Corsica – the walk!

Although we’d always wanted to visit Corsica, we’d been doubtful about doing a walking holiday there.  The island is of course mountainous, and we’d understood that the paths might be too challenging for us.  However, we heard of a walk that didn’t sound too bad, and fitted in with where we wanted to go.  So we decided to take a chance.

Walking day 1

We were due to be picked up from our hotel in Corte at 8.30, and taken to the starting point for the walk.  By 8.45 there was no sign of a taxi, so Ian phoned the Corsican agency, and eventually the taxi turned up. Apparently the driver had been doing a tour of all the hotels in Corte, looking for us!

We had a 30-minute drive through glorious scenery, and then started our walk. After the past few days, we were worried about the weather, but it stayed warm and sunny all day.  The walk was relatively short, on rocky paths, uphill a lot of the time but not too difficult. And the scenery was wonderful.  We particularly enjoyed our lunch break at the Pont d’Ercu, an old stone bridge crossing a series of small waterfalls.

We reached Calacuccia, our destination village, had welcome drinks and checked into our hotel.  As it was still only 4pm, we decided to explore the lake, but found that access was not as easy as we had anticipated.  We found a footpath and followed that as far as we could.  Then we climbed up to a road, and were not sure which way to walk in order to return to the village.  We chose the wrong way, of course, but eventually found our way back.

Walking day 2

Today’s walk was longer, but with no transfers, so we left our hotel at 8.15.  To begin with, it was a fairly easy walk, following the lake.  Later it went uphill, and wound through gorse-clad hills and pine forests – all very pleasant, but with fewer views of the mountains than yesterday.  We passed cows, goats and sheep; we saw brilliant green lizards and dung beetles busy about their work.  We crossed several streams (and managed not to get too wet).  We paused for a break at what our notes described as a ‘charming place’, with a bridge over the river and a disused chestnut mill (chestnuts are a big thing in Corsica).

There was a lot of uphill climbing in the afternoon, and we were looking forward to reaching our destination.  At one point we were supposed to join the ‘legendary’ GR20, but somehow we managed to miss it.   We ended up at the Col di Vergio, where there is a massive statue of Christ, and – wonder of wonders! – a bar.  We had some much-needed liquid refreshment before walking down the road to our accommodation.

Walking day 3

We stayed two nights in the Hotel Castel di Vergio, allowing us to do a long walk up the mountain on the intervening day. We were doubtful about completing the whole walk, but hoped we might do the first two of the three parts outlined in our walk notes.  We were disappointed to find that the weather was grey and cloudy, with occasional spots of rain.

Part 1 of the walk followed the GR20, which was narrower and rockier than we expected, and involved quite a bit of clambering between and over boulders. It ended at the Radule Bergeries, which offers refreshment (we’d been told) between June and August. We arrived just after 11 – coffee time! – but it was closed.  We continued on Part 2, but did not get far.  According to our walk notes, there is a footbridge over the Golo River, but this did not exist.   (The evidence suggested that it had collapsed and was being rebuilt.)  Crossing the river otherwise was too difficult for us – it was fast flowing and quite deep.  We watched a couple of young girls do it, but chickened out of following them.

So – back to the hotel!  We spent the afternoon reading, or using the laptop.  It would have been a great opportunity for catching up with emails, and doing other jobs involving the Internet, but sadly, the hotel had no wifi.

Walking day 4

When we woke, there was no sign of the mountains from our bedroom window – they were lost in a thick, heavy mist.  It continued grey and cloudy all morning, with light rain on and off.  The walk to Evisa was relatively short, but certainly not easy.  Large sections went steeply downhill, and involved a lot of clambering over rocks – in some places the path was not easy to identify.

The worst moment came when we reached a suspended footbridge over the river Aitone.  The biggest problem was not the footbridge itself, but getting onto it!  It was anchored to a large boulder, but there were no steps or other obvious ways of reaching the bridge.  We explored the area, feeling baffled and frankly nervous.  Finally Ian managed (with difficulty) to cross from another rock, then Sandie passed across the rucksack, cameras etc before making the leap herself.

The last part of the walk was less challenging, but not particularly enjoyable, because by then it was pouring with rain.  We had to walk on slippery stones, or through a river of liquid mud.  We were glad to arrive at our accommodation in the village of Evisa.  Once we were safely there, the weather improved dramatically, and the early evening was perfect.  We had dinner on the hotel’s (covered, but mainly glazed) terrace; we enjoyed the beautiful views and took photos of the amazing sunset.

