Menorca. Our Half Term Holiday

Es Talaier. Our fave beach.

For the longest time I have really, really wanted to go to Menorca. I don’t know why, I’ve just had it in my head that that was where I wanted the next family holiday to be. I probably saw it on the telly and thought it looked like a paradise that was easy to get to. Also, I was vaguely aware that there was good food to be found!

Mitjana. Probably better when it’s not raining and you don’t have to hang out with nudists.

Getting There

We got there the usual way, EasyJet from Bristol. It worked out to be about £400 cheaper than flying via Flybe from Exeter, which annoys me because I could walk to Exeter airport from home in about 40 minutes.

Where to Stay

I spoke to a friend who went a year or two ago. She told me where she’d stayed and where she wish she’d stayed instead. The wish place was Ciutadella. It’s just under an hour by car from the airport, which is pretty much the entire length of the island. It’s quite a small island.

We Airbnb’d it. I won’t tell you which villa we stayed at cos we didn’t like it. It looked the part but not only was it on a busy road, it also reeked of must and mould. Not good. It’s such a shame because it was a beautiful space, the gardens were big and the pool was lovely. If they’d looked after the inside like they did the outside, it would have been perfect. It was only a ten minute stroll to the nearest beach (Sa Caleta) and a supermarket wasn’t that far either. We booked in February, if we’d done so a few months earlier there probably would have had a better crop to pick from (I fell in love with a farmhouse surrounded by beautiful fields but nope, someone else had got their mitts on it first). You can’t win ’em all.

Sa Caleta.

Sa Caleta.

An avarcas wearing, beer drinking, lie down near the pool.

What we ate

Menorca has a reputation for its very good food. Therefore I assumed it would be dead easy to find a cheap little cafe or restaurant that local people loved. Well, bum, we didn’t eat out at any of those (wherever they were hiding). One place (a cafe in the main square of the capital city, Mahon) barely served real food at all, it was gross. I also disliked the food at the restaurant we went to in Fornells. We chose a busy one ( because that’s what you’re supposed to do) and again, it was half arsed. I had stuffed aubergine as it’s a Menorcan classic but it was effectively brown slops on a plate. The other place we tried was in Ciutadella and it was the nicest, which wasn’t terribly hard. We ate grilled cuttle fish and patatas bravas and we actually quite enjoyed that, even with the party of ants that had joined us at our table.

It boiled down to this: we couldn’t afford to eat in the restaurants that give Menorca its good food rep. I didn’t get to eat the caldereta de langosta that I had my heart set on because it was too expensive. It’s sad day when you can’t even afford “peasant” food.

The markets, on the other hand? Yesss! Sooo much better and loads of fun. I really enjoyed using some dodgy Spanish to ask for what I wanted (a huge change from my chickening out on last year’s trip to Spain). We went to the fish market in Ciutadella twice. We came back with loads to put on the bbq and it was delicious. Then there was a food market on the Saturday morning too where we bought locally made bread with sobrassada, eggs and some fruit n veg. We took it all back to the villa and had a lovely lunch with yummy stinky cheese that’s made on the island as well.

I almost forgot the fish market/deli in Mahon. That looked fab but I was too full of crappy omelette from the crappy cafe to enjoy all the pretty tapas. We got a couple of things but dammit, I wanted it all! Gutted.

Meh, I didn’t research and paid the price. I’m forever cursed with being a lazy food snob.

Oh, I liked the gin a lot even though it’s “not real” gin (it’s distilled from wine not grain). It was interesting, refreshing and tasty but I preferred it with schweppes, not lemonade as is traditional in a pomada. Came home with a bottle of that, some vac packed cheese and sobrassada.

When you tell the kids that conejo is chicken…

Yuuuummmm!!!

Fella selling pineapple from his wheelbarow. He was lethal with his blade

Stuff to do

You go to Menorca to go to the beach. You just do. It has loads of them. Beach too full? Walk to the next one. That one full? Pop across to the next etc… This is another reason why it’s a good idea to come in the half term hols. I gather that in July and August Menorca is heaving with people. Like sandy sardines in a tin. We avoided all the ones near resorts assuming they’d be busiest. We parked at Son Saura twice. The first time we went to Bellavista, which was very nice but the next time we parked here, we walked a bit further to Es Talaier. It was stunning. A beautiful, beautiful beach. There were a few jelly fish but we swam in the warm water anyway. The boys had never swam in the sea before and were beyond excited! I, however, didn’t swim too vigorously because a boob would bounce out the bikini if I got too enthusiastic.

Es Talaier

Oh, and Mitjana is gorgeous too. Sort of. There was a big group of loud teenage school kids on a trip plus a load of crusty seaweed spread across the shoreline. We walked further on and found a teeny cove to climb down to but I bust a flip-flop, which put me in a mood and there was nowhere to sit apart from a small spot next to Ugly Naked Guy.

Es Talaier

Caves! There were cool caves. Man-made by real cave men! We all really liked it here. The youngest boy absolutely loved clambering all over these. And you do have to climb a little bit to get to them. Good views when you’re at the top. I don’t think I’d want to live in a cave but they were fun to stop by.

The caves at Cala Morell

What else? I dunno. We went to Fornells but thought it soulless. Very grey. The littlest boy said it was like being on the moon. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t do it for us.

