The price of a unique home

Thatched cottage 3Santana on Madeira has some of the cutest homes I ever saw.  Beautifully maintained, I found it a little sad that I had to queue up for a look inside and to purchase a thimbleful of liqueur, when once such hospitality might have been offered freely.  Still, I suppose it’s a small price to pay to preserve these unique homes, with their triangular roofs, thatched in straw.  Once they were occupied by local farmers.  Now they are a mainstay of tourism in this rugged northern part of the island.

Thatched cottage-oval

Thatched cottageThey’re a little different from Jake’s chosen home this week, but equally unique.  Pay him a visit? It won’t cost you!  Just click on the logo.


Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post : Bay


A Turkish gulet gliding across the bay

A Turkish gulet gliding across the bay

It seems like most of my life I’ve been admiring bays.  I can get lost in this photo, which was taken by my husband on our honeymoon, oh, so many years ago.  I’m tempted to go and dig out the photo albums and meander around a Greek Island or two, but this is Jake’s challenge for the Sunday Post this week.  I’ll never make it in time if I wander off down Memory Lane.

The slideshow runs when you click on the first photo.

We have some wonderful bays with pebbly beaches, remnants of our mining heritage, just up the road from here.  I planned to take the camera along after lunch, but it’s bouncing with rain.  I guess I’ll stick to memories, and the other entries on the Sunday Post.  I’m sure to find some beautiful bays there.

Visit Jake with me by clicking on the lucky snake logo or the links.

Picture the World : Madeira

Porto Moniz on Madeira's north coast

It’s some time ago now that I completed a post for Picture the World.  Naturally, I focused on Portugal.  There’s nowhere of which I have more beautiful photos.  However the project is still running at The Departure Board and I happened to notice that the slot for Madeira was still unoccupied.  How can that be?
Madeira is one of the most ruggedly beautiful sights I have ever seen.  Sheer drops along the north coast send waterfalls cascading into the foaming sea.  In December you can have snow on the peaks, yet sensuous bougainvilea caressing the houses in the south of the island.
The levadas provide world class walking, in addition to the irrigation which is the island’s life blood.  Every inch of the terraces is utilised to feed the islanders, and to produce the wine which is exported throughout the world.  The Portuguese flavour is all there in the intricately tiled streets, but Madeira has a determined character all her own.
I was there not long before the dreadful floods of 2010 devastated the island.  I watched the TV footage in horror as the flood waters tore through Funchal and the lovely spaces I had so admired.  It is a tribute to the islanders that they picked themselves up so rapidly to restore their astounding natural beauty.
The Picture the World project requires only that I share one photo with you, but I can’t resist adding just a few more.
Funchal looking down from the castle (it's a long climb)

Funchal looking down from the castle (it’s a long climb)

Ornate tiled paths are everywhere

Ornate tiled paths are everywhere

Rainbows too. The island is no stranger to rain.

Rainbows too. The island is no stranger to rain.

Snow not so frequently, but visibility was limited and our coach had to turn back

Snow not so frequently, but visibility was so limited, our coach had to turn back

But everywhere the beauty is undeniable

But everywhere the beauty is undeniable

To further the project, I’m nominating Cloud of Lace to supply an image of her homeland, Lebanon, and Freshly Pressed Compass & Camera because I know she has some exquisite photos of Bhutan.  I look forward to seeing these, and in the meantime, many thanks to The Departure Board for the opportunity to share.

Six word Saturday

Sparkling sea, clouds, boats and adventure?

The seafront at Hartlepool

A bright, clear day like this one always propels me to the sea shore.  On the horizon the chimneys of industry and the Power Station pump smoke into the atmosphere.  But on a day like this the sparkling water captures the eye and just won’t let go.

The sea is kept at bay by a defensive wall of rocks

It’s not the prettiest seafront.  The concrete defences are a sad necessity these days.  The local tip is just across the road, behind a low fence.  Sea coal often coats the beach- gritty reality.  Still the sun and the waves have the power to transport me beyond the merely physical.

Heading back to the harbour, the distant Headland peaks over the sea wall

The lock gates open to embrace the sea

Boat repairs and the sales office live side by side with the Coastguard

And then you’re into the marina proper

And every variety of boat is there

Mostly they’re white

If you’re lucky, the water goes on sparkling

And the adventure?  How could the high seas not offer adventure?  But my adventure is of a different nature this week and it’s time I paid tribute to Life is a Journey.  Reena has honoured me with the Adventurous Blogger Award.  I am constantly amazed at how far and wide my readers range these days.  Reena hails from the Philippines and is a relative newcomer to blogging.  If her photos of Rome by night are any indication of her talents, we have some treats in store.

