Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Thursday 15 February 2018

Drifts of 'drops

Last weekend we went to visit our besties, P, A, S & A, down in lovely Dorset. Whilst the welcome was warm, the weather was cold. Really, really cold. But we didn't let that knock us off our stride. Bravely coated and firmly booted against the elements we went out on Snowdrop Patrol

Now I know that there are lots of superstition about snowdrops, and how it's unlucky to pick them and bring them indoors, but for me they're irresistible at this time of the year. Frankly I'm grateful for anything that's prepared to bloom outside, and turn muddy borders into drifts of elegant white. And that's exactly what they do down Dorset-way. As you drive along there are banks of wild snowdrops blossoming all over the shop. 

I have a sense that we're culturally prejudiced against them by dent of still being a bit too close to those soppy Victorians. They had a penchant for planting snowdrops on the graves of their loved ones, creating an association between the shroud-like blossoms and the grim reaper. I know we're in the 21st century, and all that, but we're not that many generations removed from those tender souls who now lie in the churchyards that they once tended. Think about it: lots of grandmas and grandpas alive today can boast of having had a grandma and/ or a grandpa who was a Victorian. And, as a result of that generational proximity, there's probably still a residue of Snowdrop prejudice in our contemporary folklore. I mean, how many people do you know, who will not, under any circumstances, bring snowdrops indoors as cut flowers?

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Gosh it's hard to believe that Christmas and New Year's Eve have been and gone. It all sped by so quickly.

We're just back from a lovely New Year's Eve celebration with our dear friends P & A down in Poole. We had a really chilled time with good food and best friends. I can think of no better way to welcome in a new year.

Thursday 10 August 2017

High Summer in Sunny Sant Feliu

We've finally made it home to Sant Feliu. It was an epic adventure getting here via the Panzer Museum in Munster: 3 days in the car, more traffic jams than I've suffered in years on the M6, a couple of audio books and a lot of lively discussion in between times.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Our town beach here in sunny Sant Feliu de Guíxols

And it's high summer. The place is full of people. We've got the Porta Ferrada Music Festival in full swing, parking is nigh on impossible and the weather is sunny and bright.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Sant Feliu de Guíxols: the port

Emi is beside himself as all his local friends are in town, and he's got a full compliment of amigos down at the pool. In addition he's had some good friends from London staying with us this week.

How do you like his new snorkel mask? He thinks it's the business, especially given how he can hang his go-pro on the front.

He's already had several sessions filming the sand on the sea bed 👀 and the fish darting around in the depths. He's always had a tendency to gild the lily when it's come to recounting all the amazing things he's seen in the water, which is now catching up with him as we review his video footage. It's amazing how elusive those huge lobsters and mean scorpion fish have become since he's started filming ... They used to be two-a-penny, every day sights 😜.

Walking the WonderDog in the cool of the evening has its own special charms. I enjoy being out and about when the heat of the day is spent, and the tourists are drifting off to change for dinner.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Sant Feliu de Guíxols in the evening sunshine

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Sunday 16 July 2017

Hay-on Wye ... a Welsh Timbuktu ... sort of ...

I love Hay-on-Wye. It's totally my kind of town. Mr B and I are in the habit of going there on a fairly regular basis to shop, shop, shop. We love it.

Friends will be puzzled by this shop, shop, shop business because neither of us is the type to hang around aimlessly in shopping malls, or to partake of retail therapy with any kind of glee or gladness, but Hay-on-Wye is different. It's the Timbuktu of Mid Wales: a town that's totally devoted to books!

  Hay-on-Wye Castle
Hay-on-Wye Castle

Thursday 13 April 2017

Oh Bluebell ... what's in a name ...

Now I have to 'fess up to feeling a tad proprietary about the bluebell. You see I was born at the end of April, when, as my mother still likes to tell me, the bluebells were in flower. And every year I have enjoyed my birthday with a side order of beautiful, fragrant bluebells. For me birthdays and bluebells have gone together like fish and chips or Fred and Ginger. As I've watched the bluebells sprout out of their winter hibernation, unfurl their long slender leaves and swell into bud I've felt the cycle of the year come around another turn, adding another year to my own personal tally in the process. In the old days I used to get quite excited. Do you remember how we used to lie to make ourselves older? Crazy times! Nowadays I'd really rather not dwell too much on all that cycle of the year mathematics, thanks all the same.