I’d like to have tried a couple more towns such as Es Mercadal and Ferreries. We ended up running out of time and felt like it wouldn’t be much of a holiday if we were rushing round trying to squeeze in as much as possible. The aim was to take it easy so we missed out on a few things.

I did go shopping though! Got some new shoes! Oh my, they are so comfortable and I’ve worn them everyday since I got them. If you find avarcas, get yourself a pair. I’d like all the colours of the rainbow, please!

In Ciutadella I found three (or even four) fabric shops and two places that sold yarn. Can you believe I didn’t buy any?! It’s not a woolly sort of place. The yarn wasn’t Spanish, so I wasn’t interested. OK, there was some Katia in an indoor market in Mahon but that’s not what I wanted.

Fornell. Like the moon but wetter.

Avarcas

Conclusion

It’s more expensive than Venice! I feel naive for not knowing. But I’ve been and I’m glad of that. Box ticked. We’ve got some saving to do now. No more holidays abroad for quite some time. It’s been an indulgent couple of years. The children are old enough to buy us some freedom so we’ve been taking advantage of that. I also received a little bit of money when Nanna and Grandad died; I think they would have wanted me to enjoy it. I certainly did! Thanks N&G for Amsterdam, Spain, Venice & Menorca! It’s back to camping in Dorset!

A few more pics below.

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Nice bit of garden

crochet spotting

Fornells

Can you imagine what this terraced garden would look like in top notch condition?

Ciutadella

A tower thingy at Sa Caleta

Sa Caleta. Lots of pretty rock bits for clambering over. “Don’t go near the edge!”

Mahon. Not as nice as Ciutadella

Mahon

Mitjana

xxx

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Two Nights in Venice (On the Cheap)

This time last week I was in Venice. It is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It was awesome, I was literally in awe. Every five minutes someone heard me say “this place is amazing, I love it!” The husband started getting annoyed, “you’ve already said that.”

Have you been to Venice? It’s amazing, I love it! I went expecting to say goodbye to a lot of cash and, if necessary, sell my soul. Yet, our budget didn’t burst its banks at all. This wasn’t actually going to be a post about how you can do Venice on a budget, it was just going to be my usual thing of whacking up pictures and saying what a nice time I had. However, I want you to go to Venice too and I don’t want you to dismiss it because you think it’ll cost the earth.  It doesn’t have to.

Getting There

We did Ryan Air on the way there and Easy Jet on the way back. This wasn’t my job. Another person in our party of six sorted out flights. He found the best times and prices. It didn’t occur to me to choose two different airlines but this saved us money. We booked in November/December so I can’t remember how much it was, around £100 pp return from Bristol. Just over, I think.

Once you’re at the airport you can get a water bus but it’s half the price to get the train. We wanted to be fancy so we got the bus. A private taxi would be even fancier and they really zooom across the water!

That building in the middle? A hospital!

Where to Stay

It’s Airbnb all the way for me. My job was to find accommodation and I didn’t bother looking anywhere else. Seeing as we were three couples, we needed a three bed place. This was also booked in November/December and I think that was too late. Many suitable apartments had already gone and there wasn’t loads of choice for nice places. The best bet is to leap on flights as soon as they’re released and book somewhere to stay at the same time. Don’t dilly dally. However we did manage to find a clean place with a nice view out the back and three bathrooms. It was right near a stunning looking hospital in a pretty square with plenty of bars. Nowhere took longer than fifteen minutes to walk to. Unless you got lost, which we did. Frequently.

The view from our kitchen window. Sadly, there was no access.

What We Ate

Oh my goodness! Everything I ate was fabulous. The only thing I didn’t care much for was the gelato. I don’t know if I had a duff one or if it’s because I’m normally all about umami but I didn’t like the dense texture. It was sturdy ice cream! If we’d have had time (and emptier bellies) I would have gone to the Boutique del Gelato; apparently it’s top notch.

Cichetti. I don’t know the name of this place. It was our first bit of Venetian grub.

Cicchetti!! Wowsers, I loved all of it, even the salt cod and pickley fishy things! Cicchetti is a bar snack a bit like tapas and you need it in your life. We went to several places to get our fill and each time we also ordered prosecco. Yuuuum!!! Stand at the bar and eat or you can sit too. You might have to pay extra to sit though. Cicchetti is cheap and you can easily fill up on it for a few quid. Try All’ Arco for traditional/local and also Acqua e Mais for a cone of deep fried calamari and shrimp. If you’re on a super tight budget, this sort of thing is great and you don’t need to go mad on the drink, which bumps up the cost. Having said that, a bottle of prosecco is pretty much the same price as a pub here, so much cheaper than I thought it’d be. And so much tastier.

Seafood spaghetti at Trattoria Alla Scala

The husband’s monkfish.

I don’t remember the name of the place this was from. But it was so good!

Waiters will tell you that you must order seafood. They’re not wrong. It’s what I ate both nights and it was delicious. The first night we went to a restaurant we’d found on Trip Advisor. In we went, winding our way through tables whilst chatting to the restaurant guy about reservations. As we talked, he escorted us right past all the diners, through the kitchen and out into the alley at the back. We thought we’d been kicked out but actually we were waiting for a table. Others were already there, snacking on chilli pesto gnocchi and little glasses of spritz. We were given the same and told how to hold our plate and glass (!). A few minutes later the guy we’d spoken to introduced us to a bemused looking man in blue gloves and an apron. We were told to follow him. We did and ended up in another restaurant a two minute walk away. At the Tratorria Alla Scala there were no tables for six so they got some other diners to budge up and in we squeezed. We got complimentary glasses of prosecco, grissini and gorgeous garlicky tomato bruschetta. Main meals were around 18 euros, which I think is ace, especially as we paid that much for dinner in Amsterdam last year and didn’t get any extra stuff (not even a smile).

