Wednesday 31 December 2014

London cable car

Another London outing today. This time we had a quiet and relaxing journey over the river Thames, on the not very well known cable car crossing.
It ended at the O2 so we had a wander around and then whizzed on the underground to the Adelphi Theatre to see the excellent Made in Dagenham.
We then went to a restaurant where I had booked a table but they denied all knowledge of it, so we walked out and grabbed a table at the Coal Hole pub across the road instead.
Happy new year to everyone from me, Darren and his mum Margaret. x

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Dog walking in Epping Forest

Darren's mum lives across the road from Epping Forest and we joined in with the daily dog walk today.
We were following in famous footsteps as King Henry VIII and Elizabeth 1st might have hunted there. Also, James Herbert set his book 'Lair', that was about giant rats in the forest.
Dick Turpin, the famous highwayman used to have a hideout in it and because of its tree cover and close proximity to London, numerous murder victims have been buried there.
For example, in 1999 one of the characters from Eastenders accidentally killed someone and buried her body in the forest.
Lots of action over the years then, but today was quiet and still. The only worrying time was when sausage dog Monty disappeared for ages while chasing squirrels.

Monday 29 December 2014

The Sun and Paddington Bears

I am so happy with this first photo and think it is one of my best ever shots!
I even have a title for it 'Total eclipse of the Sun' based slightly on a song by Bonny Tyler, but mainly on an amazing sculpture by Dean Chihuly in Berkeley Square.  We have seen Mr Chihuly's work before on our trip to Seattle on the 16th September 2012, my first ever referral to one of my previous blogs!
We loved his work, both then and now.  The statue is 5.5 metres tall, weighs 2,000 kilograms and it lights up every night. I managed to angle it so that the real sun is illuminating the glass sun, but it also looks pretty good behind Rolls Royce Paddington in the next picture.
We spent the rest of the day tracking down other Paddington's around London. Among others we found Darcy Bussell's in Covent Garden, Andrew Lloyd Webber's in Chinatown (pic 3 thank you for the pose Daz), Nicole Kidman's, Ant and Dec's, Benedict Cumberpatch's and Boris Johnson's in Trafalgar Square (pic 4).
Very sadly we couldn't find David Beckham's bear, called Golden Paws, near Buckingham Palace, although we did look for ages.
Thanks to Margs, Dave and Susan for today's outing suggestions.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Camden Lock and Primrose Hill

Todays outing was based on a recommendation from our friend Sarah.
We started by catching a tube to Camden and had a wander around the lock and the market. It was a popular choice and the place was completely packed.
We managed to find a seat and bought some tasty Indian chicken wraps for an outdoor lunch.
Afterwards we walked to Primrose Hill and up to the top of it for some great views over the city of London. I think Kate Moss and Sienna Miller live locally, and it was very fancy and trendy,  but there was no sign of either of them today. Also, I am not sure if I would recognise Sienna anyway.
Finally, we walked through Regents Park and on to Baker Street where we tried to find Sherlock Holmes' house. We couldn't remember which number he was supposed to have lived in, so we started at number 175  and walked all the way down to number 1. There was no sign of anything, so we walked all the way back and then up to number 221B where there was a blue plaque on the wall.
There was also a museum with a huge queue outside, which was a bit of a giveaway.
Successful day, thanks Sarah!

Saturday 27 December 2014

Book of Mormon

This afternoon we went to the matinee performance of the Book of Mormon - our Christmas present from Darren's mum.
First stop was a quick pose with Paddington Bear and then on to the theatre. We took our seats and settled down for show.
The singing and dancing was excellent, but I am still wondering what to make of the content.
The plot was about two young Mormons who went on a course to become missionaries.  One was a compulsive liar and the other was desperate to move to Florida. Unfortunately, they were sent to Uganda to try and convert the locals to Mormonism.
From there the action moved to Africa and I don't think it really suited my sense of humour.
There was lots of swearing, crudity and blasphemy, plus an unexpected technical problem that stopped the show for about 20 minutes in the middle of the second half. It could just be a coincidence, or maybe someone upstairs was offended!
I looked at the reviews on TripAdvisor for a bit of guidance and one of the latest said 'laughed out loud but glad I didn't take my mother!' Whoops, but I think Margaret quite enjoyed it.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Santa is on his way!

