Category Archives: Travel

Tantalising Glimpses of Guell

Our journey on the Bus Turistic continued past Sagrada Familia  and through the trendy Gracia area. Our destination for the morning was perhaps the furthest point on the blue route, Parc Guell.  We jumped off the bus, following a few others and turned a corner into full sun. Parc Guell is in the the Zona Monumental and a monumental hill faced us! Pretty soon our water bottles and our tummy’s were empty so we sought out a café for an early lunch. Surprisingly, considering the vicinity, the first one we came across was cheap, a little local place where we had pizza, churros and coffee for just a few euros. Refreshed, we tackle the rest of the hill, resisting the tacky tourist shops along the way.

Eventually we turned the corner and had our first view of Parc Guell.

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We were hooked right away, and headed towards the entrance.
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This wasn’t it, originally this was built as the porter’s lodge and entrance, but for now it’s one of the exits.
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The selfie sticks available in all those tourist shops were being put to good use. So we strolled a few metres more, up the path to the ticket office,

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where we were told that we wouldn’t be able to go in for another four hours. We bought our tickets to enter between 5.30 and 6pm, for seven euros each,
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and feeling hot and irritable, but glad we would be able to go later, walked all the way back down that monumental hill.

So, we’d had a little peep at what was to come and had to entertain ourselves on the blue bus for a while.

What could we do?

Views from the Bus Turistic

Riding around Barcelona with the views from the top of the Bus Turistic , the city is even more beautiful than I expected. The Via’s are wide and tree lined and every where you turn is another striking building, placa or fountain.

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Buildings often have exquisite design features, some by Gaudi himself, others influenced by his work.
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Why have plain when you can have intricate?

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There are streets and streets with apartment blocks like this, with the volume of traffic going past they must be very high maintenance.

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I always wonder about the people living behind the windows, can they ever open them and enjoy their balconies in the continuous city noise?

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Of course if you live in one of the luxury apartments in Casa Terrades, a Gothic, fairytale castle, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to worry about the outside world, can you imagine Rapunzel’s hair flowing down from here?
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One of the places I’d like to see when I return to Barcelona is the modernist Casa Mila, known locally as La Pedrera, it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and Gaudi’s last civic work. It’s given the name Pedrera which means ‘Stone Quarry’because of its rough exterior appearance. I’d like to go up to the roof and get a closer look at the art looking back at you, fascinating stone sculpture that you see from the street.
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This pretty building was one of my favourites, but I don’t remember what it’s called, does anyone know anything about it?
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This fantastical building is Casa Batllo, one of Gaudi’s greatest masterpieces. I really wish I’d had time to see it, if you go to Barcelona allow as much time as you can, there is so, so much to see and you will quite likely feel as frustrated as i did, having to miss things like this out!

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The blue Bus Turistic also stops at Sagrada Familia ans we got off long enough to find out that there was absolutely no chance of going inside at that time. The ticket office said go away and book online, no tickets were available that day. We were so glad we hadn’t waited until the last day.
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I’ll be posting again about Gaudi’s greatest and unfinished achievement, meanwhile for now I’m ending with a photo of Barcelona by night, at Placa d’Espanya.
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Enjoy!

Barcelona, Sant Jordi and the Bus Turistic!

We had a light breakfast in our gorgeous apartment and set off rather later than intended the next morning. Retracing our steps from our walk home the night before, along the Gran via de les Corts Catalanes, I had to reassure my two friends that yes, I did know where we were going.  It was then that I remembered that on a trip to Paris, ten years ago, I was the only one with any sense of direction.  We got a little distracted by the parade of stalls selling single stemmed roses, for Sant Jordi’s day, and by the striking buildings in the university area.

Uni area

In five minutes we reached the Placa Catalunya, a lovely open area from where it’s easy to navigate the city’s main tourist destinations. Sant Jordi is not only a festival of roses but also of literature that coincides with world book day.

book day

I would have loved to linger and choose some books. As well as Spanish and Catalan authors, Ken Follett was among some of the British writers, signing books.The Placa was really buzzing with atmosphere,  Sant Jordi’s dragon was there, Iarge as life.

Dragon

This statue is by Frederic Mares , Barcelona  represented as a woman on horse back holding a ship as a symbol of exploration and trade.

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A wider view of the Placa.

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A hint of the architecture to come.
Placa buildings

We bought tickets for the hop on hop off Bus Turistic, for 27 euros  for the day. We  chose the blue route , as it covered most of the places we wanted to see.

Open top bus And we’re off, complete with blue head phones to listen to the commentary about the key points around the city. Although I’ll get shot, I have to tell you that Jackie was lulled to sleep by the music between each bit of information, and woke suddenly. She was so shocked by the voice in her ear that she woke with a scream, alarming some of the other tourists and reducing Sonja and I to tummy aching laughter!

I’ll be back soon with views from the bus, including the exterior of Sagrada Familia.

