Our walking holiday in Rioja ended after breakfast on Friday 7th October. But then Part 2 of our trip began – visiting four very different cities that we’d never been to before.
On this trip we sometimes overlapped with places we’d been last year, when we were following the route taken by Ian’s father after crossing the Pyrenees into Spain during the second world war. On our first bus journey – from Bilbao to Haro – we passed close to Miranda de Ebro, where Pa was imprisoned. The first city we visited on this trip was Logroño, which we passed through last year when we went by train from Zaragoza to Miranda. Pa’s train stopped there too, and there was a change of guards. But neither he nor we went into the city.
We found it a pleasant place, attractive if not terribly exciting. It is on the Camino de Santiago, and we saw pilgrims passing through, as well as places set up to provide them with food, accommodation and general assistance. We visited the museum, the cathedral and three other city churches; we walked around the town, along the main street and through the main square, passing several fountains and the remains of the city walls. We walked along the river, past the various bridges that cross the Ebro. For old time’s sake, we visited the railway station, even though we had arrived by taxi and were leaving by bus.
Next stop was Burgos; our train had stopped here too last year, but the station is some way out of the city, so we’d not seen anything of the town. It was a real treat! By comparison with the small villages we’d been walking through, Logroño had seemed a big city, but Burgos was much bigger and more touristy. Even though it is on the Camino, there were fewer pilgrims around, but many more tourists – and it was easy to see why. On the short walk from the bus station, our first glimpse of the city gate and the cathedral towers made us gasp in amazement. The massive cathedral dwarfed the one at Logroño, and dominates the city in which it stands.
The interior of the cathedral was equally impressive. Some chapels cannot be entered without a guide, but a fairly quick canter round the others took us well over an hour. And although we cannot claim that all of the artwork was entirely to our taste, the overall design was staggering – as was the amount of detail in each individual element.
We visited the church of St Nicolas, near the cathedral, where we admired a painting of the Last Judgement, and sat with many others watching a shaft of early evening sun climb up the retablo (just missing the BVM’s face). Next day we walked up to the castle, just above the cathedral, and got some great views looking down on the city.
Our short time in Burgos was packed, but we managed to visit two monasteries outside of the city itself. First was the Monasterio de las Huelgas, founded by Eleanor of England and the location of several royal weddings and burials. The downside for us was that no photos were allowed, and you had to go on a tour, with a guide whose very fast Spanish was incomprehensible to us.
We preferred the Cartuja de Miraflores, where we could look round and take photos as we wished. It was some distance outside the town, so we took a taxi there and had a pleasant walk back along the river.
Salamanca was a long way from the other cities on our tour, but it was one we’d always wanted to visit, so it was worth a substantial detour – and much easier than making a separate trip. If Logroño was Pilgrim City, and Burgos Tourist City, Salamanca was definitely Student City. The university there was founded in 1218, and rapidly became one of the most prestigious in Europe. It is possible to visit the old university buildings, and see where lectures used to take place, as well as some halls which are still in use today.
And of course, in Salamanca there were more cathedrals and churches to visit. The new cathedral was build alongside the old one, and the latter is accessed from inside the former. We preferred the atmosphere of the Old Cathedral, with its colourful wall paintings.
By then we’d had enough of religious art, but we enjoyed a visit to the Conventu de las Dueñas, wandering round the beautiful cloisters, where every column had a different carving of grotesque and fabulous creatures. We also walked round to cross the old Roman bridge, and went up the twin towers of the Clerecia Jesuit college.
According to our guidebook, ‘Salamanca’s main square stands out as the most harmonious plaza in Spain’. It is certainly very beautiful, and we were fortunate in our choice of accommodation. The room was basic, the water was barely warm – but our balcony looked directly out onto the square. There are restaurants on all sides, with (we estimated) about 500 tables in total, and it is a beautiful place to sit. While in Salamanca we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary. We chose to have dinner at a café we’d discovered a short walk away, as they had an unusually great selection of vegetarian options. But before dinner, we had a bottle of bubbly in the square, and more drinks afterwards – perfect!
