Whistle stop visit to Normandy

We were invited to a family friends 80th Birthday in Normandy so planned a few extra days to visit some of the beautiful places here. 

The party was in Le Bec Helloin – a small village famous for its Benedictine Abbey – & so pretty. 


Their cakes are good too!


We then went to Caen before staying in the countryside near Vire. 


Our friend’s gite- perfect!

We then visited the beautiful medieval town of Bayeux, which miraculously came through the allied bombardment before DDay in 1944 unscathed – amazing when you see photos of the damage to the surrounding area at that time. 


We visited Arromanches – one of the DDay landing beaches – there are so many places, museums & cemeteries relating to DDay that you could do a whole dedicated to this. 

We then spent a day visiting Mont St Michel. A totally awe -inspiring place. It should be on everyone’s bucket list!


We couldn’t wait for the tide to come in as high tide was quite late,  but we will go back again. 

We ended our trip in Rouen – another medieval town- the place where Joanof Arc was killed ( it was English at that time). 


A very quick trip but leaving us with lots more on a list for another visit!!

Advertisements

New Year New Projects

I’m home alone for a few weeks as all my boys are away – one in Australia, one touring with a band & one back at Uni so its just me & the pooch mostly. This means lots of crochet time:)

IMG_7751

Since visiting Barcelona in November I have had in mind to make something inspired by the amazing Casa Batllo – Gaudi’s House of Bones.

The colours & shapes used throughout this building are just beautiful, no straight lines were used in this building design -if you get a chance to visit it is worth the queing!

I particularly like the front with its wavy lines & mottled colours. It also has beautiful stained glass windows – circles of different colours – only just visible in this picture.IMG_7411

I already had some leftover yarn in my stash with similar colours but I couldn’t decide what to make or how to give the feel of Gaudi’s work.

I decided on a baby blanket using up my Drops Baby Alpaca Silk yarn leftover from my squircles blanket, using a wavy stripe pattern, I chose this Lazy Wave pattern available on the lovely blog lookatwhatimade.net. Its a very easy pattern & has a lovely rhythm to it.

IMG_7765
Lazy waves pattern

I think the colours work very well together & I will do some kind of border incorporating some Gaudi circles I think.

IMG_7838

It’s growing nicely & the more I work on it the more I think I might keep it for myself & make it into a wrap, which means I need to find some more yarn & time to make the baby blanket gift I originally intended!

 

A few days in Barcelona

Last week I had a few days away in Barcelona. I’ve never been before & everyone I spoke to said “you will love it” & “watch your bag!” They were right about me loving it – my favourite city so far, but we had no problem with pickpockets & didn’t witness any crime in the 5 days we were there. The weather was perfect for sightseeing, despite the forecast – fine & dry but not too hot.

As there were six of us we decided to book an apartment, partly as it was much cheaper but also to give us more flexibility.

We booked our apartment through  Fewdays Barcelona – who were very helpful & efficient, it was a well equipped apartment in a great location near to the Arc Du Triomphe (yes they have one too!), and 10 minutes walk to either, Placa Catalunya, (shopping district, La Rambla, Casa Batllo), or to the old town, for the Picasso Museum, Gothic area etc.

  
I think you could stay in Barcelona for several weeks & still find things to see & do, we had 5 days & didn’t see everything we wanted to. We also didn’t think we would have to pre book so many of the main attractions as it was late in the season. That proved to be a problem as we wasted alot of time queueing to buy timed tickets, which we could have done in advance before settting off each day.

In particular Casa Batllo or House of Bones, the Gaudi designed home for the Batllo family, this is a must see & we had to queue for over an hour to buy a ticket for the queue to get in!! It was worth it though:)  

Casa Batllo (house of Bones)

 

The rooftop & chimneys of Casa Batllo

We also did not pre book tickets for Park Guell, the Gaudi Park, which is quite a way out of the city centre, none of the guide books we had, or the website suggested this. We had timed tickets for the Sagrada Familia (the Gaudi Cathedral) for 5pm on one of the days so thought we would go to Parc Guell on the same day – they are quite near each other. We arrived at around 1.30pm thinking we had plenty of time to visit, sadly the next available time for entry was 5pm, so we could only visit the free areas of the park not the main attraction. 

