Snow shoes Mercantour, February 2017

Fri 10th

It’s exactly 3 years since Chris and I took her last holiday to Finland where amongst lots of other things we went snow shoeing. She was so happy on that trip and we had a lovely quite magical time.
I’m still in bits and not really coping that well as yet.
I stayed last night in the Hilton at Liverpool airport and did actually sleep well. That’s something that’s slowly starting to improve as in I do sleep through sometimes now.
I’m writing this on the plane and just met my 3 companions for the week, Bridget, Pat and Graeme who are all in the row behind me.
A smooth painless flight with EasyJet. Only 2 hours. Arrived Nice at 10a.m. To be met by Mel who drove us to Berthemont which is an hour up the road.
Lovely to see him and Liz again. Pat and I are in the top gite and Bridget and Graeme in the bottom one.
Unpacked then baguette lunch with beer.
Mel showed us how to adjust the snow shoes to fit our boots and how to fit a Pogu mini crampon.
Bridget took us for a stroll round the village to warm us up. Nice in the sun.
Dinner with Mel and Liz. They showed us round the house.
Dinner – cheese twists with chilli, mozzarella salad, soup, daube (beef with orange) with polenta, roast spuds, broccoli and creamed mushrooms, custard and meringue pud. All amazingly good. Wine.

Sat 11th

My mum’s 100th birthday today.
Breakfast in the lower gite. Croissants coffee toast muesli yogurt.
Out to Le Boreon. Walked up to the Col de Salese at 2100m. Climb of about 600m. Hard work and felt v tired and out of breath as did others. Stunningly pretty and lovely.
Lunch – salad, cheese, ham, bread.
Back down with some practice at going down slopes. Dig heels in, back straight and knees bent!
About 6km or so.
Back to Berthemont. Rugby – Wales got beaten by England so Mel not a happy bunny.
Dinner – chilli popcorn, hummus, big cooked cheeses, gnocchi with fried cabbage and onion, cooked fruits with cream.

p1050553 p1050555

Graeme and Pat
Graeme and Pat
Bridget and Mel
Bridget and Mel

Sun 12th

Drive south for 45 mins. Walk up to the Cime de Roccassiera then to the ruined village of Rocca-Sparviera, looked into little chapel right up the mountain which had Templar crosses inside. Back up to the col and back down to the van.
Lunch – pasta tuna salad, boiled egg, bread, cheese.
About 13 km of distance plus 1300m of up and down. I did this walk with Liz and Mel but without the old village last time I was here in 2008. Lovely walk.
Dinner – crispy pastry things with beany inside, French onion soup, couscous with meatballs and tomato fresh sauce, choc nut fruit cream dessert. Delicious.

p1050561 p1050569 p1050575

Pat having a little rest
Old village high up the mountain
From doorway of chapel
Genuine wolf poo

Mon 13th

Out in minibus to Rimplas near Valdeblore passing ski station. Maginot line fort. Walked to La Couletta and stopped for lunch at 1400m.
Lunch – potato salad, ham, cheese, peanuts and hot apple juice in effort to reduce my post lunch heartburn. No plantar fasciitis today as on feet for much shorter time. Only 600m of up and down today. Lovely walk. Stopped in St. Martin Vesubie for Pelforth lager and small shopping.
Dinner – tapenade on crispy toast, spinach tarte, fish stew with roast potatoes, oranges with lavender. Yum.


Maginot fort
Roof in Rimplas
Roof in Rimplas

Tues 14th

To Le Boreon. Snow shoed up to Le Refuge Cougarde at 2100m. 1200m of up and down. Lunch inside refuge which was shut. Beany artichoke salad.
Graeme lost a snow shoe on way back down however Mel located it and fixed it back on.
Got a bit better at the snow shoe shuffle and the heels down descent techniques. Used the heel lifts to go uphill and the rear clips so as not to trip on steep descent.
Saw a chamois and some wolves in the wolf park just their tales.
Songs in my head
Climie Fisher – Love Changes Everything
Be Good Tanyas – Lakes of Pontchartrain
Dinner with Liz and Mel in their house – heart shaped pastry puffs, beetroot and goats cheese, pasta and sauce with beef strips, creamy fruity pudding. All fab.


