Macmillan Way from Oakham to Maidwell

We walked fifteen miles on the first May bank holiday Monday, from Oakham to Weston by Welland. We tried to stop for lunch at Hallaton, which has two nice pubs, but they were quite busy.

Just outside Oakham
Green footpaths
So cute

We continued our walk two weeks later, another 15 miles to Maidwell in Northamptonshire. We managed a nice meal this time at The Swan at Braybrooke. This walk includes part of the Brampton Valley Way, starting from an old railway tunnel at Great Oxendon. There was a second tunnel at Kelmarsh before the Macmillan Way leaves the old railway line at Maidwell.

Brampton Ash
Cute sheep, love the pink ears
Dark tunnel
Tunnel exit
Bluebells
Old footbridge near exit to Maidwell village

Cuba.

We spent the first two weeks of April in Cuba. We booked through Rickshaw Travel, an independent company who specialise in tailor made holidays. Our flights were booked through KLM and we travelled via Amsterdam from Birmingham to Havanna.
We travelled from the airport to Havanna in style.

Our transport from the airport seen parked outside our first Casa

These classic cars are ubiquitous around Cuba and our journeys in them were included in our booking. They are treasured by their owners who have often inherited them. Their continued presence is due to the ingenuity of their owners, as spare parts are difficult to come by.
Havanna was wonderful. Faded Spanish Colonial splendour fabulously untainted by modern tourism. You also feel perfectly safe wandering the picturesque streets, even at night. We enjoyed a classic car and walking tour with a very informative guide. She was well educated and provided us with historical and local perspectives. She was optimistic about the future.
Streets of Havanna
Our transport for the morning
The Malecon
Lovely buildings

We stayed two nights initially in Havanna and then travelled by air conditioned coach to Trinidad, on the South West coast. Trinidad was also full of character. We enjoyed a bici-tour around streets where people lived and worked.

The street where our Casa was located.
Local transport
Cuban rail
An art installation
A cigar factory where workers earn $30 a month
The beach at Trinidad that can be reached by taxi or local bus

From Trinidad we travelled by taxi to Playa Larga where we stayed one night. This is located on the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). We walked to a beach but would have been better to have visited the nearby crocodile farm and nature reserve by taxi.
We travelled on to Las Terrazas, an eco-village, built as part of a reforestation project in 1968. We stayed in La Moka Hotel designed by green architect Osmani Cienfuegos, brother of Camilo (late revolutionary hero). It is surrounded by lovely gardens and has a tree growing through the lobby.

Hotel Moka at Las Terrazas
Local bird life
Old coffee plantation
View from coffee plantation, Las Terrazas

From Las Terrazas we travelled on to Vinales, an area of lush green rolling hills, where tobacco is grown. We took a tourist bus around the area when we arrived. The next day we explored the tobacco fields on four legged transport.

Vinales street
Lovely countryside
Our guide
Four legged transport, my horse was called Caramello and Richard’s horse was called Mohito
Tobacco drying hut
Tobacco drying
Tobacco farmer rolling a cigar and sealing it with honey

Our final journey, before returning to Havanna and flying home, was to an island off the West coast of Cuba. We travelled by taxi then ferry to an island of glistening white beaches called Caya Levisa.

Pristine beaches of Caya Levisa
Accomodation
Mangrove trees

We had a great holiday in Cuba, interesting places to visit and lovely people. I sincerely hope that that all goes well for them in the future.

Suggested reading. Also try to learn some Spanish,(though a good phrase book is useful).

Photography course in Bath

I spent a sunny Saturday in Bath learning the many things that my digital SLR camera can do. Was a great course run by the Royal Photographic Society.
Here are some of the results.

Moving water using shutter speed priority


The Avon Canal, Bath

Bath’s most photographed bicycle

Aperture priority


Beautiful blossom using aperture priority

Rule of thirds

South West coast path (Bude to Crackington Haven)

In February we spent a few days in Cornwall. We spent a day walking the South West coast path between Bude and Crackington Haven, a distance of 10.2 miles. We have now walked a total of 216.6km (134.6miles) and have climbed 7,898m (25,912ft) since we started this walk at Minehead. Phew!!! :- )

Bude


Crackington Haven

Finer February

After several weekends stuck indoors due to poor weather we returned to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the starting point for our completed walk along Shakespeare’s Way. Although it was a dull and dismal day it was nice to get out, have Sunday lunch cooked for us and experience places related to Shakespeare that we had not previously visited. We had a wander around the old school that Shakespeare attended and were even given a 16th century style lesson. Interestingly students from the nearby grammar school still have lessons here.

