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The Scenic Spice Isle

Honeymoon - Grenada

all seasons in one day 30 °C
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After a very long and stressful day yesterday, this morning was another early start as our tour was leaving at 7:30am. We had arrived on our final new island, and the most southern on the trip - Grenada, and we would be going on an exciting tour for the tastebuds.

After getting up for breakfast, we headed out to yet another dark cloud, and braced ourselves for some possible showers whilst watching the MSC Sea View (the same ship we had seen back in Naples a few years earlier) park up next to us.

MSC Sea View arriving

MSC Sea View arriving

Before long our tour guide arrived, we boarded a minibus, and started heading into the town. We drove past the bus station, market and stadiums before heading up a very steep and windy road into the mountains.

The Winding Roads

The Winding Roads

Grenada was exceptionally lush, with green vegetation everywhere. Although only around 5km from the sea, we were now at around 600m above sea level and we stopped at the Grand Etang National Park, where there were views of the lake in the crater of the volcano that formed the island.

Grand Etang Lake

Grand Etang Lake

There was also a little museum that gave a bit of history to the national park, and detailed the effects that Hurricane Ivan had had on the ecosystem back in 2004.

Visitor Centre

Visitor Centre

We then began to head down the other side of the mountain, where the sun finally began to shine. We headed past the river tubing sites before eventually arriving at the Belmont Estate in the north of the island.

This former plantation is famous for it's chocolate, which they both grow and produce. We saw all the stages of chocolate from growing on the trees, to harvesting and production.

Cocoa Pods

Cocoa Pods

We were shown what the cocoa pods look like, we tasted the pulps, and then saw how they roast the beans to produce the cocoa powder, before being offered some hot chocolate from their own site.

Cocoa Roasting

Cocoa Roasting

Then we headed into the factory and saw how they turned the powder from the beans into chocolate, before finally getting to taste the different types on offer which they also sold.

Mixing the Chocolate

Mixing the Chocolate

After this interesting stop, we headed along the east coast of the island, stopping off en route for a rum punch.

Our tour guide and driver used to work as a chef on Grenada, and had the nickname 'Soup'. Everywhere we went everyone seemed to know him, and shouted out "Hi Soup!"

After a refreshment, we headed south to a rum distillery, where they showed us how they turned sugar cane into alcohol. Sadly these days, they don't actually grow any sugar cane on Grenada anymore, and instead this is all now imported from abroad. We had a tour of the rickety old factory, which was a little unnerving and must have broken several European safety standards!

The Distillery

The Distillery

We then headed into the shop where we had the opportunity to taste the rum they produce, at various different strengths, and infused with many different flavours. 35%, 70%, pure, passion fruit and chocolate cream amongst others.

Rum Tasting

Rum Tasting

It was a really interesting experience, and after a lot of scenery and beaches, it was really nice to get a different feel to the Caribbean here on the Spice Island.

We had a brief chat with the owner of the factory, who told us she used to live in Enfield(!), but had left and moved to Grenada as her husband owned his own rum factory! We then headed back to the minibus, where we drove back through parts of the capital, which was incredibly hilly!

Grenada had been one of the strictest Covid islands, with only excursions being allowed for cruise tourists. However a few days earlier, they had relaxed their rules and so we were able to have a quick wander around unaccompanied. We headed out of the port building and went for a short stroll around the portside streets.

The Sendall Tunnel

The Sendall Tunnel

By now it was only mid afternoon, but with the early start we had already been out for around 6 hours! We had had a very good tour encompassing the island, and after buying some souvenirs in the terminal building shops we headed back to the ship. It then began to hammer down and so we made a run for it back to the ship. A rushed end to what were going to be our last steps on dry land before the end of the trip.

Tonight was also the last of the four black tie events. We once again went for a fancy meal, this time finally managing to get ourselves an Amuse-Bouche!

