Archive for January 2019

Winter Holiday in Gran Canaria – Local Walk Part 2   12 comments

Another day of rest, another morning on the beach, restless feet and a need for a walk. This time I convinced TBF and S to join us on our local walk. Not sure they were all that impressed with my steep scramble to the road to cut the corner off.

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A quick visit to the closed road before heading back up onto the ridge.

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This time we followed the shallow valley all the way to its head to reveal a different aspect to the walk.

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The clouds had rolled in across the mountains creating some dramatic vistas.

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We were much further inland along the ridge, a view down over the resort of Taurito next door.

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The ridge was superb, sheer drop offs on both sides and narrowing to dramatic crest at the far end.

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One of the few short stretches where the coastal motorway pops out from its maze of underground tunnels.

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We watched the sunset from the ridge this time rather than at the end where it overlooks the sea.

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The golden glow on the red rocks was spell-binding. A wonderful spot to sit and watch the day end.

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Withe more clouds this time the sunset was more dramatic but still not as good as others we’ve sen on previous trips to the Canaries.

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It was pretty dark on the walk down, care was required on the loose ground but worth it for the nighttime views over the resort.

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A walk I could happily do every day to watch the sunset.

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Posted January 30, 2019 by surfnslide in Gran Canaria, Spain, Walking

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Winter Holiday in Gran Canaria – Day out to the West Coast   10 comments

After a day off – sort of – it was time for more exploration. A day trip to the spectacular West coast was in order on a stunning clear blue sky day. The drive took us along another series of mountain roads to the Degollada de Tasarte where the views were stunning.

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We headed to the beach at Playa de La Aldea. The approach through the untidy town and scrubby land behind looked unpromising but when we parked up it was a superb spot.

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A small peaceful village with a long pebble beach, backed by spectacular mountains and framed by a deep crystal clear sea.

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We had a wander along the beach and across the to the harbour in the warm sunshine, enjoying the superb views and the peaceful ambience of this little known and remote corner of the island.

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We watched a local fisherman land his catch of – well – fish.

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Lunch out was the order of the day and a very fine one it was too. A small friendly little restaurant that did fine seafood and one of the largest plates of fried chicken I’ve ever seen.

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Onwards and upwards to one the most sensational roads I’ve ever driven. We parked up at the Mirador del Balcon where the view along the coast to these symmetrically aligned peaks was jaw dropping.

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The road climbed higher but was closed to through traffic due to subsidence. If you look closely in the photo below you can see just about make out the road clinging precariously, some would say insanely, to the cliffs. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to drive it even if it was open.

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Tenerife and El Teide floating above the haze.

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This was as far as we could go but it was well worth the out and back detour.

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On with the tour, through the longest road tunnel in the Canaries to get around the closed section and along another breathtaking and scary section of road forced across seemingly sheer cliffs. To the relative peace and quiet of Agaete and Puerto de las Nieves. The views back along the coast were just as magnificent.

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We were here to look at the pools of Las Salinas, semi-natural rock pools refreshed by the tide.

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Me and TBF took a swim and it was wonderful in the cold clear water under a warm sun. The views were ok as well.

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Not a bad place to have a holiday home.

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After enjoying a swim and a gentle laze in the sun we headed back to the harbour to watch the Tenerife ferries and grab an ice cream.

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Me and TJS took a stroll along the harbour wall while the others scoffed.

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A glorious afternoon light turned everything golden and I decided I liked this place very much. None of the tourist trappings just a handful of small restaurants and shops and very quiet out of season.

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The water looked very inviting for a swim although very hard on the feet.

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I wanted to spend more time here – so we did a few days later on an unplanned visit.

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A fine day out exploring a completely different and quite stunning side to the island. We headed back the long way around the other 3/4 of the island by motorway. It says much for the winding roads on the coast we’d driven through that it took longer to drive the 1/4 in the morning than the 3/4 on the way home!

