Saturday, June 23, 2007

A week in Robin Hoods Bay

I've been in Robin Hoods Bay for a week, helping to run a friends B&B while they went to Portugal. The weather was awful, both here and there. The only two days I got free, were lovely! Over the weekend, I saw a steady procession of wet, bedraggled and disillusioned walkers file into the B&B. I got the Monday off, so I went on the NYMR (North Yorkshire moors railway). I was lucky it was a STEAM DAY!

When it's 'chuffing' like this, leaning out of the window and taking pics is very hard as you get a faceful of soot to remind you of why the coal & steam age was responsible for the 'pea-soupers' we used to get.

I only went as far as Goathland - one stop, but it didn't stop them charging me £4:50 for the ten minute ride! No WONDER we went electric/diesel! (Nice station though)

Ready to go.

You can see by the sky what a lovely day it was.
I have a nice video of the train pulling out of Goathland station, if anyone wants me to send it, just email back, and I will. This is the last view I got of the track before setting off across the moors. The heather is JUST starting to bloom purple, which surprised me, as I KNOW the moors will be that wonderful purple sea when I come to Whitby in August, so June I didn't expect to see any of the flowers? Is this global warming, I wonder?

This little bridge had some lovely foxgloves growing at the side of it. Most of the stone walls are hugged by this plant at this time of the year (Latin - Digitalis) which, by the way, is the most poisonous plant in the UK.
EVERY part of the plant is poisonous!

....and yet - SO pretty!

I looked across the moors to Fylingdales. There used to be a collection of huge 'golf balls' on the moors, but a few years ago, they disappeared and were replaced by this strange wall-like structure.

Nice shot of a wall leading you up to the blue sky.

I was JUST coming back into Grosmont, and I dropped into a wooded glade. My attention was drawn to the most amazing thing, a young doe! I've walked across Scotland a few times, but THIS was the best and closest encounter with a deer I've ever had. I really felt privileged to stand so close, looking at this beautiful wild animal. She watched me, chewed a bit, and suddenly, was gone in a few bounds. I stood there quite a while, baking in the situation.

That was the end of my first walk. I did a second to Whitby, then up to Boggle hole, but I'll post those pics in another entry later. I hope you enjoy these.

Friday, June 22, 2007

France, next pictures - THE CAVES!

The next instalment - which features the cave pictures. As I think I've said, we were really lucky with the weather. Although a lot of days were somewhat overcast, it was always great walking weather and we got 10 mountain walks in, in the 11 available days (day 12 we had to be at the airport for 10:00AM,). The one day it DID rain, and rain quite steadily all day, we decided to visit the Grottes de grande canalettes. I am SO glad we did, as you'll see. These pictures don't even come CLOSE to doing the place justice, it really was that good! You can't hear the music on here, or see the fantastic light show, etc etc. I wish I could bring it to you all, but I can't, only as these pictures. I hope you enjoy them anyway.

Carrying on from where I left off, Mannes & Brenda took us to the bottom of a very steep climb that rose from a col. They decided to stop at this point, as it was unsafe for the dogs on the rocks, plus the snow was deep. We went almost vertically up to this frozen lake. At one point I got Colin to video me as I pressed my walking pole into the snow under my feet. I went right up to the handle! We were searching for a plane wreck, but as you can see, the snow was getting deeper, the higher we went. The weather also started to close in, so we did the sensible thing and came down. If it had come on bad, we really could have been in danger. The lake was at twice the height of Snowdon!
We reckoned that ridge above was where the wreckage we were looking for was. The sky looks lovely and blue, doesn't it?

But when we turned around, THIS is what was approaching, hence the decision to abandon the search and come down.

As usual, this is how the evening started. Brenda put out 'nibbles', and we all had a beer (or two) as an aperitif.
After the nibbles, a more serious course was brought forth.

Always the spiv, Colin decided to do his hair specially for the occasion.

And Mannes was the waiter - note, the bottle has COLIN'S name on it!

The next morning we woke to rain, and I am tempted to say; 'HOORAAAYYYYY!'. Off we went in Mannes' car, and he dropped us off at the caves. We'd seen these caves each time we'd visited this area of France (in the village of Villefranche de Conflente), and often said we ought to visit them. Well, today it was on the cards, so the Grottes de Grand Canalettes had the pleasure of our company at LAST.