Rambla-ing in Barcelona

 

We arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday afternoon, and finding our Air BnB apartment was simple, just 100 metres from the Aerobus stop. Carmen, the owner met us, gave us some info and answered our questions and then we were off, three old crones let loose in the city. We had been up since 5am and only had a small bowl of porridge at Bristol airport at 9.30 so as it was now 4pm our tummies were howling! We found café to sit outside, where I had Greek salad and we shared a big jug of Sangria in the sunshine. Now we had arrived. Sated, we headed in the direction that I knew would take us to the Ramblas, criss-crossing through the Raval,

El Raval

an area full of old high-walled buildings, strange cooking smells and a million mobile phone accessory shops, piled high with cheap imports from China. The girls were a bit uneasy, not only do they lack my sense of direction, but some of the characters were a bit suspect and it seemed the Ladies of the Night were starting early. They breathed a sigh of relief when we walked into the light.
La Rambla
The Rambla was bustling with preparations for Sant Jordi, the next day, and flower stalls were everywhere.
Sant Jordi preparations
and then unexpectedly we stumbled on a place I’d hoped to visit but didn’t realise was so close. I’m a real market fan, I must have been a trader in another life, so St Josep, Mercat de La Boqueria was paradise.
St Joseps

Delicious fruit, fresh and dried was piled high, with each stall holder trying to out do the next.

My kind of food

Delicious

More treats

Seafood in abundance,
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I really don’t know how I managed it, but convinced that we would return, I didn’t spend a penny. I regretted that when I went home empty handed!

Ramblas architecture

Then it was time to enjoy some of the wonderful old buildings in the Rambla.

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Often very elegant and ornate.

The next building has a little extra elegance, try clicking to get a bigger view.

Mr Marilyn poses in the Museum of Erotica

Yes, it’s Marilyn Monroe, complete with wind- blown, white frock up on the balcony. ‘She’ was attempting to entice you into what I can only guess is entertaining, the museum of erotica.

We strolled on, eyes open for just the right place for dinner, but  our energy had abandoned us totally. Being too excited to sleep the night before and the early start made the tiredness set in. We were five minutes from home and there was a local supermarket on the corner. Crisps and croissants called, as far as real food was concerned, we’d gone beyond hunger. Even the litre bottle of vodka and cola to mix remained unopened and we went to our rooms. My first impressions of Barcelona were great, it was an exciting city and despite being shattered I didn’t sleep for a  couple of hours. Instead, I made plans for the next day.

A Warren Walk

When I was child, if you lived in Exeter, to the east of the river Exe, your beach was Exmouth, to the west and it was Dawlish Warren.  Both beaches are around 10 miles from the city. Back then, in the dawn of time, most people didn’t have cars, but there was always the regular train or bus service, and there still is.

Summers were longer and warmer then, and the sunshine was, well, sunnier somehow.  Families would pack up their bags with sandwiches, homemade sausage rolls and cake, kids would take their buckets and spades. Sun lotion didn’t exist, so many would burn and peel a few days later, the lucky ones would just tan.  No-one thought anything of it, other than a touch of calamine lotion if it was sore.

Nowadays the Warren is a National nature Reserve and protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and along with the rest of the Exe estuary, a Wetland of International Importance. Last weekend I took advantage of a few dry hours and took my camera for a walk.

In winter Dartmoor ponies are kept on the Warren to help maintain the grassland, I’ve seen some in the past but not on this visit sadly. The wetlands are teeming with wildlife, mostly elusive except to the ears.

I walked on past and got a glimpse of the beach.

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dw8Before striding on eastwards towards the golf course and a view across the estuary to Exmouth.

dw9So, I’m on the crest of the dunes surrounded by beauty

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The wide area at the top is the sand spit right opposite Exmouth, but I pretty much stayed on the red path.

There are thousand of wildfowl and wading birds, I saw Oyster catchers, Wigeon, Brent Geese, and others that I don’t know the names of. The visitor centre had recorded far more that week than I was able to see because the tide was low, even though I walked around the curve of the sand spit to the bird hide.

The wind was getting up and the light was changing, so I headed back before the rain came in. So walking west, the beach was on my left. The big old terrace houses at Exmouth were clearly visible behind me

dw17and my path back to the car park

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Looking inwards I could see the grassland again.

The Warren got its name because centuries ago, probably back to the middle ages, rabbits were raised there on a commercial scale, for both food and skin.

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This is part of the holiday makers area, with amusements, cafes, a pub and several caravan parks nearby.The tide was right in, but there is sand under there! The bright beach huts are a fairly recent addition. In the 1970’s there were hundreds of traditional beach huts down here behind the beach.

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I can’t remember them though, I was an east of the Exe girl and still am, you know how much I love Exmouth!

I hope you enjoyed my walk. It’s either one day late or six days early for Jo’s Monday Walk  but I’m never on time!