Walking day 5

According to our notes, we were supposed to walk from Evisa to Ota, and then on to Porto, on the west coast, where our walk effectively ended.  Given that our walking speed is much slower than the average quoted in the notes, we were doubtful about completing the whole walk before nightfall.  And when we read the description of Part 2 – swinging down for 30 minutes using trees for support – we decided that we would do Ota to Porto by road.

The walk to Ota sounded OK – but in reality it was far from easy.  There was a very long downhill stretch which was mainly picking our way over wet rocks.  There was some attractive scenery as we walked through the Spelunca Gorge, though it would have looked better if it had not been raining.  In particular, we came to an attractive two-level waterfall, but we had to walk through the stream connecting the two parts.

That wasn’t too bad, but later we came to a place where we had to cross a raging torrent – with no bridge. Unfortunately, there was no way of avoiding it.  And crossing barefoot would have been dangerous on the slippery rocks.  So our boots got full of water, and we squelched for the rest of the day.

This experience confirmed our desire to leave the path at the earliest opportunity. Luckily the path crossed the road a mile or so before Ota – we have never been so glad to see tarmac!  We followed her road into Ota, where we had a pleasant lunch break, and then on to Porto, and our hotel.  On the way we passed a large number of fairly elaborate family tombs by  the side of the road.

Final thoughts

If you’ve managed to read this far, you’ll know that we encountered several problems on our Corsica walk (not to mention the frequent wet weather, which didn’t help).  As we said at the beginning, we knew the walk might be challenging for us, but enquiries led us to believe we could cope. There were times during the walk when we felt we’d made the wrong decision!  And we certainly breathed a huge sigh of relief when we reached Porto.  But we also felt a sense of achievement – we’d tackled the walk, and survived!

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Corsica – before the walk

This year’s big European trip began in Corsica, a place that’s long been on our bucket list; in fact, Ian recalled being keen to go there even as a child.  On Sunday 3rd June we flew direct from Stansted to Bastia, a service which Air Corsica started only the month before.  They must have known we were coming!

Welcome to Corsica!

Bastia

Bastia is not highly rated as a tourist destination, but parts of the city are very picturesque, especially the harbour area known as the Old Port.  We spent Sunday afternoon strolling round in the sun, taking lots of photos as usual.

We had the whole of Tuesday in Bastia too – the only problem was that we’d seen most of the key sites on Sunday!  We extended our exploration a bit further, and went inside a few churches (we’d not done this earlier, because we wanted to make the most of the good weather on Sunday – a wise decision, because Tuesday was not so great).  Most of these churches were very dark, and/or not very interesting.  But we enjoyed sitting by the harbour, enjoying the views, or in the Place St-Nicolas, watching the massive ferries come in and out of the port.

Not quite ready for its MOT!

Cap Corse

From Bastia a finger of land extend northwards.  It is called Cap Corse, and described rightly as being very beautiful, so we hired a car for a day in order to do the circuit.  What we hadn’t realised (no matter how much research you do, you always miss something) was that the airport was a long way out of town, so we wasted a lot of time going to collect our car.

We knew that the D80 road, which goes round the coast, would be narrow and winding, but it was more challenging that we had anticipated.  In some places the cliffs drop straight into the sea, and we were driving along a narrow ledge.  It made for slow going, and some scary moments, especially when large vehicles were coming at speed in the opposite direction!

Working our way up the east coast, our first stop was at Erbalunga, a very picturesque village.  We enjoyed strolling around and had our morning coffee sitting in the sun in an attractive square. That proved to be the highlight of the day, partly because the weather deteriorated rapidly afterwards.

It became cool and grey, with strong winds. We stopped briefly to take photos of the Tour de l’Osse, and of Porticciolo, a smaller village.  Crossing to the west coast, we stopped at the Moulin Mattei, and walked up to the mill to get the fantastic views – but it was blowing a gale, so we hurried back to the car.

We had lunch in Centuri, but found the village was 4 km off the ‘main’ road, and the access was not easy.

Our next stop was meant to be Nonza, but we could not find anywhere to park, so we stopped just beyond the village and got some views back.

By the time we reached St-Florent it was raining and we decided not to stop. We had to return the car by 7pm (or by 9am next morning).  So we pressed on, with a detour to visit the striking and unusual church of San Michel de Muratu.  Up in the hills, the weather really was bad, with limited visibility.  Miraculously we managed to find the church and then find our way to the airport, arriving just in time to meet our deadline.

Cap Corse is a great place to visit, but it would be good to have more time – and better weather!!!

Calvi

Corsica has a small railway network, said to be an enjoyable way of exploring the island’s mountainous interior without the hassle of driving.  It is very slow, but if you’re on holiday that doesn’t matter.  Trains only go to a few major cities, but we went from Bastia to Calvi.  The scenery was not quite as dramatic as we’d hoped – again, it might have looked better in the sun.

