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Black Pudding Gaiters

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A night at Llyn Rhys Campsite, Llandegla

Camping, for me, is done in a tent which can be stuffed  in a rucksack and pitched in a field or woods with basic (if any!) facilities.  This time I was to be camping in the Vango Woburn 500.
There’s always room for comfort.
Well no, that’s not entirely true. There’s not much room for anything when you drive an Abarth 124!
First mission was to find a way of getting a tent, sleeping bag, mat, Jetboil, change of clothes and walking boots in the car. The solution was a Boot-Bag.

This is a large waterproof bag that sits on the boot lid and securely held in place with webbing straps.
I had the ‘original’ which gave me  50 litres of space or, put another way, it easily took the tent.
On first use, I was apprehensiveBoot-bag on Abarth 124 Spider about putting too much in there, however, I could have stuffed a few extra things in there without any trouble.
The other stuff went in to my large rucksack.
My day sack was also loaded in to the boot. I’d be using it to hold a couple of drinks, waterproofs etc for the two walks I had planned.
In retrospect, perhaps just the smaller rucksack may have been better with everything else stuffed around the  boot and Boot-Bag.
I had no seating (the floor would have to do) and no food (I hoped there would be a table free in the pub) but I had my accommodation and a bed for the night.

The Boot-Bag was slightly lopsided but seemed secure enough as I pulled off my drive and carefully made my way to the motorway, getting used to only using wing mirrors as there was zero visibility out of the back.   As I gained more confidence in the Boot-Bag, I increased the speed, it remained stable and I arrived at the camp with everything intact.
I had booked my spot at Llyn Rhys Campsite on their website.  £8 per person per night (as of July 2018) which included use of the showers. Kids cost just £3.
I was met by the friendly owner and given a choice of places to pitch, anywhere I wanted as long as I left 6 meters between my tent and others. I wanted to be as far away from others as possible , that wouldn’t be a problem!
The site was fairly quiet. I’d arrived a week before the school summer holiday started, I suspect it can get a lot busier.  I drove my car down the track in to the large field I pitched up on the side of the field, close to the stream. I didn’t want to venture too far from the track in my rear wheel drive car!

The tent had been pitched in the garden a coupe of times, the first time, just after getting the tent home, resulted in part of a fibreglass pole snapping. After an email to Vango another pole was posted out to me.
Needless to say, Vango don’t send out poles every time one beaks, however, I argued that they should last at least one pitching and, fair enough, they agreed.
Out in the real world, the tent went up relatively quickly, although the little hooks to attached the ground sheet were a bit awkward to fit.
I think Vango say it will take 15 minutes to pitch. Seems a little optimistic to me but perhaps with more practice.

The tent is described as 5 person, I wouldn’t like to fit more than three in there. The Cotswold Outdoors promotional video describes it as a good tent for couples and young families, which seems more accurate.
There’s lots of room in the bright, airy living area. Plenty of space for a couple of chairs. Shame there wasn’t the room in the car!
Comparing it with many of the other tents on site, it did look dinky!
Vango Woburn 500 tentWith the tent up it was time to head out on a walk.
Leaving the campsite, I  headed up to the road junction next to the Crown Hotel Pub. Continuing virtually straight ahead on the A5104, the path started just after the junction to the right. This path was quite well signposted  until I reached a farmers field. Whatever had been growing here had been recently dug up and the route across the field to the road wasn’t clearly defined.
At the road I took a left, before rejoining the same field higher up. There were no signs here either and at the end, it was almost impassable. A large, over grown, prickly hedge hid a fence with no easy way to climb.  If it wasn’t for the large footpath sign at the other side of the hedge, I would not have realised this was the route.

The next path I wanted should have been straight over the road according to the Ordnance Survey map and my GPS but there was nothing obvious so I decided to follow the road back in to the village.
The village has a great little community run shop and cafe, at the front was all the supplies you need for camping, pasties, scotch eggs, wine, jam etc and at the back is the cafe. I just had a cafetiere of coffee but the food looked good.
Offas Dyke sign in LlandeglaHappily caffeined up, I left the cafe for the second loop on this walk. After the poorly maintained paths on the first loop, I decided to take the Offa’s Dyke section at the end  knowing it would be the easiest part of the route to navigate.
I needn’t have worried. This walk was also well signed and I followed it up to the narrow road. From there it’s an easy walk back along the Offa’s Dyke to the village.
Both loops of the walks are available in on one GPX file, downloadable from Viewranger.

Back in the tent, I got changed ready for dinner. It is nice being able to stand up in any part of the tent, something you don’t get with the backpacking one and two person tents!
The Crown Hotel is a short walk from the campsite and serves real ales, wines and has a good whisky collection along with the usual stuff and the food is fantastic!!
I started with the spicy chicken wings. Main course was a perfectly rare steak with chips  and peas. Their monster of a  mixed grill looked and smelt great and, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, they’ve a good choice of deserts and local ice cream.

Suitably fed and watered, I walked back to the tent where I took down the divider to make one large bedroom,  got in to my sleeping bag and settled down for a reasonable nights sleep.
The Vango has a slightly darker bedroom, while not a black out, it did a reasonable job at keeping the morning light out.
Next morning the tent was moisture free, the vents under the main window had done their job. I opened the ‘curtains’ sat in the porch, fired up the jet boil and made a coffee.  The tent is really bright and airy with plenty of large windows. A very pleasant place to be.
Packing up was easy and (amazingly!) everything fitted in and on the car.  The first rule of any camping, ‘leave no trace’!

Breakfast was taken at One Planet Adventure, just up the road. Already the car park was filling up. I paid my £4.50 and  made my way to the overflow car park.
The breakfasts at their cafe are good and the slices of toast are huge!!

I was one of the odd ones, I wasn’t cycling, instead I took the longest of their walking trails, the well marked ,7 mile Moorland trail.
Moorland Trail route One Planet Adventure Llandegla

A pleasant walk through woodland and offering great views.

So, in conclusion…..I love to be miles from anyone and anywhere with a small backpacking tent. This was quite different but still a great trip although I must admit the very un-British sunny, warm weather helped make this such a pleasurable camp!
I’m looking forward to getting out in the Vango again soon….but maybe after a trip in the smaller tent 🙂

It’s time to light the lights

Wednesday 6th  

Today was the day I’d been looking forward to more than any!!
I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppets.
There’s photos of me as a toddler holding a Kermit toy that I still own today. I’ve seen all the movies, watched all the shows and own all sorts of weird and wonderful merchandise.
Today I was going to the Museum of Moving Image, home to the Jim Henson Exhibition.

I got to the temporary entrance and was told that due to the ground floor being closed, entry was free. Splendid, that was about $17 saved!
Big Bird. Museum of Moving ImageFirst up was the ‘Behind the Screen’ exhibition, an interesting, very hands on display detailing the processes behind creating tv and film.
Just this in itself would have made for a good visit, however, I was here for the one thing….
….I was like a kid at Christmas!
There are around 300 objects on display including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, The Swedish Chef, Statler, Waldorf, Big Bird, one of Animal’s costumes and lots of scripts and drawings.
Ok I have to admit, I went around the display twice!

After the museum, I took a wander around Astoria before getting on the subway back to Manhattan in search for food. I got off at Hell’s Kitchen (a great name for a place!) and wandered down to Greenwich Village, probably one of my favourite areas of Manhattan.
I had dinner at the Mexican restaurant, Caliente Cab, starting with black bean soup, very tasty, very filling. Main course was beef burrito, again, very tasty and filling. Plenty of rice and skirt beef.  It’s a great place with friendly staff.