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Winter Holiday in Gran Canaria – Local Walk   13 comments

A day of leisure was in order after our walk the day before. The morning was spent sunning ourselves on the beach and swimming in the cool clear Atlantic waters.

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There is only so much leisure I can handle in one day on holiday though. I convinced TJS to join me in an exploratory stroll up to the top of the ridge between Puerto Mogan and Taurito. There were no obvious paths (its pretty much a long line of cliffs but I reckoned we could find a way up. Worst case we could take a look at the road that clings precariously to the cliffs and see why it’s been closed for several months.

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After sneaking through a posh hotel to access the walkway around the old ruins (you have to pay if you enter the other end) and then scrambling up to the road we found a shallow valley that seemed to have a path through it. We found another path that hopefully forced a route through the crags. It did but it was exceptionally loose and a little precarious in places. We were both glad when the angle eased.

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It turned out to be well worth the effort. The broad ridge had superb views both to the sea and back to the mountains and was crossed by numerous paths.

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A view down to Puerto Mogan.

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And a close up view of our apartment. Its the one top centre with the white canopy on the right.

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TJS poses for the sunset.

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We found an infinitely better way down into the shallow valley which in turn proved to be an interesting dry and eroded watercourse.

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The setting sun created wonderful colours on the volcanic rocks.

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This is the closed road. No cars but clearly now a very popular walk or cycle ride.

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The sunlit rocks above the road.

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And here is why the road is closed. A good part of it having fallen into the sea! I doubt they will ever open the road again as there is very little left to work with. On the right hand side you could pretty much jump straight into the sea. They have some really spectacular coastal roads in Gran Canaria.

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We watched the sunset from the road but with such a clear sky and no clouds it was a bit of a damp squib.

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Still, not a bad place to be in early January.

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We hadn’t been out on New Years Eve so we did a New Years Day night out. Puerto Mogan has dozens of restaurants and we found a really nice friendly place that did a fine line in Fish, Paella and Calamari.

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Happy people enjoying a happy holiday.

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And a nice view across the harbour to the beachfront strip.

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Having a local walk is always an advantage wherever we stay and this one was a really good one. We went up another couple of times which I’ll cover in later posts.

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Posted January 26, 2019 by surfnslide in Gran Canaria, Spain, Walking

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Winter Holiday in Gran Canaria – El Aserrador and El Juncal   16 comments

After a couple of days R&R and mountains on the doorstep, we had itchy feet and needed to go out for a hike. The weather had returned to glorious clear blue skies so we headed out and back up the winding mountain roads into the heart of the island (stopping for another look at view of the valley behind the resort)

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Using our trusty – or rather less than trusty – Paddy Dillon guidebook we planned a walk from the pass of El Aserrador.

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What became instantly clear is that Gran Canaria is absolutely stunning. Huge deep valley’s and gorges slice through massive towers of rock, all of it cloaked in sparse forest and shrubs. We pulled over and parked up and after a quick remark about how cold it was in the wind (we were at over 1500m after all) we took in the utterly breathtaking views.

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We set out as per the guidebook instructions looking for the path but couldn’t find it. After a speculative rummage in the undergrowth I found a trace of a path which turned out to be the real one now largely obscured. Mr Dillon needs to revisit the island and update his book to say “walk up the road a bit to find the well marked broad path” rather than trying to find this unmarked sheep track.

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No matter when the walk takes you along past rock towers like this and along a superb and easy high level path twisting around a ridge above deep gorges and lakes.

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As soon as we reached the ridge we started to catch sight of El Teide on Tenerife across the ocean.

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Having climbed it a few years back it was great to see from a distance. It dominates the skyline when you are in the right spot and it will feature in loads of my photos both on this post and others. Being west of Gran Canaria it catches the winter sun and is very clearly seen most days. An iconic sight and a pleasing one when you’ve been to the top.

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The path was wonderful with open expansive views all around. It defied the guidebook description of “occasional views”!

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From the sketches in the guidebook it was hard to tell what kind of walk it would be and I wasn’t expecting a high level walk along a ridge. On a clear day like this it was a magnificent stroll.

