A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kmmk17

A Weekend In The Forest

Forest of Dean

overcast 14 °C
View Forest of Dean on kmmk17's travel map.


To tide us over between summer and Christmas, we once again booked ourselves a log cabin in the forest - this time in the Forest of Dean

With this being a longer drive than our recent log cabin holidays, we booked off a long weekend from work and started making our way over at lunchtime.

To break up the journey, we made a few detours en route - the first of which wasn't far away - the Stoke Mandeville Stadium. This is the birthplace of the Paralympics, and there is a small museum dedicated to the history - including mementos from previous games.

Paralympic Museum

Paralympic Museum

We parked up and went inside the centre, took a look around at the medals, sweatshirts and torches along with videos and particular attention to the 2012 ones in London, which I was lucky to attend. We grabbed some food at the café, and then headed off on our cross country route through the Cotswolds.

As we arrived in the heart of the Costwolds, on the edges of the village of Burford, we drove down the main road for views of this quaint place.
We didn't stop as the traffic was bad and we were short on time - but we didn't need to, as we could see the place from the car.

Burford

Burford

We turned around and headed back to the A40 to head further towards the Welsh border. Not long after crossing the River Severn at Gloucester we turned off the main road and started winding our way through the hills around the Forest of Dean. Before long we had arrived at our log cabin for the weekend.

The forest setting of our cabin

The forest setting of our cabin

After grabbing supplies in Coleford, we headed back to the cabin for dinner and a nice evening soak in the hot tub.

The following day we headed out to see some of the local sights. We began by trying to visit Symonds Yat - a quaint village in the valley of the River Wye. We had planned to view from the top of the hill at the Forestry England car park, however en route we found the road was closed so we ended up doing a huge diversion that took twice as long. Then once we got here found we had to drive down into the village, where the roads and parking were tight and limited.

Symonds Yat

Symonds Yat

We pulled up, took a quick look around and then headed back en route to our main sight for the day - Hereford.

Hereford

Hereford

Upon driving into the city centre, we stopped at the supermarket to get a few more refreshments for the weekend, before parking up and walking across the River Wye. Just around the corner was the almost 1000 year old Hereford Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

We walked inside this huge building and made our way to the Mappa Mundi, the largest mediaeval map known to still exist, dating from 1300. In keeping with the traditional style of the time, it is orientated facing East, and shows the known world with Jerusalem in the centre, and is definitely not to scale.

Mappa Mundi

Mappa Mundi

This museum area, which was built as an annex to the original cathedral, leads on to the Chained Library of books, somewhat reminiscent of that in the Harry Potter films.

Chained Library

Chained Library

We took a look around before leaving the cathedral and heading towards the High Street where there was a market on, and a protest for Gaza, outside the beautiful (but sadly under refurbishment) Jacobean building right in the city centre.

Hereford City Centre

Hereford City Centre

As it had started to spit with rain, we headed back to the car via the cathedral and made our way towards Ledbury. However as we were at a set of traffic lights on the edge of the city centre, we felt a smash from behind - a lady with other things on her mind had crashed right into the back of us.

Inspecting the damage, it was thankfully rather superficial - the bumper was cracked, but that was about all. It had shaken us up, but we were fine.

We continued on to Ledbury as planned, and upon our arrival we wandered over to the High Street where we could see the beautiful 400 year old Market Hall.

Ledbury Market Hall

Ledbury Market Hall

We then wandered around the corner and up a quaint cobbled street leading to the church.

Quaint Ledbury

Quaint Ledbury

By now it had been quite a long day out and about, so we headed back to the lodge to enjoy some more time in the hot tub and play some games.

That night we went for a wander around the forest, where illuminated animals had been placed around the site.

Lit up Squirrel

Lit up Squirrel

.
This was all part of a Winter Lights event, which made for a nice evening at this time of year.

Winter Lights

Winter Lights

The next day was more chilled - we went for a short walk around the woods, close to the Welsh border.

