Lock down is tough. I’m lucky, I’ve had a fairly easy time compared to many but; all trips abroad and a city break cancelled, concerts postponed or cancelled, no camping trips and unable to access the hills for months.
I have tried to average around 30 to 40 miles a week doing local walks (I’m determined to still complete the ViewRanger 1000 mile challenge!). I’m lucky, I live near woods and quiet country lanes but Wirral is flat, very flat so, as soon as it was announced that Wales was opening it’s borders, I booked some time off work.
I’m very keen to try out the new MSR tent but I’m holding off any overnight stays at the moment as only self contained units (things with their own loo) can be used for overnight stays. At least, I think that’s the current rule. To make matters worse, on the drive up I passed signs saying Welsh Covid rules apply. I don’t fully understand my own country’s rules!
I parked up in my usual spot in Llanferres and walked through the Druid Inn car park to Rectory Lane. Just past the last house, I headed up hill. Only a few minutes from the car and the views were lovely.
It’s strange how Covid-19 has changed normal activities. Previously I’d think nothing of opening a gate. Now, it was a well planned manoeuvre involving one ‘dirty hand’, a foot and a squirt of hand sanitiser. Other than though, everything was as it has always been.
The first part of this walk was a route I knew well. Up Foel Fenlli and down towards the Bwlch Penbarra car park. The second part was (surprisingly!) new to me. I stayed to the west edge of the foot of Moel Famau then headed to the north of Coed Ceunant. Shortly after joining a narrow road, I had planned on cutting across a field towards Llanbedr hall. After crossing a small stream, I noticed a number of cows in the next field. They seemed content enough, munching away on their lunch. I glanced down at the map, just continue in the direction I was heading, towards a gap in the fence. I altered my route slightly to give the cows a wide berth. They noticed me and started heading closer. I moved further to the right, they started to group. They were congregating between me and the gap in the fence which I discovered, led to another field of cows. I wimped out and turned around and crossed back over the stream. I knew the road would lead me down to the road in to Llanbedr and from there, I could get back on track.
As it turned out, this wasn’t a bad decision. I headed up the track towards old St Peter’s Church. After a good look around at the gravestones dating from the 17 and 1800s and getting the obligatory photos, I headed to the back of the grounds, through an old gate and on to a path. I’m not entirely sure I should have been there, but it got me on to the lane where the cow field would have led to.
It was now getting close to midday. The temperature had increased and it had become rather muggy. I was glad of the drizzle to cool me off as the route slowly climbed back to Fenlli. I stayed on the lower path around the hill before following the path I’d taken earlier to the car.
Tuesday was another walk, this time near Ruabon. Not as hilly and not as scenic but a pleasant walk, despite a detour along the roads. A farmer had decided to grow the world’s biggest and thickest corn right across the path.
Wednesday was back to the realities of Covid, spending over two hours negotiating a full refund for another cancelled holiday, but the hills are back!
Monday 25th March 2019 Mum had been dropping some not so subtle hints about how little she’s used her passport. I delved around online to find somewhere we could both go and drew up a short list of places to go. Mum quickly decided on Funchal in Madeira and we settled on a well priced all-inclusive suites hotel.
Packing was easy. Four nights somewhere warm meant we were travelling light, very light. Despite having 44kg of luggage allowance, we got everything in to one rucksack weighing under 10kg.
Boarding the flight, I noticed I was quite possibly the youngest passenger on the Jet2 737-800 out of Manchester. I suspected there wouldn’t be much in the way of rowdy behaviour on this flight!
Our first attempt to land was aborted due to the wind. As we circled a while, waiting for ATC to report that the wind had dropped, I pondered where our divert would take us but, luckily, however, it was second time lucky. I had a slight worry when bag didn’t appear, however, rather than being on the carousel, it was in a separate oversized luggage area. This rucksack hunt did mean we were the last two to board the minibus to the resort.
The Girassol hotel was better than we hoped. A big bed room with two single beds, a large separate living area and good sized balcony.
Despite the earlier wind, the weather was nice so we headed out for a stroll to get our bearings. Passing the the Lido we reached Cais do Carvão, (coal wharf) the area were a pier once stood.