Darren read in one of the newspapers that if the sky was clear tonight, and if we looked in the right place in the sky at exactly the right time then we would see Santa on his sleigh! He would be heading off to deliver all of his Christmas presents all over the world.
Of course, this was very surprising, so I had to check it out for the blog.
For some unknown reason, the papers are saying that the International Space Station could be mistaken by young Santa believers as him on his sleigh.
I was ready and stood on a fairly busy London pavement at 5.22pm, for the three minute chance to see it.
There was a lot of action in the sky with planes and even a couple of helicopters competing for attention - my first shot is actually the moon and a low flying aeroplane.  However, if you scrunch your eyes up and drink a large gin and tonic very quickly, then it does bear an uncanny resemblance to a red sleigh.
A couple of minutes later and exactly on time the space station did appear and shot across the sky, but it only looked like a very fast moving star.
The website tells me that the Spacestation is as big as a rugby pitch and orbits the earth every 90 minutes so the astronauts on board see the sunrise 15 times a day!  To me that is far more interesting than being a pretend Father Christmas.
Picture 3 is the actual Spacestation, and is a photo of it from the Internet, not a super zoom in from me.

Tuesday 23 December 2014


Quick update - we left Spain on Sunday evening and arrived in England for a few weeks stay.
Today we joined the crowds on public transport and caught a train from Gatwick to Victoria Station. We then changed to the Victoria underground line for our journey to Darren's family in East London.
Non of it was very scenic, but all of the stations on the Victoria line feature original tiled decorative panels.
I am posing next to Queen Victoria's head at the start of our journey, and we tried to spot the tiles at the stations along the route.  We missed a few, but we went through Warren Street station and saw a maze, the Blackhorse Road motif was obvious, but Seven Sisters was not as expected and appeared to be seven trees.
Our final destination of Walthamstow showed a wallpaper design by William Morris who was born in Walthamstow in 1834.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Across the mountains from Ronda

We reluctantly left Ronda today and set off to our campervan's temporary winter home.
As expected, the scenery was beautiful and we stopped at a viewpoint above the white village of El Burgo, and we saw two statues perched at the highest point. Darren wondered if they were two of those people who stand still for hours on end with a little collection box.
I can confirm that they didn't move when I grabbed a leg to hoist myself up onto their plinth, so I have to assume that they were the real thing.
Later we stopped for an al fresco sandwich at the top of someone's driveway, and our van enjoyed a little break from all of the twists and turns on the road.
Finally, we stopped to explore another white village and I took the chance to get a haircut. The lady who cut it spoke no English, but her colleague asked me what I wanted, then told her as he left for his Christmas holidays. His last word was 'informal', which means two things in my Spanish dictionary - informal and unreliable.
The lady cut my hair quite nicely and all was going well. Afterwards she dried and styled it so that it stuck up vertically and sideways in all directions.
She then asked if she could take some photos. I thought at first that she didn't have a mirror and wanted to show me the incredible back, but no, she kept posing at all different angles with my head while her assistant snapped away.
She stopped to show me about six of them, but then decided to take loads more. I have no idea why, perhaps she was really pleased with my unreliable haircut.
I would show you a photo, but I have been using my hair to dust the van ceiling!

