Romania 2016

Fri/Sat 13th/14th May

Travelling

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
Waiting
Waiting
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
Nick
Karin from Vancouver
Julia from London
Katy from Oz
Jackie from Dartford
Sue from E. Yorkshire
Gary
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

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

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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

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

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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.
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Villa Hermani
Villa Hermani

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It be pirate day!
It be pirate day!

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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.
Dinner
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!
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At the birdy place
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These looked fun
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Art Nouveau cafe
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Bird watching
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Bullets from the revolution
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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.
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Karin and her new friend

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Carting about
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Bran castle
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Thomas
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Church dog posing
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Thomas in full regalia
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Uwe the priest
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Camera man
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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
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Mountains over Magura
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Magura church
Camilla and Herman
Camilla and Herman

Link to Julia’s photos on Flickr:
Romania 14-21 May 2016//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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.

MAPandCOMPASS

 

Archaeology of North Wales – Mountain Leader CPD

Saturday 19th September

I arrived at Cefn Cae campsite in Rowen at 6.50, it only took 2 hours and 20 mins to get there. I had just enough time and light to get the tent up and my dinner cooked. I had a Look What We Found meal with rice cooked up in my Jetboil. The campsite cost £13 for the night and was a newly certificated Caravan and Camping Club site, it was very clean and well looked after. They operate an honesty system for buying quite an extensive range of supplies and I didn’t have to pay extra for a shower.

After dark, I read my book for a while. The stars were amazing and I could see the Milky Way.

Moon on Tay y Fan
Moon on Tal y Fan

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Dawn on Tal y Fan
Dawn on Tal y Fan

Sunday 20th September

I’ve never really managed to sleep properly in a tent but this wasn’t too bad. I was warm enough especially with my little blanket. It was cold in the night and there was a heavy dew when I gave up sleep about 5.30. I had a cup of tea and then 2 cups of coffee and my breakfast of granola and yoghurt. I got to see the red dawn on Tal y Fan which was wonderful.

I packed up and drove up to Caer Rhun Roman fort (Canovium). There’s not a right lot to see, don’t be misled by the photo on the website, but the church is nice although it wasn’t open.

Then I met up with the group in the lay-by down the road. Jane Kenney is a senior archaeologist from the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. The workshop is part of the CPD made available to members of the Mountain Training Association. The requirement is for 5 CPD points over 5 years and this is my second point since gaining the ML.

10 of us in the group. We got into 3 cars and drove up to a small car park some way above Rowen. We set off and the first thing to look at was the Roman road.

We then looked at long huts (rectangular), cairns with cists, hut circles, standing stones, a burnt mound and then a very good stone circle where we stopped for lunch. Jane was very good at getting us to look more closely at the structures and how to interpret them. She also didn’t try to give us all the answers as there is a lot that is not known and subjective but she clearly has a great breadth of knowledge. We then moved on past a reservoir and up to a slate quarry which is hidden away. Then it was time to head back passing 2 very prominent burial chambers, back onto the Roman road again and another stone circle just near the car park.

Fabulous, informative day with an expert. And a bargain to boot!

Last year’s walk.

We got back to lay-by around 5.15 and I got home at 7.45.

Burial chamber
Maen y bardd burial chamber
Church at Caerhun, sitting on the Roman fort
Church at Caerhun, sitting on the Roman fort
I think this is a green man
I think this is a green man
Big standing stone
Big standing stone
And another, not quite so huge
And another, not quite so huge
A cist
A cist
Very cheeky pony
Very cheeky pony
Stone circle
Stone circle
Another big standing stone
Another big standing stone
A peat house for storing peat
A peat house for storing peat
Burial chamber, marked on map as such
Burial chamber, marked on map as such
Burial chamber but not prominently marked on map
Maen y bardd burial chamber
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Stanza Stones Trail 30th August 2015

I forgot to make myself coffee. My biggest mistake of the day!

Cath and B and I met up at Hebden Bridge station with our cars at 7.40. Cath drove us to Marsden and we set off at 9.00 at a brisk pace to ascend Pule Hill and see the first of the Stanza Stones. Our walk was a reccy for a walk Cath is leading for the Walk and Ride Festival so we needed to check the projected timings and keep up the pace.

We headed north to the Pennine Way and the A640. Across White Hill and then to the rubbish dump on the A672. Cath was very incensed by this and took a photo. I have reported it. On my 3 drives along Turvin Road there was some fly tipping and this has also been reported.

Across the M62 and then to Blackstone Edge where we stopped for our lunch. Across the A58 and into the White House for drinks. The half way point. I had a coffee which seemed fine, a very inky black espresso. About half an hour later I started feeling queasy and this continued until the next day.

We reached the next Stanza Stone and then it was on to Stoodley Pike. Had a bit of a rest there. Then the last leg back to Hebden and along the canal to the station. I’m quite impressed that I managed it whilst feeling hideous but there wasn’t really a choice.

Into my car and back to Marsden for Cath and B. Then back to my house where I was able to be sick.

Despite my ailments we had a great day, legs were fine. 2 days later I’m still right off coffee and being careful as to what I eat.

Very official looking sign but the only one we saw right at the end of the day
Very official looking sign but the only one we saw right at the end of the day
Cath on the way up Pule Hill
Cath on the way up Pule Hill
First Stanza Stone
First Stanza Stone
Blackstone Edge
Blackstone Edge
Second Stanza Stone
Second Stanza Stone
Water board detritus
Water board detritus
Warland reservoir
Warland reservoir

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The blooming heather
The blooming heather
B and Cath
B and Cath
Stoodley Pike, last stretch
Stoodley Pike, last stretch
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Pyrenees August 2015

Friday 7th August
Carol clearly not well so took her to the GP. She knew she had a blood infection because this happened 2 years ago. Both her kidney consultant and our GP are on hols. Came away with a letter to admit her to St James’s via A&E. She slept most of the way. Terrible access at A&E so I had to say goodbye to her in the car park. Went and finished off at work then home for last bits of packing. C insisted I continue with my holiday but it felt odd and a bit crap. She got IV antibiotics started up that evening.

Saturday 8th August

Woke at 4.50 a.m. My taxi arrived early (good job as they never turned up for my trip to Hadrian’s Wall). As I got out at the station I realised I’d left my phone on charge. Luckily I’d allowed loads of time in case the taxi cocked up so we raced back and I picked it up, also turned a light off!
After that all the trains were ok until Nimes. My first time at St. Pancras International. Very busy and airport like. Picked up all my remaining tickets for the trip. After composting my ticket I got a rigorous twice over at security. British passport control then French.
Sat next to an Irish woman who talked the entire way to Paris to her pal. I think she was either a lawyer or an accountant. Some very interesting insights into Kids’ Co., charities and corruption. So interesting I stopped reading!
Paris was warm and smelly and the Metro to the Gare du Lyon even warmer and smellier but mercifully quick.
I’d bought my tickets for the Metro on Eurostar which helped. A wee for 80 cents and my hall of departure had changed by the time I came out. I passed a man with a foot long lizard in a cat box, then 2 separate women with cats in cat boxes who all got onto my train. Also a great many children in a chaperoned party were getting into my carriage but they were down and I was up on the double decker train. Air con, a seat to myself and I was whizzing through the flatlands of grain production for all those baguettes. Lots of water towers. A dull day weather wise.
Less than an hour from Paris the plains give way to forested undulations. Contours at last! Horses, Charolais cows. A bit of wet.
Train stopped at Valence and I thought of beds. Then Nimes.
A passenger required medical attention so we stopped for 50 mins. I had only 30 mins to make my connection from Montpellier. But on arrival in Montpellier there were no more trains to Toulouse. After much too rapid French I found they were trying to get me into a hotel in Montpellier! I explained I had to be in Toulouse at 10 in the morning so the controller got me a taxi to get me to the 10 pm train from Narbonne. Ok but it takes 1 hr 15 mins and we only had 45 mins. He tried. It was dark, wet and we shot along the motorway pushing other cars off the road. The driver fiddled with his phone all the way and all to the accompaniment of first bad rap, second football on the radio at way too many decibels. I asked him to go more slowly and not to use phone to no avail. No train waiting for me at Narbonne so the controller there filled a paper form in triplicate for my taxi to take me to Toulouse. He told me there were no hotels free in Narbonne, just as well because it wasn’t my plan to stay there either. I arrived in Toulouse only 1 hr 40 mins after the train would have! Despite being a menace to life the driver carried my bag, asked if I was ok and took me to my hotel (he was only authorised to take me to the station) and spoke a little English. I found it hard to do fast French and speak French very well under stress.
Hotel Mermoz lovely. Fell into bed with 2 paracetamols. It cost me £25 and some Avios I collected.
On the Eurostar
On the Eurostar
Gare du Lyon
Gare du Lyon
Sunday 9th August
After breakfast I checked out and walked 10 minutes to the railway station. Francois who is the guide for the week picked me up and drove me to Ax les Thermes. About 2 hours drive. Vast swathes of sunflowers being grown. I checked into La Grande Cordee. My room is in the annexe which is at the back on the 2nd floor away from the quite busy road. It’s plain but comfortable.
I went into the town, bought bottled water and had a look round. Most things shut because it was Sunday. Back with the heavy water (not the bomb making sort) then out again to do a self guided walk of the town and all the hot springs and spas. The water goes up to 74C in temp. Very, very hot just coming out of fountains and making steam as it flows into the river. It’s not used for hot water for the inhabitants because there isn’t enough pressure but they do use it to keep the roads and pavements clear of snow.
A demi pression and back to the hotel for the meeting of the group with Francois. We are 14. There are 2 other groups staying. Some of them haven’t read the instructions and don’t have boots, waterproofs or rucksacks. Francois directed them to the shops!
Dinner of salad with duck in it. Then duck kebab with roast spuds and ratatouille. I have an omelette as not keen on duck. Bread and wine. I pass on the creme brûlée although my favourite as have decided to quit refined sugar where possible. Ha bloody ha!
There is a man on the next table who looks like he’s stepped out of a Tintin story, he is short and plump, has a bald head, sideburns and a splendid moustache like the Thompson Twins and a beard.
Either the Ariege or the Oriege
Either the Ariege or the Oriege