In accepting the award I need to answer a few simple questions:

1. Where would you like your next adventure to be?

I’ve mostly only adventured in Europe and I have a serious hankering after the Far East.  All those temples and pagodas hold me in totally in thrall.  One day…one day.  Anyone out there want to offer me an assignment? (I know- get in line!)

2. Where would you recommend for an adventurous time?

Strange though it might sound, the island of Madeira.  There are many more exotic locations, but the landscape of Madeira is spectacular and very accessible.  You can go canyonning and levada walking in quite challenging terrain, and be surrounded by natural beauty.

3. What do you regard as the most interesting culture?

There are many oriental cultures I would love to experience.  Japan I would really love to visit, and newly opened Burma looks incredible.

4. What is your favourite holiday activity?

Exploring, exploring and more exploring.  I hate to miss anything. (nosey, my husband says)

5. What is the most dangerous activity you’ve undertaken?

The donkey ride from the harbour up to the cliff tops in Santorini.  I’m a bit of a scaredy cat and looking down a donkey’s nose into the caldera way below was more than enough excitement for me.  I much preferred the cable car ride back down.

6. What is your favourite quotation?

Not strictly a quote, but my mother always used to say “never let the sun set on your anger” and I agree one hundred percent.

7. Happiness is?

For me, simply a sunny day.

There, I’m all done.  Six Word Saturday, huh?  I do go on a bit!

I’m not going to nominate specific people to receive this award.  You adventurous types all know who you are and are very welcome to take up the award and run with it.  A previous 6WS page explains it better.  Please do go and visit Reena and make her as welcome to the blogging world as you’ve made me.

Just remains to say thanks to Cate at Show My Face.  See you all later today as I check out what you’ve done with your week?  The button below links to my previous Six Word Saturdays.

Sunday Post : Black & White

The best thing about challenges is when you think to yourself, “I can’t do that”.  And then you discover that you can!  I owe big thanks to Jake of Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post this week for his theme of Black & White.

Now you know I like to hum along, and black and white to me immediately conjurs up those lovely old Fred and Ging movies.  In the wink of an eye I was singing “Heaven, I’m in heaven”….  Even worse, I was twirling around the kitchen!

Yes, I know- but what about the challenge?  I was thinking that I might share some “cheek to cheek” wedding photos, as they’re the only thing I have in black and white.  But I’ve already written that post and wanted to be more original.  Nothing else for it but to “gingerly” embrace technology.  And I was amazed!

Looking down on Funchal from the castle

Porto Moniz

Punta de Sao Lourenco

Monte Palace gardens

The photos are of Madeira because I felt they had that slightly decadent, “of another era” air to them.  I could just picture Fred and Ginger tapping their way through those gardens.  Couldn’t you?

These are the product of an afternoon’s playing with Photo Express and I love it!  I had no idea this was possible, but Jake motivated me to try.  So thanks Jake, for your time and your patience, and all the encouragement.  Click on the dragon logo, or the links, to fly away with Jake, and all will be explained.

Seven Super Shots

On a grey, murky Easter Sunday afternoon, after a rather nice dinner had been eaten and washed up, I decided to focus on my next challenge.  Julie Dawn Fox kindly tagged me to take part in HostelBookers Seven Super Shots.  You can see what Julie made of the challenge by clicking on her link above.  Quite appropriate that there’s a chocolate Johnny Depp to be viewed.  I didn’t get any Easter eggs.  Did you?

A photo that takes my breath away

The Ria Formosa from Cacela Velha

You might know that I’d be starting in the Algarve.  I have more beautiful shots from there than just about any place I’ve ever been- not surprising really.  This is a good time to point out that many of the photos on my blog are the handiwork of my husband Michael (he would say the better ones!)  As we sometimes share a camera, it can get confusing, but for the purposes of this post I have to stick to photos that I’ve taken.

The above shot comes from the very first time I witnessed the natural beauty of the Eastern Algarve, in the tiny hamlet Cacela Velha.  It really was breathtaking, and a moment I love to recapture.

A photo that makes me laugh, or smile

James goes paddling

This is one of many engaging photos of my son James that make me smile.  He was a charming toddler and easily found entertainment wherever in the world he happened to be.  Water was inevitably a success.  This was on Rhodes.  Can’t you tell?

A photo that makes me dream

North coast of Madeira from Porto Moniz

I’m fairly sure that this is one of Michael’s photos- oh dear, you’d better disqualify me!  It encompasses everything that I love in a photo- water, mountains, blue sky.  I thought Madeira one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Cascades of flowers everywhere, distinctive buildings, fabulous scenery and wonderful levada walking- most definitely a place to dream.