  

Gaudi’s Apartment at Parc Guell

If we had booked online in the morning we may have been able to do both, however the free areas are beautiful & have great views of the city & Gaudi’s apartment is in this area and we were able to see this (for an entry fee).

The Sagrada Familia is another ‘must see’ it is a truly incredible feat of engineering, architecture & design, still unfinished but getting close! The interior is awe inspiring & Gaudi’s passion for nature & how that influenced his design is evident everywhere.  

The Sagrada Familia – Gaudis Unfinished Cathedral

We also spent a day exploring Mont Juic, we toured the castle, enjoyed the views, saw the fountains & visited the Poble Espanyol living museum, this is a collection of regional buildings transplanted to create a village representing all the regions of spain. There are regional crafts such as glass blowing & leather working, an art gallery with some works by Picassso and bars & restaurants, the museum stays open til midnight & is well worth a visit. 

  
The view of The port from Mont Juic Castle

 Poble Espanyol

We also managed to fit in a city bus tour, a visit to the Picasso Museum, the Gothic Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum, several nice meals in beautiful squares, a bit of back street wandering, a flea market, the very special food market- La Boqueria and a football match!

  
    
   

I have to say that we totally ran out of time & have a long list of things to do another time – can’t wait to go back!

The Wild Atlantic Way

All my projects have been on hold as we have just returned from a week in the west of Ireland, my mother-in-law came from Sligo & her 92 year old sister & family are still there so we combined a holiday with visiting family & friends. We started off in Sligo town itself, arriving in the rain – this is Ireland – so of course it was raining! Sligo is the spiritual home of the poet WB Yeats who loved this area & it inspired his poetry.

Sligo is on The Wild Atlantic Way – a road along the west coast taking in some very dramatic scenery & wild places, our first stopover was at Streedagh Point, we stayed in one of the houses built here as holiday homes for Germans in the 1980’s – they were built overlooking the sea & all have saunas!

 

Rather gloomy view from the house at Streedagh – Benbulben rock in the background.

We took advantage of the dry weather & went for a long walk along the 3km Streedagh beach watching the surfers & looking at the extraordinary fossils & rock formations in this area.

After visiting family & taking in Glencar Falls & Strandhill on the way, we headed down the coast to Achill Island.
  

If you look closely you can see the tiny figure of a man running up this giant sand dune at Strandhill.

We made the  2.5 hour journey to Achill, only to discover that we had left our rucksack, with all of our euros, back at the pub in Strandhill. Off we went back – it was still there – & back to Achill, 7.5 hrs driving in the rain – not fun- luckily I had downloaded some radio podcasts to listen to as local radio in Ireland can be a little wearing after a while!

Achill is an amazing place, almost forgotten by time, it has incredible beaches & a very dramatic coastline, it has a history of whaling, farming & piracy! Grace O’Malley the famous pirate queen had a castle at Kildavnet, see here, overlooking Clew Bay, the little cemetery here was interesting not least because it is falling into the sea! – definitely worth a visit.

We stayed in a lovely B&B (if a little quirky), excellent food, location & a genuine Irish welcome right on the beach at Keel – Stella Maris Luxury B&B – highly recommended.

  

I seemed to collect alot of irish rainbows on this trip:) We had plenty of sun between the showers too as you can see.

Next we headed down to Leenane & the Killary Fjord – Ireland’s only Fjord, formed when a Glacier carved out the rock along a faultline during the Ice Age. The atlantic comes 16km inland here & the fjord is home to Bottle-Nosed dolphins and other wildlife. There are regular boat trips from Killary Harbour to the mouth of the fjord, worth doing for the beautiful scenery & excellent commentary (& coffee).

We stayed in the village of Leenane, (famously The Field was filmed here), at Portfinn Lodge B&B which has spectacular views of the fjord. Leenane is also home to a Sheep & Wool Museum – full of yarny goodies & has a great cafe too, I now need to find a copy of The Field to watch……

  
The view from our room at Portfinn – note – another rainbow:)

  

Something to do when it was raining:)

From here we headed inland, via beautiful countryside & Loughs to the very quaint village of Cong, the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, was filmed here – another one to watch-  then on to Carrick-on- Shannon. There we spent a day boating on the river with my husband’s cousin & his wife, dodging showers & negotiating locks & loughs. The Shannon is Irelands largest river but was amazingly quiet & peaceful, a lovely experience. Back in Carrrick, we had  a fabulous dinner at The Oarsman gastro pub & restaurant, a lively, friendly pub with great food & live music.