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The meeting of the Ariege and the Oriege rivers
The meeting of the Ariege and the Oriege rivers
Hot hot water meets cold
Hot hot water meets cold
Hot hot hot
Hot hot hot

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Church being used for exhibition of "art"
Church being used for exhibition of “art”

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Monday 10th August
7.30 Breakfast of bread, cheese, croissant and coffee. The French are drinking huge bowls of coffee. I had forgotten this.
Set off at 8.45 in minibuses. Quite cool. Francois drove us a few kilometres up out of Ax to the Col du Chioula. We stop 1.5k past it at a big junction of paths at 1360m. Climb up to Rocher de Scaramus at 1868m. Gascon cattle, black Merens horses, goats, a marmot, griffon vultures and a bearded vulture. The bearded vultures need 500 sq km to lord over. Lovely walk with long lunch. Lentil salad in our boxes. Francois produced sausage, cheese, wine and coffee out of his bag! Cheese was lovely. Lots of info re geology and history. 8 or 9km. Followed it all on the map.
Back at 4.30. Into town but the thermal baths were very busy so I went for beer instead. Also I was hot enough.
Back at the hotel I rang Carol who says she will be in hospital for 5 weeks. Bugger.
Dinner of gazpacho with cheesy thing, salmon bake and apple pie. Very nice and yes I broke my resolution! After this holiday then!
Merens horses
Merens horses

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Gascon cattle
Gascon cattle

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I think this is Fredy
Fredy
Symbol of Comte de Foix
Symbol of Comte de Foix
Dent d'Orlu
Dent d’Orlu

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Inside St. Vincent's church
Inside St. Vincent’s church
St. Vincent's
St. Vincent’s
Tuesday 11th August
Col de Pailheres 1965m
Pic de Tarbezou. GR78. 2340m
Another lovely day. Francois drove us to the col and we climbed the peak. Fabulous 360 degree views across the whole Pyrenean range. Saw a royal eagle AKA golden eagle. Also griffon vultures. Down 200m to one of 4 lakes for lunch of tabbouleh, bread, cheese. We were with the other group most of the time. David the other group leader asked me to spot from the back for a while. They all know I am ML in the UK.
It was very hot so I stayed off the wine. It was still hard to get back up the 200m.
F explained about peat bogs – tourbe and tourbiere. I told him about sphagnum moss as a WW1 wound dressing from Dartmoor.
The group is made up of  5 married couples and 4 solo people. Mostly professionals. Lawyer, marketing consultant, research doctor, state psychologist.
I went to the thermal baths in all the rooms. All the names are in Latin just like at Hard Knot fort but without the Lake District weather!
Beer at different bar and getting more expensive every day!
Dinner of Greek salad with yoghurt, tartiflette – potato with jambon and cheese, tartelette au citron.
All lovely.
Slide show from F with pics of bears, wolves, foxes, deer, pine marten. Who knew that these are related to bears?
Late to bed at 11pm.

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Very big bird
Very big bird

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Reminded me of Tryfan
Reminded me of Tryfan

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Cairns
Cairns
Wednesday 12th August
Merens 1070m.
F drove us to Merens-les-Vals where he lives and parked outside his house. The walk was up through the forest for 700 m so at least in the shade but steep in parts. We collected dry beech wood on the way. Came out to a pasture with a shepherd’s hut/refuge/bothy at the Col de Joux at 1702m. A large herd of cows with bells and 2 big bugger bulls on the col.
F and David quickly got the fire going. We handed over our potatoes in foil already cooked so just for warming. Tomato salad to start, bread, baked potato, sausage like a Cumberland sausage in shape ,melted Camembert a bit strong for me so F gave me the mountain cheese we’ve been eating. Then cep mushrooms collected by Guy who is mushroom expert but who doesn’t eat them! And a little chocolate. And wine.
Then back down on the GR 107 to Merens. Saw a lizard. Lots of grasshoppers or are they crickets?
Out for a beer by the fountain, the most expensive so far.
Back for dinner – starter of green salad with cooked meats. I didn’t fancy cod so had a nice garlicky creamed spinach with carrots and Bulgur wheat. Choc dessert.
Valerie and I went into town to see a live street performance. Funny.
One of the "papas"
One of the “papas”

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Fredy outside the bothy
Fredy outside the bothy
Guy looking for a frying pan
Guy looking for a frying pan

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Francois and David cooking our lunch
Francois and David cooking our lunch

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Looking across to Scaramus

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Our group
Our group -1
Francois took this by accident but I liked it
Francois took this by accident but I liked it
Very old church in Merens-les-Vals
Very old church in Merens-les-Vals
Francois
Francois
Street artist
Street artist
Thursday 13th August
Out at 8.30 on foot to see the Vierge and then a circular tour of the villages around Ax because lots of thunder and at one point it went very dark and then rained a lot for a little while. A very humid day. I ended up as wet as Bruce doing a show.
Lunch of tuna, rice, sweet corn, chick peas salad, bread, cheese, wine by the side of the path.
Back early. Out to look at shops. Beer in square. Marie-Odile joined me. Grimbergen for me and Cro Mignon a local bottled beer for her.
Dinner of tomato pastry, duck on menu again so they gave me vegetable quiche without egg, green beans and cheesy pasta followed by tiramisu but lovely, usually I don’t like it.
The group is made up professionals and retired people. Pascale is a painter and has painted rooms for a prince of Saudi Arabia and Yves St Laurent. Janine was a nurse. Valerie is a psychologist. Marie-Odile is research doctor into organisations management. These are the people I’ve had the most conversations with in our Franglais.
Virgin who looks after Ax-les-Thermes from her Disney tower
Virgin who looks after Ax-les-Thermes from her Disney tower

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Reservoir for hydro electric system
Reservoir for hydro electric system
It went really dark before the storm broke
It went really dark before the storm broke
Orgeix
Orgeix
Family with over laden donkey who didn't want to go down the steep path
Family with over laden donkey who didn’t want to go down the steep path
Old mill
Old mill

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David and group
David and group
Marie-Odile and the local beer
Marie-Odile and the local beer
Summer house in the town
Summer house in the town
Friday 14th August
Just a croissant and a small bowl of granola with yoghurt and apple for breakfast.
Raining a lot so off in the minibus to Merens-les-Vals. Through the village, off the main road, past the municipal camping and up up up to park the minibus. Adrien a trainee mountain leader joined us. I talked to him a bit.
We went up 300m to the Etang de Comte (de Foix) but it was foggy and wet. We could have been in Scotland or Wales. We stopped at the black horses on the way, 2 of them belong to Francois, one is an old girl of 28 and the other is 16. He put down salt for them to supplement their diet. We only stayed out for 4 hrs as so wet.
Back to the hotel to change and eat our picnic at the table. Pasta salad, bread, wine, cheese. And a slice of chicken.
I nearly fell asleep but decided not to waste my time so set off for the telepherique. €7 for aller et retour. I went up to the station and chatted to a French couple on the way.
Tried to find the first path down but it was overgrown. Aimed for the second and found it. Mainly a bike route so very steep and muddy in parts with deep channels, hard work. Got down 700m and back to the hotel in 2 hours.
Very glad I am now a lot more fit and a lot more confident in navigating and in walking. The overall level of the walks we did were not anything I wouldn’t have attempted solo at home so I didn’t really need a guide however Francois did give the added history and information about the Ariege, the Pyrenees that I would have found it harder to obtain, plus it was quite fun being amongst a very French experience. He also made the walks fun and interesting. I would love to do the International Mountain Leader but it’s expensive and would take up an awful lot of time that I don’t have at the moment. And there are probably some other skills that I might struggle with.
I got down from my shower to find our group had gathered with complimentary peach wine, goats cheese nibbles and olives and Tacos. Francois forgot to tell me but it was ok. It was the only major thing he forgot to translate for me. I will forgive him because he is normally so charming!!
Dinner, toast with strong garlic spread and Italian type ham, dish like bouillabaisse without rice and with fish, mussels, chorizo, pimentos. Tasty. Discovered that mussels are ok! Chocolate muffin which was a bit heavy.
Lots of kissing because most are leaving tomorrow. Janine threw herself into this activity!
Lovely people and lovely time.

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Never seen so many capes and ponchos
Never seen so many capes and ponchos

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Florence
Florence
Francois
Francois
Attending to the horses
Attending to the horses
It could be Loch Ness
It could be Loch Ness
Looking down to Ax-les-Thermes
Looking down to Ax-les-Thermes
Saturday 15th August
The large group of cyclists who arrived yesterday made a huge amount of noise at 2.30 in the morning. I couldn’t get back to sleep so read my book.
Thankfully they were only here for the night. I hope they all fall off their bikes and get punctures. They broke the lift and knocked over all the plant pots. I gave one of them the filthiest look I could manage. All our party was displeased with them. Selfish load of louts we think from Holland. Farewell to most of the party.
Marie-Odile and I walked along the Oriege to Orlu and then the Forge d’Orlu to the Maison des Loups.  Saw a group of 4 Arctic wolves, a group of 7 Euro wolves and some cubs hiding behind a tree. They got fed raw chicken. Also it’s a family farm so there are chickens, sheep, goats, kids, piglets in close proximity.
We had lunch in the cafe at the park. M-O had cheese salad and I had cheese and mixed meats salad. Very good.
Then walked back to Ax, total of 18km or 11 miles.
On return M-O found she had lost her wallet portefeuille but luckily it was in the cafeso they rang her. The hotel then lent her their car so she could collect it. Very worrying for her. But great that it worked out ok.
I bought some bread, cheese, tomato for my lunch the next day.
Later met up with M-O for dinner. We went to a quiet, calm, small resto called L’Aparte.
Cold beetroot soup, excellent light courgette tarts with salad, lovely small choc pud. Quarter bottle of white wine. Great idea, just the right amount.
Very pleasant evening. I think we were both tired because we both tried hard to communicate in French and English.