Bridget, Graeme, JR and Pat


The big courgette
The big courgette

Weds 15th

Mel took us to the Tinee valley, another very steep sided valley about an hour and a quarter away. Up and up and up to Col de la Couillole at 1680m. Snow shoes to Sommet de Countent at  1990m.
Saw a black squirrel.
Back down, very hot and sunny, sloppy snow.
Tip: put pole through hole in snow basket in order to keep poles joined together and easier to use when needed comme ca.
Stopped at La Colmiane ski station at Valdeblore for Leffe beer for Mel, Graeme and me and hot choc for Bridget and Pat.
Dinner – dips, chard soup, butter chicken, basmati rice, chana dhal, lentil and potato curry with pitta. Home made coconut ice cream with melon liqueur. Yum yum.
p1050628 p1050631 p1050637 p1050640

Thurs 16th

Utelle. Gorgeous walk up to the Sanctuaire de la Madone d’Utelle. 380m up. Quite steep on last 150m to reach plateau.
Went round the church. No quality control re the art in the cloister. Heard some singing/chanting.
Stopped in Lantosque for a St. Thomas beer. Good beer.
Back at the ranch, Bridget went for a horse ride with Liz.
Final meal upstairs with Liz and Mel.
Blue cheese and walnut (their own) on toast. Pasta with truffles. Big salad with eggs, ham a la Nicoise. Pineapples with booze on. Freixenet. Stayed up late with Liz and Mel.
Band of travellers

p1050665 p1050660

The bells of Utelle
Lintel in Utelle


Door in Utelle
Door in Utelle

Fri 17th

Up at 6.30. Breakfast at 7. Left at 7.45. Had to take mountain route diversion because of landslide on main road. It was very high with vertiginous drops, OMG! Then raced along the motorway to the airport. Seemed fast after a week of pootling along.
Easy flight. Slow on motorway getting home.
How lovely it was not driving or cooking and being in a beautiful and dry place with good company!
Videos from the trip.
The holiday was run by Mel and Liz from SpaceBetween.
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.



Shropshire December 2016

This trip was booked back at the beginning of the year. We didn’t then know that it would be such a necessary time away.

Mon 5th
We were late setting off from home which meant we had quite a chunk of driving along the M6 in the dark and then Google Maps took us along lots of country roads, all gradually getting smaller and smaller.
Bush Cottage is down the end of a mile of rough track. We had to stop several times to get out and clear branches that had fallen down, then we came to the ford which luckily was low enough for us to drive across.
It’s a lovely little Landmark Trust property, tucked away and feels very remote, although in actual fact the nearest neighbours are less than half a kilometre away, and they sell logs and kindling. The ground was frozen so these may well be needed.
We unpacked quickly and then had a Spanish omelette prepared by yours truly.
Sat drinking wine next to the open fire.

Tues 6th
Got up slowly and decided to walk from the cottage to Kinlet church, about 2 and a bit kilometres away through woodland and across fields. It took a little over an hour to reach the church in the fog. A very dull day, the fog barely lifting.
We explored the church and its wildly ornate Tudor effigies. Then we had our sandwiches in the church near the organ with the heater on! We left some money for the electricity.
Returned on the same route, collecting some wood for the fire although we’re not supposed to do this. I really can’t think a small bag of old windfall wood is going to be noticed. I drove about 200m to the farm next door and bought a bag of dry logs for £4, money in the honesty box.
Later we drove up the track in thick fog and through very very thick sloppy mud to The Pheasant at Neenton. In places the fog was so thick I could only just see the road.
I had a very good tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and peas. Carol had a big beef pie with chips and veg. We sampled some local pale ales.
Back through the fog and then a slide down the muddy track. Mud has been a big feature on trips this year.

Weds 7th
Drove across to Ludlow in a weak wintry sun but actually much warmer today, double figures and very little mist.
We spent a good time checking out all the nice shops and had lunch at The Green Cafe which is near to the hydro electric bit of the River Neme. It’s named for the green and isn’t an eco cafe. Carol had beef brisket with watercress, cauliflower piccalilli and mustard mayo. The bits I tried were very good. I had butternut squash gnocchi with deep fried sage leaves and taleggio cheese and leeks. This was simply excellent and good value too.


Thurs 8th
A driving around day. First to Claverley which has 3 pubs, quite a lot for the size of the place but only one operative, to look at the church which has some ancient wall paintings. And effigies of a chap with 2 wives.
Then to Cleobury Mortimer for a look but not much happening there although the ironmongers was good. Then to Bewdley for not a lot but nice clean loos in the Medical Centre which is right by the car park, if you were in need of a hairdo then this is the place to come as you will be spoilt for choice. Home to Bush Cottage via Highly which is a long sprawly village.
It’s chicken pasta chez nous tonight.

House near the church in Claverley

Fri 9th

Home again.

Bush Cottage


Bush Cottage
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.




Gothenburg and Bruce July 2016

Thurs 21st

Easy travelling to Gatwick airport. Seemed much less hassle than getting to Heathrow by train.