Friday 19 December 2014

Long distance hikers

We got up before dawn (not actually that early as the sun doesn't rise until around 8.30), but we were on the road and heading for the train station just before then.
We caught a train to Jimera de Libar and set off back to Ronda.
The first 8kms was along a quiet path by the side of a river and the train track. It was very cold as the sun was low, we were on the shady side of the valley, and I really wished I had brought my gloves.
We then stopped for a second breakfast at Baneojan -another white village - and headed up into the sunshine. The hills got higher and the countryside was beautiful. We even saw a couple of deer that jumped across our path.
We then followed the train line again, before climbing over the crest of a hill. We arrived at the far back and left hand side of picture three and headed towards Ronda.
The views were completely breathtaking, and if you ever get the chance, then you really should come and see it for yourself.
Ps, longest walk ever today at 27kms, 1,000 metres climbed and most importantly, 37,354 steps!

Thursday 18 December 2014

Setenil de las Bodegas

As well as recommending the bull ring from yesterday, our campsite manager also told us to go to Setenil de las Bodegas.
We never thought to ask why, but set off to cycle there today.
It was quite a distance, we finished with a fantastic 4.5km downhill to the town. Once there we stood on the street thinking ' what now?' But then we turned down a side street and 'wow!!'
I have no idea why whole streets would be built under the over hanging rocks, but it looked amazing and it seemed as if they had been there for a long time.
We settled down under the rock roof and got the wine and tapas ordered.
After a lovely lunch we took a look around the town. The place was crazy, loads of houses built into and under rocks, unbelievably steep and narrow streets and tiny white painted houses crowded almost on top of each other.
We left on an almost deserted road and started cycling uphill. This went on and on and the views were beautiful - our town is the one on the far right of pic 4.
Next stop was the Roman ruins of Acinipo. It was a town built for retired soldiers, but they must have been very fit to get up to the town, as it was on the summit of what seemed to be the highest hill around. It nearly finished me off, and when we got there it had closed 15 minutes earlier. (Who organises these outings?)
We didn't get to see their amphitheatre, but never mind.
Carried on home following the undulating road, stopping only to buy a big cake for tea.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Oldest bullring in the world

We walked into Ronda today and took a detour along a footpath to a church built into the rock. Unfortunately, it was closed, but the views along the way were beautiful.
Back in the town we decided to visit the bullring as the boss of our campsite recommended it. Normally, I wouldn't set foot in such a place, but he said that it was the oldest in the world and an interesting tour.
The first fight took place in 1785, and we saw some of the original costumes that the matador used to wear. They must have been either super-tight, or else they were very tiny men, as they looked as if they would fit ten year olds - particularly the trousers.
I was pleased to hear that they now they only have three sessions a year, as the whole event is horrible and the bulls don't stand a chance. Unfortunately, only one matador was gored to death by a bull, and he was buried actually under the ring. This compares to six bulls every show for over 220 years - an absolute minimum of 3,960.
The building was very impressive, with hundreds of columns. It was very interesting to see where the bulls were coralled along narrow corridors and then through the gates out into the ring. We saw the painted boards around the ring, but the drawings of the bulls made them look very sad.
Obviously, and like all of the other tourists, we had to prance around with pretend capes in the centre of the ring, and I apologise for that.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Smurf town

We are in an area surrounded by beautiful white painted villages, but we chose to visit the only one that is painted Smurf blue.
Before 2011 the little village of Juzcar welcomed 300 tourists per year, but when the Smurf movie was released the film company decided to paint all 281 houses in the village blue to publicise the films release. (Don't ask why as I haven't seen the film and have no idea.)
That year 80,000 tourists visited, so the locals held a vote and instead of repainting the houses white again, they decided to keep them blue. 
We added to the tourist tally for this year by visiting today and it has to be said that we picked a terrible day for it. The weather forecast was mainly sunny, and we set off in high spirits. It was quite steeply uphill for the first 8kms and we were soon inside a cloud.
It was then a long, very cold, scary downhill, followed by lots of ups and downs.  Eventually we rounded a bend, and there, in all its blue glory was Juzcar - now also known as Pitufo (that's Spanish for Smurf! )
It was actually better than we expected, with murals and statues all around the village, but our main priority was to get inside the bar to warm up.
An English couple who live in the village, started chatting to us, and bought us coffee with a brandy chaser which was lovely and completely unexpected.
Leaving the bar some time later it had started raining, but the English lady had told me it was mainly downhill on our circular route home. I don't know if she was just being nice, or if she had never noticed when driving the journey in a car, but it was 10kms uphill without a break to the main road.
It kept me warm though, and we arrived home safely, but so wet that I wrung my socks and gloves out in the sink.
Good outing, and sun is forecast for tomorrow - not sure if I believe it now though.