On Tuesday 11th October we arrived back in Bilbao, where our trip began eight days earlier. During that time we’d had lots of sun, and some very cold winds, but thankfully no rain. However, we’d been warned that Bilbao was known as the rainy city, and our experience helped us to understand why! It didn’t rain all the time, but between the showers it was cloudy and dull.
Bilbao is of course in the middle of the Basque country, and is famous for the Guggenheim Museum; the architecture is certainly striking, but we were not terribly impressed with the contents. Modern art is not really our thing – although Sandie got in trouble with Ian by laughing hysterically at the pretentious waffle that accompanies some of the exhibits.
A building we liked was a former wine storage warehouse, converted into a leisure and cultural centre. On the ground floor there are lots of squat pillars, some painted, each decorated with an individual design. Bilbao is surrounded by hills; we took a funicular up one of them, and managed to get some good shots of the city with even a faint glimmer of sun.
Bilbao Old Town is small, and there is little of interest to see, unless you count the elaborate theatre situated by the river, on the edge of the old town. So two days in the city was quite enough, and we were not sorry to fly home on Thursday evening.
On Monday 3rd October we took an early morning flight to Bilbao (north-west Spain), to begin our walking holiday. On arrival, we went through the passport control channel for EU citizens, and wondered sadly how long we’ll be able to do that.
We’d never been to Bilbao before, but were impressed by our first views of the city. The weather – warm and sunny – probably helped! We had three hours to wait before our bus to Haro, but could find nowhere to leave our luggage. So we established ‘base camp’ in a pavement café near the bus station, and took it in turns to have a preliminary stroll around the city. We shall spend longer there at the end of this trip.
Haro is an attractive town, bigger than we expected, with some picturesque buildings that looked beautiful in the late afternoon sun. We had the first wine tasting of our trip, and enjoyed the quirky architecture (Disney meets Swiss chateau) as well as the produce. Later we had dinner (also included in the tour) at a local restaurant: good atmosphere, and they coped well with our dietary requests. We had four courses, a bottle of red and two glasses of white: hard work, but somehow we managed to struggle through.
Haro to Abalos
Before setting off on our official walk, we had a large breakfast, another stroll around Haro, and another wine tasting. This comprised a full glass of cava and generous samples of five other wines. We were beginning to think that this would be a staggering holiday, rather than a walking one.
The weather was surprisingly dull and murky at first, but later the sun came through and it was bright and sunny for the rest of the day. We walked a total of 17+ kilometres, mainly on dirt roads, passing though fields and fields of vines. We saw grapes ready for harvesting, and had no doubt where our Rioja came from! With a stop for coffee, and one for cold drinks, we arrived in Abalos around 6.30pm. Our accommodation was on a vineyard, some way out of the village, and soon after arriving we had yet another wine tasting. The vineyard did not provide food, so we had to return to the village for dinner, but the kind owner gave us a lift both ways.
Abalos to Laguardia
Today was our longest walk (20+ km) but as breakfast was not until 9am, we could not make an early start. Unfortunately the directions were not clear, and we wasted a lot of time trying to find the right route. After asking directions several times, we finally found our way to the village of Villabuena de Alava, much later than expected. We had coffee at the strangely designed Hotel Viura (a series of concrete blocks), and continued on our way.
Again, we had problems with the directions, and ended up walking along a minor road. We reached a village, and were relieved to discover it was Elciego, where we were booked for lunch at 2.30. It was past 3 when we arrived, but nobody seemed to mind. We had a nice 3-course veggie meal, with bread, coffee and of course a bottle of Rioja.
On leaving Elciego we at first took the wrong direction, and had to retrace our steps. After that the path was clear, although it did not quite correspond to our instructions. We could see the village of Laguardia from some distance, so we knew we were on the right track, but when we arrived we had a steep climb up to the village centre and our hotel. Having had a large late lunch, we were satisfied with tapas tonight.