At the airport I just followed the signs and the Bloc hotel is actually inside the terminal. The room is small with no window. The wet room is also small but all good fittings. The lack of a window means that it’s like a cell albeit a comfy one.
Ate my samosa and salad from M&S and settled in.
Popped down to the Wetherspoons for a bottle of craft lager from Hog’s Back brewery, very good beer but a shame about the Wetherspoons as it’s the only bar in the south terminal. I guess I could have stepped outside and gone to a hotel bar but I was too tired and didn’t.
Cath and I usually start our navigation courses at a Wetherspoons because it’s open, quiet and cheap however we want to boycott them after their Brexit campaign support so we will now be going to the Bear cafe in Todmorden instead to do the first bit with our clients.
Went to M&S again to buy my breakfast and a mini bottle of wine. This made me suddenly overwhelmed and almost sick with sadness as I’d last been in this same M&S doing much the same with Chris before we went on our holiday to Finland. I returned to my room and got a message from Gary from the Romania trip who was in the Wetherspoons (!) so we had a message chat and then I popped down for a chat with him. Nice to see him and his fingers have recovered (see Romania blog post). He works near the airport and was there because he’d worked late and missed a bus. Funny because I’d seen someone earlier who reminded me of Gary and had been thinking also about coincidental meetings.
Sunset over Gatwick
Cell Bloc
Fri 22nd
Up at 7, Bircher muesli in my cell and straight to check in. Didn’t even get patted down at security! Free double espresso from Pret a Manger and a bit of a wait. Chatted to an American medievalist as we both tried not to be assaulted by 2 plump puffins who were “amusing” the kids. She was a nice 3 minute interlude! Amazing what you can learn in a short time.
On the plane I had a window seat next to Simon who did a lot of talking but was nice and funny and clever. So 2 nice, sensible people to amuse me!
Smooth flight, met Simon’s partner and friend who were seated further along. They were nice too!
The luggage took a while to come and mine was almost last off the conveyor belt.
Got some money with my Revolut card, bought a travel ticket for the city not a City Card and got on the bus.
About half an hour to the city. The stop is just a big bus park. A few minutes to orientate myself. I’d worked out I needed a number 3 tram so was pleased to see one straight away. I got on and followed my map, getting off about 6 mins walk from Tidbloms hotel. It’s in a quiet residential area. The hotel is on a hill so although the room was first floor it was actually the ground floor at the back. This meant that with the windows open (very hot here) it felt a bit exposed. Also a dark gloomy room.
Set out to the official alcohol shop to buy some beer for while I’m here. Not too expensive. 3 cans for £3.50.
Then supermarket for bottles of water. Back to hotel thinking about asking for a new room. Hungry so got a tram to go to the Haga area. It passed the Elite Plaza hotel and Steven van Zandt was outside with a few fans. I got off at the next stop but just missed him by 30 secs. Talked to a couple of Finnish women. Bruce is travelling back from Dublin where he’s been with daughter Jessica and a horse competition (she is top horse person) in his own jet, not Ryanair! I got back on the tram to Jarntorget which was a bit rough (old winos) so moved on to Haga which is an old, quiet nice area. Found a lovely restaurant, En Deli Haga and sat outside with a selection of salads. Less than £10 but the beer was £7. Walked to a better tram stop to return to Tidbloms hotel.
I asked for a different room so now on 3rd floor at front. It’s a better room, lighter, some road noise. Although the rooms are non smoking there is a lot of smoking going on on next door’s balcony but at least I can leave the windows open and mostly the wind wafts it away.
If it helps!
If it helps!
Sat 23rd
Excellent breakfast. Strong coffee, fresh orange juice, home made granolas and mueslis with pouring yoghurt and berry compote. Cold cuts, cheeses, hard boiled eggs with mayo and dill, lots of different breads, salads, hot food. I didn’t have the egg or the hot food.
Out on tram to Botanical Gardens, these are lovely. The city has lots of trees and suffers from litter as do most cities but the gardens were fine as is the area my hotel is in, mostly residential. On the way I stopped at Stevie’s hotel but no sign of him or anyone else.
Through the gardens via the scenic viewpoint route. Met English couple who have FOS (front of stage) tickets so they don’t have to queue all day in roasting sun for the pit. Bet they cost a packet. Then into nature reserve which is the forest and lakes and heathland in the city. Extraordinarily quiet, not loads of people. Walked around for a couple of hours then back to Botanical Gardens for an open cheese sandwich on rye with salad on top and an espresso. Excellent. Then an ice cream before heading back to prep for Bruce.
Tram to the Ullevi stadium a few stops away. The ticket I bought on Greasy Lake from Josef Mahmood got me into the lounge. This is a posh restaurant where you pay more for strong drinks because the ordinary folk are only allowed to have 3% beer. Despite this one man had managed to drink so much he couldn’t stand and he dropped one of his £7 beers all over the poor man in front of me. I’ve met some very nice Bruce fans but I often seem to end up at the gig with one or two total knobs nearby. Pissed up git was with man with enormously long arms which spoilt the view when he was clapping. He was well over 6′ tall so his arms stretched out that far too.
Before the gig I had a veggie wrap but it wasn’t very nice.
When you go in the lounge you get a wristband to show you can have strong liquor but you’re not allowed out again (can’t imagine why this could be a problem seeing as you clearly have the wristband) however I sweet talked several staff in my vain search for a 23rd July t shirt. Went on the pitch and out of stadium and got let back in!
Bruce started with Meet me in the city then did the whole of The River and then another hour and a half of solid R&R, not many ballads. No Patti. It was perhaps a good thing it wasn’t too emotional a show. I’m quite capable of doing that without Bruce. It’s still very odd doing something like this without Chris who is with me in my heart all the time. It’s just not the same, my love.
My favourites were:
She’s the one, my video on YouTube

