Even though I come from Lincolnshire I had never been to Belton House. It’s near Gratham and about 20 miles south of Lincoln. I was born and brought up in Louth in the north of the county. Lincolnshire has been described as flat and boring but that’s wrong. It’s a large county with a varied landscape with a wonderful cathedral perched high over the city of Lincoln and can be see from miles around. There’s interesting market towns full of character, lots of good walks throughout the county and cycle tracks. The Lincolnshire Wolds consist of soft undulating hills and the coastline boasts some of the finest beaches in the country. From Barton Upon Humber in the north down to Spalding in the south, the visitor will find variety, friendly people and lots to see and do.
We visit at least once a year and on this occasion we decided to call in on Belton House before driving up to Louth. It was a beautiful sunny day as you can see from the pictures.
According to the website for the church of St Peter & St Paul, their regular services are well attended and very much the centre of village life.
The church has a collection of what is described as funerary monuments, you can see a couple in the picture. The church dates from the 14th century with a mausoleum to the Brownlow family added on in the early 19th century. Beautiful stained glass windows.
The layout of the gardens there is very formal. Lots of gardeners were working keeping everything tidy but were quite happy to pause for a chat.
We found the rooms inside the house really interesting; full of artefacts, paintings, oriental wall coverings, period furniture as you would expect and sumptious furnishings. A real treasure of a house belonging to the National Trust and great to have the freedom just to wander round the rooms.
I’m not a great fan of the large, dark, family paintings which often hang on the walls of these old houses but now again I spot one that I really love. In Belton House there were three portraits I particualrly liked. What a great pose by ‘Kitty’ Brownlow.
There was also an interesting display of the robes and coronet worn by Edward Cust, the 7th Baron who died in 2021 aged 85. He gave the House to the National Trust in 1984. The present Lord Brownlow born in 1963 is also a life peer.
Back outside we admired the front of the House which looked rather splendid in the sunshine.
Just a quick look around the gift shop and it was time to get on our way again and head towards Louth. More about this trip will follow in my next Blog.
Salamanca in northwest Spain is famous for its ornate sandstone architecture, its university, the religious buildings and the beautiful expanse of the Plaza Mayor. I love the river there too and the old bridge.
This was our second day in Salamanca and what a great place to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We knew we’d be heading to the wonderful Plaza Mayor square for lunch but before that we were looking forward to visiting the famous Art Nouveau & Art Deco Museum. We’d struck it lucky as on a Thursday, which it was, admission is free. I would have loved to have taken lots of pictures in there but it wasn’t allowed. The small bronze and marble scuptures are superb as are the many glass pieces intricately worked also the furniture and textiles. There’s a large collection of porcelain dolls, many of which were earily lifelike, not to my taste but superbly well made. This is one of the best collections of Art Deco and Art Nouveau muesums we’ve visited, so many pieces I would love to have in our little cottage!
Glad to say there was no restriction on taking pictures of the pieces in the cafe which needless to say were copies.
I also bought a few postcards in the shop but resisted the temptation to buy anything else. Copies or not of pieces in the museum, …they were all very expensive! Afterwards we walked into the city and headed for the beautiful square of Plaza Mayor surely one of the most beautiful squares in Spain?
Walking along the streets of this fine city is an absolute joy. I love the architecture and the colours of the buildings. Quite a few have inscriptions on the walls which are called vitores. Centuries ago they were written in bulls blood and I suppose due to the moderate climate in this area, the writing is still clear to see. There can’t be many better places to have lunch on your birthday than sitting at at one of the cafes in Plaza Mayor watching the world go by and enjoying a glass or two of wine.
It wasn’t easy to drag ourselves away from the square but we had more sightseeing to do. First of all we headed for the University, All group tours include a stop at the entrance which is a wonderfully carved facade with a hidden frog in a small square. Everyone is of course chlallenged to find it. I waited a while to get a clear shot of the entrance but it didn’t happen, however the picture on the left gives a good idea of the intricate carvings. Thankfully the courtyard was very quiet. We didn’t go into the University which is the oldest in Europe as we were in need of a siesta.
If the streets of Salamanca during the day are full of things to do and see, it’s a joy at night to wander along and admire the Gothic and Baroque architecture of some of the landmark buildings. By the evening too, the tour buses have left.
It was our final evening in Salamanca so we couldn’t resist having one last look at Plaza Mayor.
We left Hospedium Hotel Casino which had been a perfect place to stay with its stunning views of the River Tormes. Next stop and the final one of this holiday, Segovia.
Segovia is a World Heritage City in central Spain and like Toledo, the oldest part was built around and atop of a hillside with narrow streets which wind upwards towards the magnificent cathedral. It’s one of the highest cities in Spain. Finding our hotel wasn’t easy especially navigating through the medieval quarter but after asking a couple of locals we arrived outside Hotel Don Felipe. A quick dash in to get the directions for the hotel garage which was built inside the rock. Not easy to park in there but the lift took us straight into the hotel. Three flights of stairs later and we had a stunning view of the Alcazar from our balacony.
The Alcazar dating back to the 12th century and part of the city wall.
With only a short time to look around the city we started at the famous aqueduct. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world and measures 800 metres. It really is impressive and even more so when you climb up the Postigo steps at the side to look along it. No mortar was used in its construction with each block placed on top of the other. These Romans knew what they were doing. The grooves you can see at the side of the higher blocks were made by dragging and raising the blocks into position.
Leaving that area we walked through part of the Jewish quarter with very narrow streets and tall buildings. Some of the courtyards in this area are apparently well worth visiting but we didn’t have time. We decided to visit the Cathedral instead of the main Synagogue.