Walk in the Woods

Walk in the Woods

We lit the log fire again that night, and enjoyed our last evening away.

Last night around the fire

Last night around the fire

In the morning we packed up our stuff, and enjoyed our last views of the forest, before loading the car and heading towards home.

We drove through the heart of the Forest of Dean, before we ended up on the road that runs alongside the River Severn. After a stop at Oxford Services, we eventually made it home after a nice weekend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 16:42 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged river cathedral fire forest olympic quaint Comments (0)

From a Care Home to Magaluf

Madeira

semi-overcast 26 °C
View Madeira on kmmk17's travel map.


As usual, September was time for our summer holiday. Having enjoyed the all inclusive holiday to Rhodes last year, we wanted more of the same - but somewhere different.

We looked around at the options - Crete, Malta, Portugal, Spain - but found it difficult to get somewhere to meet all our requirements. Who knew getting somewhere with a parasol was so difficult...!

After much deliberation, we kept coming back to the same hotel in Madeira - somewhere I had on my list anyway, and eventually decided to book it. We also realised that if we went out on a weekday rather than a Saturday we could get an extra day out of the trip for the same price.

We did however need to fly from Gatwick, which involved getting the train through London - but the flight times were still decent and better than the alternatives.

It was our first time flying from Gatwick since our honeymoon early last year, during the Covid era. That was now a distant memory, and instead of a half empty airport and the need to do Lateral Flow tests in the airport car park - it was busy and after checking in our bag, we could whizz straight through to security and into the departure lounge.

Around 4 hours after our plane took off, we landed in a lovely and warm Madeira. The airport wasn't too busy and we headed out to see our first sight of the trip - the bust of Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal's top football player is from the island, and has even had the airport renamed in his honour.

Ronaldo Bust

Ronaldo Bust

This bust is actually the second version, after the original hit the press after looking terrible.

We then met our transfer and headed to our hotel. Not long later and we had arrived and checked in. We had a nice room overlooking the pool and with a sea view.

View from the Balcony

View from the Balcony

It had been a long day, so after grabbing dinner and some drinks we headed to sleep excited about the coming days.

The first full day wasn't the best weatherwise - Madeira is in the middle of the sea, and so unsurprisingly suffers from temperamental weather - and although it started off sunny, by late morning it was spitting and we could no longer stay trying to sunbathe. Nevertheless we enjoyed the cocktails and went for a stroll outside the hotel complex when we could.

That evening after watching the Germans struggle to pull a pint from the beer tap, we headed to the evening entertainment, which tonight was Fado - traditional Portuguese singing.

Fado Performance

Fado Performance

The following day was glorious, and just what we needed - bright sunshine and warmth all day long. We chilled out by the pool popping back and forward from the pool bar.

Although there was a hairy moment when after sipping on my Coca-Cola, I realised there were ants all in the drink. And as there were none in Chris's, they must have been inside the drinks fountain when poured it, which was confirmed when I went to check later 🤢. Straight to cocktails it was.

"Vodka Sun"

"Vodka Sun"

Seven cocktails later I was having a great time, living my best life. Once again we went for dinner and then as it was a nice evening we went for a wander to the nearby headland.

Evening Views

Evening Views

The following day was more of the same, after weeks of being busy it was lovely just to chill out. That night we went to the magician show.

Fire juggling

Fire juggling

Was it the best thing ever - no. But it was worth watching.

The following morning we headed out on our island excursion. A coach arrived with just a few tourists on board already. Tonnes of guests from our hotel boarded, and the we headed off with no more hotels to stop at.

We made our way up the winding streets towards the centre of the island, when we turned off the main road and were driven along the mountain road with views of both sides of the island. We then arrived at the Pico do Areeiro visitor centre.

