very good choice.
On the way there we came off the motorway at Le Touquet as I wanted to take a picture of the sun setting over the sea. I’m glad we did because as you can see from the shot above, it was a beautiful sight.
Having arrived at our hotel we got a bit of a shock as we tried the door to the old building which was locked and then realised the place was empty apart from a cement mixer! Major refurbishments are going on so we were relieved when a workman directed us next door to the open part of the hotel. We’d definitely recommend Les Hauts de Montreuil. We were given a nice warm welcome, the bedroom was huge and the meal in the evening was excellent and if that wasn’t enough the choice at breakfast was amazing – everything you could imagine include home-made creme- caramel!
It was late afternoon when we arrived so we just had time before it got dark to wander up to the ramparts. Apparently there’s 3km of them so Montreuil was pretty much a fortress and still is. The street, Clape-en-Bas with it’s old houses built of mud is very picturesque but as the light wasn’t good I waited until the next day to photograph it.
The following day was bitterly cold and very grey with a promise of snow later. Nevertheless we had a good walk round the town. I took a few pictures of Rue Clape-en-Bas and then we walked up to ‘The Citadel’ which was built on the site of a former royal castle. Just shows how important a place Montreuil was. Every summer the town puts on a ‘Son et lumiere’ show in the Citadel celebrating Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’
After walking round a section of the ramparts we ended our walk round by popping into the main church. I thought it was a rather austere building on the outside although the carvings around the door are interesting. The church dominates one of the town’s large squares (lots of free parking!) and dates back to the 13th century when it was a monastery. The fan-vaulted ceiling is impressive as is the altar, the stained glass windows and the medieval tombs. Definitely worth a visit.
This really had been a short trip to France but we’d packed quite a bit in and had a full boot of wine to show for it and a few other goodies too …and we beat the snow that fell on Montreuil that evening.
Our first trip to the island of Mallorca and we couldn’t miss out on going to Palma. I knew there was an impressive cathedral in the capital and an historic palace but I was surprised with the number of stunning Art Deco buildings … I love this style. I also cursed that I hadn’t brought a larger suitcase as there were lots of nice shops along the narrow streets but maybe it was just as well!
We thought the streets were pretty busy but we were told by one of the shopkeepers that it was fairly quiet as there were no large cruise ships in the harbour that day. She complained that the tourists don’t bring much trade to the city as they buy their souvenirs on board and stuff themselves so full of food they don’t eat in the local restaurants. The ice-cream sellers apparently do well though.
The Royal Palace is right by the waterfront as is the massive Cathedral which is adjacent. If you arrive by boat the Cathedral and Palace must look even more impressive as they rise above the city.
Inside the Cathedral is pretty impressive too. We had to queue about fifteen minutes to get inside in what must be the windiest street in Palma! The wait and the wind whipping round was worth it, the interior is beautiful even though jostling with lots of other tourists was a bit of a pain.
It was a great to escape from the crowds as we slowly meandered back to the bus station. The weather was changing and we were beginning to feel the cold so we stopped and had a warm drink. Just opposite the cafe was a church. Nothing elaborate from the outside although clearly very old. Ironically this little church had much more atmosphere than we’d felt in the cathedral. Maybe it was because there was just two of us in there. Sadly I don’t know the name of the church but the picture below shows the incredibly ornate altar which dominated the tiny nave.
The weather on the last two days of our holiday was definitely on the change. Bright skies one minute then showers and a very keen wind most of the time. Makes for great seascapes although walking along the seafront was quite a challenge.
Waking up on our final morning to sunshine we decided to go over to Bunyola in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains to visit the Jardines de Alfabia.
The entrance is impressive with an avenue of palm trees and at the top there’s an interesting ‘keyhole’ where you can look through to a still pond of crystal-clear water. The pergola further along was great too as you just have to push a button and watch small fountains of water criss-cross the path. Children would love this, particularly if any unsuspecting visitors are walking through the pergola at the time!
