Hong Kong Highlights

Our Hong Kong Highlights are not a tourist list of things to see rather what we discovered, walking the streets, during our brief visit to Hong Kong in October, that stuck in our hearts and minds.

Armed with a map, we picked up at the train station, we set out each day with the plan only to discover a new area of the city of Hong Kong.  Each day as we hoped, we were amazed at the colours, culture and fantastic food we discovered.

Here are our Hong Kong highlights which were overlaid, everyday and everywhere by two things; the vibrant colours and juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures.

CITY OF LIGHTS & COLOUR

Hong-Kong-Highlights-skyline
An obvious highlight; the Hong Kong skyline, famed for its brightly lit skyscrapers.  The nightly ‘light show’ spectacular from either side of the harbour and quite stunning from the Star Ferry.

We were more amazed also by the colours and lights in every street…
Hong-kong-highlights-colours

There must be almost as many neon lights as people in Hong Kong!
Hong-kong-highlights-neon-lights

EAST MEETS WEST

Hong-kong-highlights-east-meets-west
The juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures is constantly highlighted, and for us sometimes uncomfortable, in Hong Kong; smart-dressed city types relax in the many western style bars, seemingly oblivious to the (more often than not) Chinese making everything work in the background.

Contemporary stores selling fine goods sit along side traditional Chinese stores and workshops.Hong-kong-highlights-chinese-tradition

High above the bustling streets, hidden away roof top bars offer breath-taking prices to match their viewsHong-kong-highlights-roof-top-bar

whilst below in the narrow streets and alleys make-shift street cafes serve fantastic, simple local food to eastern and western people alike.Hong-kong-highlights-street-food

An amazing array of ingredient in even the simplest dishes…
Hong-kong-highlights-foodie-blog

TEMPLES

Hong-kong-highlights-taoist-temple
Though the peace and tranquility is spoilt in some by camera clicking, indiscreet tourists others remain serene and sacred places the Taoist and Buddhist temples remain one of our Hong Kong highlights.

In most temples we came across I only stood close to the entrance and watched the people perform their ceremonies for a few minutes.  If the temples were empty, and it felt appropriate, I took pictures.
Hong-kong-highlights-traditional-temple

In the smaller, less tourist visited temples the deep red of the messages to the gods, the aroma of the constantly burning incense coils particularly highlight the contrast of east and west in Hong Kong.

Even surrounded by ancient eastern culture and religion the modern, western influenced city and its skyscrapers were never far away.Hong-kong-highlights-incense-spirals

APPRECIATION OF STYLE & NATURE

The of our most surprising Hong Kong highlights for us was the evident appreciation and application of style.
Hong-kong-highlights-chinese-style
These two perfectly, almost eerily, coordinated girls caught my eye on Hong Kong harbour.  Their use of colour perhaps not as vibrant as others but such simple, understated and elegant style made a real impression.

Even the modern shopping malls revealed an appreciation of style.  These ‘retail temples’ were worth visiting to see the emphasis given to style and use of natural materials.  Even the ladies rooms were spectacular!
Hong-kong-highlights-architecture

Thankfully nature still rules in many places throughout Hong Kong and is appreciated sometimes simply for the shade it provides
Hong-kong-highlights-nature

and, in such a fast developing and fast moving city like Hong Kong, it’s fascinating to see nature appreciated and interwoven with a special attention to detail and effortless style.

Hong-kong-highlights-nature-colours

THE PEAK

Not for the experience of the Peak Tram which, though a wonderful site making its way slowly up the hill, we avoided and walked up to the Peak from the city instead.

IMG_5238

Rather again for nature and the dominance of it so close to the city.  On the path up to and around the peak it was wonderful and unsettling at the same time to see how quickly nature takes back over after people have cut their path and laid their mark.

Version 2

Things we discovered when visiting Albania

Reflecting on all of the things that we have discovered when visiting Albania…

Sadly when you tell people you plan to visit Albania the staple answer remains ‘why on earth would you want to do that?’, ‘is it safe?’ or ‘can you take your car/van and drive there?’