Back at the hotel we grabbed a couple more drinks (Mum tasting her first strawberry daiquiri!) before heading down for dinner. The dinning room is a large space with the self service buffet in the centre. I started with the squid salad before a ‘pick and mix’ main course of scabbard fish in banana and passion fruit butter, veal flame grilled tuna steak and pork in a white wine
Tuesday 26th March
After breakfast we took a left out of the hotel, following the coast to the Santa Catarina park. From there we headed up hill to the Fortaleza de São João Baptista do Pico, a hilltop castle overlooking the town. This was a bit of a trek especially as it was pleasantly sunny and warm. Entrance in to the fort was free, the views were great and, being so early in the year, we had the place to ourselves.
We wandered back down hill through the town centre, stopping for a beer flight at the Beerhouse brewery . Lovely drinks, lovely views. This walking route available for download on ViewRanger.
Later in the afternoon, Mum went to the hotel’s outside pools for a swim. I’m no swimmer, so took a wander and found my first levada. These are channels bringing water from the north of the island to the drier south. I took the narrow path alongside the water to a residential area. There wasn’t much space when other people walked past in the opposite direction! My route back to the hotel took me past Estádio do Marítimo, Satdium of the sea, home of Marítimo football club .
Wednesday 27th March Picked up our packed lunch from the hotel reception. Blimey! We wouldn’t go hungry! Four cheese and ham sandwiches, fruit, tomato eggs, mango juice and two bottles of water each.
This morning, we walked along the shore to the cable car station. We purchased the combined return ticket and entrance to the botanical gardens for €32 then joined the queue. I can imagine these queues can get very long in the summer months. In retrospect maybe the first garden in Monte may have been better. The botanical garden was decent but, in my mind, this package was overpriced.
If I took the trip again on my own, I would probably take the path down which followed alongside the the cable car took route to the gardens. Looking from the cable car window, it looked a pleasant albeit steep route.
Back at the hotel I grabbed on of the all inclusive coffees from the poolside bar. Unfortunately, the machine coffee is so bad I so took a couple of sachets from breakfast! (sadly only decaf)
Thursday 28th March This morning, we followed the coast past the lido to the the promenade. I even managed a little scramble over the rocks (-; We went as far as we thought interesting but decided against walking down the steep slope to the beach. We followed pretty much the same route back, cutting up inland slightly to pop to the supermarket.
After another game of table tennis, I went for another stroll along the coast towards and beyond the cable car weaving between the residential areas. It was here, at the furthest point from the hotel, it decided to rain!
At dinner time, we had Portuguese theme night…this included a rather bland piri piri chicken and black pudding….which I managed to consume for every course!
After consuming all of the black pudding (chef is going to be very surprised by it’s popularity!), we took an evening stroll towards the CR7 museum.
Friday 29th March The last day. We were leaving for the airport at 11.45 which gave us time to have breakfast h quick stroll then another table tennis game.
It rained on the drive to the airport and continued while we were at the airport. That didn’t stop me going on the balcony to watch the planes. There are two outside areas, one before security and another airside. I love outside space at airports!
So, what are my thoughts on Funchal? It’s a pleasant enough place but three of four days is enough time to spend here. Maybe a trip out to the less populated areas and countryside may have been nice. The people are as nice as the weather and everyone speaks very good English. The hotel food was very ‘safe’ (read, rather bland) I described it to someone has Eastbourne with cacti and I can see why it appeals to people but, I was already planning my next trip to the hills while sitting in the airport!
Thursday 15th September
Eek, just before I’m due to fly out to Lyon, I discover French air traffic controllers are planning a strike. Many flights from the UK were being cancelled.
The strike was mainly affecting the budget airlines flying in to Paris and, luckily for me, my Air France/FlyBe Embraer aircraft took off from Manchester pretty much on time.
After around 90 minutes in the skies, we landed at Lyon airport where I had a two hour wait for the coach to Annecy Gare Routière via Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains.
I had pre-booked my tickets online for €34.
I sat with a drink at the Premium Bar near the check-in waiting for the coach to arrive at the stops opposite.
After chucking my large rucksack in the boot space of the coach, I settled down for the two hour journey through the French countryside.
After several hours travelling from my home in Wirral, the bus station at Annecy was a very welcome sight and from here it was a short walk in pretty much straight line to the Ibis Annecy Centre Vieille Ville hotel.
The hotel situated in the centre of town was nice and clean with a little balcony over looking court yard. Te room, however, was very small.
After taking some time to unpack and freshen up, I took a stroll to le Munich for dinner. It was the Boudin Noir on the menu which caught my attention!
