Archive for ‘Europe’

An overdue post …. the last few ports of our cruise….

An overdue post …. the last few ports of our cruise….

We woke one morning to a beautiful sunrise over the Italian coastline as our ship was anchoring off Portovenere. Pale pink clouds lay above the blue hues of the hills behind the coast and formed an amazing backdrop to our arrival. Unlike the last time we came to Portovenere the weather was kind and the ferries were running so we were able to take a trip along the coast line of the Cinque Terre National Park to view the five picturesque little towns dotted along the steep coast, with their colourful houses, small harbours and terraced vineyards behind. Once joined only by paths and sea travel, the villages are now linked to each other and the wider world by rail too. We stopped off at a couple of villages – enjoyed a wander but once again there were many tourists thronging the streets and whatever functions the original buildings around the harbour had they are now mainly souvenir outlets or restaurants. I suspect the streets are much lovelier in the evenings when the tourists have all moved on …….

Sailing west again we stopped in at Monte Carlo and took a walk along the street that forms the start of the famous motor race as well as a bus trip to Eze, a hilltop town high above Nice – the smell of the lavender as we arrived to start the steep walk up the narrow cobbled streets was amazing – must have been this summer’s crop recently picked. Lovely old buildings and fantastic views from the top over the Med but also over the gardens of the hotel lower down the slope. Once again, many of the buildings in the picturesque streets have been repurposed as shops.

One of our last stops was the town of Toulon in France. It was the first time our ship had berthed in Toulon and a group of folk dancers were there to greet us. Being a Sunday (in France) we weren’t sure whether there would be much open but we needn’t have worried – the local market was in full swing. A large market with all sorts of foodstuffs and other products including the local Provencal table cloths (see below) kept us occupied. After a wander around the Old Town (quiet – not many tourists- everything shut) we returned to the port to find that we were farewelled with a cold glass of rose and a gift. I think the local authorities would like the ship to return ……

Onwards to Barcelona!

Cruising – Rouen and then across the Channel for a couple of days

Cruising – Rouen and then across the Channel for a couple of days

After our hectic day driving to the Somme and back we had a leisurely stroll around Rouen the next day – enjoying the usual sights in the mediaeval town centre – including the half-timbered buildings and the Cathedral in the photos below – before sailing down the Seine and onto Cherbourg. Our tour to the D Day beaches in Cherbourg didn’t eventuate (thanks to the non-appearance of the tour company) so we spent the day wandering around there before boarding the ship to go back across the Channel for a couple of days.

Our first port of call there was Portland which had a great D Day museum for two us while one of us sought out a touch of free wifi outside a pub (see below) and one took photos! An old salt rowed us across the harbour in nearby Weymouth where we visited the lifeboat station and had great coffee and teacake overlooking the harbour. We spent the next day in Falmouth – it was a spectacular day with fabulous blue skies and was unseasonably warm which we all enjoyed. A multitude of shops selling pasties just proved we were in Cornwall!! The views from Pendennis Castle across the countryside were amazing and the military helicopters on exercise provided good photographic practice in focussing!

The Somme

The Somme

We had pre-booked a hire car from our next port, Rouen, to drive to the Somme area to visit Villers-Bretonneux and the Australian memorials there and at Le Hamel – about a two hour drive each way. We were all literally drop jawed when the man in the car hire office said he didn’t have a car despite the booking being made months ago! As we stood outside trying to work out options, a tiny (really tiny) car was returned by another customer. The four of us crammed into it and off we went.

The day was clear and warm – the memorials beautifully kept and appropriately sombre for the many there paying their respects. One last little clump of poppies was still blooming at Le Hamel. The new Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux is set into the ground behind the memorial and not visible at all from the front. It is beautifully constructed, featuring a wall of different Australian timbers in the foyer. The display and the audio-visual exhibits are very well done.  Impressive but sad places, the waste and personal toll of war in those thousands of immaculately kept graves a terrible reminder to us all.

Meanwhile beside the memorials, life goes on – farmers were busy with the harvest …..

The trip through the French countryside on a beautiful day was lovely and we only got ourselves lost once, driving a considerable way in the wrong direction beside the River Somme – but it was a a beautiful valley to be lost in!

Weekend in Canterbury

Weekend in Canterbury

We met up with our travelling companions in London and then headed to Canterbury for a couple of nights where we stayed in the delightful Canterbury Cathedral Lodge which is inside the grounds of the Cathedral. Lots of places to wander and see the city’s history – we found out a bit more about the Canterbury Tales, enjoyed the Roman Museum and of course the Cathedral and the mediaeval city itself. Lots of spectacular views of the Cathedral by day and beautifully lit by night for our evening wander outside the walls for dinner.

Top pic on left is from our room showing the entrance to the lodge with the Cathedral beyond, pic on right is the memorial to the martyred St Thomas A’Beckett inside the Cathedral, an exploration of the city’s ice cream offerings and the Cathedral and precincts by night carefully composed to eliminate the scaffolding covering the western end!

