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Black Pudding Gaiters

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travel

Camping, but not as we know it

As a kid, the family spent many nights under canvas until one morning we woke to find a large portion of the tent getting blown down the camping field. We chased it down  but the bright orange tent had to be dumped in to the nearest skip.
Rather than replace the tent, our UK trips were spent in static caravans.
In the evenings, Mum would prepare dinner, Dad would have the map out, planning the next hike and I would head out on adventures around the site with my brother. Climbing trees and wading through streams. Happy days!

It’s been many years since I’d last slept in a caravan but, for a a few days in August, I’d be spending a few days with the family in Lakeland Haven Leisure Park.
A few days before the trip I read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Oh dear, it didn’t look good! I didn’t build my hopes up.

The journey down there was interesting.
Being a family holiday which included three kids aged 5 and under, there was a lot of stuff to take. My little Abarth 124 wasn’t big enough so for the four days I drove Mum’s 2004 Renault Clio. That was a shock to the system, but on the bright side, I wasn’t going to be getting a speeding ticket!

20180817_160540On check in, it was nice to see Haven had listened to my brothers request for caravans close to each other. The kids loved running along the grass between the two.
Both caravans were spotlessly clean and surprisingly comfortable.
On the first night we stayed in the caravan and cooked  the food we’d brought with us. It was raining quite heavily so the night was spent curled up on the sofa watching Disney Dvds and playing cards.

After a decent night sleep, I rustled up some breakfast then the family went their separate ways.  While the others visited the miniature village down the road, I took the footpath just outside the Haven main entrance.20180818_121147
I walked along the coastal path to the West,  along the sheep filled marshes until I reached Cowpren Point. Here, the route headed North, eventually coming out on to a road at Sand Gate.  A track, just off the road to the left,  lead to the village of Cark where The Engine Inn provided a good refreshment stop!

Fully refreshed I headed West out of the village towards Cassen Wood.
I passed a “residents only” sign but decided that I was a resident for a few days so continued until I hit another sign stating “No access to Holker Park“. My OS map showed paths and the gate was  unlocked so I continued to the next gate, beyond which several dear were grazing.
After Googling the hall I discovered entry to the park and gardens was £8.50, which explains this second gate had been padlocked!
I wandered back the same way to Cark and took the B5278, Station Road, out of town and towards the entrance Holker Hall. I found a footpath to the right, just after the Hall gates.
My walk became a circular loop as I took the next path on the right back to Cark.
From the village it was  a straight route South, through the village of Flookburgh to the caravan.
Not quite the route I was planning but a decent 8 mile walk. The route without the dead-end is available to download as GPX.
20180818_143838

We headed back out up the road to Flookburgh in the evening. There is just the one road in/out of the holiday park and at the Flookburgh end is the Hope and Anchor, a large Robinsons pub serving food.
If you don’t want burger, the choice is limited to what  is on the special’s board.  Luckily I did fancy a burger, more precisely a Black and Blue Burger, a beef burger topped with blue cheese and black pudding. The black pud was slightly mushy  but not bad at all!

I woke to light rain the next morning.
The kids were spending the some time in the pool so I headed out for another walk, this time I would be heading East towards Grange over Sands.
I took the road out from the camp, taking a right down the road opposite the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding shop. Apart from crossing a field to cut a corner near Allithwaite, the route mostly followed quiet country roads until I reached the coastal path in to Grange over Sands.
The rain was off and on. It started again just at the time I purchased a coffee from a small stall and sat drinking outside.  To the left of me sat a family consuming pop, coffee and chocolate bars, to the right a young couple who were making their way through to large plates of beans on toast. In true English style, we all sat in the drizzle watching the world go by as if we were on a sunny terrace in Sicily.

To be honest, Grange-over-Sands isn’t hugely exciting on a damp August afternoon.  I did a quick loop at the end of town through some woods and past a garden I can see no mention of online!  After a stop at The Commodore Inn, I took a road to the North of the town back towards Allithwaite. From there, I retraced my steps back to the caravan park. I didn’t realise at the time, but I’d soon be back at this village.

The rest of the family were eating at the onsite bar/restaurant. I’d read bad reviews and wasn’t over keen on taking a meal there, also, I was back from my walk quite late on in the afternoon, they were already eating when I arrived to pick up the key.
Their meals ranged from ‘Okay’ to inedible, it seemed I’d made the right decision to eat elsewhere.
After a clean up and change of clothes, I once again, headed up the road to Cark to the furthest pub, the Rose and Crown, it was packed.
A few minutes down the road, I popped my head in to the Engine Inn, they’d stopped serving walk ins. Seems a bit daft only serving people who had pre-booked given how many free tables there were.
Back down to the Hope and Anchor, they stopped serving at 6, although the choice would have been either Sunday roast or another burger.
A quick look on Google revealed the Pheasant Inn in Allithwaite served food until 9, and I’m so glad I went there!
Sitting in the adult only conservator, my starter came in a brown bag, I unwrapped it to reveal a lovely black pudding.
Main was a very nice slab of pork belly with crackling.
8.2 mile round trip for food, I felt I’d earned this, especially after the 12 miles earlier in the day!
Happily fed and watered, I put on my head torch and wandered down the country lanes with bats zipping round me.