I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we went to the second night but it was a lot of sharing platters and ours were delicious. Oh man, I ate way too much in 48 hours. I haven’t even mentioned, the sneeky chips, pizza, sweets, pastries or any of the other things I stuffed in. I couldn’t sleep the first night cos my tummy was so full. Yet I still didn’t spend that much money! Honest! And I bought yarn! (Not from the posh wool shop though as I had Pretty Woman experience in there, so… big mistake, huge!).

Stuff to do.

I think it’s safe to say that this was very much an eating holiday. I’m a big foodie and my bestie’s husband is a chef so it was always going to be about food. That means we didn’t have time to visit other islands or go into any of the touristy places you’re supposed to visit. If you wanted to go up the tower in St Marks’ square though, I think it’s only 6 euros. The Basilica di San Marco is free to enter, as are a couple of other places. Just standing in St Mark’s square is breathtaking, you don’t need to spend money there! You don’t even need to go there at all. The whole of Venice is amazing to just walk around and gawp at.

More pictures below, ones where the tower isn’t chopped off!

One thing which was total bucket list territory was a ride in a gondola. It was made cheaper by the fact that all six of us squeezed into one boat. It was essential that our tour included a goggle at the Bridge of Sighs but the bloke we chatted to said it didn’t work into his 30 minute route. We wangled a 45 minute trip for 120 euros. Usually they’re thirty minutes for 80 euros. The alternative was spending more on an hour or finding another fella who was nearer to the prison. Whatever, it was worth every penny. We all loved it, I even got over excited when I saw a little crab perched on the side of a canal! If you want the gondola man to sing you have to pay extra but I would probably pay for him not to sing. Luckily our guy only came out with interesting facts about what we were seeing. He even knew where George and Amal got married and had their do. Real Venetian culture!

The Bridge of Sighs. Casanova is the only man to have escaped from prison here. Thanks for that bit of info Gondola Man!

Things I wanted to do but didn’t get the chance? There’s a market by Rialto bridge. I’d like to go there. Next time I’d go to art galleries too and time it with Carnevale! That sounds like an alright weekend…week? There is loads to do and I did what I wanted to do, saw the things I wanted to see and came home happy.

Basically, if you want to do Venice on the cheap don’t spend money in the San Marco area and you’ll be fine. Eat cicchetti and get the train over. Also, you don’t have to have your accommodation on Venice itself. Burano or Murano would probably work out cheaper. There you go. Boom. Bargain holiday in one of the most beautiful destinations in the entire world.

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A book shop with a lot of books. We could see the back of our flat from here.

I’ve now got sucked into buying a tacky fridge magnet wherever I go.

Rialto Bridge. 11pm. Over sunned, over proseccoed, up since 3.30am.

There was a rainbow!

Breathtaking. We wandered into St Mark’s square quite by accident. The best way to “discover” it, I thought.

shoppin

To commemorate the people who died of the plague. I think. That’s what we were told.

Venice innit.

I’ll give you ten points if you can spot it.

All pics are my own or the husband’s, taken on our phones. xxx

A Farm up North. Holiday Part 2

It’s been just over a week since we got back from holiday but it already feels like it was a million years ago. Part 1 of my holiday adventures lives Here. It’s full of pretty pictures about what we got up to when we ventured away from the farm we stayed at. This post is all about our accommodation and why it was right up my street!

Imagine stumbling upon a farm house where the owner spins, dyes, and knits yarn that’s from the fleece of their very own sheep?! I couldn’t believe my luck.

A long lane takes you to Higher Gills farm in Clitheroe, Lancashire.  The sheep and surrounding fields you can see are all part of the farm and the hill in the distance is every witch’s and Quaker’s favourite: Pendle (see post 1 for that). The easiest thing for me to do is link to the farm’s website so you can read in more detail about the farm/accommodation/yarn shop. Freda and Darrell run the woolly/yarny side of things as well as the holiday lets, with other family members in charge of the farm management. In previous years they’ve had a stall at Yarndale as well as other yarn festivals but are now winding down. They’re still selling online and the holiday lets will continue but they’re retiring from the yarn events. I liked Freda and Darrell very much. They were both chatty and friendly but also knew when to leave us to it. Our accommodation was  one of two apartments converted from an old stable. It was described as rustic, which I’d agree with and pretty much had every thing we needed (I was fully prepared for sub-par wifi but we streamed Game of Thrones with no glitches –  super important in my book). My biggest gripe of the week was the too small frying pan that wasn’t non-stick. I let that go.

Views were pretty good. Directly in front of us was this. Not bad. And there’s a public right of way through the farm so you can walk through the fields and find more beautiful views.

The farm has sheep and cows, some rarebreed. I didn’t see many cows, just these cute babies. To be honest, I was more enamoured with the stone walls. I was supposed to ask what the jutty-out stones were but didn’t get round to it. Whatever, none of this was the biggest attraction for me, oh no. Before we’d even fully unpacked I was in there with the wool questions. Freda invited me over to her farm house on the Monday morning so I could get answers.