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Wood store above
Wood store above
And another
And another
Les loups
Les loups

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This scraggy old git is the Alpha male
Happy stranger with kids
Happy stranger with kids

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Trying on a white outfit
Orgeix
Orgeix
Marie-Odile
Marie-Odile
More wood
More wood
Sunday 16th August
Breakfast and farewell to Marie-Odile. I finished squashing my gear into the 80l holdall from KE Adventures which I then strapped to its folding wheels/trolley. Mathieu picked me up at 11 and drove me back to Toulouse railway station. He was very interesting to listen to (he spoke a lot of English) and told me all about being a Mountain Leader in France, being an avalanche rescue person with an avalanche rescue dog and ski patroller. All sounds a lot harder and more intense than our awards which were not a walk in the park.
I put the holdall into the left luggage at Toulouse, got bossed around by a rather strict woman there. Then off to Tourist Info. I decided to buy a 24hr City Pass which covered all transport and some attractions. Straight onto the Metro, then onto a tram which I got off at the stop I’d been told to. Thank goodness for Google maps as it was the wrong stop. I walked for a hot 15 mins and arrived at the Roman Amphitheatre. It’s been restored using the famous pink Toulouse bricks. Did the Romans have these? I sort of doubt it but I may be doing them a disservice. Anyway there’s not much there apart from some old obviously Roman stones and big hole. There’s a copy of a statue of Minerva and some picnic tables. I sat at one in the shade and ate my provisions purchased the evening before. Very pleasant.
Then back to the centre on the tram and Metro. I got off near to the river and headed for the Bateaux Toulousains. They told me to come back a little later so I ate an ice cream from a boy with a bicycle powered wagon and then got in the queue. I wanted to be sure to get under the awning for some shade on the boat. I managed to sit near the speaker so was well blasted for the next hour and a quarter, nowhere else to go as the boat was full. The commentary bore very little relation to the English translation sheet I was given, which also bore little relation to English like what she is spoke! The trip was a bit dull, the Pont Neuf was really the highlight. We went into an old lock, out again, along a bit, turned round and then back through the lock. The main landmarks are at a distance from the Garonne. But it kept me cool for a while. There was a man living in a tent by the side of the canal.
I popped into the Jacobins convent which was especially huge as had no furniture in it. Lots of light. Glorious building.
Then went to find a beer and settled for a Kronenbourg. Wandered round a bit more looking for a corner shop. Phone call to Carol then decided to have a salad in the Van Gogh restaurant with real linen. It was very nice and I’m glad I did. Set off for the station, stopping to buy a couple of provisions for the night. Collected my holdall, scary woman no longer there. Waited for a while. Got onto train, I was first into my compartment. Turned down the heating controls. First problem there is nowhere to put a big holdall, definitely won’t fit under bunk 1 of 3. No room in bike store as full of bikes. Shove it down the end of my bunk thus reducing the space for me. 4 other women turned up eventually and everyone just said “Bonsoir” and that was it. Someone turned the light out and shut the door. Very limited headroom so hard to undress but so hot I took my top off. Felt terribly squashed. All the others had done the same with their bags. At some point later another person joined us. Later still someone opened the door and shut it from outside for no particular reason. Then I got cold so put my shirt back on, then colder so actually got into the sleeping bag thing. Gave up at about 6a.m. and got dressed and up. Train arrived at Paris Austerlitz at 6.50. In 1942, Jews in Paris were rounded up and taken from Austerlitz to Auschwitz. This is video of sleeping compartment from the website I used to plan the trip, the Man in Seat Sixty-One.
View from my room
View from my room
Roman amphitheatre
Roman amphitheatre
Repairs with Toulouse bricks
Repairs with Toulouse bricks
Minerva
Minerva
Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf
Hole to allow flow of water during times of flood
Hole to allow flow of water during times of flood
Jacobins convent
Jacobins convent

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Street signs bilingual
Street signs bilingual
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Jacobins convent

IMG_0719 IMG_0720 IMG_0727

The Capitole
The Capitole
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Never forget

IMG_0733

Monday 17th August
I got straight onto the Metro to the Gare du Nord just a few stops away. Went through passport control French, passport control UK, security and into the departure lounge thinking it would be like St. Pancras with shops and cafes but it wasn’t. I had a not nice espresso with a not nice croissant. And then found a nice espresso round the corner so had a second. Plugged in my phone, got in queue and onto Eurostar. Smooth journey to St. P. Across the street to King’s Cross and back to Leeds, then to Sowerby Bridge, then taxi home. Home by 2.30. Got myself a bit sorted and off to see Carol in St. James’s.
The Seine from the Metro
The Seine from the Metro
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

West Wales July 2015

Saturday 4th July

Chris and I waited for the clouds to blow away. We eventually drove off from Borth and got to Mwnt where it was at least not raining and the sun popped in every now and then. We’d had some falafel and hummous on the way to keep us going.

On arrival at the campsite, we tried to pay up but no-one was in so we got Chris’s tent up. It’s very spacious and well constructed by Vango. By then time was marching on so we went into Cardigan to the Grosvenor for chicken Caesar for me and Chris had fish with ratatouille. Both meals were very nice and we washed them down with Doom Bar beer.

After dinner, we drove up the coast a little and stopped to watch the sun go down along with some keen photographers who set up their tripods and did a lot of fiddling. This will be me one day.

Then it was back to the campsite and I set up my tarp and bivvy combo. Well now I’ve really looked at the pictures I can see I didn’t get this right at all. The idea with the tarp is that you use your walking poles as the poles (to reduce weight). This part went ok and I managed to stay dry all night as did my book and my shoes even though there was a lot of rain. But I didn’t get the tarp taut enough and it needed guy ropes. It didn’t come with guy ropes which is a serious error on the part of the manufacturer Rab as it ‘s not a cheap item so really they are being tight fisted here. All the photos of the Element Solo in action show it being used with guy ropes so I’ve got some on order now. The tarp acts as a flysheet and then I get myself and my sleeping bag and my mat into the bivvy bag which is a waterproof bag.

I drank rum and read some more of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, good book but it will end in tears, I haven’t yet finished it. It was amazing feeling all sleepy under the stars and seeing the moon through the end of the tarp. It was less good hearing a thumping base which it turned out was about 3 miles away.

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Sunset in Cardigan
IMG_0442
The mwnt at about 11pm
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Boat in the bay
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Chris in the enormous palatial tent

Sunday 5th July

I woke up early and went up the Mwnt to see the views, someone was making sand patterns on the beach. I also looked in the church which was peaceful. Got back to the campsite just in time to brew up and then the heavens opened again. We sat it out and then packed up the wet gear. First breakfast of fruit and granola in the car. We paid up which was when we found out about the distant noisy party.

We parked in the National Trust car park and visited the kiosk on the path to the beach, hot chocolate and freshly baked Welsh cakes for breakfast no. 2.

Just about missed the next downpour and then off to Llanerchaeron to make further good use of our National Trust memberships. Lunch first, Chris had a ploughman’s and I had a frittata. Yum yum!

We went round the walled gardens and met a nice cat. Then back to Borth where Chris made my supper of pasta and veg and sauce. Yum, yum yum!

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The tarp with bivvy bag
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Bring me my dinner!
Chris with a nice friendly pussy!
Chris with a nice friendly pussy!
To the garden
To the garden
A water lily for Claude Monet (Carol in that hat)
A water lily for Claude Monet (Carol in that hat)
Apple trees espaliered
Apple trees espaliered
Flowers for Chris
Flowers for Chris
Not sure I have the time to do this
Not sure I have the time to do this
The mwnt at Mwnt
The mwnt at Mwnt
On the beach
On the beach
Looking north from Mwnt
Looking north from Mwnt
Our campsite
Our campsite
Cardigan island
Cardigan island
Sunset at Borth
Sunset at Borth

 

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

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Aberaeron and Llanerchaeron 19th April

A racing weekend with Chris.
Saturday night
Out to Machynlleth to see O’Hooley and Tidow who were on good form.
Sunday
A spot of gardening
PetsRUs to get supplies for Patcho and Jim the psycho.
Aberaeron for a wander to find a cafe, we ended up in the Celtic Cafe fish restaurant. Chris had a tuna baguette and I had a tuna toastie. Mine wasn’t very nice really.
Llanerchaeron for a wander round a nice old house, we were the last visitors of the day so had the place to ourselves. They made the phone ring when we went in the study so I picked it up and had a conversation with a clever recorded message.
National Trust shop for more plants for Chris.
Kate and Dels for dinner. Chicken pie and spuds and creamed spinach followed by choc brownie and ice cream and sticky pistachio dessert, possibly I have missed something out there! Delish!
A sort of typical Chris and Jak outing where we did as much as we possibly could. It was lovely to be out and about and doing things.
Both a bit cream crackered!