We took a bus to Dover and climbed the hill to Dover castle (equivalent to 22 storeys according to my phone!) with its spectacular views and extensive tunnels. Note the ear plugs on one member of the trio who was listening to the rugby grand final from Aus! Autumn definitely coming in but some lovely fine weather and still some late roses and other flowers around.

A week in the Channel Islands

A week in the Channel Islands

We have just spent a great week walking and sightseeing in the Channel Islands, starting in Jersey, moving on to Guernsey with a side trip to Sark.

Jersey and Guernsey have cars and other motor vehicles but low max speed limits of around 40mph and plenty of designated green routes where speeds are even slower, so great for walking. Pics above include two of the world’s greatest golfers (top right!), the lovely Brelade Bay in the late afternoon complete with lifesavers, and the entrance to the Jersey war tunnels which has a great exhibition of Jersey during the Occupation in WW2.

Below are some pics from Guernsey, the book and movie The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society have obviously spurred on some tourism efforts – souvenirs in lots of places. Didn’t try the potato peel pie! The top right pic, Official Notice, is a photo from a museum. Lots (particularly children) did evacuate, with families being split up for years. A long occupation and lots of privation. Along the coast were towers and fortifications built by the English against the French interspersed with fortifications built by the Germans against the English. Lovely walks again, with plenty of warnings about golf balls, lots of blackberries in the hedge rows and fantastic coastal scenery.

We took the ferry across to Sark from Guernsey and spent a wonderful day wandering there. No cars at all. Horse drawn vehicles, tractors and bicycles or walking are the only way to get around! As you can see from the pics the day was spectacular and we couldn’t get lost as the island is very small!

Antidote to jetlag – a quick walk on a sunny day!

Antidote to jetlag – a quick walk on a sunny day!

Staying in Greenwich for a couple of days – arrived after the dreaded 24 hour flight yesterday morning – so spent a few hours wandering around Greenwich before hopping on a train and having a quick walk through the city – managed not to fall asleep all day!!

The Cutty Sark now sits above its own museum. Lunch at the nearby Old Brewery – delicious and outdoors on a lovely day – eating by the clock!! Up the hill at the Observatory a real clock – of the 24 hour variety – look closely to tell the time!

Went past St Paul’s, liked its reflection in the installation on the other side of the street (it’s there twice – look at the windows of the brown building), wondered why there were lots of paparazzi around and then realized we were outside the London Fashion Week venue.

Looking forward to another wander tomorrow!

Back to the North York Moors and then south before home to 36°S

Back to the North York Moors and then south before home to 36°S

I’m writing this after we have been back home at 36°S for several weeks.  So it is much overdue but I wanted to complete the record!

Our last walking week was in the lovely North York Moors. We returned to one of our favourite locations, Crag House Farm, in Danby Dale, to a warm welcome from Liz and Danny. This time staying in Dale View Barn (on the right of the dovecote in the picture) having stayed in Beacon View on our previous visit. Both are immaculately renovated  and just so comfortable. The fizz in the fridge and the fabulous sponge cake were extremely welcome after our longish drive from Scotland!

crag house farm

Overlooking Danby Dale, there is walking right from the door of our Barn and not much further away there are many other walks ranging from strolls to really hard hacks. We did a couple in the middle of the moors and a lovely coastal walk from Runswick Bay to Staithes and back. Staithes being a very picturesque village where a young James Cook worked as a grocer’s assistant. We had fantastic local crab in sandwiches at the pub in the middle of the village. The coastal scenery in simply stunning.

coast path

Our inland moor walks were more rural – think fields, woods and moors – but equally enjoyable – more great pub lunches like the one on the bottom left with beautiful local ham served in the flower filled walled garden of the hotel in Lastingham.


Our book of walks on the North York Moors is no where near exhausted so we may be back for more one day…….

On Liz’s suggestion we spent a fabulous evening spectating at the the Ukulele Club evening at the Fox and Hounds in Ainthorpe.  A guest singer from 36° (not me!) led the group in a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda! It was great, everyone knew the words and strummed andsang along. The next evening we happened to go the Duke of Wellington in Danby where some of the ukelele players and some other also excellent musicians happened to be having their monthly session – another great evening and another rendition of Waltzing Matilda!


After Danby Dale we headed south for a weekend with our friends in Suffolk.  A morning in Bury St Edmunds and another encounter with the steampunk community – this time performing morris dances near the market – on a sunny Saturday morning. (At least I knew what they were this time!).  A visit to Bury is not complete without a wander through the Abbey gardens and a photo of St Edmondsbury Cathedral.


The next day was unseasonably warm – 23 ish – for the time of year and we had a walk along the sea front from Felixstowe Ferry along past the golf course and the Martello towers to the colourful beach huts/bathing boxes and back.  It was a brilliant day and some of the sunbathers outside one of the huts answered quite a number of questions to enlighten a member of the 36°S team!