I absolutely loved Freda’s home. It was cosy with an eclectic mix of Stuff. I had a little tour and ended up in her craft room where we stayed chatting for about an hour and a half. I was allowed to have a rummage through countless tubs of yarn skeins, all of which were made from Freda’s Teeswater sheep fleece.  I bought a few too because I’ve learned over the last few holidays that yarn makes a great souvenir.

Freda’s craft room was full of experiments and projects. There was a loom next to a spinning wheel next to a table of trinkets and works in progress. What’s not to like?! I could have rifled through it all for ages. It was wonderful to see another person’s creative processes, it made me feel better about my own little corner of crochet “shame”. Non-crafty people tend to think we’re messy. It’s not mess, it’s art!

Here’s the fleece in its raw form. I don’t know how Darrell does it but he sat there for hours, painstakingly separating the very best tendrils from the unsalvageable. You can buy it like this too, they send it all over the world. The long tendrils are one of the reasons the yarn is so soft. No short poky strands to itch you. Apparently, being worsted spun as opposed to woollen spun is also the reason it’s a lot softer than other pure wools (or something like that). Mostly they send away fleece to mills to get spun and don’t make it into skeins themselves. Freda dyes it once it has returned home.

Here are my souvenirs! I haven’t decided what to do with them yet but I’d love to design a shawl with three of them. I think I’d like the red one to be a cowl with lacy stitches, like one I saw Freda knitting in the same colour. It was almost enough to tempt me into learning more advanced knitting but I’m wondering if I can come up with some pretty crochet stitches instead.

What a wonderful discovery for a yarn enthusiast! I learned new things and experienced a very different kind of yarn to what I’m used to. This is the real deal as far as I’m concerned and it’s fascinating. I can’t wait to use it.

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A Week Up North – Part 1

I’ve wanted to have a holiday in Lancashire for a few years. When I was little we would go and stay with my Gran who lived in Colne. I have recently diagnosed myself with a fairly reasonable case of Nostalgia and this week away was a symptom. I found a farm in Clitheroe with a converted stable for holiday accommodation (My post about the farm is Here, it’s yarn related! Oh, and there’s a seriously superduper yarn related surprise at the bottom of this post too).

What I wanted to do was visit places I’d been to as a child and show my own kids a part of their heritage. A lot of memories about going up north relate to my fascination with the Pendle witches. I think it’s fair to say that I was obsessed with the stories from 400 years ago. When I was about eleven I even wrote a little history book complete with illustrations! The story of these people was told to me by Gran as we looked out of the back room window of her house. She’d ask me if I could see the witch of Pendle Hill, for that was the view we had. This time round, I think it was pretty much a done deal that we should do a mini tour of the Pendle area, including walking up Pendle Hill. As a child I was told that I wouldn’t enjoy clambering up the steep sides and therefore had never been further than the foot of it. Last week I achieved a life time ambition and went to the top!

First stop of the Pendle tour: Witches Galore in Newchurch, quite possibly my favourite shop when I was little. I think the promise of going there was more exciting than actually stepping foot inside. The animatronic display in the little far right window was also a lure. Put 10p in the slot and a witch would stir her bubbling cauldron whilst her familiars got up to mischief behind her (something like that anyway. Sadly, it’s not there anymore. I asked. It’s been gone for nearly ten years). Last week I bought a mug  and a fridge magnet as souvenirs, which still tickles me for some reason!

In the village of Roughlee is a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the women accused of witchcraft. The statue was designed by a local artist and it was put in place in 2012 to mark the 400th anniversary of her death, well, all of their deaths; their hangings.

We also went to the Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford to learn more history of the area.

 

Interestingly, Pendle Hill is also where the Quaker movement was founded, so moved was the guy who founded it when he went to the top. Lancashire has a history heavily steeped in religion, which is maybe one of the reasons why witchcraft was more prevalent here than in other places.  Also, I’m sure the fact that the Lancashire witch trials were recorded in great detail has something to do with it.

Another day, another trip down memory lane. I see this as Postman Pat country. The lanes are so reminiscent of one of my favourite programmes as a kid (I even had the lunch box. I remember picking at the picture on the front whilst I waited for my mum to come and pick me up from school because I had a toothache). OK, this Nostalgia thing is worse than I first thought.

Anyway, this is Malham, a village across the border and into the Yorkshire Dales. For years I thought I’d dreamed this place up. I must have been pretty young when we went for me to think I’d invented it. Revisiting, I have to say that it is completely within the realms of possibility that this place is a figment of someone’s imagination. Aside from the hoards of tourists that bring you back to earth, Malham Cove is an absolute stunner.

I think I’ve done pretty well in managing not to capture too many of the other human visitors. The kids likened the place to the world of Zelda and I know exactly what they mean. It’s a fantasy land. I can’t see any reason why a faery or two wouldn’t want to live here. Just look at it!!

  Anyone else get Picnic At Hanging Rock vibes? Ethereal is a good word to describe it. This pic, by the way, is the bottom of that big cliff face. The water comes from somewhere underneath. That’s another kind of wizardry. Nature is awesome!

Mum told us we were foolish to try Lake Windermere in August. She was right, it was heaving with people. Traffic was hideous and I couldn’t quite believe how all of us people had turned somewhere so beautiful into something ugly. We did no research, just thought we were were close enough that we shouldn’t miss out on a quick look. Sat in a traffic jam, hastily googling on my phone I found lots of places that would have been much better but by then it was too late. We were idiots. Regardless, the views were breath taking.