Albania had for too long remained an unknown for us and wanting to explore as much of the European continent in our camper van as we can it did not make sense to keep avoiding it. After some fairly fruitless research aiming to answer the questions above we decided to just go there and find out for ourselves.

We thought a summary of the main things we have discovered so far will be useful and perhaps persuade you to visit this intriguing and blossoming (or perhaps more accurately ‘budding’) country.

  1. Independent travel: We always prefer to drive ourselves yourself rather than rely on public transport and this we would certainly recommend is the case in Albania.
    It is possible to drive your own car (from Britain) in Albania.
    We were not able to arrange insurance cover and therefore a green card from the UK but one of the things we discovered was that it is straight forward to buy a green card at the border (€50 for minimum duration of two weeks at time of writing).
    We found that our navigation system did not have any maps of Albania and we have discovered that not many GPS systems do and so you need to, as we did, rely on paper maps.
    A lot of the main roads are new and absolutely fantastic, do take care though as some are not quite finished so you can find a two lane reduce to one lane and change direction with little, or no, warning.  Roads through towns and villages can be a little rough and pot-holed in places but by no means dangerous so just take it easy you’ll want to time to enjoy the scenery anyway.
    Discovering roads in Albania
  2. What we discovered about the capital, Tiranë, is initially intimidating and confusing; multi- lane highways approach busy roundabouts with few meaningful signs to tell you which of the bustling narrow streets is the way you want to go.
    things we discovered in Tirana AlbaniaLarge communist era buildings dominate, some shabby and grey, others amazingly colourful (thanks to artists and Mayor Edi Rama apparently) but still with a more utilitarian and unkempt feel.
    Edi Rama influence of Tirana communist era colourful apartment blocks
    One of the things we discovered however was that, throughout Albania, when you approach a confusing junction or circle a roundabout there is often a helpful and friendly policeman or local to show you the way.We eventually found our way to breath-taking Skanderbeg Square…communist era buildings to discover in Tirana Albania
    When you wander the bustling streets of Tirana you discover a wonderful mix of communist and Ottoman architecture, a thriving cafe and restaurant culture.
    Discover things about thriving Tirana Albania
  3. What we discovered about the people: Albanians seem to be strong, proud, friendly and welcoming.  From 1968 until 1990 for the Albanian people practising of religion was an offence yet now you will see young and old, entering churches throughout the day to pray and you will hear the call to Muslim prayer from the mosques.
    At one of our stop overs we met Tony who has been building his small hotel by Lake Ohrid for over 15 years, spending time in the USA to learn English and earn some money but he told us as he served plentiful dishes of delicious local specialities ‘I always wanted to come home, I love my country, it is a beautiful place for tourists and I want to make it better.  Even if it is just my small part here.’
    Discover camping at lake Ohrid Albania
  4. What we discovered about the language in Albania:
    We found English spoken particularly in the bigger towns and if not then (particularly on the coast) quite a few people speak Italian.  We had a very odd conversation asking directions to a campsite, in a cafe over an espresso, near Vlorë.  The owner spoke Italian and her advice was not to camp at all whilst her son spoke English and thought there may be one at Divjakë Lagoon (over an hour away), his friends seemed to be agreeing with him in Albanian.
    Following their advice and that of two (non-English speaking) night security guards at a bar on the beach we discovered we could camp with our van on the beach of the lagoon – a beautiful place to stay!
    Discover beautiful beach and coast of AlbaniaThe Albanian language doesn’t seem to have much similarity to others even so it’s always nice and welcomed if you try memorising a few important words as at least a few words….Please Ju Lutem, Thank you Faleminderit  for instance.
  5. Things we discovered outside of Tiranë: the landscape is vast and diverse.  In places it shows the scars of having worked very hard with crumbling tin processing plants amongst farmed fields and hillsides ravaged by quarries…