As I wrote in the first part of my Blog on Mallorca, we were very pleased we’d chosen Puigpunyent as our base. We ate out several times in the town and enjoyed all the meals. The Rose Restaurant run by a Dutch couple was excellent and is very popular with tourists. The Bar Ca’n Jordi is more basic with very reasonable prices, good food and friendly staff. Sitting outside by the town square is a perfect place to enjoy a beer or a glass of the local wine. It’s a popular spot for cyclists to pause and have a drink before tacking the gruelling climb up the mountains. The family-run Ca Sa Nina restaurant at the edge of the town was our favourite. As well as the excellent local wine, the fish was superb as was the steak that John had (on both visits) and the staff were great too.
I can’t finish this without mentioning the micro brewery in the town. Cas Cerveser has only been going a couple of years but has already made its mark on the island and beyond. And no wonder, the beer is great! The good news is that the brewery opens its doors every Friday evening. Beer straight from the barrels. No need to cook either …a pizza van arrives and parks opposite the brewery serving delicious wood-fire pizzas. In addition they have a live band which adds to the fantastic friendly atmosphere. This is a real family evening with children running around the square while adults enjoy a pint or two. We only had a five minute walk back up to our apartment and slept very well after three pints of the Galilea golden ale! We felt very at home in the village. It’s a peaceful place but has lots to offer and has the added bonus of being off the tourist trail.
Hoping to grab some autumn sunshine and warm weather we decided to head for Mallorca (Majorca). My man had done his usual research and found a studio apartment in the small town of Puigpunyent just twenty minutes drive from Palma. It was perfect, very quiet, newly constructed with stunning views of the Tramuntana mountains.
This is a hilly island with a great coastline. Plenty of beaches away from the popular tourist spots and lots of great walks to do. Don’t make the mistake that I did by thinking my little dinky trainers would be fine …they weren’t. I should have sacrificed some space in my case and taken my walking boots, it was a lesson learnt!
The coastal hike from from Banyalbufar to Port des Canonge is a popular one. Even in October the car park at the starting point was full but eventually we found somewhere. The hike takes you through pine forest along high rocky crags and after 6km down to the beach to the small port. I’m grateful to the cafe owner for giving me iodine and a dressing for my knee. I was much more careful about where I walked on the way back! It’s a stunning walk but make sure you wear appropriate footwear.
Most tourists visiting Mallorca go on this little train, so we did too! Good bus service from Puigpunyent to Palma and cheap too. We found the terminus with minutes to spare and sat back enjoying the 50-minute journey to Soller. No time to look round as the next stage of the trip is to take the old tram so you join the queue with the rest of the tourists. The trams wind their way through Soller before going along the coast a short distance to the port.
Even at this time of year Sollar Port was heaving. Beautiful weather as you can see. We weren’t too bothered about eating in one the many restaurants along the harbour front or tempted by the souvenir shops so after a short walk and a beer we got the tram back to Sollar. We had an inexpensive lunch in a sandwich shop away from the main square with entertainment provided by the owner who was quite a character. The Japanese tourists just couldn’t work him out!
With the weather still holding we headed the next day for the coast to the small seaside town of Saint Elm. This place is beautiful! We had been tipped off that if we walked down from the town a little way we would find a quiet little beach and we did. Five people including us, it was perfect, as indeed was the lunch we had later back in the town.
The guide book on Mallorca says that Valldemossa is the destination of thousands of visitors every year. You can see why it’s so popular. The winding roads up to this mountain village are interesting to say the least and the town is very cute. There are flowers everywhere, decorative tiles on the houses and some great shops! You have to visit the 18th century monastery which includes the pharmacy used by the monks. We didn’t pay extra to go into the rooms used by the composer Chopin. The guides want you to, but we are a bit too shrewd to fall for that. The Palace is interesting too and is included in your ticket.
I think this Blog is quite long enough! Part two on our trip to Mallorca will follow shortly …
After two very enjoyable days in Liverpool we headed off towards Howarth in Bronte country. Gosh what a busy little place and packed with tourists even on a murky day in October! There are plenty of tea shops to choose from but I won’t be putting a hyperlink to the one we chose because it was overpriced and not a good choice. The tea was OK as you’d expect in Yorkshire but the minuscule piece of cake definitely wasn’t worth the money. Still it didn’t matter, we had a train journey to look forward to!