Welcome to Calvi!

Calvi is in some respects similar to Bastia. It has a port, and a citadel; we decided that we preferred Bastia’s old port, but Calvi’s citadel – you can walk around the ramparts, and get excellent views of the city.  By the time we did the tour, in the late afternoon, the sun had emerged and the views were great.  Unlike Bastia, Calvi is a tourist town – it is packed with holidaymakers and caters for their every perceived need.

On Thursday we awoke to blue skies and sunshine. We’d already seen the town centre, which is small, so decided to combine two suggested walks to viewpoints outside the city.  The first was a chapel high in the hills; certainly a great viewpoint, but by the time we arrived the sun had all but disappeared.

It was quite a long trek to our second goal, a lighthouse on a peninsula went of Calvi.  A small detour brought us to a beach bar at exactly 11am – coffee time!!!

By the time we reached the lighthouse, the clouds were black and threatening; while we were taking photos, the rain started.  We returned by the most direct path, but while we were walking the rain poured and the thunder crashed around us.  We had our cagoules and rain capes; even so, when we reached the beach bar, we were soaked.  We had a light lunch and a couple of drinks, hoping the rain would ease – but no luck.  The path back to Calvi was flooded in places, so we got very wet feet.  We were glad to reach our hotel, and dry off!

Corte

En route to Corte

We were up early on Friday to catch the train to Corte, in the centre of the island.  Corte is in a hollow surrounded by mountains, some of them snow-capped: a very beautiful setting, especially with some sunshine. But our arrival was rather spoilt.  We were to begin our walk next day, and our hotel in Corte was included in the package.  We’d been instructed to take a taxi there from the station, but there were no taxis, and enquiries revealed that there was only one in the city – and it was fully booked for the next four hours.  We had no option but to walk, something we would not normally mind doing, but dragging a heavy case uphill for more than a mile was not much fun.

A long pull

However, when we’d recovered we enjoyed the rest of the day, exploring the town and the citadel, walking along the river and trying a few of the town bars. Needless to say, the sun did not last; we had rain on and off, but managed to be indoors when it was worst, so avoided getting soaked again!

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The Great Family Reunion

After our Menorca trip, we returned to High Wycombe on Friday 25th May.  We were at home just long enough to catch up with the washing and ironing, and go to our folk dance club in Marlow, for the first time since last October.

A weekend in Bussage

On Saturday we were off to Bussage, for a grand reunion of the Schagen clan. We’d pre-booked a hire car, but when Ian went to collect it he was told they needed two additional pieces of ID, e.g. utility bills with full address, issued within the last three months.  This was annoying, to say the least, since the office was some distance from our flat.  Ian phoned Sandie, who found the relevant documents, went by bus to the town centre and handed them over to Ian who had meanwhile caught a bus back into town.  Then he had to go back again – real fun and games, and we arrived in Bussage much later than planned.

Still, it was worth it!  Paul and Alexa arrived at Claire’s just after us, and Andrew & co turned up a bit later. It was the first time all of our children and grandchildren had been together since Paul’s wedding, nearly four years ago. We used the opportunity to take some updated family photos.  In the evening we had dinner at the nearby Lamb Inn: 17 of us in total, including Maggi, her fiancé Phil and son Chris, Ant’s mother Jill and stepfather Bill.  Quite a gathering!

One for all and all for one!

Claire and Ant’s tribe

Andrew and Ellie’s tribe

The motley crew

Dinner at the Lamb

Sunset over Eastcombe

Next day Claire and Ant hosted an early lunch for most of us, then people began heading off to various parts of the country.  First Andrew and family, then Paul and Alexa – and finally Claire and Ant.  They were having an overnight trip to Exeter, as a belated celebration for Claire’s birthday four days earlier.  They returned home on Monday, and on Tuesday Claire was off on a work trip to Singapore.  Meanwhile, we were left in charge of the boys for the half-term holiday.

A week (well, almost) in Wycombe

On Monday we drove back to Wycombe with Charlie and Oscar.  We decided to stop somewhere interesting on the way, and the vote was for Chedworth Roman Villa. It wasn’t until we parked that Charlie realised he’d visited before, on a school trip last year!  We said he could be our guide and show us round.