I started with Carpaccio. An Italian starter at a German themed bar/restaurant in France near the Swiss border – truly European! I love my beef as rare as possible and it doesn’t get much rarer than this. A very good start to my first meal of the trip. As for the French black pudding main course…very nice although I think the English black pudding still beats it!
After dinner I took a stroll around the picturesque old town before retiring to my room.
Friday 16th September After a decent breakfast at the hotel, I took a stroll down to the train/bus station to pick up some time tables for some days out I was thinking of taking. Today’s plan was to take good wander around Annecy’s market stall filled streets and on towards the mountain-fringed lake. Getting lost in the old, narrow streets before stopping for coffee at one of the many cafe cum bars in town.
The old town reminded me of Venice or Bruges with its canals and buildings bedecked with flowers.
A lovely place to aimlessly wander.
Saturday 17th September Horrible weather.
I made my self couple of cheeses toasties for breakfast before getting the waterproofs on and walking around the lake to the village of Talloires.
Leaving the hotel, I walked East around the ‘top’ of the lake before following the shore around.
On a nice day I imagine the views across the lake are beautiful and the water to be filled with swimmers and sailors. Today, however, I was wet enough on dry land!
For the first part of this 11 mile route, I followed the tree-lined path to the side of the lake until it ended near the village of Chavoire, here, I headed inland slightly along the D909, Route d’Annecy. In the village of Veyrier du Lac, I took the quieter road to the right of Route d’Annecy, parallel to the lake. This road took me around housing estates before dropping back down to the shores of the lake.
At the Palace De Menthon hotel, I was forced back in land and slightly up hill where there I got some nice views over to Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the birth place of Bernard of Menthon (St Bernard), the patron saint of skiers.
The road continued round in to the ‘Reserve Naturelle du Rock de Chere‘ park. There are a number of routes around the wooded rocky outcrop. I followed the well signed path nearest to the lake towards the view point at Belvedere.
Despite the poor weather all day, it cleared up just in time to stop and take some photos.
It was a very good spot to see some Red Bull Elements which was taking place in the village!
Talloires didn’t have much to offer and the Red Bull Elements was just finishing off so there was little to keep me in the village. Luckily I had just few mins to wait for the infrequent bus service back to Annecy and bonus… it was free!
This route is available to download from the ViewRanger website.
Sunday 18th September After breakfast I donned the waterproofs again before making my way to Gorges du Fier, considered to be one of the natural wonders of the Alps.
I headed West out of Annecy on D2201 road. The route continued along roads through the town and industrial areas until reaching the woods around the river Fier with it’s ‘interesting’ footpaths consisting of seemingly randomly placed wooden planks!
The path follows the river, ending at the gorge’s pay booth. Entry at the time of writing (Sept 2016) was €5.50.
The route through is linear, ending at a La Clairière des Curieux, an information area detailing the gorge.
Keep an eye out for blue footprints on the path to see ‘faces’ in rocks.
The 6 mile route to and around the gorge is available to download as a GPX file.
Leaving the gorge, I took a different route back, following the railway line along a quiet road towards the hydro power plant.
This was a far nicer route than the one I took out to the gorge and is also available to download as a GPX.
Monday 19th September
This morning I was travelling by bus from the main bus station in Annecy to Geneva, Switzerland. Return tickets are reasonably priced and are purchased at the Annecy bus station.
I got off at Seujet. (Google maps helped to find the right stop!)
To be honest, there wasn’t too much in Geneva to hold my interest but it’s another city to tick off my ‘to see’ list. I took a wander around the town which was filled with watch shops. I passed through the park and on to Jet d’Eau.
I must admit, this jet of water is impressive. I took the jetty out to get up close to the 140 metres (460 ft) jet.
The area around the lake near the Jet is a nice spot to stop for a quick drink. Luckily for me, the shops and bars in town accept the Euro as well as the Swiss Franc, albeit at a 1-1 exchange rate.
Personally, I found a day trip was more than enough time to see the town, leaving on the 5.15 bus…bad move as we got stuck in the rush hour traffic.
Tuesday 20th September Sunshine!
Today the plan was to climb the hills on the Western side of lake.
Wandering through the town, along the waters edge, I headed right down Rue des Marquisats, taking another right at the roundabout .
Continuing up Avenue de Tresum and Boulevard de la Corniche, I turned off to the left down Ave del la Visitation towards Cathédrale de la Visitation, Catholic basilica dating from the early 20th-century.
Already there were great views back over to the town and lake. At the end of the road I entered the woodland and followed the well signed paths to the South, parallel to the lake.