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I had no real mental picture of Gran Canaria other than the coastal strip of high rise hotels and beaches. I had an idea the interior was mountainous but no real concept of just how dramatic it was. Coupled with some really splendid small, quiet mountain villages its truly amazing.

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The path allowed us to take in some of the small summits on the ridge and we stopped on one of the higher ones for a spot of lunch.

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Continuing on for more of the same – as I say my camera was going a bit crazy with the images, especially the contrast between the trees, rock and deep blue sky.

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The lake in the left of the shot below is where we had lunch on the first day.

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The pointy rock in the distance is Roque Nublo one of the islands most famous sights. More on that in a later post.

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Panorama shot looking west across the mountains to Tenerife and El Teide.

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Everywhere, there deep gorges, small villages, rocky crags that just begged to be explored. Gran Canaria has a great network of well marked paths that would take weeks to explore to the full. This one was a really good start.

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This is the highest peak on the ridge, Morro de Pajonales, which I’d like to have climbed but it had a band of rock near the path that looked tricky and massive sheer cliffs all around. Another visit perhaps.

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This is a shot looking back up the valley we needed to walk to return to the car (it was parked under the cliffs in the middle of the photo.)

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The return took us along a forestry track which I normally don’t like. This was one had views at every turn and was a very nice easy descent back to the bottom of the valley and the sleepy village of El Juncal.

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Sadly a descent to the bottom of the valley to cross it meant a long climb back along the road. We were learning that valleys and gorges in Gran Canaria are very deep and routes that cross then involve a lot of ascent and descent.

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The amount bare rock is quite extraordinary and not what I expected. There are huge and towering rock faces in every direction and some of the paths we found wandering through were superb. Again more of that in later posts.

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The pointy rock here is Roque Bentayga, a sacred site for the original occupants of the island.

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We returned to the car fully satisfied after a fantastic introduction to the delights of the mountainous interior. On top of that we’d come across no-one on the walk. Never a better illustration about how reality can be so radically different to expectations from tourism.

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A superb day out and back home for a very quiet New Years Eve. I don’t really do party’s and late nights. This is how I think you should bring in the New Year.

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Winter Holiday in Gran Canaria – Puerto Mogan   15 comments

Further southwards after another flight and another batch of custard pies in the airport! Gran Canaria for some sun, sea, sand and mountains. Our base was the resort of Puerto Mogan at the far SW corner of the island. I thought a little introductory post about our home before some more dedicated posts to our trips out, walks etc.

It has fine artificial beach, very sheltered and great for swimming

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Around the breakwater you can see the next resort tucked among the cliffs as well as the dramatic coastal bluff that separates it from Puerto Mogan.

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On our first full day it was somewhat cloudier than expected but no matter as we had to head to the airport to pick up TBF’s sister who was coming out to join us. We decided to take the scenic route through the mountains to get a feel for the island’s interior and its very narrow and twisting roads.

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The weather was firmly in the cloudy and cool bracket. We had a very chilly picnic lunch by one of the lakes, Presa de las Ninas, that would have been a lovely spot in the sunshine.

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We drove on to the airport past the highest point which was deeply immersed in cloud!

Arriving back at base with our new arrival we went for another stroll around the town and beach.

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Dramatic clouds replaced cloudless blue skies.

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What it lacked in warm sunshine it more than made up for with light effects on the surrounding hills and trees.

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A sunset view from our roof terrace.

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Much as the golden light and clouds was impressive we wanted blue skies and sun and for most of the rest of the trip that’s what we got!

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The town had a rather nice viewing platform set high (and very steep) on the hillside. Great views over the harbour, coast and town.

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Providing people stayed out of shot.

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More sunset views from our roof terrace (which was rather fine by the way).

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And more views from a second lung bursting climb to the viewing platform.

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And a shot of the town at night from a walk up the cliffs on the other side. many more photos from a couple of splendid walks up there in later posts.

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Settled in, now it was time to explore and see some of the sights and especially the mountains.