For part two I want to tell you all about the holiday accommodation and the story behind Freda and Darrell’s farm in Clitheroe. I think you’ll like it. I couldn’t quite believe my luck that we’d found somewhere that had their own wool to spin and dye! More on that another day soon.

But wait, that’s not all. A couple of weeks before the holiday I happened to see on Facebook that Lucy of Attic 24 had put out an open invitation for a knit & natter group in Skipton. We were twenty five minutes from Skipton! It was an opportunity I really couldn’t miss. It was our last day and I thought why the hell not?! I’d regret it if I chickened out. Steeling myself, I stepped into Cooper’s Cafe and joined a group of very lovely and welcoming people. Crikey I was nervous. I don’t know how I came across, no idea at all. It’s all a bit of a blur really. I don’t think I made a twonk of myself but you never know! I had one moment where I thought “I wish I hadn’t said that” (I’ve got no filter) but mostly I think I was well behaved. It was a bit of a worry that I’d come across as a crazy stalker but thankfully there were other newbies there too so I didn’t feel alone. It turned out that they were normal; fingers crossed I was too. And I know that I’m not a weirdo stalker, so there’s that.  I loved that everyone was equally enthusiastic about each other’s projects, I loved that we were all asking questions and sharing knowledge. I loved how relaxing it was. It was wonderful to join in and I left full of inspiration about starting a group in my own town. I’m extremely glad that I’ve started making myself do “brave” things. I know I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

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A Holiday in Valle De Lecrin.

I’ve been on holiday! About a month ago one of my sisters asked me if I fancied a trip away. She had a week off work coming up and was planning a holiday. Originally she was going to go with a friend but her friend had had to back out. Her misfortune was my gain because I said “Yes!” (If you’ve seen my crochet vlogs on YouTube, you’ll know I’ve been saying yes to everything this year in a bid to be more brave). It all happened very quickly; all of a sudden four nights in Andalucia had been booked!

Looking out of the aeroplane window got me excited. Before that I was kind of anxious about the whole thing. I barely slept the night before, knowing that I had to get out of bed at 3.15am and drive us an hour and fifteen to Bristol airport. Other people do this sort of thing all the time but to me it’s pretty alien. Honestly, this year has been nuts. Saying “yes” to things has meant that I’ve been to Edinburgh Yarn Festival, had a weekend break in Amsterdam and now I’ve been to Spain for the first time. All of these have been brilliant but also very budgetty. (By the way, I’m also “yessing” to less extravagant stuff too, I’m not about to leave us penniless by jet setting all over just cos I want to. You know, simple things: Do you want to go for a walk? “Yes”).

Our destination? Saleres, a small, quiet town in Valle De Lecrin, an absolutely stunning part of Spain near the Sierra Nevada mountains . Read about the area here. Isn’t it lovely?! There are no shops in Saleres but there is a bread man who comes round twice a day in his van. And there’s a fish man too who visits everyday. If you hear a tooting horn, then you know someone has come to sell you food. You don’t need a fruit man as there’s loads of it growing on your doorstep. It was wonderful to pluck your own sweet oranges from trees that are in all directions. Lemons were huge and we needed those for G&T’s. We braved the prickly pear fruit, burning the spines off before we handled them and we weren’t sure whether the other things we spied were persimmon or not. It was awesome and I was greedy. We spotted almond trees too and there were allotments aplenty, quite sporadic in their placement but I’m guessing those local guys knew what they were doing. Lots of broad beans, onions and happy tomato plants . The area was abundant in everything. Super lush.

It was AirBnB time. My sister was clever enough to find decent accommodation. I was searching in the wrong places. Just because the airport was in Malaga, did not mean we should stay in Malaga. We stayed in a lovely house, which was traditionally moorish in style.  We had three terraces to ourselves and they were mostly private. I did notice an old man in the distance whilst I was using the outdoor shower. He didn’t seem to mind me having a wash. In fact, I think he was rather enjoying himself until he realised I’d turned round and seen him! The house was cool inside and the terraces had hot hot sunshine from morning until sunset. Bliss.

The very first stop was a supermarket to stock up on food and drink (cava and rioja obvs). How I wish I could have fit a jamon into my suitcase. I did squeeze in a fat chorizo and a packet of morcilla (Spanish black pud). Yum!

On our first full day we flipflopped down to Canuelo beach, a very nearly desserted shingle beach. It’s quite a walk down to get there. It’s so worth it though. Stunning, I tell you! Walking back up the hill left me with a beetroot face. It was very hot and super steep. I understand that in peak season there is a bus. You’re not allowed to drive down, you park at the top.  We saw police come and put a ticket on the only car brazen enough to break up the beauty of the place. I minded my own business and got on with some beach crochet (there’s a post coming soon about Wool and the Gang’s Tina Tape yarn).

The next day was a trip to Alhambra, a palace/fortress that we couldn’t get tickets for. It was completely sold out. We learned that it’s usually booked up weeks in advance.  However, what the official people didn’t tell us (but a friendly guide did) is that there is half a day’s worth of stuff you can do for free! It’s a bonkers place, absolutely massive and I’m kind of glad of all the stuff we couldn’t see  (I would have been seriously worn out). We did get to see extraordinary, imposing architecture. There is also an art gallery and museum on site, which we had a wander round.