There were a number of view points along the route. A rather elaborate cairn marked the point at 767 meters.
Most of the views on this part of the walk were towards the town. I was surprised how sprawling the area actually is.
There are a number of routes through the woods, I continued to the point about 5 miles in to the walk, where the path curled round, almost in a horseshoe shape. In my mind, this was the part of the walk with the far better views.
Originally the plan was to drop down in to one of the lake side villages, however, the paths down where very steep and, to be honest, I was enjoying the views from the higher path.
Eventually the path slowly made its way down to the shore at La Puya. From here it was a nice walk back through the port area back to the hotel
I think must have been my favourite walk on the holiday and is definitely recommended.
A GPX file of this 9 mile route is available to download
Wednesday 21st September
After breakfast, I wandered down to train/bus station to get a ticket for the 9am bus to Lyon, my home for the next night.
The coach had plenty of luggage space and even a coffee machine at front!
After arriving at the main bus station, I got 5 Euro 50 day ticket and boarded tram T1 to the stop near Quality suites Confluence. A very nice hotel but rather out the way from the main part of town.
The room was lovely and included a kettle, hob microwave. Oddly though the hall way separated the toilet from the sink/sower room!
After unpacking, I wandered around for some snaps in the lovely weather.
Sadly this really was just a flying visit. My time was spent zig zagging between the streets of the old town and walking along the river.
It would have been nice to see the ruins but it just wasn’t possible on this whistle stop visit.
Dinner was taken at Les Chandelles. I later discovered this restaurant had very poor reviews but I enjoyed the meal….especially the unusual dish of head of veal!
Perhaps a return visit is required to see the rest of the sites and sample some better food?
Thurs 22nd September Time to go. After a quick shower, I walked to the train station and got a coffee and baguette. It seemed suitably French and definitely filled a corner!
Back to the hotel for check out which was at 11am. Luckily I left the hotel early as the trams weren’t running. A change of plan was required! I took two metro trains to Gare part dieu. Easily done and covered by the €1.80 ticket.
From there it was on to the shuttle train to the airport.
Saturday 4th June
For the first in a long while, I was flying out to my holiday destination at a decent time, I didn’t have to leave my house until 10 am. The traffic flowed freely and I arrived at Manchester airport before check in opened. It was interesting to see how many pairs of shiny new walking boots I saw in the check in queue, perhaps new to walking? During the course of the week it became worryingly obvious how little experience and knowledge of the outdoors some people have.
This would be my seventh time to Slovenia. The first visit was when the former Yugoslavian country was still outside the EU and my old passport has a few Brnik stamps.
I was now returning to the area where my love for the country first started, Lake Bled.
So what’s changed? Well flight wise, a lot. Slovenia’s national carrier, Adria Airways still have the traditional check in at Manchester i.e. no online check-in (although it is slowly being rolled out) The only seat choice you get is aisle or window.
I was sat by the window on seat 9A on the Airbus A319. The place between me and the aisle seat was free which allowed me to spread out a little.
Gone are the days of the free meal and drinks, the only free beverage now is water although various drinks and snacks were available to buy.
The airline’s ‘OnAir’ service is good. Connect with the WiFi on your phone or tablet to play games, read magazine articles, play games or chat with other passengers. The aviation section of the magazine is a particularly interesting read and, when the views were lost beneath clouds, the 2048 game passed the time.
It was a nice flight with a smooth landing.
Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is small enough to allow you to pass through quickly and, once outside, a number of shuttle buses to Lake Bled were parked up. .Despite the terrible weather forecast, we saw blue skies when we landed and remained as I made my way to the Hotel Jelovica in Bled.
I was told at check-in that the hotel has no single rooms so I was given a good sized double room (369) with views of the church and castle. As with most hotels in Europe, there are no drink making facilities in the room, but there is a vending machine on the second floor filled with soft drinks and a few snacks.
Dinner is an all you can eat buffet which included free drinks; wine, beer, water or pop. As I entered the restaurant, I gave my room number and was shown to my table for the week then just got up and helped myself.
My meal started with the Slovenian staple, thin beef soup with noodles. The salad came with a choice of dressing (I went for pumpkin oil), then it was steak in a porcini sauce with duchess potatoes. There was also an impressive array of deserts which were very popular with those with a sweeter tooth than I!