Laguardia to Azofra
We thought today would be more straightforward. First appointment was for a 10am tour at a winery just below the town, which is situated on a hill. We could see the winery down below, and estimated that we could walk there in ten minutes. So we set off at 9.45, along a road that seemed to lead directly there. It did lead to the winery – but not to the entrance. We had to walk miles around the edge of the vineyards before we could actually find a way inside. So we arrived 20 mins late – but fortunately they had started the tour only a few minutes before, and we were able to join in.
After the tour (and of course, the tasting) we were collected by a car and taken to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where (after a brief visit to the cathedral) we were to begin the day’s walk.
Santo Domingo is on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and most of today’s walk followed the camino – but in the opposite direction. We passed a continuous stream of pilgrims, all obviously wondering why we were going the wrong way! We walked through rolling hills, but with no signs of any vines which seemed strange after the past couple of days.
In the village of Cirueña, we hoped for a bar but found none. However, back on the camino we passed a golf club, and discovered that the restaurant and bar were open to non-members, so we were able to have a snack lunch sitting in the sun. On the latter part of the camino we saw some vineyards, so felt more at home! Finally we reached the village of Azofra, our base for the night. It was a small village, but fortunately a bar close to our hotel provided excellent (and amazingly cheap) food and drinks.
After a long delay (20 days after we were meant to hear), we finally learned that we were not successful in our bid for the project in Cambodia. Naturally we were gutted – more so because the feedback on our bid made us feel we had been treated unfairly in many ways.
The period since the last blog post therefore divides into two: the ongoing hiatus in our lives while waiting to hear but couldn’t make any plans, and the few days since when we’ve been frantically making plans in the knowledge we won’t be going to Cambodia.
Our main activity during this period was going out for walks of different lengths. We had both bought ourselves new hiking boots, and wanted to make sure they were well broken in before (possibly) doing a walking holiday. We therefore planned a carefully graded series of hikes of increasing length in the neighbourhood of Wycombe:
- 3 miles through Burnham Beeches (cut short by rain)
- 5 miles from the Dog and Badger at Medmenham, including Hambleden Mill and a walk along the Thames
- 7 miles to Hazlemere (finding a nice new pub) and back via Loudwater
- 10 miles including Downley, West Wycombe, Bradenham and Hughenden Manor.
After all that, we reckon the boots are definitely ready for anything! We also managed to attend the Marlow Folk Dance Club twice in September, once walking along the Thames from Bourne End.
Another day we made an excursion to Oxford by bus, and spent a pleasant day exploring the city, home to the second best university in the country.
Back in planning mode
Now that our life is no longer on hold, we have been busy planning for the rest of the year. We aim to return to Sarasota early in November, but before that have booked and organised a trip to Spain, including a short walking holiday in the Rioja region, where Ian’s favourite wine comes from (just a coincidence). We were delighted that the company were able to book us in at very short notice, so we fly to Bilbao to start the trip next Monday (3rd October).
Today we did our final training walk, five miles with our friend Caroline from Lane End and back. The rest of the day was spent getting ready to go. More news in our next blog post.
We’ve managed to keep ourselves busy over the past couple of weeks. Ian painted the bathroom – twice, because Sandie was not happy with the first colour chosen! While he was doing that, she cleaned out the kitchen cupboards – another job that needed doing. We finished a complete draft of our book about the journey we did last year, following that undertaken by Ian’s father during World War II. We had a meeting of our ERA partnership, and managed to attend the Marlow Folk Dance Club – for the first time in exactly a year!
Going for walks
We’ve done several walks recently, some short and some long. Sometimes we’ve managed to combine walking with doing other things. For example, when we were choosing new flooring etc for our bathroom, we wanted to visit some shops in Loudwater, two miles east of Wycombe. It was a beautiful day, and our route took us along back roads and footpaths, some of which we had not previously discovered. After looking round the shops we had a pub lunch, and then came back by a different route, stopping at more shops along the way.