Thursday 7th

Today I was ticking a few more sights off. Getting the Subway to Penn station, I walked down 7th Ave. and kept heading South until I hit the 9/11 Memorial. I was surprised at how tastefully this area has been designed.
As this was my first time in New York, it was hard to imagine the two towers that once stood there but not as hard as imagining the terror of that day in 2001.
I continued South, through Battery Park to the Staten Island ferry terminal. The terminal is a huge empty space where hundreds gather to board the free ferry to the island. I was a little worried I wouldn’t get on the ferry looking around at the numbers of people getting on, however, I needn’t have worried, I got a space outside with  great views back to Manhattan and, of course, the Statue of Liberty.
Manhattan skyline New York
The initial plan was to get off the boat, get the train to Oakwood Heights station (using my Metro card) then walk to the Greenbelt via Wilowbrook Parkway, a small strip of woodland between two roads.
The trains ran every 30 minutes and the journey took 20 minutes.
From the station  I headed up Cedarview Avenue to Riedel Avenue where I took a right. About twenty minutes after leaving the train, I entered the small woods on a path opposite Thomas Street.
This was more pleasant than walking on the roads but not particularly scenic unless you count the abandoned printer on the footpath.
Alarm bells should have rung earlier, there was little mention of the trails on Google maps, there was very little information online, my four US maps on Viewranger didn’t show the paths. The only map I could find was printed off the Greenbelt website. https://www.sigreenbelt.org/Trails/trailmap.pdf
I joined Rockland Avenue but there was no trail where I expected. I glanced at the map and noticed another possible way on to the footpath further up the road, it looked roughly 15 minutes walk  from where I was currently.  A quarter of an hour on a busy road with no pavement (sidewalk) was not something I fancied doing especially if there was no sign of the route there either.
I was getting rather fed up now, I turned around and headed back to the station. There may well have been other routes in to the Greenbelt but there were a long walk away, it was getting later in the afternoon, I was hot and frustrated.
Back in Tompkinsville, I popped in to the Flagship Brewing Company for a drink and a chat with the very friendly, well-travelled bar man. Surprisingly, the highlight of the day….well, either that or the dinner at the Pig Beach over in Brooklyn. Ohh this was good. A big slab of BBQ pork with slaw and pickles eaten on a large wooden table outdoors….yes, this was the highlight of the day….or was it the walk down on the waterfront at sunset, the views were amazing!

Manhattan skyline New York night time

Friday 8th

A bit of a mop up day today. Took the subway to the north station of Central  Park for a stroll around down the eastern side of the park,  passing Trump Tower as I left. I wandered round the Manhattan then jumped the Subway across to Brooklyn. Not much to report on today’s events other than the meal at Dinosaur BBQ was fantastic and very filling!


9th June

Unfortunately, I have to say I’m not sorry to be going home. I usually take holidays in the mountains but I like a city break. I enjoyed Budapest, I  love Paris, Rome is  one of my favourite destinations but,  New York just ain’t my kinda town .

The hotel was very good and  I ended my stay there with the usual; coffee and cornflakes with a banana. Check out was easy and friendly and the area to leave luggage seemed secure enough.

I headed out one last time, getting the subway to the North of the park. There was a softball competition taking place with teams from all around the country competing.
It was a lovely sunny day,  the park was quite busy but it’s always easy to find a quiet spot and a drinks stand!Baseball, Central Park New York

After heading into town again I wandered round before jumping the subway to get back to the hotel.
Here’s where the fun began…. I’d planned to leave myself 2 hours to get from the hotel to JFK, a journey Google maps claimed would take 90- 100 minutes. The first train was fine then a change of trains which involved hauling my luggage up and down narrow stairs. I didn’t realise at the time but, this line was having its signalling upgraded. Progress was very slow and the train was packed and hot.
We eventually reached Jamaica. The station was swarming with people wanting to take my metro card so they could sell it on to some poor arriving tourist. Needless to say, the ticket stayed with me as a made my way to the Airtrain…. services suspend.
Everyone crammed on to one bus going to all terminals.
People struggled to get off at their terminal and to make matters worse, at each terminal, people were trying to get on for the trip in to the city.
A horrible journey from the city to the airport and not something I was expecting in a big, modern city like New York but at least this bus replacement was free!

Check in was painless as was the security, why did I set alarms off in Manchester but don’t at JFK despite wearing the same clothing?!
The queues however…. lines split only to re-join further along.  People had to filter back in. Other people were directed into the middle of the line, causing families to be split. Amazingly people remained good natured probably helped by the cheerful dog handler who, on spotting a young girl’s colourful, fury travelling case asked her, ‘did you kill all of Sesame Street to make that bag?’

Once past security, I decided I wanted a coffee…not a beer, not a wine bar , not an oyster bar just a simple coffee. Easier said than done. I eventually found one place that claimed to sell coffee only to be told,” our coffee is cold now go to the end of the row to Dunkin Donuts.”  Off I went and started to fill my cup with the Dunkin Donut blend…  It ran out. I left the cup and just managed to fill a new plastic cup with the standard blend. How hard can it be to get coffee at an airport mid afternoon?!

We boarded the bus to transfer from the gate to the aircraft. No modern airbridge for us!
In so many ways, New York is so behind the times.

How on an aircraft with no noticeable way to recline do I end up behind the one person who the aircraft who shoves their seat back?!
Shortly after take off we got cheese and pickle roll. I was beginning to wish  I’d had more time to eat at the airport! Breakfast was worse, omelette doesn’t work to well reheated on an aircraft especially when served with bland mushroom and ham. Despite only eating cornflakes and the small cheese  roll in the past 19  hours and not sleeping for 20 hours,  I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
Still, the sunrise was lovely and I managed to acquire a second cheese roll (-:

20 mins before landing I found the recliner I’m saying nothing in case I fly with these again (-;

Part 1 – Start Spreading the news
Part 2 – Getting out in the coutnryside 

 

Getting out in the countryside

Monday 4th

I started the day on the Subway, red line number 2 to Brooklyn.
It’s worth pointing out then when entering station, check it doesn’t specify which lines/directions it serves, some entrances are for just the one line and once you swipe your ticket you have to wait 10 mins or so before you can use it again.  I had a 7 day pass so it’s not an problem, however I suspect it may be an issue if you’ve paid for a single journey.  Incidentally the 7 day unlimited pass for around $32 (plus initial $1 for the new card) is well worth getting.
I’d already mastered finding my way around on the Subway, it’s easy to use and trains are frequent. Unfortunately, however, they can become very, very crowded and there are some ‘interesting’ people on board at times.
View from Brooklyn, New YorkI got off the train at Hoyt Street and wandered down the shopping street, on to Brooklyn Bridge road and Pearl Street towards the park on the water front. The path along the waters edge offers great views over to Manhattan’s distinctive sky line.
I continued to Pier 5 and decided I had to make a return trip one evening.
I moved inland and took a wander around Brooklyn, finding a couple of potential places for evening meals. Tonight though, dinner was taken at Da Gennaro in Little Italy. A real tourist trap, the restaurants here are not cheap! The carpaccio starter and lobster ravioli were extremely good though.


Tuesday 5th

After breakfast, walked towards the Yankee stadium and the Yankees-E. 153rd Street train station.
I paid the $5.50 train fare and waited on the platform along with a few others for the Croton Harmon train. It was due at the same time as a train going the other direction towards Grand Central so I didn’t think anything of it when a train came in. on the other platform. I then noticed other passengers running up the stairs.
I’ve no idea what became of the Grand Central train but the one to Croton had been moved onto the other platform. I quickly ran up the stairs and over the bridge. As I boarded the train a man in front of me shook his head, “they’re always doing this” he sighed.
The train journey was pleasant and I was surprised how quickly we left the city.
Getting off the train at Croton I wandered through the streets in the pleasant leafy suburb. I’d left behind the apartment blocks and was now walking past family homes with kid’s toys lying in well-kept gardens.
Leaving the road at Truesdale Drive, I dropped down to the Silver Lake beach on the Croton River and on through the woods. I felt a million miles away from New York City.
I crossed the river at the Quaker Bridge and, after taking a left, joined the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. This is a pleasant, easy to follow, wide trail through woodland, opening out at the New Croton Dam. The views went on for miles, it was very difficult to imagine this was so close to New York City.

New Croton Dam, New York
It was back on roads again for a short while before re-joining paths near Colabaugh Pond. It was here I met friendly chap collecting logs. He mentioned the local wildlife to look out for which included beavers and coyotes. The best I managed to spot was chipmunks.
I was now heading for the Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway, another well marked route through woodland. At least it was well marked until I reached Watch Hill Road.  After taking a left, the route disappeared. According to the map on Viewranger, I should head up Mountain Side Trail.
Looking at my GPS, I  was right on track but no path and no blue blobs. I cross checked with Google map, yes this was where the path should be but no sign of it, just over grown woodland and people’s back gardens.
Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway, New YorkI ended up passing between two houses and working my way up to where the path should be. I was very glad of my GPS at this point!
Once I found the path, it was, once again, easy to navigate, just following the now yellow blobs.
The route made its way around dense woodland. I eventually left the woods by Woodside Elementary school. From here it was a fairly straight walk along roads to Peekskill station.