Tonight's Menu

Tonight's Menu

Posted by kmmk17 14:44 Archived in Grenada Tagged sea chocolate lake scenery caribbean meal rum Comments (0)

Kept Out Of Kingstown

Honeymoon - St. Vincent

sunny 28 °C
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As many of us have found - travelling during a pandemic is difficult. Even two years on, in parts of the world things are still far from normal. As mentioned in the last chapter, some ports were not letting independent wandering outside of the port. This was the case in St. Vincent, where the only way to see anything was to go on an excursion.

We had already booked some for tours we definitely wanted to go on in other ports, but for St. Vincent we weren't quite sure what we wanted to do. After having another look through the list of options once on board, the night before we got to Kingstown we decided we'd go on the Catamaran tour of the west coast.

Having sailed away from Barbados last night, by the time we woke this morning we had already arrived and docked in Kingstown, St. Vincent. And with the port being located at the far end of the bay we had a nice vantage over the town of just 12,000. The port also felt much different from that of Bridgetown - which had been very industrial. Kingstown meanwhile had a small jetty and then a collection of shops.

Kingstown

Kingstown

Having had breakfast and about to embark on our first cruise excursion we checked out of the ship, before being guided to join the relevant queue. Not long later, we were led to board the catamaran, from inside the port terminal.

Once everyone was on board we then headed out of the harbour. There were beautiful views as we sailed up the western coast, and we headed as far as Richmond, where there were views of La Soufrière, the highest peak on the island.

La Soufrière

La Soufrière

In April 2021 this dormant volcano had exploded and half the island was severely affected. Thankfully over by the time we arrived, the damage caused by the pyroclastic flows was evident. As we returned towards Kingstown the excursion's guide showed us a video he had taken during the peak of the volcanic activity, where plumes of smoke were shown rising almost endlessly, seemingly close to his home - and this was just from the Green zone!

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Not long later we passed by Walliabou Bay, which had doubled for Port Royal in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In fact much of this stretch of coastline had been used as a filming location in the franchise, and as we passed these locations they were pointed out to us.

Walliabou Bay

Walliabou Bay

Although we weren't allowed to stop at these places (to prevent us mixing with locals in light of the Covid situation), we were able to stop at Mt. Wynne Beach, as it was more isolated. We were taken almost to the shore, where the catamaran descended it's ladder and we were able to walk quite easily (if timed with the waves) to get onto the beach.

Getting off the Catamaran

Getting off the Catamaran

As the island is volcanic, the sand here was black, and we stayed here for around half an hour. The sea wasn't freezing but wasn't super warm, so I didn't do anything more than dip my feet in. However as it was pretty rough, it was probably wise. In front of us were some older ladies, and one of them misjudged the tide and quickly became submerged, spinning around like she was inside a washing machine!

At first it looked hilarious, but quickly the situation became quite serious. She didn't get pulled in, but as she couldn't swim (I know!) it was a close call. She made it out all shaken, but her sunglasses had not been so fortunate, lost forever more.

On the Beach

On the Beach

After a nice bit of time on dry land, we reboarded the boat and were served some rum punch - the local cocktail. And unlike in much of the western world they weren't afraid to make sure the rum was noticeable. After thoroughly cleaning out any lingering bacteria from my throat, it then went straight to my head - and it wasn't even lunchtime yet!

On the Catamaran

On the Catamaran

We enjoyed some beautiful views of St. Vincent in the glorious sunshine before we arrived back at the port. We weren't allowed into Kingstown which was a shame, but we could at least see it from the harbour. We bought ourselves some postcards before reboarding the ship and gabbing some lunch.

That evening before dinner, we managed to catch the sailaway as we left port, and grab some final views of a town we'd never seen!

Sail Away

Sail Away

The following day was our first Sea Day. We wouldn't be seeing anywhere new, instead spending the day on the ship as it sailed the Caribbean Sea. However as it doesn't actually take two days to get to the Leeward Islands, instead of hugging the Lesser Antilles, we did an unnecessary diversion well into the Caribbean Sea to waste time!

As everyone was on board instead of in port, extra entertainment and activities had been laid on today - beginning with a mid morning quiz which would accumulate points on every port day - let's hope Covid won't knock us out from some points on the other days!

