San Sebastian/Donostia

 

It wasn’t the first, nor the longest stop on our holiday but it just might have been our favourite. I didn’t know a lot about it when I chose it as a stop off, and it doesn’t have masses of “must see” sights*, it’s simply a lovely place to be. It was quite astoundingly beautiful, surrounded by mountains, full of attractive buildings and fringed by golden beaches.

city and mountains

It might have been the gorgeous weather, or relief at having parked the car after a fairly relentless  drive. You might equate Biarritz with Belle-Epoque splendour and surfer hip but to me it’s a mass of giant lorries hurtling their cargo  to Spain and Portugal. Obviously we didn’t actually visit Biarritz, or Bayonne,  or straddling the border Irun; but their names flashed past as I gripped the wheel and followed the SatNav. Then when we reached San Sebastian a road close  to our hotel was closed forcing us to navigate old school style.  I was so pleased to have arrived that I didn’t even baulk at driving into the underground garage. Well not that much.

IMG_3280

after a quick wash and brush up at our hotel this was our lunchtime view

The previous few days in France MrS had been recovering from a lurgy so it was lovely to sit,  soak up the sun, relax  and enjoy lunch.

 

san sebastian starters

our starters at   La Perla

Two important lessons from that first lunch: one,  Spanish restaurants are not generally dog friendly,  and two, some “menu del dia” include a bottle rather than a glass of wine*.* Actually the last one could be a northern thing as I’ve never come across it on other visits.

We did find one dog friendly*** restaurant in San Sebastian, Kaxilda was a few blocks inland from our hotel and a little hard to find but very friendly and with some  nice vegetarian options.

With all that eating we had  lots of calories to walk off,  luckily San Sebastian is perfect for that, we walked along the paseo de la concha, headed east through the fringes of the old town and were amazed by the waves on the Rio Urumea,  surfers rode even bigger ones on Playa de Zurriola.

Next day we had a slightly more strenuous walk up to Monte Urgull

looking down from the top

beer with a view

and a little light refreshment

 

sun puddling

while DogS did some serious sun puddling

You can see from the pictures that there’s something for everyone, gorgeous sandy beaches, including one for surfers, grand shopping streets, the old town crowded around the port and delicious food. We didn’t get to try out any of San Sebastian’s Michelin stars and with DogS it was hard to fully experience the  pinxtos bars but we ate very well.

 

 

this little dog taking advantage of the spillages

tired B snoozing

meanwhile it’s all zzz from Dog S,  must have been a good walk

 

At the western continuation of Playa de la Concha, (Playa de Ondaretta)  you can board the  funicular which climbs up Monte Igueldo

from funicular

view from the funicular 

There’s a small funfair at the top, which was closed for the season. As well as the roundabouts and dodgems there was  a wooden roller which on first glance seemed  very tame, but then I looked at how closely it hugged the cliff and decided I was glad it was shut. There’s not a lot else up at the top but the views are gorgeous and it’s a popular spot in the early evening.

We took the beach  back into town, in the evening dogs are allowed to run free.

“it’s my ball”

And after that, it was time for a sundowner.

Salud! Osasun!

 

Until next time

Marina x

*there are good museums and cultural centres, just not as well known as the Guggenheim, Bilbao.

**we actually started to avoid “drinks included” menus

***by dog friendly I mean places where dogs can join their owners indoors, most places allowed dogs on the terrace.

(still) being European

Don’t misunderstand, I’ve nothing against the other continents, I’m just delighted that we’ve got a little reprieve and still belong to the EU and all the benefits that brings. We’re just back from a three week trip through France, Northern Spain and Portugal, taking advantage of DogStarke’s pet passport for what may be its last outing.

DogStarke on tour

(and a couple of friends she made along the way)

 

We all did lots of walking, and MrS and I did lots* of eating and drinking.

 

Discovered that we’d planned much of our journey along the ancient pilgrim routes

And visited lots of Cathedrals…..

 

I’d intended to blog as we travelled but we all know what happens to good intentions on holiday.

IMG_3356

Now I’m trying to get back into blog mode.

So this is just a taster,

Until next time.

 

 

                    Marina x

 

 

*too much in my case.