Arrival at Chedworth

Mosaic flooring

In the bath house

Local wildlife

A walk in the woods

When we reached Wycombe, the sun was shining and the boys went out to play. Unfortunately Charlie’s rugby ball got wedged high up in a tree.  Shaking the tree did not help, so Opa was summoned and went out with a long stick – which did not reach the ball.  So it was back for the step stool, and part of the collapsed wardrobe, which was cobbled together with the stick, to form a loop which did finally reach the ball.  After several unsuccessful attempts at prodding it, Ian was able to release it from the tree.

Disaster!

Rescue party

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the holiday could not have been much worse: grey, miserable and lots of rain for the rest of the week.  We tried to think of suitable places to go – but even some of our plans had to be revised as the week went on.  On Tuesday we went to see the new Star Wars film, Solo.  On Wednesday we went bowling; Ian won both games and Sandie came last, as usual.

According to every forecast we consulted, Thursday was to be the worst day, with thunderstorms all day.  So we went to Coral Reef, a leisure pool near Bracknell, which used to be a family favourite and has recently had more flumes installed.  We went early in the morning, as we’d been advised the queues would not be so bad at opening time.  But they were bad enough – we waited about 30 mins to get in, and 45 mins for one of the water slides! The pool was crowded of course, and there was barely time for two slides before our session was up.

The annoying thing was that the weather forecasts were completely wrong. When we left Coral Reef it was sunny and quite warm!!!  It seemed a shame to be indoors, so we went to Black Park, strolled round the lake and gave the boys time on the adventure playground.

What’s this queue for, exactly?

Cute coot

Discussion group

Memories of Blue-Tongued Lizard Man

What do you mean, I’ve got weird feet?

The weather was also good on Friday, but we could not go out for the day as we had a conference call lined up for the afternoon.  In the morning we went to Denham Country Park, and in the afternoon (since the call did not last long) we went to the Rye in Wycombe.

On Saturday Sandie had a haircut, then Ian returned the hire car.  This turned out to be as problematic as picking it up a week ago.  The car was checked, all in order, and our deposit refunded.  But shortly afterwards we received an email saying that we would be charged for damage under the bumper, which was certainly not caused by us.  The saga continues!

While Ian was out, Claire and Ant arrived. They stayed for lunch, and then took the boys home. Now we are getting busy with washing, ironing and packing.  Tonight we are going to a barn dance – and tomorrow we are off on our travels again!

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Menorca: west, south and central

Ciutadella is the second biggest city on Menorca, and was once the capital; it sits on the west coast of the island, almost diametrically opposite to Mahon on the east.  According to our guidebooks, it is an attractive city, so we decided to have a day there to explore, before continuing our walk.

A day in Ciutadella

After arriving in Ciutadella, and finding our hotel, we went out for dinner.  There is a string of restaurants along the picturesque harbour, which is a pleasant place to eat.

Harbour in the evening

Main square at night

Next day we encountered a number of problems.  First, it was raining – not heavily, and we kept hoping it would stop, but through the day the weather was very variable.  We looked in the cathedral, and some other churches, but some of the places we hoped to visit were closed.  We’d carefully checked that they would be open on Mondays, so thought it must be a special day (Whit Bank Holiday, perhaps, as we used to have in England).  We asked the people in the tourist info office, and were told that it was half a public holiday: some places were open, and some not.  Very helpful!

Cathedral interior

We took a taxi out of the city to visit the Naveta d’es Tudons, a boat-shaped burial chamber believed to be the oldest roofed building in Europe.  Sadly, it has been vandalised recently, and the graffiti is currently being removed.

Naveta d’es Tudons

On returning to the city, we had lunch and walked round to the Castle of Sant Nicolau, and back along the harbour.

We still had time to spare, so decided to visit the Lithica, a disused stone quarry which is now a tourist attraction.  Gardens have been created among the odd-shaped stones that remain, and there is also a stone maze.  It is an interesting and unusual place, well worth a visit.  But it is further out of town than our source stated, so we got a taxi back to the city, and returned to the harbour for dinner.

Night-time street

Walking day 5

On Tuesday 22nd we started walking again.  We were driven to a beach in the south-west corner of the island, and walked east from there. The path was fairly flat, but rocky.  We visited a cave once used by pirates. The landscape was rather bleak, but looked better when the sun came out.  There were beaches in picturesque coves, and Ian had a paddle.  After about eight miles, we were glad to reach Cala Macarella, where there was a large beach bar doing a roaring trade.

Along the south coast

Our hotel was a bit further on, in Cala Galdana, which turned out to be a large and lively resort, with plenty of bars, restaurants and people!  We wanted to explore the Barranc d’Algendar, said to be the most spectacular gorge in Menorca.  We walked about 1.5 miles into the gorge, and were disappointed at first, as it was nothing like as dramatic as we’d expected.  Later it became a bit more interesting, but as we were debating how much further to go, we came to a rusty gate that was padlocked, so that settled it – we had to turn back.