Quiz Time

Quiz Time

After this we headed over to another of the pools, where the SeaScreen was located - a huge cinema screen that showed films four times daily, where this morning the film Encanto was being shown. However like in resort hotels, if you don't get your towels out early you miss the good spots! We managed to find two loungers right at the top of the ship, but being a bright sunny day, and sheltered from the wind it was baking. There are no parasols, so even after some ice cold cocktails we were still baking! We managed to stay until the end of the film, before heading to find some shade.

SeaScreen

SeaScreen

We had some lunch and a wander around the ship before heading back to the first pool for musical bingo and a guess the tune quiz.

Unlike many other parts of the travel industry, cruise ships still keep up many of the old fashioned traditions, and tonight was going to be one of those - it had been declared a Black Tie Night, where we would dress up very smartly in our suits. Feeling fancy, we decided to go to the formal dining room for our evening meal where we were treated to a five course meal.

The couples on the neighbouring tables were clearly different people to us however, complaining about the quality of the wine they had been given, and where on earth the Sommelier was, whilst the lady on the other side (who appeared to have plucked a whole family of blackbirds for her dress) seemed to have an endless list of complaints about her cabin, not receiving her Amuse-Bouche, and the fact that the captain had not awoken everyone at 6am to congratulate the Queen (who I note was not on board) on her Platinum Jubilee the previous day.

Black Tie Night

Black Tie Night

After a quick go on the roulette in the Casino, that night we went to enjoy our complimentary glass of champagne whilst watching the onboard comedian. He was ok, but trying to match the demographics of the room meant I didn't find a lot of the jokes that funny. Nevertheless it was a nice evening.

Posted by kmmk17 18:00 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged sea boat beach volcano scenery caribbean entertainment covid Comments (0)

A Day In The Cotswolds

Cotswolds

sunny 21 °C
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After the last 18 months of not getting to go very far, we managed to have a day out to the Cotswolds on one of the few nice summer's days of 2021.

With a lot of leave still to use, we'd taken the week off and spent much of it decorating the living room. But to give us a bit of a break from all the work on a 'week off', we decided to have a day out and picked the best one weather-wise in what had been a pretty miserable summer.

The first place we headed to was Bourton-on-the-Water, which involved driving across country. As we were almost there, the road we needed to take to cross over to Stow-on-the-Wold was closed, with the nearest diversion adding another 30mins to our journey. Feeling that this might be a bit excessive, we decided to try our luck and see how far down the road we could get before cutting around the road closure on country roads.

As we almost entered Stow-on-the-Wold, we cut off and diverted via a suburb to the south. However these tiny narrow lanes were not suitable for the huge cars ignorant people love to drive. Arriving at one bend where there were loads of parked cars, the developing trail of cars I was caught up in met another travelling the opposite way. A trail of three cars had already headed down what had become a de facto single lane highway which our larger trail was already on. As we had right of way, and also nowhere to go, the cars headed towards us had to reverse to allow us to pass. Some of them did so amicably, but one driver decided he would only reverse as far as possible for all our cars to mount the verge and squeeze past - despite him being able to reverse back slightly more and let us drive on the actual carriageway.

My blood was now boiling. How dare this ignorant man just sit there so obnoxiously expecting us to do something so unnecessary. So I sat there waiting for him to reverse further, but he would not. So, as I was forced to mount the verge passing him, I stopped adjacent to his window, wound mine down and absolutely lost it at him - shouting, screaming and swearing right in his face. He probably didn't care but it made me feel better anyway.

As we left the town we could see the huge traffic queue that had formed due to the closure of the important road. Thankfully we were missing it via our reroute, and around 10 minutes later we were in the middle of an extremely busy Bouton-on-the-Water. Despite being a weekday, probably due to the nice weather and the school holidays, it was full of people and we were lucky to get parked.

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water

After a little walk we ended up on the main High Street of this beautiful village, where a small river runs just to the south creating an area of parkland where many families were picnicking. Crossing several of the bridges we started at the west end by the Motoring Museum, before heading into gift shops and ending outside the Model Village. It is quite simply the idealised English village.