A photo that makes me think

Part of the wall in the Jewish Cemetery, Krakow

I was very moved by this section of wall, constructed from the headstones wilfully destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War.  I have been too cowardly to visit Auschwitz.  Just the descriptions of the teeth, hair and glasses massed in cabinets has me in bits.  I really can’t make myself go there.  But Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Kraków, speaks to me of the past, and I was intrigued by the synagogues I saw there.  The area is now quite tourist orientated, but if you are able you should experience one of the free walking tours that are available.

A photo that makes my mouth water

A "quejinhos do ceu"

I’m not much of a foodie and I rarely remember to take any photos of food- I just eat it!  I was delighted with this exquisite little cake though.  I was in the small village of Constancia in Central Portugal, at the junction of the rivers Zezere and Tejo.  It’s a lovely peaceful spot for canoeists and nature lovers (unless you time it to arrive on a Youth Festival weekend, as I did)

In the tiny village square with its pelourinho (ornate pillory), visible from our hotel bedroom, we lingered for a coffee at the end of the day.  I have a fondness for the pastel de nata (custard tart), widely available in the Algarve, but the proprietor, Luis, advised me that they only had the local delicacy, quejinhos do ceu.  What a find!  It looked as good as it tasted- a strong hit of almonds.  Strictly for sweet toothes!

A photo that tells a story

Mummers at Grassington Dickensian Festival

Not the best of photos, but a memorable occasion.  The Dickensian Festival in the Yorkshire Dales village of Grassington is one not to miss if you’re in the area in December.  Together with nearby Skipton village, festivals are staged over 3 successive weekends.

The whole is in aid of local charity and you are quite likely to be offered “a kiss for 20p” from a nice-looking young shepherd. (no, that’s NOT my main reason for going!)  The Mummers have many a tale to tell, and if you’re into audience participation they’ll happily include you.  The day closes with a procession through the streets, following Joseph and Mary as they search for shelter at the three village inns.

The photo that I am most proud of (aka worthy of the National Geographic)

Porta da Vila, Obidos

I’m out of my depth here as I am no technician when it comes to photography- I just know what I like and do my best to capture it.  You knew I’d end with Portugal, didn’t you?  I’m going to give you two to chose from, since that one in Madeira wasn’t really mine.  That way I can legitimately claim seven.  The Porta da Vila is part of the town walls of Obidos – another place you don’t want to miss if you have the opportunity.  I was there at the time of a Medieval Fair, which really added to the atmosphere, but the liqueur Ginja de Obidos, served in chocolate cups, makes it a great venue at any time of year.

Sunset in Cabanas

I can never resist a sunset and am often up on our roof terrace at the end of the day, listening to the birds and watching the changing sky.  The above shot was taken in February, during an evening stroll along the boardwalk in Cabanas, just a few miles east of Tavira, in the Algarve.  I like to think I’m getting better at taking photos, but in reality I’m very hit and miss.

So I’ll pass on the challenge to someone I know can do much better:

Francine in Retirement

Fun and Fabulousness

Just a Smidgeon

Bringing Europe Home

Fabulous 50s

I am knocked out by the photography on all your blogs and I don’t know how you’ll pick just seven.  You also need to tweet your post to HostelBookers to let them know you’ve taken part at #7SuperShots.  Don’t forget to check out Julie’s Johnny Depp!

Six word Saturday

Travel writing makes me so happy!

View from Porto Moniz, Madeira

As seen through a Funchal gateway

Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote

A much younger James on the beach in Lanzarote

It gives me the opportunity to revisit all those lovely memories and do a little research on new places.  It’s a win-win situation.

Meantime, pop along to Show my face to join in the Six Word Saturday challenge and see what other folk have been up to this week.


My A – Z of Travel

Life’s good sometimes, isn’t it?  I was just recovering from being awarded the ABC Award (Awesome Blog Content) by lovely Alyson Weldrake of, when Lucy Dodsworth, of, another favourite blog, passed me this challenge.  Well, I have a lot to live up to, but I get to revisit some really happy memories.  Then I pass it on and take time out to read all those other A-Z’s- pure pleasure!  So, here goes:

A : Age at which you went on your first trip abroad:

My Mum’s idea of a holiday was a cottage near Scarborough, so trips abroad didn’t figure in my childhood.  My first ever bid for “freedom” was aged 21, when, quite pregnant with my daughter, I could see the world slipping away from me and booked myself solo on a flight to Paris.  It took me 40+ years to return but I managed to spend my Silver Wedding anniversary in the gardens at Giverny, and Versailles. (my husband is a garden designer, so he was easily persuaded)

B : Best foreign beer you’ve had and where:

Truthfully I’m not much of a one for beer.  Occasionally, after a long hot day, one hits the spot.  You wouldn’t go with one of my recommendations though.