We had a choice of restaurants for dinner, and opted for one which had an extensive range of Indian food, as well as Spanish and British.  They also had a wide range of drinks, including Aperol Spritz, which we’d been asking for without success.  So we had one before our food; we both opted for Indian, and it was excellent.

Walking day 6

Our final day’s walking was a circular from Cala Galdana, where we would be collected at 5pm.  To begin with, we continued east along the cami, which went inland for much of the way – pleasant walking if less dramatic scenically.  We had a brief break at Binigaus Beach, which was our turning point.  To get back we followed ‘El Litoral’, the coast path.  We’d been warned that this was difficult in places, but had no idea quite how bad it would be!

Leaving Cala Galdana

A wayside encounter

We knew that some sections went steeply uphill – we can cope with that.  And the path would be rocky – ditto.   But for much of the time there was no proper path at all, just climbing over rocks on the edge of the cliffs, which was difficult and (for Sandie at least) quite scary.  To leave one beach, we had to wade through a stream. We crossed where some other walkers indicated was the easiest place, but from there it was extremely difficult to reach the steps cut in the rocks. To cap it all, the booklet with our walk instructions blew out of Ian’s pocket and down towards the beach!  Luckily a very nice young man came to our rescue.  He climbed the rocks like a mountain goat, rescued the booklet and returned it to us.  He then helped Sandie over to the steps – what a hero!

Over the rocks

Another wayside encounter

A strange ritual on the beach

Ian phoned the hotel, and asked them to tell the taxi driver we would be late.  We were back at 5.30, but there was no sign of our taxi, nor our luggage!  After some frantic phone calls, we established that the luggage had gone, and our pick-up had been deferred to 6.  We had a drink while waiting, but the taxi did not turn up till 6.20, and it was after 7 when we were finally dropped near our hotel in Mahon.  To our relief, we found our luggage waiting for us!

Mahon sunset

Mahon by night

A day with a car

Our walking holiday had ended, but we’d decided to stay on for an extra day, to visit some places that we had not seen on the walk, and could not easily reach without a car.

We rented one from the airport, and our first stop was Poblat d’en Galmes, a Neolithic settlement.  The area covered was much larger than expected: we spent an hour among the ruins, which were all very picturesque.  Later in the day we visited three other settlements, all interesting although in the end they began to blur.

We visited Cales Coves, where there are various caves once used for burials on both sides of the cove.  The paths looked precarious, and after our experience of the previous day we were not keen!  However, we tackled the one that looked least difficult, and after a bit of rock climbing it became quite manageable.   We walked some distance, saw a few caves and even managed to get into one or two.  Ian had the idea that if we went far enough we could return on the cami – and he was right!  It made a good circular walk.

During the day we visited two contrasting towns, partly inspired by the need for refreshment.

We had our morning coffee at Alaior, and admired its town hall and impressive church.

We had a very late lunch at Binibequer Vell, which we’d read about in the guidebook: it is an ‘architect-designed’ (i.e. fake) fishing village. All the buildings (tiles as well as walls) are painted brilliant white; the overall impression is more Disney than Disneyworld!

After returning the car to the airport, we took a bus into town, and later had dinner at a vegan restaurant we’d discovered.  That was the end of the holiday – next morning we flew back to Luton.

 

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Menorca east to west

On Tuesday 15th May we flew to Mahon, the capital of Menorca, the next place to be crossed off our bucket list. We arrived late – and hungry!  Luckily the first café we came to was a tapas bar, quite small but obviously popular, and we had an excellent meal. We stayed two days in a city hotel, giving us a day to explore before setting off on our walking holiday.

Drinks at the airport

Mahon

Mahon is an attractive city, but not very big.  In the morning we visited some of the main churches and then walked along the harbour, said to be one of the best in the world.  At the end we climbed to the upper level, and followed the path back which gave us great views.  Sandie enjoyed using her new camera until it suddenly stopped working – the battery had run out earlier than we anticipated.  We returned to our hotel, to give it a quick charge. That solved the immediate problem, but we were worried about the prospect of running out of power while on a long walk in the country.

Cow statue in the market

View of the harbour of Mahon

Horse statues in the centre

Inside a gin warehouse

Mermaid statue

Preparing for the flower festival

So in the afternoon, another stroll around the city centre was combined with looking for a camera shop where we could buy a spare.  We located three shops on the Net, but sadly one had closed permanently and the other two were closed for siesta. At 5pm (post-siesta) we returned to the most promising camera shop.  They did not have the required battery, but directed us to an electronics shop, which fortunately did!!!