This Gothic Cathedral dominates the town and was built between 1525 and 1577. The height of the pillars is immense and the cloisters are superb. Included in the ticket price of £6.17 is acess to the Bell Tower which gives you a 360 degree view over the city.
One last visit we managed to squeeze in that afternoon was to The Alcazar Fortress. We found the interior quite disappointing unless you’re keen on armoury but the narrow climb up to the tower was worth it – great views.
Apparently the Disney Corporation used the castle as the design for the film ‘Cinderella’. It does have a fairytale look about it.
After our visit we went back to our hotel for a well-earned rest. We’d booked a restaurant Asador David Guijarro for our last meal of the holiday which meant a walk through the city streets. What we hadn’t expected was coming across a procession marking the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week). It seemed like all the townspeople were involved. It certainly lasted quite a while so we were a litle delayed getting to the restaurant.
Walking back through the quiet streets of Segovia was great. We’d had a good meal and now we were looking forward to going home. We’d had a great time touring central Spain. It’s difficult to say which city and village we’d enjoyed the most but probably Salamanca was our favourite city I hope all these Blogs have inspired you to go and visit, so much to see and do.
Visiting Chatsworth at Christmas was something we’d wanted to do for a long time. This year we made it and we’re so glad we did. The house was an absolute delight and although I didn’t photograph every room, I hope these pictures show how beautifully decorated it was.
We decided to stay nearby for a couple days and found a good pub with a B&B nearby. The Chequers Inn at Froggatt Edge was a great choice. Reasonably priced rooms and excellent food with several choices of real ales. Breakfast was included and so we went for the ‘full English’ which set us up for the day. It’s well placed for Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Eyam Hall, also Buxton and Bakewell and is right in the heart of the Peak District National Park fabulous for walking, climbing and sightseeing. On the way there we’d stopped off to look around the market town of Bakewell and although we didn’t have one of the famous puddings we did go to a tea shop which served huge portions of cake. We needed to have a browse around the town to walk it off.
After a substantial breakfast we decided to explore the area. We hadn’t got very far from The Chequers, half a mile down the road in fact, when we stopped by a bridge to take a few pictures and walk down to the weir. The reflections were stunning and right at the top of the ridge we could make out people walking along. Hardy souls! Unfortunately due to the trees at the side of the river and private land I couldn’t get a clear shot of the weir.
Our next stop en route to Chatsworth was to Monsal Head. You can probably tell that it was bitterly cold, far too chilly to stop for long! On the left of the picture you can just see part of the Monsal Dale Headstone Viaduct.
One more stop before we got to Chatsworth, this time at Ashford in the Water. The bridge is spectacular and apparently is the most photographed bridge in Britain. The river Wye runs underneath and sheep were washed in the clear waters before chemical dips were introduced. We didn’t have time to look inside the church which has relics dating back to the 1200s as our visit to the house was booked for 1.30 and time was getting on. There are lots of picturesque cottages here and so this little village is very popular with tourists. We were the only ones around that morning braving the icy weather!
When it comes to stately homes, Chatsworth has to be one of the greatest. It has the most fabulous drive which takes you through the estate and then runs parallel to the house so you get a clear view of it.
Our first stop was to find the loos which are in the old stable block. There’s an interesting water feature in the centre of the courtyard and for Christmas only, there was a Christmas tree erected over it. (The last picture in the Blog shows it all lit up). There’s also a very large gift shop (of course), a cafe and the Chatsworth restaurant. We just had time to grab a hot drink before going to the House.
Rather than write lots about the House which you can check out on the website, I’ve added captions to the pictures. The only other thing to mention is that Chatsworth is home to the Devonshire family and has been passed down 16 generations. Buy a ticket before your visit as it’s timed entry and allow plenty of time to wander round to enjoy it.
And then we reached the end of our visit to the house. It was about an hour before it was due to get dark so we wandered around the garden and then bought a mulled wine from the kiosk outside and a sausage roll before wandering round the other gift shop. A useful look round as my man bought me a handbag in there which I absolutely love.
As we left the Illuminated Walk we walked up to the Stable Block to take a picture of the tree lit up over the water feature.
If this Blog on our visit to Chatsworth has inspired you to go, you need to get your skates on. Christmas at Chatsworth runs until 8 January 2023. Of course there’s always another year.
After spending a few days in Cornwall, travelling back home, we arranged to meet friends who live in Exeter. One of them is a volunteer guide for the National Trust at Killerton an 18th-century house in Broadclyst just outside Exeter. The house and extensive grounds are open to the public and there’s plenty to see and do including a coffee shop in the converted stables so we decided to meet our friends there for lunch.
The house was owned by the Acland family up to 1944 and is open daily between 11am-4pm. Here is a link which will tell you more about The Family. The mansion is Georgian and once inside the decor and furnishings takes you back to the 1920’s and 30’s. As soon as we stepped through the front door into the entrance hall we were warmly welcomed by one of the volunteers who gave us a brief history of the house and also told us about the fashion collection held at Killerton. More about that later.
The Music Room was our first stop and was most definitely 1920’s/30’s style. I loved the palm tree which dominated the room. Maybe there was also an Aspidistra plant but I didn’t spot one.
Whenever we visit stately homes I always look out for little details especially family photographs. These caught my eye as not only are the poses so typical of the time, the reflections in the table are great – it was obviously very highly polished!
A library was an absolute must for all these well-to-do families and the Acland family was no exception. Th only difference at Killerton is that a good many of the books were ‘modern’, from the 20th century.
