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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

EXPLORING NEW TERRITORY: Part 1 TORREVIEJA, SPAIN



I have visited Spain previously. On one of my first trips to Europe back in the '70's my friend Rosalie and I took our daughters with us on a camping adventure to Sitges with a day stop-over in Barcelona.  Then, during the '80's when I was living in Greece, I met up with Rosalie and her friends in Spain and we went to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls.  On that trip we also spent a day in Barcelona exploring the Gaudi exhibits and Pablo Picasso museum.  I've always wanted to go back and see more of the country. So this year, on my way to Greece, I am going to visit Spain again.

I'm flying from Cardiff to Alicante, a seaside resort city on the Cosa Brava.  My friend Inka, also a travel writer, will meet me there and we will go to her home in Torrevieja. Inka says her apartment opens up right onto the beach! 

 Torrevieja is a seaside city on the Costa Brave about 30 miles from Alicante.  It was originally a salt-mining and fishing village locate between the sea and two large salt lakes.  The name "Torrevieja" means "Old Tower" as until 1802 it existed as only a guard tower and a few laborer's cottages. In 1803 King Charles IV ordered that the Royal Salt Works be moved to Torrevieja and this began the history of the town. It now has a population of about 104,000.  Torrevieja is still a salt exporter and you can visit the Museum of Sea and Salt.  It's popular with tourists from northern Europe who live there including a lot of Brits.



Inka promises to take me on a number of excursions. These will include a visit to a pirate's island. There is lots to see and do in the area and I'll try to squeeze as many adventures as possible into the 4 days I'll be there. Another travel writing friend, Darlene Foster, from Vancouver, lives nearby so I'll get chance to visit with her as well. 


www.torrevieja.com

Sunday, July 26, 2015

TRIP PLANS 2015: LONDON, THE COTSWOLDS and CAERPHILLY WALES


Houses of Parliament by the Thames

Richard the Lionhearted
'm just starting to plan my travels for 2015, leaving here August 28 with my first stop being LONDON.

I've been there so many times it's almost like returning 'home'. But each time I go I love to see new things (and there's lots to see in London!)  This time I think I'll visit the Tower of London as I haven't been for some years. And of course I'll browse around all the old familiar haunts.  I'll be staying at the Indian Y as usual (breakfast and dinner included) and it's right in the Bloomsbury area with a lot of historical houses including the one where Virginia Wolf lived which is right across the park from the Y. 
Queen Victoria monument

The London Eye
I always go on the London Walks and this time I notice there is one called "The Cotswold Walk" which really interests me as I haven't been to the Cotswolds for years either.  You meet a the Paddington train station and go from there for the day. These walks are always so much fun and this one sounds outstanding.

THE COTSWOLDS is an area in S. central England


roughly 25 mi (40K) across and 90 miles (145 Km) long just south of Stratford-on-Avon to just south of Bath. The name means "sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides" ("wold" meaning 'hills')  The name is derived from the 12th century "Codesuualt" or "Cod's-wold" - Cod's is high open land (old English) or it could come from Brittonic name "Cuda"  - a mother goddess in Celtic myth who was thoughtot reside int hat area.  Cotswolds is famous for its honey-colored limestone villages.  http://coswolds.com  

 Caerphilly Castle

After that, I'll be heading to WALES to visit my cousins in CAERPHILLY (where my dad was from). I love going there and every time I do I visit 'my castle', the Caerphilly Castle, one of the most magnificent in the UK.  I'll only be in Caerphilly for a couple of days before heading to Cardiff to catch a flight to Alicante, Spain where my friend Inka will meet me to take me to her home town farther along the south coast to Torrevieja.  
Me, in front of my castle.

NEXT STOP: SPAIN 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

CASTLES ON THE RHINE AND A VISIT TO A MEDIEVAL TOWN

On my return home from Greece last October, I stopped for a few days in Mainz, Germany to visit my friend Patrick. I told him I'd like to see some of the Rhine Castles and he had arranged with his friends Wolfgang and Jurgen to drive us to several sites.  We hopped on the train at Mainz and rode to a town nearby where Patrick's friends were waiting. 


It happened to be a rainy day, but that wasn't going to stop us from having lots of fun. We drove along the scenic river enjoying the views of vineyards that grow up the steep banks and river boats plying they way upriver.Even in the rain the scenery was beautiful. 



Patrick, Jurgen and Wolfgang, my tour guides.


Rhine vineyards

Our first stop was the Sooneck Castle, built on the ruins of a Medieval castle by Prussian princes as a neo-Gothic hunting lodge. The castle was constructed in 1282, destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689, and acquired by Frederick William, Crown Prince of Prussia and his brothers in 1834.



Sooneck Castle
An amusing little Russian guide named Leo greeted us as we entered and showed us through the various castle rooms. He explained all the artifacts on display from the long-bow hunting equipment to the bedrooms, which weren't actually slept in but more for show. 
Our Castle guide, Leo 

 bedroom


 dining room
crossbow for hunting
It was still raining when we left the castle but the weather began to clear by the time we reached the picturesque little Medieval town of  Bacharach located where the Steeg Valley meets the Rhine Valley at a juncture near the old Roman road, Aosonius Way, which connected Mainz with Trier, branching off from the Roman riverbank road. The area was first recorded settled in 1094 bu probably was inhabited from antiquity. 
 old gate entrance



 craftsman and his art

In the Middle Ages the town of Bacharach was an important outpost on the Middle Rhine, an economically prominent site as a place of transfer, trade and warehousing for wine and timber.  We entered through a gateway in the original stone wall of the city.  It was like stepping into a picture book, with quaint timbered houses and narrow streets, obviously these days a popular tourist site. 



The Church of St. Peter


 Interior of Church of St Peter


Located in the centre of Bacharach, the Church of St. Peter is dated between 1230/40 but has gone through numerous changes and renos.  It has a baroque style sacristy and is one of the most unique examples of Romanesque architecture on the  Lower Rhine. The Church is surrounded by courtyards and open-timbered houses, many from the late Middle Ages. The town's post office tower dates from the early 1400s.


 Above the church stands the ruins of the  Chapel of St. Werner dating from the early 14th century and above that, stands Stahlick Castle, a fortified castle dating to the 12th century. 



Before heading off to explore Stalick Castle we stopped in a quaint restaurant for a typical German meal of veal schnitzel and beer.







 On our way to Stahlick Castle

Stalick Castle, towers over Bacharach

Today Stahlick Castle is used as a youth hostel. There were children frolicking in the courtyard wearing capes and sparring with pretend swords. 
 http://www.jugendherberge.de/en/youth-hostels/bacharach390/shortportraet 




On our trip back we stopped at  the ruins of another castle overlooking the river, where there is now a first-class hotel and restaurant built in its place. 



View of the Rhine River


 Remains of old castle




The views along the river were magnificent even through the mist. In spite of the weather, we had an excellent day exploring and enjoying the sites along the majestic Rhine. 

  Sunset 
 Town View