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Sunset at Borth

 

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Aberaeron

 

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Aberaeron

 

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Llanerchaeron

 

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In the courtyard at Llanerchaeron

 

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Llanerchaeron

 

 

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

MAPandCOMPASS

Wall to wall Hadrian April 2015

Mon 6th April

As part of my job I’ve been taking some online courses called MOOCs (massive open online course). I did a very good one from Newcastle University on Hadrian’s Wall with FutureLearn for free.
You get to translate Roman tablets and identity objects. I’ve also done some very poor courses with FutureLearn but you don’t have to stick with it if you don’t want to.
It got me interested in the path and it looked like a walk with a lot of extra interest and lots of scenery. It’s also a test to see if I really can do 4 long days of walking and therefore will be able to do my Pyrenean trip in August.
The taxi I’d booked didn’t arrive so I drove to the station and parked in sight of a camera. Three trains were all fine. Chatted to a young Austrian woman who was on her way to Hawick to volunteer on a farm for a week and then coming back down to be an equine apprentice in the Midlands.
Walked to Ashleigh House B&B which is near my start of the Hadrian’s Wall Path (HWP). It’s probably 2* and frequented by builders but my room is clean.
Dinner in Pizza Express. I have a Peroni and a light pizza which is where they cut out the middle and fill it with salad. I can’t eat huge pizzas anymore. Also some roasted tomatoes and coleslaw on the side. Finish with fruity tea and a tiny piece of lemon posset crunch. Very nice.
Back to my room to take things in and out of bags.

 

Tues 7th April
Off to meet some Romans.
Breakfast of poached egg and tomato, and marmalade on toast.
Set off at 9. My first HWP sign directs me over the River Eden across the memorial bridge into Rickerby Park. Lovely park full of dogs and their companions. Rickerby village is des res. Over the M6 into Linstock, along the river to Crosby. A little girl had set up a roadside stall so I bought some juice for 30p. Start to see farm names relating to the wall. The first section of vallum (big ditch) and Bleatarn (Roman quarry) now  full of reeds and bulrushes. Various honesty boxes along the way but have plenty of supplies. The path goes along lots of farmland, mainly sheep but some cows (well behaved). Also sections of road all very quiet. At Swainsteads the path crosses a tributary of the river Irthing with a weir.
I had my lunch at Walton sitting on a bench. On the road to cross King Water which also feeds the Irthing. Here there is a temporary road section of the HWP which looks like it’s a very long temporary. Just here is the first real section of wall but I missed it because of the diversion. I met a solo female American and had a chat. Just after Howgill I met 2 Northumberland National Park Rangers in a truck. They asked me about the condition of the path. First real climb up Craggle Hill for good views back west and south. At Hare Hill the first proper bit of wall. Quite high. Into Banks. Nice chat with woman doing her garden. Arrived 3.50 at Quarryside B&B which is lovely. Proper good welcome with tea and cake (skipped this) and biscuits. Nice room. Lovely hot shower. They will drive me to the pub 5 miles away and the pub will drive me back! Love this.
I saw 4 parties of wall walkers. 3 non UK girls with gigantic rucksacks, 2 UK women, 2 women and a man and the American.
Nice drive with David to the Belted Will Inn in Hallbankgate (Belted Will is taken from Walter Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel, a reference to William Howard of Naworth Castle which we drove past just after Lanercost Priory). This is the family that built Castle Howard.
Another great welcome in the pub. Sweet potato, chick pea and spinach curry with rice, nan bread and salad. Good grub washed down with Thwaites’ Wainwright beer. I have to wait for Steve the chef to take me back at 9. I had a bit of a headache so the nice bar woman has rung David to come and get me sooner. Her suggestion.
Sheets and blankets!
15 miles, 24km

 

Largest chunk of wall height wise
Largest chunk of wall height wise

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The acorn, where's the blasted acorn?
The acorn, where’s the blasted acorn?
One for Carol
One for Carol
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Tower at Rickerby
M6 weirdly looking a bit quiet
M6 weirdly looking a bit quiet
River Irthing
River Irthing

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Vallum
Vallum
I saw a lot of these sleepy lambs
I saw a lot of these sleepy lambs
Old Carlisle airport opposite the new one
Old Carlisle airport opposite the new one

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Weds 8th April
Breakfast of poached eggs and beans while Elizabeth frantically makes toast to counteract a planned electricity outtage. Chat with 2 American women who are the support for a group of 19 walkers. They are all from RAF Lakenheath which I know well.
I set off at 9.25 and quickly reach my first turret. There are quite a few of these and 2 to each milecastle. Stop at Birdoswald for half an hour. Quite a lot of actual wall in this section.
Ghost boy. Strange little boy all on his own who looked like he had cancer holding a gate open. Then moments later another one who looked like him but smaller who then completely disappeared. I even looked to see where he had gone.
Cross the river Irthing which has a steel bridge brought in by helicopter. Through Gilsland crossing the railway line and then again at Greenhead. This morning at breakfast there were 2 men on the HWP. We leapfrogged for a while. I saw them when I stopped for lunch by a stream and one of them had a bad back and had to get his pack transported. I saw them again at Walltown Quarry and then later was waved at by someone being rescued in a Sea King helicopter which came right over my head. Don’t know if it was him.
First real ascent to Walltown Crags after Walltown Quarry. Frogs doing trigamy on path.
Lots of wall in such a difficult place. My back of a fag packet (mental arithmetic because haven’t smoked for nearly 15 years, hooray, best thing I ever did) calculation gets wall construction to 50 metres a day and it was 5m high which I thought could only be possible with vast quantities of slave labour, but apparently this is incorrect and it was auxiliary soldiers who did the work.
Along to Aesica fort which is really just a farm. Chat to woman who lives in Norfok and tells me the hardest bit is to come. Thanks. Today’s walk much tougher as a) muscles tired after yesterday b) much warmer and c) harder terrain with ups and downs. Down to Burnhead where there is a B&B. This would have been a sensible place to stop! It’s next to Cawfield Quarry (all the quarries are Roman and are now ponds), more mating frogs. Along the vallum to Caw Gap. Then some ups and downs to trig point at 345m where I meet my American pals from breakfast. Their party is 2.5 miles behind. I can see both my B&B and the Twice Brewed pub at Once Brewed from here. That last mile I fantasised about frothing tankards admittedly more likely in Bavaria! Val from the B&B rings me. Arrive at pub at 5.55, long hard day.
Twice Brewed beer is good. Eat a big bowl of pasta while drinking the Blonde beer waiting for my lift. It’s ok and I manage to eat it all.  The non bad back man turned up at the pub.
Two Belgians with beards tell me Val is here to take me to Gibbs Hill Farm.
Val is 71 and is in a pickup. My first time in one. Gibbs Hill Farm is about a mile from the wall. Boots off outside. My room is large and comfortable. Long hot shower then down for a bottle of Becks. Long chat with David. He is in the middle of lambing. This means a month of 20 hour days. He has 600 sheep. Twins are inside and singles are outside. They own huge swathes of land from the wall to the forest and to the lough but it’s poor land. 32 miles to get round it. Used to be lots of staff and horses but now it’s bikes. He tells me lambs don’t try very hard to live! As well as the farm there is the B&B, the 3 holiday cottages and the bunkhouse. In the summer the wall is solid with hikers so I’m glad I am here now with just a few hikers and a few day trippers. Keep following the acorns (National Trail symbol). The HWP is very well marked and maintained so the Northumbria National Park rangers are doing a good job. Also relatively litter free.
When David gets time off he goes across to the Lakes and has done 70 Wainwrights.
My dad would have been 101 today.
13 miles, 21km

 

Little Ted on his first turret
Little Ted on his first turret

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Walltown Quarry
Walltown Quarry

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Thirlwall Castle
Thirlwall Castle

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I've got to get to the far end of that today!
I’ve got to get to the far end of that today!

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I was disturbed by the big hole in the roof and the washing on the line
I was disturbed by the big hole in the roof and the washing on the line

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Birdoswald
Birdoswald
River Irthing
River Irthing
Birdoswald
Milecastle
Wall
Wall
And another turret
And another turret

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My first turret
My first turret
Thurs 9th April
Breakfast with the bearded Belgians. I’m not usually mad keen on beards but theirs are quite fun. One has a long but neat beard. I give the shorter bearded Belgian some sun cream.
We all get a lift back to the HWP at Steel Rigg and set off at 9.50. I go for a more relaxed pace although there is a teenage lad running up the hills like a puppy.
Up and down to Housesteads. A couple drop their National Trust card and I run to return it to them, could do with the boy for this. Pretty section through Scotch pines overlooking Broomlee Lough. I get in for nothing at Housesteads with my NT card. There are portaloos which are horrid and I wish I hadn’t bothered. Report the lack of hand cleaner to the staff. Eat choc ice cream. Quick trot round the fort. Came here a long, long time ago on a family holiday. Possibly as much as 50 years ago. I really cannot believe I am even saying that! Still some Ministry of Works labelling in place but a lack of apostrophes even then.
Say hello to the American walking group. They were 19 yesterday but today are only 10.
More ups and downs to Sewingshields Crags. Take the Americans’ photo and forget to ask them to take mine.  Chat with an HWP volunteer who is knocking down molehills and picking up litter although he says the path is not too bad and this is so but it is early in the years for hikers.
I have my lunch in a turret.
From this point on it’s down, down and then along the side of the road, not actually on it, some wall in between. This part is a bit dull, about 3 miles.
Across the road to the Temple of Mithras which also rings a very strong bell that I have been there before. I don’t bother with Procolotia fort as it looks to be lots of grassy mounds.
Back across the road and along to Limestone Corner. This is a Roman quarry where stone has been cut but then abandoned.
Down to the road, along a bit and then to Greencarts farm, arrive about 4.25.
Sandra is Val’s pal so I give her Val’s message and we are off to a good start. I have the whole bunkhouse to myself. It’s ok, but the floors are a bit grubby. First have to make my bed which is hard when I feel so tired. Second is to have a shower but I have to use the campsite ones as the bunkhouse one is being repaired so I am very glad I brought my flip flops as it’s all a bit old and grubby but my towels and sheets are all very clean.
Sandra drives me to the pub, the Crown in Humshaugh (said Humshoff). This is the best meal so far. Grilled chicken with couscous done with herbs and broccoli and red cabbage. Washed down with Blaydon Brick beer. Sandra picks me up and back we go. Huge hare in the field next to the farm.
Today’s walk was 10 miles. I’ve decided that as I’ve now walked all the exciting bits of wall and done all the ups and downs that I will have an easy day tomorrow. It’s 19 miles from here to my last stop at Heddon-on-the-Wall although they would be easy miles they look to be a bit dull. I have a plan.
Everything is signposted in miles on the ground and on one of my maps. I find it quite hard to think in miles for walking purposes as all my maps are metric.
10 miles, 16km