The crowd were crazy even before the band came on. Bruce didn’t do any requests, no Sunny Day with kid thank god, but got several people up for Dancing in the Dark. Finished with Twist and Shout, no quiet solo last song for us. Bruce clearly nowhere near retirement! It was VERY LOUD. They were selling ear plugs and rain ponchos!

After buying a shirt I walked back to the hotel about half an hour away. At first a little unsure about doing this on my own but kept usual eyes in back of head and kept to lit streets. Lots of people around. Late to bed!

Nature reserve
Nature reserve
Nature reserve
Nature reserve
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
From Botanical Gardens
From Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
Hotel stairs
Hotel stairs
Nature reserve
Nature reserve
Nature reserve
Nature reserve


Bruce and Stevie
Bruce and Stevie




One side said "Welcome Home" and my side said "Bruce and E Street". The people in front of me are holding up the papers to make the sign.
One side said “Welcome Home” and my side said “Bruce and E Street”. The people in front of me are holding up the papers to make the sign.
Panorama Ullevi
Fireflies phones



Nature reserve
Nature reserve
Goteborg by night
Goteborg by night


Sun 24th

Got up just in time for a shower and breakfast.

Out on tram for about half an hour to Saltholmen for the ferry to Vrango. Straight into big queue for boat but no trouble getting on. Direct boat no stops. Lovely sea breeze. Just under an hour. Island is small and has surprising number of houses. No cars allowed so people are on foot, on bikes with trailers in front or behind, electric golf carts and 2 stroke bikes with trailers behind or in front.

There are 2 cafes, one is entirely fish and the other ok but not brilliant. I walked a circuit of the island through a naturist area which was lovely and not a naked person in sight! Bought an ice cream from a man selling them from his garden.  Used a compost loo, not as nice as the Finnish one we went to. Found a bit of sea all to myself so had a paddle.

The land on the island and in the nature reserve in the town is largely glacial. Lots of big humpy bits (roche moutonees).

Back to village and harbour. Saw the fishermen’s sheds I nearly stayed in (until I realised I might not get back there after Bruce). Went to cafe, had not very good blueberry cheesecake.

Back on stopping ferry. Trams. Very very hot. Hotel.  shower. Walked to nearby pub Olstugan Tullen. Had vegan chick pea patty with roasted parsnips and carrots and salad. And soya mayo. Big glass of lager!

Hotel. Ice. Beer. Fan.

There are lots of bikes, they look quite heavy, step through and old fashioned. Some have kids in front of them in a sort of motorbike sidecar thing except in front.

There are a lot of very tiny dogs I guess chihuahuas. They have a fenced off poo park to go in and no poo on the streets and the dog area is clean too.

Man buns. Oh no! A lot of beards. And some face tattoos, they make the man buns look good.

Slow boat
Fast boat
The Stena boat kept popping out from behind little islands
Big boat! The Stena boat kept popping out from behind little islands
A life on the ocean wave


House on Vrango
House on Vrango
Boat for Chris
Boat for Chris


Not a naturist to be found!
Not a naturist to be found!




Entrance to cemetery on Vrango
Entrance to cemetery on Vrango
Donkey bikes!!
Donkey bikes!!

Mon 25th

Got up late only just in time for breakfast. I’m going to try making my own granola as so much nicer.

Packed up and checked out. Tram to central station and managed to heft my suitcase into a locker above my head height so not easy as now seems to be twice as heavy and full although what with I can’t think. Not really bought anything.

Went on ye olde fashioned Liseberg tram for a round trip (free on my travel card). Took half an hour. Rammed all the way to Liseberg funfair then just me all the way back.

Another tram to Haga area where I wandered. A bit more open and busy than Fri evening. Nice shops, nice cafes. Stopped for a while at one. Resisted the famous cinnamon roll because it’s massive, the size of a dinner plate. People next to me shared 2 between 5 but didn’t eat them all. Smelled amazing though. There was a big dalecarlian horse.

Back on my last tram to central station. I loved the trams! The travel pass is very good value, I went everywhere including the return trip on the boat for under £15 on the 3 day pass. Collected bags and chatted to man who has seen Bruce 167 times. How is that possible in time to take, in money? He is self employed. His partner has only seen Bruce 3 times because they’ve been together 2 years and she only goes to nice places!