I took a leisurely wander to the lake after dinner, returning to room at 9.30 pm for a drink and early night. Luckily, the church which was a few feet from my balcony turns the bells off at night, however, the ringing starts again at around 6.
Sunday 5th June
Woke fairly early after a decent sleep.
After breakfast, I took a stroll to the shopping centre by Hotel Golf.
Bled hasn’t changed much over the years but the supermarket opening times certainly have! Gone are the days of the Mercator closing Saturday afternoon and staying shut until Monday morning.
One supermarket just up the road from my hotel on Presernova Cesta is open 7am – 9pm Monday to Saturday and 8am – 5pm Sundays & holidays. It even has a 24 hour vending machine offering drinks, sweets, ham, cheese and sandwiches. I think this shop also has draft wine for you to fill your own bottles, I’m not 100% sure of this but have seen something similar in Pescasseroli, Italy.
The shopping centre contains a few bars and restaurants, the supermarket, pharmacy, clothes shops and the tourist information office.
Shopping in Slovenia is cheap – although compared to England almost everywhere is! 50p buys a half litre of Cola, 40p for a can. 80p gets a half litre bottle of beer.
Not that you go to Bled for the shopping!
After stocking up on a few drinks for the walk and for the room afterwards, I headed to the lake.
It was 9.15am and still reasonably quiet as I walked along the path on the ‘road side’ of the lake. It’s worth doing the lake walk early as it can get busy later in the day.
Not far from the bottom end of the lake, there are three paths all heading to Osojnica, I took the third option.
Here came the start of the climb.
Although the path was through woodland and it was still early in the day, the temperature was already quite warm and humid. I was glad of the drinks in my rucksack!
At one point there are 88 steps to ascend and some climbing, assisted with an iron rope and footholds but the views from the top are amazing!
Staza Hill dominates the right hand side of the lake with Bled directly ahead and Mlino on the right. I could also make out the mountains of the Karavanke range which mark the border with Austria.
I continued on route 6 to Velika Osojnica. My map implied that once I got there I would need to retrace my steps a bit. The lack of markings past the view seemed to confirm that. To be honest, there are better, unobstructed views along the walk but it’s another peak ticked off (756 metres) I returned to the junction of paths and continued straight on, passing some local wild life!
The path descends through woodland back to the Lake. I carried on around the lake until reaching a path to Visce. The route around the lake was getting busy and I was keen to get off the beaten track again. (Continuing around the lake would make the walk five half miles in total)
It didn’t take long to loose the crowds…. and come across a snake doing battle with a frog!
Both went their separate ways when the sensed me coming, much to the frog’s relief! The masses on the lake path would probably have no idea of the types of wildlife just a few metres away.
I zig zagged around, passing the monument to Adolf Muhr, a merchant who once owned Bled castle.
The path eventually came out near the castle and from there I returned to the hotel to plan the next route.
This walk was 7.45 miles/12km in total (starting and finishing at Hotel Jelovica) and can be downloaded from the ViewRanger website
Given that it was early afternoon and the sun was still shining, I headed out again. I followed the single track roads through some villages to the South East of Bled.
It doesn’t take long to leave the centre of Bled and begin walking alongside fields with views of the mountains beyond.
This route took in the villages of Koritno, Bodešče and the larger village of Ribno.
Although I was walking, I imagine it would make a nice bike ride which can be easily extended to include other villages.
I was walking mostly on roads but they are so quiet that it never caused a problem. I also find the drivers in Slovenia to be extremely patient with walkers and cyclists.
This 5.8mile/9.44km route is available to download.
Dinner tonight was tomato soup, salad, garlicky cray tails, venison ragu with 3 grains and mixed vegetables. Once again, very nice!
After dinner, at around 9pm I got my head torch and went for a walk round the lake. Initially I wondered if this was the best idea, lots of midges flying around but (unusually) none bothered me (perhaps it was the garlic) so I continued on for around four miles.
Most of the path has some street lighting but it’s well worth taking a torch as it can get very dark in places particularly on the wooden walk way on the side furthest from town. It’s also worth taking a tripod, there are some lovely photo opportunities.
This brings me on to something else, safety.
Despite being a female travelling alone, I am sometimes a little blasé especially in Slovenia. I didn’t think twice about a night walk, however, Slovenia is a very safe country, the World’s 10th safest in 2016 . Yes, there is a small amount of petty crime in the larger cities but the risks can be reduced by taking the usual common sense precautions.
Back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep….another walk planned for tomorrow! Part 2 >>