Alicante

It’s been a  bit dreich* today and so I ditched my plans to visit a local garden and remembered sunny times in  April instead. (Caught up on the ironing too)

Alicante.  Probably most travellers fly there to  reach  the  resorts of the Costa Blanca but that’s a shame. Our previous visit to Spain had been Seville,  a major tourist city full of world famous attractions but Alicante had plenty to occupy us.  We climbed up to the Santa Barbara castle, explored colourful streets,  ate and drank well. And even though  I didn’t brave a sea swim I enjoyed a paddle from El Postiguet beach.

There was a superb exhibition of treasures from Persia (modern day Iran)

And a fascinating municipal museum of Fogueres fantastic sculptures built by neighbourhood organisations then burnt in a festival of bonfires each June

I even managed to find a dress for a wedding next month.

IMG_1968

no this isn’t my dress but some topical branded whisky I found in El Cortes Ingles foodhall                           (wonder which one sells best………)

Before MrS retired  we did a certain amount of travelling for his work, often to places we wouldn’t have otherwise chosen, and because of that I’ve been lucky to visit some amazing places. This trip was a little like that, determined by time and available flights, but we had a really great time.

 

And the flight home was pretty spectacular

IMG_1986

Until next time,

Marina x

 

We stayed at the lovely Hospes Amerigo  

*Scottish word meaning wet and grey

Exploring festivals abroad

Not the musical variety, in fact I don’t  think I’ve ever been to one of those home or away. There were Glasgow’s Big Day concerts in 1990, somehow I got into the then Copthorne hotel to watch the George Square gig and then went down to Glasgow Green in the evening (that was the time Sheena Easton got booed* for her Mid Atlantic twang); and I was at the Nelson Mandela Tribute concert at Wembley the same year,  but the full mud and music experience?  No.   The festivals I mean are the holiday ones, Christmas, New Year, Twelfth Night, Thanksgiving. The latter one first, but far from traditionally when two of MrS’s American colleagues invited us to celebrate it with them in Curacao, instead of turkey we ate curry.

curacao beach

the beach in Curacao

Then in 2016 while we were in the throes of building works we sought out some Christmas sunshine in Lanzarote

cactus tree

Festive cactus in Arrecife

And last year we welcomed the arrival of the Kings in Tenerife

three kings

waiting for The Kings

This year we spent New Year or Saint Sylvestre in France.

Of course there were still signs of Christmas

 

 

and portents of L’Epiphanie

But the main event was New Year.

Restaurants offered festival menus

st sylvestr menu

This is ours from Augusto Chez Laurent

Here are those puds

augusto pudding

and yes they all contained lobster butter!

But it seemed lots of people would be enjoying seafood platters at home

preparing seafood platters

hard at work at the fishmarket

Midnight and the arrival of 2019 was a low key affair. We headed to the Mairie

mairei

to watch the clock.

midnight

But missed the crowds you’d see in Scotland

It was a little livelier at the casino

where we could hear a party. But we just enjoyed the lights and headed back to our hotel.

Where we might* have had a kiss under the mistletoe**

mistletoe

of course we couldn’t fit under it here

Best wishes for 2019 and Happy New Year to anyone celebrating it tonight.

Marina xx

*and worse

**we did

***”gui” in French it appeared in the shops on New Year’s Eve

PS Almost back home I became “King” of the day when I found the bean in our pie

 

Keeping track…..

What will I write in my diary tonight?

Last Thursday in Deauville was mostly about food!

later breakfast

Breakfast at Eric Kayser*, Deauville

It might have been a tad chilly outdoors but this was our favourite cafe and we didn’t want to leave @southfieldchat   (aka B) behind. That would have added insult to injury. Thursday was “le vet” day, she had to go for her mandatory examination and worm treatment before travelling back to the UK.

place morny

Place Morny from the cafe (not as cold as it looks, that’s fake snow on the trees)

After breakfast we had a little urban walk,

 

made a note to buy our Gallette du Roi,  and stopped  for another coffee.

looking out from cafe

View from Le Cyrano**

After that it was time for “le vet”.  Now we’ve been to France twice before with B and had two very different experiences at the vets. First time in Ile de Re was great with a nice young vet who did a very thorough examination and was kind and gentle; second time around in Bergerac, mmm a little less so, the vet had a  blood spattered tunic and did a strange “flip” manoeuvre to check B’s bones. She was very much less than impressed. Happily Mme le Vet. in Deauville was lovely and certainly came top in B’s book. She hid the tablet in cheese! B would have stayed there all day.