 

In Temple of Mithras
In Temple of Mithras
Start of the day
Start of the day
Milecastle
Milecastle

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Sycamore gap
Sycamore gap
And on and on
And on and on
Down to Broomlee Lough
Down to Broomlee Lough

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And on
And on
And on
And on
Bottom of an arch
Bottom of an arch
And on
And on
Soggy Temple of Mithras
Soggy Temple of Mithras
Mithraic detail
Mithraic detail
Fri 10th April
It was odd sleeping in a bunk bed without Chris being in the one above!
I had asked for poached eggs for breakfast but got 2 small fried ones with the edges cut off which S was trying to palm off as poached. Sandra friendly etc. but the place was too grubby for me to want to come here again.
Walk to Chesters and happy memories of being in the bathhouse with Carol! Nice English Heritage coffee and shortbread. Sandra  suggested that I walk the dismtld rly (my favourite OS abbreviation!) to Hexham so I leave Chesters and go into Chollerford and cross the Tyne over a nice 18th C bridge. Along a permissive path to the Roman bridge abutment for the east side of the river looking across to Chesters. It’s an extensive structure and very clear in the water. I tried the old railway line but it was hard going, overgrown and soggy. Gave up at a private land sign to retrace my steps. Along the road a bit still on the HWP but no acorns or signs at all. Thought about looking at Brunton turret but instead got the bus to Hexham. The bus was 2 minutes late. Hexham is a bit tired and I wanted to leave almost immediately as I just didn’t want to be in a town. Went to tourist info and ran into the bearded Belgians from Ghent again. Their walk to Wark (said as in park) yesterday had been hard.
Back to the bus station. Nice chat with old man who reminded me of dear Dave, I’m a pushover for twinkly eyes! Bus to Corbridge was 10 minutes late.  Corbridge is a nice old village. Off to the Roman town which is 15 minutes walk from the centre. It’s our own Pompeii! Ice cream in the sun. Back to the village to wait for bus to Heddon-on-the-Wall. Bus was 7 minutes late. Get off at the Three Tuns. The barman says Houghton North Farm is 500m along the road. Off I trot, it is a bit more than that. Pass a bus stop I could have got off at next to the hostel. Paula is very welcoming and this really is a nice clean hostel. I have a bunk room I can lock all to myself. My bed not a bunk is already made up. The kitchen is next door and a skinny man is cooking several tons of pasta for 9 serious skinny cyclists who are in a race tomorrow. They are Wiggins level apparently.
Paula recommends the Swan. After I’ve sorted myself out and had a nice shower it’s off to the pub. I measure the distance back to the Three Tuns because I am quite obsessive and it is 800m.
The Swan is mainly a carvery. I opt for a pint, a whole pint of Doom Bar, veg lasagne and Eton Mess. It’s all ok but the beer is the best!
Back along and then take the footpath next to the hostel signed Military Road half a mile. I can’t see it at all because crops growing on it.
Back to the hostel. Despite planning not to walk much I’ve knocked up loads of miles which wasn’t the plan at all. My feet are quite good this evening. Am very grateful to Mandy for my birthday arnica salve which has saved my feet.
14 miles, 23 km

 

Corbridge
Corbridge

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Hypercaust
Hypercaust
Ministry of Works managed an apostrophe
Ministry of Works managed an apostrophe
Bath house at Chesters
Bath house at Chesters
The fog is not on the Tyne
The fog is not on the Tyne
Bridge foundations
Bridge foundations
Bridge over the Tyne at Chollerford
Bridge over the Tyne at Chollerford
Art deco flicks
Art deco flicks
Hexham Abbey
Hexham Abbey
Corbridge Roman town
Corbridge Roman town
Sat 11th April
Very glad no ailments on this trip – no blisters, no cuts, no bruises, no insect bites. Just slight headache because of not drinking enough which was soon remedied. Very pleased with what I’ve done. It got easier each day. Still slept badly everywhere. But I like waking early and the early mornings are the best part of day for me. Bruce song accompanying me on the trip in my head was Further on up the road. Of course.

 

 

Breakfast was a bit bonkers with the cyclists but pleasantly overlooked by Paula who made sure everyone had what they wanted. Surprise to see the 2 American women again. 12 of the 19 air force men finished the walk. They rushed off.
The Express bus got me into Newcastle. I recognised Eldon Square, decided to spend 20 minutes in the big M&S and had a coffee. Then onto the Metro to Central Station and into my First Class seat to Leeds (£1 extra). My car was still at Sowerby Bridge station much to my relief. Home before 2pm. Always funny to see how much further on the plants are in just a few days. Feels like weeks!

 

Gear, kit and tips
Planning was done using:

 

Maps:
National Trail 1:40K strip map, basic but despite the metric scale also shows exactly how many miles you’ve walked, good for detail of services available.
Harvey’s 1:40K strip map, showed better contour detail. I had the 2 maps on either side of a case so that I could quickly get the different but equally useful bits of information.
At no point did I need a compass. It would have been possible to do the whole walk without a map but you would also lose a lot of the historical detail.

 

I used a baggage service, Walkers’ Bags, to take my holdall to each destination. This was efficient and cheap, cost £7 per day.

 

Because the weather was so stunningly good I was able to ditch my waterproof jacket and trousers after the first day. I took:
Medium sized rucksack
Trekking poles (only used on one day)
Bladder for water (essential), I used about 1.5 litres each day, drink lots before you leave your accommodation.
Small first aid and emergency kit, Compeed essential here, I didn’t have to use it but if there’s a hint of a possible blister, you need to be able to deal with it. Sunscreen also essential.
Snacks, I ate a couple of energy bars each day, one mid morning and one as I started to flag near the end of each walk with a big hill looming! I didn’t eat much else but made up for it in the pubs.
Camera
Lightweight summer boots
Summer walking trousers
Short sleeve merino top
A sun hat, mine is a baseball cap with a foreign legion flap, I don’t care how stupid I look and I can always tuck the flap away and look almost normal if the sun isn’t shining on my neck.
Long sleeve merino top (merino lessens the terrible smells which you get with synthetic clothes)
Light weight warm synthetic jacket
Last but not least, a small Mountain Rescue bear, who has his own ruddy Facebook page! You will find him on Facebook by searching for Little Ted.

 

In the holdall:
Change of clothes
Wash kit
Arnica salve, this kept my feet in one piece, lovely stuff from Neal’s Yard
Books
Supplies of snacks, energy bars etc. I had far too many of these.
Extra layers because I thought it might easily be cold and wet!
I walked the walk I wanted to do, I didn’t stick strictly to the Hadrian’s Wall Path which starts at Bowness on Solway and goes to Wallsend. Once I had got onto the path at Carlisle though I did stick to it rigidly and followed it as far as Chollerford. It all went really well and I have a great sense of achievement plus I think the Pyrenees trip is now possible.

 

Please support the National Amyloidosis Centre
Lots of people decide to do big things, runs and walks and climbs and raise money for charity. I managed to not spend all the money I took with me so I’ve decided to donate £2 for every mile I covered to the National Amyloidosis Centre. Those of you who know me will understand why I’m doing this and I would urge anyone who has enjoyed this blog post to donate to the NAC. Amyloidosis is a hideous illness and is rare and thus needs more research, please support them and University College London to find out more and so be able to treat patients like my dearest friend.

 

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

MAPandCOMPASS

Norway April 2013 and Bruce

Weds 24th April

Chris arrived at our house and we set off smartly and on time.
Everything went smoothly at Manchester airport.  I was very thoroughly checked over in security, it felt as if most of what I was wearing had to come off and the scanner went up and down about 3 or 4 times. Just as well I don’t fly very often. We got a free sample of Beefeater gin so Chris bought a plastic litre bottle of it for £13 and some sunglasses and I bought a half bottle of The Balvenie.
The flight was fine and relaxed. Interesting to see frozen lakes but not much actual snow as we approached Oslo airport. We appeared to land in a field but the airport is really quite big and we had to walk a good way to collect our bags and then a big queue to get through passport control and another long walk to the train station.
At Oslo Sentrum we bought some hair dye. C to change from the strong carrot shade and me to hide the grey. Then a bus to the Hotel Anker. A nice man was keen to help by telling us it’s only 5 mins walk. Not with these shoes! (we were wearing our hiking boots to save on luggage weight when flying). Well actually not with the weight of our luggage and I’m sure I can’t be the only one to mentally add a W prefix to the name of our hotel!
However the hotel is clean and comfortable in our basic room. Just as well we like it as we are coming back here on Monday. The wireless is less than useless though.
Straight out to find dinner. The resto we look for is a building site so we wander around a lovely indoor market in a new apartments area near the river then we go to a rougher downtown area where C gets tonic water and eventually we opt for Santino’s spaghetteria. C has tagliatelle and scampi and I asked for a 4 seasons pizza but got a spicy beef one the size of a tea tray. The food was very fresh and tasty and I got half my pizza to take away in a box. Prices are eye watering.
Feel we have not yet seen the best of Oslo. It looks a bit tired after the winter, much as our garden does. It is not as clean a city as I expected.
Back to the hotel for hair dying session, nice shower and so to bed.