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Posted January 21, 2019 by surfnslide in Gran Canaria, Spain

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Winter Break in Lisbon – Belem and Evening Sunset Walk   10 comments

Back on to the rather disorganised chaos that is a Lisbon Tram and onwards to the Belem district that holds plenty more of Lisbon’s famous sights. We hopped off at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

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It’s a massive and truly stunning building, blindingly white in the winter sunshine. I’m told its equally stunning inside but we’d save that for another day and earlier time as it was thronged with people.

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The gardens outside were equally grand and the views were superb.

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I had a day in Lisbon on my schools cruise in my youth. I remember liking Lisbon and this is one of the sights I remember from that day, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Henry the Navigator, whoever he was.

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An impressive structure with great views across the water front to the bridge.

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We were here for lunch but all the restaurants looked full until we found one that looked expensive but I was tempted in because I was hungry and because the stunningly attractive waitress beckoned me in and found us a table. It was expensive but the food was really good (and we had another custard tart for pudding!)

The Belem Tower is one of the most famous sights in Lisbon and on a clear and sunny winters day it does gleam in the sunshine.

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Its very ornate and its position right by the waterfront is a fine one.

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We declined the offer of a long queue and headed back to the flat.

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We stopped off at Placa do Comercio which looked very fine under in the afternoon sunshine. We would have lingered a while but they were testing out the sound system for New Years Eve with bass so loud and low my kidneys were vibrating.

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We could still hear it a couple of levels down in the Metro station. Last shot of the castle to bring the day full circle.

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Well almost. Me and TBF decided there was enough daylight for another stroll so we headed out to the Miradors from the day before to watch the sun go down.

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The white buildings and red roofs were especially fetching in the low sun.

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The views from the Miradors were superb.

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We wandered back to the flat past the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora.

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And the Pantheon.

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Both just catching the last of pink glow of the setting sun.

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Our walk back took us through more wonderful narrow streets packed with tiny restaurants. Lisbon seemed to have more of these than any other place I’ve been. I wanted to eat in every one.

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Many of the houses has this tiled effect on the outside.

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And one final shot of our flat and the lovely little square it sat in.

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A fabulous day in the sun and we all agreed Lisbon is a fine city and pleased we decided to explore as part of our New Year trip.

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Onwards and southwards to the Canaries!

Winter Break in Lisbon – Castelo de Sao Jorge   17 comments

After a somewhat cloudy first day, we awoke on our second day to this view across the square from the apartment. Not too shabby a day.

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First stop was the Castelo de Sao Jorge, one of Lisbon’s best known sites. Stopping off at the Mirador above on the walk up.

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The entrance to the castle has a large terrace with shady trees from which there are spectacular views across the city, the Tagus river and the famous suspension bridge the Pont 25 de Abril.

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A zoom shot of the Elevador de Santa Justa that we walked past the day before.

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And the Se de Lisboa cathedral

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We took a moment to sit in the warm sun and for me and TJS to enjoy a second breakfast. Pastel de Nata is the local pastry, a custard tart made with flaky pastry and they are gorgeous. This one was warm from the oven and was the best we had. To say me and TJS were obsessed with them was an understatement. At a guess I reckon we ate pushing 30 between us over a couple of days plus an airport stopover on the way home. No finer spot to enjoy this one.

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The Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei.

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And more views across the red roof tops of the city.

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The castle is really well preserved and looks not unlike the castles I used to draw as a kid, all pristine square towers and battlements.

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What it lacked in spiral staircases and passageways it made up for with walks around the walls which were extensive.

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Across the rooftops of the Alfama district.

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I think there was a Camera Obscura in this tower (there was a queue to get in)

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Family shot enjoying the sunshine.

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After a very happy morning enjoying the views and the clear blue skies we headed down into the city. A view from one of the city squares back up to the castle.

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A fine way to spend a morning. Castles and custard tarts, a great combination.

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Off to find some lunch and some more Lisbon sights.