    Communist industrial buildings in Albania
    however it is overall quite stunning
    Discover Albanian landscape around Gjirokasterand the eager and passionate people of Albania are now working hard to make improve this and to ensure their country is more appealing to visitors.Rural Albania working hard
  6. One of the most enjoyable things we discovered when visiting Albania is that local produce and great food is easy to find.Our first experience was in the south of Albania during a slow and fascinating journey through lush and mountainous countryside when around one bend we found a small taverna perched on the hillside. At Taverna Muzina we enjoyed a huge plate of spit-roasted ‘meat’, keci – kid in fact, perfectly seasoned and cooked and absolutely delicious.  discovering great local food spit-roast meat in Albania
    At the time we were unsure of the exchange rate but assumed around 100LEK to the british pound so 1600 LEK for our feast which greedily included an enormous Greek salad, rice AND two local beers seemed about right.  Later we found the exchange rate was around 180LEK per £, it’s easy to see what amazing value this wonderful food was.In Tiranë we wandered off the main Skanderberg square to find highly recommended Sarajet restaurant housed in an Ottoman house hidden behind trees on a quiet back street.  We enjoyed a local breakfast, a timbale or hot rice topped with grated cheese served with thick sour yoghurt, in the tranquil sun-dappled garden but inside we could imagine generations have huddled to discuss politics and business.
    great food in Ottoman building restaurant in Tirana Albania to discover
    At Tony’s place on Lake Ohrid near Pogradec, we slept in our van in his garden looking out to Macedonia and feasted on the local Koran fish caught in the lake and his recommended local speciality Fergese – liver baked in a rich sauce and topped with cheese, sounds odd but is absolutely delicious.  Grilled vegetables, potatoes, Bruschetta and of course just a few beers, enough for a family we thoroughly indulged just the two of us and including our camping (with use of his bathroom in the house) the bill was 5200Lek (around £30).
    Discover Koran fish and local food in Albania
  7. Currency: talking of LEK, you will see that your pounds or dollars will go a long way in Albania.  However take care as you cannot buy or exchange Lek outside of Albania.  So either spend all that you exchange (which is easier said than done given the prices mentioned above) or exchange before you leave the country.  We exchanged our Lek for Euros in a bank in Korçë.
    Discovering great food at great prices in Albania
  8. Historic sites: as well as simply enjoying the scenery, great food and hospitality in Albania there are some wonderful  historic sites to visit and discover.  Two quite different places that we enjoyed were;
    the archeological site at Butrint whose ruins span over 2500 years
    Butrint archaeological historic site Albania
    and approaching from the south you have the added experience of the wooden platformed cable ferry which glides across the Vivari channel towards the ancient city walls and…
    Discover historic Butrint in Albania ferry Vivari channel
    Gjirokastër whose cobbled streets tumbling down the hill from the castle above feels at one moment like a living museum (the town is a UNESCO world heritage site)Gjirokastra unesco world heritage site Albania
    and on the other hand, as you sip an Albanian Korça beer in a local bar, it feels like a very relaxed and charming town.
    Discover local Korca beer in Gjirokastra Albania
  9. One odd thing that we ‘discover’ or at least noticed and cannot explain is an amazing number of car washes by the side of the road in Albania.  At Përrenjas on the way to Lake Ohrid, as we wound our way up the hill through the small town, we counted at least 15 hose pipes spurting water into the road with 1 or 2 men by each one sitting waiting or waving passing motorists in to hand wash their cars.  It is evident that since the ban on privately owned cars was lifted in 1991 the car has become a necessity for many and a status symbol but we just couldn’t figure out the economics or reason for so many car washes!  Does any one have any further insight?
    Discover vast and beautiful Albanian landscapes

Delicious local flavours in Southern Italy

We have always enjoyed delicious local favours in Southern Italy though continue to be amazed at just how easy it is to find wonderful local produce and restaurants serving delicious local flavours.  Our last visit through Puglia, Basilicata and Campania was no exception and the variety and quality of the flavours amazed us again.