The Mountains

The Mountains

Pico do Areeiro is the third highest peak on the island and there were some fantastic views over the nearby area. We had around half an hour to wander around before we continued on back down the other side of the mountain to the village of Ribeiro Frio where we had the opportunity to wander alongside part of a levada

Levada in Ribeiro Frio

Levada in Ribeiro Frio

Levadas are irrigation channels with adjacent footpaths that used to supply tons and villages along the coast with water from the mountains. The footpaths are popular hiking trails, but we just wanted to see one, which we did.

The next place on the tour was the town of Santana - with its thatched triangle houses.

Triangle Houses of Santana

Triangle Houses of Santana

Although no longer being actually used by families for living in, some examples of the houses have been placed in the centre of the town and contain shops full of tourist tat.

By now it was time for some lunch, and we stopped at a nearby hotel, with a large outdoor seating area. There were three large tables and we sat down with some of the others on the tour and got chatting.

After lunch, we had a little wander around enjoying the nice views over the nearby cliffs before boarding the bus and heading to a nearby rum distillery. Here we would find out about local production and get to try some rum or poncha - the local speciality.

Cliffs at Santana

Cliffs at Santana

Our final stop of the day was on the north east tip, at Ponta de São Lourenço. These are huge cliffs which we flew over on our flight into Madeira a few days ago and had stunning views.

Ponta de São Lourenço

Ponta de São Lourenço

The route back to the hotel was via the coastal road that runs past the airport. The airport is quite famous for being a difficult one to land at, due to the cross winds and the fact the runway is on stilts jutting over the sea.

Under the runway

Under the runway

We passed beneath it before heading out the other side, and eventually back to the hotel in time for dinner.

After having had a busy day out and about, the following day we took it easy, spending the time chilling by the pool, and seeing our tour friends around the hotel.

The following day we headed out to Funchal, the island's capital. We took the free shuttle bus run by the hotel, and once we had arrived wandered around the corner to the cable car.

Cable Car

Cable Car

The cable car was very busy, and we waited for ages in the queue. Eventually however, we boarded and took the long ride up the hillside to the suburb of Monte. At the top was a botanical garden that we wandered around.

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

At the bottom of the garden was a wall, from which I could see the road. It was long this road that the famous toboggan travels, with tourists in wicker baskets being slid down the hillside.

Toboggans

Toboggans

After watching some of the toboggans, we then headed right past where they set off from at the top of the hill. I then had a quick look at the church overlooking the area, before we headed back towards the cable car station.

Monte Church

Monte Church

We then had a short walk around the town centre - starting at the town hall, in a beautiful square with a traditional Portuguese pavement of wavy mosaics, before wandering around the corner to the cathedral.

Municipal Square

Municipal Square

We then wandered down the main pedestrianised avenue, where we watched a performance of the local folklore dancing.

Folklore Dancing

Folklore Dancing

With a bus back to the hotel due imminently, we wandered past the fort, and back to the bus stop opposite the cable car entrance. This was a local bus that made a winding route through the coastal villages eventually arriving back at the hotel.

Back at the hotel we had a few hours in the afternoon relaxing before going to dinner and tonight's performance.

Magic Show

Magic Show

It was a magic show, where we joined some of our friends from the island tour a few days earlier, and chatted until we were thrown out of the bar at closing.

With our new friend Caroline

With our new friend Caroline

The next day was our last full day, which we spent by the pool relaxing and enjoying the cocktails. Although the mood around the pool had changed drastically, at times seeming like a rowdy Magaluf (at at least how I imagine Magaluf - as I've never actually been there).

A large family from Surrey had just turned up, and they were very loud and boisterous. They also clashed with another family from Essex, and before we knew it, they were arguing with each other across the pool. We tried to stay out of it but had unknowingly been chatting to some of the family members and now seemed to be involved...

We said goodbye to some of our new friends who were heading home today, and then got chatting to a guy who'd also been at the hotel for a week already. Before we knew it, we'd invited him to dine with us for our last meal tonight!

