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It’s time to light the lights

Wednesday 6th  

Today was the day I’d been looking forward to more than any!!
I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppets.
There’s photos of me as a toddler holding a Kermit toy that I still own today. I’ve seen all the movies, watched all the shows and own all sorts of weird and wonderful merchandise.
Today I was going to the Museum of Moving Image, home to the Jim Henson Exhibition.

I got to the temporary entrance and was told that due to the ground floor being closed, entry was free. Splendid, that was about $17 saved!
Big Bird. Museum of Moving ImageFirst up was the ‘Behind the Screen’ exhibition, an interesting, very hands on display detailing the processes behind creating tv and film.
Just this in itself would have made for a good visit, however, I was here for the one thing….
….I was like a kid at Christmas!
There are around 300 objects on display including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, The Swedish Chef, Statler, Waldorf, Big Bird, one of Animal’s costumes and lots of scripts and drawings.
Ok I have to admit, I went around the display twice!

After the museum, I took a wander around Astoria before getting on the subway back to Manhattan in search for food. I got off at Hell’s Kitchen (a great name for a place!) and wandered down to Greenwich Village, probably one of my favourite areas of Manhattan.
I had dinner at the Mexican restaurant, Caliente Cab, starting with black bean soup, very tasty, very filling. Main course was beef burrito, again, very tasty and filling. Plenty of rice and skirt beef.  It’s a great place with friendly staff.


Thursday 7th

Today I was ticking a few more sights off. Getting the Subway to Penn station, I walked down 7th Ave. and kept heading South until I hit the 9/11 Memorial. I was surprised at how tastefully this area has been designed.
As this was my first time in New York, it was hard to imagine the two towers that once stood there but not as hard as imagining the terror of that day in 2001.
I continued South, through Battery Park to the Staten Island ferry terminal. The terminal is a huge empty space where hundreds gather to board the free ferry to the island. I was a little worried I wouldn’t get on the ferry looking around at the numbers of people getting on, however, I needn’t have worried, I got a space outside with  great views back to Manhattan and, of course, the Statue of Liberty.
Manhattan skyline New York
The initial plan was to get off the boat, get the train to Oakwood Heights station (using my Metro card) then walk to the Greenbelt via Wilowbrook Parkway, a small strip of woodland between two roads.
The trains ran every 30 minutes and the journey took 20 minutes.
From the station  I headed up Cedarview Avenue to Riedel Avenue where I took a right. About twenty minutes after leaving the train, I entered the small woods on a path opposite Thomas Street.
This was more pleasant than walking on the roads but not particularly scenic unless you count the abandoned printer on the footpath.
Alarm bells should have rung earlier, there was little mention of the trails on Google maps, there was very little information online, my four US maps on Viewranger didn’t show the paths. The only map I could find was printed off the Greenbelt website. https://www.sigreenbelt.org/Trails/trailmap.pdf
I joined Rockland Avenue but there was no trail where I expected. I glanced at the map and noticed another possible way on to the footpath further up the road, it looked roughly 15 minutes walk  from where I was currently.  A quarter of an hour on a busy road with no pavement (sidewalk) was not something I fancied doing especially if there was no sign of the route there either.
I was getting rather fed up now, I turned around and headed back to the station. There may well have been other routes in to the Greenbelt but there were a long walk away, it was getting later in the afternoon, I was hot and frustrated.
Back in Tompkinsville, I popped in to the Flagship Brewing Company for a drink and a chat with the very friendly, well-travelled bar man. Surprisingly, the highlight of the day….well, either that or the dinner at the Pig Beach over in Brooklyn. Ohh this was good. A big slab of BBQ pork with slaw and pickles eaten on a large wooden table outdoors….yes, this was the highlight of the day….or was it the walk down on the waterfront at sunset, the views were amazing!

Manhattan skyline New York night time

Friday 8th

A bit of a mop up day today. Took the subway to the north station of Central  Park for a stroll around down the eastern side of the park,  passing Trump Tower as I left. I wandered round the Manhattan then jumped the Subway across to Brooklyn. Not much to report on today’s events other than the meal at Dinosaur BBQ was fantastic and very filling!


9th June

Unfortunately, I have to say I’m not sorry to be going home. I usually take holidays in the mountains but I like a city break. I enjoyed Budapest, I  love Paris, Rome is  one of my favourite destinations but,  New York just ain’t my kinda town .

The hotel was very good and  I ended my stay there with the usual; coffee and cornflakes with a banana. Check out was easy and friendly and the area to leave luggage seemed secure enough.

I headed out one last time, getting the subway to the North of the park. There was a softball competition taking place with teams from all around the country competing.
It was a lovely sunny day,  the park was quite busy but it’s always easy to find a quiet spot and a drinks stand!Baseball, Central Park New York

After heading into town again I wandered round before jumping the subway to get back to the hotel.
Here’s where the fun began…. I’d planned to leave myself 2 hours to get from the hotel to JFK, a journey Google maps claimed would take 90- 100 minutes. The first train was fine then a change of trains which involved hauling my luggage up and down narrow stairs. I didn’t realise at the time but, this line was having its signalling upgraded. Progress was very slow and the train was packed and hot.
We eventually reached Jamaica. The station was swarming with people wanting to take my metro card so they could sell it on to some poor arriving tourist. Needless to say, the ticket stayed with me as a made my way to the Airtrain…. services suspend.
Everyone crammed on to one bus going to all terminals.
People struggled to get off at their terminal and to make matters worse, at each terminal, people were trying to get on for the trip in to the city.
A horrible journey from the city to the airport and not something I was expecting in a big, modern city like New York but at least this bus replacement was free!

Check in was painless as was the security, why did I set alarms off in Manchester but don’t at JFK despite wearing the same clothing?!
The queues however…. lines split only to re-join further along.  People had to filter back in. Other people were directed into the middle of the line, causing families to be split. Amazingly people remained good natured probably helped by the cheerful dog handler who, on spotting a young girl’s colourful, fury travelling case asked her, ‘did you kill all of Sesame Street to make that bag?’

Once past security, I decided I wanted a coffee…not a beer, not a wine bar , not an oyster bar just a simple coffee. Easier said than done. I eventually found one place that claimed to sell coffee only to be told,” our coffee is cold now go to the end of the row to Dunkin Donuts.”  Off I went and started to fill my cup with the Dunkin Donut blend…  It ran out. I left the cup and just managed to fill a new plastic cup with the standard blend. How hard can it be to get coffee at an airport mid afternoon?!

We boarded the bus to transfer from the gate to the aircraft. No modern airbridge for us!
In so many ways, New York is so behind the times.

How on an aircraft with no noticeable way to recline do I end up behind the one person who the aircraft who shoves their seat back?!
Shortly after take off we got cheese and pickle roll. I was beginning to wish  I’d had more time to eat at the airport! Breakfast was worse, omelette doesn’t work to well reheated on an aircraft especially when served with bland mushroom and ham. Despite only eating cornflakes and the small cheese  roll in the past 19  hours and not sleeping for 20 hours,  I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
Still, the sunrise was lovely and I managed to acquire a second cheese roll (-:

20 mins before landing I found the recliner I’m saying nothing in case I fly with these again (-;

Part 1 – Start Spreading the news
Part 2 – Getting out in the coutnryside 

 

Back to Bled

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.

Adria airways view from window 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.

Balcony view hotel Jelovica Bled Slovenia
Balcony view

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. Supermarket wine
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.

The 88 StepsNot 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.

Views over lake Bled

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.
chamoisTo 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)

SnakeIt 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.

Ribno
Ribno

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.

Lake Bled at night

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 >>

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