A Weekend In Wales

At the beginning of October, we spent a lovely weekend in Anglesey with a group of friends, to celebrate a 60th birthday. It was also my brother-in-laws birthday and a long time since we had been together as a group due to all the restrictions. This was finally the weekend when we could all get together. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that, as some of the group were unable to come and some of us that did make it ended up being struck down with the really nasty cold that is going around at the moment. Even with all that, we managed to have a great weekend, helped by the unseasonably warm weather.

Perfect Conditions For Paddle Boarding

On the Friday and Monday, my husband and I decided to visit Llanberis Lake, which is part of Padarn Country Park. There are a number of parking areas, some of which are free. there is also a café and toilets. We parked in one of the areas that was free, bit was also easy to reach the water. There were quite a few paddle boarders, kayakers, and swimmers. It was great to see everyone out on the water. Because the lake is so big, it did not feel crowded at all.

The lake is stunning, with lots of small inlets as well as the wide expanse of open water. As there was very little breeze, it was a great place to practice paddle boarding. I managed to stand up for long periods of time, practicing paddling and turning , which was a great boost to my self confidence. Getting from kneeling to standing is still a little tricky, but I am definitely getting much better and only need a small amount of support from my husband, who steadies the board for me. Hopefully with a little more practice I will be able to improve this even more when we go out again. As the weather was so warm, we were able to spend a great deal of time out on the water without getting chilly.

Meanwhile, our friends went out in their kayak on the water and managed to make their way around most of the lake. My brother in law and sister in law chose to take what they thought would be a gentle walk around the lake, which turned into a five mile hike.

A Longer Walk Than Expected

On Saturday we had a restful morning around the house which we had rented for the weekend. Clynnog House, is situated at Dwyran and is a stunning six bedroom house, which would not look out of place on Grand Designs. However, it was not quite as clean as it should have been, particularly in the current climate. Although the layout and size of the house is impressive, there were some features that were a bit disappointing. We worked around this and enjoyed the space and lovely gardens.

On Saturday afternoon, we decided to take a walk to the beach. On reading the leaflets at the house, we believed we were taking a “short” path to the beach and would then be able to take a slightly different route back to the house. We took the path to the beach, which meanders through the very pretty Newborough Forest. However, the short walk turned out to be over an hour to get to the beach. We had passed another path on the way, so in our wisdom thought we would meet this further down the beach. this was not to be, and by this time some of our group who were feeling the effects of having cold, were starting to struggle. At this, we turned around and walked back up the beach, to a car park in the forest. Gallantly, my husband and brother in law walked (or possibly ran) all the way back up to the house to collect the cars to ferry us all back. Thankfully we all survived and despite achey legs were none the worse for our experience.

Gorgeous Anglesey Coastline

The glorious weather continued on the Sunday, so we decided to have a drive down the coast and make a few stops on the way. Our first stop was Porth Trecastell Beach, where we had a walk across the headland. The coastal path stretches around the whole of Anglesey and is absolutely beautiful. This particular area has a a petty, flat beach, with a craggy, rocky area around it. There is also an ancient burial chamber hidden in the hillside.

We then travelled on to South Stack, passing so many beautiful beaches and coves along the way. South Stack is a on a stunning area of coastline, with a lighthouse on the craggy out crop. It was busy here, but there was plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the scenery. As we were all now gasping for a cuppa, we did the very British thing of putting the kettle on! Our friends have a camper van, so we boiled the kettle, making tea and coffee, then cutting up the birthday cake and copious amounts of biscuits. It was certainly quicker than queuing for the café.

Once we were all refreshed, we took the path towards the lighthouse. Due to Covid restrictions the lighthouse was not open, but the scenery is still well worth the steep walk. We then walked past the lighthouse and up to the top of the hill behind the lighthouse. There are lots of steps and it is a little uneven underfoot. The views are amazing from the top. It is such a beautiful part of the world and I would definitely go back for another visit.

Cornwall Revisited (3)

Eden Project

We had visited Eden Project back in 2009 when our girls were still quite young. I remembered this as a really great day out. Unfortunately, on this occasion we were a little disappointed with the experience and felt it was overpriced. Luckily, we managed to book using Tesco Clubcard Vouchers, which made it worthwhile, otherwise the steep £35 per person would have been a bigger blow (we are from Yorkshire after all!).

