Monday, January 2, 2017

Ireland, June 2016

After falling out of love with Apple's once wonderfully easy to use photo software I neglected our blog in 2016. Sitting here on a very rainy New Year's Day 2017 I'm endeavouring to catch up starting with our trip to Ireland in June last year along with Susy's mum Ana. We spent a fun week in Ireland visiting some of my family and showing Ana some of Ireland's treasures.

Glendalough, County Wicklow

,Before heading down to Cork and our base for a few nights at the Dunmore House hotel just outside Clonakilty, we spent a day exploring Glendalough and driving through the Sally Gap. Glendalough is one of Ireland's most important monastic sites founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. It's a popular destination for tourists thanks to it's historic importance and spectacular setting in 'the valley of the two lakes'.

St. Kevin's Cross in the centre.

The Sally Gap

The following morning we said our goodbyes and hopped in the car to drive down to our home for the next few nights, The Dunmore House Hotel near Clonakility. This is a gem of a hotel, wonderful friendly staff, an amazing location on the edge of the Atlantic Coast and to top it all of it is dog friendly too. We had a wonderful time there,  enjoyed delicious food and the staff really made us feel at home.

Clonakility main street

The market town of Clonakility has a real West Cork feel about it, its a welcoming town with some nice shops, bars and restaurants. Be sure and buy some of it's famous Clonakilty black pudding, the perfect accompaniment to a full Irish Breakfast.

Bantry House
Bantry House and Gardens is home to the Shelswell-White family descendants of the Earls of Bantry.  Whilst slightly run down the house and gardens are well worth a visit, you can enjoy a tour of the main house and a relaxing walk around the gardens which have a stunning view over Bantry Bay. The tea rooms and patio are welcoming and the perfect place to sit and enjoy this wonderful location. We really enjoyed ourselves here and recommend taking the time to enjoy this stunning house, dogs are welcome in the gardens as long as they are kept on their lead.

View of Bantry Bay from the front of the house.

Italian gardens at the rear of Bantry House.

Pina enjoying her walk in the gardens.

Our destination the following day was Baltimore, in my opinion the centre of Baltimore itself is not the prettiest however its well worth visiting the 15th century castle which overlooks the harbour and the coastline walk out to the Beacon provides you with some spectacular views. So despite the lack of  charm of the village you won't be disappointed by your visit. Baltimore's main claim to fame is the amazing story which dates back to 1631 when 100 citizens were carried off as slaves by Algerian pirates, you'll find out more about this if you visit the castle.

Baltimore harbour

Baltimore centre

Former home to the O'Driscoll clan.

Baltimore beacon for boats approaching the town.

On our way back to Dublin we stopped off at the beautiful town of Kinsale for lunch, despite the poor weather we enjoyed a wander round this colourful harbour town full of delightful shops. To see more of Kinsale, Click here for some photos from a previous trip.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Enjoying wine in the Casablanca valley, Chile

During our September 2015 trip we spent a day enjoying a wine tour in Chile's Casablanca Valley. We visited three vineyards, Loma Larga, Bodegas Re and Quintay. This tour turned out to be one of those days when you just have a wonderful time, thanks to some good company and of course some lovely wine. The day started at Loma Larga.

Loma Larga turned out to be the highlight of the day, thanks mainly to our Guide Pamela whose personality and passion for her job helped to make the experience a lot of fun with lots of laughter. We started the tasting just sipping the wine, noticing that our companions were knocking it back. Not wanting to appear unsociable we followed suit as Pamela encouraged us all to refill our glasses.

That set the tone for the rest of the day, our interest in the wine and increased as the day wound on as did the level of laughter. Our second destination of the day was Bodegas Re where they follow some traditional wine manufacturing processes and specialise in blending grape types to develop their own unique varieties of wine.

Our final destination where we had a delicious four course lunch was Quintay. By this time everything seemed funny, Susy and I lost it in a fit of laughter on the tour as the intake of wine continued. 

Evidence of the consumption at Loma Larga
After an hours drive back to our hotel in Santiago we arrived at about 6pm, adjourned to our room for a siesta and woke up 2 hours later. A wonderful day and well worth trying out if you find yourselves in Chile.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Memories from the Atacama desert, Chile

We're back to normality after a wonderful two week holiday in Chile in September 2015. In between spending time with family in Santiago we took the chance to explore San Pedro de Atacama and some of the stunning surrounding landscape. The flight from Santiago to Calama airport is just under two hours, from there its an hour by airport or hotel transfer to San Pedro. We were so excited to be visiting somewhere that neither of us had been before and the excitement grew as we wound our way across the desert highway.
Road to San Pedro
Our home for four nights was Hotel Cumbres, a great hotel just outside San Pedro, just a couple of minutes in the regular hotel transfer to the town centre or around a 15 minutes walk.