Another day we had arranged to meet our friends Sarah and Tami for dinner in the Red Lion at Langley; we also wanted to take flowers to Sandie’s parents’ grave in Slough Cemetery. And we wanted to have a look at our Slough flat, as we had had reports of rubbish being dumped nearby. Again, it was a warm day and we wanted to do some walking.
We set off at 9.15 and caught the Slough bus, but alighted in the Farnham Road. (This paragraph may not mean much to those unfamiliar with the area!) We did what we have done several times before: visited charity shops there, had coffee, bought flowers and then walked through back roads to the cemetery. From there we walked down into the town centre, and had lunch. We walked along the High Street (more charity shops!) and detoured to our flat. Then we walked through Upton Court Park, along Trelawney Avenue, through to Langley ‘Village’ (where we used to live) and up to Langley Park. We walked through the Arboretum, and round the lake, and followed footpaths which would bring us to St Mary’s Road. We reached the Red Lion just as the church clock opposite was chiming 6 – after walking six or seven miles, we’d made it at exactly the right time!
A weekend with the boys
Charlie and Oscar stayed with us again the first weekend in September, while Claire was working. They are now really keen on swimming, and attend classes where they have made great progress. The forecast for Saturday was sunny in the morning, but rain in the afternoon, so we came up with what seemed to be the perfect plan. In the morning we took the bus to Bourne End, and walked along the Thames Path to Maidenhead, with stops on the way for coffee, watching the boats go through Boulter’s Lock, a picnic lunch and a playground. Reaching Maidenhead we went to the swimming pool and spent a couple of hours there before catching the bus back. It all worked well, although the forecast was sadly not entirely accurate. It was sunny when we set off, but we had rain later in the morning as well as in the afternoon.
Next morning we asked the boys what they would like to do, and with no hesitation they opted for swimming again. This time we went to the Wycombe pool, and once again we combined it with a walk: we took a taxi there and walked back (downhill!) with a stop at the adventure playground on the Rye.
A day at the seaside
The weather forecast for w/b 11 September was good, with Tuesday expected to be the warmest day. We had no other plans, and fancied a trip to the coast – perhaps we’re missing Florida (though it’s not quite the same!). We hired a car and drove to West Wittering, which we always considered to be one of the best beaches along the south coast. Once again we were disappointed with the weather – by the time we reached Wittering there was quite a lot of cloud, and a fairly strong breeze. The beach was also not as good as we remembered. Still, we were able to walk along the sands as far as Chichester Harbour, where we took photos of the boats before returning to the car park by an inland route. We then drove into Chichester, a city we always enjoy visiting, and spent a couple of hours there before heading home, with a stop en route at a country pub for dinner.
A day in London
On Saturday 17th we went up to London for the day. As usual, we went to the theatre: this time we saw a stage production of George Orwell’s 1984. But our main reason for choosing that date for our London trip was so that we could take part in the pro-refugee demonstration. Along with thousands of others, we marched from Park Lane to Parliament Square, chanting and waving placards. In the Square we heard moving speeches from politicians, church leaders, celebrities – and refugees.
We were calling on the UK government to take its fair quota of refugees (at present it is near the bottom of the list of European countries to do so). In particular, we were thinking of all the unaccompanied children currently kept in conditions described as ‘a living hell’ at Calais. Nearly 400 have a legal right to residence in the UK – many have relatives already living here – yet the government has been slow to allow them entry. We need to put pressure on our MPs and local councils to honour their obligations, so that these children can be reunited with their families and have a safe place to live.
We were also protesting against the racism and xenophobia which sadly seems prevalent in large sections of British society and the media. And not just in Britain, of course. The government’s plan to build a long wall in the Calais area is horribly reminiscent of Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border. We await November with trepidation, and just hope that his bid for the US presidency is unsuccessful.
