Tag Archives: travel

Everyone’s Journey is Different

Last week I took a four hour train journey home to Devon, longer and more complicated than it should have been because of railway work. I crossed platforms and hopped from train to train, and I couldn’t help wondering about other peoples journeys, where were they all going on a cold Sunday in January? Few people talk to strangers on trains (I talk to anyone as you know!), but one man, also travelling alone, suddenly laughed out loud so I smiled as our eyes met. He was doing a crossword and got an answer he’d been struggling with. The clue was ‘What islander has nothing behind him?’. The answer that he was amused by?’A Manx cat’. We laughed together, it was a nice encounter. The final leg of the trip was beautiful, but few people seemed to look out of the windows at the countryside as I do. One of the things about being a certain age is that to many people you become invisible, often annoying, but if you like to observe others as most writers do, it can be very useful. A lady opposite me was knitting, a bright pink little girls cardigan, and kept counting stitches, and to my right a young man watched a film on his laptop. Giggly teenage girls tried to paint each others fingernails but the movement of the train was making it difficult for them, and soft snores emanated from more than one passenger. Am I the only person who enjoys the beauty of the countryside? I did take out one techy toy, my phone, because I wanted to capture some of that beauty that we take for granted. Please forgive the image quality, fading light, reflections from the windows and a moving train don’t make for the best photos!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And I was inspired to try a poem,

Train Landscape

Swiftly the southern line takes me

‘longside pastures and heading west

where pannies flood but folds of dry

give shelter to the Sunday flocks

Winter furrows retreat to hill crest

no conifer plantations lurk here

just naked deciduous petticoats

seeded by natures wise hand

A nonchalant deer raises its head

and a much used murmuration flies

on a thousand dark starling wings

sweet balm to my home going eyes

through Dorset and on to green Devon

I ride the train through my heartland

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.

m5

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.
b5
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.
j2
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.
j1
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.

Descending Devon’s Rivers

This week, Cheri Lucas Rowlands at WordPress Daily Post asks that we show photos of our interpretation of ‘descent’. We can take it literally, experimenting with point of view or take it deeper.

I’m going to show you the descent of my favourite rivers, six of them that all descend to the sea on the south coast od Devon.

If you’ve known me a while you’ll know how much I love estuaries, those liminal, transitional places that tap into our ancestral memories.

The first is my beloved Exe, flowing into the sea at Exmouth. exe
A few miles to the east is the river Otter – and yes, Otters and even Beavers have returned to the Otter!I’d like to be able to photograph them. otter
The river Avon is the furthest west, flowing into the sea near Bigbury, in the beautiful South Hams. avon
The river Teign flows down from Dartmoor to the estuary between Teignmouth and Shaldon. teign
The Dart also descends from Dartmoor to reach the sea at Dartmouth, via another of my favourite places, Totnes. dart
Back to east Devon, the Axe joins the sea at Axmouth, with Lyme Regis just around the corner in Dorset. axe
I’m going to end as I began, with the Exe. It may not be a mighty river like some around the world, but it’s my river and my soul is wrapped in it. exe descent

You can join in with the challenge and see lots more descents at,

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/descent/

Wistman’s Wood

It is believed that Dartmoor was almost completely covered in forest thousands of years ago, but it was gradually chopped down and used by the people living there at that time. Nowadays there are evergreen plantations and just a few natural woods remain, Wistmans Wood for one. It is a small, remote wood, just eight acres at a height of 1300 feet above sea leve,l with mostly oak trees, stunted by the poor soil and altitude. The surrounding area is open moorland, grazed by sheep, cattle and ponies. Without the clitter, fallen from the tors further up the hillside, the grazing animals would have put paid to Wistmans long ago. As it is, the clitter makes it impossible for them to gain foothold there.
Wistmans is one of many Dartmoor sites that is shrouded in myth and legend. Its name derives from Saxon wissen, to know, so Wissman’s or Wistman’s Wood, means wisemans wood and refers to the Druids and their sacred grove. You may indeed encounter the ghosts of druids past, if you dare to visit in the dark of the night. Far worse might be an encounter with the devil and his pack of fearful wisht hounds, Wistmans may be where he keeps them.
Rumour has it that adders lurk between every boulder, ready to strike if you dare clamber over, to find a path through the wood. What’s more likely to happen is that you will slip on damp moss and break an ankle, or worse, between these ancient granite rocks.
So brave traveller is you visit, listen for baying hounds, keep your eyes out for serpents, be careful what you turn your back on, and most of all if there’s a red flag flying stay away – the military have a firing area nearby and you don’t want to get shot!

Scarce hoarier seems the ancient Wood
Whose shivered trunks of age declare
What scath of tempests they have stood
In the rock’s crevice rooted there;
Yet still young foliage, fresh and fair,
Springs forth each mossy bough to dress,
And bid e’en Dartmoor’s valleys share
A Forest-wilderness”.
Sophie Dixon -1829.

Humanity

Third Eye Mom is a writer and blogger from Minnesota and this is what she has to say for this weeks photo challenge.

The more I see the world, the more I realize that although people are different, we’re very much the same. We speak different languages, have different cultures, religions, values, and physical traits, yet we all share common hopes and dreams of love, family, and survival.

She’s posted some stunning portraits of people she’s met on her travels. Here are a few of mine, not portraits as such, just people being people in their world.

Can you show humanity as you see it? It would be great if you joined in,

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/humanity/

Il Parco Dell’Etna

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and last year, just after my visit, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As recently as last month it was putting on a pyrotechnic display, closing the nearby airport at Catania. All was calm when I was there. Travelling friend and I stayed in an hotel with a distant view – if you craned your neck a little on the balcony, and ignored the buildings in the way.
We went up twice, first of all independently and we couldn’t resist a guided tour a couple of days later.
Here are some photos taken at about 2000 metres, cool and grey with mile after mile of lava from various past eruptions.


In June there were miles of empty roads, lots of stopping places for photos and an almost creepy stillness.
You quite quickly descend to sunshine and there the flora and fauna is pretty.


Etna can be seen from all over the east of Sicily and when you’re up there the views down are amazing.
et6 - Copy
Going down.

et11
Towards the sea.

I enjoyed  looking back on my time on Etna, I’ll post some photos of the guided tour soon!