On the long holiday weekend my family and I spent four lovely days in Devon. We stayed at a lovely barn conversion that had a hot tub which was necessary after the active holiday we had. We hiked the Teign gorge near Castle Drogo, cycled the full distance of the Exmouth Esturary cycle route (about 31 km) and walked around Haytor’s Rocks in Dartmoor. We also had a lazy day at Killerton, a National Trust property, where the bees and butterflies were active in the gardens. It was our first visit away from home since March!
We stayed in Texas for a few days after my week of quilting so my husband could go to the Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austen. Lewis Hamilton became the 2019 World Champion after that race. We also went to an NBA basketball game in San Antonio to see LeBron James play for the LA Lakers.
I was more interested in the San Antonio Riverwalk which I always pictured as being some sort of wooden boardwalk but it turns out that it goes for fifteen miles and has numerous shops and eateries along the way. It is made up of parts of a natural river as well as connecting canals and it runs underneath street level with access stairs and bridges. When we were there it was Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities with an illuminated parade of boats in the downtown area of the Riverwalk and painted skull decorations everywhere.
We also visited the Alamo – a historic Spanish mission and fortress compound founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries. It was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 and is now referred to as The Shrine of Texas Liberty. Today it is a museum in the Alamo Plaza Historic District and a part of the San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the days off between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival we took a drive out to La Grange, home of the Texas Quilt Museum. It’s about an hour west of Houston, and quite a small town, but it was chosen as the site of the TQM because it is situated equidistant between Houston, San Antonio and Austen, Texas.
Coincidentally, because of the Sapphire theme at Quilt Festival the TQM also had a display of historical blue and white quilts which form part of a collection of a local Texas quilter. Next door to the TQM is a knitting/quilting shop called the Quilted Skein which was fun to browse around (although I was glad that I’m not a knitter because I might have done even more financial damage). Outside of La Grange is a shop called the Texas Quilt Barn which also added to my baggage going home.
Last week Steve and I took our wee dog up to Scotland to visit my cousin who used to dog sit for Pepper when we lived in Aberdeen. In order to be fair to our 14 1/2 year old pooch we decided to break up the journey and have a bit of a holiday on the way north. We visited Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton and Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, The Quaker Tapestry and Wray Castle in the Lake District. During our stay in Scotland we went to see the Queensferry Bridge, Dumfries House (which is a renovation project of Prince Charles), the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. It was a great trip made even better spending time with my cousin Aileen and her dog Reno!
What can I say Santorini, Greece is as beautiful as they say with the white and blue buildings radiating light as they bask in the hot sun. The town of Oia is where you’ll find the quintessential blue domed buildings; Fira has white/cream domes but it’s where you’ll see the donkey steps and the huge cruise ships moored out in the bay.
The most excitement of the day was taking the two hour ferry ride from Rethymno, Crete (near where we were staying) to Santorini Island. The ferry had more passengers than cars so the vehicle decks were used to sort out the hundreds of people as they quickly got on and off the boat. And I mean QUICKLY – the ferry docked with its bay doors open and the passengers got off while others got on (see photo). This all took minutes and then the ferry left as the bay doors were raised!
Then we were collected by buses and had to drive up the cliff face on a twisty road full of other traffic – a bit scary if you were on the seaward side of the bus!
At the end of August, my husband, our girls and our sons-in-law spent a week in Crete, Greece. We don’t often travel together but this year it was a perfect mix of beaches, hikes (the kids!), good food, archaeological sites and a visit to the very, very over populated Santorini (see next blog post). Never thought Crete would be so mountainous (it made for some very interesting drives) and I absolutely loved the pink sand at Elafonisi Beach.
As part of my Alpine Experience embroidery retreat (see last blog post) we had a day trip to Chamonix. The saner part of the group decided to go shopping which included a lovely outdoor market. The more adventurous spirits, myself included, decided to take a two part gondola ride to get close to the top of Mont Blanc. It was breathtaking and bloody cold at the summit but worth the long queues and the scary gondola ride that took us, at one point, about six feet (2 m) from a rock face.
Steve and I went to Guernsey and Sark (on my brother’s recommendation) a couple of weeks ago for an unexpected five day break.
Guernsey is a lovely place with an old world charm, skinny roads and a 25 mph speed limit everywhere. There are gorgeous wide sandy beaches sitting alongside physical reminders of the German occupation during WWII. The Guernsey Tapestry is a remarkable project depicting in stitch Guernsey’s history between 1100 to 2000 marking the millennium. And the Little Church and Victor Hugo’s Hauteville House show the quirky nature of some of the island’s previous residents.
I love the photo of the quintessential British beach shop because it makes me so happy and I just want to buy a bucket and spade and an ice lolly and be eight years old again. Mind you when I was really that age we were living in Belfast and the beach was probably on the Antrim coast which is not known for being warm!!
I recently spent five days in Budapest, Hungary. The architecture is stunning especially in the downtown area along the Danube River. These photos include the Hungarian Parliament, St Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge, Mathias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the New York Cafe. Seeing the buildings lit up at night from a river cruise was a real treat!
Spent a week in Helsinki, Finland this Christmas. It was quite dull with cloudy skies for most of the time but we did get a little bit of snow here and there. The people are very friendly and the food was amazing. It is a much quieter, more sedate Christmas than we are used to and they celebrate the event on December 24th with a family sauna, rice pudding for breakfast, going to church and giving presents in the evening. There were quite a few people complaining of having a hangover on the 25th!
Christmas Day for us was very quiet and we went to a Finnish restaurant for dinner in the evening. Thought there’d be lots of Finnish families having a meal out, but the majority of the clientele were tourists some of whom spent the entire meal on their phones even when sitting with a group of people – very strange!
Also visited the Helsinki Christmas Market, saw Helsinki and Uzpansky Cathedrals, saw the magnificent Rock Church and the National Museum with it’s gorgeous ceiling and stained glass, went on the Helsinki Wheel, took a dip in a 27 degree C pool (it was -11 degrees C air temperature), visited the Helsinki Zoo to see the Snow Leopards and walked around Suomennlina Island on the ice!