We said in our last blog that we would get the results of our proposal (for an evaluation project in Cambodia) on September 9. It is now the 18th, and we have had no news, so we still do not know where we will be spending the winter!
On Sunday 14th August we said goodbye to our Florida condo, and headed back to the UK, landing at Gatwick the following morning. The time since then has passed quickly. We continued working on the proposal, in consultation with our colleagues in the UK and potential partners in Cambodia. The proposal was submitted last week, and we await the results, which should reach us on Sept 9th.
Our flat needs some cleaning and decorating, and we decided to make a start on the bathroom. We haven’t actually got down to work yet, but we’ve been looking around shops and choosing colours etc. Meanwhile, we’ve spent some time going for walks, and relaxing with friends and family.
Five pubs and a coffee shop
On Tuesday 23rd August we awoke to bright skies and sunshine. According to the weather forecast, it was to be the best day of the week, so it seemed a shame to stay indoors, and we decided to go for a walk. We took the bus to Uxbridge, where we looked in a few shops and had coffee before setting off to walk east along the Grand Union canal. We stopped at the Malt Shovel for a drink, and again at the Water’s Edge. Then we walked down to Little Britain Lake, where we ate our picnic lunch.
From the lake a footpath leads to the Slough Arm of the Grand Union, which we followed west towards Slough. We detoured to the Red Lion pub, which used to be our ‘local’ when we lived in Langley. We sat in the garden, enjoying a nostalgic drink and debating whether to press on towards the cemetery or return home. Then Sandie’s phone rang – it was our friend Caroline, and we had arranged to do a pub walk with her and her daughter Louise on Wednesday evening. Or so we thought. It transpired that Sandie had missed a text message making it Tuesday instead.
That settled the question for us! We had a long wait in Slough for a bus (having just missed one) and it was a slow journey back to Wycombe, due to heavy traffic. So we did not get home until 6.10. We had just a few minutes to turn ourselves round before Caroline and Louise called for us. Then we walked to the General Havelock for a drink, and up the hill to the village of Flackwell Heath, where we had dinner at the Stag. A good day for walking – and pubs!
A family weekend
On Friday 26th we picked up a hire car and drove to Faversham. Ellie was at work, but we were greeted by Andrew, Hope, Isobel, Charlie and Oscar. The boys had returned the previous evening from a visit to Disneyland Paris, and Claire had dropped them at Andrew’s. It was great to see all four of our grandchildren again. In the afternoon we had an excursion to Broadstairs, on the train. The beach was crowded, but we managed to find a space, and the children enjoyed splashing in the sea.
In the evening we brought Charlie and Oscar back to Wycombe – they were to stay with us for the weekend, while Claire was at a birthday celebration. The weather was not great, but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. The boys love swimming, and are making good progress with their lessons. So on Saturday morning we went to the leisure centre. We did not realise until we had changed that the small pool was being used for lessons and was not open to the public. We could not persuade Oskie to go in the big pool, since even at the shallow end he would have been out of his depth. But we found a great bouncy castle for him to go on, and signed him up for a climbing class the next day. In the afternoon we went to the cinema, to see the new film version of Swallows and Amazons.
On Sunday morning we were back to the leisure centre early for Oscar to do his climbing. There is a fantastic set-up, with walls of all heights and levels of difficulty, and Oscar went up like a monkey. Afterwards we all had another swim. This time the small pool was open, but after a while Charlie moved to the big one, and eventually Oscar decided to join him.
In the afternoon we braved the clouds and occasional spots of rain to go to the Rye, the big park in Wycombe. In addition to the two playgrounds there was a small children’s funfair; the boys loved the bungee trampolines, the indoor bouncy castle and the huge inflatable slide. When they got home, the boys began painting some dinosaur money boxes we’d got them.