Muse of Comedy, outside the theatre

Later we walked to Es Castell, virtually a suburb of Mahon, but recommended in the guidebook. The main square was disappointing, but the harbour, lined with fish restaurants, was very pleasant.  We had aperol spritz at the first bar we came to, then followed a boardwalk suspended from the rocks around the harbour.  We returned to the restaurant we’d chosen for dinner, and then took a taxi back to our hotel.  By then we’d walked about 12 miles – and we hadn’t even started our walking holiday!

Windmill at Es Castell

Es Castell harbour

The walkway round the harbour

 

Walking day 1

We were driven from Mahon to Es Grau, a picturesque whitewashed village which we explored before starting on our walk.   This followed a stretch of the Cami de Cavalls, through the Parc Natural de S’Albufera.  We skirted several picturesque coves, and the spring flowers were beautiful.  There were quite a few people on the trail.   The weather was warm (not hot) and sunny – ideal for walking.  Eventually we reached the road leading to the lighthouse of Favaritx.  We did the detour, though the lighthouse was not that impressive.

Es Grau

Tortoise (‘Land Turtle’)

View over lakes

Watchtower and lighthouse

Beach near the lighthouse

Another stretch of the Cami took us the rest of the way to Addaia, where we had a very welcome drink in a bar while waiting for our transfer to Fornells, and our hotel for the night. After more drinks we walked up to the Torre de Fornells: it was not that exciting, but we thought we ought to see it while we were there.  Then it was time for dinner!  Ian decided to splash out on caldereta de llagosta, the local speciality, and was suitably equipped with a bib and the implements for dismembering lobsters.

Along the north coast

Where are we now?

Local flora

Snowy egrets here too

Addaia

Tower of Fornells

Fornells harbour

Attack the lobster!

Walking day 2

A taxi took us to Cap de Cavalleria.  Today’s walk was supposed to be shorter but tougher than yesterday’s, and that was certainly the case.  The weather was not so good – lots of cloud and very little sun.  The first part of the walk was scenic and quite easy, and there was a restaurant not far from the path where we were able to get our morning coffee, a treat we’d missed yesterday.  We told ourselves the walk was not going to be so difficult after all.

North coast cove

Offshore rocks

Chapel and wild flowers

Ancient stone barn

Cala del Pilar beach

Later, however, there was a steep climb followed by a very steep descent. And after that, there were continual ups and downs, on paths with loose and slippery stones.  Finally we left the Cami and headed inland to a car park, where our transfer was waiting.  Our accommodation was in an ‘agroturismo’, a farm which provides B & B.  We had a whole apartment to ourselves, and dinner was delivered to us there. We’d walked about 12 miles, but felt more tired than yesterday, when we’d walked 17!

Walking day 3

After breakfast our host drove us back to the car park, so we could continue walking west along the Cami.  Compared to yesterday’s strenuous hike, today was a walk in the park – almost literally.  The path went inland, around the hills rather than over them.  It was mainly flat, with few loose stones.  We walked through woods most of the time, but crossed some open fields which were carpeted with wild flowers. The trail was also full of runners, taking part in some kind of cross-country race.

Runners’ rest area

Runners on the trail

Trail with wild flowers

Soon after 12 we reached the beach at Algaiarens; we had a rest there, and took it in turns to explore. The next section of the cami was a bit harder, climbing up and around bays.   Then we left the path and took a cut which led direct to our accommodation. It was still quite early, so we had time for a shower/bath before walking into Cala Morell.  We’d decided to have dinner there rather than in apartment, as it was Ian’s birthday and we wanted to go out and celebrate.  However, it did not work out as we expected!

Algaiarens beach

Exercises on the beach

Along the coast

According to the map, Cala Morell is one of the biggest towns on the north coast of Menorca.  We thought there would be plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. On the edge of the town we spotted a pool bar open to the public, so stopped there for drinks. Then we visited the Necropolis of Cala Morell, with some extraordinary caves.  On into the town, but no sign of any bars, restaurants or shops – just street after street of whitewashed villas and apartments!  The whole town seemed to be deserted.  We asked a woman who said the nearest restaurants were miles away.

Necropolis at Cala Morell

Inside one of the caves

Cala Morell

However, we spotted in the distance what looked like a café above an inlet of the sea.  We made our way there, but found it closed at 7 and the kitchen shut at 5.30!!!  We had just time for a drink, and the waiter directed us to a restaurant (apparently the only one in town) where we were finally able to get dinner.

