When I first started this blog, I had intended to post weekly, but somehow work caught up with me and I had to postpone much that I wanted to do. I confess also that I’ve been enjoying the lovely weather, spending time in the garden pretending to be caring for the flowers and vegetables, but really, just pottering.
In between times I’ve been travelling in Spain for work, writing about the wondereful Province of Navarre which is seldom visited by tourists and that of Galicia. With regard to Navarre, tourists do visit but most of them are walkers because the area’s hills and mountains, rustic hotels and great food and wine (and the secret – cider) make it very worthwhile.
Part of the famous Route of St. James to Campostela de Santiago passes through Navarre and it was humbling to walk just a few kilometres along the road that sees pilgrims walk 15-20 miles per day for up to 30 days. Next year is the big celebration of the walk and Santiago is gearing up for a massive influx of tourists. I’m toying with the idea of doing part of the walk but I fear I may not have the stamina.
Galicia was a great contrast to Navarre. Spain’s northern coastal area is visited mainly by the Spanish happy to leave the southern Costas to the rest of Europe. I would hate to spoil it for them but I have to say that I plan to go back as it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in Spain, unspoiled by high-rises and bars and restaurants serving “chips like at home” and “mama’s apple pie”. Instead we had steamed mussels, scallops, oysters, langoustines, prawns and every type of fish imaginable, including sole, turbot, sea bass and hake.
Although neither province sees a lot of foreign tourists, there are a couple of Michelin recommended restaurants with food and prices that will astound those used to paying a small fortune in such establishments. Vigo in Galicia also has a superb 5* Hotel, The Escudos, located just outside the town and overlooking the bay. There are beautiful gardens and a 200 year old camellia tree (in full blossom when I was there last week) and a few steps lead from the garden down to the beach.
I returned from Galicia only two days ago and the temperature then was still in the mid-twenties, something I hadn’t reckoned on when I decided on the area. I had packed mainly autumn clothes, never imaginging I would be sitting in the main square at 2.30 in the morning in tee-shirt.
Now back in the UK with dark nights and rain lashing the windows, I shall settle down to working from my notes and uploading some more articles on http://www.suite101.com/ about my travels. Next week sees the World Travel Market at Excel in London where I shall spend a few days renewing acquaintances with friends from around the globe and finding out what different countries are planning for visitors for next year.
If any earth-shattering news comes my way, it will be in my next blog.
They flock here for the walking, the cycling, the clean, fresh air, and the sea and the sand. They also come for the Pop Festival which takes place every year and is such a success that the organizers are now talking of having two per year. Top groups headline the event, from The Rolling Stones, to Lily Allen, and the island almost sinks under the crowds that arrive for four days of music and fun. The original pop festival was way back in the sixties, when the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Doors, Tiny Tim (remember him?) and various other singers and groups thrilled the fans who flocked to the island from all over Europe. Now that pop festivals are two a penny, we don’t make the headlines as we did then, but it’s still an important date on the festival calendar.
When the visitors recover from the heady excitement of sleeping in tents and living on burgers and chips, they usually head off to see the sights. Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s Italianate villa near Cowes and an English Heritage property, is high on everyone’s list as it is one of the few royal summer palaces that still resembles a family home. It is much as it was when Queen Victoria was on the throne, and the children’s nursery, their toys, her desk next to that of her beloved husband Albert, and the many stone statues of the family pets are still scattered about the house and grounds. Victoria’s tiny bed where she died is still on view along with the bathrooms and part of the kitchens and an amazing collection of family photographs.
There is now a delightful cottage in the grounds of the estate which can be rented for long weekends or a week, during which time the renters have the use of the grounds after the visitors have gone. Queen for a day!
Round then to Cowes to view the sailing boats battling the currents and the winds on the Solent. The world’s most famous Regatta, Cowes Week (actually ten days in August) may no longer attract the crowned heads of Europe but it still attracts the royally rich in their magnificent yachts to sport on the Solent’s famous waters. Yachts owned my billionaires and crewed by millionaire they say.
A stop at Farringford House for coffee in the former home of the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, where one can sit on the terrace and gazed at the magnificent lawns that sweep down to Freshwater Bay and then, suitably refreshed, a hike across Tennyson Downs where it is said the poet composed The Charge of the Light Brigade, reciting it as he strode along the coastal path, cape flapping in the breeze and breathing in air that he described as “worth 6d. a pint”.
Time must be allowed for visiting Carisbrooke Castle from which Charles I was taken to London and beheaded, the delightful Brading Roman Villa with an excellent shop on site, good restaurant/cafe and daily activities for children which involves dressing up. The island has a reputation of great pubs serving good beers (and wines) and in between visits to famous landmarks and museums, the traditional pubs – old, thatched, with flagged floors and old beams, offer great places for lunch or a snack, morning coffee or afternoon cream tea, and for the fresh home grown pork and lamb, home cured bacon and sausages, our own garlic dishes from the garlic farm, lobster, crabs, prawns and fish straight from the sea.
Truly, an Isle of wonders.
And maybe, book up again for the next music festival? The Blues Festival, or Bestival in September, another great week-end of music under the stars on an island that Karl Marx described as “a little bit of paradise”.