Bus to airport. Check in and security all fine. Small amount of shopping. Long queue for passports. Wait to get on bus. 15 min wait on bus not moving. Drive to plane 10 more minutes not moving. Onto plane more time waiting. Smooth flight. Bobbie the bear films. Plane in holding pattern prior to landing.

All easy at Gatwick. Checked into room with window. No extra cost and all because I said I didn’t like the lack of window when they asked for my feedback. M&S for supper wine and breakfast.

On ye olde tram
On ye olde tram
Ye olde tram
Ye olde tram
Something very similar to these in Nice
Something very similar to these in Nice
On ye olde tram
On ye olde tram
Window view!
Window view!
Bloc hotel with window
Bloc hotel with window
Big dala horse
Big dala horse
Even when it didn't have a line through, I still found this the most baffling sign
Even when it didn’t have a line through, I still found this the most baffling sign

Tues 26th

Granola yoghurt and berry compote. Nowhere near as nice as Tidbloms Hotel’s. Going to try making my own granola.

Problem with fire at place controlling electrics for all trains from and to airport. Got onto first one. Crowded so standing and v uncomfortable. More people got on at Croyden so even worse hell. I hate being in contact with people and they probably do too. One woman was closer than my optician or dentist and accidentally touched my face as she got off. Totally hideous and I’m fit and healthy, would be awful if not. I feel a complaint coming on.

Had a cheese and tomato croissant with my espresso from Patisserie Valerie at King’s Cross to recover. Could do better but the coffee was fine.

Rest of journey all to plan. Home again, jiggety jig.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.






Romania 2016

Fri/Sat 13th/14th May


All the trains behaved well. Sowerby Bridge to Leeds to King’s Cross to Hatton Cross tube about 4.5 hours.  A woman on train talked to me whilst she sewed crocheted flowers onto a large white bra! Walked 6 mins to Hilton Garden hotel. It has very little garden. My room was surprisingly spacious but no free slippers!
I had some M&S salad, drank some beer and some wine. You can buy food and drink in the little shop at regular prices and put them in the ex-minibar fridge. Slept ok but the room only had air con and no opening windows so I was either too hot or too cold.
Despite my booking saying no breakfast I got a free one including real coffee. Walked back to the tube and got on a free bus to Terminal 4. Had a free coffee and then rather a lot of waiting. My trip through Security was extensive as usual. I did the walk through then a 360 degree all over body scanner then a full body pat down and lastly a footwear scan and bio sample, at least I think it was. You’ll be glad to know I was then in the clear.
Pootled about the shops and had a good goat’s cheese and beetroot salad in Carluccio’s as had spent no money up to that point!
At last I got on the Tarom plane, sitting with other Exodus passengers, Camilla and Julie and a Romanian woman, Adriana who works for the British Embassy. Talked with them all, didn’t even read my book. Smooth flight. I had the “special” meal which was a surprise as I’d forgotten I’d ordered veggie food. It was pasta in a white sauce and fruit washed down with Romanian bear beer.
Reached Bucharest at 6pm UK time. They are 2 hours ahead so we reached Villa Hermani in Magura at nearly midnight. Thomas the Exodus guide is ex German army. We got into a big minibus and drove for 3 hours. Felt terribly tired on arrival. but Herman gave us all a shot of fiery plum schnapps.
C and J and I have rooms in the annexe. There was an initial mix up with keys. They are now in the room with 2 beds and I am in one with one bed, I also have a balcony. At night there is a lot of dog barking because in the mountains every one keeps a dog and they all live outdoors. I will find out if they have kennels as it’s quite cold here. Lovely clean air.
Little Ted and the Hungarian bear beer
Little Ted and the Hungarian bear beer
Tarom plane
Tarom plane
Carluccio salad
Carluccio salad


Sun 15th May
Woke early when the sun came up. Read a bit then a lovely hot shower. The dogs live in kennels, unfortunately right outside my window! Villa Hermani has 4 dogs, I think.
Breakfast. Some slightly fizzy pale juice. Lots of coffee. Cinnamonny lemony dense porridge with fruit and yoghurt. Rye bread with very good butter straight from the churn. Lots of cheeses, cured meats and sweet things. Also houmous, fishy spread and salmon.
Made up sandwiches for lunch. Houmous and cheese on rye, separate.
Katherina did intros. She is German and Herman is Romanian. She is also an expert on large carnivores and previously did lots of research into them.
The group is:
Camilla and Julie who are in the annexe with me
Anne and George from Macclesfield
Marion from HK
Karin from Vancouver
Julia from London
Katy from Oz
Jackie from Dartford
Sue from E. Yorkshire
John from Glasgow
We set off. It was chilly in the wind and hot in the sun so quite a bit of on and off. Walked to Pestera along rutted roads and across meadows with Alpine flowers.
Stopped for lunch at the pub in Pestera. This was a large empty room with only one customer, very basic, more like a village hall. We ate outside. Some brave souls used the loo at the rear. Thomas warned us to be careful around wild dogs i.e. Those that work with shepherds.
We then went to the bat cave. This was a foul place because of the human detritus and we didn’t see any bats!
Bimbled our way back to the Villa Hermani. Passed a house from which some frantic folk music was coming out. Boot cleaning under the outdoor tap.
Having a little lie down. Can just hear the music of the cow bells.
Bucegi Beer.
Dinner of parsnip soup, celeriac fritter, braised carrots and rice. Had taste of chicken sauce but strong and heavy. I’m glad I opted veggie as simply not in the mood to eat meat every day. Pudding of stewed apple and set cold custard.
Palinca shot (strong plum schnapps).
Dog chorus.
View from my balcony
View from my balcony
Hay stack
Hay stack
Typical village house
Typical village house