Friday 31 March 2017

The Snuff Mills of Morden Hall Park

Once upon a very long time ago snuff was all the rage. It started with the indigenous tribes of Brazil, and was carried back to the Old World by the Spanish, who established the first European snuff mill in Seville in the early 16th century.

The French ambassador, Jean Nicot, is credited with bringing snuff to the attention of his Queen, Catherine de Medici. Poor old Catherine had been plagued with headaches, which she was persuaded to treat with snuff. Miraculously it  seemed to work! And the grateful queen promptly declared that snuff should henceforth be known as Herba Regina, the Queen's Herb. Having won the royal seal of approval it quickly became popular with the French aristocracy.

From there the fashion for snuff soon jumped the Channel to take hold amongst the great and the good here in England. Soon snuffing was all the rage, with many extolling its excellent curative properties. It was sniffed into the nose, delivering an instant nicotine hit, and leaving a lingering smell. And back in the day, when the world tended not to smell too sweet, that scent in the nose would have been a welcome relief from the everyday malodors that otherwise assaulted the senses. Often snuff was blended to secret recipes with other spices, herbs and floral essences. Famous blends such as Scotch and Welsh, English Rose (supplied free of charge to MPs in the House of Commons after smoking was forbidden in the Chamber in 1693) and Lundy Foot gained popularity. Before long there was a huge selection of blends delivering different scent sensations to appeal to just about every olfactory caprice; some were dry having been roasted and then ground very fine whilst others were more moist.

  The Snuff Mill, Morden Hall Park, London
The Snuff Mill, Morden Hall Park, London
George III's Queen Consort, Charlotte, was known as Snuffy Charolotte, thanks to her devotion to the stuff. She had a whole room at Windsor Castle devoted to her stash of snuff and her collection of snuff paraphernalia. George IV had his own exclusive blends.  Lord Nelson, the Iron Duke (of Wellington), Alexander Pope, Benjamin Disraeli and Samuel Johnson were all keen snuffers. With the growth of 18th century coffee house culture, the nation's enthusiasm for snuff grew in tandem with its addiction to caffeine fad to become a firm fixture in the daily lives of the chattering classes.

Saturday 11 March 2017

Beaumaris Castle ... 8 centuries and still not finished ...

Work on Beaumaris Castle, the castle on the fair marsh, started on 18th April 1295 … and they still haven’t got the place finished.

It was to be the last of Edward I’s mighty castles guarding the north Wales seaboard. As I've mentioned before, I'm very grateful to dear old Ted the First for building all these wonderful castles within easy striking distance of the Dublin ferry. They make perfect places to stop-off and kick back for a few hours when you show up too early for your crossing.  See for example my thank you note for the wonder that is Conway Castle.

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales

Sunday 12 February 2017

Steamy, Moonlit Andorra la Vella ...

Now, at the risk of leading people to believe that I've morphed into a vampire, who only ventures out a night, I have to 'fess up to being out and about in the moonlight here amidst the snowy mountains of Andorra. To be fair I've been up since the crack of dawn piste-bashing with Emi. But after a hot bath and a good dinner it's quite magical taking to the merrily lit streets of Andorra la Vella for a spot of nocturnal sight-seeing.

Many of the hotels still haven't latched onto the idea that Christmas has long since been and gone. There are Chrimbo trees and fairy lights aplenty. What is it with ski resorts and their year-round Christmas obsession? I love Christmas as much as the next girl, but by the middle February I'm more than ready to move on.

In Andorra La Vella, the capital city of this tiny principality,  you never get very far away from the sound of rushing water. Rivers tumble down from the snowy peaks, and race through town with a thundering velocity. And every now and then you come across a hot spring sending up great plumes of water vapour into the chilly night air. As you stand and admire the scene you begin to notice just a hint of sulphur hanging in the breeze and adding to the atmosphere.

It's an amazing thing to see a steaming river, especially as this one is just a skip, a hop and a jump away from Meritxell Avenue, the main shopping street where luxury label boutiques vie for position, and the cool crowd parade around in their designer finery.

There's a hot spring further down the street that feeds a huge stone trough where the water temperature is a constant 70ºC. You can stop and dip your hands/ feet/ whatever you want cooked in it, but it's uncomfortably hot - and that's coming from someone who likes her baths lava hot!