On Monday the weather improved somewhat, so in the morning we went to Denham Country Park. There is a new adventure playground there, which kept the boys active for some time. We also walked through to the canal, and had coffee (or coke) and cakes at the tea garden by the Deep Lock. We were back home when Claire and Maggi arrived. We walked into town and had lunch in a pub; we came back through the Rye, so the boys were able to spend more time there before Claire took them home to Bussage.
After our camping trip, we had two weeks in Sarasota before returning to the UK. We had plenty to keep us busy. First we had to wash or clean our camping gear and pack it all away; the car needed a good clean too!
We were soon back in what has become our regular routine. On Monday mornings Sandie goes to her tap dance class (other activities are ‘on hold’ for the summer); on Saturday mornings we go downtown to the library, the charity shops and the farmers’ market. We usually go down to the bayfront for our Friday evening ‘pub crawl’, occasionally further afield to Anna Maria Island, and we’re branching out to find new places too. We’ve discovered a bar that does great ‘happy hour’ cocktails, and a really good Thai restaurant, both not far at all from our condo. One night we were later than usual going down to the bayfront (because we’d been for cocktails first) but were in perfect timing for a really wonderful sunset.
On Sunday mornings, and sometimes during the week as well, we go to one of the beaches near Sarasota. We went to Turtle Beach for the first time in quite a while; the last time we went, there was heavy machinery repairing the beach south from the car park, and we wondered if they had finished. They certainly had: the machines had all gone, and we were amazed at the difference they had made. The beach used to be very narrow, and in places it was difficult to get past rocks without wading deep in the sea. Now there is possible to walk on the wide sandy beach, all the way to the southern tip of the island.
We had a few tropical thunderstorms (which we expected) and two days’ solid rain (which we did not). However, we did not mind too much as we had plenty to do indoors. We attended a meeting (by conference call) of the Board of Directors of Central Park II, and spent time chatting with neighbours, or writing emails to the directors, about some of the issues raised. We also spent a lot of time on proposal development (so much for being retired!) in frequent electronic communication with our ERA partners, and with some Cambodian consultants who will work with us on the project – if we get it! Watch this space.
Final episode of our US camping trip, heading south along the coast.
Off to Charleston (cue for another song – and dance?), but stopped first to look round a small town called Edgefield, about 20 miles from Modoc. We’d passed through the previous day, and thought it seemed a quirky kind of place, especially with the wild turkey statues!
We treated ourselves to a motel in downtown Charleston, which was convenient for the sights. There are many beautiful historic houses, and we did a guided tour of one, the Nathanial Russell House. It was perfect timing, as the rain started as we were going in, and stopped as we came out. Later we walked down to the waterfront, and admired more of the architecture, but by then we’d almost lost the sun. We sampled a restaurant and a couple of bars which were also conveniently close to our motel!
Friday 22. Before checking out, we had time for another walk around Charleston; the white and coloured buildings look their best in the sun.
Then we were off to Edisto Island: not far as the crow flies, but about 50 miles by road. We’d never been there before, but it is the current home of Ruth and Robert Anderson, who were good friends when we lived in Greenville. Somehow we’d lost touch about 20 years ago, but last year the minister of Travelers Rest Methodist Church (see previous blog) helped us to make contact. It was great to see them again, and enjoy their hospitality. We had a lot to catch up on, so we spent much of the next two days talking!
Ruth and Robert have a beautiful house, very close to the beach, so we all went for a swim in the afternoon. In the early evening they took us to a place called Botany Bay, which used to be an old plantation. Botany Bay Beach has dead trees decorated by shells, so is very picturesque. On the way back to the car we saw the sunset.
Saturday 23. This morning we went to the Ace Basin Wildlife Refuge, and walked down a long path to the Grove plantation house, which is now being restored. It was very hot, with little shade, and lot of mosquitos! We went on to Roxbury Park, and walked round the lake there. In the afternoon we went back to the beach.
