My birthday treat from Sue was to go to Lisbon. We flew from Liverpool with EasyJet which was quite painless and got us into Lisbon early afternoon. We went to the information desk to get some Lisbon cards to make best use of buses, trams and trains and asked where the taxi rank was. There were hundreds of people just outside the entrance milling around and we found out that the taxi drivers were on an 8 day strike, protesting at Uber being given more licences than the official taxi drivers. We opted for the bus and waited in the queue, only to get to the head of the queue and find out we needed to buy a ticket before we got on. Instant panic and I just managed to get tickets whilst Sue stayed in the queue. When we asked for Avenide do  Liberdade, where our hotel was, the driver said he couldn’t take us there as the road was closed off owing to the taxi drivers’ strike but we would be dropped off 10 minutes away. For 10 minutes, read 25 minutes with a stop for beer on the way. It was boiling hot and dragging a case along cobbled streets and map reading at the same time isn’t the greatest of fun. We were 200 yards away from the hotel (although didn’t know at the time) and we asked a group of 4 policemen where our hotel was but they didn’t know……

Anyway, after the travel trauma we got to our hotel and it was just lovely – not a brilliant view out the window but a great room. The bar was good but the food in the restaurant was decidedly average for the price. We went out on subsequent evenings and had mixed success. One restaurant with a sniffy waiter and average meal, next one much better – and the final evening we decided to go to a small family restaurant in a back street near to the hotel. We had looked at it previously and thought it might not be very good and given it a miss, despite it getting great reviews on the net. However we decided we wanted to stay local on the last evening and walked to it to see if we could reserve a table. The two guys sitting in the front of the restaurant (looked like someones front room) were taken aback that someone wanted to reserve a table but booked us in. When we get there later that evening we were asked where we wanted to sit – there was nobody else in which we thought a bad sign. We ordered a wine which he hadn’t got but he offered a substitute for the same price which was great. The menu was short but we took that as a sign that the food would be good – it was excellent. Then an Asian lad started to play accoustic guitar and one of the two lads who took our booking sang. They were both quite good. The downside was that the second guy then went to do some washing up and left the Asian lad to sing – he was just awful. I think 1 out of 25 notes was in tune. By this time the restaurant had started to fill up and one girl at another table who seemed to be known by the guys, got up and started to sing and rattle her maracas. She sang a couple of Fado type songs which led to a healthy discussion about the origin of the song between head waiter, guitar player and a couple of Belgians at an adjacent table. What a great evening for almost half the price of the two nights before.

I arranged with the hotel to get me a taxi driver to take me to a couple of places to take some night time photographs. It was a bit windy and I couldn’t get to all the places I wanted to but here’s a few images from my birthday break.

Thanks to the couple in the Park for posing against the statue_DSF4912 watermarked


f4 Photographic Group go to Maldon

An f4 trip to somewhere new. Fresh challenges like, what do we photograph, what’s the beer like, what have I forgotten, have I remembered to register my car with reception, where’s the nearest ATM – all spring to mind. Discussions earlier in the year led us to Maldon. Colchester with it’s history, Maldon and West Mersea with the Thames barges and numerous coastal landscape spots, a potential photographer’s feast.

The weather was reasonably kind to us, with the notable exception of when we visited Walton on the Naze. I was expecting more from the tower at one end but the pier at the other, together with a sudden onset of fog, made for some interesting results. We visited a couple of good restaurants, one on the seafront at West Mersea and the other, a Thai restaurant in Colchester. The third was an Indian restaurant in Colchester and I have to say that even a sardine would have felt uncomfortably squashed, there was that little room.

Anyway, here are a few images from the break, including the one that won “Best of the Annual Trip” – “Thick Fog at Walton”.

The Shuttleworth Collection

“This looks like a good day out”,  said Pete, “Yes”, I replied. “Let’s take the girls” – so we did.

The Shuttleworth Collection, down at Old Warden, is a collection of vintage cars and aircraft, together with The Swiss Garden and the house – and it makes a lovely day oout, especially when they are having a flying day, which is what my photography pal Pete Stockton and I wanted.

We stayed at a small pub just outside the village and arrived at the venue early next morning. Some planes were already up and enjoying themselves and there was a good display of old cars and motorbikes, together with a great amount of nostalgic stuff. We took a charabanc trip up to the house and had a look around, followed by a look around the Swiss garden and lunch. The air display started at 2pm and went on until 6 and there were a lot of old planes in the air. What a great time, fab weather and we all really enjoyed it. A thoroughly well recommended visit. Here’s some pics from the air show, garden stuff to follow.

Linton in Craven

Sue read a review about The Fountaine Inn in Linton in Craven and thought a few days away walking would re-charge the batteries after the extreme heat we’ve been having. A pleasant drive through North Yorkshire saw us arrive at lunchtime where we shared a ploughman’s lunch. Lovely meal and beer later we decided to go for a quick walk and there are plenty of them in the area. Grassington is only a stroll away and there is also an easy path along the river to Burnsall where we had a refreshing cuppa at the Red Lion. In order to get there you have to cross the river by means of a very bouncy suspension bridge – Sue didn’t like that. She also didn’t like being stung by a wasp when we were having lunch sat outside the pub – her hand swelled up like a balloon.

The next morning we went to Gargrave to walk the Leeds/Liverpool canal path into Skipton but first got some antihistamines and cream to help with the swelling which had started to go up her arm and was very itchy. It seemed to have sorted the trick by the next morning.