 

“What?  That was medicine?!?!?”

Wormed, passed fit and with all her papers signed (in all the right places ****) B was legal for re-entry to the UK  and we were all free to enjoy the afternoon.  So we a took little drive along the coast to Villerville where we popped into a Brocante and took B for a walk on the beach. Because that’s her favourite thing,  home or away.

 

And well, we might have had a spot of lunch……

Villerville was the location for the 1960s movie un Singe en Hiver  (in English “A Monkey in Winter” or  “It’s Hot in Hell”) and the Cabaret Normand is a restaurant still, but we ate galletes in the creperie across the road.

 

Now you might think that after all that we’d be done with food for the day, and you could be justified in thinking that. But you’d also be wrong. Very, very wrong.

This was our last evening after all!

We’d booked at one of Deauville’s Michelin starred restaurants***:  Maximin Hellio.

I don’t have many photos of the food, we were too busy enjoying it.

 

We’d chosen our menu when we booked but hadn’t realised it would be at the “chef’s table”,  actually a very comfortable banquette looking into the kitchen. Normally that wouldn’t be my choice but this was interesting, and as things got less busy M. Hellio chatted to us, well mostly to MrS.  I’m fairly proficient at reading menus and know more food vocab. than any other type but struggle with anything more than basic conversation. But even with my poor language skills I could appreciate the care and pleasure he put into his craft.

We left clutching our loot, boxed up petit fours we were too full to eat and an autographed Michelin guide. Stopping off in the Place for one last look at the Christmas lights and then back to the hotel and our beds.

 

 

A Bientôt

 

Marina xx

 

 

 

 

*Eric Kayser, Place de Morny, Deauville

**Le Cyrano

***the other is L’Essentiel (more about that later)

****VERY IMPORTANT, we’ve seen dogs turned away at Calais even though they’d been to a vet but their passports had been stamped or signed in the wrong place.

Exploring

Two quite different short trips.

First off to Glasgow for an urban adventure (though we’ve been there lots before).

on the train

We took plenty of provisions and entertainment for the journey 

Our bed for the night was new, both to us and Glasgow at the brand new Motel One ; they even had photos from the West Highland line to make us feel at home. It’s close to Central station and the shops and is very, very dog friendly.

B at motelone Glasgow

“What’s next?  I’ve finished my tea”

If you don’t know the Motel One brand they are well worth checking out. We’ve stayed at their Princes Street branch and they’re also in Newcastle and Manchester.

I couldn’t go to Glasgow without visiting the shops but  it’s not quite as dog friendly as Edinburgh, possibly because a lot of my favourites  (eg. Whistles, Space NK ) which are dog friendly there are inside malls in Glasgow. The massive Waterstones branch on Sauchiehall Street is dog friendly though,  as is Anta and lots of lovely independents on and around Great Western Road. Luckily it was mostly sunny and MrS was happy to wait outside on Buchanan Street while I shopped, and of course Dog S loved all the attention from passers by.

It wasn’t all consumerism though, nor sitting about for DogS.  We had a pretty extensive walkies, in fact I covered more steps than I do at home. I’ve walked all over Edinburgh and explored many overseas cities on foot but apart from shopping trips Glasgow on foot has been a path less travelled.

 

Glasgow is full of impressive buildings, also some haunting ruins.  The city centre is full of memories of Glasgow’s time as “second city of empire” and those Victorians  didn’t limit their exuberance to building for  commerce;  on a hill behind the Cathedral is the Necropolis.

necropolis1

It’s a good place for a walk with views over the whole city  – and on a clear day up to the highlands.

birthsmarriages deaths

  Births, Marriages and Deaths though not necessarily in that order*

I thought back to our visit when I read this post today**.

And our second trip? Quite different, over the sea to ….. Tiree, the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides. Because of its westerly position it’s much sunnier and drier than many of the islands and also much windier!  So windy in fact that it’s a hub for surfing and windsurfing, the Tiree Wave Classic had been held the weekend before our visit.