IMG_1145
After the gin

Thurs 25th April

Got up early. Breakfast was a bit mixed. There were some horrible looking hot things – violently yellow  eggs, fried potatoes in what looked like sweet chilli sauce but the mini frankfurters were ok. Lots of cold meats, some were fine. Also cheese and pickled gherkins and fresh tomatoes and cucumber. The muesli  and runny yoghurt in a big carton were good. The juice was weak and the fact that the coffee was hot is the only good thing to say about it. The rye bread was fab.
We ate some of the food and made up bread rolls for lunch on the train. Then we checked out and got onto the bus. Another nice man was keen to help by telling us it’s only 5 mins walk. We’ve still got the luggage to consider although the footwear is not an issue today except that some twit in the shop had their eyes shut when they laced up my new Merrell shoes so as we were early for the train to Bergen I re-laced them.
The train was comfortable and we had lots of room to spread out. We went and bought coffee from the buffet car and then found we had free drinks in our Komfort section.
As soon as we left Oslo it started to become clean and lovely. We passed iced over lakes and wooden cabins. Getting higher up there was lots more snow. We went through Geilo and saw the hotel we will be going to on Saturday. It looks a good place. Some snow there but not enough for dog sledding or snow shoeing.
Higher and higher and serious amounts of snow. Travelling through miles of whiteout across the Hardangervidda plateau and up to Finse which at 1223 is the highest station on the journey. Deep winter there for the population of 10 who work in the hotel.
The train left Oslo at 8.00 and we had our slices of pizza for elevenses and our bread rolls for lunch. The first half of the journey was dry and bright. Then we went through snow and sleet. Got to Bergen and rain.
A short hop to the Radisson Blu hotel on Ole Bulls Plas.
Our room on the 6th floor is an eclectic mix of designs but clean and comfortable.
Off for a swim and jacuzzi, both hydro therapy and air therapy, then a sauna.
Off out to Pingvinen bar which is literally just round the corner. I have some problem with the bar stools which twirl me round and nearly off at 180 degrees. Chris has a dish that is only available on Thursdays. It is salted lamb with sausage, bacon and mashed swede and potato dumplings. This was raspeball. But we don’t know why it’s only served on a Thursday.  I had meat balls (kjottkaker) with mashed peas, carrots, new potatoes and lingon berries. Great combination and very tasty. Not sure about the berries they were small and red and delicious. Could even have been red currants. Also drank Hansa beer.
We finally spotted a man in a Norwegian sweater. Then out to walk off the dinner. Found a mini market for more tonic and much cheaper. Wandered around the theatre streets and narrow pedestrian streets and the harbour but both cold so after we had looked at but not entered the only gay bar in Bergen we headed back to warm up. The hills around have now got more snow on them and the cloud is low. The funicular station at Floyen is flood lit through the mist but now the rain has stopped.
We like that there is a fold out ironing board and an iron in the room, although really this needs Carol to be fully appreciated. Chris very happy that there is an ice dispenser just outside the room.

Why this was good training for polar exploration
Why this was good training ground for polar exploration
Through train window
Through train window
View from train
View from train
View from train
View from train
On the train
On the train
A relaxing glass of champagne
A relaxing glass of champagne
Old town
Old town
Old town houses
Old town houses

IMG_1169 IMG_1168

The theatre
The theatre
I have no idea what to do with this
I have no idea what to do with this
The ironing board, but where is the Iron Man?
The ironing board, but where is the Iron Man?

Fri 26th April

Got up and Chris went for a swim and I went for a run. I went round and round the lake across from the hotel. My longest stretch was 8 mins and it felt fine.
Back for breakfast. Very good. Lots of lovely things. Nice cereals, yoghurts, bread, cheeses, cold meats, pickles, pastries and pancakes. We made up sandwiches for lunch plus cake and apples.
Out to the Floibanen funicular railway to Floyen. Then we walked up and up into the snow to the top at about 600m. Very suddenly we were in a whiteout as the snow, hail, sleet came down so we headed back the way we came as very few feet had trodden our intended path. The snow was deep and the map poor. We stopped for lunch at Blamanen, this is a lochan with a closed kiosk. I think it was closed when we came here before (Aug 2004).
Back down the zig zag paths to the town both with assorted sore and aching bits and bobs. Feet, legs, knees.
Back to hotel to change footwear and coats and out again to Bryggen to look for Norwegian jumpers. We looked in 2 or 3 shops and found some with good discounts and tax free (we will get the tax back at the airport). A nice man sold them to us. Chris bought 2 hats for her collection. We walked round the old wooden sector which was pretty much shut.
Back to hotel to rest with gin/whisky. Out again to Zupperia where we served by somewhat bossy girl who seemed to delight in moving customers from table to table. Chris had teriyaki chicken with rice and veg. I had marinated chicken with rice and salad. I had Chris’ mushrooms and she my sweet chili sauce.
Back to hotel for packing and bathing/showering. A terrible noisy racket set up outside but only lasted for about 20 mins. We’d seen lots of young people in red trousers and hats and now they were dancing badly by a bus.
Both very tired.

One of the 7 hills above Bergen
One of the 7 hills above Bergen
Jake and Elwood Blues, not Thelma and Louis!
Jake and Elwood Blues, not Thelma and Louis!
Frozen reservoir
Frozen reservoir
In the whiteout
In the whiteout
At least Chris can find me in the whiteout
At least Chris can find me in the whiteout
She is also well visible
She is also well visible

IMG_1191

Love the bear and the bear loves you
Love the bear and the bear loves you
Bergen
Bergen
Municipal statuary
Municipal statuary
Bergen, I like this because of the pedestrian
Bergen, I like this because of the pedestrian
Centre of Bergen
Centre of Bergen
Clock above building where we ate the first time we came here
Clock above building where we ate the first time we came here
The harbour
The harbour
From the Floibanen
From the Floibanen
This is the pond next to the hotel that I ran round and round and round
This is the pond next to the hotel that I ran round and round and round
It was this big! I've no idea what was!
It was this big! I’ve no idea what was!

P1010664

Just hanging out
Just hanging out

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Bryggen
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In Bryggen

P1010677 P1010678

Sat 27th April

Up early after neither of us sleeping very well. Too hot and surprisingly noisy.
Breakfast was great and we made lovely sandwiches.
Straight to the station and onto the train. Such a lovely sunny day so the mountains and lakes are all glistening and the snow is shining. I try to speak some Norwegian but pick some Germans to try it on so it’s a dismal failure but at least I get to practice my German a little. I also chat to an Australian woman from Melbourne and learn that they do have a snow season.
The journey back to Geilo is stunning and looks so different from just 2 days ago. I like that skis are seen as normal things to carry.
We arrive in Geilo at 11.00 and walk to the Hotel Geilo. There are only 2 others staying because the ski season is over and the summer walking has not yet begun.
The hotel has nice painted wood in the public rooms. The bedroom is ok but not special unless you count the Sandtex on the ceiling!
After settling in we go in the town. Tourist Info confirms everything is shut so they give us a free buff and free pin badges.
We have coffee and carrot cake (Chris) and hot choc (me) but it’s not got much choc in it. Walk round shopping centre and buy bottles of beer from a shop selling alcohol that is very secure with a turnstile to get in and out.
Back to hotel to change and out for a walk round the lake. We don’t go all the way round as it’s hard work on slushy snow. But we do go to the Nature Park and the sound sculpture which is lots of resonant wood clanking together in an old byre. It sounds lovely and reminds me of cow bells. Then back to hotel sometimes up to our thighs in snow and sometimes just lying on it.
Absolutely beautiful sunny day. Still lots of sun at 8.00 in evening. Have drunk 2 bottles yummy beer. Soon be time for dinner.
We set off for Hallingstuene having decided to go for the best if pricey place for real Norwegian food. We go in and it looks to be lovely place with painted wood and I’m just starting to take my things off when we find the place is full for the last evening of the season so we are well buggered there then. We weren’t expecting this as the town is so quiet and empty.
We set off for best place no. 2 which is Sofia’s at Bardola Hotel. Of course I’ve come out without a map but a helpful woman, in fact the only person we meet, directs us. It is 10 mins away.
The woman’s minutes are a little ambitious. It is a good trek along a nice little road. Bardola is a big hotel. At first it seems we may not get a seat as we have not booked but then the girl changes her mind. Plenty of tables free up as we eat so this is nonsense.
We manage to work out most of the menu successfully. They then bring us English menus which is how we know we’ve got it right. Chris opts for Jim’s burger (made by her cat?!) and me for Caesar salad, all washed down with Hansa beer.
The burger comes with cheese and bacon and fried potatoes in sweet chili sauce. It is all held in place with a skewer. The Caesar has bacon bits and croutons and is very tasty.
Back along the road as the last light goes. House lights shining on the snowy slopes. Puddles starting to ice over.