Sunday 24. After brunch, we said farewell to Ruth and Robert, and continued our journey south. First stop was the small town of Beaufort; they had a ‘Water Festival’ on, but it was almost over. Then on to Hunting Island State Park, where we spent some time on the beach, climbed the lighthouse, and had a brief stroll by the lagoon.
Monday 25. Drove down to Savannah (Georgia), and spent the day walking round the city. We’d been there twice before, long ago, but enjoyed seeing it again. The many squares, with their colonial mansions and live oaks coved in Spanish moss, are so picturesque. In Forsyth Park, there is an elaborate and beautiful fountain. We also visited the RC cathedral and the Colonial Park cemetery. And we walked along the riverfront, from the Waving Girl Monument to the Globe (WWII) monument. We looked in a couple of shops, but didn’t buy anything!
Tuesday 26. Drove about 60 miles further south to Brunswick, where we had coffee and strolled around the downtown. We spotted the Presbyterian church where we had attended services in 1982 and also 1989. Then we drove over the causeway to St Simon’s Island. First stop was the Fort Frederica National Monument. The fort was built by the British in the 18th century; only a few ruins remain, but the place is quite atmospheric. We stopped at Christchurch (nearby) to see the stained glass windows, including those depicting the John and Charles Wesley, who preached there.
In the village we saw the lighthouse (but decided not to go up) and the fishing pier. We had enormous ice creams, and went for a stroll along the beach. There are no campgrounds on St Simon’s, so we drove over to Jekyll Island, and pitched our tent there. Later in the evening we heard loud rustling noises. No bears this time – just a large raccoon come to inspect our rubbish bag!
Wednesday 27. We spent the morning on Jekyll Island. First we went for an early morning walk along Driftwood Beach – lots of dead trees, very picturesque. On the way back to the car we saw a lot of small crabs in a pond. Next we stopped at the Horton House ruins, and walked round to see the cemetery and remains of the warehouse. Then to the Jekyll Island Historic District, where we walked along the river and took photos of the posh ‘cottages’. We had coffee in the café belonging to the Jekyll Club Hotel, which gave us an opportunity to see how the other half live. Finally we enjoyed a refreshing swim on Great Dunes Beach.
Then it was on to St Augustine. Back into Florida! We parked near the Castillo de San Marcos at 4pm, which gave us time for a good look round before it closed at 5.15. This was our second visit, the first being at New Year 1983. We had drinks in an Irish bar nearby, then drove out to Anastasia State Park, and booked two nights at the campground. When Sandie went to the bathroom, she heard rustling in the bushes, thought it was another raccoon, but flashed her torch around and saw three armadillos scurrying for cover! No shortage of wildlife in these parts.
Thursday 28. This morning we drove to Washington Oaks State Park; we’d read about it but were rather disappointed. The formal gardens were not that exciting, especially as the ponds had been drained for maintenance. The beach (with lots of coquina outcroppings) was more interesting, and we enjoyed a stroll.
This afternoon we went back into St Augustine, stopping briefly en route to take photos of the lighthouse. We went to the Colonial Spanish Quarter – a kind of open-air museum. The tour included demonstrations of blacksmithing and firing guns. When it finally finished we had drinks in the ‘British pub’. We had time for a quick visit to the cathedral, and the San Sebastian Winery. We then went to the Lightner Museum, where they were having an open evening, which gave us a chance to look round the works of art, with free entry and cheap drinks.
Friday 29. This morning we went for a short walk along the beach, and then headed for Silver Springs – the final stop on our nostalgia tour. On our first-ever visit to Florida (from Greenville, in December 1982) we stopped there on our way to Disneyworld. The glass-bottomed boat trips in Silver Springs have been famous for many years. We discovered that it recently became part of the adjacent state park, but otherwise it was just as we remembered.
Silver Springs is close to Ocala, on the I75 (motorway) which goes south to Sarasota. So from there it was an easy drive home!