Leaving the dining room we crossed a corridor which originally took the family out onto the side terrace. These days the visit continues through to the very splendid staircase to the first floor and The Fashion Collection.
The fashion collection, which was started by Paulise de Bush in the mid-20th century, found a home with the National Trust at Killerton in 1978 and now consists of over 20,000 pieces. In 2022 the theme of the exhibition is ‘the healthy country life’ focussing on when people dressed for sporting activities often having their sportswear designed by tailors and specialist outfitters. Loved the knitted bikini dating from the 1920’s …not very practical! As well as the sportswear there was also dresses and ball gowns on display which took my eye. I was particularly interested in the two black dresses from the Art Deco period, so elegant. The two dresses in the picture below were very intricate and at the time would have cost a great deal of money to be designed and made with such attention to detail.
Going back downstairs, the last room we went into was the games room. Most of these large family homes had a full-size billiard table, presumably to keep ‘the men folk’ happy where they could dicuss the state of the nation whilst enjoying a glass of port or two between frames.
Coming to the end of our visit to the house we thanked the volunteer who was still welcoming visitors and we headed along the drive towards the chapel. The grounds at Killerton are extensive with miles of paths, landscape gardens and acres of parklands and woods but that day there was quite literally a storm brewing. It wasn’t the weather for wandering around outside in fact one of the grounds people told us they would probably close the gardens to visitors for safety reasons.
Not wanting to miss the chance to visit the Grade I listed chapel in the grounds we decided to head there before lunch.
If I’m being honest, the exterior of the chapel is quite austere. If didn’t help that there was tarpaulins and a hoarding around the building for health and safety reasons as the roof is in need of repair. An appeal has been launched so hopefully the target will be reached and work can begin.
The layout of the interior of the church is unusual in that the pews face each other rather than the altar. It was Sir Thomas Acland’s wish that family, staff, tenants and children should see each other. It was expected that anyone connected with the estate would attend Sunday service. Sir Charles Dyke Acland took this even further in that if someone did not attend a groom would be sent round to the house to ask for an explanation. It’s one way to ensure the church was always full unlike these days …
With the wind getting ever stronger we paused just long enough for me to take a couple of pictures of the carpet of cyclamen encircling a couple of trees and a shot of the very early flowering magnolia by the entrance to the chapel grounds. With that we walked back to the Stables coffee block to meet our friends for lunch. We had a lovely catch-up over a delicous bowl of home-made soup before heading back to the car and home.
We will definitely go back to Killerton to explore the gardens and I think we’ll time our visit for the autumn to enjoy all the colours of the wonderful trees there. We will however try to pick a day when there isn’t a gale-force wind blowing!
It was a good choice to stay in Boldre. We liked the area as it was easy to get to places like Lymington, Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst. It’s a quiet village and as mentioned in my previous Blog, the pub, The Red Lion round the corner from our Airbnb served tasty pub grub and an excellent pint.
Unusually the parish church is not in the village itself but about a mile away. The church of St John the Baptist has a squat tower dating from the fourteenth century and as well as its imposing position on a hillock, the first thing you notice is the churchyard with tombstones standing to attention in straight rows and to the right of the church door, a stunning engraved glass window.
As there was a service going on when we walked to the church the first time we decided to wander up the lane a few days later to see inside. Inside the church is a memorial to the servicemen who died on HMS Hood in a battle with the German battleship Bismark, 1418 people were on board with just three surviving. The officer in overall command was Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland who used to worship at the church and a memorial to those lost was erected by his widow. A service of commemoration is held every year.
As well as the memorial the interior of the church is well worth a mention especailly the modern stained glass window above the altar and the engraved glass window by the door depicting ‘The Tree of Life’.
After visiting the church we drove over to Lyndhurst to have a look around. I’d expected to see New Forest Ponies as we drove along but didn’t know there were donkeys roaming around too. In fact they are everywhere. The nice thing is that they totally ignore people and of course you shouldn’t touch them or feed them. We didn’t see anyone doing that but some people do get very close to them when taking pictures which makes me cross. You can tell when the donkeys are worried for their little ones as they stand over them to protect them.
We liked Lyndhurst as there were several interesting local shops in the High Street. We also visited the Gothic parish church which is very large and imposing. The William Morris windows are beautiful. Afterwards we drove to Brockenhurst which is the largest village in The New Forest but to be honest we weren’t that impressed … both of us thought as we were walking round that there must be more to the place but if there was, we didn’t find it. What was amusing though was the way the traffic ground to a halt at the top of the high street whilst about six cows ambled slowly along. A few locals came out of their houses to watch so maybe it wasn’t a regular ocurence. Not sure why I didn’t take a picture, it’s not like me to miss something like that.
After walking around Brockenhurst and not being too impressed we headed to the coast to get some sea air before going back to our Airbnb. We took pot luck having never been along this coastline before and stopped at Barton-on-Sea. The cliffs are very impressive but it’s not a good idea to get too close to the edge as they are very crumbly as you can see from the picture. My man told me off for walking close to the edge, camera in hand, and of course he was right to do so.
That evening to celebrate our wedding anniversary we had booked a table at Lanes of Lymington. It had an excellent write-up and from reading their web site it sounded the perfect place to go for our meal. I have ‘lifted’ here part of the intro on their Home Page …Formerly a Church and School, the building is tucked away down a quiet cul de sac, just off the High Street and once ‘discovered’, offers romantic and exceptional, yet affordable, dining to suit all tastes. The split levels, small intimate alcoves, balconies and open plan ground floor are stylish and what you’d expect from a fashionable top London eatery. The restaurant did not disappoint. We had an excellent meal, not ridiculouly expensive. We felt we’d made a good choice for our anniversary meal.