Leaving Cala Morell

Walking day 4

Today we walked the cami from Cala Morell (our host gave us a lift there) to Cuitadella. There were scenic views of the coast to start with, but then the path went inland, and there was not much to see.  The path was mainly flat, but quite rocky.  Soon after 12 we reached the road leading to the lighthouse at Punta Nati and did a detour to see it.  Constructions nearby looked like modern versions of the prehistoric talayots.

View along the coast

Shipwreck monument

Inside one of the neolithic structures

Neolithic structure and lighthouse

Finally we reached an urbanizacion on the outskirts of Ciutadella. We were delighted to find a bar where we could have a much-needed rest and a drink.  Then we walked about another three miles into the city, had another drink and found our hotel.

Hiking across the limestone

Menorcan barns

Natural arch

A bar at last!

Coming into Cuitadella

Cuitadella harbour

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Back to Blighty (but not for long)

On Wednesday 2nd May we landed in a cold, wet, dreary England.  Welcome back!  Sandie’s flu had developed on the journey, and she was feeling really rough.  So when the taxi deposited us at our flat, she went straight to bed.  Actually, we both did – our usual practice is to have a few hours’ sleep if we arrive back early in the morning.  But by lunchtime Ian was up and doing.  He got busy with the unpacking, the shopping and everything else that needed doing, while Sandie remained flat out in bed for the next three days, apart from occasionally sitting up to eat a little soup.

Disappointments

A number of things planned had to be cancelled or postponed, including dinner with a friend, and a walk up to the village pub which does Sandie’s favourite vegetarian fish & chips (unobtainable in Florida, so a top priority for the return home).  And sadly, we had to tell Claire and family not to visit, as arranged, on Saturday 5th, because we didn’t want all of them to catch flu.

It was particularly frustrating, because the weather was exceptionally good by UK standards – apparently the warmest May Day Bank Holiday weekend on record.  By Sunday Sandie was feeling better, but not up to walking far.  So we did a gentle stroll into town, with a few stops on the way.  Daisies, buttercups and bluebells confirmed that we were definitely back in England!  The success of the trip was that Sandie acquired a new camera – her belated birthday present.  The disappointment was when we decided to have lunch in a town pub that did veggie fish and chips – and discovered it was no longer on the menu!

Bluebells

Daisies

Lunch in town

It was inevitable that Ian would catch Sandie’s bug, although it affected him rather differently.  So for the next few days, it was his turn to stay indoors, with a really dreadful cough.  Sandie, still lacking in energy, met up with friends and enjoyed just sitting and chatting, catching up on six months’ news!

G&T masquerading as Donald Duck

The great wardrobe disaster

One day we heard an enormous crash, and eventually traced the source to the fitted wardrobe in our bedroom. The hanging rail was attached to a shelf which was quite deep and therefore useful for storage.  Since we moved in (almost five years ago) it had been piled high with photo albums etc.  Suddenly – and for no apparent reason – the whole thing had collapsed, depositing all our clothes and everything else in a glorious jumble on the floor.

After the crash – and we’d removed all the clothes

The immediate problem was where to put things.  Soon every door in the flat had clothes festooned from the handles, while the floor of the spare room was littered with photo albums and files.  Ian did not feel like tackling the repairs himself, and in any case no longer has the tools needed to do so.  But Ant came to the rescue – he and Claire came for their delayed visit on Sat 12th, along with the three boys, and the shelf and rail were restored in remarkably quick time.

Spare room chaos

We then had the task of putting everything back – but not as it was before.  With hindsight, the Great Wardrobe Disaster was probably a blessing in disguise. We did not want to put so much heavy stuff back on the shelf in case of another accident, so we needed more storage space, and luckily found a unit in a charity shop which matched our other furniture.  While planning how best to move things around, we decided to aim for a bigger reorganisation, and hopefully make our spare room rather less of a mess. It will be a while before the whole plan is carried out, but we think it will be worth it!

New unit

A busy weekend

We spent Friday in Slough, as we had a meeting of the management committee for our flat, and then went to see the flat itself and the improvements which have been made.  After lunch we walked up to the cemetery, to put flowers on Sandie’s parents’ grave.  In the evening we had dinner at Caroline’s, with some friends she wanted us to meet.

On Saturday, after Ant had fixed the wardrobe, we all walked to the Rye, so the boys could spend some time on the playground.  Then it was up to the Beech Tree for lunch. In the evening we went to the cinema, to see the film version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book we read some years ago.