Having taken the ferry from Dubrovnik to Bari we journeyed south west across Italy through Puglia and Basilicata then turned north, along the coast, and through Campania. The scenery varies from barren to dramatic, lush to picturesque but what does not seem to falter is the fact that you can stop in any town along the way and you will find good food from amazing local produce with wonderful flavours.

We’ve travelled from Bari west before so we took a windy route through the hills in Puglia to see something new.  Mile after mile we passed through valleys where every inch of the land was green with farmed crops and at the corner of many of these vast fields, abandoned, beautiful old farm buildings made redundant now by mechanised farming and large cooperatives.

First stop, desperate for coffee after our 6am start off the ferry, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere without a town or village in sight, we came across a tired looking roadside café with just a few builders’ and road workers’ trucks parked outside.  As we opened the door we were hit by the most amazing smell – fresh baked bread and cooked tomatoes. Risorante Il Rifugio really was a wonderful refuge, behind the old bar wooden shelves were stacked with huge fresh rustic loaves, locally made Tartalli (savoury biscuits made with olive and white wine instead of butter), local jams and chutney as well as wines.

Rustic bread south italy

We resisted the massive, fresh-made, crusty panini filled with cured hams and mozzarella that the builders were enjoying but welcomed ourselves to Italy with classic espresso’s after buying provisions for later.

Next stop, lunch in Basilicata, the landscape around Potenza was a mix of farming and industry and predominantly modern building with not many places to eat. Finally at the edge of a modern but scruffy looking town a pizzeria hidden behind a shop selling mozzarella.  We ventured in to find two uniformed policemen and a few people in smart business dress enjoying large plates of pasta.  In our shorts and flip flops we too enjoyed wonderful pasta with fresh porcini mushroom and mozzarella sauce.

On to Campania where the road was lined with Buffalo farms many selling Mozzeralla direct. We chose one at random principally because it had Buffalo in the field next to the car park.

Buffalo Mazzarella Italy

Behind an unassuming door in the farm’s immaculate courtyard we found the Caseificio (Creamery) where a queue of people with shopping baskets were busy placing their orders, the lady in a white apron disappeared into the creamery behind and emerged to pass over the counter various sized bags of water filled with various sizes of delicious looking white Mozzarella balls.  When our turn came, we ordered Bocconcini, small mozzarellas about the size of eggs, and carried our prize away like a goldfish from the funfair.

Stylish Mazzarella farm Campania Italy

Through another door a stylish, air-conditioned cafe hid where a couple of tourists in shorts and flip flops like us mingled with Italians in business dress evidently on lunch break.  Though there were artisan breads and cakes filling the shelves, we were all after the same thing; ice-cream and yoghurt made from Buffalo milk. A worthy alternative to classic Italian ice-cream, not as rich but bursting with a fresh milk taste.

Now on to somewhere we know already, the Caseificio and Buffalo farm next to the ruins in Paestum where we know we can camp with our camper van for the night in their olive grove and taste some of their amazing local produce.

Caseifiecio Paestum Mozzarella Italy

In the garden next to the shop we feasted on a 500 gram Mozzeralla, Bocconcini with prosciutto crudo and very simple but extremely tasty tomato salad (sliced, fresh plum tomatoes, sprinkled with rubbed oregano and drizzled in olive oil – all from the farm).  Oh yes and a deep, ruby red Jungano wine from the farms vineyard, full of silky blackberry and vanilla flavours.

The next morning we watched the Mozzerlla and Bocconcini being made…

Production of mozzarella bonconcini

…before a run on Paestum beach in the hot morning sun, which was a memorable but rather painful experience due to our feast of wonderful wine and Mozzarella cheese.

We were late setting off to continue our journey and our bellies called lunch shortly after Naples.  Leaving the motorway at Capua; our hearts sank as we entered what felt like no-mans land, a military town with scruffy industrial buildings on the outskirts.  We trundled down street after street trying to see a glimpse of lunch, eventually we spotted a little sign over a door ‘Trattoria Antica’, it seemed our only option.