Sound sculpture
Sound sculpture
Shed for sound sculpture
Shed for sound sculpture
When I'm out on the street, I walk the way I wanna walk
When I’m out on the street, I walk the way I wanna walk
Chris liked the yellow house
Chris liked the yellow house
Big snow from the train
Big snow from the train
Frozen lake at Geilo
Frozen lake at Geilo
Our German friend took this photo
Our German friend took this photo
From the train
From the train

P1010688

From our bedroom window at the Geilo Hotel
From our bedroom window at the Geilo Hotel
A storage barn in Geilo
A storage barn in Geilo

Sun 28th April

Late and lazy start to day. We were the only ones in the large dining room for breakfast. Muesli and thick yoghurt, bread with salami and cheese. Nice coffee and juice. Rye bread fab. Crisp breads fab, I’ve not  eaten them before as Ryvita is like cardboard but these were excellent and I am converted. I had them with pâté also brown cheese which is slightly sweet. I like it more than last time but Chris not keen. We make up our sandwiches.
Off out to find the path up the hill. It is a dull day and chilly. We go into Dr Holm’s Hotel to reserve a table for the evening. The hotel is very lovely and massive. We find the path behind it and zig zag our way up and often across the ski slopes. The snow is mostly hard but when it isn’t we fall over. It’s quite fun in the birch trees and I’m pleased we got the right path from the less than brilliant mapping. It must be a very pretty path in the summer. Summer starts in June and is short.
We get up quite high at 1040m but the wind is strong and bitterly cold plus there is a big steep ski slope to cross so we turn back and stop half way for me to eat half my sandwich. We went up about 230m. Much windier back in the village so we go straight back to hotel for hot chocolate by the fire. More chocolatey than yesterday’s.
Mooch about. Finished off the last beer bottle.
Dr Holm’s is quiet. Only us and a few other parties. Chris had the fixed price menu which was scallops and langoustines, lamb shank from Flam and creme brûlée. I had coq au vin and creme brûlée. All very good and washed down with Hansa beer because we struggled with £50 for a bottle of wine.

Dragon protection racket
Dragon protection racket
High on a hill was a lonely reindeer...
High on a hill was a lonely reindeer…
Geilo ski slopes in the dark
Geilo ski slopes in the dark
Where are my skis?
Where are my skis?
We decided not to attempt this hard slope
We decided not to attempt this hard slope
I think this is a lichen, have brought some home to identify
I think this is a lichen, have brought some home to identify
Snowy walk
Snowy walk

Mon 29th April

This is Bruce day

We breakfast and make sandwiches. I have taken to crisp breads in a big way. I had no idea there were so many types.
As we get ready to leave the hotel, it starts to snow and by the time we’ve walked to the station in the blizzard there is an inch on the ground.
The journey is very pretty as everything has a light dusting of snow.
The loos on the train are gruesome today. I have taken Imodium so that my evening with Bruce is not spoit by loo breaks.
We arrive back in Oslo a bit late but quickly catch the tram back to the Hotel Anker using our 24 hour pass and get ready for Bruce. We take the 31 bus from Hausmann’s Gate to Fornebu and get off at the Telenor Arena. It’s in a bit of an industrial wasteland.
There’s a bottle neck in the queue for entrance E but we squeeze past to get to D which is much more orderly although I’m told not to block the road by a rather stern G4S security guard. As we go in I think they are playing a version of This Hard Land sung by Bruce that I don’t know and we are looking for food and drink but as soon as I realise it’s Bruce himself we race to an entrance and get a great view and he’s just singing for the people in the pit and us. He plays All that Heaven will Allow, the Fever and Growin’ Up before telling us he’ll be back later. Here is the whole pre show set on YouTube.
Despite all the arena info saying there is an 800 seater restaurant all we end up with is a long hot dog sausage in a pancake and 2 glasses of beer.
Our seats are ok and we have a decent enough view. Bruce comes on at 7.40 and gives us a great show. He’s so generous with his band. Little Steven opens with a Lillehammer song during which Bruce is just backing him. Highlights for me were the River with Bruce’s extraordinary falsetto sounding like an angel, blistering guitar on Prove it All Night and For You piano solo. Chris’ star songs were For You, She’s the One, Thunder Road and Prove it All Night.  The audience actually listened during the quieter songs but also struggled to get on their feet to dance. Even after Bruce had got everyone up, our neighbours all just sat down again.
After the show we just went and got on the 31 bus which took us all the way back to the hotel.
A Bruce nerd had attached himself to us but we disentangled quickly.
We went to Sara’s Bar around the corner and drank 2 glasses each of Frydenlund dark beer.
Very late to bed.

Greasy Lake set list

From the train
From the train
9.55
9.55
10.14
10.14
Geilo station
Geilo station
Bruce, 100 people in the pit and us
Bruce, 100 people in the pit and us
Bruce, 23,000 people in the arena and us
Bruce, 23,000 people in the arena and us
I came for for you
I came for for you
Merrell shoes
Merrell shoes

Tues 30th April

Woke late but in time for breakfast and sandwich making.
Out to city hall on tram and foot. The city hall was built in 1950 and is an eclectic mix of architectural styles but quite fun and big with some great paintings of Norwegian myths. Bought Oslo 24 hour pass, this covers most museum entries, all travel and discounts in some restaurants. With it we went on the ferry to Bygdoy. Walked a way to the Norwegian folk Museum. This was excellent and included an exhibit on Sami life. The museum has reconstructed farms, houses both rural and urban. It was a great place and we lunched on a bench in the sun outside a couple of town dwellings.
Then the Viking Ship Museum. There are 3 Viking ships which are most impressive, also a carriage and other artifacts found inside the ships because they were used for burials. Lovely carving and detailed metal work. They are having serious conservation dilemmas as the fartiacts are disintegrating.
Quite a hike to the Fram museum. By then we were running out of time as it shut too early at 4.00. I would have liked a little more time there but I did get to go inside the boat and see that they were very comfortable in the cabins. They very fairly had an exhibit about Scott. The statues outside are the ones who actually did get to the South Pole first though!
We had a look round the Kon Tiki museum which shut a bit later. They had the raft and also a reed boat which Thor Heyerdahl made a lot later on.
We got the ferry back to the city hall and then waited a long time for a tram or bus at a stop where the grass was growing over the tram tracks. The electronic signage was telling us that the next tram was due but ours had not appeared so we set off but then of course the bus did come and we had to run to get on it.
A quick change and off out on the 11 tram to Kaffistova. This is a self service cafe and we got 20% off with the Oslo card. Chris had meatballs with squashed peas, fried potato, gravy and then ice cream. I had mini reindeer burgers, veg mix, fried potato wedges, gravy followed by apple cake and ice cream.
I will be buying sweet pickled gherkins and crisp breads in bulk.
We passed the London Pub, Chris very quickly identified this as a gay bar because of its rainbow flag. We observed but didn’t go in.

We’ve seen a lot of people wearing bright red trousers. Reckon this is some national sport gear but not sure what. Seen a lot of people wearing wellies too. I can understand in the snow but it’s very dry now and seems a hot sweaty thing for poor feet. Once we found the other parts of Oslo away from what was quite a run down area, it was a lovely city to see and be in. Also much cleaner.
Back to hotel on the tram. A quick pack and back out to Bar Sara for a pint of brown lager. The handsome boy served us again. The bar is much more busy tonight because we are not there at midnight! Nice local bar. We are knackered so one drink and back to hotel. C falls asleep instantly. I fall asleep writing this account.

Oslo by night
Oslo by night
Three deer at Oslo City Hall
Three deer at Oslo City Hall
On the ferry to Bygdoy
On the ferry to Bygdoy
This is Chris' retirement abode
This is Chris’ retirement abode
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
These are Gentian, very pretty
These are Gentian, very pretty
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
At the Norwegian Folk Museum
Post Office at the Norwegian Folk Museum
Post Office at the Norwegian Folk Museum
Ye olde garage
Ye olde garage
Two storey privvy
Two storey privvy
Old deli was shut, they are missing a trick here
Old deli was shut, they are missing a trick here
Old kiosk
Old kiosk
Lovely stripey brick work
Lovely stripey brick work
Chris has decided to upgrade
Chris has decided to upgrade
Before Sealink
Before Sealink
Terrible image because of the glass but I loved his face
Terrible image because of the glass but I loved his face
I think this was the fancy "pleasure" boat
I think this was the fancy “pleasure” boat
My team is using dogs and we will get to the South Pole first because we are used to these conditions
My team is using dogs and we will get to the South Pole first because we are used to these conditions
I'm coming with you then
I’m coming with you then
Comfortable life on board the Fram
Comfortable life on board the Fram
The galley
The galley
The Kon-Tiki
The Kon-Tiki
Successful Norwegian Polar explorers
Successful Norwegian Polar explorers
Lovely day for a ferry
Lovely day for a ferry
This is obscenely big
This is obscenely big
On the ferry to Bygdoy
On the ferry to Bygdoy
This seemed quite big until it got dwarfed by the cruise ship
This seemed quite big until it got dwarfed by the cruise ship
Not sure what this is
Not sure what this is
Oslo by night
Oslo by night

Weds May 1st

Up early at 6.45 which translates to 5.45 in UK time. We are almost the first to breakfast and make up our sandwiches. Check out. On to tram to central station. I have loo emergency now that Imodium has worn off. We catch the local train to the airport.
First we get our tax back on our purchases although the desk is not where it says on the info we were given.
Then the check in which is entirely self service. The auto machine does not like Chris’ passport. Eventually we get it to work and it spits out boarding passes and luggage labels. We have to label up our own baggage and stick the labels to themselves which is just not very easy although everyone else manages to do it neatly. We have to scan our luggage onto the conveyer belt. Too much DIY and a bit stressful.
Into security. This time I don’t get a full work over. My jeans don’t fall down when the belt comes off as I have eaten so much that my BMI shows I am too short.
Into duty free for essential shopping. Onto our gate. We get coffee but machine breaks as we are supposed to be boarding. Coffee not nice. Always get the coffee from the percolator jug!
Onto plane. Beer!

And I liked this one, because I am actually in it!
And I liked this one, because I am actually in it!
On the plane home, Chris liked this one
On the plane home, Chris liked this one

Tips to save money in Norway

Don’t buy bottled water, the stuff in the taps tastes good. Buy travel saver tickets for the trams, buses, ferries in Oslo and use them wisely. Also the Oslo pass for museums and travel. Get up early if you are going to Bygdoy. Make up sandwiches from the generous hotel breakfasts. Take resealable sandwich bags. Buy spirits from the Duty Free in the UK.