Monday 15 December 2014

Ronda - new bridge

Ronda is one of the most ancient cities in Spain, and it is cut in two by a gorge that is 120 metres deep. Both sides are joined together by the 'new bridge', that was built between 1751 and 1793.
We walked along the street towards the bridge and even though I knew that there was going to be a big drop, it was still an astonishing sight.
We wandered around repeating the word 'wow' every few seconds, and I can't think of any other way of describing this place.

Sunday 14 December 2014

The road to Ronda

We left the coast today to drive 40 kilometres inland, and 850 metres above sea level to the incredible town of Ronda.
The weather was a pleasant 13 degrees centigrade when we left and the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds.
Once we left the main coast road we immediately started on the twisty, turny and seriously uphill road. We quickly left the sun behind and pulled level with the height of the clouds, before plunging straight in.
We arrived at our campsite about an hour later, the temperature was down to 6 degrees and the rain was falling steadily.
It was nice though and you could tell that we were in that special quiet and tasty mountain air.
We were mainly having a lazy Sunday, but decided that we had better take a sneak peek at Ronda, and what an incredible sight it promises to be.  Spoiler alert for tomorrow - see pic 2.
We also dug out our South Korean winter coats as they will be essential for the next few days.

Saturday 13 December 2014


We are back on the busy coast of Spain, tucked away in a campsite about 6 kilometres outside of Estepona. We caught a bus into the town today for a look around, had coffee and cake in a cafe on the seafront, and found a lovely fairytale sandcastle.
The town was really interesting as it was all pedestrianised, and beautifully kept. All of the houses were painted white, and each street had it's own plant pot colour scheme.
We wandered through Red and White Polka Dot Street, Mauve Plant Pot Walk, Yellow Avenue, etc. I made the names up, but every house had joined in and the flowers were beautiful, particularly in mid December.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Round the rock in Gibraltar

Firstly, following a bit of feedback from Darren, I am returning to subject of St Michael's Cave from yesterday.
So turn off the lights, zoom in on the first two pictures and start humming - duum, duum, dum, duum, dumdum, etc. (instrumental start to Hotel California) That should give you a better understanding of what it was like to be there, and how brilliant it was.
Back to today and we again cycled to Gibraltar, but this time we stayed as close to the coast as possible on a full circuit of the country.
We stopped to look at the Marina, (excellent), Morrisons car park (mistake), hospital car park (another mistake) and then the 100 ton gun. This was a very impressive Victorian super-gun, that was never actually used in a battle.
After that we had to push the bikes up some super-steep streets and then down to the Gibraltar Lighthouse. It dates back to 1841 and was a pretty red and white standard looking lighthouse.
Picture 4 is the view from the lighthouse, past a Mosque and back to the rock. From there we cycled round the right hand side of the Mosque and up a steep road overlooking the sea.
We came to the entrance to a long road tunnel and headed in. The road turned sharply right and headed downhill. We cycled as fast as we could, and eventually spotted daylight ahead.
We emerged on the seaward side of the island where there are vertical cliffs and a very narrow sliver of horizontal land with only the road and a few hotels on it.
We followed the road back round to Winston Churchill Avenue, over the border and then back home.
Good day out and we have just about seen all of Gibraltar - moving on tomorrow.