Surprisingly, the return journey was $12.75, twice the cost of the train to Croton despite being only a stop or two down the line. I can’t complain though, it was a reasonable distance and provided me with one of my most enjoyable days of the holiday. The route can be downloaded as a GPX file.

Back in the city, dinner was taken at the Amsterdam Burger Co, unbeknownst to me, I was in the Jewish area and this small eatery only served kosher dishes. I only realised when I noticed one of the ingredients was written as “bacon” the quotes added as it was beef bacon.
I started with chilli loaded nachos then an Aussie burger, basically a beef burger with beetroot. Not sure if that is how they take their burgers in Australia but nice if a little on the expensive side, $18 for a burger with no sides.

Part 2, It’s time to light the lights

Start spreading the news

Saturday 2nd June

My brother picked me up from home at 6:45 and we got to Manchester airport in very good time,  just as well, there was one huge queue for all Thomas Cook transatlantic flights. There were more delays going through security.
This left me with just 30 mins to wait before boarding. Once we did start to board I was pulled over for a random swab test apparently looking for traces of explosives!
When I finally got on-board we waited, and waited, and waited.
Apparently, there was a delay in getting the bags on board, presumably extra security checks were being carried out on those too.
An hour later than scheduled we were on our way.           .
The aircraft, a leased Air Tanker A330, G-VYGK, was comfy enough.  A bottle of water had been placed on every seat. Each seat back had a screen with USB port showing a few films,  tv shows and the obligatory moving map.  You can pay extra to make more shows available. At least the in-ear headphones were free.

Thomas Cook flight to New YorkThe in flight meal was by James Martin.  Jasmine rice, chicken curry and soya beans (?) and was really rather pleasant. Desert was chocolate mouse desert, coffee followed.
The only free drinks are the bottle of water, the water with meal and the after-dinner coffee, all other drinks have to be paid for, needless to say, they weren’t cheap, the real reason for banning liquids at security checks??!!
A lemon drizzle cake was handed out before landing. All in all, a decent flight and although we arrived late we did make up some time.

Immigration was painless and friendly, I was soon out of the airport and on the Sky Train to Jamaica….well the stop before Jamaica, the train became out of service everyone then had to cram on to the next one.
At Jamaica things became confusing. You pay $5 for a ticket to allow you to exit the station, this is separate from the metro card used to travel the subway. Cue lots of confused tourists milling around the small number of ticket machines. To make things worse the ticket machine  wouldn’t accept either  of my cards. Using the ‘pay with ATM card’ option failed and it  prompted for a zip code when I selected credit card.
Given that I’d just landed, I only had notes, the smallest being a $20,  the machines didn’t give change.
A member of staff was pointing customers to the nearest cash machine/ATM which was out on the street. I watched as weary travellers carried their cases up the stairs to get  some cash.
Along with many others, I went to the one manned ticket counter.
Further faff  once I got my ticket and swiped it through the barrier, it was too small for my rucksack. Clearly not designed for people coming straight from the airport.  People with bigger luggage than mine struggled to make their way through.
The subway is at the far end of Jamaica, down the lift. The route wasn’t very clear and there are very few maps around. One plus is the stations have free WiFi so a quick look on Google maps resulted in a plan. Take orange line F as far as Lexington then change onto green 5 to 3 av 149 st.
Almost 2 hours after boarding the Skytrain I was walking down to the hotel in 28 degree heat.
I can see why people take the taxis!

The Opera House hotel was easy to spot on a street full of food stands and market shops.
Check in was simple and friendly.
Room of the Opera House Hotel, Bronx, New YorkMy room, 406, was extremely spacious and clean The aircon did a good job at cooling the room, however, it sounded like a jet engine. That was getting turned off at night!
The walls are full of old posters and building plans from the hotel’s previous life as an opera house. Entertainment these days was provided by an ipod dock and a flat screen tv connected to a cable box.
Once I’d unpacked and freshened up, I wasn’t going to venture far for food so wandered down to the Yankee stadium. There was a game on tonight but I was surprised to find it was a football, or should I say soccer, match.  The area was full or people in New York City kits.  Their kit looked a lot like the Manchester City kit, light blue with the same sponsor. After a quick look on Wiki, I discovered they’re both owned by the ‘City Football Club’ company.
Luckily for me, the bars emptied out just before kick off and I got in to the Bronx Drafthouse where I got some nice chipotle wings. Very ready for bed afterwards!
Speaking of the bed, it was not only comfortable but huge! I could have had two others in there with me!
Despite being in the middle of the Bronx it was very quiet. No noise from outside or the hotel corridors. A very good sleep.


Sunday 3rd June

I wandered downstairs to the breakfast room.  Coffee came from a machine. It wasn’t too bad. Next to the coffee machine was a machine for skimmed milk, full fat milk and ‘half and half’ which I later discovered was single cream.
There wasn’t a huge choice. Cakes, bread, bagels, eggs, Cherios and cornflakes. I grabbed a plastic cup of coffee, plastic cup of orange juice and a plastic bowl full of cornflakes which I ate with a plastic spoon.
Seeing how long it took to toast bread in a country that ran on 110v I quickly concluded life was to short for toast at breakfast.

After breakfast it was time to immerse myself into New York city. I turned left from the hotel entrance and wandered down the road in the Bronx. This was clearly a poor area filled with homeless people and others who clearly needed help. The smell of marujana is strong and large sums of money was being handed over to people on street corners, I can only assume for drugs.  Despite this, the area felt ‘quirky’ but not threatening.
I headed in a straight line, down 3rd Avenue to cross the water in to Harlem. It was amazing the difference between here and the Bronx. Wide roads with places of worship on virtually every street corner.
Once I reached Malcolm X Boulevard, I followed it to Central Park.
The park was high on my to do list, partly due to it’s links with my local park, Birkenhead Park,  the world’s first publicly funded park and the inspiration behind Central Park.
There is one obvious difference between the two, Central Park is massive! About 2.5 miles/4km from top to bottom.
 Reservoir in Central Park New YorkI zig zagged around, visiting the North Woods, the Great Hill and The Pool.
I stayed on the western side of the park and reached the running track around the reservoir. It’s strange seeing the high-rise buildings towering over this oasis of green and blue. Even more strange was seeing turtles swimming around. Definitely something we don’t see here in Birkenhead!
Once I’d reached the imaginatively named ‘The Lake’ I stopped for a coffee at The Loeb Boathouse. I sat myself down outside at spotted my first (and only!) famous person of the holiday, John Noble who has appeared in a number of shows including Fringe and Elementary.
I weaved around the park some more, eventually popping out at the south end on 6th Avenue. Yet again, the area I was now in was totally different to the places I was in earlier in the day. There was some money here. Big, posh hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and shops that included Louis Vuitton.
Empire State building, road New York CityMy route continued South towards Times Square and Broadway, the sights were certainly getting done today!

I continued south until I hit West 22nd Street, a left here took me towards the Flatiron building. 5th Ave then took me to the park at Washington Square. Today it was full of kids taking part in various science experiments.
Next up was the pleasant Greenwich village and a brief wander in to lower Manhattan before heading back up North, through Union Square Garden, passing the Empire State building, ending at the Subway station to head back.

A gpx file of this walk is available on ViewRanger

New York, the city that never sleeps….unless it’s a Sunday evening and you want to eat. Many restaurants closed at 8 or 9pm. I ended up having dinner at Dallas BBQ. Ok.  Decent prices, huge portions, but not the greatest taste.
After food it was back to the hotel’s  mezzanine floor for a water (with ice and lemon) and decaff  coffee before bed.

.Part 2 – Getting out in to the countryside

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

Saturday 16th September
Another trip to Slovenia started with long delays.  At the time we were due to depart from Manchester I fired up FlightRadar,  the Adria Airways A319  I should now be sitting on was still making its way over Belgium.
Once the aircraft arrived, we were delayed further, apparently due to Manchester being short staffed.
Things on board improved. I had all three seats to myself and the row in front of me was empty.
It was a very pleasant  flight with mostly clear, turbulence free skies, however,  over Slovenia things became  very cloudy and very wet!

I got in to my hotel at around 20:00 and went  straight to dinner.  An all you can eat buffet. I went for the beef soup, croquettes,  pork ribs and a bowl full from the salad bar. The food was alll very nice, as was my room at the Hotel Kompas The single room was a good size and  had a balcony over looking the hills.