Back in the caravan, the others had settled down for the evening. I too climbed in to bed and got comfy under my duvet.
Not my usual camping but no complaints!

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 

 

Spot testing in Wales

My  SPOT Satellite Messenger  is a second hand Gen 2, purchased from someone who has upgraded to the Gen 3.

The SPOT is a GPS tracking device that uses the Globalstar satellite network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking.  I was about to put it through it’s paces in the Clwydian hills.

But first, lets rewind a little…..
Spot Tracker Gen 2 DeviceThe SPOT is a small (9.4 x 6.6 x 2.5 cm), light  (150g ), rugged, bright orange device.
On the front is the on/off button and three function buttons. Two other buttons are behind protective flaps. It is intuitive to use but can be awkward when wearing gloves.

The three AAA lithium batteries  are housed in a compartment  which is secured with two screws although they can be opened and closed without needing a screwdriver.

Before using it, I had to register my SPOT on their website, www.findmespot.com and pay the annual subscription fee. I also added on the tracking service (included in the Gen 3 basic subscription).
Including VAT, this set me back €164.04 (£138)

So, what was all this money getting me?
I see it a like an insurance. You pay insurance on your home, car or travel hoping you never need to use it, it’s the same with the SPOT.
If  I’m ever in trouble I can get a friend or family member to come to my aid or (if in dire need) the emergency services. Conversely, there is an ‘OK’ button so if I’m in an area where a disaster has taken place, I can let people know I’m  safe at a time when I might not be able to reach them via a mobile phone.
With these scenarios  in my mind, I used the SPOT website to set up two different profiles, each with their own set of messages. You can only set up these messages on the website, not while you’re out in the field so it’s worth taking your time writing them. All messages contain your text and your exact co-ordinates which link to both the SPOT website and Google maps

The first profile I called ‘Walking’, this would contain the details for messages sent while I was out hiking.
First, I set up the Help/Assist. This would send texts and emails to family members if I got in to trouble. I set the following text; “Some minor problem at this location I aim to contact you within the next  hour” My contacts would receive this message and if they didn’t receive a call or OK message they would know where to find me.
For Check In/Ok  I used the following text; “All OK here If you’ve received any ‘help’ messages, they can be ignored” This would be sent to the same people as the Help/Assist.
Next was a custom message, for this I entered something simple, “This is where I am today“.  The message along with the co-ordinates, would be sent to a larger circle of family and friends.

My next profile was called ‘Holiday’. The wording used in my holiday profile is slightly different, knowing family won’t be able to come to my aid if I’m thousands of miles away.

I then had to make sure the correct profile was selected As no holidays were planned, it went to Walking mode.

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There is one generic setting for SOS. If you press the SOS button, the emergency services of the country you are in are alerted via GEOS, International Emergency Response. A  message is also sent to the telephone number of your primary and secondary contacts.
An SOS message is transmitted every 5 minutes until the battery dies or it is cancelled.  Unlike the other messages the SOS message will be sent also even if the device can’t locate GPS

Now to set up the tracking by clicking on the ‘Share’ and ‘Create a Share’ links.
As I wasn’t planning any multi day hikes, I set the ‘Share GPS locations to 24 hours then shared the URL with friends and family.
You can set up several pages here and choose what to share with particular people.

website
Spot tracker in useSo now to try it out in the wild.
I parked up in the Coed Moel Famau car park, turned the SPOT on and strapped it to my arm
The power and GPS lights were flashing.
I pressed the tracking button for three seconds and it’s green light also began to flash.
I get little or no phone signal in this area so it would be a good test  for the SPOT.
It was also raining. The heavy drizzle was forecast to remain through out the day, an opportunity to see how water proof it really is!
The device should work in temps between -30C and +60C and up to altitude of 6500 meters. (A SPOT has been used on top of Mt Everest)  so it should easily withstand anything I could throw at it.

Buying egggsI headed North East from the car park and continued towards Brithdir Bach. Here, there was a clear view of the sky so I tested sending a custom message. I pressed and held the button until it flashed. I then paused to take a photo then pressed the tracking button again before heading to Bryn Alyn for some eggs!