I was in awe from the moment we stepped inside the entrance. These pictures aren't bad, but you can't BEGIN to appreciate just how fantastic the place is. It was seven euros to go in (about a fiver), but I would have GLADLY paid twice, even three times that. We were in there for almost three hours, and we were all wonderstruck! All the time, gentle, but exciting music accompanied the walk, our way lit by subtle LED lights (blue on the way in, red on the way out). At the innermost cavern, a HUGE affair, there was a gallery that could seat about 150 people. At that point, there was a fantastic light show spectacle, accompanied in voice by the likes of Pavarotti. I wish I could show you some of it, but it's not possible in email to do so, you will just have to imagine - or visit the place.

These 'straw stalactite's' were fragile, but beautiful.

You can see how sympathetic the walkways are in this shot.

This one is called le chevaux (the horse). It's about two feet long, but SO delicate.
Caused, it said, by magnetic forces and draught.

After being totally blown away by all this, we decided to see if the other caves were open. The 'Grottes de Petite Canalettes' was closed, but the 'Grottes de Prehistorique' were open, so off we went.
WHAT a let-down after the grandeur of the Grand Canalettes. THIS cave looked to be mostly for children, and was tacky to the MAX! Instead of Pavarotti, in this one, we got 'Jurassic Park' music, along with plastic dinosaurs and unconvincing bats in the roof. See what I mean?

Oh, oh - I'm FRIGHTENED (not!).
The rain finally abated, so we took the little yellow train back to Nyer station. As you can see, the skies stayed angry all that night, but we weren't bothered - we'd had a super day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

France 2007 - next 20 pictures

Well, here's the second instalment of pictures. I'm not sure I could pick a favourite day, as they were ALL fantastic! Maybe I should have a vote at the end LOL? Anyway, today we wanted to climb this mountain, called 'Bugarach'. There's a really good site with loads of information on the mountain, and area, here;

We were driven, as always, by Brenda & Mannes, to a gite. A gite is like a hostel, some are good, some are not so good. The one at Bugarach (also the name of the village), is superb! It's run by ONE young woman, and unfortunately, she was suffering from a VERY bad case of sciatica. I could well empathise with her, as the same thing afflicted me two years previously just before I went to France, and it is EXCRUCIATING!
Before any mountain assault, it's VERY important to relax.
To some people, this simple act comes naturally........

Others seem to find it extremely difficult (and amusing).

Before we started the walk, B&M decided we had to see the most remote village in France. I'ts called Montet! More to the point, this is typical of B&M, their patience and time seems of no regard to themselves, if it means taking us somewhere new, or showing us something interesting.
The village was a picture postcard, really lovely. The drive TO the place was amazing, let alone anything else.

This was the village cat, a lovely tortoiseshell.
Just LOOK at the backdrop to this photo.

A stiff climb marked the start of the walk. It looks a hard climb, but it wasn't too bad, and the weather was lovely, with a soft breeze to keep us cool. At one point, I put my glasses on a rock to wipe my brow. BIG mistake, as I forgot to pick them up and had to return for them after I realised 15 minutes further up the mountain.

At the first col, we came upon these mountain horses. Aren't they LOVELY?
They really remind me of that Guylian chocolate seashells stuff, JUST the same colour! You would think they had been groomed all day to look at their coats, just perfect.

LOOK at that view, just another day in the Pyrenees.

My brother Colin and I, at the top of Tres Estelle - 6,000 feet.

Look, you KNOW you expect it - so here it is - the 'me on a rock' picture.

Beautiful pine cones. All this wild magnificence around us, but I always take time to look near as well, as there is so much else to see. They were very sticky if you touched them.

I call this picture; 'driving towards heaven'

These are Mannes' favourite mountains, because they look like a pair of breasts.
TYPICAL bloke!

We met up with B&M's friends, a French couple. We then went up another 6,000 foot mountain. We WERE in search of a plane wreck from the year I was born, but unfortunately, as we got higher, the snow became very deep, and the wreckage was probably covered, so we gave up. The walk was great though.

You can see the snow getting deeper here.

We DID find a nice bare patch, with some sun-warmed rock, to have lunch though.

In the next set of picture, you will see just HOW deep the snow was as we got higher. B&M decided to wait lower down, and WE took the high road. There's a super frozen lake, and snow at over a metre in depth - I know, because I decided to stick my walking pole in it - and it went RIGHT up to the handle, and still didn't bottom out!