After dinner, the rain had stopped so I took a short stroll around town, passing just one person walking their dog.
Typical Saturday night in Kranjska Gora!

Sunday 17th September
After a very good night’s sleep, I went down to breakfast which included apricot dumplings and  carrot souffle!  Sufficiently fed, I wandered to the local  Mercator for some supplies before heading back to pack my waterproof gear.

One word to describe today….wet!
Leaving the hotel I joined the D2 bike path West towards the start of route  9. All well signed posted easy paths so far.
As I ventured further in to the woods I hadn’t seen a sign for a while and the path was climbing. My golden rule when walking in Slovenia; if you’ve not seen a sign or a painted red and while ‘blob’ for a while, your probably going the wrong way. I headed back, yes, there was the sign but I shouldn’t be going up hill and my GPS said I was way off course. At least I was heading in the right general direction towards Planica so continued until I reached a hut at across roads. There were no signs or painted marks here but I knew a right should get me in the right direction and loose the excess height I’d gained. Sure enough, it brought me out where I expected on the track I had originally planned to walk on.

Indoor cross country skiing
Indoor cross country skiing

I soon reached the ski jump centre at Planica.
Wow, it has changed a lot!

Last time I was here, there were a number of ski jumps and a ‘mountain hut’ to the side of them. There is now a hotel, indoor skydiving centre, indoor cross country, a cafe and toilets. Good for escaping the rain!

Leaving the centre, I continued on towards the Nadiza waterfall, I had to cross the river at one point, just in case I wasn’t wet enough already already!

Nadiza waterfall is impressive although you can’t get very close to it. Luckily it had  stopped raining long enough  for me to get some photos from the best vantage point I could find.Nadiza waterfall Kranjska Gora Slovenia
From the waterfall, I crossed a field to take shelter in a church and take a look at the map.
I took same path back to Planica then continued along the road to Ratece.
The weather had become worse, along with the rain was plenty of thunder and occasional lightning
At Ratece,  I rejoined D2 stopping to take a look at the Labarinti.  I assumed this to be a maze for kids, however, after reading in to it online, the labyrinth is somewhere you go to find your inner well being….or something like that!
Deciding my being was well enough, I continued on my way, towards  Zelenci, a  nature reserve just outside Kranjska Gora. As it had finally stopped raining I thought I’d extend the walk a little!
This route is available to download as a GPX file

Back at the hotel I took a quick shower then down for dinner at the ‘help yourself buffet’. Garlic soup to start followed by veal. I put a bit of shark on the plate too, just to try something different!
The weather got worse in the evening so I stayed in the room and  watched Slovenia beat Serbia in  the Eurobasket basketball tournament. I’d later discover this was big news in Slovenia!

Monday  18th September
After breakfast I once again headed out in more rain and again I took the D2 cycle path, this time towards Gozd Martuljek., taking a right on the track just south ofThe difficult path the village.
Just past the information boards and a clearing where a charcoal pile was being ‘cooked’, the path split in two. I took the left hand fork up what was described as ‘the difficult path’.
I like a challenge!
Initially this was a lovely route along the gorge.  The paths were well marked following the cascading water.
The path climbed and, with the help of steps and bridges, crosses the river. Then, came the awkward part…. passing over and climbing up the torrent!
It didn’t help matters that my  boots were already wet due to all then rain.

Metal Ladder in Rocks
Metal ‘ladder’ in the rocks

After the first waterfall,  Lower Martuljek , or ‘Slap 1’ as it is signed, I had a climb through the  woods  to the next upper waterfall.
Towards the end of the route, hand rails have been put in to the rock, along with metal ‘ladders’ to help with the climb. It’s not an easy walk but the views are fantastic!
I’ve since read websites detailing the dangers of this route.
I managed on my own and, as long as decent boots are worn and care taken, it shouldn’t pose any major problems.

Another Waterfall to cross
Another waterfall to cross

I wandered back the same way before taking the left hand fork to the ‘easier’ path through the woods.
I decided it was too early to go back to the hotel and, as the rain had stopped, I followed the quiet road climbing from Gozd Martuljek  to Srednji Vrh passing another waterfall on my way.
The views across to where I had walked earlier were beautiful, especially now the weather had cleared slightly
From here it was an easy walk back in to Kranjska Gora.

The full route is available as a GPX file

Tuesday 19th September
Horrible weather forecast;  yellow alert for rain and the temperature during the day not rising above 8 Celsius.
My  phone (running the ViewRanger GPS app)  and paper maps wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the persistent heavy downpour so I opted for an extremely easy to navigate route.  I joined D2 and just kept on going  to Mojstrana, a lovely village,  shame about weather!

I concluded it was too far, too cold and too wet to continue on to the waterfall. On a nicer day I may have continued to  Peričnik Falls and got the bus back but today, the prospect of standing waiting for the rather infrequent bus wasn’t something I wanted to be doing.
Instead, I popped in to the Alpine museum in Mojstana, an interesting little museum with the bonus of being warm and dry!  There is a small shop in the museum offering souvenirs and maps. It is also, a good place to get information about weather conditions in the mountains, details on mountain huts etc.
Not far from the museum is the start of via ferrata trail maybe something else for me to tackle in the future!

IMG_3118 Bivouac II
Bivouac at the Alpine museum in Mojstana

The hotel had a themed night tonight, traditional foods and band in costume playing Slovenian folk music. The meal included beef soup, local smoked hams, pasta stuffed with potato in a cheese sauce, goulash and buckwheat.
After my evening meal, I decided I ain’t going back out there so the evening was spent planning some more walks. If the weather forecasts were to be believed, the worst of the weather was over

Wednesday 20th September
Blimey blue skies!
I was up early. Buckwheat on breakfast menu along with ‘semolina tower’.
After my unusual first meal of the day,  the waterproofs went in the rucksack, where they stayed for the duration!
I followed the D2 cycle path West to Ratece,  the last village before the Italian border and  one of the coldest places in the country.  I walked North through the village to  the path leading the point  where the borders of three countries meet.
The route climbed steadily. It was partly path, partly track and easy to follow.

As I climbed I started to see little patches of snow, these became larger and larger patches. Before the final climb, I had a choice,  track or path. I opted for the winding path. The patches of snow became bigger and nearing the peak it became a thick layer of crunchy fresh snow.
An unexpected surprise in September!
Austria, Italy and Slovenia all covered in snow… At least, they were up here!
Over to Austria

I took a brief stroll along the Austrian hills before taking the obligatory photograph where the borders met.
Back in Slovenia,  I followed the wide track from the top down, taking a right at the first fork then a took a right and descended towards Podkoren.
Annoyingly, happily wandering along I missed my path(s) into Podkoren and ended up on the road but at least the traffic was light.
From Podkoren I headed East and just before joining the main road, I took route 3 following the River Sava before dropping down back down to Kranjska Gora.
Download this route as a GPX.

Thursday 21st September

Chilli peppers at breakfast! (-;

Mist on the hillsHeaded out today following the river south passing the Zlatatog statue.
Initially I was following a road. A cyclist rode past singing Bohemian Rhapsody…as you do.
It was early in the morning, the roads were quiet and the mist was rolling down the hills.

I stayed on the road until I hit a bridge, here I crossed and continued up the quiet Vršič Pass. Partway along, road works were being carried out. I wouldn’t say little happens in this part of the world but I later spotted myself on local news walking past!
I left the road when I reached the Russian Chapel, a chapel built by Russian prisoners of war engaged in forced labour in the area during World War.
The climb up to Vršič was well signed as it zigzagged up towards Vršič and, once again I found  snow!

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This is virtually a linear route I altered it slightly by crossing on to the other side of the river on the way back.
Despite having to return the same route, this was a lovely walk with some fantastic views!
This route is available to download

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As I got back to Kranjska Gora, a number of interesting cars were driving through, many parking up in my hotel’s car park. All were taking part in the Ramble Rally, a 5 day rally through Europe.

Friday 22nd September
Sadly, all to quickly the last day had come….and my walking boots are still saturated! It was a short walk from the hotel to Vitranc chair lift.  I Paid €7 for a one way trip.
This was a new and fun experience given that this was a chair lift more usually taking skiers up the hill.  It was a strange feeling looking down to see nothing below my feet.
Alighting at the top was something niggling in the back of my mind during the journey up. It was fairly simple, lift the bar and run off….well jog quick enough to be quicker than the lift!
I filmed a section of the ride

From the station the walk to Vitranc was well signposted and, once again, it wasn’t long until I found the snow!
The sign below amused me, Vitranc 15 minutes  or 25 minutes for tourists…needless to say I saw this as a challenge and, I’m pleased to say, got there in 15 minutes!