Winter Break in Lisbon – Miradors and Trams   10 comments

After the delights of Yorkshire it was time for more travels. We were headed for our usual dose of winter sun in the Canary Isles but due the vagaries of flight times and costs we choose to fly via Lisbon. May as well spend a couple of days there and have a look around then!

We were staying in the old district of Alfama, a maze of narrow streets and red roofed moorish houses. After a brief look round and fine meal the evening we arrived we set out the next morning for a proper explore.

Lots of small squares with orange trees in the neighbourhood.

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Lisbon has lots of old style trams and this is one of the tours versions at the first square we came to.

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As you’ll see from the many photos, Lisbon is a very hilly city. It has numerous squares and platforms for extensive views across the city called Miradors. We chose to take a look at a few on our first morning to get a feel for the city as it were. These first few photos are taken from the Largo das Portas do Sol and the Miradouro de Santa Luzia.

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Our little flat is just to the left and below the left hand church tower in the photo below.

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One of the regular trams.

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Onwards and upwards to the second view point at Miradouro de Graca. Fine views across the city.

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And onto the final and highest one at Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte.

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Down through some typical narrow Lisbon streets to the plaza at Martin Moniz with its splendid fountains.

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Back to the apartment for some lunch. This is our little block.

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Onwards for more walking down to Lisbon’s most famous square at Placa do Comercio.

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Its a huge open space down by the river which they were clearly preparing for New Year festivities.

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Another Metro trip across town to pick up one of the Funicular railways that plough up the narrow hilly streets. This one is the Ascensor da Gloria.

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In truth this one and its incline had been badly affected by graffiti but it was still fun.

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It took us up to our final viewpoint of the day at Miradouro da Sao Pedro da Alcantara, looking back across the city from the opposite side to where we’d looked out in the morning.

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Lisbon’s trams are somewhat curious in that they are very small, crowded, infrequent and not very clear as to where they go (we did find a map after a couple of days). We hopped on this one hoping it would take us down to the waterfront but it terminated after just one stop!

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A walk down through the city to one of the more odd features the rather grandiose Elevador de Santa Justa.

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There was huge queue to ascend the lift for a fee which is odd as you can walk to the viewing platform at the top for free (we tried to find the top but failed and never got chance to go back). Very impressive to look at from the bottom though.

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We walked through Praca Rossio with its fountains (turned off by the time we got there) and then picked up a tram to take us back to Alfama.

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A quick look inside the Se de Lisboa cathedral.

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A huge building, as much castle as church.

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This is the Igreja de Sao Miguel opposite our flat, viewed from the lounge window before we headed out for a meal and some music.

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And a nighttime view of the flat.

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It was actually raining when we set out which was something of a surprise but it stopped by the time we’d donned jackets. We walked back up to the mirador we visited in the morning for a night view across the city.

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And the cathedral.

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We had another fine meal out this time accompanied by some traditional Portuguese and Lisbon music called Fado. Its a very intense, emotional sort of folk music and whilst its not my sort of thing was very enjoyable and is an essential part of any visit to the city. A very short clip from my phone below.

Fado is normally just a singer and a guitar and this young lady was very talented and had one hell of a voice. It was a contrast to watch her really fill the restaurant with her voice and yet be so quietly spoken when she introduced the songs. It was a great accompaniment to a fine meal and well worth finding a Fado restaurant when you visit regardless of your musical taste.

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A whistle stop tour of the city in a day covering many sights and views and one of the city’s cultural experiences. A great start to a great trip.

A Quick Stride Over Farleton Fell   18 comments

The Monday of our visit was Xmas Eve and most of us were either travelling home to see family or in our case for a brief visit home before our next trip. Right on cue the British weather transformed overnight from dark, damp and gloomy to cold clear and frosty!

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Whilst its a little frustrating to have such a stunning day when most of us couldn’t make use of it, you can’t really complain about a glorious morning like this or in fact a weekend that had delivered some great walks regardless of the weather.

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I managed to reel off a few photos and set my mind working to to a way to cram in a short walk on the way home.