It's a bear!
It’s a bear!
The bane of my nights
The bane of my nights


Mon 16th May
Wet wet wet.
In the minibuses to the National Park info centre which was shut, as was the cafe opposite. I’d worked it up as an espresso possibility. Addiction denied.
We walked up to the orthodox monastery of Coitul Chilulor at 1134m. We were accompanied by a large shaggy brown dog for most of the walk. At the monastery we had herbal tea and marble cake. We continued up to a small shrine set in the rock. Back down to the monastery for our sandwich lunch. On the walk back down there were wild dogs roaming so we stayed together. Thomas spoke to them and they stayed away. Our shaggy friend helped to protect us.
Back to the road to be picked up by Katherina and Herman.
My room still had no heat despite the fact that everyone else was warm but finally it got sorted and I was able to warm up and dry off.
Early dinner at 3.30! Celeriac soup. Beef tomatoes stuffed with polenta. Apple cake.
4.30 into buses for drive to bear hide. Seems longer than an hour. A robust discussion about Rob and Helen in The Archers. Eventually stop and walk across the teeming, spouting stream to the hide.
Immediately we see a bear and over the course of 2 hours another 7 or so, possibly some repeats. Several young ones and some large. We are quite good at keeping quiet. The bears linger over the lure (biscuits and corn) for quite some time. Two cubs came along and one was a delight trying to get up onto a rock and falling back down like a toddler.
Very cold, damp and uncomfortable in the hide. Glad to be back in the warmth of the bus.
Neustadt beer and a shot of plum schnapps. The dogs are noisy tonight.
Shaggy dog
Shaggy dog



First bear, window still a bit steamed up
First bear, window still a bit steamed up








Tues 17th May
Fabulous day of Karst scenery on circular route. A bit over 14km. First part in buses then walked through the gorge passing where a scene from Cold Mountain was shot then up onto a plateau. Snow on the big tops. Lunch at La Table. Through mountain meadows. A bit damp at first and cold with a few snow flakes. Then warm in the sun on the way back to Magura. Lovely day on good paths. Height about 1450m.
Typical Romanian dinner of nettle soup, stuffed cabbage leaves with polenta and sliced tomatoes and sour cream, cake made with courgette and a little choc, very good.
Katherina showed us a 2001 BBC documentary about Transylvania and Living with Predators. She then talked about her work on the large carnivores research project and how things have changed since the film was made. She is responsible for the introduction of bear hides as responsible tourism and improving the welfare of the bears and the people of Brasov. All most impressive.
A couple of beers. Neumarkt and Bucegi.



Villa Hermani
Villa Hermani



It be pirate day!
It be pirate day!