Sign to Vitranc

It was a bit of a slog to the top of Vitranc which, in the winter months, is used for down hill skiing competitions 
Views from walk down VitrancSadly, the hut at the peak was closed so I continued towards Ciprnik.
As this was a 15 mile walk and I had packing to get back to, I decided to give the snowy route up to Ciprnik a miss and continued on.
The snow actually making my navigation easier, just follow the other set of footprints ahead!
The path slowly made its way down, through the woods towards the ski jump centre at Planica.  A little hut along the path offers some great views.
At the bottom of the hill I took the road down to the D2 cycle path. From here, I could have taken a right back to Kranjska Gora but instead decided to quickly pop over the border to Italy.
 Lago di Fusine Inferiore Lake ItalyThe walking was easy, just stay on the D2 before taking the road for the last part of the way to the lake, Lago di Fusine Inferiore.  This is a lovely spot to sit and take in the last of the sunshine. There’s a bar on the side of the lake and plenty of seats offering fantastic views.
From here it was a straight walk back to Kranjska Gora, although I did go via one of the local villages to stock up on drink.

The walk, from the top chairlift station is available as a GPX file.

Saturday 23rd September
Time for a quick cup of coffee and cereal before heading back to the airport for the flight back to Manchester.
A real mix of weather, torrential rain, snow and warm sunshine but another fantastic trip and I know I will be back and I’m sure visit number 10 won’t be too far off!

 

March in Bilbao

I had two weeks annual leave left in work, it was March, what to do?
A few days were used on walks in North Wales and Wirral. The weather varied between warm and sunny to cold and wet – wet enough to end the life of my mobile phone.
The second week was spent in the Basque town of Bilbao.

I flew out on Sunday 12th  March from Manchester airport.
We left on time, arriving at Bilbao airport just before 21:00. Once I’d picked up my luggage, it was a short walk to the bus stop.  A small counter by the door sells the €1.45 * ticket in to the city centre.
Two buses run per hour from the airport,  making three stops in the city before reaching the Termibus bus station. I got off at the second stop, Moyua Plaza, a large plaza/roundabout with flowers and a fountain in the middle and the ornate hotel Carlton to the outside.
It took less than ten minutes to walk from here to the Hotel Silken Indautxu.  At check in I was told I’d be given a free upgrade to one of the rooms on the fifth floor rooms with a balcony.
Only hotel I’ve ever stayed in with no English language television stations – not a bad thing!

I unpacked then headed into town for a stroll before bed.  Athletic Bilbao football club  had played a game that evening and the town was full of football fans in scarves making their way from the ground, usually via a bar or two.

After wandering up and down numerous streets, I realised there aren’t many places to eat and the few that are around don’t serve main meals until around 20:30 or 21:00.
I ended up in the back room restaurant at Gu2  and certainly wasn’t disappointed  with my first meal in Bilbao; sardines, local ham with bread, croquettes
The structure reminded me a lot of a proper Italian meal. The meat comes on its own, the croquettes are a separate course.
Despite the language difficulties, an enjoyable first meal in Bilbao!

Monday 6th March
After a late-ish start to the day, I wandered downstairs to breakfast. The food on offer was impressive. The tortilla (or Spanish omelette as we used to call them as kids!) was very good.
Swimming on the roofLeaving the hotel and heading up Gordoniz Kalea I came to Azkuna Zentroa. Once a wine warehouse, the designer Phillipe Stark  helped transformed this huge area in to a place for exhibitions, concerts and conferences. It’s worth popping in just to look up at the huge glass ceiling, above which is a swimming pool.
From there, I went towards the Guggenheim via Moyua Plaza.
The museum is an impressive structure, lots of strange shapes and sweeping metal glittering in the sun light.
There are a couple of exhibits in the grounds of the Guggenheim, perhaps most famous being the large topiary dog by Jeff Koons. Another of his pieces, Tulips, a bouquet of reflective stainless-steel flowers is around the back of the building along with Tall Tree & The Eye; a large stack of mirrored steel balls and Maman and the giant spider on the waterfront.
Guggenheim Bilbao

I continued through Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park and on to the impressive San Mamés Stadium, home to Athletic Bilbao football club.  There is a large shop selling everything from football shirts to branded wines and crisps. Walking around the ground, I could peep through a mesh fence to see the pitch. Slightly bigger than Prenton Park where I go to watch my team!
I then headed in to town and this is where I realised Bilbao closes for a lot of the day! Shops open between 9am and 10am then close at around 1.30pm they then stay closed until around 5pm after which they stay open for another two and a half or three hours. This means for most of the day, I was wandering around town looking at closed shops.
Meal times are similar, if you want a proper evening meal, don’t start looking until around 8.30 or 9pm, then you may find the restaurant closing at around 10.30pm
The bars are open through out the day and I popped in to the cosy Singlar Bar Rather strange choice of music….Christmas jazz tunes! I soon learnt that in this part of the world, no one understands ‘Coke’, you have to ask for a Coca-Cola (light or zero)

Tuesday 7th March
The weather wasn’t too great this morning so took walk to Guggenheim.  I must admit that I didn’t ‘get’ most modern art but the exhibits on ground floor are good and I did like the Tulips which I could get a closer view of.
Tulips in GuggenheimEntry was €13, however for a little more you can get a ticket that also allows entry to Bilbao’s other art museum. The Museo de Bellas Artes  is closed on  Tuesday (Guggenheim closed on the Monday) but, given the weather forecast, that turned out to be a good thing!
Despite not being an art lover, I managed to spend quite a few hours in the Guggenheim, stopping for a very reasonably priced coffee.
It was raining when I left and headed in to the old town and, being mid afternoon, everything that wasn’t a bar was shut.

Wednesday 8th March
Today, I took a walk along the river past Guggenheim towards the hospital. As pleasant as this walk was  initially, it soon became less than pleasant after the hospital. I turned back and headed to the Funicular de Artxandaup.
Only 95c each way but little there at the top. There are some good views across the city and over to the airport but there nothing else there, in fact on the whole the area looks rather run down.

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After another wander around the old town, I headed to the bus station and used the machines (around the back of the building) to book a seat on the Santander bus tomorrow (€6.66 each way)

Thursday 9th March
Climbing hills Santander styleWandered down to the bust station to catch the 09.30 coach to Santander.
The bus station was rather disorganised, no indication as to which stand the bus would come in on. At least Santander was it’s final destination which made the correct bus easier to spot, I just had to look for the one run by the company I purchased the ticket for (ALSA)
The journey was pleasant enough in a comfortable bus with free wi-fi.
The bus station was in the centre of town, from there I wandered around the streets, stopping for a coffee in  Cafetería Jardines de Pereda near the waterfront.

As usual, I wanted to get to the highest point of the town. Unfortunately however the free funicular to Mirador Rio de la Pila was closed for maintenance.

View over Santander

The walk to the funicular was interesting, taking  escalators up the steep streets. At the funicular, however, it was up a staircase to the right.

Lunch consisted of some olives and a couple of tasty pintxo (the local version of tapas) at Mercado del Este

As per usual, everything except the bars were shut for most of my visit and I wandered back to the bus station to catch the 17:00 bus back.

 


Friday 10th March
Ohh sunny!  Transporter bridge near BilbaoThe plan today was to get a day ticket to use the Metro train system and see a few more areas around Bilbao.
The Metro was well priced, clean and efficient and soon got me to Portugalete station near the coast. The main sight here is the UNESCO listed Vizcaya transporter bridge which links Portugalete with Las Arenas .
Taking a wander down along the waterfront, through the park, past the swimming pools,  towards the industrial area, it was nice to have some warm sunny weather.
Returning through Plaza del Solar, I strolled around the (closed!) town.
At 2pm I got back on the train station to cross the river…..bad idea. I wondered what everyone did when everything else was closed…they ride the Metro!  Commuters were squashed in the train like sardines.
In retrospect,  I should have taken bridge over.
Port near BilbaoAt the other side of the river I got off the train at Areeta. It’s a pleasant walk along the waterfront, passing the big, old houses towards the Real Club Marítimo.
Despite being March, some people braved the beach.
I went to Espigón Evaristo Churruca, a good place for views across the water.