The Biodomes have some amazing plants and trees, which are fascinating to see. There is also a lot of information about recycling, climate change and sustainability. Reading about the destruction of areas of rainforest and people and animals being driven from their homes for mass production and profit is pretty heart breaking and made me think more about this than being preached at or watching protestors on the television.

There are some areas of the project that really look tired and need some revamping. It feels a little run down. There are also areas that are not open, due to “Covid” which should really be taken into consideration when looking at the ticket price.

The gift shops stock some beautiful sustainable products and gifts, but again they are expensive, and it is a bit sad that sustainability may only be affordable for those with lots of money to spare.

We had a good morning but were really expecting to have a full day there, so were really surprised when we had seen everything and were on our way back to the cottage in the early afternoon.

Luckily the sun had come out, so we were able to get the kayaks out and spend the afternoon and evening paddling up and down the estuary, which was great fun.

We made fish finger sandwiches and potato wedges for tea, which we took down to the fire pit,where we sat relaxing and watching the glorious sunset. What a perfect end to the day!

Marazion Beach Day

We packed up the car with our kayaks and paddle boards and headed to the beautiful area of Marazion, to the beach overlooking St Michael’s Mount. Having seen how beautiful and calm it was on our previous visit, we decided that it would be a perfect place to practice and improve our skills on the paddle boards. Once we had set up camp (we still take so much stuff every time we go out!) and had a bit of lunch, the tide had started to come in, giving the perfect opportunity to paddle in safety.

From the beach, the water looked very calm, and we were convinced that it would be as easy as paddling on the lake. We couldn’t have been more wrong. I was knocked off my board by a wave as soon as I had got on before I even had chance to stand up. My husband paddled along with his usual confident air, and we were all extremely impressed with his proficiency, until he was knocked off by a wave and he disappeared into the water (we didn’t laugh much!). It certainly wasn’t easy to stand up and to be honest, I gave up and decided to just sit on my board and paddle. The others managed to stand, but it was not easy. My friend spent the afternoon practicing getting back on to her board, but was not particularly successful and we could hear her screaming and laughing right across the beach.

We had a fabulous afternoon but were extremely tired and a little bit wind swept by the time we left the beach. We decided to call in Newlyn for fish and chips on the way back, so we didn’t have to go to the trouble of shopping and cooking food. Later that evening as we sat at the cottage, we were all struggling to stay awake after the exertion and all the fresh air. Needless to say, we all slept well.

Cornwall Revisited (2)

Newlyn and Mousehole

On Thursday morning, the sun was out and it was warm, so we spent the morning relaxing in the garden at the cottage. After lunch, we decided to drive to Newlyn and walk along the coastal path to Mousehole. The walk is around a mile and a half and is a shared footpath and cycle path. There are coastal views along most of it, and at various points along the way, St Michaels Mount can be seen from slightly different angles. There is also a memorial to the Penlee Lifeboat disaster, where the crew lost their lives whilst attempting a rescue in an horrendous storm. The garden is set on top of the cliff above the old lifeboat station.

The weather was just right for walking, warm with a gentle breeze, but not blazing sunshine.

Mousehole is a stunning picturesque village, with quaint cottages sitting around the harbour. It was late in the afternoon and quite busy. It was great to see children, having finished school for the day, playing on the beach and in the sea. After strolling through the village, and enjoying the scenery, we called for a coffee, before heading back on the path to Newlyn.

We were unable to find a restaurant which was open and had room for us to eat, so called for takeaway from Lewis Fish and Chips. We sat on the benches by the war memorial eating them out of the box. They were excellent and I would recommend them if you were calling at Newlyn at any point.

The Minack Theatre

Having featured recently on a documentary, the Minack open air theatre had been added to my list of things to do. We had tickets booked for Thursday evening, for a production of The 39 Steps. The drive to the theatre is an interesting one, on some very narrow and winding roads. Once we arrived, the staff were amazing, guiding us to a parking space and then into the seating area.

The view from the top of the theatre is breath taking, looking down on the theatre itself and in the distance, out to sea, where several fishing boats were bobbling around.

As the production began, the sun started to set. The play was amusing, and all the characters were played well by the small cast. As it became darker, the moon cast an eerie glow on the boats out at sea, creating a unique atmosphere as the play continued. It was a chilly evening, but we were well prepared with coats, hats and blankets. At the end of the production, we all had slightly numb bottoms and achy backs, but the experience was well worth it.