I didn’t pay much attention to the SPOT much after that just taking the occasional glance to make sure the GPS, power and tracking lights were flashing.
It felt reasonably comfortable on my arm  over my mid layer and waterproof jacket.

It was a pleasant route covering paths I’ve not  walked previously, it was just a shame it was so wet, muddy and unseasonably chilly (for July) . The 10 mile/16km route is available as a GPX file.
When I got home I eagerly fired up the SPOT website to see how well it had recorded my route…..
……it hadn’t.
It had recorded 6 points along the way covering just two miles of the ten mile route.
I checked my email for the custom message I had sent in the field.  That hadn’t arrived either.I was disappointed when I compared the SPOT track with the track recorded on my phone using View Ranger
spot tracker
ViewRanger
Reading around it seems it doesn’t work too well under tree cover, saying that, as the maps above show, I was hardly spending the entire day under dense forest.
I also read other users carrying out a pre -walk routine of  turning Spot on at the start point, place it down with a clear view of the sky, start tracking, and then send an ok/check-in message.
Remembering the text I had used on my OK message, I didn’t want to start firing those off to various members of family, so my plan was to set up a Test profile with messages sent to only my email account.
With this new approach, I did a very quick test to track my drive to Fencing training and back. Success!
Since then, results have been mixed using it in various locations around Europe.

The real reason for purchasing the SPOT was for emergency situations and, hopefully, I’ll never have the opportunity to test that functionality but, in these days of improved phone signal I really am wondering if the subscription is worth the price when I come to renew.

In conclusion, a clever device and potentially life saving but an expensive and unreliable way of sharing locations with others.

Screenshot_2016-08-06-18-16-48
Update: annoyingly, once Spot have your credit card details, they automatically renew once your subscription expires. To cancel, you have to contact them two or three months in advance. I did this via the “Contact Us” form on their website.
Numerous emails were sent back and forth until they offered me a very good deal on the subscription. I’ve renewed for another year.
Sadly I suspect it will be more haggling again this time next year.

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.

img_2124
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!

 

Zip World

I received a gift voucher for the Velocity zip (does any one do the smaller Titan zip?!) at Zip World, Bethesda as a Christmas present and booked it for my birthday as part of a long weekend which included a trip up Snowdon.
Despite being June, it was drizzly, not particularly warm and a bit windy. I was a bit worried that the booking would have to be rescheduled, lucky, however, it went ahead.

After pulling up in the large car park, the first stop was the cabin selling coffee and bacon batches!
Registration/signing in takes place in the main building. You can also leave any keys here so they don’t get lost on the way down or cause discomfort under the safety harness.
Speaking of the safety harness….safety is emphasised through out the experience and this begins when getting kitted out. You’re allocated a time slot, at which point  you are weighed and given your jump suit, harness, helmet and goggles.
I had brought my own Go-Pro esque camera as ZipWorld provide helmets with attachments for various camera types. Just ask when getting the kit. The helmets are number, enter this in to one of the computers there and you will be emailed a personalised video of your ride.
Once in our outfit, everything is checked and cross checked by two members of staff then you head off to the first of the zip wires, the ‘Little Zipper’. Even this small zip wire was longer and faster than any I had done previously, reaching speeds of around 45mph. This acts as a confidence builder and is a good introduction to  being hooked up to the wire and the braking technique (putting your arms out at a specified point) The Little Zipper itself is great, exhilierating fun.
On reaching the bottom it was on to what resembled an old army truck for the fairly long and very bumpy drive through the quarry. Some cracking views on the way, even through the cloudy gloom. The driver provides commentary on the history of the area and points out interesting features on the way up…..it slowly starts to sink in how high the Velocity is going to be!
At the top, riders go down in pairs and a television screen allows you to watch the previous pair coming in to land.
Needless to say, when your turn comes, all your equipment is checked, cross checked and the staff make sure you know exactly when to commence braking (when you see a particular feature on the landscape)

The ride itself is awesome! Even on a damp, cloudy day the views were fantastic as they zip (excuse the pun) at around 120mph. It’s only when you feel like you’ve stopped when actually you’re doing about 50mph do you really appreciate the speed!

Definitely back on the to-do list again!!

Welcome to Black Pudding Gaiters

Welcome to Black Pudding Gaiters, an awful name that came about much pondering over what the heck to blog about (perhaps people who struggle so much shouldn’t be allowed a blog – ho hum)

Black Pudding Gaiters will feature GPX files and descriptions of walks, the occasional bike ride and details of my ongoing mission to produce the perfect black pudding!

Future plans include a ‘gear guide’ – watch this space….or our Twitter, @blackpudgaiters

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