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

Cartagena

We sneaked away from the Easter snows and enjoyed a few days in the city of Cartagena. The one in Spain, though I’d like to visit the Colombian one too. What a fascinating place, inhabited for nearly three thousand years,  layers peel away,  almost literally in some cases* to display its history.

Now  MrS is the historian so I may get this wrong but New Carthage** has been Punic, Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and now Spanish. There are lots of museums where you can discover all this history or you can simply wander around the streets.

We did quite a bit of both…..

Here’s the Roman theatre where I practised my voice projection

roman theatre

“Can you hear me at the back MrS?”

And he could, those Romans knew a thing or two about acoustics.  Lots of money has been spent, and well spent, on interpreting Cartagena’s rich history.   I found the Roman

remains the easiest to understand of any I’ve visited. All around the city you can come across vestiges of the past,  Roman roads peeking through a square, villas hidden under a  modern street, temples, baths and workshops. Many reused over the centuries and then emerging again, the theatre once lay under the Cathedral, which was itself destroyed during the Civil War.

It’s not just land based history, there are museums of the sea, one the fascinating Museum of Underwater Archeology explores the objects lost overboard or otherwise to the sea over the centuries.  And you can also visit the one of the  first submarines at The Naval Museum although that’s one we had to leave for  another  visit.

We spent most of our time wandering around the city, it’s very walkable, but did take a morning out on the Feve train to Los Nietos on the Mar Menor.  I’d thought of having a swim or perhaps lunch beside this inland sea, Europe’s largest.

 

But.  It was closed. Well not completely, the yacht club, a restaurant  and one other bar was open, but the resort had a desolate air with houses shut up for the season and perhaps permanently? People must visit, the marina was full of boats, many of them very smart motor cruisers;  the beach was clean and being cleaned, we saw  a couple of women settling down for some sun there,  and there were others like us enjoying a stroll along the promenade.  But where was everyone else?  Over on the La Manga strip perhaps?  I don’t know, but we decided to head  back to Cartagena for lunch.

Ah lunch…..We stayed at The NH hotel Cartagena it was comfortable, very central and we had a terrace with a view of the Port. But we stayed on a room only basis so there was none of that filling up on breakfast to see you through the day. Instead we ate breakfast at cafes***

 

……….and had a stop for lunch in the early afternoon;  useful as shops etc tended to close over lunch time.  Lunch became progressively longer and more elaborate as the week went on…

Culminating in a  three hour lunch at La Marquesita  on Friday before leaving for the airport. Excellent food and great people watching too.

That lunch was superb but our best meal was dinner at Magoga.  The Blue Cheesecake being one of my top three puds EVER.

 

The dish on the right? Pork and smoked sardine, sounds odd, looks a bit brown? Tasted amazing.

Four days and we didn’t see everything, though we did our best to eat everything!

Until next time

Marina x

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*many historic 19th and early 20th century facades have been preserved, shored up, behind them empty lots waiting to be rebuilt or perhaps to reveal their pasts.

**those Carthaginians weren’t very imaginative when it came to names.

***actually that coffee in a glass, Cafe Asiatico, a Carthagenian speciality, was an afternoon treat, though we saw it consumed at breakfast.

 

We also visited Muram Cartagena’s museum of modern art in a beautiful modernist mansion the Palacio Aguirre.

Wondering about that spaceship like yacht? Sailing Yacht A

 

Sunny Monday mornings

We have had the most gorgeous Autumn so far. I live in Argyll which is in the west of Scotland, it’s a beautiful area but often wet. Our prevailing wind is from the west so it scoops up moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and  releases it as rain over us. Well, that’s what usually happens.  This year we’ve been enjoying north winds, colder but dryer, giving us a fine show of Autumn colour from our trees.

It’s also meant really lovely walks, which is great because  walking is my favourite sort of exercise.

Funnily enough it’s something which can be easier in the city.  I could identify with Carrie Bradshaw* when she claimed  “…shopping is my cardio”. A day trawling around the shops soon ramps up the step count. Although when I lived in the city I had to commute to work, by car, so walks were too often relegated to the weekend. (MrS had retired and was at home, so he could do the honours with Dogstarke). But on a non work day pretty much anything I needed was within walking distance.

It’s not the same here. Our shop is a walkable distance but a round trip is five miles so any urgent visit is made by car. Mind you, the pub is  a lot closer….

Open space is a little different too. We have to respect that it’s not just there for our enjoyment. It’s a working landscape.

cows

But on mornings like today there’s nothing quite like a walk along the hill.

It’s beautiful even when it rains,  but for now I’m enjoying the sun.

Marina x

*from HBO “Sex and the City”