Marazion And St Michael’s Mount

On Monday, we had pre-booked tickets to visit the castle at St Michael’s Mount. We visited last year but could only get tickets to the garden and were unable to visit the castle. We were very lucky again with the weather. We drove to Marazion, a picturesque village, with a soft flat beach and crystal-clear waters.  We walked to the castle along the causeway, which is only visible during low tide. The causeway is cobbled and flanked on both sides with rock pools.

The grounds of the castle are beautiful, with well kept lawns and beds. The route to the castle is very steep, up lots of steps cut from the rocks. The view from the walls of the castle is astonishing, looking out over the bay and the coastline of Cornwall.

The castle is worth visiting, having developed over centuries from being a monastery in the 1100’s to now being owned jointly by The National Trust and the St Aubyn family. There is an online tour which gives information for each room as you walk around the castle. There are also guides on hand if you have any questions. There are the usual art works and artefacts, but it is the structure of the castle and the location that is most impressive.

After visiting the castle, we sat on the lawns in the sunshine, eating lunch, before heading back to the mainland. The causeway was now closed, due to the tide coming in, so we were taxied back by one of the little motorboats, which was only a short journey, but worth the experience.  We had a little wander around the village and then sat looking out across the bay, watching the kayakers, paddle boarders, swimmers and the unusual sight of a man riding a shire horse along the beach.

Cornwall Revisited

After having such an excellent time in Cornwall last year, we decided to book the same cottage for this year (we actually booked it whilst we were still there as we had a feeling that holidays abroad would not be on the cards). We set off on Thursday lunchtime, meeting our friends and staying overnight in Bristol, before travelling down to Cornwall on Friday. We had a short stop off in Polperro for the extremely tasty crab sandwiches at the museum tea rooms on the harbour. Our  cars were even more packed than last year, after the purchase of the paddle boards and more recently inflatable kayaks. Luckily, we managed to squeeze everything in, with a little room to spare to pick up the click and collect order at Tesco in Truro.

We arrived Ruan Dinas in Coombe early Friday evening. The cottage is just as we remembered it and this year, we have the added bonus of staying for two weeks.

We all spent the first couple of days relaxing around the cottage, the garden, and the riverside, with a short trip to the garden centre and a wander around the shops in Falmouth. I also had my first go at fishing, but didn’t catch anything, which was okay as no one else did either.

My husband was the first to be brave enough to take his paddle board onto the estuary straight away. The rest of us were a little more cautious. We were convinced that the tide would wash us out to sea within minutes, but we soon realised that this was not the case. I took my board out the following day, and me and my husband paddled up and down the river a couple of times, with our friends in their kayak.  I must admit I stayed kneeling all the time, as I didn’t feel confident enough to stand up in the tidal water.

Enjoying The Sunshine

On Tuesday it was a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to paddle the kayaks up the estuary and have breakfast at the garden tea rooms. Unfortunately, when we got there, the tea rooms were closed.  After making our own breakfast, we paddled a little further down the river, around the large ferry which is moored up in the widest part of the estuary, and in and out of a few of the coves. The river was surprisingly calm and easy to paddle. We even sat in the kayaks in the sunshine for a while, just relaxing and watching the world go by.

After lunch we set off to the pitch and putt in Falmouth. We had an amusing afternoon, one we had negotiated the grumpy attendant, who opened a window and served us through a tiny gap. He was not amenable to any queries and slammed the window shut after pointing out the signs which said the café and toilets were not open. The fact that he was so rude, just set us off in fits of laughter, which continued around the course.  None of us are particularly good, but it all adds to the enjoyment.

Making the most of the glorious sunshine, we drove down to Swanpool Beach, where we were tempted by the quirky named ice creams at the beach café. I chose “Malt Pleaser”, which was a Cornish vanilla ice cream cone covered in Maltesers. After sitting for a while, we walked along the coastal path to Gilly Vase Beach, stopping to take in the outstanding views. At Gilly Vase, we strolled through the beautiful gardens before heading back on the coastal path to Swanpool.

Driving back from Swanpool, we took the scenic route and came across Pendennis Shipyard. It was fascinating looking at the huge ships in dry dock and seeing the people at work who looked like tiny ants in comparison to the ships.