In the evening we thought we’d stroll over to the next town for a drink and some tapas at one of the bars there. We got lost. Quite a few times actually. After stumbling through some oranges groves and making a couple more wrong turns, we reached our destination. Restabal is another of the towns in Valle de Lecrin, a sign told us it was 1.5km away from Saleres. We found Bar Jovi, which served cold beer (dos cervezas por favor) and delicious tapas. The gubbins that we read at the house told us Restabal was a twenty minute walk away. Hmm, it was a twenty minute march not a casual stroll (we didn’t get lost on the way home, despite it being dark). Whatever, we’re young and fit, it was fine. And the frogs we heard! On the way home, we passed a giant round metal vat/reservoir doodah with water in it. There were frogs hanging out in there and the sounds bouncing off the walls were incredible!

Squeezing in more terrace top crochet.

The last day was a walk to Albunuelas, which was about 3km in the other direction. The path we took is part of the GR7. The GR7 goes through several European countries and is a walkers dream. Or so I understand. Read about it here. The views were awesome, the pathways were brilliant, and we didn’t get lost! It was ridiculously hot though and there are very few shady places. We took plenty of water and when we got to Albunuelas we found a quiet bar (we followed old guys after their sherry). My Spanish is awful but my sister is way better than me. She got across to just keep the tapas coming. There was confusion about menus, I don’t think it was one of the places we’d been told would do three course lunches for 9 Euros. However…

Goodness me! I loved the tapas, it was completely fabulous. (Top right pic is from Bar Jovi). The woman behind the bar was lovely, she made a huge effort to impress us (flaming sausages!). We only had a couple of beers each yet we got through six plates of yummy snacks.

Interesting wildlife too.  House martins and swifts zipped about the sky and a gecko sat with us on our top terrace. I know we get lizards here, in fact, there’s a dead slow worm in the garden right now, but I do love seeing them skitter about the place as you walk past. We also saw an eagle owl living on some bloke’s balcony. There were half a tonne of cats on street corners too. They’d come in the house if you let them but we were told to discourage them. A wise decision unless you’re a legit cat lady.

On our last night we steeped in the outdoor tub. Sat neck deep in hot water, we listened to the frogs sing and gazed at bats and shooting stars. Then it was time to go home. Over so quickly. Everything was properly enjoyable. I don’t think I was ever unhappy at all. I wonder where we’ll go next time?!

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A Weekend in Amsterdam.

Did I catch my cold in Amsterdam or did the kids give it to me when I got back?! Either way, it’s snotsville here at the minute and I’m not sure if I can coherently conjure up words. If you would like to see what happened this weekend then please come, come on a virtual tour of my one of my favourite cities (I’ve been to Amsterdam four times!!). I will bung up pictures and see what I can do! Beware, many pictures of wool skeins will appear at some point and then it’s back to the tour via some phone pics.

I love Amsterdam, it’s friendly, it’s easy and it’s fun. The architecture always blows me away, the canals too. The last time I went was ten years ago and what I didn’t realise then is that it is a city full of young and beautiful people. I didn’t quite feel old this time but if you’re not quick on your feet then tram/bicycle squashing seems pretty inevitable. I don’t recall feeling panicky before, but this time round my brain wasn’t quick enough to feel casual about crossing roads. I didn’t think to get a photo of the crazy crisscross of multiple lanes for cars, bikes and trams.

  The weather was mostly good. On our last day it was glorious sunshine. The day before was overcast and we didn’t mind a bit of rain. There was no need for a real coat or anything.

  Upon arrival the first thing I made everyone do was visit Stephen and Penelope’s. It’s the “home” of knitwear designer Stephen West and someone not called Penelope. I dragged seven other people on my mission for wool. I felt marginally guilty; not a single one of those people was remotely interested in this pilgrimage but it was alright cos we went for beer straight after. I had to take lots of photos because it would have been taking the Mick to spend too much time in situ. Oh, crikey I wanted to buy it all. I went in having already decided to at least come out with a tote bag. They didn’t have any left and that made me sad. So I spent 5 Euro on a teeny drawstring bag instead. And two skeins of souvenir dutch yarn to squish.

Undercover Otter is a yarn actually from Amsterdam, you can’t get more souveniry than that! I’ve got plans for this yarn but have no idea when I’ll get the time to make anything (certainly not for the next couple of weeks whilst the kids are off school).

Being a dweeb.

Look at what I missed here?! Right next door to Stephen and Penelope’s is a gorgeous looking fabric shop! I didn’t take this pic until the next day (when it was closed, boo). In all the yarny excitement I was blind to all else. Gutted. Anyone know where I can buy geo patterned fabric? What makes me cross is that it was all so bargainous, I missed out on bargains!

We spent half a day in the Rijksmuseum. Yes, it’s pretty impressive but my back ached far too much to give a stuff by the end of floor two. Look, I have a degree in Art History but even I thought it all looked the blinkin’ same. Floor three  should have been my favourite but I hardly saw any of it. By that time I’d given up.

Highlights of the museum included Petronella Oortman’s dollhouse. No one was looking at the painting of it (see above) but everyone was clamouring to get a look at the real deal. I was interested to see it because I’ve just read The Miniaturist (it was OK, not as amazing as I was lead to believe). The Miniaturist is set in 17th century Amsterdam and was inspired by this very dollhouse. Not sure how the real Petronella would have felt about someone making up a fanciful story about her though. Also, there was the other “must see” that is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. We kept calling it The Night’s Watch and wondering where Jon Snow was. Hilarious.