We had two goals for Sunday: to get some practice walking (especially uphill – not much scope for that in Florida!), and for Sandie to finally get her veggie fish and chips.  We decided how to achieve both, by walking through the woods to the Crown at Penn, and doing a figure of eight walk from there.  We’ve walked to the Crown many times, so no problems with Part 1!  We managed to lose the track on Part 2, but after wandering around we found our way through to the Squirrel at Penn Street – at the top of the 8 and where we had our second drink.

Not used to uphill

Watching cricket at the Squirrel

A restorative drink!

On the return leg we failed to find the path connecting the two loops, so we walked directly back to the Crown for dinner – yes, veggie fish and chips for Sandie.  By that time we’d clocked about 12 miles; it showed, thankfully, that our energy has returned post-flu, even though we are both still coughing from time to time.

This morning (Monday) we had a reporter from the Bucks Free Press come to interview us about our book.  She promises to write an article which we hope will generate some local interest.

Given that we’ve not done a lot since we returned from Sarasota, it’s surprising that this blog is so long, even though there are fewer photos than usual!  Tomorrow we’re off to Menorca, so hopefully the next blog will be more exciting.

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Countdown to leaving Sarasota

After arriving back from our camping trip, we had just under two weeks in Sarasota, before returning to England.  It was a very busy time.  Apart from our usual activities – and writing the blog – and doing more work for Sutton Trust – we had to prepare for leaving Sarasota.  For the first time, we are going to rent our condo while we are away.  So it was not just packing up the things we want to take with us, but also the things we are leaving here.  It was hard to believe that we had accumulated so much stuff in the three years we’ve been here, on and off.  The first job was to sort through it all, and see how much we could get rid of!

Enjoyable events

But it wasn’t all work – we did find time for some enjoyable breaks.  On Thursday 19th we went to Cat Depot’s ‘Volunteer Appreciation Dinner’.  Along with about a hundred people, we were profusely thanked for the work we do – which seems undeserved, given that we get so much pleasure from fostering cats!

Cat Depot dinner

On Saturday 21st we went along the bayfront for our pub crawl.  Drinks at the Westin’s rooftop bar, cocktails (and sunset) at Marina Jack’s, and dinner at O’Leary’s.

At the Westin roof bar

Sarasota reflections

Bayfront sunset

On Sunday we went to Turtle Beach and did what we call the long walk south (not to be confused with the long walk that we are learning in tango!).  We saw an amazing number of pelicans and other birds, and a dolphin surfaced close to where some children were swimming.

What, no air traffic control?

Black-bellied plover

Pelicans

In the evening we went round to the bayou: no manatees this time, but the fish put on an amazing show, leaping high out of the water.

At the bayou

During the week, we were kept busy with our regular activities, and with spring cleaning the condo.  Our friends David and Donna came to dinner on Monday, and on Thursday we and some other friends joined them for drinks by the pool.  They are leaving CP2 after 11 years here, but not moving far away.  On Saturday morning (before our usual trip downtown) we went to see their spacious new home.

David and Donna in their new home

Afterwards we had coffee on the big red bus in the market with our friend Rich. The other excitement was that new plants appeared, including a young palm tree, to fill up the bare patch in front of our condo. On Friday we had our last tango lesson of the season.

On the coffee bus

We have plants!

Last tango lesson in Sarasota

Final weekend

By the weekend we’d done all we needed to do, except for things that could only be done at the last minute.  So we decided we could take some time off.  On Saturday afternoon we had our last (until October) swim in the pool.  We wanted to make the most of relaxing under a cloudless deep blue sky, surrounded by palm trees.  In the evening, we went for cocktails at Michael’s and then met Rich for dinner at Gecko’s.

On Sunday we did our favourite beach walk, on Anna Maria Island.  It was quieter than at Easter, but there were still a good number of people around. Not many pelicans, but plenty of other birds. When we got home, we watched the final episode of Lost: as we now have the complete box set, we’ve watched it from beginning to end, for the third time!

Breakfast at Two Scoops on AMI

Did someone knock?

Flamingo wrestling

Drinking like fish?

So long, folks!

Final AMI sunset of the season

On Monday it was the final (well, almost) washing, cleaning and packing.  Then we collected a rental car (which turned out to be an SUV!) and covered ours for the summer.  We checked in on online, then went round to the bayou – once again, no manatees but lots of jumping fish.

The Tank

All spick and span

The flight home

On Tuesday we did the final clean and tidy of the condo, loaded our cases into the SUV (aka ‘The Tank’) and drove up to Tampa airport. For some reason, we didn’t seem to get cut up by other traffic as much as usual. We handed back the Tank and checked in for our direct flight back to Gatwick. All went well, except that Sandie developed a rotten cold which has turned into flu, and has been in bed ever since we returned.

Flying home

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