Messing About On The Water

The following day we booked to take our Kayaks and paddle boards to Stithians Lake for the day. The idea was that it would be a safer expanse of water to practice our skills and improve our technique. It was a warm sunny day and we had packed the car the night before, ready to set off early in order to set up camp (we have so much stuff between us, including an event shelter, four paddle boards, two kayaks, a gas stove, chairs, food in two cool boxes, wet suits, towels and changes of clothing).

Stithians is one of the South West Lakes and is a large expanse of freshwater, with all the facilities to launch your own boats, hire, or even take lessons. I decided to get some practice in on my paddle board first. After lots of attepts at standing up on my own, I eventually managed to stand up with help from my husband. I was paddling along merrily for quite a while, before the wind got up and started making the water quite choppy. Needless to say, I was soon off my board and into the water. I managed not to panic but couldn’t manage to get back on my board at such a depth, so swam almost the length of the lake using my board as a float.

After lunch, I had another go. This time the wind made me drift into the banking at the other edge of the lake. At this point I should have gone from standing to kneeling but wasn’t quick enough and as I hit the bank. I fell forwards, face planting the board. Once I had recovered (and stopped laughing), I decided to sit on my board and paddle back to the shore, which took some doing as the wind was constantly trying to blow me in the opposite direction.

It was at this point we decided to give the kayaks a go. We paddled around the edge of the whole lake, which was easy when going in the direction of the wind, but much harder work when going against the wind.

After an amazing but tiring day, we headed back to the cottage, where we cooked a meal and then took drinks down to the firepit on the jetty. We sat toasting marshmallows and laughing at our antics.

Marvellous Majorca

As I wrote my last blog, I was sitting on a sun bed by the pool at a beautiful villa in Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. We have been to Majorca for the last three years because it is such a pretty place and we feel able to relax and enjoy ourselves there. It is the first time that we have been without our children and the first time that we have stayed in a villa. Unfortunately I have now returned to a cold, rainy and windy England, but thought I’d let you know what I got up to on my travels last week.

Old Town Pollensa

On Sunday morning we took a trip up to the market in the Old Town of Pollensa. This is a beautiful market square, surrounded by lovely old buildings and a church in the corner.  The stalls sell lots of beautiful fresh fruit and veg, cheese, cured meats, olives, nuts and sweets.

As we were staying in a villa we bought some lovely fresh fruits and salad to put with our barbeque later on. I also bought some olives, which I love and some very brightly coloured jelly sweets.

We walked up the Calvari Steps, which are 365 steps up a very steep hillside, leading to a tiny church. There are pretty little houses on the way up the hill and there were also a couple of buskers playing acoustic guitars which sounded lovely It was extremely hot, but the view from the top was amazing. It was made more worthwhile as I felt able to treat myself to an iced coffee with cream and ice cream when I got back down. I’m pretty sure that the walk had burned all the calories off!

Soller

Soller is a beautiful little town on the west coast of Majorca. To get there you have to drive along the  very twisty roads that run through the mountains. Although the journey feels quite treacherous, it is definitely worth the drive.

We had breakfast and a wander through the town, before taking the tram down to Puerto del Soller, which is such a beautiful coastal area with a glorious beach and harbour. It was very hot by this time, so after a short walk, we went for ice cream, in a restaurant overlooking the bay and just watched the world go by.

Alcudia

We visited the old town of Alcudia during the evening to have a meal. The town itself is set in a medieval castle, so is inside the walls. It is a lovely setting, particularly on an evening as it starts to get dark. There are lots of restaurants to choose from and there is a lovely atmosphere, sitting outside within the impressive walls of the city.

Walking and snorkelling

Both me and my husband really enjoy snorkelling. This is something that I have come to enjoy fairly recently, over the last few years. I tried scuba diving when I was younger, but found that I didn’t really like the feel of the mask and breathing apparatus. I had a go at snorkelling when we went to Majorca. The water there is so warm and clear that I found I really enjoyed it. Another thing that it also did for me was to slow my breathing down. When I was struggling with anxiety, I spent the majority of my time breathing really fast and sounding out of breath. Once I had my head under the water, all I could hear was my breathing and it helped me to concentrate on that and deliberately slow my breathing down, which really seemed to help.