I understand the science behind hot springs, but I still find myself standing back and marvelling at the incongruity of steam in a snowscape. It's easy to imagine how delighted our early ancestors must have been with places like this. In a cold, wintery climate, where everyone spent their lives balanced on the edge of hypothermia, it must have felt like a gift from the gods to come across a steaming hot spring rising out of the frozen ground.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Saturday 11 February 2017

Boulogne-sur-Mer in the moonlight ...

Do you ever go out for a moonlit stroll? Do you like to wander solitary beneath the stars?

It's one of those activities that you could be forgiven for opting out of. But for me, travelling as I do with the WonderDog, it's a bit of a necessity. When a dog's got to go, a dog's got to go ... if you get my drift.

Sometimes I negotiate r-e-a-l-l-y hard to see if someone else will step up to the plate and do the honours. On Thursday we pitched up in Boulogne-sur-Mer shortly before midnight. It was a cold, joyless night with a cruel wind whistling around the empty streets. After a late room service dinner the others pleaded various (lame) excuses for not venturing forth, and I had to take the WonderDog for his post-prandial ablutions. But here's the thing: the moment I stepped out into the moonlit streets I realised what a HUGE favour they'd done me. This little city by the sea is so atmospheric after dark.

La Porte Neuve, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
La Porte Neuve, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

Saturday 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas ...

I'm all cosy and snug with my nearest and dearest here on the Costa Brava. Our tree is up, our presents are wrapped, the turkey is stuffed and set for roasting, and there's nothing left to do but enjoy the moment.

Well, seeing as I've got everything under control, how'd you you like to step out with me for a moonlit stroll around my pueblo? They've really pulled out the stops and put on the Ritz with lots and lots of Christmas lights. Come on! You'll hardly need a coat. After the recent winter storms the weather's turned benign.

Sun set over the bay in Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Saturday 20 August 2016

Sant Feliu sunset ...

Here's to the golden aura of a Sant Feliu sunset. It's a precious moment when the sun disappears leaving the warm glow of its rays to linger for a while like happy memories of the day just gone.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Sunday 10 July 2016

The Basilica of Sant Feliu, Girona and a case of mistaken identity ...

The Basilica of Sant Feliu is an ancient place, a very ancient place indeed. It’s an older church than the Cathedral of Santa Maria on top of the hill, and arguably just as important in terms of its role in the history of the city. During the Moorish occupation it served as a cathedral for the city's Christian population, who were displaced when the Moors commandeered Santa Maria as their mosque. 

Basilica of Sant Feliu, Girona
Basilica of Sant Feliu, Girona on the banks of the River Onyar

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Conwy - a perfect stopover

On Friday morning Emi, the WonderDog and I blew town super early (in the wagon and rolling by 4:15 a.m.) on our way to Ireland. I’m not sure when super late morphs into super early, but I'd wager that a number of the folk we met in the early stages of our journey were on their way home after a fun night out. 

My cunning plan - that involved getting up at such a demented hour - was to try and get past Birmingham and the M6 before the traffic got ugly. I’ve been scarred by the traffic in that neck of the woods before, which is saying something for a Londoner. But I’m happy to report that, this time, my cunning plan worked brilliantly. So well in fact that we were on schedule to arrive 4 hours early for our sailing, which is just a smidgeon too early, even for a control-freak like me.

So I started casting around for other things to do, and hit upon the idea of a short detour into Conwy. My travel buddies were more than up for a little unscripted adventure that took us off our normal route.

Conwy Castle, Wales
Conwy Castle, Wales 

Thursday 21 April 2016

Ode to the Costa Brava poppy ...

If there's one flower that really makes my heart sing it's the wild field poppy. Here on the Costa Brava there are millions of them, all over the shop, dancing in the breeze, and looking splendid in the warm spring sunshine. To me they represent pure joy.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

The Platja de la Fonollera i Mas Pinell ... a heavenly beach

The other day Emi and I were in Pals. We hadn't gone there for anything in particular. It had just occurred to us that it would be a good place to take the WonderDog for his afternoon stroll. As it happens Pals is the most amazing town you could ever hope to visit, but the thing is once you're there, inside the town, you tend not to look beyond its walls. Everything inside is stunning, so why would you? Well I was standing on the terrace by the 11th century Torre de les Horres waiting for Emi to finish buying a (toy!) sword in one of the tourist shops when my eye was drawn to these amazing islands, sitting on the horizon, just off the coast.

