24 hours in… Florence

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Yes, I’m dreaming again but I do have able assistance.  Take a look at Paula on Lost in Translation.  The lady has a supreme talent in photography. These are all her images, which I’ve stolen in a good cause.  I hope I’ll be forgiven.

It’s ages since I’ve entered a competition but this one by Accor Hotels is too good to resist, even though I’m pushing the deadline.  24 Hours In…   Just name your city, and off you go.  My initial reaction- ’24 hours in Florence?’ Impossible!!!  But then resourcefulness kicks in.  I’m a huge fan of free walking tours.  Nothing I like better than a good ramble and to just follow my nose, but my nose has a terrible habit of getting me lost.  With time at a premium I’ll opt to follow ‘one who knows’.  And afterwards pick their brains for good places to eat and whatever else I can pack in.

Florence Free Tour has 2 options.  One at 11.00 and one at 14.00, both starting from the Santa Maria Novella church.

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I know I won’t be able to sleep for excitement so I’ll be up at the crack of dawn, grab a coffee and out on the streets to just absorb Florence.  I’ve heard tell there are secret bakeries, open very early, so if I stumble upon a waft of pastry, so much the better.  The other half is always reluctant to be prised from his bed but, if I can persuade him, I’ll have a slot booked at the Uffizi.  They open at 8.15, so not too hard to escape the crowds.

Culture tucked in my back pocket, time to join the morning walking tour, when I can hope to get my bearings. Afterwards I’m going to allow a substantial time for collapse and a leisurely lunch.  Somehow I have to find the energy to climb the 463 steps to get a proper look at Brunelleschi’s Cupola in the Duomo.  I’ve seen Paula’s photo and I know it will be worth it.

I always gravitate to a river, and in Florence there is the biggest incentive of all time, the Ponte Vecchio.  I might have to pinch myself when I get there.  Not since Venice have I been this excited!  A browse through the arcades and a nice little cafe for a restoring coffee. (and I know he’ll want a cake!)  There’s one more must see on my list.  You can’t be married to a garden designer and not visit the Boboli Gardens.  Even if it rains!  It seems the perfect place to watch the sun set over this lovely city.  Maybe there will be an evening concert at the Pitti Palace, but if not it will be a leisurely meal, and then just strolling and sighing until my legs won’t walk any more.

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I haven’t been there yet, but when I do, next February, I very much hope to enjoy this vista, at Twilight.  And when I do I’ll be telling you all about it.

Meantime, do you have any tips on how to spend 24 hours in your favourite city?  Accor Hotels would very much like to hear them, and if you’re awfully quick there are super prizes!  Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin ring any bells?

Jo’s Monday walk : A crisp day at Stockton Riverside

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Subtitled, a bevy of swans.  Recovering from a back problem, I needed a gentle, level walk. The Riverside, at nearby Stockton-on-Tees, seemed a likely candidate.  The sun was bright in the sky but the temperature skimming zero, so strolling really wasn’t an option.  Semi-briskly, let’s go!

It’s surprising the variety you can find within a short distance along this river bank.  A replica of ‘The Endeavour’, a glut of bridges and an impressive whiteness of swans. Today, rivaled by the whiteness of frost on decaying timbers.

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As an extra treat, the Teesside Princess comes chugging towards us from her dock on the quayside.  Party time upstream, maybe?

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Aren’t they lovely creatures?  I don’t know when I ever saw so many, even in a nature reserve, and this is anything but.  I did wonder if the local council arranged for them to be fed.  We’re now at the back of Stockton High Street and approaching a retail park, so it’s a good time to cross over the Victoria Bridge to the opposite bank of the Tees.

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The path continues alongside newish flats, and a spattering of call centres.  Not a bad working environment, and there are benches for a lunchtime sandwich.  Even in thick tights, you’d think twice today.  Look out for the glimmer of ice on the water as we follow the man-made canals.

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Passing below the Millenium Bridge, the footpath weaves around the canals in a slightly frustrating manner.  Ahead and around the next bend awaits the showstopper bridge, her graceful arcs skimming the blue.

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Intriguingly there are goalposts suspended above the water.  Evidence of summer excitement!  The university buildings back onto this stretch, and the youngsters will row and kayak with enthusiasm.  More sedately, I’m content just to admire the slender lines before me.

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A grand finale, isn’t she?  Crossing over the Infinity Bridge and I gaze skywards, spellbound as ever by her beauty.

The riverside path leads back to our beginning.  You can pop through to the High Street if you’re needing sustenance, and you might catch Locomotion no 1 in action.  Here’s a little bit of bridge history for those who are interested.

Apologies for taking you back to familiar territory, but I know you love a bright walk and this was such a lovely, albeit nippy, day.  I still have some walks to share from earlier in the year and it’s a perpetual dilemma which to choose. Perhaps I’ll have to let a little cloud in next week.  Grab that cuppa, won’t you, and we’ll settle in for a read.

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Thanks all you lovely people.  I so look forward to your company on Mondays.  I have some of the most fabulous shares again this week.  Feel free to join me anytime.  You’ll always be welcome.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.

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Lady Lee has been making me envious again.  Such a nice place to have family!

Singapore

If you’re a fan of ‘dressing up’ you’ll like Jackie’s post, with a nice dollop of history :

Day 7- Williamsburg

Jude takes me back to a place where I have fond memories of duck pate sandwiches, Guinness and rain!