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway has its terminus at Oxenhope which is where we caught the train. This iconic heritage railway reopened in 1968 and is run entirely by volunteers. One of the stops along the route is Oakworth station which shot to fame in the film ‘The Railway Children’. The journey is just over 4 and a half miles long with six stations each reflecting railway architecture of the 19th century. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant we still enjoyed the views and the Victorian stations. The decline of the textile industry in this area though is very evident with several derelict woollen mills lining the tracks outside Keighley.
After our train journey we headed off to catch up with friends who live just outside Howarth. We’d not seen them for a while so there was plenty of nattering going on washed down with a few glasses of vino … (ha! ha!). Then the following morning we were off again to see more friends who live near Silverdale Cove which is on the Lancashire Coast.
We hadn’t seen these friends for a while either and this was another lovely catch-up. Their eldest daughter who is eight was a baby when we were last up there and we hadn’t of course met their youngest little girl but we hit it off with them straightaway. Having said that it wasn’t long before the girls left us to our chatting …after all adult talk is so boring!
After mugs of tea and cake around the kitchen table we noticed the sun had come out …it was time to go for a walk. A short drive and we were at the coast and what stunning views to have on your doorstep! Silverdale Cove is beautiful and a great place to explore and photograph.
We rounded off the afternoon with an excellent pint in one of the local pubs before saying goodbye to our friends and headed to our hotel for the night in Clitheroe. My man decide we’d go along the top road heading for The Trough of Bowland. It was getting dark but light enough to see some of the amazing landscape along the way, avoid sheep in the road, flooded bits and see (to our delight) a barn owl fly past us. If that wasn’t reward enough the fabulous sunset definitely was. Hope the pictures do it justice. This road is not for the faint-hearted with twists and turns and heart-stopping moments in case a car comes the other way. We made it but when we told the receptionist at the Waddington Arms how we’d got there she was pretty amazed!
We had an excellent meal that night in the hotel and a good room and were surprised at how cheap it was compared with prices around here in Gloucestershire. After a hearty breakfast we wandered around Clitheroe on a wet Monday morning before heading south down the motorway and home. It was a great four days away, the weather had been typically British but that didn’t matter and anyway we might find some sun on our next trip which will be to Majorca.
We’d been planning to visit Liverpool for ages and eventually got round to it in October 2018. As well as spending a couple of days in the city we’d also arranged to stay with friends in Keighley and round our trip off visiting a couple of old Uni friends who aren’t old at all! A lot younger than me but we all graduated together in 2003! They live just near the coast on the Lancashire/Cumbria border.
My man had booked a hotel right in the middle of Liverpool with the rather quirky name of The Nadler. Yes I know there’s something funny about it but it was a really nice hotel and not expensive. We were chatting to the helpful guy on reception who asked if we had any specific things we planned to do and of course we mentioned the usual tourist things which you’ll see we did quite a few of them. He asked if we’d thought about going to Port Sunlight and when he told us a little about it we decided to go.
The village of Port Sunlight is on The Wirral and was founded in 1888 by William Hesketh Lever to house the workers at his factory, Lever’s ‘Sunlight Soap.’ It has 900 Grade II listed buildings which were designed by 30 different architects and is an absolute gem of a place and well worth a visit.
We spent a very pleasant afternoon there walking round and visiting the Museum, popping into the Victorian schoolroom and one of the worker’s cottages. The star of the visit for me was the Lady Lever Art Gallery with so many pre-raphaelite paintings – what a find! We’d planned to go back on the ferry but we were too late so we got back to the city by the very efficient train service using the Walrus card. (Unique to Liverpool).
Next day was overcast and chilly but we had one heck of a schedule so a bit of seasonal October weather wasn’t going to get in our way. The first stop was just up the road from our hotel, St Luke’s Church which is commonly called the Bombed Out Church. It’s a ruin but has been revived recently and is used as an exhibition space and arts venue. Shame we couldn’t get inside but I loved the sculpture outside of the British Tommy shaking hands with a German soldier with a football at their feet. I took a few pictures and then we were off to to the next iconic Liverpool church, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in England. In the city it’s affectionally known as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’.