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

Lake District April 2013

Sat 6th April

Carol went and did an early dialysis slot and I picked her up about 11.30. We arrived in Chapel Stile at 3 after being held up by a nasty looking accident on the motorway and then stopping to eat some lunch in the car at the services. After unloading the car very quickly because we were blocking the road we soon got settled in.
We walked up Meg’s Gill, quite steep up to just over 300m. The cottage is at 100m. Then we turned east on a great proper little mountain path with sharp drops to reach a col overlooking Grasmere. Through some leftover snow to the col to take us back to the village and down some very steep sections.
We are eating in tonight and because it is a bit like camping we are having chicken korma and rice from the Look What We Found range.

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Elterwater

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Lingmoor Fell backdrop
Lingmoor Fell backdrop
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Grasmere backdrop

Sun 7th April

Another lovely crisp sunny day. Parked at Colwith wood and went to Black Crag, my 50th Wainwright, via a different route from when we last came here and only got some of the way.
We lunched near the top overlooking Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, the Langdales. Then back via our own route across the access land. Off piste and very nice too.
Tonight we are going to the Jumble Room in Grasmere for our dinner.
I had kedgeree for starters, the hard boiled egg came separately and it came with some pale jam. Very good. Carol had fish and chips main which had some bones but she coped and the fish was also very good. I had chicken curried which came with beetroot and sweet potato. All very nice. Carol had sticky toffee pudding, no surprise there then. I managed to resist pudding but was feeling quite unwell with allergies. I have sneezed a lot in the cottage which is a bit dusty and something set me off in the resto. I must be a bit susceptible at the moment. Also have excema on my legs and feel very itchy and uncomfortable. Came out of resto streaming.

Navigation in action
Navigation in action
Crinkles and Bowfell
Crinkles and Bowfell
Bowfell
Bowfell
Secondary summit on Black Crag
Secondary summit on Black Crag
OS trig on Black Crag
OS trig on Black Crag
Carol getting poked by tree
Carol getting poked by tree!

Mon 8th April

My dad would have been 99 today.
We went into Ambleside and lots of gear shops but I refrained and just bought a birthday present for a friend. Not saying who as they will probably read this!
We drove to Far Sawrey and parked up opposite the pub in a car park with an honesty box. Great walk covering all sorts of terrain and some lovely views. Stopped at Moss Eccles Tarn while Carol ate some lunch. I’d already had mine before we set off. Then we skirted round  where Chris and I did bushcraft. A good mix of open land, tarns, coniferous woodland, the Somme (really very reminiscent with bare trees sticking up out of bog in the forestry cleared sections) and older woodland. Eventually we met up with the path Chris and I used. We found a good spot for wild camping which is a secret. Only a 4 mile walk but it took us nearly 4 hours because of being so leisurely.
Back to the cottage and I went for a run and met a very young Jewish lad who was looking for a campsite. I met him a second time on the way back from Elterwater and asked if he was ok and he said he was but I worried about him as he seemed rather vulnerable.

Gormless
Gormless
Cute, cute, cute
Cute, cute, cute
Moss Eccles Tarn, Beatrix Potter and William Heelis' favourite place
Moss Eccles Tarn, Beatrix Potter and William Heelis’s favourite place
Wise Een Tarn
Wise Een Tarn

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Tues 9th April

Drove to NT car park at Dungeon Ghyll and saved £6.50 because I am member.  We walked along and then up to Blea Tarn on a mixture of permissive paths and public rights of way and a bit of road. Another gorgeous crisp sunny day. Looked over to Wrynose Fell and pass.
Carol was having sore knees so we went to Dungeon Ghyll pub and then for a drive back via Blea Tarn again and Little Langdale. Buggered because nowhere to park the car. Hey ho. It will be hard to pack it up tomorrow.
Dinner at the Grasmere Hotel. Smoked salmon and creamy nibble and brie and walnut nibble. C starter filo pastry parcels. J creamy forest mushrooms. Both had lemon sorbet. Both had beef casserole with veg, roast spuds and creamed celeriac. So nice I have now bought some celeriac with which to experiment. C pudding Grasmere gingerbread meringue ice cream. J blueberry creme brûlée. Complimentary coffee with mint. All very good quality at £24 per person.

Cottage on road between Langdale and Wrynose, with thatched porch
Cottage on road between Langdale and Wrynose, with thatched porch
Bowfell
Bowfell
Scoured glacial valleys
Scoured glacial valleys

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Across to Wrynose
Across to Wrynose
Blea Tarn
Blea Tarn

Weds 10th April

I got up early and went for a run to Elterwater and back, hardly saw any cars, lovely although very chilly. Packed up car with only having to shift it once.
Went to John Ruskin’s house, Brantwood on Coniston Water. Nice house but I think he would have been quite annoying, writing several books and papers before breakfast. They have kept his clothes so you can see his pants! For those of a delicate disposition it’s actually just his outer pants.
Hot drinks after chilly house. Ambled round a bit of garden overlooking the lake. Great location for a house.
Booths’ supermarket in Windermere because Carol felt like she hasn’t been in one for weeks and then home. The weather got duller and duller and finally started raining. We seem to have had the best of the weather.

Since getting back I’ve been reading Robert MacFarlane’s Mountains of the Mind where he talks at length about Ruskin’s influence on how we perceive mountains. I really didn’t pick this up from our visit to the house but it’s made me go and look at his pictures a bit more, not sure that I like them.

I had to do an OU tutorial on Tuesday in Sheffield and what should be on at the gallery I passed but a Ruskin landscapes exhibition, unfortunately it was shut at night. It’s wider than just Ruskin. What I hadn’t realised was that Sheffield Museums have a Ruskin collection.

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

Coniston Water, from iPhone. Despite my fancy cameras, this is best photo of holiday!
Coniston Water, from iPhone. Despite my fancy cameras, this is best photo of holiday!
Old Man
Old Man

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

Oxford February 2013

I arrived in Oxford in the early afternoon with Angela’s excellent directions. She and Paul live in Jericho which is close to the centre of the city. Although I went to Oxford quite often as a child, I haven’t been since my brother’s graduation which was quite a long time ago, he is now 60.

After some delicious leek and potato soup, we headed off out for a whizzy tour of the city, taking in Christ Church Cathedral Choir School where Mum taught until 1951 when she married Dad. I had made a donation some time ago for Mum’s name to be put on the hearts on the railings at the front of the school and wanted to see these. They had promised a small ceremony for the people who did this but the headmaster had been taken very ill and it had never happened. The hearts were on the railings but no names visible from the street. Angela encouraged me to persevere so we went in through the car entrance and persuaded a parent to let us into the building and he delivered us to a teacher. This chap listened to my tale and then took us to the other side of the railings where the names have been put on the railings themselves on the inside which makes more sense and they won’t be vandalised there. Mr. Bagnall then kindly showed us around the school which was great as I’d never been there before.

CCCS
Commemorating my Mum in a place where she was very happy
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Christ Church Cathedral Choir School

Then we wandered around a bit passing several of the colleges and ending up in the Old Bank hotel in the Quod bar where Angela had a mojito and I had a bottle of Old Hooky. Back to Walton Crescent and then out again to the Lebanese resto at the bottom of the road. A glass of wine came and then an interesting plate of salad – carrot sticks, olives, strange pink pickled cabbage, one large tomato (whole) and one Little Gem (also whole)! And no dressing! Then a substantial wait until we decided to chivvy them along only to find that something terrible had happened to Angela’s fish. I explained the need to hurry and Angela opted to have the same as me, our food then arrived very quickly. We had lentils and rice with fried onion and spices. It was tasty but could have done with something else to lift it! A little dry cake arrived as a complimentary item in an effort to redeem themselves. We had sweet black coffee and then toddled off to Christ Church.

A lovely concert in aid of Christ Church Cathedral School Education Trust. Vaughan Williams and Faure. I liked the music and liked being where Mum and Dad were married nearly 62 years ago.

MumDadWeddingI saw Gordon and Richard who are Old Boys (I am an honorary Old Boy) which was great, lovely to see them. Gordon had organised the concert. Richard I’ve known since I was a child.

We continued to the Rickety Press pub in Jericho where I had a Laphroaig. They also did Caol Ila but I didn’t spot that until too late. Followed by seeing how Paul’s concert in St. Barnabas (St. John Passion) had gone. St. Barnabas is interesting and has half completed art work, very dramatic and unusual church.

Today we took Boris the bearded Collie for a walk in the park and then Angela took me for a tour of Boar’s Hill. We managed to go past Foxcombe Orchard without me realising as I couldn’t remember the orchard part of the name. This was a house built by my Radice grandparents which is now worth a very silly amount of money. Sadly my paternal grandmother was a nasty bit of work and none of the cash they got upon selling it came to my Dad, This was his punishment for marrying my mother (you should see the letters Dad’s mother wrote to him upon his engagement – pure venom). Dad’s father in complete contrast was a lovely gentle man, with a delightful Italian accent.

Then we drove through Wootton where my Radice grandparents are buried, straight through Abingdon and onto Clifton Hampden. My Guillaume grandparents are connected with CH but I can’t remember how and one of my cousins is finding out about this so will edit this post when I know. We went in the church which sits on a small prominence, just as well because a lot of the village is/was badly flooded. The church was a bit of a tardis and very dark inside and the lights didn’t work but I liked the gloom.

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Clifton Hampden church

Finally back via Cuddesdon where my Dad trained to become a priest and then back to Oxford. It was great to be driven about, a real treat for me and very interesting to see the landscape and places that meant so much to my parents. Many thanks to Angela and Paul for everything.

This is the clock that the boys of the school gave to my Mum when she left to get married:

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Mum’s clock

Boris!

IMG_0013IMG_0018Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.