On tables by the bar a few people enjoyed plates of pasta as they watched The Simpsons on a small tv on the wall, a strange combination but the food looked good so we took a seat in the other room next to a few men who looked to be discussing business over their pasta. We listened discreetly but as we often find in southern Europe, their noise and gesticulation could have been arguing, agreeing but one thing we did understand was their enthusiasm about the food.

Trattoria Antica Capua Italy

They downed their espresso and left us to our simple yet delicious food; freshly made pasta with wonderful ingredients expertly combined to make the sauces.  My seafood pasta was piled high with mussels and clams with a tomato sauce that tasted like it had been infusing and simmering for days to get such an intense flavour and Adam’s simple sounding Spaghetti Pomodoro was perfectly seasoned and packed full of flavour.

Our schedule meant that we had little time left in Italy and after a long day on the road we chose the location for our last overnight camp, on the recommendation of friends who live in Rome, Sabaudia on the west coast just south of Rome.  A little touristy, as our friends had warned, particularly near to the pristine sandy beach dotted with cool beach bars, beds and umbrellas but overall an intriguing and  beautiful place.

Over leisurely morning coffee watching the sun rise over the lagoon, we recalled the amazing food we had had the day before and suggested it was almost inevitable that during the course of the day to come, we would have a similar experience in some unexpected place somewhere.

Sunrise over Sabaudia lagoon

We walked back across the lagoon into the town itself, very sleepy on a Saturday close to the end of the summer season.  In a street off the main square we came across an amazing delicatessen, packed to the rafters with an array of local produce and with tables outside suggesting we may find lunch there.  It looked like the shop had been the same since the 1950’s, there wasn’t a menu, the lady simply told us all she had available that day which was pretty much anything you could possibly desire.  A normal occurrence, it seemed, for several locals who nonchalantly took tables inside and sat chatting to each other or their dogs and reading newspapers until their delicious lunches arrived.

Sitting outside in the sunshine, we were treated to a huge plate of mixed cured meats, marinated, grilled vegetables and fresh crusty bread, simple and simply not reproducible in the UK.

delicatessen local produce sabaudia Italy

After these days exploring Italy, punctuated by delicious, conversation-stopping, local produce our eyes, taste buds and bellies were completely satisfied and full (for now).  We slept, one last night in Italy, dreaming of ruby red wines, the complex flavours of cured meats and melt in the mouth Mozzarellas.

We have travelled a lot in Italy and always we marvel at the unassuming ability to convert local produce into fantastic yet simple food with incredibly rich and distinct flavours. It all seems so natural and effortless, not food for special occasions, just food for every day.

SaveSave

Life at a difference pace in Lumbarda, Croatia

Though it doesn’t come naturally and didn’t feel right we felt we should try life at a different pace, a slower pace for just a while and Lumbarda in Croatia was the place to try it. We both notice how we tend to live and travel at a fast pace and we recognise we can skim over and past places rather than taking the time to get under the skin of a place, to get to know it better.

We are hungry for adventure and new discoveries yet at the same time wanted a place that would force a more relaxed pace of life and to have adventure and discovery on a smaller and different scale to normal.

Living in flip flops but attached to our laptops our requirement was; a place where we could connect easily to balance work with wonderful views, sea to swim, places to walk or jog, enjoy great food and wine and generally enjoy getting to know the place and perhaps ourselves a little better.  A tall order but we were confident that Lumbarda, on Korcula island in Croatia, could fit the bill.

Lumbered Harbour Croatia

Sonja at Camp Vela Postrana greeted us with tired looking eyes but a big smile, the summer had been busy and very hot and she admitted she was happy but exhausted. She was pleased we had returned In September, her favourite month when everything was all a little quieter, the sea was warmer and she said with enthusiasm brightening her eyes ‘you’ll see the sea and the sky are different colours, it’s beautiful!’

At the camp site we had wifi and views to the mountains on the Peljasac peninsula, it is staggering distance to places to eat and drink and a short meander to the sea in pretty much every direction.