This year we walked to Cala de Boquer, which is about a 45 minute walk from Puerto Pollensa. It’s quite a rocky hilly walk, but if you set of early enough, you  can get there before it gets too hot. There is nothing there at all except for a beautiful rocky cove and obviously the sea, which is full of fish and great for snorkelling.

The other walk we did was to Cal San Vicente. This is quite a hilly walk, again to a beautiful cove with a soft sandy beach. There are a couple of restaurants here and sun beds on the beach. The sea, again is crystal clear and great for snorkelling.

Mosquitoes, car hire and fish bites

Just a couple of things that you might want to be aware of if you are thinking of going to Majorca.

We hired a car from AVIS and met the rudest person I have ever met behind the “customer service” desk. She told us we had not hired a 7 seater vehicle and that there wasn’t one available unless we paid an extra 25 euros per day. Luckily we had booked through Villa Plus, who managed to sort it out for us with a phone call. Having read reviews about Avis, this appears to be a bit of a ploy to get extra money from customers.

I have been to Majorca several times, usually in July and August. I have never been bitten by mosquitoes, but this time I had a lot of bites. I understand this is more common in September, so be prepared if you go at this time. Some of us had bites, some did not, so it appears mosquitoes like particular blood types, scents etc. It certainly didn’t spoil my holiday, but it is a bit of a pain when you are scratching and spotty.

For some reason whilst I was snorkelling this year I was bitten/ stung by something in the sea. This has never happened to me before. It was a bit of a shock and felt like I had been cut by something. After the initial mark, which swelled up a bit, there were no other effects. I understand that there are no dangerous fish or jelly fish on the island so there was no panic.

Not sure why I was so attractive to the hungry wildlife this year!

Something for everyone

Whilst we were in Majorca, my youngest daughter was also there, but in Magaluf, on her first holiday abroad without us. She also had a great time, but a completely different holiday to us. We’ve certainly recovered quicker than she has and I think the most of her holiday was spent partying. She returned home safely despite this, so that’s a relief.

If you’ve not been to Majorca I would recommend it. It’s a very scenic island with lots of lovely coves and bays. It does get busy in some areas, but this depends on where you go and what time of year. It is certainly one of my favourite places and the other bonus is that it is a really short flight and you can get there so quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tempus Fugit

Yes it’s true my blog is late again. The reason I used the title tempus fugit  is because it is generally translated as time flies, which is just my clever way of saying that I’m late writing my blog. There is no real excuse or reason, other than time really does fly. So here is a catch up of what’s been happening over the last few weeks that I’ve missed telling you about.

Kynren

Kynren is an outdoor performance on a massive scale held in Bishop Auckland in County Durham. Someone told my husband about it a few weeks ago and we decided to book. What a great decision that was.

The venue is a purpose built stadium with tiered seating. The whole performance takes place in the valley and hillside opposite the stadium seating. There were over 1500 people  involved, all locals who take part voluntarily.

The performance was amazing, literally the history of Bishop Auckland told through the eyes of a young boy who travels back in time. There was music, battles, history, dancing, digital backdrops and pyrotechnics.

The organisation of the whole thing, from parking up to leaving was superb and we had an absolutely great evening.

Family fun day

Do you ever go to a family funeral or wedding and see people that you’ve not seen for months, or sometimes years? At those events everyone says “We must get together soon” and for some reason you never do, until the next funeral or wedding.Well this was how family fun day began.

A friend of ours, not actually related in any way decided that instead of promising to get together, he would arrange a family fun day. Four years ago, we had the first one, on an August Bank Holiday weekend, where we turned up at the rugby club, played rounders, races tug of war and had a number of quizzes. It was a great day and has just taken off.

Each year extra people get invited and some that have been the years before no longer come, but it always a really great day, with lots of banter and laughter. It is lovely just to get together for no other reason than to spend some time together.

A wedding invite

On bank holiday Monday we were lucky enough to be invited to the evening reception for a friends wedding.  It was a beautiful evening, in a lovely venue.

When the invitations came out you were asked to choose a song that you would most likely get up and dance to. We chose “oh what a night” by Franki Valli. We had only just arrived at the venue when the song was played, so we were straight up to dance. It was a real pleasure to share the celebration with their friends and family.

A late summer break

So after spending a few days back at work after the extended Bank Holiday Weekend, it was time to set off on a cheeky week away in the sun. Just as everyone was getting their children ready for setting off back to school after the summer holidays, we flew off to Majorca for a nice break, with my brother, his wife and two of our friends.