 

Saturday 11th March
Walked to the bus station after breakfast to get the bus to San Sebastian.
Chaos!
The information screens only show the very different basque name for San Sebastian, Donostia.
Several buses arrived at the same time heading in the right direction. One was run by a different but company and there were two ALSA buses.  One of the buses was unmarked, the other (which turned out to be my bus) was heading to Irun. It was both bus number 1 and bus number 2!
Once on the bus things didn’t improve much, it was in need of a clean and the recliner was stuck in the down position.

View over San SebastianOnce I arrived in San Sebastian, I took walk up hill to the castle and the Jesus statue – which has a phone mast strapped to the back!
I must say, this is one of the highlights of my holiday.  I love castles, I love walking and I love a nice view. This ticked all of the boxes and had a few cannons added in to the mix.

Wandering back in to the Old Town things became more unpleasant. It was extremely busy. I passed a few stag parties and already there were a few people tottering around the streets rather the worse for wear (not English I hasten to add!)
Needless to say, despite being a Saturday, everything apart from the bars were closed for most of my visit. I stopped for a coffee and deeming a couple of sights a little too far away for a day trip, I headed back to the bus station.

Sunday 12th March
My last day and what horrible weather. Very, very wet and  only degree warmer than Wirral
Bilbao InvasionTo get out of the rain I went to the Fine Arts Museum. Not really my thing but, it was out the rain and it was open!
To be fair, it was quite interesting, especially the ancient art works and sculptures.  I was in the gallery for most of the morning  through to early afternoon. I preferred it over the Guggenheim finding it less pretentious.
While looking in the gift shop, I discovered book about the Bilbao Invasion. These little pieces of alien art works are dotted around the city and in true Pokemon style, you’ve gotta catch ’em all!
I wish I’d discovered this sooner, may have occupied me while everything else was closed.

So, in conclusion….it may sound like I have a real downer on Bilbao. It isn’t a huge tourist place  (at least out of season) and they still do things their own way, which is good. It’s a clean city and reasonably priced.
Is it somewhere for a weeks holiday? Personally I’d say no, especially as the day trips are very similar, old towns containing (usually) closed shops.
It’s definitely worth popping to see if you’re in the area and, if Tranmere ever get to play Athletic in a football match, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a ticket!

 

Boudin Noir Guêtres

Thursday 15th September
Eek, just before I’m due to fly out to Lyon, I discover French air traffic controllers are planning a strike. Many flights from the UK were being cancelled.
The strike was mainly affecting the budget airlines flying in to Paris and, luckily for me, my Air France/FlyBe  Embraer aircraft  took off from Manchester pretty much on time.

bus from airport to AnnecyAfter around 90 minutes in the skies, we landed at Lyon airport where I had a two hour wait for the coach to Annecy Gare Routière via Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains.
I had pre-booked my tickets online for €34.

I sat with a drink at the Premium Bar near the check-in  waiting for the coach to arrive at the stops opposite.

After chucking  my large rucksack in the boot space of the coach, I  settled down for the two hour journey through the French countryside.
After several hours travelling from my home in Wirral,  the bus station at Annecy was a very welcome sight and from here it was a short walk in  pretty much  straight line to the Ibis Annecy Centre Vieille Ville hotel.
The hotel situated in the centre of town  was nice and clean with a little balcony over looking court yard. Te room, however, was very small.

view from balcony hotel Ibis Annecy
View from hotel balcony

After taking some time to unpack and freshen up, I took a stroll to le Munich for dinner. It was the Boudin Noir on the menu which caught my attention!

I started with Carpaccio. An Italian starter at a German themed bar/restaurant in France near the Swiss border – truly European! I love my beef as rare as possible and it doesn’t get much rarer than this. A very good start to my first meal of the trip.
French black puddingAs for the French black pudding main course…very nice although I think the English black pudding still beats it!

After dinner I took a stroll around the picturesque old town before retiring to my room.


Friday 16th September
After a decent breakfast at the hotel, I took a stroll down to the train/bus station to pick up some time tables for some days out I was thinking of taking.
Annecy FranceToday’s plan was to take  good wander around Annecy’s market stall filled streets and on towards the mountain-fringed lake.  Getting lost in the old, narrow streets before  stopping for coffee at one of the many cafe cum bars in town.
The old town reminded me of Venice or Bruges with its canals and buildings bedecked with flowers.
A lovely place to aimlessly wander.

Saturday 17th September
Horrible weather.
I made my self couple of cheeses toasties for breakfast before getting the waterproofs on and walking around the lake to the village of Talloires.
Leaving the hotel, I walked East around the ‘top’ of the lake before following the shore around.
On a nice day I imagine the views across the lake are beautiful and the water to be filled with swimmers and sailors. Today, however, I was wet enough on dry land!

Lake Annecy shore

For the first part of this 11 mile route, I followed the tree-lined  path to the side of the lake until it ended near the village of Chavoire, here, I headed inland slightly along the D909, Route d’Annecy.
Château de Menthon-Saint-BernardIn the village of Veyrier du Lac, I took the quieter road to the right of Route d’Annecy, parallel to the lake. This road took me around housing estates before dropping back down to the shores of the lake.
At the Palace De Menthon hotel, I was forced back in land and slightly up hill where there I got some nice views over to Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the birth place of Bernard of Menthon (St Bernard), the patron saint of skiers.

The road continued round in to the ‘Reserve Naturelle du Rock de Chere‘ park. There are a number of routes around the wooded rocky outcrop.  I followed the well signed path nearest to the lake towards the view point  at Belvedere.
Despite the poor weather all day, it cleared up just in time to stop and take some photos.
It was a very good spot to see some Red Bull Elements which was taking place in the village!

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Talloires didn’t have much to offer and the Red Bull Elements was just finishing off so there was little to keep me in the village. Luckily I had just few mins to wait for the infrequent bus service back to Annecy and bonus… it was free!
This route is available to download from the ViewRanger website.

Sunday 18th September
After breakfast I donned the waterproofs again before making my way to Gorges du Fier,  considered to be one of the natural wonders of the Alps.Footpath to Gorges du Fier,
I headed West out of Annecy on D2201 road.  The route continued along roads through the town and industrial areas until reaching the woods around the river Fier with it’s ‘interesting’  footpaths consisting of seemingly randomly placed wooden planks!
The path follows the river, ending at the gorge’s pay booth. Entry at the time of writing (Sept 2016) was €5.50.

The route through is linear,  ending at a  La Clairière des Curieux, an information area  detailing the gorge.
Keep an eye out for blue footprints on the path to see ‘faces’ in rocks.

Two faces in the rock Gorges du Fier, Annecy
Two faces in the rock

The 6 mile route to and around the gorge is available to download as a GPX file.

Leaving the gorge, I took a different route back, following the railway line along a quiet road towards the hydro power plant.
This was a far nicer route than the one I took out to the gorge and is also available to download as a GPX.

Monday 19th September
This morning I was  travelling by bus from the main bus station in Annecy to Geneva, Switzerland. Return tickets are reasonably priced and are purchased at the Annecy bus station.
I got off at Seujet. (Google maps helped to find the right stop!)

To be honest, there wasn’t too much in Geneva to hold my interest but it’s another city to tick off my ‘to see’ list.  I took a wander around the town which was filled with watch shops. I passed through the park and on to Jet d’Eau.
I must admit, this jet of water is impressive. I took the jetty out to get up close to the  140 metres (460 ft)  jet.

jet d'eau Geneva
The area around the lake near the Jet is a nice spot to stop for a quick drink. Luckily for me, the shops and bars in town accept the Euro as well as the Swiss Franc, albeit at a 1-1 exchange rate.

Personally, I found a day trip was more than enough time to see the town, leaving on the 5.15 bus…bad move as we got stuck in the rush hour traffic.

Tuesday 20th September
Sunshine!
Today the plan was to climb the hills on the Western side of lake.
Wandering through the town, along the waters edge, I headed right down Rue des Marquisats, taking another right at the roundabout .
Continuing up Avenue de Tresum and Boulevard de la Corniche, I turned off to the left down Ave del la Visitation towards Cathédrale de la Visitation,  Catholic basilica dating from the early 20th-century.
Already there were great views back over to the town and lake.
Sign post on walk, Annecy FranceAt the end of the road I entered the woodland and followed the well signed paths to the South, parallel to the lake.
There were a number of view points along the route. A rather elaborate cairn marked the point at 767 meters.