For several days we woke to blue skies and had a run up through the vineyards or along the coastline to the next bay. One of us would pick up breakfast at the bakers on the home straight; we found that you have to get to the tiny shop before 10am or she sells out. Once we figured out the required routine we enjoyed some wonderful fresh bread and local pastries like Burek Sir (a little like the Greek cheese pie Tyrikopita) and, after a few visits, even a welcoming smile from the shy lady.

In the summer we had seen tiny pips of grapes emerging in the vineyards and now large bunches of red and white grapes weighed down every branch. One morning we were overtaken by a tractor and several scooters laden with empty crates as families busily began to harvest the white grapes. Having waited and watched patiently all summer it seemed the whole town was out lending a hand and joining in the jovial chatter as crate after crate emerged from the leafy rows covering the hillside.

Walking through Vineyards Croatia

As we walked back down lane on our way home we were surprised when one of the men called to us and beckoned us over. The smile creasing his rugged and weathered face showed he was pleased with their harvest as he passed us each a bunch of grapes straight from the vine. We enjoyed our little piece of the harvest as we strolled down the lane; tiny, juicy and delicious you could taste the flavor of very local and unique Grk white wine that these grapes will create.

The following day on our jog we saw the harvest was complete and the vineyards were quiet again. We skipped breakfast planning to enjoy a lunch of local cheese, Prsut (Croatian Proscuittio) and Grk wine at the Posip winery as we had last visit however the terrace, normally set up for hungry and intrigued tourists to taste their wonderful local produce, was completely taken over by crates of grapes and shiny grape crushing equipment. The man who had passed us the grapes the day before didn’t mind breaking off his work to pour us a glass of everything they make including some wonderful fig liquor.

Lumbarda sunset croatia

Croatians can come across as quite austere and, at first at least, don’t seem friendly because they don’t seem to smile very often or be very chatty. Perhaps this impression can be explained more by shyness and the difficulty of trying to make conversation in several European languages depending on who decides to take a seat at your table. Germans, Italians and English seem to be the most numerous visitors and you very rarely hear anyone trying to speak even a little Croatian. More often than not once you break the ice with a few, probably very badly pronounced, words of Croatian and a smile of your own they warm up and normally happy to teach you a few more words so that you can surprise the next person you meet.

Croatian cypress avenue church KorculaSo after chatting for a while with the men at Posip winery, using English, a little terrible Croatian and basic German, we bought several bottles of Grk white wine (which may or may not make it all the way back to the UK before we enjoy them) and we left with a warm glow inside and out.

We found it surprisingly easy to settle in to a routine and leisurely pace of life in Lumbarda…most days we wandered along the coastal promenade for a swim drying off in the afternoon sun.

We explored to the very tip of the island and spent an afternoon lazing in the quiet bay by the light house where an unmarked memorial cross made an unusual foreground to the coastal view…

Lighthouse lumbarda

We walked and, much to our own amazement, on another day jogged the 8 mile round trip into Korcula old town and back.

Korcula old town Croatia

We were warmly welcomed back to restaurants we had visited before and discovered new places where the food, the views and the welcome were equally amenable.

We enjoyed live music in the bar by the harbour that attracted more locals than tourists and spent quiet evenings, just the two of us, by our camper van, never boring of the inky black night sky. We listened to the murmur of the village across the field knowing that most of the chat and laughter was that of locals not the very few tourists who were lucky enough to choose September in Lumbarda.

Our little Mediterranean oasis had not disappointed and before we knew it a week had disappeared!

Finding our rhythm in Coastal Croatia

Wanting too find an easy rhythm to our travel we planned to return to Coastal Croatia and some of the places we found and enjoyed on previous trips.  Off the coast of the Croatian Peljasac peninsula, the beautiful Korcula island was our destination.  As the ferry docked, near Korcula old town, and all felt very comfortable and familiar we had the desire to improvise a little and so rather than head directly to the small harbour town of Lumbarda we drove instead to the far end of the island and to the Vela Luka.