As I write this we are a few days in and I am sat next to the pool at the villa, enjoying a sandwich in the sunshine. We have had a lovely few days, in Puerto Pollensa, doing a bit of Walking, a bit of snorkelling, lots of eating and drinking. I’m not really a sun worshipper as I am mostly pale and freckley , but it’s lovely to be sat out in the fresh air, nice and warm with a cold drink in my hand.

Hope to write my blog on time next week, but until then…..cheers!!

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California Dreaming (11)

So yesterday we began the last leg of our journey travelling to San Diego. Along the way we passed and stopped at some of the most beautiful beaches and coves that I have ever seen, Newport Beach, Balboa Beach and Laguna Beach.

We saw pelicans flying in formation, using the warm air currents to fly. they looked unreal, like remote controlled or CGI. It was an amazing site.

After we arrived at the Hotel in San Diego (The Hilton at Mission Beach), we spent the afternoon lazing by the big pool and reacharging our batteries for our last day in California.

In the evening we went out for Somthing to eat. It was the first time that we had had to drive to restaurants, but we found a nice Italian, Pomodoro Ristorante, where we had a lovely meal at a decent price.

San Diego

This morning we set off for a tour of USS Midway. this was something that my husband really wanted to do. Before we started the tour we had breakfast and walked along the bay. One of the loveliest sights I’ve seen was the statue of Embracing Peace, which is the iconic statue of the sailor kissing the nurse at the end of the war. It looks beautiful with the backdrop of the harbour.

I really enjoyed the tour of USS Midway as I did not really know what to expect. The ship is huge and it is really beyond my comprehension as to how it stays afloat, especially with all the aircraft, sailors, fuel and other supplies that it holds.

The tour is partly an audio tour, but is interspersed with ex midway sailors recounting their service on the ship and explaining how it all worked. It took us about 3 hours to do the full tour, but it was so interesting that it passed really quickly. Amazingly the lovely gentleman that did part of our tour originated from Wigglesworth in Yorkshire which is where our friends live.

Afterwards we walked to the Gaslamp District (via The Cheescake factory – because it would be rude not to). This wasn’t really what I expected as i thought it would be more of a pedstrian area and a little bit more old fashioned. It was really for me very much an area of bars and restaurants.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

What a little gem this place was. It was kind of a last minute decision to just go and have a look, as it was our last afternoon. This is a little village, which held some of the first settlers in california. It has really unusual shops, restauarants, a village sqaure and also a number of buildings which house museums. Unfortunately by the time we arrived the museums were ready for closing, so we didn’t get to see them all. It is free to visit and also free to park at the Trolley station just next door.

We spent a couple of hours wandering round, looking at the lovely buildings. the people who work there dress in costume and there was even a Sherriff watching over everything.

We rounded off our day by eating at The Cosmopolitan hotel. This has an old fashioned sallon at the front and through the back, a courtyard where food is served. The food was excellent (as were the cocktails). This was a really lovely end to our last full day in california.

 

California Dreaming (10)

Well today has been a real eye opener. I’ve seen some things I never expected to see. I also was surprised by some of the most famous Los Angeles sights, unfortunately not always in a good way.

Los Angeles sight seeing

Today we took a tour of the city with Surf City Tours who are based in Santa Monica. I have to say that the service that they provided was excellent. Our guide Garrett was excellent, both in his knowledge and his manner. The tour was on a small open sided covered bus with only six of us, so felt very personal. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to visit the city.

Our first part of the tour was around the areas where the stars live and fiming locations, with our guide pointing out various houses along the way and giving various funny stories.

Our first stop was The Grove and Farmers Market, which is a very pretty area, with a lovely garden area, high street shops and then the Farmers Market, which housed food of every description.

We then moved on to the Hollywood sign. Now this was the first surprise, that you can’t actually get anywhere near it. Maybe that was quite naive of me. However we went to a great viewing point, where you could see the city in all its glory and also take photos with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Our next stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now again I  may have been a bit naive but I expected this to be a very glamorous area, as you see it on the TV. It was actually (no offence) quite dirty, very busy and at the side of a main road. It’s also crowded with people trying to sell you cd’s, beggars and people dressed up wanting you to pay them to take a photo. The best part was seeing the hand and footprints outside the Chinese theatre. The whole thing was very interesting, but not at all what I expected.