A tale of a favourite city

Accor Hotels have a competition that invites bloggers to write about one of their favourite cities.   The idea is to show three reasons why you love it and the prize is three-night stay for two, in London, Paris and Amsterdam. They’re including transport by Eurostar and even spending money, doesn’t that sound wonderful?

One of my favourite cities is Marrakech, a passion that began way back in 1969 when Crosby, Stills and Nash released the track Marrakech Express. I was very young, but something in that song intrigued me, from then on Marrakech seemed like a very exotic destination, even though at the time I would have struggled to find it on a map.

A few years ago I finally made it and it didn’t disappoint one bit, in fact I loved it so much I returned for a second visit.  It’s difficult to narrow it down to just three things I love about it, but the first I’ve chosen is Les Jardins Majorelle. Originally created by the artist Jacques Majorelle, who devoted forty years developing it into a lush paradise. The intense ultramarine cobalt colour that he used abundantly through the garden, later came to be known as Majorelle blue.

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When Majorelle passed away, the garden became neglected and would have been destroyed and replaced by an hotel, had it not been for the vision of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, who bought and began the restoration process.

There is now a memorial to Saint Laurent in the garden and  Berge gifted it to the Foundation Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent.

Bahia Palace – meaning ‘the beautiful’ was built in the 19th century by Grand Vizier Si Moussa. It has two acres of gardens and around 160 rooms, some of which are open to the public. The main attraction for me is the ornate tile work on floors, walls and ceilings. These are multicoloured Zellij mosaic, in Islamic, Andalucian and Moorish style, with green ceramic roof tiles.
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There is also some delicate stucco work that reminds me of the jail screens in Rajasthan – used in the womens quarters of major palaces as well as havelis. Naturally the Bahia once had a harem filled with concubines.


The palace can be found in the medina, next to the Jewish quarter and is open daily, unless there are royal visitors. It is one of the cheapest places to visit in Marrakech, about a pound, plus a small tip if you have a guide.
Last but not least on my list, is La Place Jemaa el Fna, a UNESCO world heritage site for ‘the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. I think it’s a love it or hate it kind of place, that many would describe as crazy and impossible. By day the vast square is a sun trap, only copious quantities of the best and cheapest orange juice ever will keep you going. Luckily the stalls are everywhere, as are the caleches, ready to take you around the city for a negotiable fee.
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As the sun begins to go down, if you want to take it easy, head for one of the roof terrace cafes, and sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
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Every night, La Place is transformed into a huge open sea of eating places and it has to be tried at least once during your stay. The food is freshly cooked and the air quickly fills with smoke, but its tasty and authentic. Anything thing you want, and an awful lot of things you didn’t know you wanted, can be bought around the square and the souk. If you show any interest in an item they will do their utmost to get you to part with your money, but I found it to be good natured haggling.


Before you leave the square, have a wander through the crowds. You will find snake charmers, tooth pullers, henna artists, story tellers, fortune tellers and monkey handlers – I’d avoid those if I were you!
I hope you enjoyed visiting Marrakech with me, the competition ends tomorrow but if you’re very quick . . .

 

Hive Beach Stroll

Friday was the most perfect winter day here and I had an extra day off, so it couldn’t be wasted! My friend and I set off heading east with a vague idea of perhaps Lyme Regis or Charmouth. Leaving the A30 at Honiton and taking the A35, a winding, up hill and down dale road passing through little villages, Wilmington, Kilmington and Raymonds Hill. Enjoying the view, high and wide, of east Devon and west Dorset, Golden Cap, a hill and cliff which is the highest on the south coast of England, waiting for me to climb one day.

Something took on us past the Charmouth and Lyme turning, towards Burton Bradstock, ten miles further and passing through we stopped instead at Hive beach which has a National Trust car park and access to the South West Coast Path. Hive is a noisy beach, not human noise but nature’s noise, as the waves crash onto the shore and then rush back down the steeply shelved shingle.

Shingle beach
Shingle beach

There were quote a few people walking off the seasons excesses on the beach so we thought we would check out the view from the cliff path.

Looking back onto Hive beach
Looking back onto Hive beach

We climbed quite high and Lyme Bay opened up.
Lyme Bay

A gap along the path
A gap along the path

At the highest point we looked north towards Bridport.

Countryside around Bridport
Countryside around Bridport

In the distance stands Colmer Hill, somewhere else I’d like to visit.

Colmer Hill
Colmer Hill

Then we circled around common land on the side of the hill.

The flat top hill is Golden Cap
The flat top hill is Golden Cap

And retraced our steps.

Lyme bay view
Lyme bay view

We had already sampled the Hive Beach Café’s coffee, so we set off to find tea and cake, tomorrow I’ll show you where!

We only had time for a short walk because the daylight was fading fast, but the area deserves some serious hiking, there is so much to see in West Dorset.