For our last full day in The New Forest we decided to drive over to Exbury Gardens stopping on the way at Beaulieu, which is famous for its National Motor Museum.
I wasn’t particualrly interested in the Motor Museum so after walking around the village and checking out a couple of the gift shops we headed onto Exbury Gardens. We hadn’t gone very far before we had to slow down for several ponies and donkeys who were owning the road. It was another chance to take yet more pictures of these free-roaming animals. It’s rare to go more than a few miles before coming across the four-legged New Forest residents.
And finally we arrived at Exbury Gardens which had been recommended to us. The 200-acre garden was a 100 years in the making with the estate bought by Lionel de Rothschild in 1919. It has an excellent selection of contemporary and formal gardens, landscaped woodland and is located by the Beaulieu river. We enjoyed wandering around and as it was mid-week there were just a few visitors about. It was great to see the narrow-gauge steam railway in operation which runs around part of the gardens.
If you are in the New Forest, Exbury Gardens is well worth a visit. Closed in the winter it re-opens in mid-March.
And now it was our last morning and time to leave. There’s so much to do in this area and although we felt we’d packed a lot in each day we knew there were many more walks and trails we hadn’t explored. As we drove away from our Airbnb in Boldre we stopped before leaving the National Park to do just one more short walk. The sun coming through the trees lighting up the forest floor was magical and just as we thought we were on our own, out trotted a pony. He stopped in his tracks and was as surprised to see us as we were to see him. We stopped and waited and with one last haughty stare, from the pony, that is, he went on his way.
We had enjoyed our five days in The New Forest and will definitely go back.There are events happening throughout the year and if the two Blogs on our stay in this area have whetted your appetite, here are two useful websites to help you plan your visit.
2021 was the year when many of us were unable to go abroad on holiday. It was disappointing but living in the UK gives you lots of choices of places to visit and discover ‘new’ parts of the country.
Earlier in the year we’d spent a week up in Cumbria and had thoroughly enjoyed exploring that area, we hadn’t expected great weather but overall it wasn’t too bad. Then September arrived and we decided to book another Airbnb, this time in the New Forest. We had a good excuse to go away, not that we needed one but it’s our wedding anniversary in the middle of September so we decided to take a mini-break and thought the area around Lymington looked interesting.
Once again my man had done some research and had found an Airbnb which suited us in a village very near to Lymington called Boldre. The owners were great, very friendly and helpful and we really liked the place especially having a garden at the side all to ourselves.
Boldre is in the south of the New Forest National Park. It’s a small village but it boasts a very good pub, and it’s a good starting point for walking. We found the Red Lion served a good pint and although we didn’t have an evening meal there, we enjoyed lunch sat in their very large garden.
For our first evening we drove into Lymington and had a wander around the old harbour area before an excellent meal at the Koh Thai Tapas in the High Street.
Next morning we decided to do a little exploring, walking first of all to Boldre Church which is a mile away from the vilage. Sweet little church with a squat tower dating back to the 13th century. We couldn’t go in as on this Sunday morning there was a service going on. Nothing surprising about that but what did surprise us is that the church was packed, so unlike our village church at home.
After having a wander around the churchyard we carried on our walk through Roydon Woods Nature Reserve and onto a pretty ford and footbridge across Lymington stream. We then headed uphill, followed the road for a while then through a couple of fields crossing two stiles and a footbridge before arriving back to Boldre. A very pretty walk.
We headed back into Lymington and treated ourselves to a drink at The Ship Inn before buying a crab sandwich for lunch. We sat on the harbour wall, a popular place to eat lunch. The fresh crab was delicious! An added bonus was that the sun was starting to come out.
With the weather having perked up we decided to drive towards Beaulieu and then to Lepe Country Park, situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It was lovely to see the sea and walk along the coastal path a little way. The sunshine had brought everyone out so it was quite busy with everyone deciding they wanted an ice cream,. Looking at the queue we decided instead to walk up onto the cliffs where there are fine views across to the Isle of Wight. If we weren’t limited with the car parking we’d have walked further along the cliffs.
A little along the coast from Lepe is the well-known village of Buckler’s Hard. Situated on the banks of the Beaulieu river, this unspoilt haven attracts many tourists not only to its Maritime Museum but because the area is totally unspoilt. Having driven down the lane a few miles towards Buckler’s Hard we reached the sign showing the parking charges. If we’d had the whole afternoon we might have paid the £5 for three hours but as we only wanted to have a quick walk round we decided to turn round and head back to Boldre.
On the way back we stopped at Hatchett Pond where there was a cow cooling off in the water and parked nearby, an ice cream van. Definitely a winner! We sat with our huge ice creams watching the world go by, enjoying the sunshine as much as the cow was enjoying his paddle and all this without having to pay for parking.
If you have read any of my holiday Blogs you will know that I try not make them too long, so I’m pausing this one here. I have lots more pictures and more rambings about our few days in the New Forest so I hope you’ll join me for the second half. Lots of cute pictures of donkeys and horses, beautiful gardens and an historic house.
It’s been a while since I wrote about our visit to Cumbria but at long last, here I go with Part Two of the story!
It’s the fourth day of our holiday and it was time to do some more exploring of the local area. There are so many walks around where we were staying it was hard to choose, however the maps in the Old Dairy gave us some options. This was our second fairly short, circular walk from our Airbnb and this time we were hoping to arrive back in the dry.