Bury St. Edmunds

While Sherri took me back to the sunshine of my halcyon Lake Garda days :

An Italian Journey : Writing and Healing

A good ramble and a yarn from Tish Farrell always brings a huge smile to my face :

Rambling Yesterday On Wenlock Edge ~ “The Holly and the Power Station” 

A smile and a song!  Those are Drake’s specialities too :

Smile for awhile

Or you can have a little birdsong with your stroll, over at Denzil’s place :

3 walks on Mechelse Heide 

Biti can show you lots of Rome’s splendour :

Rome beautiful churches

And poor Carol has a dilemma on her hands on the rugged south coast of England :

Which Shoes to Choose

They’re brilliant, aren’t they?  I have a crispy pink and white sunrise dawning outside my window.  Soon be time to get walking.  Take good care and I’ll see you all next week!

Six word Saturday

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Pie and mash and a pier

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Relaxing comes in all shapes and sizes.  A bath, a book and a glass of wine is one of mine.  But I do have a weakness for a magnificent landscape, and any time that someone else is doing the cooking, that’s relaxation for me.

Strolling down the pier at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, how is it possible to have a care in the world?  The shoreline is inexplicably festooned in seaweed, and in the shops swathes of tinsel drape the trees.  Cocooned in the warm, the simple pleasures of pie and mash will do me just fine.

You want to join in?  It’s Six Word Saturday and time to simply Relax.

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Jo’s Monday walk : Querenca to Fonte de Benemola

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Another of the Algarve’s sleepy villages, Querenca was looking idyllic on the last day of my October holiday.  Our walking group were meeting at the cafe on the left of the photo above.  It’s quite a drive up into the hills and a ‘bica’ of coffee is always appreciated before we start walking.

Surrounded by rolling hills and leafy green scenery, Querenca breathes pure tranquillity. Excepting when the Festa das Chouricas takes place, at the end of January, and the waft of spicy sausage rouses the locals.  In honour of St. Luis, the patron saint of animals, the celebrations give thanks for the pigs, bred locally, that feed the villagers throughout the year.  I rather fancy trying chouriço à bombeiro, where the sausage is doused in brandy and set alight. Bombeiros are fire fighters, in case you wondered.  Time to set forth.

We leave the village square in a downhill direction, over lovingly worn cobbles.  I’m too busy admiring the scenery to realise that the return route could well be steeply uphill. There are 13.7 kilometres to cover first.  I’ve walked to Fonte de Benemola in the past, but this route is unfamiliar.

Portuguese street names do sometimes seen inordinately long.  And did you notice that cat, giving me such a baleful look?

Continuing downhill we find the beginning of the trail to the Fonte, or spring.  A lush green valley leads beneath lofty cliffs, the arid red of the Algarve soil revealed in the fissures.  It reminds me greatly of my trip to Rocha da Pena, but today the weather is impeccable.

img_4322The trail winds along dustily, and becomes quite rock strewn in places.  In Spring these nooks and crannies will be dressed in the finery of rock roses and lavender, with the promise of wild orchids.  This late in the year colour is harder to find.

When finally I reach the Fonte, the bamboo and rushes are bleached almost colourless.  A soft shushing noise betrays the presence of the water, a sign ‘olho’ pointing hopefully.  A young couple are balanced on the rocks, trying to capture on camera the bubble of water as it rises and swirls in an ‘eye’.  I carry on, knowing that I’ve seen it in far less parched surroundings.

These natural springs prevail throughout Portugal’s hills.  This is ‘the eye’ in Springtime.

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As we follow signs back to the village I wonder if the cheery basket maker is still there, with his whistles and bird imitators.  I had purchased a wicker bowl last time, feeling sorry for him as he sat alone in the woods.  It serves as a slightly wonky erstwhile fruit bowl. Many new arrivals are enjoying the unseasonally hot weather, and I feel sure that he will be enjoying good trade in his shady dell.

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Remember that climb back into the village?  I confess I had forgotten all about it.  It took a while before I was puffing and panting back into the village square.  There just has to be a reward, don’t you think?

Much later I discovered a video of the Fonte that I thought you might like to see.

There are a number of routes around the natural springs.  Walking Trails of the Algarve pages 76 and 80 will give you shorter variations on this walk, or you can simply follow the signboards.  This video will give you a glimpse of the basket maker.  Please ignore the advertising.  I hope you’ve got the kettle on, ready to join my walkers from your armchair?

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Thanks so much, everybody, for your kind contributions to my walks.  I wasn’t at all sure where to lead you this week but in the end I opted for sunshine, as Winter wraps itself around us here in the UK.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you’d like to contribute anytime the details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.

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I do like a tinker in a museum and a browse round a market.  Geoff can tell you a story or two as well :

From Paddington to Page#walking#london

Woolly likes a little stroll, with not too much effort and some classy cars :

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But sometimes he gets a little further :

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Jackie’s by the York River, in Yorktown.  Virginia, of course!

Day 6- Yorktown

Nothing like a good fumble around the Albert Docks with Drake.  He’s in his element!

Come and get it

Does anyone know what Pargeting is?  Jude does, and I really love it :

Love Lavenham

Becky’s counting to 6 this week, but there are lots more than that!

There are pomegranates in the tree

While Carol’s fossil hunting and has found loads!

Buried Treasure

Or you could join Kathrin for a delicious trip to the beach :

A day at Solana Beach

How do you follow the legend that is Badfish?  Why, with devotion, of course :

ONE FINE DAY in BRATISLAVA : Part III

That’s it for now.  I think I’ll be walking in the UK again next week.  Feel free to join me but, more importantly, take care till then.

Six word Saturday

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Lazy leaf or a beach ‘bum’?

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Drifting to the end of Verena’s Festival of leaves.  You have one more week for sharing.  Join Cate if you have six words spare.

Have a great week, and don’t get stressed over Christmas.  It’ll come and it’ll go.

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