What an interesting building! Loved the design with no supporting columns in the main body of the church so a clear view wherever you sit. The Lutyens Crypt is interesting too which is accessed from a relatively new staircase co-joined now from the upper building. No photography allowed here but I managed to sneak a quick picture of the font with the sun on it and the ‘spider’s web’ window in the background.
No time to hang about though, we had another cathedral to go to! What a morning! This time as we rounded a corner to the Liverpool Cathedral we both felt disappointed. Yes it’s big but definitely not the prettiest of churches on a grey day … inside though is impressive. If you go there be sure to walk right to the back of the building where there is a second nave in the oldest part with some very interesting stained glass. There’s lots of things to photograph and a lot of walking to do so it wasn’t long before we headed for the cafe and a sit down. You get a great view from there which was even more interesting as they were setting up for a venue that evening with trolley after trolley of food arriving from a large lift which appeared to rise up from underground! The lighting technicians were busy too getting some great effects around the chancel area.
After our quick lunch we headed off in the direction of the Royal Albert Docks. It just so happened that on our way there we passed that traditional boozer with its cellar-brewed ales, the Baltic Fleet pub. How could we go past the door without popping in for a pint?! So we did. I ‘lift’ here a couple of sentences from their website which says it all …
The Baltic Fleet, dating from the mid 1800’s is a traditional pub in the heart of Liverpool. Ask any of the 3 ghosts that inhabit the pub and I’m sure they’d agree that the Baltic Fleet is part of the very soul of #Liverpool.
With 2 secret tunnels leading from the cellar to the docklands and another leading to the old red light district of Cornhill, the Baltic Fleet connected crews of the square rigged ships with their two most fundamental needs, beer and ladies of the night.
We didn’t see any of the ghosts and although we were tempted to have another pint, we had a rendezvous with The Beatles.
I can’t imagine anyone visiting Liverpool and not going to ‘The Beatles Story’. It’s in the Albert Docks and is a museum about the ‘fab four’ and their history. If you grew up with the Mersey Sound then a visit to this museum is a must. We thought it was done very well and the replicas of Mathew Street and The Cavern were particularly good although it was ‘The White Room’ which brought a lump to my throat. Standing there listening to ‘Imagine’ brought the memories flooding back.
Afterwards we decided to walk to Mathew Street which housed the original Cavern Club and what a tacky street it is now! Loads of bars with guys outside touting for your business. I took a couple of pics including one of the statue of Cilla Black before heading quickly round the corner to get away from the crowds and the blaring music.
And just around the corner is the iconic figure of Eleanor Rigby symbolising homeless people everywhere. More relevant today than ever …
The afternoon was drawing on but we’d not finished yet. If you’re still reading this Blog, well done! It’s going on a bit but there’s so much to do in Liverpool and we still hadn’t gone on the ferry across the Mersey. It had to be done! It’s the only way to see The Three Graces properly. They define the skyline and consist of ‘The Royal Liver Building with its two Liver Birds on the top, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. They look a little grey in the picture below but they still look impressive, if slightly at an angle. (Blame the photographer!).
So that was our day in Liverpool finished off by an excellent Italian meal that evening which we thoroughly deserved! If it spurs you on to visit the city then my enthusiasm for Liverpool has come through in this Blog. We had a great time and I’m sure we’ll go back.
When I was twenty I went abroad for the first time. Yes it was quite a while ago but I still remember how I felt when I saw those beautiful Swiss mountains; The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, it was breathtaking!