Beer in Turkey

Can’t dispute photographic evidence- Turkish beer?

C : Cuisine : 

Probably Italian, but I’m quite versatile and will try most things.  Could quite easily become vegetarian.  Not sushi please, and never try to make me eat any of those spicy sausage, chourico-types.  Big shout up for Polish pierogi and soups, (my Dad would be proud), and I like a bit of spice.

D : Destinations, favourite, least favourite, and why:

Ponte Romana at Tavira

Anyone who knows me will know that I have a second home in the Algarve and that I am passionate about Portugal as a destination.  For me it has everything, from glorious beaches to stunning sierras, a fascinating history and a wealth of places to explore, many of which I have yet to reach.  Least favourite?  Wouldn’t really want to pin that on anywhere specific, that’s a bit unkind.  I’ll just say that I’m a Scorpio and anywhere that doesn’t have water nearby, I struggle with.  Lakes and mountains are great, but not fussy on flat open spaces.  

E : Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros- the procession

“Wow” in a good way?  The Festa dos Tabuleiros in Tomar last July was pretty special.  The event is only held once every 4 years and when you see the effort that goes into it you can well understand why.  Given my love of boats and water, the Tall Ships Races have great pulling power for me too.  I totally loved having my home town Hartlepool, in North East England, host the final leg last year, and am hoping to make it to Cadiz in July to see them again- breathtaking!


Dewaruci- one of my Favourite Tall Ships

F : Favourite mode of transportation :

Everyone loves trains.  Me too, but I have to say that I do love flying.  Not the boring waiting about, and the confined space and recycled air on board, but that awesome experience of looking down at my world.  Torture for me is one of those really cloudy flights that you sometimes get- zero visibility.  Nightmare!  Once we start to taxi along the runway I put on my specs and prepare to glue my nose to the window.  (I’m no fun if I haven’t got a window seat)  Love trying to identify which part I’m overflying (stunning views of Porto once) and I always mean to travel with a detailed map on my knee, but usually forget!

G : Greatest feeling while travelling :

Anticipation!  I just love it when I’m heading for somewhere new.

The prettiest little Greek church?

H : Hottest place you’ve travelled to :

Haven’t been to any of the world’s truly hot places, and most of my experiences have been European but I can remember melting in Venice once (worth it, of course and I’ve been back twice in cooler temperatures).  The Samaria Gorge in Crete wasn’t exactly cool, and I always seemed to toil up to the top of a Greek Island in heat, no matter what time of day I set off!  Terrible planning.

Hot in the Samaria Gorge

I : Incredible service you’ve experienced and why :

I’m going local with this one- local to Tavira, that is!  We have a lovely little riverfront bar, called Anazu.  From the moment we first set foot in there 9 years ago, Paula, her husband and Luis have made us welcome.  There’s always a smile, and an enquiry after the family.  Two glasses of port appear in front of us unsummoned.  The cares of the world just roll away.  We’re home again.

J : Journey that took the longest :

Hmmh, that would be the first trip to America.  We checked into Newcastle airport, only to be told to hang onto our cases as we were being transferred by coach to Manchester.  Strike action was afoot and bodies littered the concourse when we did get there.  Many wearying hours spent at Manchester, we arrived in the States at entirely the wrong time of day to pick up the hire car and head out into the dark with a sketchy bit of paper showing our destination.  “You’re the navigator” said my tired and irritable husband, trying to fathom junctions and overhead signs.  Happy days!

K : Keepsake from your travels :

Postcards for me too (can they be an addiction?) but I am often to be found pocketing shells and stones from some of the lovely beaches I’ve wandered on.  I have a wonderfully creative daughter who endeavoured to use them up by making me jewellery Christmas presents this year.

Shell necklace

Shell necklace

L : Let-down sight, where and why :

St Wolfgang in the sunshine

St Wolfgang, in the sunshine

It was clear and pleasant when we left the lakeside at St Wolfgang to rack and pinion our way up to the peaks.  Alas, when we got there the promised spectacular mountain views had “disappeared” in thick, cold, Alpine fog.

M : Moment when you fell in love with travel :

Afraid I’ve always been restless- must be in the genes.  At 18 I left home and friends to live in London and I explored that city to within an inch of its life!  With prescious little money in my pocket, I walked till I couldn’t any more.  Love the city still, though I’m more for the quiet life these days.  My lady friends and I made a celebratory visit there last August (coincided with the riots, of course).  Oh, did we have fun!