That evening I went down to the bar for a drink where I bumped into the young lad from the new feisty family. He saw me and started chatting - firstly checking my husband wouldn't be jealous (ermm..no) and then telling me that he was out flirting with the local 'hotties' and that he hopes they've brought their wellies because he'll be "squelching all night".

He was then interrupted by a call from his girlfriend (erm..wut?) and told me he'd be back in a minute - which was my opportunity to make a quick exit. I went for a wander around the hotel complex and surrounding area, before heading back to the room.

The sea by night

The sea by night

The next morning we enjoyed our last moment in the nice hotel, saying goodbye to our holiday friends before catching our transfer to the airport, and eventually our way home.

Madeira was a nice place to visit - warm, and mostly sunny with some beautiful scenery. It is renowned for being a place for old people to visit, but there are plenty of things for all ages! Would recommend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 15:11 Archived in Portugal Tagged mountains cliffs walking fort church airport square scenery friends show pool dancing sunshine cablecar drunk toboggan botanicalgarden Comments (0)

The Po Valley

Alps - Milan & Verona

sunny 30 °C
View Alps on kmmk17's travel map.

Given the mountains, it's unsurprising the Alps don't have a decent airport. And with the nearest being in Milan, that's where we headed for the last leg of our trip through the Alps.

Having spent 5 days in Switzerland, we were now heading for a final 2 days in Italy, a much much cheaper country.

We took the train out of Lugano, once again crossing the Melide causeway that splits Lake Lugano into two, passing the road to Campione d'Italia and heading further south to the southernmost points of Switzerland.

Before long we arrived in the border town of Chiasso. Here the train stopped and border guards came to to check the passengers. Annoyingly they also wanted to go through our bags - which were by now full of dirty clothes. The smell was probably enough to believe us, and not long later the train began moving again as we arrived in the town of Como.

From the train we got glimpses of the eponymous lake, and then beyond here we had entered the remarkably flat Po Valley - a real change from the last 4 days of our trip.

Lake Como

Lake Como

Around an hour later we arrived in the second biggest city of Italy - Milan The central station was huge and very grand. We then left into the huge and very hot square fronting the station, before walking the 10 minutes around the corner to our hotel.

Milan Central Station

Milan Central Station

As it was still early afternoon we then headed back out to visit some of the sights in the city, starting with Sforza's Castle - a huge castle complex fronting Sempione Park.

Sforza's Castle

Sforza's Castle

We had a short look around the castle, before making our way on to somewhere much newer - San Siro, the largest stadium in Italy and home to both AC and Inter Milan.

San Siro

San Siro

Our final stop for today was Piazza Gae Aulenti, a modern complex next to Porta Garibaldi station.

After heading back to the hotel we then went for dinner in the restaurant right across the road. It was here that the differences in costs between Italy and Switzerland were the most stark - even in Lugano (which is far from being an Alpine village) meals were at least twice as expensive as they were here.

The following morning we headed back to the station to catch a train headed to Verona. After some confusion with local grannies unable to read their tickets properly, we arrived in the historic city.

Jumping on a bus we arrived in the centre of the city, outside the grand and well preserved Arena that built almost 2,000 years ago, and is still used to this day.

Verona Arena

Verona Arena

We then wandered through the fancy city streets, before arriving at the exceptionally busy courtyard outside the Juliet Balcony.

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet's Balcony

Despite Romeo & Juliet being fiction, and debate as to whether Shakespeare had ever even visited Verona, the balcony on this old house has been designated as the balcony from the story.

It took ages to get into the courtyard, but we did eventually manage to get inside and a have quick moment before the next Insta model had her photoshoot on the balcony and ruin everyone's photos.

We then headed to the Market Square before a walk past some beautiful buildings on the way to the river.

Piazza dei Signori

Piazza dei Signori

On the walk back we grabbed some Gelato, viewed some of the pretty bridges over the river, before jumping on a bus to take us back to the station.

Ponte di Castelvecchio

Ponte di Castelvecchio

At the station, we grabbed tickets for the next train back to Milan. The route took us close to Lake Garda, and we had lovely views of the fort at Peschiera del Garda.