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A cairn apparently!

Most of the views on this part of the walk were towards the town. I was surprised how sprawling the area actually is.
There are a number of routes through the woods, I continued to the point about 5 miles in to the walk, where the path curled round, almost in a horseshoe shape. In my mind, this was the part of the walk with the far better views.
Originally the plan was to drop down in to one of the lake side villages, however, the paths down where very steep and, to be honest, I was enjoying the views from the higher path.

Views of lake Annecy
Not a bad view!

Eventually the path slowly made its way down to the shore at La Puya.  From here it was a nice walk back through the port area  back to the hotel

I think must have been my favourite walk on the holiday and is definitely recommended.
A GPX file of this 9 mile route is available to download

 

Wednesday 21st September
More sunshine!
After breakfast, I wandered down to train/bus station to get a ticket for the 9am bus to Lyon, my home for the next night.
The coach had  plenty of luggage space  and even a coffee machine at front!

After arriving at the main bus station, I got 5 Euro 50 day ticket and boarded tram T1 to the  stop near Quality suites Confluence.  A very nice hotel but rather out the way from the main part of town.

Hotel room LyonThe room was lovely and included a kettle, hob microwave. Oddly though the hall way separated the toilet from the sink/sower room!

After unpacking, I wandered around for some snaps in the lovely weather.
Sadly this really was just a flying visit. My time was spent zig zagging between the streets of the old town and walking along the river.
It would have been nice to see the ruins but it just wasn’t possible on this whistle stop visit.

Dinner was taken at Les Chandelles. I later discovered this restaurant had very poor reviews but I enjoyed the meal….especially the unusual dish of head of veal!
Perhaps a return visit is required to see the rest of the sites and sample some better food?
Lyon at night

 

Thurs 22nd September
Time to go. After a quick shower, I walked to the train station and got a coffee and baguette. It seemed suitably French and definitely filled a corner!

Back to the hotel for check out which was at 11am. Luckily I left the hotel early as the trams weren’t running. A change of plan was required! I took two metro trains to  Gare part dieu. Easily done and covered by the €1.80 ticket.
From there it was on to the shuttle train to the airport.

All in all an enjoyable trip!

 

100 miles later

Friday 10th June
Well, that time has come, the final day. I had pondered a few different activities during the week. Cycling was a possibility along with a few more adventurous ideas but the week was spent walking. This choice was partly down to the unpredictable weather but mostly down to the ‘100 mile challenge’ put before me by work colleagues and today I was just a few miles off completion.

After breakfast  I wandered back up to my room to fill the rucksack. The weather forecast was good but I didn’t trust it so in went the waterproof jacket and (extremely muddy) waterproof over-trousers along with sunglasses and travel towel. All bases covered!
I’d left my boots on the balcony and they were still wet after yesterday’s 24 hours of rain. Hopefully I’d get some sun to enable them to dry of a little.

I could have started the day in a hectic fashion to get the 8.20 bus to Bohinj, instead I decided to go for the more leisurely 9.20.
I left the hotel and crossed to the bus station opposite.  The tickets are bought from the driver costing €3.60*  for a single adult journey. Make sure you ask for and get off at Bohinj jezzero (lake) rather than the town of  Bohinjska Bistrica  6.5km/4 miles up the road. ‘Bohinj’ itself is the valley or basin.

As the bus pulled in to a stop in the outskirts of Bled, we were passed by a man wearing what is best described as wheely skis, I suppose you have to practice cross-country skiing somehow during the summer months!

Lake BohinjI left the bus at Ribčev Laz, a village to the East of the lake side of the lake and  the most recognisable part of the area as it features in all the tourist information for the area.
The bridge at the end of the lake does get busy with people getting the perfect photos but it’s not difficult to see why, it really is a picture postcard view!

I started my walk by crossing the bridge, towards the church of Sv Jenez then following the road up to Stara Fuzina. The Bohinj International Ironworks festival was taking place in the top end of the village which seemed to be popular with the local school kids.

I crossed over the bridge to the North of the village then took a left following the river Mostnica to Hudičev most, The Devil’s Bridge.  The bridge was built in the 18th century to improve the supply of iron ore from the surrounding mountains to the iron ore plant.
Legend says that the people of Bohinj built a bridge before nightfall, but by the morning it had been destroyed so decided the Devil  should build the bridge for them (as you do). In exchange for building it, the Devil demanded the first soul that crossed it.
When the bridge had been completed, a peasant threw a bone to the other side for his dog, therefore, the Devil received the dog’s soul and was a bit miffed. In his anger he thrashed his tail  bringing down the fence but the bridge still stands.

After crossing the river I took a right and continued North, eventually reaching a pay booth for the Mostnica Gorge.
It cost me €2.50* to enter the gorge but it was well worth it. Personally, I think this gorge is on par with the more popular Vintgar Gorge near Bled. It’s a pleasant walk through the woods and it’s easy to leave the path and take a closer look a the picturesque gorge.

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At the end of the gorge, I crossed the bridge then joined the road up towards the Planinska koča na Vojah mountain hut.Sign to Triglav

Navigation wise, this  be the easiest walk of the trip as it was so well signposted.
Bohinj caters for walkers far better than Bled having so many more well marked routes.
The signs also give a fairly accurate idea of how long it takes to reach the chosen destination.

 

Sign to Triglav

The plan now was to go and see the Slap Mostnica, the 21 meter high waterfall at the end of the valley.

I continued, past the mountain hut to a fork in the road. Both directions head to the waterfall. I chose the left hand fork. This turned out to be a very good decision!

I didn’t see a single person as I made my towards the waterfall, keeping the river to my right. Once I arrived there it was clear that the ‘Health and Safety Rule Book’ went out of the window! No handrails or barriers, you’re free to wander where you like to get the best views.

Waterfall near Bohinj SloveniaAfter taking some photos and video footage, I sat for a while near a smaller waterfall slightly downstream the main falls. The sun was out, the views were amazing and I felt I was the only person around for miles.

Eventually I worked my way back to the path  South, crossed the river  and headed back towards Stara Fužina. As I left the woods to join the main track, I passed a group of walkers heading towards the waterfall. I walked past a few more people heading the opposite way as I continued. I had obviously gone at the right time and gone the right way around the circuit!

Once I got back to Stara Fužina it was too early to get the bus back. It was my last day and I was going to make the most of it!
I  took a right out of Stara Fužina to the lake. My plan was to go part way round and see how I was for time.

While it doesn’t have a pretty church on an island or a castle over looking it, Bohinj is as beautiful as Bled, perhaps in some ways, more so. It’s less touristy and the imposing mountains make a fantastic backdrop.  I was aware I had to get back for the bus, but couldn’t resist lots of stops to take photos….lots of photos!

The path around this lake is far more rugged than the route around Bled. At one point, it crosses over some rocks but nothing too difficult if you take time and care.
Boat on lake Bohinj SloveniaAlthough the route on one side of the lake through woodland, the path on the other side is predominantly tarmac where I could make up some time.
I reached Ukanc, a small village at the far side of the lake containing mostly holiday accommodation.
A sign by the, now closed, hotel Zlatarog claimed it would take me 1 hour 15 minutes to reach Ribčev Laz. It was 15:30, my bus was at 16:50. I had to get wriggle on!
I managed to make it back to Ribčev Laz. at 16:15. Enough time to sit by the waters edge for a while!

There were a lot of people milling around near the bus stop and I assumed the bus would be full but no, all the English had taken an organised tour bus tour  from Bled to Ribčev Laz.  They paid had €32 per person for a half day trip, I paid €7.20 (two single bus tickets)* I also had the bonus of arriving and leaving when I wanted!

The bus arrived dead on time and dropped off at the bus station right outside my hotel, the Jelovica

The last evening meal of the holiday started with kulen, a tasty salami style sausage. There is some debate as to whether this is a Slovenian or Croatian sausage, either way, it’s very good!

Needless to say, as it wasn’t raining, I needed my final evening passeggiata and this was going to be a memorable one!
Sign on Bled castle doorI left the hotel and took a left up Graska Cesta then the next left, climbing up to the castle.
The sun had set over Bled as I freely entered through the castle walls. Although the castle itself was closed, the grounds were still open and if the worst came to the worst, a telephone number was pinned to the back of the castle gates so I would be able to get out!
I sat on my own on one of the walls looking out across the town and lake  – a great way to end the holiday!
This 2.7 mile/4.3km route is available as a GPX file.