We walked all over the city. People’s fitbits confirmed well over twenty thousand steps per day. Fitbits! We all loved the Albert Cuyp market. Loads of great stalls. Wool, fabric and food. I was very happy.

Amsterdam’s night life is notorious and you really shouldn’t miss out on it. It is a marvel to walk the streets and see with your own eyes. Sadly, pictures taken in the dark, on my phone after a few beers; I didn’t get anything to even come close to capturing the true nutjobness of the red light district. You have to see it for yourself. The city’s lights at night are stunning too. The canals are lit up, it’s magic!

A fab way of seeing the city is a trip on a barge. We did this on our last morning, with the sun out and jumpers off. I learned loads about the history of the place and it was a good accompaniment to The Miniaturist. We chugged down the Herengracht (where all the mega rich people used to live) and around the Golden Bend. There are certain sights you can only see here by boat and I think it’s essential if you’re after a touristy excursion. It was just the right thing to end the break on. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Summer Holiday in Cardigan Bay.

seagull

This year our summer holiday was in Cardigan Bay, west Wales. What an awesome place! I’m not sure why you’d want to read about my holiday on a craft blog but I’m sharing it anyway! Ha.Ha. :I

penbryn-beach-west-wales

It was over cast at first but not cold. It didn’t stop us from beaching it. The first day we went to Penbryn, a National Trust beach. Three things made this a particulary interesting place to be that day. One: I learned that it was used in a James Bond movie ( a teeny weeny, miniscule moment at the end of Die Another Day). Two: There was a wedding happening right there on the beach (we stood there gawping with our buckets and spades). And three: I thought I found a dead body. I felt a bit stupid when I realised it was a faded buoy and not a pensioners bald head wedged in the rocks, but you know, it was a few seconds of heart pounding interesting.

cave

I love a good cave. There were a lot of caves.

moomin

This is a hippo, or possibly a moomin.

 

from-penbryn-to-llangrannog

This was our coastal walk from Penbryn to Llangrannog. We didn’t actually make it as far as Llangrannog. We had to give up because it was too hard going for the kids. Lots of uppy downy.

beach-at-new-quay-wales

On a really hot day we went to New Quay. The tide was out so we had a paddle between the boats.

new-quay-wales

This was where we waited for a boat to come and take us on a dolphin watching tour. The tour was fifty minutes of wondering where they were and then five minutes of “Oh wow! Look! A dolphin!” Then we had to go back to the quay. To be fair, it was a pretty blimmin good five minutes of dolphin watching. I’d never seen one before and we got to watch a mummy and baby dolphin do some peaceful swimming.

the-national-wool-museum-in-wales

We  ditched the kids one day and went to the National Wool Museum. The kids were sent with Grandma and Grandad to the Internal Fire Museum of Power! Sounds like a pretty good place too but I was happy with some wool.

the-national-wool-museum-in-wales

There were working looms, which were very loud and fast. It was mesmerising to watch but I didn’t like the man putting his hands so close to the shuttle thingies. He knew what he was doing.

newcastle-emlynn

We did Newcastle Emlynn that day too. It had good shops and some castle leftovers.

the-cliff-terrace-at-aberystwyth

We went to Aberystwyth, which we thought was an odd place. I can imagine that it would’ve been a bit of a party town a hundred years ago but now, a lick of paint wouldn’t go amiss on some of those buildings. I did like it though! There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia here.

electrci-cliff-train-at-aberystwyth

We went on the cliff terrace railway. We journeyed upon a worrisome train that was working loose at the seams. The hill is so steep that you wonder how this thing can pass health and safety tests. Well, we didn’t crash to our deaths that day so, all was good.

views-of-aberystwyth

The views were alright.

castle-n-stuff

Lots of cool architecture in Aberystwyth. Having been here, it makes me want to watch Hinterlands, a crime drama filmed in the area. I hear it’s pretty good.

holiday-food-and-drink

We had a couple of days of barbeque weather too. Yay!

llangrannog

Our holiday was concluded with ice creams at Llangrannog. I loved this beach. The tide was out and I could walk round to the next bay.

on-the-rocks-at-llangrannog

Whilst I wondered about taking pictures of rocks and stuff, the boys and Husband dug holes in the sand.

octopus-sandcastle

I didn’t want to miss out on playing with sand either. This is my effort. It was initially just a motte and bailey castle (Eldest learned about these at school last year) but a giant octopus came and smothered it.

beach-at-llangrannog

Llangrannog was possibly my favourite. We did lots of other stuff too but I think I’ve shared quite enough holiday snaps for today! I’m off to get my craft on. I’ve got a massive list of stuff to make now that the boys are at school.

A quick visit to Stoke Fleming.

Blackpool Sands in a cold April.

Husband grew up here in Stoke Fleming, and his parents still live in the same house they’ve had for over forty years. It’s near the busy town of Dartmouth and the area is always rammed with visitors, especially in the summer. I remember holidaying in Stoke Fleming when I was little, completely unaware that at some point I was probably only a few metres away from future husband. When we first met, that made my mind boggle a bit. Actually, I doubt we were that near each other because I’m fairly sure that locals wouldn’t have mixed with a grockle like me!

lichen

We went and stayed last weekend and the weather was pretty bad. It changed our plans for hanging around outside all the time. We did do things but not as much as we’d hoped.