Stratford streets
Shakespeare’s school house
Ancient graffiti

January

January sunshine
Nuevo a-nyo (New Year)

Happy New Year

January has been a quiet month with little opportunity of escape from the routine. Dark mornings and dark evenings with unseasonably warm damp weather.
We started the month with good intentions and during the new year weekend we went for a stout 6 mile walk around nearby countryside broken by a warming lunch at the Plough Inn in Everdon.
After that weekends of grey, leaden skies and a winter bug kept us more homebound.

Emerging bulbs in the garden give the signs that thankfully spring will soon be with us.

Magnetic memories
This is a picture of our fridge. Fifteen years ago we started buying fridge magnets whenever we visited somewhere new. The majority of them are either from the British Isles or small islands off the Brittany coast. Although not great distances sailing to these places can be exciting.

Sometimes we venture further afield and we are finalising plans for our main holiday this year, a Cuban Caribbean adventure. We have booked through an independent travel company called Rickshaw Travel. They specialise in putting together individual travel packages. I usually like trawling the internet myself and exploring travel details and accommodation but it seemed more sensible to call in the experts this time. We are pleased with the final itinerary which has a good balance of culture, beaches and scenery. We have purchased mosquito deterrents and have booked a few vaccinations. There is also the daunting task of trying to learn a little Spanish. We have downloaded a course by Paul Collins and have stuck post it notes on objects around the house. We don’t seem to be getting very far with it though. I tried listening to the course on my journey to work but it is far too distracting when driving.

Donde podemos ir a bailar salsa? (Where can we go salsa dancing) Ha Ha!

Hasta primavera (Until springtime)
Adios (Goodbye)

December day in Birmingham

A visit to Birmingham before Christmas was an unexpected treat. The changes taking place in this city have moved it far beyond the dour greyness I remember. There is an exciting fusion of handsome old architecture with newer delights such as the fabulously revamped New Street Station, the new tram system and a quaint pedestrian square emerging amongst interesting older buildings. We walked along the stalls of the unusually and unfortunately quiet German Christmas market (this was a few days after the tragedy in Berlin). A clamber up to the rooftops of the Birmingham Library proved enlightening. These photos from the roof garden were taken with my iphone.

Birmingham roof tops from the Birmingham library
For lunch we enjoyed hanging chicken kebabs dripping with garlic butter at the Botanist pub/restaurant. We had an interesting and relaxing day.

Getting ready for Christmas

The amount of hype this time of year always amazes me. Cook this recipe, buy this present, wear these clothes. All I really want for Christmas is to spend time with those dearest to me and capture magical memories.
We have managed both in the run up to Christmas.

Duran Duran
Last Friday we went down to London by train and saw Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. We had a wonderful evening after having no idea what to expect. There were so many highlights a real eclectic entertaining mix. Interesting bits of science from gravitational waves to beaver scent glands. Great comedy and music rounded off with Duran Duran!
Fortunately we had booked a hotel in Hammersmith as the show began at 7pm and did not finish until 11:15pm. We would have missed so much if we had rushed to catch the last train.
We had a lovely day on Saturday. We had a wander around Stamfords Travel bookshop and made a few additions to our Christmas shopping. This is definitely a place we will be returning to, just loved the range of books and travel related bits.
We then walked towards Euston via Covent Garden. We enjoyed the Wellcome Collection near Euston and the welcome company of family.
Wellcome Collection entrance

New crew member

image
This is Maisie.
From a Blue Cross rehoming centre, she has found a new comfy berth.
We are keeping her in at the moment so that she does not jump ship.
She seems pretty content though.
Purrfect.

We did not do very much else in November (other than work). Work life balance will be a real priority for 2017.
Maisie continued to settle in well though.
She is quite a character seemingly shy and hiding in all sorts of strange places then leaping around chasing her favourite ladybird toy. It is great coming home weary from work to a welcoming meow.

Maisie settling in

Maisie at work

Thoughts for October

snoopy_quote
Great walking this month and glad of the break from the relentless routine. Doing some Autumn things such as collecting blackberries and baking.

Harvest mice made from bread
Harvest mice made from bread
Apple and blackberry crumble
Apple and blackberry crumble

The leaves are now turning, back to work and feeling the futility of present work situation (summed up by the peanuts cartoon).
Oh well “On y va” 🇫🇷 will soon be Christmas.