As usual the guide book had little positive to say about the small town of Vela Luka, not many ancient sites or churches in the 19th century fishing village, it could be just our kind of place. We are not constant seekers of ancient sites but rather search for inspiration and interest in every day life and enjoy the diversity of local cuisine.  Vela Luka and its people looked like it had kept a frenetic pace during the hot summer season but now felt relaxed and sleepy as the ebb of tourists slowed.

We wandered the harbour and back streets, bought provisions in a small shop and then, reluctantly, headed to the hills to the only camp site nearby.

Camping Mindel promised to be a tranquil site, hidden amongst olive trees on a crest above several bays.

Camping Mindel Vela Luka secluded camping

Within a short wander we found a sheltered bay where waves lapped gently over with rough grey rocks leading down to the clear blue water, a great fishing spot for another day perhaps. We swam in the beautiful crystal waters but were disappointed and concerned to see another bare and almost lifeless sea bed. A great concern and a frustration for Adam who, ever hopeful, had spent several hours sorting and packing his fishing gear this Mediterranean trip.

The evening sea breeze dipped the temperature quickly in the shady cove so we flip flopped home as quickly as we could. We joined a few of our fellow campers on the roof terrace and were treated to a stunning sunset across the Mediterranean to Hvar island accompanied by the rhythmical ticking of Cicadas and the twitter of Housemartins swooping on the breeze that rustled in the olive trees below.

It seemed though that we weren’t all in the same groove; some couples came before the evening sky even started its performance, stayed for the first tinges of red and then left (dinner in the oven?), some snook in half way through, chinking plastic glasses of beer as the orange glow began but still left before the finale.

We stayed until the very last ray of light had disappeared and the Cicadas all fell silent.

Croatian sunset from Korcula island over Hvar

We were woken early and rudely with a dawn chorus of toddler cries and percussion of spoons on plastic plates, really not our favourite tune so we departed quickly to go explore the other bays on the peninsula.

Rather than walk the conventional footpaths to each of the bays we chose to search for a route from bay to bay along the rocks and there was, along limestone and stark white rock formations separated by flinty, pebble beaches in secluded bays.

Beautiful Croatian coastal walk

It was a peaceful interlude as we picked our way along the coast, the vista out to sea was ever changing as were the colours and textures beneath our feet.

It was difficult to see if many others had come this way or not, we seemed not to leave a trace though some of the smoother tops to the white, chalky rocks could be from the tread of human feet over time rather than the wash of the sea.

We crossed small beaches of limestone screes below tree covered cliffs where our path was marked, at least for a moment, by musical notes as our feet shifted the rock fragments to clink against each other making, almost metallic sounds, like the bars of a broken Xylophone.  Though we followed closely in each others foot steps and in the same rhythm the music we each created was completely different. Adam’s foot steps created their tune, my melody was a new one played on a slightly different ‘keyboard’.

As I clambered I wondered how many different compositions there may have been, each fleeting, never to be captured or recorded only to be enjoyed by those there to listen. We had certainly begun to find our rhythm again here in this peaceful corner of Korcula island.

craggy shore line stone scree Croatia

Enjoying our harvest of fruit and time…

After our travels in Europe, we promised ourselves a little time to simply sit (reasonably) still and enjoy our house and garden, enjoying our harvest of fruit and time I suppose.  Since we enjoyed most of the last year with the house as a building site, living a tent in the garden, and of course the last couple of months living in our camper van this time within four walls would be quite novel.

As you may gather from our previous blogs we do not find sitting still particularly easy; we are most relaxed making, doing or seeing something however we are always open to new experiences so we thought we’d give it a go.