I love the stone bridges here and the white-washed houses and the stunning countryside. The hamlet of Millthrop is just down the road and is a pretty village. There’s a splendid row of cottages with a gentle curve of the frontages. This garden was so stunning although I wouldn’t have wanted to water all those pots!
After lunch and with the sun shining (at last), we decided to drive over to the market town of Hawes, stopping on the way to see ‘Cotter Force’ which is a secluded waterfall. The joy of this waterfall is that it’s easily accessible. You walk across a narrow bridge, along a stile-free public right of way which is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs and the short path leads from here to the waterfall. As you can see, it was well worth going to check it out.
The town of Hawes is a bustling market town in the Yorkshire Dales. Yes we had driven out of Cumbria, into a different county … but only just. The National Park Centre and the Dales Countryside Museum are both found there but Hawes is also famous for its Wensleydale cheese. The Creamery has a large shop and you can also go on tours to see the cheese being made. We did visit the shop which was packed full of people (it’s a popular tourist place), so we treated ourselves to some cheese and then headed back into the Main Street.
It’s a wide street, bustling on that afternoon with life – probably the good weather had brought people out. After looking in a few local shops we had a choice of at least three pubs along the street. We chose one and spent a pleasant time sat in the sun enjoying an excellent pint of beer and watching the world go by.
We rounded off a very pleasant day with an excellent Italian meal in Sedbergh at Al Forno. Warm, friendly service and delicious fresh pastas and pizza.
I should explain that neither my man nor I are steam train enthusiasts but the next day we decided to drive to Dent and then go by train to walk to the famous Ribble Valley Viaduct to watch a steam train going across. This doesn’t happen every day!
The drive from Sedbergh was interesting as the road winds through a narrow valley called Dentdale, which is on the western slopes of the Pennines. Dent village has lots of history and boasts a Museum and Heritage Centre, a few shops, a fine Grade One listed church and pubs which are also B&B’s. There’s stunning landscape all around and many walkers come to the area as The Dales Way cuts through the village. It was a superb day when we were there but I can imagine life is tough in the winter and was even tougher over the centuries.
If you are expecting to catch a train from the village of Dent …forget it. Anyone expecting to walk to the station would have quite a job. The road is steep and narrow and even in the car it felt further than the four miles.The station is perched high up on the hillside and is on the Settle to Carlisle line and is the highest operational station on the National Rail network in England.
The station house itself is now a private house and as there was no means to buy a ticket we had a free ride to the Ribblehead Railway Station There was more life here and thankfully the station master, who was manning a small shop had a key to the loo. Feeling relieved (quite literally!), off we set down the path towards the Ribblehead Viaduct.
The viaduct is very impressive and what a lovely day it was to sit around waiting for the train to go across. I’m rather proud of the picture below even though it’s quite a distant shot. Of course no sooner had we spotted the train coming it was over the viaduct in next to no time but it had been a great sight and we felt it had definitely been worth coming up here.
We didn’t get a free train journey on the way back and felt the price to go just a few miles and only one stop was expensive but as we had only paid for one way, we had no grounds to complain! Had another hearty meal that night at The Dalesman pub in Sedbergh, our second visit. Excellent reasonably priced pub food and good wine and beer.
For our last day in Cumbria we decided to drive to Ullswater, after all we were staying near ‘The Lakes’. It’s true to say that roads in this part of the world mean the journey takes quite a while irrespective of what is says on the map. Being on holiday we weren’t in a hurry but I imagine some of the locals get a little frustrated with tourists clogging up the narrow country roads.
Stopping en route to buy yet another excellent baguette for lunch from the friendly Spar shop in Sedburgh we headed off towards Ullswater, 35miles. We noticed lots of signs alerting us to red squirrels in the area, unfortunately the only ones we saw were on the signs. Our first stop was the car park for the National Trust’s wood and waterfall known as Aira Force. It’s a popular place and finding a space to park wasn’t easy but we managed it. The woods are lovely with lots of very interesting trees, mostly evergreen, loved by red squirrels but they weren’t coming out that day.
The river is so clear and although the path in places is a little tricky we thoroughly enjoyed the circular walk going across the river and down the other side. Before that we stopped to take pictures of the waterfall including from the viewing platform which at present is closed due to a fallen tree.
Leaving the woods and feeling ready for lunch we found a pleasant spot at the side of Ullswater. Our friend who knows the area well said we were lucky to find anywhere during the summer months!
We could have stayed there for the rest of the afternoon but decided to go over to Ambleside. It’s a narrow, twisty road up and over the Kirkstone Pass beginning in Patterdale and ending in Ambleside. With its 1 in 4 gradient, stunning views all round, it’s a great drive and is the highest pass in the Lake District.
As you can see it’s quite some road and probably not one to tackle in the ice and snow. I’m not going to say too much about Ambleside other than it seemed very crowded after all the other places we’d been to. The weather was starting to close in and was getting quite chilly so we decided to have a hot drink …a good idea you would think. Unfortunately both the tea and the coffee at this lake-side cafe were terrible so we left after a short while and headed back to the tranquility of Sedbergh and ‘The Old Dairy’.
The ‘poshest’ place in the town to eat is The Black Bull and as it was the last night of our holiday we booked a table. We weren’t disappointed; the food was delicious and the restaurant had a great atmosphere. It was the perfect choice for our ‘final’ meal of the holiday.
I hope this account of our holiday in Cumbria might inspire you to visit this area. We only saw a couple of the lakes and just explored a small part of this beautiful county but it was enough to whet our appetite for The Lake District and I know we’ll be back.