Peschiera del Garda

Peschiera del Garda

The following day was our last on the trip. With our flight not until early evening, we had time for a few last sights - so after check out we headed right into the city centre, arriving outside the city's most famous sight, the Duomo.

Duomo

Duomo

We then headed right around the corner to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a beautiful old fashioned shopping centre, before heading back to the cathedral and grabbing one last Gelato.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

We had now seen everything on our trip, and so headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our way to the airport.

It had been a nice trip, just a real shame the weather had not been on our side and not allowed us to fully enjoy the north side of the Alps!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 16:45 Archived in Italy Tagged history lake bridge city cathedral castle roman stadium alps shakespere Comments (0)

Sunny Switzerland

Alps - Ticino

sunny 26 °C
View Alps on kmmk17's travel map.

Making our way out of the Gotthard Base Tunnel we had entered a completely different place. Whereas the north side had been cold, rainy and German speaking, the south side was hot, sunny and Italian speaking. We were still in Switzerland but that was about the only thing that was the same. Finally it was feeling like August again!

Not long later we arrived in the capital of Ticino, Bellinzona. The town sits in a valley, and has three castles variously perched up the hills.

We got off, put our luggage in storage, and wandered down the main street towards the Montebello Castle.

Montebello Castle

Montebello Castle

The castle was free to enter, and even had a lift to the top - helpful as it was now around 10C warmer than it was just an hour ago!

From the top of the castle, views of the other two castles could be seen as well as the surrounding mountains.

Views of the Castles

Views of the Castles

After walking back down the hill, we wandered along the main street back to the station, where we then took the next train south to Lugano.

Lugano is the largest city in Ticino and southernmost in Switzerland. It also sits on the edge of Lake Lugano, giving the city centre beautiful views.

Lugano

Lugano

The station is built at the top of a steep hill, with the town located below. Our hotel was just a stones throw away, but involved a very windy path down the hillside.

Having had a long, busy and varied day, we popped out to grab some quick food, before chilling back in the room for the rest of the day.

The following day we had originally planed to visit Lake Como, however it wasn't the easiest trip, and having got a rubbish nights sleep again and having already seen plenty of lakes, we decided to scrap it and have an easier day.

So instead, after a lie in, we took the bus to the other side of the lake, to the town of Campione d'Italia - a peculiar place that is an exclave of Italy, located within Switzerland.

Campione d'Italia

Campione d'Italia

As there is only one road in and out, the entrance to the town has a gate marking the border. We then wandered down the main road to the centre. There wasn't much here, other than a huge casino, but we took in the views across the lake before taking the bus back to Lugano.

Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano

Once the bus was back in Lugano, we jumped off to explore it a bit more. We started by wandering along the promenade, all the way to Ciani Park.

Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano

The park had lovely views over the lake which we enjoyed before heading inland towards the city centre, where there were many beautiful town squares. After wandering through them and buying some more souvenirs, we then took the funicular back up to the hotel.

Central Lugano

Central Lugano

That evening after grabbing some food, we enjoyed the sunshine on the edges of the lake, on what was now our last night in Switzerland.

By the Lake

By the Lake

Tomorrow we would head further south and into Italy.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 14:13 Archived in Switzerland Tagged mountains lakes borders scenery castle alps Comments (0)

The Cloudy Alps

Alps - Grindelwald & Lucerne

overcast 15 °C
View Alps on kmmk17's travel map.


Arriving in Interlaken, we then had a quick change to the mountain train that would take us up the winding valley to the Alpine village of Grindelwald.

Winding up the valley

Winding up the valley

The village is complete tourist mecca, full of hotels, cafés and shops. It was a lovely place to stay, and we had a glorious view of the mountains from our balcony.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

At least we did on the evening we arrived... sadly for us, the weather this weekend was going to be appalling, and the rest of our stay here would instead be very grey. Despite being pretty glorious here all summer (unlike it had been at home) for this one week the weather had turned...