After the weekend it was onward south to Kent for a few days – a quick visit to the Churchill’s home at at Chartwell (lower right) on the way.  The next day, a visit to Canterbury and the Cathedral along with multitudes (it seemed) of school children from all over Europe. Hard to get any pics without lots of people in them – but got two (on the upper right below) – the left one of the pair is the commemoration of the martyrdom of St Thomas A’Beckett.  The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, is a great place – well worth a the best part of day.  Even I crawled through a submarine (lower left), but the bits I liked best were the historic buildings and ships and significantly their stories. It’s really well done. The BBC were making the final of one of their art competition series while we there and it was fun wandering backwards and forwards watching progress on the paintings. Hope it gets screened at 36°S sometime!


Finally, time to head to Heathrow and home via a visit to our family in Hong Kong and back to reality – for the time being at least!!







A few dales in Derbyshire and a few days in Oxford – end of Part 1

A few dales in Derbyshire and a few days in Oxford – end of Part 1

Have been a bit behind with my posts – my excuse this time is we have just spent a week – shock, horror – without wifi!

So now it’s a few weeks since ….

Some walks through the Derbyshire dales……










A visit to a church where my great x2 grandfather Argyle was baptised …






Is this the font? It looks old!






A very long, long walk along the Thames and into Oxford – not much in the way of altitude but not a lot to look at either apart from long stretches of the river enlivened by the odd barge and some attractive reflections!

It was a very long way – by the time we realised how just how long we were past the point where we could do other than plod along! At least we didn’t have to climb any mountains along the way! Feet were very sore afterwards!

No wonder my first walking partner scurried back to thirty six degrees south! Next post from north of the border!

Walking in the Yorkshire Dales

Walking in the Yorkshire Dales

This post is a bit overdue but we had a wonderful week’s walking based around Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales. The contrast between the greenest of greens in the fields and the last of the heather up on the moors made it a spectacular time to be walking.

By the end of the week we had walked a long way and had done some steep ascents up into the heather and along the top of the moors – not bad for two walkers of certain age from thirtysixdegreessouth. We found our way through footpaths, avoided acres of nettles, climbed over stiles and opened and closed about ten varieties of gates mostly under the gaze of the woolly inhabitants.

The bull in the field and his companion unfortunately blocking the stile over the stone fence took quite some time grazing their way down the hill before we could pass them by. Not that either of us were worried!

High on one of the moors we came across this sight…..

We had several theories – kids on outdoor ed walks, military people doing something? Our antipodean backgrounds really didn’t help make sense of the activity…

We weren’t sure until we came closer…..

And the keeper explained they were beaters for a group of shooters who were down below us and the idea was that the grouse would be frightened up into the air for the shooters. People we spoke to afterwards were a bit ambivalent about the activity. On the one side the shooting, on the other the work for the locals which evidently brings in a lot of money to the area.

We were lucky and had only one really wet day….

A few days in Seahouses

A few days in Seahouses

On the way to this destination a fellow traveller asked where we going to which we replied ‘to Seahouses in Northumbria’. This answer was met with another question as to whether we were looking for something to live in or to buy to let! I don’t even think it our colonial accents from 36°S were to blame, rather maybe the peculiarities of the English language. Seahouses is a village on the Northumbria coast, south of Lindisfarne, the Holy Island and the ideal spot to stay to do some of the Northumbria Coastal Path walks or parts of the St Cuthbert’s or St Oswald’s Ways.

We stayed in a wonderful B and B called St Cuthbert’s House. From the outside it looks slightly austere having started life as a Presbyterian chapel over 200 years ago but has been stunningly restored by Jeff and Jill. Our host Jeff, was a mine of local information and helped us organise our walking itinerary. The breakfast menu is amazing and working through that set us up for some long days of walking. A great place to stay if you are in the area.

Summer harvesting is well underway and a number of our paths crossed fields where hay had or was being harvested. A complete contrast to the landscape we had recently left at 36°S where cold winds were blowing and snow could be seen on the hills not far away.








Enroute – we encountered lots of different coastal scenes:

Little coastal ports like Craster – famous for smoked seafood including kippers,




Some interesting rock formations, 

Wide sandy beaches, lots of people (and dogs!) enjoying the sun and waves, 

I liked this unusual sunroom, it seems to have a seat inside and I presume it can be moved to get the best aspect….lovely garden too,

The gardens at Howick Hall,

Northumbria has a deep theological history too, being an important centre for Celtic Christianity.  This is the Church in Bamburgh which has associations with St Aidan.  St Cuthbert and other saints are associated with Lindisfarne which is not far away. The nearby museum of Grace Darling gave a fascinating insight into the life of light house keepers as well as the bravery of Grace and her father in rescuing people from a foundered ship in a wild storm.  

Walking in the UK requires agility and abilty to negotiate all manner of stiles and the length of one’s walking poles makes a big difference to comfort along the way!