It’s been great to take time to reflect and look back, thinking about where we were this time last year with all possible mod cons in our cosy tent in a corner of the garden…

building site camping

watching the house transform from 60’s bungalow to building site (this is the view from our tent in August last year) as we enjoyed the harvest of plums each morning from our trees hanging directly above the door of our tent…

Building site view last year

and eventually to the contemporary home that we had envisaged when we first set out on this adventure (the view from where the tents were now)…

renovated house view oxfordshire 2015

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying this time and space spending a whole afternoon in the garden picking plums and the evening eating or stewing our bountiful harvest of fruit…

Picking Green gages for cheese plate

Our garden was previously part of a priory orchard and therefore we are privileged to have several plum and apple trees as well as an ancient pear tree – sadly no longer producing fruit but a striking looking gentleman who looks like he is protecting the younger fruit trees with his gnarly old arms…

Dendritic Ancient pear tree

It took time but we got a great fruit harvest; Victoria, Mirabelle, Damsons, Greengages and wonderful yellow and pink ones (bottom left), delicately sweet with a wonderful soft texture, that we don’t know the name of (answers on a postcard please!) …

fruit harvest

We then spent a day bottling last year’s Damson Gin (and drinking a little of in our very own Gin / wine tasting), stewing (and eating) many of the plums we had harvested.  With our creative juices flowing as freely as the plum juices we then spent several hours cooking our favourite, delicious curries to enjoy that evening.  We walked off our bountiful feasts over the the following days with peaceful walks across the fields and around our stunning and mesmerising local town of Oxford.

Damson gin and curry

Admittedly we haven’t quite managed to simply still still but, from our point of view, these few days have been a very decadent but much needed and healthy (emotionally and physically) use of our fruit and time.

Vines, wines and beaches in Bordeaux region

We were rewarded with vines, wines and beaches in the Bordeaux region after a long drive from Languedoc. Over the Massif Central with a lunch stop in Roquefort (home of the wonderfully creamy blue sheep’s cheese and a must for foodies and cheese lovers!) brought us to our friends already settled in a nice rural campsite at Rauzan just outside of Bordeaux. Roquefort cheese and mountains Our travels, over the next days, around Bordeaux and Medoc regions taking in as much as we could of the vines, wines and beaches of this fascinating area.  Some places such as Saint Emilion surprised us with its many fairy tale chateaus surrounded by a carpet of vines all set up for wine loving tourists… Bordeaux chateau and the medieval town centre, though busy, had some quiet, romantic places. Medieval and romantic St Emilion Pomerol and St Esteph were particularly disappointing with a distinct industrial feel between the few more ordinary chateaux.  The wine never the less was wonderful and of course we took advantage of the abundant wine-tasting and tasted and bought as much as we physically could. Bordeaux vines near St EmilionBut our direction now was north and home.  Already desperately sad to be gradually losing the heat and the sunshine we shivered outside the van in the evening though it was still 22 degrees. A check of the map and the weather forecast suggested we may be able to enjoy a view of the sea and warmer weather if we lingered in Medoc.

The beach at Soulac sur Mer is a vast sandy beach, stretching as far as you can see north and south and looking west to the Atlantic. White tops were being whipped up by the back drop of a stormy sky when we arrived so an afternoon for wrapping up and strolling rather than beach bathing. Edge of storm no beach todayThe dark storm that threatened on the horizon never quite reached us… Storm approaches on beautiful Soulac Bordeaux beach we suspect that us spending half an hour in the blustery wind putting up our canopy, much to the amusement of our fellow ‘camper-vanners’, turned its path.  Much like if you take an umbrella or water-proofs on a day out you can guarantee it won’t rain and if you brave changing into t-shirts and shorts, the sun simply disappears.  The canopy did keep us warm though as we enjoyed our hearty stew with a big fruity Bordeaux.

Exploring the coast of the peninsula the next day with the storm clouds hanging stubbornly over Brittany to the north… storm clouds build above Brittany France our walk took us to a great fish restaurant by the port at Verdon sur Mer where we finally got around to enjoying the great feast of seafood that we had been yearning for since deep in the Mediterranean south. French seafood platter Verdon sur mer Rising early, but certainly not with the sun, we’d enjoyed far too much Rose for that, we made our melancholy way to the ferry to Royan and north to Normandy.  We hoped to have time to explore the area of the 1944 World War II beach landings on the Normandy coast.