This is a really picturesque part of the County and well worth a stay – we really enjoyed ourselves – the food was excellent and the people were very welcoming.

Croatia – Korcula

The weather decided to turn as we were on our way into Korcula. We were due to be there for the morning and then to sail in to Mljet in the afternoon before ending our holiday back in Dubrovnik. It was raining on and off and a breeze got up as well. Still, intrepid explorers that we are, we took a walk around Korcula and found it to be another of these Croatian towns with plenty to see, some good harbourside restaurants and cafes and lots of steps and alleyways.

Marco Polo lived here – I guess that is the island’s real claim to fame. There’s a museum here and his house is there as well, although I found that quite amusing because having done all that seafaring he’d hardly have been at home. Mrs Polo (if there was one) would constantly have been chucking his tea away because it was burnt.

Earlier in the day, the captain got us all together for a meeting – apparently the weather was too bad in Mljet (it’s only a small harbour) for us to land safely so we had to sail past it and headed directly to Dubrovnik. We really enjoyed this holiday and I have to say that the ship and crew were very very good.


Croatia – Hvar and Vis

Another day and more Islands (read churches and castles) to explore. Hvar Island was very pretty and again we ventured up hundreds of millions of steps up to a hilltop castle overlooking a pretty harbour. There ought to be a prettiest view from a hilltop competition in Croatia – there’s an awful lot to choose from. You can tell how steep the climb was because someone has kindly stuck a number of recliners half way up so you can have a rest. Then we got to Vis – Mammia Mia! cute little island, didn’t stay long, I think we were looking forward to Korcula the next day although we were a little sad that we were coming to the end of a lovely holiday.

Croatia – Trogir & Split

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Trogir as we were landing by tender – would it be as small as I thought, would there be much there apart from the obligatory churches, castles and touristy things. ON the other hand, we’d seen some great images of Split and were looking forward to it. As usual, things don’t work out as you expect and we found Trogir charming with more narrow streets to shield us from the sun, welcoming cafes, low flying aircraft coming into/taking off from Split airport, someone towing a capsized boat and a good walk around the harbour.

Split on the other hand was extremely windy, full of tourists (yes I know) – and lots of market stalls. Plus it was probably around 32C and not good to walk around in. I’m pleased we saw it and it might be better on another visit. Here’s a few images :-

Croatia – Sibenik

As we cruised in towards Sibenik there were a number of small rocky islands and outcrops and on one of them was a sign welcoming everyone to Sibenik. I thought this could be either touristy and nasty or a genuine welcome. After seeing the place and the people I came to the conclusion it was the latter. A lovely long harbour front with access to the old town halfway down. It had quaint narrow streets that we were now getting used to seeing, and, walking in the heat of the day one could see why they’d been built like that to shelter people from the sun. We had a good walk around after docking and returned for a quick glass of something before ouor one and only “official” excursion to the Krka Waterfalls. The whole area of the Krka National Park is vast, The falls we went to were the Skradinski Buk Falls which are the bottom end of the park – we walked for quite some time on well laid out decked routes with trout (forbidden to catch them) in almost every bit of water we saw. They weren’t bothered by our presence at all. There were 240 steps down and 240 back up again which tested the tendons but fortunately we managed it easily. I wondered how much time we could spend touring the whole of the park – a good month I guess. The view of the main falls is hampered by the scores of people bathing in the front of the falls but it is still a stunningly beautiful place. We really enjoyed Sibenik – a lot.

Montenegro – Kotor

The last time we were in Kotor we were almost fogbound on an Azamara cruise. This time the sun was shining and the church I took a picture of in the fog was in plain sight. Kotor is a lovely place and certainly justifies its world heritage site position.

We walked along a bit of the walls and got an excellent view of just how small our 200 passenger Belle de l’Adriatique was compared to the huge MSC cruise ship moored next to us. We were nearly tempted to walk up the 2000 steps to the church but thought better of it in the heat. Maybe next time.



Croatia – Dubrovnik

We’ve had 3 attempts now at getting to Dubrovnik. The first was a couple of years ago aboard a ship that couldn’t get into port because of a bad storm, the second was a hotel we wanted to stay at that didn’t have a room at the time we wanted to go and this was the third. You can understand some trepidation considering the past failures. However, no such troubles need have concerned us. The flight went well, the transfer was smooth and efficient and we were on board the CroisiEurope ship – La Belle de L’Adriatique by early afternoon. A pretty ship with only 200 passenger capacity.Out of the 180 aboard, there were probably 8 Brits, 4 Kiwis, half a dozen Swiss and a couple of Spaniards, the balance being French. Our transfer from the airport was with 4 other Brits, so we managed to get a table together which we great.

We were overnight in Dubrovnik and had the following day to look around so we took a bus into the old town and went around the city walls and had lunch in a small cafe just inside the walls. This was followed by an attempt to get up the cable car to get some panoramic shots from the top. Owing to an impending storm, the cable car had been stopped but taxis were happily taking folk up to the top. When we got to the top it was drizzly, damp and windy and there was a lot of haze, which we weren’t expecting. We left two young Norwegians (who we’d travelled in the taxi with) to have lunch at the top and we got another taxi down with two other young folk from London. The weather was decidedly iffy by then so we were pleased to get back to the ship for wine o’clock.