Magura church
Magura church
So pretty!
So pretty!
Weds 18th May
Too much snow for the very high mountain. In buses to Poaina Brasov ski resort. Cable car to Postavanu at 1799m. Snowy and v cold. Down the path to Cabana Postavanu for fab choc and rum cake and an espresso at last! Nice old Alpine pub. Down a bit more to a flattish bit at Sub Teleferic for lunch (very short intervals between feeds!)
Down the red ski slope a bit more (this is a medium rating for skiers and steep enough for feet on grass) to another pub, the Rossignol. Home made lemonade very delicious. Back to the buses and home.
Vegetable soup
Cauli in batter with garlic sauce
Creamed potato
Green salad
Shortbread cake with plum purée therein.
2 Bucegi.
Hoar frost on top of Poaina Brasov
Hoar frost on top of  Postavanu
In the pub
In the pub
Inside the pub
Inside the pub
Thurs 19th May
No sleep because of bloody dogs barking all night. The bugger had the cheek to be asleep when I got up. And then a very long day.
Left at 9.30 in the buses to Brasov. Thomas gave us a very informative tour of the town. Black church, Orthodox Church, synagogue, bullet holes from 1989 revolution.
Coffee with Thomas and Nick and Marion.
Got money with my prepaid card. Ate my lunch on a bench in the square. To market which was just a supermarket. Back to synagogue which was shut but not supposed to be.
To Art Nouveau cafe for a drink. George and Anne turned up. Had lovely lemonade. Thomas arrived.
Got more money.
Then it was 5.15 so we went to the buses, met Udo. Off to man made lakes to look at birds with Dan from Transylvania University. He is expert in ornithology amongst other things. Saw a marsh harrier and several types of heron.
Back to Brasov to Roata Norocului  (Wheel of Fortune) restaurant. Too noisy the minute we walked in. Loud and modern. The live music was dire.
Karin had an amusing time in the loos. No need for signs on the doors here! Couple that with a wayward cleaner confusing the protocols!
Small creamed veg soup and bread.
Pork schnitzel with ham, cheese and mushroom. Cabbage salad. Chips. Ciuc beer. Light Silva beer. All for less than £9.
Too full and headachey from the awful racket. Bloody dogs better be quiet.
Some lovely singing on the way back with Udo from Julie and the girls!
At the birdy place
These looked fun
Art Nouveau cafe
Bird watching
Bullets from the revolution
Banca Transylvania
Fri 20th May
Up early. In buses to Libearty the bear sanctuary. A rather short whiz round with guide. Terrible stories of cruelty.
Nice walk through the meadows to Vulcan where the priest gave us tea, coffee, schnapps and a sort of pancake made by putting the cake mix round a piece of wood and turning it slowly so it didn’t burn.
As we got back in the bus I slammed the door shut on Gary’s finger. A bit of blood but seemingly no bones broken or lasting damage. I couldn’t possibly have seen from where I was that there was a digit in the door.
Drive to Bran and went round castle. Nice castle but full of tourists and masses of tourist tat. Not very relaxing.
Into the horse drawn carriages to ride for just over an hour to the bottom of the long hill. It rained towards the end. Pleasant way to travel, even over the bumps.
In the buses to get up the hill.
Dinner of barbecued meats and salads. Asparagus for veggies. Ice cream. Thomas shocked to see me eating meat. He wore his full traditional gear, hand made by his grandmother.  Very smart.
Settle up bills. I didn’t have enough money and got subs from Jackie and Sue.
Karin and her new friend







Carting about
Bran castle
Church dog posing
Thomas in full regalia
Uwe the priest
Camera man
Ready for the off
Sat 21st May
Woke at 5.30, bugger, too early.
On the minibus seeing further half finished but occupied buildings. Communist buildings, even a power plant returning to nature, not demolished.
We got to the airport and then had to get on with check in. Farewells to Karin, Anne and George and John who are all doing slightly different things.
No problems with security this time.
Not much time left to do any shopping after passport control so onto the plane, smooth flight but a somewhat bumpy landing.
Got straight onto the tube, remembered just at the right time that I had to go via Manchester on my ticket. Empty train from Euston but a bit chilly. Crossed Manc on the tram and home from Victoria. Carol had ordered me a taxi from Elland Cabs but stupid driver took me a really long and expensive way home so I won’t be using them again.
Nice to be home.


Villa Hermani
Villa Hermani
Mountains over Magura
Magura church
Camilla and Herman
Camilla and Herman

Link to Julia’s photos on Flickr:
Romania 14-21 May 2016//

Top 3 Tips for hiking
1 Footwear is as important as the tyres on a car, keep your boots clean and proofed and carry a spare pair of laces.
2 Water is more vital than food, think clean maybe use a filter bottle like Water2Go or a bladder. Keep bladder clean between trips by sterilising using e.g. Steradent tablets or Milton solution, rinse out thoroughly and keep in the freezer.
3 If it moves, tie it down. I’ve lost maps and poles by not having them properly attached. Fix your compass and map to your body/clothing using whatever works best for you, mini carabiner clips and bootlaces are good.
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.



Ceredigion Coast Path day 3. New Quay to Aberaeron. No mud! 

I’m doing this walk to raise money for research into amyloidosis. My JustGiving page.

Got going at 7.30 and arrived in Aberaeron at 11.30. A stone hit my windscreen but not in my field of vision so hope it will get through the MOT next year. There was a lot of football going on so the car park was full but I got in the next one. This one didn’t want my coins and all this took so long I had to get the bus an hour later.

It turned out I could have parked at The Feathers Royal Hotel but hey ho will remember that idea for next time. I went to La Cuccina which is old Italian cafe. Quite old fashioned. I had an espresso and a large bakewell tart.

I got on the bus, 20 mins later arrived in New Quay and set off on the CCP again.

The first stretch goes along the shingle beach. A scary notice said the beach was impassable at high tide. It looked high but not that high and I could see people on the beach so decided to do it. I had no phone signal in New Quay so couldn’t check my tides app.

It was hard work on the shingle for about a kilometre and I was glad to get off it. The tide came up a little but not enough to cut anyone off plus you could always run up a dune.

The path left the sea for a bit and I popped into St. Ina’s church which was plain but wonderfully positioned.

Back on the path I bimbled along to Aberaeron.