My man and I love trains and with the wonderful TGV and Eurostar it’s not difficult to wizz across Europe from London. The departure lounge at St Pancras is always packed with people sitting anywhere they can. All that space as you walk down between the arcade of shops and then at the end everyone is squeezed into this small holding area. Maybe sometimes it’s quieter but we’ve never seen it like that.
The TGV is a brilliant way to travel. You look out of the window at the cars going along the motorway and they seem to be travelling so slow …they’re not of course, it’s us flashing by. Within two and three quarters hours we’d arrived in sunny Avignon before travelling further south to Menton. The train goes a lot slower after Marseille but we didn’t mind; the weather and the terrain told us we were heading towards the glamorous Cote d’Azur with Menton being the last rail stop before Italy.
Hotel Lemon where we were staying for four nights was just down the road from Menton station. It was a perfect sized hotel for us with only eighteen rooms. Ours was right at the top of this French colonial style building, tucked away from everyone, the only snag being …there was no lift. The owner’s son was on hand fortunately and had no trouble taking both our cases, one on each shoulder up the two flights of stairs to our room – we were very grateful as by now we were definitely flagging.
I can’t say our meal in the town that evening was anything special but we made up for it after that. Our first full day there was spent discovering the town and walking along the promenade. Straightaway we loved the feel of the place. Menton is famous for its lemons and has a festival each year. As well as that it has apparently the most days of sunshine of anywhere in France. What a great boast, very good for tourism that’s for sure. As you can see from the pictures above it lived up to it reputation whilst we were there. I had to take a picture of these two art nouveau wall plaques – Alphonse Mucha painted decorative theatrical posters which was why these two were on the wall of a disused theatre. Good to see they hadn’t been vandalised.
That night we had as superb meal, not French but Italian. If you go to Menton do go to Le Napoli, their home-cooked meals are to die for! It’s more a locals restaurant than a tourist place which to be honest gave it a great atmosphere. The food, tasty sauces, the presentation, the price – everything was perfect. It was so good we went back there on our last night too.
Our second day in Menton and we were off exploring the hillside around the town. The Botanical Gardens of Val Rahmeh are delightful and very quiet. Entrance is just €7 which as they say on their website allows you to wander and enjoy the exotic, elegant, organised chaos of their gardens. Do check the opening times as the ‘old retainers’ go for lunch and they will get you out by 12.30 come hell or high water! The gardens are varied with paths winding through. It’s protected from the winds by the mountains which gives this exotic garden a subtropical micro climate.
I forgot to say that on our way up to the hills we walked through the historic old part of Menton and couldn’t believe how many passageways there are. It’s a mediaeval district with tiny houses built into the side of the hill. We never did find a way through to get out at the top road and maybe there isn’t one.
Leaving the garden we walked further up the hill coming out onto a main road and then turned into Park Pian which was full of olive trees (picture top left). It was so quiet and peaceful and a pleasure just to sit there for a while. Our next stop was the Cemetery du Vieux Chateau which as you would expect was equally quiet! If you follow my Blogs you’ll know how fond I am of cemeteries – well photographing them! This one has the best views of the old town and the harbour and some pretty good statues too. I was in my element taking pictures. There’s the grave of William Webb Ellis here. He is accredited with inventing the sport of rugby so this cemetery has become something of a pilgrimage site for rugby fans.
The rest of the day was spent flaking on the beach, reading and enjoying the sunshine. A couple of hours was enough; the beach was very rocky and quite uncomfortable and we only had a thin towel each. There was just one antidote to recover from our aching backs …a couple of beers at one of the bars along the promenade.
The next day we walked from our hotel to catch the number 100 bus which goes along the coast round to Monaco. We missed the stop by the first staircase which takes you up to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin but spotted the second in time for the driver to stop for us. It’s quite a steep walk up to the village which is perched on the edge of a cliff topped by a 10th century castle which offers a fabulous panoramic view. We were lucky to see the view as not long after we’d arrived at the castle the clouds started to roll in. The main tower is pretty much intact and in fact was rebuilt at the beginning of this century. The medieval village has narrow streets, lots of arched passageways and tiny individual shops and of course cafes and restaurants.
After refreshing ourselves with some local beer we made our way down to the corniche by the first staircase and decided to walk back to Menton along the promenade. By now we’re quite hungry and as luck would have it we came across a bakery with a cafe which was bustling with life and selling decent squares of pizzas and yummy cakes – perfect! I’m not sure how far it was to Menton except it felt a fair way so when we got back we headed off to the beach again for another couple hours R&R.
On our third full day we decided to visit Monaco and caught the 100 bus again. Monaco is the name of the country, it has several neighbourhoods and Monte-Carlo is one of these. (I looked this up!).
Our first stop after getting off the bus and walking along a street lined with very expensive shops (no surprise there), was to pick up a map from the tourist information office. We then walked though a small park with tropical plants and a manicured lawn to the ‘Place du Casino’, which says it all. There are four casinos in the Principality with the Casino de Monte-Carlo being the most luxurious. In the front, on the roundabout is the stunning ‘Sky Mirror’ designed by Anish Kapoor to reflect the fountain, the sky and the casino – it does that beautifully.
After watching the very smart limos drive sedately around the Place du Casino we headed off to walk around the marina on our way to the Prince’s Palace. It doesn’t cost anything to ogle these super yachts and it’s an interesting stroll. Loved the name of the motor cruiser registered in Poole …the name says it all. The statue of the diver was very impressive but despite trying to find if it was sculpted after anyone famous I’ve drawn a blank on that one.
The Prince’s Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, H.S.H. Prince Albert II. Climbing up to the palace was a good aerobic exercise as there are plenty of steep paths and steps – there is an easier way but we like a challenge. We arrived at the square on the dot of 11.55, just as the guards were coming out. The Ceremony lasted about five minutes and although there were lots of tourists watching we managed to get near the front.