We stayed at The Old Thatch in Scarinish,  small and cosy just perfect for two people and one dog. A traditional two roomed cottage it would have housed a large family well into the 20th century.

 

through the bathroom window

view from the bath 

Now Tiree’s built environment might be a tad less grandiose than Glasgow’s (though very attractive) but its beaches would be hard to beat.

And it was even warm and sunny enough for a picnic

Our lunch spot was close to the Ringing Stone an “Erratic” which landed on Tiree  after a volcanic eruption. Don’t worry about getting hit on the head by flying rocks though, it happened millennia ago.  Nearby basking seals jumped into the sea and swam close to get a good look at us.

the Ringing Stone

seals

watching us watching them

 

It wasn’t all gorgeous natural beauty though, once again all too much plastic waste washed in by the tide.     When the shells are sand the plastic will still be around.

two wrecks

the wreck of the schooner Mary Stewart at Scarininsh

 

old me boat

and another old lady retired ashore

 

 

Two short but sweet breaks, each lovely in their own way.

Marina xx

PS. I’m just back from a shorter trip, just one night in Perth.  A shout out to Gringos a lovely, lively bar, dog friendly of course with great food and friendly staff. Not the place for a quiet romantic  night perhaps but well worth a visit. Another plus for Perth(shire), a selection of libraries  have introduced dog friendly Fridays .  No accommodation report because I like to post positive reviews, the only plus point being DogS could come too.

*The Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral and Infirmary (in the background right).

** I was a bit delayed completing and posting this.

Islay

We’ve had another short break, this time to the slightly less balmy climes of Islay. Storm Callum had been raging, flooding our local shopping centre, cancelling ferries and generally causing mayhem (and very sadly loss of life) but luckily had subsided by the time we needed to travel. Still we stopped off to fortify and warm ourselves up with a hobbity second breakfast at the lovely Smiddy Bistro

spicy beans

Spicy beans and egg on toast

Then it was back on the road to Kennacraig to join the Finlaggan

We’ve travelled to Islay before but always as a means of visiting Jura and though we did make a quick trip over,  this time it was all about Islay.

It’s probably best known as a distillery island and while we popped into the newest* one Kilchoman for some lunch (and picked up a bottle to take home) we were more interested in exploring some of Islay’s spectacular beaches.

And of course DogS approved of this option.

Even thought sun was shining I was not tempted to paddle, these beaches Machir and Saligo bays face out into the Atlantic and have dangerous rip tides and fierce waves.  I didn’t want to risk DogS following me and getting swept away.

I found a piece of slate and made my mark

Marina slate

But was very aware of leaving no trace…

notrace

Unfortunately even on these wild and fairly remote beaches that wasn’t always the case

blue plastic

We couldn’t manage to take away this plastic but removed a few “poo bags” worth of sweetie wrappers, plastic bottles and cable ties. And then because I was looking for obvious litter I began to see the tiny ground up pieces of plastic which we’d have had to sieve the sand to remove.

trying to leave only footprints

trying to leave only footprints

rubbish face

Bleurgh!

MrS didn’t miss out on his history fix, as well as the distillery and gorgeous beaches Kilchoman is home to this ancient carved cross and a poignant military cemetery marking the loss of the Otranto in 1918.

kilchoman cross

 

And true to form good food and drink was enjoyed, though we couldn’t take advantage of the bar at the Bowmore hotel. (We were driving)

DogS didn’t miss out

A walk through Bridgend woods gave DogS some good sniffs

Bridgend woods

 

And she could sniff but didn’t see this fine guy at Islay Woollen Mill

Sam

Who’s that sitting in My mill?

And we got the shivers listening to the seal song at Portnahaven

portnahaven

Portnahaven, the seals were sitting out on the island. Singing. 

A very short visit but great fun and still lots to return and explore

across to Jura

The Paps of Jura across Loch Indaal from the Bowmore – Bridgend road

And a few treats to take home.

goodies

sitting on an Islay wollen mill blanket

Until next time

small signature

 

 

*Kilchoman is the newest until Ardnahoe opens later this year.

We stayed at the very comfortable, dog (and people) friendly Bridgend Hotel and must give a special mention to the dog friendliness and sausages  at our lunch stop The Bowmore Hotel