Medes Islands, Costa Brava

They were stunning in the afternoon sunshine. I was amazed as to how I'd manage to miss them before. I've been to Pals more times than I can count. I've wandered around with my camera clenched to my face taking photos of everything, but I've never actually looked outside of the wonderful little town I was visiting. And just look what I missed over there on the seaward horizon!

Emi and the WonderDog were amenable to going on a wild goose chase in search of the islands, so we all piled into the car and headed off in the direction of Platja de Pals, the official town beach, which is some little distance removed from the town itself.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Torroella de Montgrí ... now that's what I call a castle ...

Do you like to climb mountains?

I love, love, love the mountains. In an earlier pre-being-a-mum incarnation I used to do proper climbing with ropes and harnesses and all that jazz. Mr B, however, is not a mountain man. He's a city boy, hates heights and doesn't understand why anyone in their right mind would want to scale a mountain just to have to come down again. He doesn't get it. 

Ten year-old Emi, on the other hand, does get it. He loves the challenge of a good climb. At a recent family lunch, in the shadow of Montgrí, I casually suggested to Mr B and the in-laws that we should climb the mountain to work off some of the calories we'd just consumed. They all fell about laughing. What a crazy idea, but Emi was totally up for it. Like mother, like son.

And, here's the thing, just look what's up at the top of Montgrí. Now that's what I call a castle ...

Castello di Montgrí
Torroella de Montgrí Castle

Thursday 14 April 2016

The Octopus's Garden ...

Do you know the Beatles' song the Octopus's Garden ?

It's a real classic. Well here's the thing: I think I've found it. No, seriously, I know just the spot. It's hidden in the shallows in a rather splendid little cove, called Cala Pedrosa, where we like to go rock-pooling.

Cala Pedrosa, Costa Brava
Cala Pedrosa, Costa Brava

 Do you see how clear the water is? And it's full of life. There are countless types of seaweed, creating dark underwater forests where the Costa Brava sun can scarcely penetrate. It's the perfect place for any right-thinking Octopus to have his garden in the shade.

Friday 8 April 2016

In a roundabout sort of way ...

Our local airport, here on the sunny Costa Brava, is Girona-Costa Brava Airport. It opened in 1965, but only had modest numbers of passengers until a certain Tony Ryan decided to use it as one of his airline's major European hubs. Well, after that, it was boom time for the Aeropuerto de Girona-Costa Brava, and they've never looked back since.

It's still got a fairly rural feel to it as international airports go. The rush hour is often held back by the odd tractor or combine harvester, depending on the time of the year. Recently there's been a rush of civic pride in the local villages as they seek to announce their specialities to the visiting tourists. And they've taken a rather quaint and very unique way of doing this.

On the big roundabout, on the approach to the airport, at Cassà de la Selva they've got some rather large Cava corks, which seem to suggest that they've got a rather splendid drink to quench your thirst after all that travelling. Well in fact it's not so much the drink as the corks that they're wanting to tell us about. The village is surrounded by cork trees, and back in the day it was one of the major centres where they made corks for wine bottles. Nifty, eh?

Cassà de la Selva, Girona
Cassà de la Selva, Girona

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Feeling hungry in La Boqueria, Barcelona ...

The other day I had to go down to Barcelona for a meeting. As luck would have it the venue was just beside Barcelona's totally sensational La Boqueria market. Afterwards I needed somewhere to stop off for lunch with Emi and Mr B, who had driven me down. It would have seemed churlish not to pop into this wonderful foodie's paradise for sustenance, so this is where we ended up.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria,
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria,

Monday 28 March 2016

Happy Easter ...

... from the snowy mountains of Andorra.

Vall Nord Ski Resort, Andorra
Emi striding out with Victor, his ski instructor at Vall Nord
We're celebrating Easter with a helping of the white stuff. We've been spending our days skiing, and then coming back into town for the most amazing spa-pampering and fabulous food. And, of course, after all the calories we burn off up the mountain we can really tuck in and enjoy ourselves.