Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A tour of the east side of Madeira

Disclaimer:  This is being written a month after the date and my memory isn't what it used to be.  Sadly I haven't been keeping much of a written journal on this trip...so things may be a bit mixed up but you'll never know...only one person will and she won't tell...right June? 

Besides trying out a few walking trails June and I wanted to see more of the island and figured the easiest way would be to take a tour. We both thought the Eastern tour sounded the most interesting so on Sunday January 25th off we gallivanted for the day. W got picked up at the nearby Hotel Orca Praia and after picking up a few more sightseers we were off....

Our first stop was the Church of our Lady of Monte in the nearby town of Monte...high high up....it was certainly a distinctive looking church,,


The view of Funchal below wasn't bad either!
Nearby you can ride a toboggan down into Funchal - it is a popular touristy thing to do.  Unfortunately being Sunday it was not possible to do this as they only do it on Sundays when the cruise ships are in town...it is on my bucket list but having heard the drivers for these crazy rides spend their time between runs down the hill in the pub I thought "um..maybe not".  Now whether this is true or not I don't know but I think I would need to spend plenty of time in that pub before I got onto one - having seen the beginning of the route...let's just say it's not straight!

Then it was on to Camacha which is known as the culture capital of Madeira and home to wicker products done by hand.  Most wicker products are now mass produced in China (isn't everything these days?) and there were many tempting things on offer.  I lusted after the beautiful wicker chairs and kept saying to June "that would be a perfect reading chair for my balcony" but as I didn't want to pay the shipping costs home nor travel with a chair (needless to say) I settled for a wicker egg cup. (very impractical as I tend to be a messy egg eater but oh well).  I do love wicker so guess I will have to settle for a mass produced one from China when my "nesting project" starts later this year.  (but we won't talk about that right now okay...)



Our next stop was Ribeiro Frio which is probably the most famous levada walk for tourists in the country.  Due to the drizzly weather that had sprung upon us most people went into the cafe for a warm drink and perused the souvenir shop.  Not June and I...we walked along the path for about fifteen minutes before having to turn back or get left behind.  I think this would be a great walk to do with a guide.  It is a 11 km walk to Portela. 




Then we climbed into the sky through pouring rain and it was rather a scary drive to be honest - I was certainly glad it wasn't me driving but the driver was experienced and calm. (June and I were sitting up front with him)   It was supposed to be a wonderful look out but most of it did not even bother getting out of the car.  I don't know why he bothered with the stressful drive to be honest. 

Then it was on to the town of Santana which is known for its uniquely shaped houses....we were taken to one that the guide jokingly said was his mother-in-laws.  Inside sat a man who was selling coffee liqeur for a euro so of course we purchased some - tasty!   We carried on to a group of them which was a tourist trap.  It still was very interesting though.







 


Time for lunch.  We could have paid 10 Euros more for our tour and have lunch included  but it was a 90 minute break and June and I figured we would pack sandwiches and explore.  What the girl didn't tell us was that the restaurant was in the middle of nowhere. So we sat with our sandwiches, ordered soup and sat at our own table while our travel companions had a three course meal complete with wine (damn!) for 10 Euros..ah well live and learn. 

On the way back to Funchal we stopped at a few viewpoints - not knowing we would be walking in the area the next day! 
 





 
 
 
We got a deal on the tour for 27 Euros and it was well worth it - the weather could have been a bit better but those are the breaks.  Despite being a small island the weather systems vary widely - Funchal was sunny all day!  Our guide was great and filled our heads with all sorts of information which of course I promptly forgot.  It was good to see more of the island though and I look forward to seeing more of it in the future because Madeira, I love you!  
 


By the sea again..

Yes I am by the sea again...I love the sea, ocean, whatever....I love big bodies of salt water!!!  I nearly called this blog Misplaced Ocean Child but then I thought "well London doesn't have an ocean.."...anyway here I am.

My journey down to Cornwall was good, it went so smoothly I kept thinking "okay this is going too well, something major is going to happen" but it didn't.  I didn't fall between the train and the platform at Crofton Park..  I was able to lift the monster..aka my suitcase...onto the train and a fellow in there moved his briefcase so I could haul it in...yep chivilary is not dead..uh huh...I hauled myself in and off we went to Blackfriars, I got my change onto the Circle/District  line platform and low and behold there was a Circle line train via Paddington three minutes later.  I couldn't believe my luck as it doesn't come too often.  I got to Paddington station in plenty of time - way ahead of time actually but I'd rather do that than be rushing.  That's when things happen.  Bad things.  I was able to get a coffee and a pastry and sit and relax for a bit. I then picked up a sandwich and some grapes for lunch.  I gave my regards to the statue of Paddington Bear who is now under the clock on Platform 1 where he should be.  I then went into the waiting room because London's train stations are so freaking cold and there is nowhere to sit.  The waiting room was hot but oh well...I got into a conversation with a woman who had just come back from cruising the Caribbean.  Turns out her husband works on a cruise ship and she goes with him for months at a time.  She said it's her turn  now - he was in the Merchant Marines and would be gone for months at a time and she was at home for 22 years raising children and holding the fort.  We had such a good time chatting that the time flew by and soon it was time to board our respective trains.- hers went three minutes before mine. 

I sat opposite a sweet couple who were going to visit the Eden project so we had a quiet conversation as we were in the quiet coach.  Oh how I love that - your mobile has to be turned off so no phone conversations or loudness.  Bliss!!! 