But being a Cotswold village, there wasn't much to do, and so after picking up some souvenirs we then headed back to the car park and made our way to the nearby city of Gloucester.

Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral

Around half an hour later, and just outside the Cotswolds we arrived and parked in the shopping centre car park. We then went for a wander over to Gloucester Cathedral. This huge cathedral contains the tomb of Edward II, and also served as a filming location for the Harry Potter films.

Cloisters

Cloisters

There, they did the typical thing of providing 'free' entry, whilst in reality trying to force us to give them a donation. So we pretended to leave and then when no one was looking legged it across the vestry - we only wanted a quick look!

Edward II's Tomb

Edward II's Tomb

We went for a little wander into the cloisters and courtyard, before heading back to the exit via the tombs. We then headed back towards the centre, stopping for lunch, before making our way towards the Docks, located on the edge of the River Severn.

On driving into the town it dawned on me that this was also the city where Fred and Rose West had lived and murdered, and their house, where 9 bodies were found in 1994 was just a short walk away. So we decided to walk back via the site, which has since been knocked down and turned into a footpath.

We were now headed back towards home, but we also had another Cotswold village we wanted to stop by at - Bibury.

Bibury

Bibury

Much smaller than Bourton-on-the-Water, it was very scenic. However even at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon, we were lucky to get a space. After driving past the best parking spaces, we could see a learner driver was just getting into the car. After turning around, a stroke of luck, he was trying to pull out. So I let him go and then nabbed his spot.

We then went for a short walk around the village, before making our way back to the car, and a final drive home.

Bibury

Bibury

It may have only been one day, but it was a nice break from the normality of home, and it was very scenic. Would recommend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 19:20 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hills river scenery city cathedral quaint Comments (0)

Grey Skye's Ahead

Isle of Skye - Highlands

rain 16 °C
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After a brief stop of the Eilean Donan Castle, we made our way further west, crossing the bridge over to the Isle of Skye where we were instantly struck by beautiful mountain views.

This afternoon was the only time it was going to be dry during our stay on the island, and so with plenty of time, we made our way up to The Storr. This is the iconic view of Skye and one of the best of Scotland, but it was not without a struggle. Barely leaving the house these days, the strenuous 45 minute climb was hard going. It was very steep and only I made it to the top.

The Storr

The Storr

However it was definitely worth it. The views were incredible and lived up to their hype, despite the biting wind at the top.

After strolling back down the hillside it was now almost time to check into our hotel. Having driven across much of Skye to get to the Storr, it was only a short drive south back to Portree where we would stay for the next two nights.

Like Ullapool, this was the most important town for miles, and still had a population below 2,500. Therefore there were limited options for accommodation and food. We stayed in a hotel on the central square and parked around the corner, whilst after gong for a little wander over towards the port we grabbed dinner at an Indian restaurant. It seems every British town - even in the middle of nowhere - will have a Chippie and an Indian.

Portree Port

Portree Port

The following morning, as expected, it was wet and miserable. We drove north, past The Storr and on to Kilt Rock. Here, Loch Mealt drains into the sea over beautiful cliffs. However despite the rain, the dry weather until now meant ironically, that there wasn't a huge amount of water actually falling.

Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock

Getting soaked, we didn't hang about long, and continued our way north to the Quiraing, a landslip in the middle of the Trotternish peninsula. To get here was a steep windy drive. After driving through what felt like an amphitheatre, before a steep hairpin bend, we made it to the top.

From here there are supposed to be amazing views of spectacular scenery and on to the sea. But as we were in the clouds, sadly we'd have to imagine it.

Quiraing

Quiraing

We continued crossing the peninsula, and arrived on the other side above the town of Uig, which even in miserable weather looked beautiful.

Uig Bay

Uig Bay

Just around the corner from here is The Fairy Glen, an unusual landscape created by a landslip, that could easily have been home to the Teletubbies. Home to ponds and small mounds it was a very strange place, but due to the weather we didn't fancy walking around it and so after driving through it we turned around and returned back towards Uig.

Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen

We had originally also included visits to Neist Point and the Fairy Pools on the west and south sides of the island. However with terrible weather and both being over an hour away on low quality roads in opposite directions, we decided to give them both a miss and instead enjoy a relaxed afternoon.

After arriving back to the hotel, we chilled for a few hours before having dinner in the restaurant downstairs after a quick stroll to the watchtower that overlooks Loch Portree.

Watchtower

Watchtower

After two nights on Skye, the next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed back towards the mainland. The weather was abysmal - it was hammering down and the wind had really picked up. Then, as a lorry drove past - Smash! - a stone had smashed into the windscreen and caused a massive dent in the windscreen.

How annoying. In all the driving I'd done over the years this had never happened until now when I was in a hire car. But worse things were to come. As we crossed back across the Skye Bridge, and for no apparent reason, a massive crack started to form across the windscreen right in front of my face....

Posted by kmmk17 13:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scenery bridge hill waterfall highlands&islands Comments (0)

When We Couldn't Even Wed in Gretna Green

Northumbria - Barnard Castle, Hadrian's Wall, Lockerbie & Gretna Green

overcast 17 °C
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With travel completely disrupted by Covid, and all our original plans out the window, any travel this year would be last minute and national.
We seized an opportunity with lockdowns easing and semi-decent weather to get some time away from the house and have a minibreak.

Similar to those carried out in previous years, we would carry out a road trip exploring part of the country we hadn't seen before - this time heading up to Northumbria.

We began by setting off up the M1, stopping at Woolley Edge Services, where every northern holiday begins, before reaching Barnard Castle via Scotch Corner and the A1.

Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle

I hadn't heard of the place until it made the news when the top government adviser broke lockdown rules to visit in order "to test [his] eyesight", but it was actually really pretty and being almost en route, we decided to stop.

We took a short walk by the riverside, before then driving through through the centre of town which was really very pretty. It was not much longer before we were driving past the Angel of the North and arriving at our hotel just on the edge of Newcastle.

By now it was late afternoon, and we had already spent a lot of time travelling, so all that was left was to grab some dinner and chill at the hotel.
Our hotel was just around the corner from the MetroCentre - the second largest shopping centre in the country. However with the country only just coming out of lockdown, many of the shops were closed, and almost every restaurant was closed. We ended up settling for a takeaway McDonalds, which we had to take and eat in the car park.

The following day was our first to really explore the area, and as the weather had seemed the best today, we headed towards Hadrian's Wall.

Like all Roman creations, it was created without really taking into account elevation, and so it runs in an almost straight line across the country. Most of which has now been lost, but a section in the remote middle of the country remains in quite good condition. We parked up and started our work, to find section of impressive wall was cut right across two rather steep hills. It made it stunning, but it was a really tough walk - at one stage it was almost like rock climbing!

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall

As we were not far from the Scottish border, and we had all afternoon, we decided to take a drive into Scotland, visiting a couple of places close to the border.

The first, being Lockerbie - the small village that a plane fell on in 1988. We took a visit to the remembrance garden, on the site of two former bungalows that were destroyed in the crash, in a residential street on the edge of the village. An eery site....

Lockerbie Memorial

Lockerbie Memorial

The second was Gretna Green. Famous for being the first village in Scotland, and where a lot of marriages of English couples take place due to less restrictive regulations on this side of the border. As we couldn't marry in a week's time anymore we pondered if maybe we should just do so here? Except lockdown restrictions were even tighter in Scotland right now and all of Gretna Green was shut. In fact until a few days ago it was on a strict lockdown where no one was allowed out, so hardly surprising.

An empty Gretna Green

An empty Gretna Green

With not much to see we didn't hang about long, and by mid afternoon we were back at the hotel, but we had at least got to see lots of new and different things something that didn't even seem possible a few weeks ago.

Despite some dark clouds, the weather had stayed dry for us and we were hopeful for this to continue...

Posted by kmmk17 05:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scenery rural castle roman wall macabre northumbria Comments (0)

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