Hotel Cumbres
Our choice of hotel helped by Trip Advisor was spot on, the rooms are spread across the grounds of the hotel, they are spacious with the most enormous double bed we've ever seen and a luxurious bathroom with an inside and outside shower. The hotel has its own spa, outside swimming pool an a couple of outside heated jacuzzis. We chose half board and weren't disappointed enjoying the 'chefs suggestions' each night.

The town of San Pedro is very relaxed and to be honest you can see all that there is to see in a morning, there are plenty of shops selling local handcraft so you'll easily find some great souvenirs to take home with you. One tip, if you are planning to visit some of the higher altitude tours in the region it can be very cold. So pack for the cold, if you forget gloves and hats as we did you'll have no problem finding some in downtown San Pedro.

The amazing thing about spending time in San Pedro is that despite when we were there, the temperature being only between 9 and 14 degrees, it still felt warm. The Andes on one side and the mountains on the other side running by the pacific, keep clouds away allowing the sun to shine and making the sky at night something that has to be seen to be believed.

San Pedro is the base for exploring the Atacama region and there are a wide range of tour agencies scattered around the town offering the full range of tours that the region has on offer. We booked our initial tour to Laguna Chaxa through out hotel and stuck with them for the next couple of days as we were impressed with the organisation, the attention to detail and their focus on safety. If you're looking for a cheaper option, check out the agencies scattered around the town.

On the way to Laguna Chaxa we stopped off at the town of Toconao and its church. From there we drove into the heart of the Atacama salt flat to watch the flamingos. Fortunately when we arrived there were some flamingos, not many but there were some. Our guide Nicolas explained that the main Laguna is off limits to tourists and that were there are far more flamingos hidden away. 

The next day we chose the tour of the Lagunas Altiplanicas, the high plateau lakes, on this tour you'll need to wrap up well as you'll be at an altitude of 4,300 meters and it can get cold. Hats and gloves are highly recommended. You'll visit two lagoons at the foot of their respective volcanoes Miñiques and Miscanti. You'll also visit Piedras Rojas, a unique landscape where nature combines colours creating stunning views. This tour is a must, the views were like nothing we'd ever seen before, it was a truly memorable experience and hopefully our photos do it justice.

Our final trip was to Valle de la Luna (moon valley) which is around 20 minutes from San Pedro by car/bus and one of the area's most distinctive attractions. We spent some time walking in the Valle enjoying the scenery before hopping back on our van to be taken to a nearby viewpoint to enjoy
 the sunset with a cocktail and some delicious salmon from the south of Chile.

We both agreed that San Pedro de Atacama is a fantastic place to visit, we saw just a small fraction of the wonderful diverse landscape that you find in the Atacama and plan to go back to see more.

Hasta la próxima 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

North Yorkshire

At the beginning of May we spent the Bank Holiday weekend deep in beautiful North Yorkshire, after watching a slightly anti-climatic end of season football match between Middlesbrough and Brighton we drove across to our home for two nights, Laskill Grange. We stayed in one of the converted cottages, the former pigsty now called Foxglove Cottage. We enjoyed a hearty full English breakfast in the main house each morning and one evening chose the option of having an evening meal delivered to us in our cottage which was a lovely experience and the food was delicious.

Laskill Grange

The North Yorkshire Moors are stunning however we weren't blessed with great weather on the Sunday morning as we set off to drive across the moors with the aim of visiting Whitby Abbey. Thanks to our Sat Nav we navigated successfully across the wet and misty moors and arrived in Whitby itself where the heavens were well and truly open and rain was plummeting down. Not deterred by the conditions we drove up to the Abbey and Susy braved the elements to take a quick photo (see below) over the carpark wall.

Whitby Abbey view from the distance
From the Abbey we drove the short distance to Robin Hood's Bay a village full of red roofed cottages gathered around the slipway at the foot of a deep ravine. Before wandering down the steepish descent into the village we enjoyed a coffee and cake in The Victoria Hotel overlooking the bay. It's well worth taking some time to enjoy the village, which is unspoilt by progress and has some nice shops and meandering streets to enjoy, we loved our time here.

Having really enjoyed ourselves despite the persistent drizzle we hopped back in the car and headed back across the moors destination Helmsley, the pretty market town just a few miles from where we were staying. En route the weather improved slightly and I hopped out to take a photo of the moors, still not great but proof at least that we were there.

After arriving back in Helmsley and enjoying a cup of Yorkshire tea, there is no better allegedly, we walked the short distance to Helmsley Castle and visited the ruins of this 900 year old castle.

The following morning before driving back to the East Midlands we visited the historic site of Rievaulx Abbey, a former Cistercian Abbey which in its day was home to over 600 monks. If you do visit the Abbey be sure and listen to the audio guide as it really makes the experience come to life. 

Rievaulx Abbey
If you do plan to visit the Abbey do try and get there early as this popular destination gets very busy. With a relatively small carpark which soon fills up meaning that parking overflows onto the narrow road which runs through the village making it hard to navigate your way out at the end of your visit.

Dog's are welcome too :-)
Despite the relatively inclement weather we had a wonderful time in North Yorkshire and will definitely return to explore more of this lovely part of the English countryside.