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Inspiration struck in realising that Farleton Fell is but a short detour from our route home. Not only that it’s small and perfectly formed and you can drive pretty much to the top. Add to that the fact that its a superb area of limestone with great views and we had our walk. TJF kindly agreed to wait in the car for an hour while the three of us took in some cold December air.

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It was stunning. If anything the skies were even clearer. A stunning pin sharp clarity to the air and the sky the deepest blue.

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Walking in these conditions is a sheer delight and I took loads of photos with views in all directions.

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The light on the crags and trees was just amazing.

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The summit is crossed by numerous paths and we just wandered with a sort of aim for the highest point following the edge around.

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Looking back towards Yorkshire and Ingleborough

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Across to the high summits of the Lake District.

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And north to the Howgills.

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I really love this angled Limestone Pavement near the top with its almost perfect slope and deeply incised features.

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Th views from the top were immense.

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A panorama to take it all in.

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Across Morecambe Bay.

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And down towards Arnside and Silverdale – we wave at our friends from the neighbourhood.

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This dead tree made an unusual subject.

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TBF finding crossing the pavements something of a challenge.

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We followed a number of wide grassy promenades across the limestone and fields and back up to the car.

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We’d only been out an hour but it was a truly memorable walk. A three hour journey in the car suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

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Back on the road for home for a Xmas day without turkey, trimmings, presents and all that.

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We needed to focus on washing and re-packing for our next trip.

Pre-Xmas Warm Up in Yorkshire – Part 2   10 comments

The Sunday dawned similar if not a little worse than the day before. Dank and gloomy only this time with a persistent rain spattering the puddles in the road. Another leisurely morning of tea, fried breakfasts and cake helped to smooth over the weather bumps. TBH had lost her walking poles the day before and was sure where she’d left them so we headed out for a walk to see if they were still there. By the time we managed to get out of the door it had stopped raining and didn’t re-start for the whole walk. Result!

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We were heading back out to the same area we’d walked through the day (sorry, the night) before so I was looking forward to seeing what it actually looked like. We started out along the Dales Way heading to its junction with the Pennine Way. All of the Three Peaks were out of the cloud now.

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Ingleborough along Gayle Beck.

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And above Ribblehead and its viaduct.

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And Whernside.

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The junction of paths where we headed south on the Pennine Way is relatively high up and commends great views across the Ribble Valley and the Three Peaks.

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A panorama shot, Pen y Ghent to the left, Ingleborough in the centre and Whernside to the right.

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The path drops into the valley of Ling Gill Beck and it was wonderful.

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A gushing river, packhorse bridge and a deep ravine below.

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Rather than just being an excuse for some air it was turning into a really fine walk with better to come.

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On the slopes of the aptly named Cave Hill is Browngill Cave. Another rushing river dropping into a deep dark cave under the path.

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I’m always fascinated by caves as is Mark and we both enjoyed a few minutes perched around its edge peering in and taking photos. There were bolts in the rock so clearly its cave to be explored.

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Amongst all the fun, we began to realise that time was pressing on, the late start meant daylight was once again in short supply. This was actually the spot where TBH thought her poles would be but they were gone (she was pleased to hear later they were picked up by another member of our party the night before. The bad news was they had no idea they were hers and took them home – to Aberdeen!)

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This is the Gods Bridge below the cave and in fact is just below where the water from the cave resurfaces.

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The resurgence is just upstream in this photo. It was good to see this spot properly, it was pretty much dark when we passed through the day before. Further research reveals that Browngill Cave is a known through trip which we are keen to try some day. We often talk about a summer caving weekend as there are plenty of easy caves to explore in these parts.

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Time to push on and we just about made it back to the lodge in the last vestiges of daylight. The route we’d taken the night before was very much easier in the light (although these last couple of photos show you these things are relative!)

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Turned into quite a long walk (for an afternoon) of around 7 miles and very enjoyable it was too.

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Another walk to prove that sometimes you just need to head outside and see what the winter weather brings you.

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