We then went to the shop to buy tickets for admission to the Palace which were 10 euros for adults. To my great surprise there was also an exhibition in the state rooms mostly of photographs and film of the afternoon on May 6th 1955 when Grace Kelly visited the Palace and met Prince Rainier. Less than a year after that this legendary film star married her prince. Sorry to disappoint if you’re visiting the palace this year, the exhibition ended on October 15th 2019. Even so, this 13th century Palace which was restored by Prince Rainier (with no expense spared) is magnificent with a spectacular marble staircase, opulent furnishings, frescoes, paintings and tapestries.
After that we were in need of something to eat but is there anywhere cheap to eat in this city? The answer is yes. Just by the market hall is an outside cafe selling drinks and sandwiches and panini at very reasonable prices. We felt quite pleased with ourselves but as by now it was mid afternoon it was time to head back to the station.
One final thing we wanted to do was to go into the Casino de Monte-Carlo to have a peak inside – not to gamble but to admire the magnificent Atrium. It’s free to go in and photography is allowed. This superb space with its marble columns, frescoes and gold leaf everywhere is just amazing and impossible to photograph without any one else in the shot.
Did Monte-Carlo come up to our expectations? I’m not sure we had any. You can almost smell the money here but unlike Vegas this place is real. If it looks expensive, then it definitely is. It was well worth the visit but great to get back to some reality. For our last night in Menton we went back to the same Italian restaurant and the patron remembered us even down to the wine we’d drunk the first time!
When Saturday morning arrived we were sorry to leave Menton but as we were heading to Provence our sprits lifted fairly soon. We boarded the local train to Nice and then caught the TGV to Avignon. Next Blog … yes, it’s all about Provence!
Visiting a cemetery may not be on everyone’s holiday itinerary but I find them fascinating. So much scope for taking pictures and I don’t mean in a morbid way. There’s usually some beautiful statues and often on gravestones in Europe is a picture of the deceased person. Makes it somehow more personal. In this cemetery in Lisbon we came across a memorial to the firemen who had died in an incident in the city. (The memorial is the small picture below the statue).
At the far end of the cemetery is a separate area of graves dedicated to the men who gave their lives to the fire service. It was a peaceful spot, beautifully maintained with a superb view of the Tagus river with the 25th April Bridge bridge across. The cemetery is called Cemiterio dos Prazeres which bizarrely translates as the Cemetery of Pleasures. This would you believe, has become a popular tourist place to visit.
The website says …”When you walk through the large entrance gates and enter the central square, you don’t really notice how big this 20 hectare cemetery is. The paths along the graves are symmetrical, making Cemitério dos Prazeres look like a miniature city for the dead”. If you look at the picture (above), bottom right you can see what they mean. There are lots of avenues with small houses on either side which are the family mausoleums. They have little ‘front doors’ with glass windows which you can peer through and see the caskets …should you wish. Walking along this avenue felt a little weird so we decided to head out and find a beer. Fortunately as the cemetery is just by the terminus to the no 28 tram line, there was plenty of places to get a drink.
I should mention that if you do visit the cemetery there are famous Portuguese personalities buried there including actors, singers, writers and painters. Open every day of the week 0900-17.00.
And now it was our final day. We decided to walk first of all to the St Vincent Monastery to see if we could get in the church to look round. This imposing building dominates the skyline and is huge! Its name in Portuguese is ‘Mosteiro de Sao Vincente de Fora‘ which means ‘Monastery of St Vincent Outside the walls.’
If you go there don’t be put off by thinking it’s closed; walk through the archway on the right which takes you into the walled garden and the entrance is opposite. For a mere €5 you can wander round and enjoy the church, the collection of paintings, sculptures, the museum, an impressive gallery and from the top of the roof of the monastery you get amazing views. I’ve already mentioned that our friend doesn’t like heights so my man and I went up to to check it out. You can just make it out from the picture above that the rooftop has a balustrade and this runs all the way round. I’m so pleased I went down to tell Liz that it was really safe up there – she came up to the top and loved the all-round views.
This beautiful church is in the heart of the Alfama district. Historically this area was associated with poverty, prostitution and squalor where once the poor and disadvantaged lived. Walking through the narrow cobbled streets with its ancient houses, fashionable shops and trendy cafes you could hardly believe it now. It’s a really interesting area with some very steep stone staircases where you can take in the view at the top before descending down to the maze of alley ways lined with tiny independent shops and bars.
We had a simple but delicious lunch at a cafe perched on the corner of one of the streets. We wobbled on our chairs a bit but there’s hardly any streets in the Alfama District which are flat. The fish was fresh, the beer quenched our thirst and if there were fumes from the cars passing close to our table, we didn’t mind. We had time to chat about our fab week in Lisbon; all the things we’d done and how we’ll definitely come back one day. The Alfama District is where Fado is said to have been born. It’s a melancholic style of singing said to be a deep expression of the Portuguese soul and originally associated with sailors and prostitution. This link will take you to five restaurant in Alfama where Fado is sung. uhttps://www.lisbonguru.com/5-best-fado-restaurants-alfama/ There are lots more restaurants and bars so you need to do your research as meals vary in price. To discover more about this traditional music there’s the Museum of Fado but sadly we just couldn’t fit that in before heading home.
The pictures below were all taken in the Alfama district
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our week in Lisbon. I felt I need to split the Blog into three parts otherwise it would have been too l-o-n-g! Thanks for sticking with it.