I saw a lot of people at first all with dogs and then no one at all until I reached the town. I was able to keep up a good speed because the path was bone dry. It took me just over 3 and a quarter hours to reach Aberaeron about 6.5 miles.

It started warm and sunny then went cloudy. I had too many things for cold weather (we had over an inch of snow yesterday) and winter boots to deal with mud. The forecast yesterday had been for cold and wet. Hard to get it right.

The Feathers is fine and nice and quiet. I’ve had pate followed by chicken and chips for dinner with Peroni. Bit stuffed so waiting for it to go down before I head out to the nightlife of downtown Aberaeron.

Ye Olde Taxi Cab
Just get to the end before the tide is high
St. Ina’s and bluebells

Aberaeron harbour
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.


1st Stage of the CCP, postscript

Hotel Penwig breakfast was very good. A small cooked veggie breakfast was 2 sausages, tasty ones, 2 poached eggs, also tasty and beans. Weak coffee.

Went off to book a 2 hour dolphin boat trip and had a Grumpy Mule coffee from a fish and chip shop before going to the boat. At last a nice cup of coffee. I’m sure there is good coffee to be had along the coast but the hotel trade makes a habit of weak breakfast coffee for no apparent reason and no excuse these days when the fish and chip shop is able to do it.

Got chatting to nice family from Manchester whilst waiting for the boat. A fellow blogger. We were only a handful on the boat which I liked as we could spread out and move about. Not a dolphin in sight. Oh well will have to come back. Lovely day to be on the sea and great to see most of my walk yesterday. The boat turned at Llangranog. We did see seals and loads of sea birds.


This is George
This is George


Full boat
Full boat

P1040691 P1040661

Back to New Quay. Up the road to the bus. I’d asked directions at the pub earlier which I heard as “next to the greenhouse” but was meant as “next to the green house” and took me a while to realise. Still tired I guess. My car was still at the college car park, free because half term. Nice to be reunited with shoes not caked and crusted in Mud. Tesco then Borth to visit Chris for a couple of days.

The path, the Mud

IMG_0351 IMG_0352 IMG_0321 IMG_0353

This section of tarmac started in the middle and ended quite soon after
This section of tarmac started in the middle and ended quite soon after


Lovely dry path
Lovely dry path


When I come back for the rest of the path I will do shorter mileages.

There are several converted railway carriages along the way. Must have been a lot of bother to get them sited. And then they are probably quite cold to live in.

IMG_0345 IMG_0347 IMG_0358 IMG_0296


Inevitable really
Inevitable really

IMG_0306 IMG_0327 IMG_0367 P1040623

Start of the walk
Start of the walk

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.


CCP Day 2. Aberporth to New Quay. More mud

I’m doing this walk to raise money for research into amyloidosis. My JustGiving page.

I know Chris would have liked to do this walk as it’s by the coast that she knows so well and goes past her favourite camping spot at Mwnt. I miss walking with you my trusty companero, my darling best friend.

Croissant then sausage and tomatoes for breakfast. I didn’t eat the fried bread as it was not fried in butter. Coffee was a bit weak. I set off at 9.30 as it was a bit further to go today. 10 hours later I reached New Quay. Ow! From Aberporth the path goes to Tresaith, it’s Tarmac most of the way, lulling me into a false sense of confidence. Espresso at Tresaith but horrible. Then back to Mud to reach Penbryn. Stopped for expensive almond and plum tart at The Plump Tart. I thought she was quite well rounded but a bit stingy on the portion she gave me.

img_0335 img_0355

Then to Llangranog where I was already thinking of throwing in the towel but no buses so no choice but to continue. It would have been sensible to stop here but I didn’t know how bad the paths would be. Thick clay Mud weighs down the boots and slows you down. Plus there are a lot of ups and downs on the route. A lot. I chatted to some Ramblers’ volunteers doing path work near Llangranog.


img_0349-1 img_0376-1 img_0363-1 img_0361img_0381
The weather was fab, the views were stunning but I worried about reaching New Quay before dark. I rang the hotel from Cwmtydu to say I would be late. No problem. I passed a couple of walkers doing the whole path. We all talked Mud.
I got so tired I could barely put one foot in front of the other. It was so good to see New Quay.

Didn’t see any Dolphins but saw horses, a kite, a jay, a rabbit, sheep oh and some Mud.

Hotel Penwig room is fine. Biscuits! They all go to Carol! Supper of chicken and bacon linguine so hungry it barely touched the sides. Choc crunch tart. Half of Brains bitter. Half of Rev James Gold.

Lying down. May be able to crawl to bathroom.

Today my song was Bruce One Step Up (and two steps back).

There will be a postscript when I get home and load up pictures from my camera.

These 2 days have been terrific scenery but hard work. I’ve renamed it the Ceredigion Mud Bath.

JustGiving: Walk Ceredigion Coast Path for UCL because we need to research much more about amyloidosis.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.