On that holiday we drove over from Interlaken to Grindelwald, a pretty village in the mountains, in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. It’s a popular ski resort as well as a perfect place to hike from, so many walks start from here. One of the things we did there and it’s the only thing I remember, is going on the chairlift up to First. In those days it was an open chair, two seats side by side with a canvas top and sides that rolled up. Somewhere I have a picture of myself sat on the chairlift and dare I say …looking a little like Julie Christie? I know, it’s hard to believe now! My first trip on a chairlift and I loved it! Now sadly the chairlift is no more having been replaced by a cable car. I’m sure it’s a good way to get up to this minor summit if you’re not able to hike, but I can’t believe it’s as much fun as the open chairlift. Health & Safety hey?!!
A couple of years ago we went back to Grindelwald staying at Hotel Tschuggen which is run by Robert & Monica. It’s a small hotel on the main street and from the back you get a magnificent view across the valley to the mountains. It’s an excellent place to stay with comfortable rooms and a delicious breakfast with home-made yogurt and of course a range of locally made cheeses. The owners are lovely and are so welcoming and very helpful. We loved the town and the area so much and the hotel and the pizzas at Onkel Toms that we went back to Grindelwald again this year.
One of the things we wanted to do for the second time was to go on the Mannlichen Gondola cableway. It’s the third longest in the world and it’s just an amazing experience. We love the little gondolas which hold up to four people but guess what …this is the last season they will be running. From next year the little gondolas are being replaced by a cable car. Its a shame but for the operators they can get more people up there in a quicker time. Easier for skiers too.
The summit at Mannlichen complete with a very large wooden cow! Great fun climbing inside and playing the cow bells.
The drop below to the Lauterbrunnen valley didn’t seem to bother this chap!
We’re all ready for the hike. Had to take a view of the Wetterhorn and of course the Eiger. Not a cloud in sight!
If I didn’t stop to take pictures we would easily get to Kleine Scheidegg in two hours. It’s a simple, short hike with one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world. A fantastic view of the mountains, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.
Not long before you get to Kleine Scheidegg station there just happens to be a watering hole on the route, Berghaus Grindelwaldblick. My man decided a beer was called for and I went for a Swiss wine from the village of Yvorne. We had stopped at the village crossing over from France a couple of days earlier and had spent a pleasant hour on a Sunday morning tasting a selection of their wines.
I just wasn’t ready for all the alpine flowers which were growing everywhere. This alpine hike has everything!
Although there’s no denying that Switzerland is an expensive country, if you can, do go. The scenery in the Bernese Oberland is wonderful …it’s breathtaking and unique. Pictures can’t do it justice. It’s pretty much unspoilt and hopefully it’ll remain so. I do feel very lucky to have done several hikes in this area and hopefully my man and I will be back before too long.
Although we were sad to leave Provence we were so excited about staying in Switzerland for a few days. On the way however we’d booked into an inexpensive little hotel right on the shore of Lake Geneva in a village called Meillerie.
Is there anywhere by this beautiful lake that isn’t amazing? The views are stunning and the scenery …breathtaking. Meillerie is on the French side of the lake just a spit away from the Swiss border. It isn’t posh like Evian and the hotel, Les Terrasses certainly wasn’t expensive. The bathroom was smaller than our double-wardrobe at home but it had everything squeezed in there so no complaints and the breakfast was very good. The room even had a little balcony looking over the lake.
We’d already booked a table at the lakeside restaurant just down the road as it had very good reviews and deservedly so. We had also stopped there just for drinks two years earlier when we were travelling from Switzerland to Provence. Le Restaurant du Port is a really busy place and is only open between May & the end of September. This is the place to get perfect fish …of course.
By luck we’d been given a table right by the side of the lake and even more exciting was the sunset that evening. I cursed that I hadn’t got my camera with me but my mobile has done a pretty good job. What I couldn’t understand was why I was the only one bobbing up and down taking pictures?!
Maybe the reason was that sunsets over the lake happen quite a lot and I guess most of the people at the restaurant were locals although definitely not all.
My man is quite understanding about me taking pictures; he’s used to it so he didn’t mind me jumping up and down to take yet another one. He knew I wouldn’t ignore a sunset as good as this and anyway the meal hadn’t arrived yet and he was tucking into the wine, so that was okay!
What a night! A fantastic meal, a superb setting and an unforgettable sunset oh and the wine was pretty good too!