On the other hand, our next stop lived up to expectations, Rodeo Drive. Very exclusive shops, fancy cars, very clean and well kept. We walked down the street, but didn’t go in any of the shops or make any purchases.

Santa Monica Pier

After the tour we walked along the pier at Santa Monica. This was the kind of thing that you expect of a pier and we even had a ride on the Ferris wheel, well because you just have to.

Venice Beach/Muscle Beach

We had read the guide books and knew that this would be a “diverse” place, but nothing could have prepared us for this. There were craft stalls, which were genuinely pretty, but these were interspersed with bizarre characters, selling odd bits or simply asking for your money.

It felt as if you needed to hold on to your bag/wallet/camera at all times. I expected bohemian or even gothic, but this was something else. Many of the people appeared to be homeless, have mental health issues, drugs/alcohol problems or all of them.

Muscle Beach was a fenced in area housing an outside gym. There were no bronzed gods, no roller skating beach babes and no feeling of health and outdoor life.

We walked back to the car as quickly as possible. I’ve worked in some scary places in my time, but this beat them all hands down.

I know that tourists will continue to visit, just as we did, but if I could give any advice to anyone travelling I would say give it a miss. That’s the only place I would say this about in the whole of our travels here in California.

 

California Dreaming (8)

Yesterday we had a slightly lazier day in Santa Barbara. In the morning we went for a walk into town, called for some breakfast and then climbed to the top of the Courthouse Tower to look at the amazing view over the city. The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool in the glorious sunshine. I’m the one in the shade reading as I burn too quickly sitting out in the sun. However it was lovely to be out in the warm sunshine, having an occasional dip in the pool.

In the evening we something to eat and then a walk on the pier. We then had a coffee sitting on the balcony before another good nights sleep.

A long day’s drive

Today we set off on the long drive South towards Los Angeles. Some of it was really pretty, especially Paradise Cove where we stopped off for brunch at the beach restaurant. Because it was Sunday and such a hot day the coast road was extremely busy and we struggled to find anywhere else to park on the beaches on the way, so we continued our journey and will hopefully get chance to drive back and see some of the things we have missed.

I definitely underestimated just how big Los Angeles is and how much of a drive there would be to the places that we want to visit, compared to the drives that we have already done. A lot of the outskirts of Los Angeles away from the beaches is very industrial, so not very scenic.

We are staying at the Regency Hyatt at Huntington Beach which is a huge hotel, situated just across from the beach. The rooms are beautiful and luckily we are staying for three nights.

We’ve got a busy couple if days ahead, so it’s out for tea and then an early night as we have to be up early tomorrow to travel to Universal Studios. Can’t wait!

California Dreaming (7)

The wind had really dropped this morning, making the day feel much hotter. We had a relaxing start to the morning by sitting outside for breakfast in the sunshine. After checking out of the hotel, we then drove inland to Solvang.

Solvang

This a beautiful little town which was founded by the Danes in 1911. It is like stepping back in time into a little Danish village with quaint shops, lovely bakeries and coffee houses and a windmill scattered here and there. I expected it to be a small square or a couple of rows of houses, but it is actually much bigger than that and it quite a large town in its own right.

We spent the morning ambling round the town and looking in the shops. Of course calling for a Danish pastry was a must, although I couldn’t manage to eat one, I am told they were delicious.

Santa Barbara

Our stopover for the next two nights was The Harbor View Inn at Santa Barbara. The weather had certainly improved as we have travelled south and it was now 82 degrees! It was still a little breezy, but actually  that’s quite nice as otherwise it may be too hot.

The hotel is beautiful, overlooking the sea, with a lovely pool and garden.

We spent the afternoon lounging by the pool as our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived. We then sat on the balcony overlooking the pool before getting showered and changed ready to go out for tea

Santa Barbara is much livelier than many of the beach towns that we have visited so far. It has a massive beach area and pier. The town is up the hill away from the beach and as it was Friday night the bars and restaurants were a hive of activity. There was music coming from a lot of the bars which gave it a real holiday atmosphere. We ate at Casa Blanca Mexican restaurant, sitting outside as it was so warm. The young lady who served us was so friendly and helpful and the food was excellent.

And so ends another great day in California.