Although it had been a long day already - with decent weather this may be our only chance to actually see things, and so we took lots of photos, and went for a short walk up the main road to make the most of what were decent views.

Views from the main road

Views from the main road

Then at 7pm, some locals arrived to blow their Alphorns and throw Swiss flags into the air.

Alphorns

Alphorns

The next morning we headed down towards the canyon at the bottom of the Kleines Fiescherhorn valley. This canyon has a metal walkway drilled into the side of the cliff edge and allows visitors to enjoy 1km of the canyon.

The Canyon

The Canyon

We walked up and past people doing a jump into the valley, as well as going onto a netting right above the fast flowing stream.

Over the stream

Over the stream

Today the temperature had dropped substantially, and was forecast to be only 12ËšC! Despite this being a "summer holiday" we had needed to pack for the autumn too.

We had originally planned to take a visit up the cable car to the top of the mountains on the north side where there were beautiful views of Jungfrau region, as well as a fun cliff walk. However the weather for the entire time this was open was so bad it was completely covered in clouds. Therefore we sadly had to miss out on this fun experience.

Having walked through some of the upper parts of the village, we went back to the hotel and chilled for the rest of the day. In the evening, we tried to dodge the rain showers, and made our way to a restaurant to enjoy some local food.

Oddly, the entire village was absolutely full of Chinese tourists - so much so we almost felt like being in a minority. And it seemed like most of them were all ill with the same cold - coughing around all day long. Unsurprisingly I eventually caught whatever it was, but thankfully it didn't ruin the trip.

The next day, as the weather was not due to improve until late in the day and we didn't have time to wait around, after breakfast we headed to the station to continue our Alpine adventure

The still grey Alps

The still grey Alps

We were headed to Lucerne, and there were two options - one was the faster trains back via Bern on a very long winded route; the other was the shorter route past many lakes, but taking just as long. Rather than repeating ourselves we chose the slower route.

I had wondered why this "PE" train would take so long, but as we boarded we realised why - "PE" stood for Panorama Express. It was a sightseeing route.

The Panorama Express

The Panorama Express

It had lots of panoramic windows and took a very scenic route including up through a minor mountain pass. Even despite the grey weather, we had some lovely views of the Pre-Alps. Definitely worth taking this option.

Passing through the rolling hills

Passing through the rolling hills

Eventually, we arrived in Lucerne. After dropping our bags in the luggage storage, we headed off into the city. The most famous sight is the old wooden bridge, over 650 years old and featuring many 17th century paintings.

The Kapelbrücke

The Kapelbrücke

After viewing it from afar we then took a walk along it, before crossing back over the river at the similar Spreuerbrücke further downstream, that also had similar paintings.

Crossing the Spreuerbrücke

Crossing the Spreuerbrücke

We then headed into the old town itself, bought a souvenir, before then heading around the corner to the Lion Monument - showing a dying Lion carved into the cliffside.

Lion Monument

Lion Monument

We then headed back to the station, walking alongside the shore of Lake Lucerne, the country's fourth largest lake.

Chris by Lake Lucerne

Chris by Lake Lucerne

After picking our luggage back up, we boarded a train heading out to Arth-Goldau, where we changed over to a high speed train that would cut its way right through the middle of the Alps, utilising the recently opened Gotthard Base Tunnel - the longest and deepest train tunnel in the world.

We could have instead used the old route over the top of the mountains to enjoy more scenic mountain views, but by now the novelty had worn off, and after a long day we preferred to shave off an hour from our journey by using the tunnel - though had we travelled three days later, we wouldn't have had a choice, as a freight train derailed and damaged 8km of tracks, closing the entire tunnel and preventing passenger traffic until 2024.

Posted by kmmk17 18:03 Archived in Switzerland Tagged mountains lakes bridges snow trains monument canyon village river scenery clouds valley weather tunnel tourists tradition alps alpines Comments (0)

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