As usual I have randomly clicked away at stuff I like. I haven’t worked out an order in which to place the pictures but fingers crossed I’ll have a blog post by the end of it!

Walls and stuff. Stoke Fleming.

The rain is good for green, there was lots of green. I like all the old walls with weeds and wayside plants.

Spring flowers on our walk.

The early flowers are here with the promise of bluebells and foxgloves to come. It’s a shame it was such a grey day.

woolly bits and their sheep

Lots of lambs with their mummies. I was tempted to gather all the wool from the barbed wire but that might have been be a step too far. I’ve got enough of a wool stash already.

From Stoke Fleming to Blackpool Sands

One of things we knew the boys would like was a trip to the beach. It’s a nice walk from Grandma and Grandad’s house and not that far either. What I find funny is that you can see the sea on either side of this little lane. These gates are pretty much opposite each other.

A peek at the sea - Copy

I love the walk down to the beach, it’s exciting to catch glimpses of it through the trees. It makes me feel a little bit dizzy though as the drop is quite steep. I don’t do heights.

Sea view. Blackpool Sands - Copy

Because of the dizzy, I rushed taking pictures up here. I’m sure that’s why I’m still getting waves of dizziness right now. I was moaning about being dizzy in the week and I’m starting to wonder if this is what triggered it. I believe it’s an actual thing and I’m not just making it up!

The other end of Blackpool Sands

That’s one end of the beach.

One end of Blackpool Sands - Copy

This is the other end. This is where we explored. Somewhere in the middle of the beach is a cafe and shop. It might sound peculiar but this is where we had our wedding reception a few years ago. It’s called the Venus Cafe and it was lovely. Haven’t been for a while but it’s definitely still going.

The top end of Blackpool Sands

I like this end of the beach, there’s a river. The boys took their shoes and socks off and went for a paddle. I have no idea why, it was blinkin freezing.

river meets sea

I watched the river meet the sea. The shape of it changes all the time.

Watching the waves

I also tried to take photographs of the sea doing its thing. Some worked out alright but I need a different lense if I want to get a better picture. I didn’t fancy taking the camera any closer to the waves. I was too far away to get the full impact of them. I reckon you could make these piddly waves look fairly impressive with the right equipment.

Hedgehog pebble

Grandma found a pebble that looked like a hedgehog! He came home with us. Little eyes and everything!!

chasing blue beetles

This beastie tried to run away from me. He (she?) was beautiful! I only wanted to take a picture.

And then it was home time. The Easter holidays are just about over. Back to school tomorrow. We’ve had lots of adventures and it has been lovely. (One of my highlights was watching cows in a dairy and drinking some proper fresh cow milk. A low point was today; rushing to the train station to go on an adventure to the museum in Exeter. The museum was closed).

We’re ready to get back to normal now please.

We went camping!

camping in dorset

On a gloriously sunny weekend in Dorset, we went camping. It was hot. There were eight of us, four adults, four children. That’s two families. We had a lovely time. I wrote about this place a couple of months ago.

camping on the farm

There was only one heavy tumble down into a badger’s set (resulting in lots of bruises) and only one incident with a hand saw (involving  a quickish trip to a Minor Injuries Unit) but they somehow have added to the weekend, making it more memorable… and good for story telling.

cooking soggy shoes

Our shoes had to dry by the fire after a short but heavy downpour.

a little bit of rain

We briefly took refuge in the woods but it got slightly soggy so, in a break in the rain we went back to the tents.

dinner on a camp fire

We had delicious meals on the camp fire. The first night was a chicken and chorizo stew with new potatoes. The second night we had carbonara with homegrown courgettes.

dorset countryside

We camped in this very green and clovery field.

dorset sunset

I took a ridiculous number of sunset pictures.

first night camping

It was a beautiful and mostly peaceful place to be. We had to endure music from a nearby party the first night. It went on until 2am, ugh. In the first photo, peaking out from behind some trees is a white marquee. That is where the party was happening.

looking into our field

We stayed on a farm I know. I’ve been camping there a few times but this is the first time since having kids. I was worried it would be a nightmare but the children had a fantastic time. I didn’t like them waking us up at 4.45 but it was only for two nights.

camping in a field

Unfortunately, we forgot our sleeping bags so  Husband kindly drove back home to get them. It’s only about 50 minutes from home and I don’t think he minded too much. I just can’t believe we forgot such fundamental camping equipment. Duh.

camping in the great outdoors

This is our new tent, bought so that the boys could have one section and we could have the other. It has a porch inbetween. Nice and roomy.

camp fire

Camping isn’t camping without a proper fire to cook on and keep warm.

our camp site

This looks messy in the photograph but in reality it was very well organised. In lieu of crafting we set to work making an awesome drying rack thingy for dishes and a washing line for clothes. There is a bin hangy thing in there too and extra sticks stuck in the ground to hang lanterns from. It was very cosy.

a proper camping breakfast

Here is a proper camping breakfast!

another camping sunset

Nice views.

camping sunset night two

Promptly upon our return we all came down with a bug. I’m still feeling rubbish as I’ve been kept awake by pukey kids for two nights. Decent sleep hasn’t come to me yet. It’s such a shame because it put a downer on coming home. I think we caught the germs before we went camping and harboured them whilst we were away.

I might get back to some crochet today but I still don’t have much energy. I’ve been doing too much camping laundry instead. Boo.