Nearly five hours later we arrived in St Erth where I got a connecting two coach train to St Ives.  The train ran along the sea the entire way - I remembered the journey from my two previous trips in 1982 and 1999.  Spectacular.  It had rained on and off during the journey but I arrived to sunshine. 

I found my way to my bed and breakfast and the owners were so lovely and welcoming.  My room is adorable and has everything I need. 

I quickly headed out to take advantage of the sun - I am literally steps from the ocean and a three minute walk from the harbour.......this small beach is a couple of minutes walk from me....


I walked around the town a bit and then had fish and chips for supper.  On the way back the light was absolutely amazing...



I had a fairly early night as I've been battling a "throat thing" as I call it...I don't like to admit that I am ill...I woke during the night and I swear I was snoring "in my chest".  I was very congested.  Luckily it has improved but I know I have to take it easy and not push myself...

Trish prepared a great breakfast of my choice...bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and brown toast.  And wow it was proper wheat toast with seeds and everything - not the brown tasteless crap they usually serve here in bed and breakfasts...

Fully sated I headed off to do some exploring....they have been having high tides here and all I can say is WOW!!  I was going to take a short cut along this water front path to the visitor centre but decided hmmm...maybe not!


These birds are called Rock Terns - aren't they adorable? 



I  made my way to the tourist office and got some great information in regards to walks in the area.  I asked about bus schedules and she gave me a book of the times and buses "because you're from Canada".  That was nice!!

I then headed back to the bed and breakfast to change into my hiking boots.  Here are some photos I took along the way..





 

 
 
Once the boots were on I headed down East Back road to Poerthmeor Beach and The Island.  This is the Atlantic ocean side of St Ives.  The waves were spectacular and it was absolutely fantastic, I could have happily sat on a bench all day watching. 
 
Porthmeor Beach


The path around The Island







St Nicholas chapel - no known date of it being built but it's been around since the 15th century - it's been rebuilt recently. 

View of the harbour from the other end of town - yes I got around!

Famous local sculpture Barbara Hepworth's work

Porthminster Beach
I've had many a cream tea in my day but not with this view!

 
 
 
 

 
 
 




Saturday, February 21, 2015

A day of Street Art and Architecture

I must confess to having a bit of a lazy morning...my airbnb hosts are away in France this weekend so I decided to go downstairs in my jammies and make coffee - something I'd never do normally.  Then I discovered "Summer Magic", a Hayley Mills movie was on telly so I settled in with my coffee to watch it.  Finally about 10 I headed off.

My destination?  The East End.  Due to weekend engineering works my trip got a bit complicated and I had to take a rail replacement bus from Shadwell to Whitechapel.  From there I walked down Whitechapel road seeing a bit of street art and more along Brick Lane although I had seen most of it previously.... Much quieter on a Saturday than a Sunday as not many markets open. 







The Beigel Bake, a 24 hour bakery that specializes in.,..yes bagels or beigels...take your pick on how to spell it...I like their bagels but not enough to stand in the long line up that is usually there at weekends.  I hadn't had much for breakfast so enjoyed my first bagel and cream cheese since I left home,,,,while eating it leaning against a counter in the bakery I had an interesting conversation about the place with a fellow who has been coming there for the past 15 years.  He told me about a good pie and mash place to try so maybe I will do that when I am back next month...I guess pie and mash is an acquired taste.  Silly me thought it was meat pie with mashed potatoes on top...it is but just a bit different.. Just meat, no spices and the mashed potatoes are lumpy. Hmmm..on second thought!  The pies were made from eels (ewwww...) when the Thames was full of them but now the pies are made from beef,  It comes with a liquer that has parsley in it - in the old days it had the liquid left from cooking the eels....not anymore...still, I think I'd like to try it.  It's been on "the list" for years now but have never seen an authentic place when I was hungry enough. (and I think I will have to be really hungry!!!).

From there I found more artwork in the Shoreditch area - now a trendy area where the "hipsters" hang out.  The streets I wandered along were all new to me so that was fun. 

Caught one in action - he asked for his face not to be shown..some have permission, others don't

This one was huge!





By this time I was getting close to Liverpool St...heading into The City.....well those 300,000 plus people were GONE so all the stores in the area were closed.  It was almost surreal.  However it does not pay to keep your store open if your target market is not there....the stores would be empty on a Saturday.  I was pulled to the area by The Gherkin - official name St Mary Axe but known as the Gherkin for obvious reasons.  I love this building and one of my "must do someday" things was to see the building close up.

Well....





I noticed the Walkie Talkie building was just a couple of blocks away so I went there too walking through the beautiful Leadenhall market on the way. 

Fantastic!

In front of the Walkie talkie was Leadenhall Market - full of shops - ALL CLOSED. - only open Monday to Friday




 

Walkie Talkie building at ground level.  It has a rooftop garden that is free but you need to book online and it's totally booked for months,,,no more bookings accepted for now.  :(.


I then got the tube from Aldgate East station and headed to Surrey Quays thinking perhaps I could catch a movie...I couldn't even find the damn movie theatre despite instructions from two different people.,  I did get good views of Canada Water though...I was through this area on a walk several years ago as I recognized it immediately...



Then back "home" to relax...I realized I hadn't sat down once in six hours except on public transport - no wonder I was tired!!!   What a great day though!