 

Epilogue
So, in conclusion, my seventh trip to Slovenia didn’t disappoint!
When I first came to Slovenia I travelled to Bohinj on my last day and I clearly remember walking back to the bus stop wishing I could stay.  I vowed to return and I did….several times!
This occasion was no different.  The weather wasn’t great and some of the walks didn’t go to plan but I still loved every minute and travelling back to the airport,  I started planning holiday number eight!
While it was lovely seeing Bled again, I don’t think it has as much to offer walkers as other areas such as Bohinj, Kranjska Gora or Bovec. Yes there are walking routes, fantastic scenery and plenty of establishments offering all sorts of activities but I think be another trip to Bohinj will be next…watch this space!

*Prices as of June 2016

Wet, wet wet

Wednesday 8th June
Today I was off to Pokljuka soteska, leaving Bed via Grajska Cesta to the West. Things didn’t start too well, the road I wanted to follow was shut for works so I took a detour around Kolodvorska Cesta. It was here I stopped to help someone who was very lost having gone some considerable distance North East  rather than North West . Buy a map and compass people!
Following the railway track, I took a left near an industrial area then passed a dairy farm on the way to Spodnje Gorje .
The route was mostly along roads passing through  Zgornje Gorje and Grabče.
Hanging corn to dryI finally left the road near Krnica. This appeared to be a  farming village. A very old couple went past, perched on the back of a tractor trailer. Further along, I passed houses hanging corn out to dry.
Opposite the bus stop, I took a path dropping down to the right. This took me on to another road which I followed round to the left before joining a path heading West.
The path comes out on a narrow but quiet road leading to the Pokljuka car park.
From the car park I headed right, climbing slightly through the woodland towards Stara Pokljuka. This was becoming a pleasant, quiet walk…. but I’ve come to realise during this holiday things don’t usually go to plan!

I reached a crossroads of paths. A left here would take me towards the gorge, however, it would make the walk a lot shorter, besides, I was enjoying it so I pressed on.
The intention was to continue heading West until I hit a road which I would follow South then, take the path heading East from the road to the gorge….seemed like a good plan!

The path off the road was difficult to find, the steps down were just  about visible on the left hand side of a hairpin bend.
The route was rather over grown and followed a dried up river bed. Some basic scrambling was required to cross over the slippery rocks. Further along, a wooden bridge had collapsed.  It was becoming clear that this is a rarely used route.
Broken bridgeI soon hit a third obstacle.
As I didn’t know how long the path would be in this state, I did the cowardly/sensible thing and returned to the road.  If I was walking with other people I may well have continued,  but, I was on my own and had only seen one other person after leaving Krnica. This would mean missing out on seeing the gorge, the main sight  I had come to see on the walk but, better safe than sorry.
I only had two options now, go back the same way through the woods (in retrospect, probably the nicer option) or take the road  all the way back to the Southern part of Krnica. Not being a fan of retracing my steps too much I took the road.
Every once in a while, I glanced over to see if I could spot any signs of the path below….nothing. Strangely, this road seems to be the hog roast capital of the Gorenjska  region!

I stopped in the bus stop at Krnica to see if I could make a more circular route from here back to Bled and decided to take the next road to the right. I walked on to Zaboršt then followed a path from the South of the village. I passed under the railway track and eventually got to Camping Bled  on the Western side of the lake.
I have made the original route plan available for download. An alternative walk can be obtained from the Slovenian Tourism website.

Returning to the hotel as the rain started, I had dinner but soon started to get itchy feet. As the rain got heavier, the sensible thing would be stay in the room, have an early night but no, I have to explore the side streets. Despite taking a umbrella, I got drenched!
This was horrible weather stayed for the next 24 hours!

Thursday 9th June
The weather forecast today was the worst of the week and yes , it was bad!
I got all the wet weather gear on, put the rain cover over the sack and headed out. I took Ribenska cesta South out of Bled to Ribno continuing to the Bohinjka river.
Lake near Ribno, SloveniaTaking the path to the right before the bridge, I headed West passing a lake on the right hand-side. Ordinarily this would be a lovely place to sit and take in the views but the rain was so heavy I carried on  following the river.
Crossing at the next  bridge, the path soon moved away from the river, heading up hill through the trees to Kupljenik.

When I reached the small village of Kupljenik I was surprised to see a fire station complete with a large, modern fire engine. I concluded that every resident of the village must be a fireman.
The rain had been extremely heavy all morning so to get a few minutes break from the rain and fold the map correctly , I took shelter in the church of Sv Stefan. Within seconds of entering the church,  the  bells started to ring….continuously.
Perhaps a religious intruder alarm was alerting the locals of my presence, either that or it because it was midday……I’m going for the alarm!

It soon became clear the rain wasn’t going to ease off any time soon, so I left my shelter and returned to the road, walking towards a small car park on the left. The path starts at the opposite end of the car park heading roughly back in the same direction I came.
The intention today was to head to the caves at Babji Zob. It was well signed. So far so good.
20160609_140906_HDRAfter a fairly steep climb, I joined a track.
According to my GPS mapping I wasn’t on any recognised route, however, this wide track had a number of signed routes including one to Babji Zob. The red and white path markers were clearly painted every few hundred metres.
I followed the signs through the mist and rain. Despite being early June, I was wishing I’d packed my gloves.
I  came to the turn off towards Babji Zob. From the track it was a step few steps up on to the path through the woods. On the first attempt my feet slipped on the extremely muddy surface. For the second attempt, I hauled myself up using a branch…I slipped again. I noticed a large stick and used that for extra grip and stability on attempt number three and slowly made my way up.
As I rubbed the rain from my eyes, I glanced up at the muddy path that went up as far as the eye could see. There was no point checking my GPS, the mapping for this area was useless. My paper map contradicted GPS and, yet again, neither  matched the actual terrain. The only thing I was sure of were the contour lines between me and Babji Zob. This meant a lot of slippery, muddy climbing.
I mulled over the options. I felt I had ‘given up’ on a few of my walks this holiday and knew that in better conditions I would have continued but the rain was getting heavier, the viability was getting worse and I was getting colder.
Ultimately I wasn’t here to prove anything, this wasn’t a mission I was on a holiday; a time for relaxation and enjoyment.  With those thoughts, I turned round, carefully made my way back on to the track, leaving the stick for someone braver than me.
Getting mistyI decided to continue on the track a while, it was easy walking.  Relying on my compass, I thought I would continue and see if the track turned towards Bohinjska Bela, if  not, it would be very easy to retrace my steps.
As I wandered though the woods I saw a sign to Bohinj.  Was this just short hand for Bohinjska Bela or was it actually pointing to Bohinj, the lake 22.5 km (14 miles) from Bled?
By this point I decided that I’d been heading South East too long. I didn’t want to have to take my paper map out as it was slowly disintegrating in the wet conditions so, rather than chance seeing where the Bohinj route took me, I went back towards the car park near Kupljenik.

Once I reached the road, I took a left down to Bohinjska Bela.
As usual, the road was very quiet with very little traffic although I did meet a group of goats!
River near Bohinjska BelaAt the junction at the end of the road, I crossed over, following the river North on route 11 towards Bohinjska Bela. The rain had slowly started to ease, so I stopped for a while on a picnic bench over looking the river.
I really didn’t want to follow the same route back I took earlier in the week so I took this opportunity to get my map correctly folded and planned a route which took me on the road towards the Eastern side of the village, under the railway track then  a right on to route 5 through the woods.
At a junction of paths, I went right and joined the route I had taken yesterday,  back under the railway line towards Camping Bled.  Rather than take the direct route back around the lake, I took the road past Bled railway station. This road climbs and gives some lovely views over the lake for little effort. Well, it would do given better weather!
This is a residential area and there are some lovely properties there.

The  walk was a very wet 16.8 miles (27km) The circular route through  Kupljenik and Bohinjska Bela is available as a GPX file
No, it didn’t go as planned and the conditions were unpleasant. When I got back to the room I Googled the caves, it seems you have to book to pre-arrange a visit….maybe a good thing I didn’t get there!

After dinner I sat on the balcony and watched the torrential rain, surely tomorrow had to be better…..

Final part >>

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