Tea at the Ritz

Tea at the Ritz

N  : Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in :

Sadly, don’t do posh hotels in the main.  We usually travel as cheaply as possible.  A couple are memorable; notably Hotel Guadeloupe, which was ideally placed for the Alhambra; Solar de Monfalim in Evora, such a gracious Portuguese mansion in the most atmospheric of cities; and a lovely family-owned small hotel in Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda, whose name escapes me (it WAS 18years ago, but the pasta was amazing).

Hotel Solar Monfalim, Evora

O : Obsession : what are you obsessed with taking photos of when you travel :

Boats and water mainly:

Turkish Gulet

Mooring at Kas

The harbour at Fethiye

Or anything I want to retain as a memory:

The backgammon ace!

P : Passport stamps, how many and from where :

Not many I don’t suppose, but I’ve visited Austria, Belgium, Canaries, Corfu, Crete, Croatia, Cyclades, Denmark, France, Greek Mainland, Italy, Madeira, Poland, Portugal, Rhodes, Spain, Turkey, the USA, Zante  (alphabetically, of course).  The wish list is huge.

Q : Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where :


Parsley the Dragon

I can remember following a green dragon called Prezzemolo (Parsley) in a procession at Gardaland in Italy many years ago.  The things we’ve done to keep our son amused!  Also in Italy, Il Vittoriale, high above Gardone Riviera, sports a large battleship, Puglia, in it’s gardens.  Definitely landlocked!

Puglia, Il Vittoriale

Stand by for blast off! On board Puglia

R : Recommended sight, event or experience :

Hotel Coronado

Hotel Coronado-not a great shot,but what a destination!

Where do you start?  One that stays with me and I would love to revisit with more time to spare is San Diego Bay.  On the beach by Hotel Coronado I had a Marilyn Monroe moment, and the views out across the water from the restaurants were superb.  Or incredible Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore- water AND gardens, the perfect confection.  So different, but I was also wholeheartedly in love with Warsaw’s Stare Miasto- impossible to believe that so much of it was reconstruction after the Nazis raized it to the ground.

Isola Bela, Lake Maggiore

Stare Miasto, Warsaw

S : Splurge ; something you have no problem forking out money for when travelling :

If I can find somewhere with a lovely view I’m happy to sit indefinitely with a glass or two of wine.

Porto Moniz, Madeira

A smiling husband in Cordoba

Real Alcazhar, Seville

T : Touristy thing you’ve done :

Breakfast with Dale

Have to confess to absolutely loving the Disney parades.  I was ecstatic to have Buzz Lightyear kiss my hand, and Chip and Dale- who wouldn’t want to take them home?

U : Unforgettable travel memory :

Gulet sunset

Gulet sunset

Gulet cruise from Bodrum to Fethiye- a little strange in that it was a late honeymoon, but we couldn’t afford to do it at any other time.  Certainly we weren’t sure if we wanted to share with 10 other people and 3 crew, but it was a fabulous holiday, despite my being stung on the bum by a wasp.

V : Visas ; how many and for where :

Easy answer- none.  Have led a sheltered life!

W :  Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where :

Welcome to Obidos! The gateway

Obidos. O Conquistador restaurant.  We were taking a breather in a long day’s travelling and opted to eat before returning to the fun of the Medieval Fair.  The restaurant was quiet as everyone was at the fair and the owner was wonderfully relaxed.  The wine was served in earthenware tumblers and was as good as any I’ve ever tasted.  Portuguese Dao and Alentejan wines are generally superb.

X : eXcellent view and from where :

So many it’s an impossible choice but I’ll go with the view of the River Guadiana down to the Alqueva Dam, from the turrets of Monsaraz in Portugal.

A grey day at Monsaraz- imagine it in sunshine

Y : Years spent travelling :

Embarrassingly 40+.  Wish it had been constant though.  Much of my travelling is done fairly locally, but it’s all world, and so much to enjoy.

Z : Zealous sports fans and where :

I’m not a huge sports enthusiast but I rarely miss Nadal playing tennis (on TV).  My husband and son are passionate about football and never pass up an opportunity to see a live match.  Las Palmas on Tenerife was a rowdy and memorable one but the Portuguese take some beating when it comes to “excitability” for a normally calm and courteous race.

I’ve really enjoyed doing this.  Good old Memory Lane.  Now, who else would appreciate this challenge? Have Bag/ Will Travel  La Chica Writes  Meg Travels  Shipscook Stuff  The Nappy Wanderer