If you’re going to Lisbon a friend said, you must visit the Aquarium.
It’s probably something we wouldn’t have thought of doing but when we read about it and the fact it’s the largest indoor aquarium in Europe we decided to go.
We caught the underground train from Oriente (East) Station on the Red line and arrived in this very modern part of the city. It’s a redeveloped area by the Tagus River called the Parque das Nações, pictured top left. There’s lots of green spaces, famous Lisbon mosaics and striking contemporary buildings like the Camões Theatre and the Oceanarium. Nearby are trendy waterfront restaurants and the glass-roofed Centro Vasco da Gama, with shops and cinemas. Just walking to the Oceanarium was an experience in itself – a really interesting area.
Unless you have the right equipment, taking pictures of fish in tanks is never easy. Here is a selection which I have to say I was quite pleased with. Also, you know how after a while in these kind of places you start to get bored, well not here. It was brilliantly done and kept our interest going right to the cafeteria. That was the one let down …we should have gone elsewhere for our late lunch.
My favourite picture is the one top right. It looks like the people are actually in the tank with the shark!
Did I mention that when we were in Lisbon the temperature got near to 30 degrees? It was pretty hot in the city when we got off the train so we decided to stop at one of the cafes in Rossio Square to have a reviving beer before heading up the hill towards the castle. I don’t know if you can make it out from the picture below, it’s the one top left, it’s of a large group of people waving flags and protesting. Actually it looked like thousands of people led along by the local youth choir! We were happy to sit in the sunshine enjoying our beer, eating a pasta de nata and listening to the music until the rally passed by.
If you’re wondering how the graffiti fits in to the picture below – there’s a short cut to the gateway by the castle which we used, we called it graffiti alley as all the walls there are covered.
After our walk back and maybe because of the beer we all decided that we needed a siesta before visiting the castle that evening. In the summer it stays open until 9pm long after the tourist coaches have left. It was definitely the right time to go, not only because it was a beautiful evening but it was so much quieter wandering around than during the day.
The light that evening was stunning and walking along the castle walls was just fabulous as it gave us good views over the city and down to the river. We left our friend to talk to the peacocks in the garden as she doesn’t do heights.
The picture below is my favourite of all the ones I took that evening. The buildings have turned golden in the late setting sun.
Day 5 and we’re off to the magical place called Sintra. It’s a short train journey from Rossio station to Sintra which is at the end of the line. The station is superb with it’s ornate exterior with two horseshoe-shaped archways. We didn’t have much time to appreciate the building though as there was no way we were going to miss this train!
I think most tourists to Lisbon take the time to go out to Sintra. One of the travel guides describes this World Heritage Site as a Portuguese gem; ‘a place full of magic and mystery with its rippling mountains, dewy forests exotic gardens, glittering palaces and ancient castles’. What it doesn’t say is that it’s teeming with tourists. Yes we were tourists too all heading off the train at Sintra to find the 434 tourist bus – it was chaos. There were touts selling guided tours, tuk-tuk drivers stopping you as you walked along and the lack of signs of where to catch the shuttle bus was really confusing.
We eventually found the bus stop and squeezed onto an already tightly packed bus. We had intended to get off at the stop for the Quinta da Regaleira which is a stone palace steeped in myth and legend with underground passages and grottoes and is surrounded in mystery – I was intrigued.. (A quinta by the way is a wine-producing estate). As it happened we could have walked there which as our non-communicative driver wasn’t stopping anywhere until we’d got to the Moorish Castle we should have done.
This castle was built by the North African Moors between the 8th and the 11th century. To get the best views you need to climb up onto the battlements which of course we did. Our friend was quite happy to chat to other tourists who didn’t want to brave the heights. It’s a terrific viewpoint though and very blustery! You can see several other palaces including the Regaleira which we were still hoping to visit.
After walking around the battlements and weaving along the many paths through the gardens we carried on up to the amazing Palace of Pena. If you’re tight for time this is the palace to visit. It sits on the top one of the hills overlooking Sintra and is (apparently) the finest example in Europe of 19th century Romantic revivalism. The colours of this castle hit you straight away and surrounding all this is a large forest with hidden paths threading through it. Our ticket which we’d bought at the first stop after getting off the bus covered the palace interior and the terraces and the park.
The interior of the palace with its staterooms and chapel was just as interesting as the terraces. There were fewer people inside so it was easier to walk round unlike the perimeter of the castle terraces which was really busy. I guess you have to accept this when you’re visiting a major tourist attraction!
By mid afternoon after doing lots of walk we were feeling pretty tired. We decided not to walk down to the palace of Quinta da Regaleira and hoped we could hop off the bus at the nearest stop.. Getting on the shuttle bus it was obvious that again the driver wasn’t stopping until we were back down to Sintra. Disappointed we headed to an outside bar, paid over the odds for a beer and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were sorry not to have done more but Sintra is not easy to work out. I’ve since read on a few web sites that these shuttle buses are a law unto themselves particularly in the high season. You can hire a tuk tuk but they’re not cheap and on top of that you have the entrance price for each palace. Don’t be put off though …the parks and palaces of the World Heritage site of Sintra are well worth a visit. Best avoided in the high season if you can and when it’s cooler – this is a hilly place.
I did think I’d finish this Blog on our week in Lisbon in two parts but there’s going to be a third. With a day and a half left when we visited the main cemetery in Lisbon, discovered Fado in the Alfama district of the city and visited magnificent Monastery of San Vincent de Fora I have more pictures to drop in and some more ramblings. For now I think this Blog is quite long enough! Hope you’ll stick around to read part 3.