Our last day was spent travelling back to Knock airport via Boyle Abbey – magnificient ruins of a Cistercian Abbey, and the Shrine at Knock where, in 1879, 15 people saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, St Joseph & others.  This shrine is a huge enterprise & visitors come from all over the world to pray for cures & attend mass, Knock airport was built to accommodate the large numbers of people heading here.

  

On The Shannon heading into Lough Key Forest Park.

  
Knock Shrine & Boyle Abbey.

Quite by chance one of my old school friends happened to be at her parents house nearby, so we popped in for a cuppa on our way to the airport – we could have stayed longer if we had checked our flight status- delayed an hour & a half:( Stiil, we caught the end of the Mayo vs Dublin Gaelic Football semi final in the departure lounge – now that was lively!!

More of Galicia

Continuing our trip, we have explored a little of the coastline of Galicia which is simply stunning. The beaches are so pretty, with white sand & crystal clear turquoise sea. As it is the most northerly tip of Spain, this area has coastlines which face both the Atlantic  Ocean & the Bay of Biscay, this provides some very dramatic scenery & as it is always windy here, some fairly big waves too! Really the whole area is a magnificent giant wind farm – it looks pretty surreal but I love the wind turbines & the soothing whooshing noise they make:)

  
We have seen a few kite surfers going at high speed across some of the bays. The winds also keep the temperature down so this area is not as hot as you might expect – a much more comfortable temperature for walking, sightseeing etc than Southern Spain.

   
   

 It seems that this part of Spain is a great area for activity holidays as there are well-marked coastal paths, river walks & opportunities for watersports, we saw new marinas ready & waiting to welcome sailing boats although we havent seen many yachts at sea – maybe it was too windy??

  
Just along the beach at Porto De Bares someone had planted the most amazing garden on an exposed slope, there were all manner of flowering succulents, Aloes, Acanthus & various grasses- I’m not very good at naming these seaside plants- but they look great growing almost onto the beach, amazingly they withstand quite extreme weather especially in the winter.

   
     The food here has been delicious, we have been to a local rural bar/cafe/bistro which serves food for farmworkers & the locals at lunchtime only, it was run by a lovely lady & has a very limited set menu of soup, squid, sardines, salad, steak & potatoes, all served in huge portions with house wine for around £10.00 per head!

We have had Caldo- a local soup of ham hock, beans & potatoes; Pulpo – Octopus cooked whole in water then chopped & served with oil & lemon; and also a Galician cheesecake made with soft cheese & baked but with the texture of old fashioned Yorkshire curd tart.  

 Pulpo 
We only managed a short trip this time but I am sure we will be back for a longer visit, & hope to go inland to visit some of the Romans towns & experience more of this very ‘different’ Spain.

 Our first trip to Galicia

We are currently having a short break visiting friends in Galicia. 

Our friends moved here nearly a year ago with their Spaniel Katie & are in the middle of renovating an old farmhouse in the hills near Ortiguera.

       

 They live in a tiny hamlet & have a small piece of land where they keep chickens, goats & a pig. They have also acquired 2 young Spanish dogs.

 

      I have never been to Northern Spain before & it is a revelation – sooo green. The climate is very similar to the UK just a little windier!! Compared to the rest of Spain it rains a lot here & so is good farming country. The main crop seems to be Eucalyptus – there are huge plantations of extremely tall trees which are used for the paper industry.

 

 Everyone seems to be very friendly & community spirited- helping each other with transporting logs, fixing things etc. 

A typical feature if this area – seen in most gardens or alongside the house is  an horreo or grain store. They can be built on a platform or stilts & have wooden slatted sides. They look very beautiful made out of local stone. 

   
Yesterday we went to a small port – Viveiro-  which is a lovely old town

  

 These galleried windows are typical of this part of Spain – aren’t they pretty?