Wandering with the camera..

 

Winter in England usually involves terrible weather for 3 months of the year. Which is all well and good, until your hobbies involve bracing the elements of the great outdoors. I guess if it’s cycling, or bird watching, you can put on some wet weather gear. But when it’s photography, trying to keep a fairly expensive camera dry makes it a little less appealing. So you’ve got to make the most of any hours of sunshine that present themselves. Even a cloudy, overcast sky is a blessing if it stays dry!

There have been some locations close to my house in which I’ve decided to experiment with over the last few months. The featured picture of this post is of the boat house on Cut Mill pond in Elstead, Surrey.

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It was around this time last year in which I purchased my Sony a6000. Looking back on pictures from trips gone by I can see my skills slowly developing. Frames being thought about before the shot is taken. I find going back to the same location very satisfying for developing your skills. Bettering the picture you took last time and understanding why.

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A lot of what I take pictures of, especially near to my house seem to feature water. Water brings so many elements to a picture, reflection being the main one for me. Before taking a picture I look for something more, something that will capture the imagination. The branches in this shot look like they’re about to drag the fence down to the depths of the pond.

With any hobby, whether it’s a sport you’ve played for years, or something you’re trying for the first time, to get better – you need to practice. Even when the tide is against you, again using the bad weather as an example, that you think what’s the point and that nothing will come of it? You may surprise yourself.

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For a brief, fleeting moment the sun decided to appear from behind a cloud at Frensham Little Pond. I just so happened to have my camera in place, so when the light came through it made for a satisfying shot. Shame the branches were there, but we can’t have it all can we? Further on round the pond you get a nice view of a little bungalow, next to the National Trust cafe they have there.

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I plan on coming back to these places when the warmer weather comes. It will be a relief to get a good couple of hours playing with the camera after work, rather than coming home to darkness! Winter sunsets can be a pretty sight too, but you might find yourself shivering to get that shot.

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Churt common has been one of my favourite local jaunts for camera practice of late. The rugged terrain of flinty sand means a hilly environment with some nice panoramic opportunities. That will be something I’ll try later in the year.

Alongside all these wonderful places near to me, I am planning a couple of trips further away from home. There will be another visit to the Lake District this year after falling in love with it in 2017. Where I’ll stay is undecided but Ullswater looks a nice area? If you have any suggestions let me know! I also want to go on a bit of road trip around Cornwall. Spending a lot of time there as a child on family holiday’s, I want to explore and appreciate it in depth. There is so much to see.

Trips that I have planed over sea’s so far include Paris and Bergen. Both should be a great opportunity for some panoramic shots, especially from the top of the Eiffel Tower, if the queues aren’t too long!

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My German Christmas Adventure..

Christmas and the month of December are a long way behind us now, but with this wintery weather upon us, it’s time to blog about my time spent visiting friends in Nuremberg (I’ll use the English spelling for locations in this post), Germany. It would be a five-day adventure consisting of bus and train journeys, snow, a football match, “Drei im Weckla” and “Lebkuchen”.

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My journey began on a Friday afternoon, flying from Gatwick. I arrived in Munich at 16:00. Munich airport had its own Christmas market, but what was to come later in the trip was 100x more amazing! At 18:00 I took a 2 hour FlixBus journey to Nuremberg. Where I was met by my friend who I would be staying with. Sabina. At this point the temperature was hovering just above 0°. No snow, yet. When we arrived back at Sabina’s house at around 21:00, just outside the town of Neumarkt, we had a coffee and a catch up, before a well-earned sleep with a busy Saturday ahead.

When I woke on Saturday morning, I looked out the window. We’d had a light dusting of snow, nothing compared to the downfall we’d receive the next day. Whenever I have spent holidays with Sabina, I’ve always looked forward to her breakfasts. It was a table full of meats, cheeses, spreads and fruit. The bread they have in Germany is so tasty. My favourite was the Pumpernickel, made with 100% rye. No wheat flour at all!

Next on the agenda for Saturday was off to see FC Nürnberg play. Sabina’s daughter Rebecca and her boyfriend Christian were to take me. Football games in Germany kick off at 13:00 in the winter, so naturally I was late getting ready. FC Nürnberg’s stadium is literally next door to the Reichesparteigelande, the old Nazi party rally grounds. We didn’t visit this as the weather wasn’t pleasant and Rebecca suggested it was more suited to a summer itinerary.

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FC Nurnberg’s fans with their scarves and flags raised!

The match was great, despite the -1° conditions! The German football fans really know how to create an atmosphere. At half time we enjoyed a fruity mulled wine which was greatly needed on a chilly day. Eventually FC Nürnberg got a well deserved goal late on, going on to win 1-0! A much better result than when I took Christian to see the team I support, Plymouth, lose 0-3!

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A great first afternoon with friends!

That evening, I would part company with Rebecca and Christian, who had plans to see a friend perform in a play. Sabina was to take me to the nearby town of Neumarkt, to experience my first taste of a German Christmas market. Although it’s not as big as the Nuremberg market, it had a cosy, traditional feel to it. This would also be my first experience in trying a true Bratwurst, which on a cold winters evening was just what I needed. I think I even went back for a second! Sabina showed me around the market, telling me all about the stalls that were selling handmade produce and the good causes they were raising money for. Foods, tree decorations and cute little bird tables were among the choices. Everyone in attendance seemed to be laughing and smiling, and I couldn’t help but join them.

The atmosphere surrounding the market was infectious and emitted festive cheer. Not knowing at the time what to expect from the Nuremberg market, this one was the perfect warm up for the madness to follow!

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Mulled wine time!

Opening the curtains on Sunday morning, it was to be another crisp, hat and scarf day. Secretly wishing for snow like the big kid I am, I didn’t realise the extent to which snow can just appear in this region of Germany. The day began again with another fabulous breakfast selection from Sabina. I could seriously get used to this! Today Sabina wanted to take me to Regensburg, home to the cathedral of St Peter and a city in which the river Danube flows through.

Architectural accomplishments aren’t usually on the top of my lists when visiting new places. But I can honestly say that Regensburg has some absolutely stunning buildings. The cathedral of St Peter was breathtaking inside and out.

 


Alongside the cathedral of St Peter, there was a church Sabina took me to. This church had solid gold, everywhere and is said to be one of the oldest in all of Bavaria. You can only access the church from the rear and cannot walk down the aisle, but it is still well worth a visit.

 

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Of course, Regensburg had a Christmas market. More mulled wine was consumed, along with a wild boar burger with cranberry sauce. Amazing! One of the highlights from my trip to Regensburg is when we stumbled across a pair of festive buskers at the Christmas market. Get these two on Germany’s got talent because they would go far!

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On the way back from Regensburg, the snow came. By the time we arrived back at Sabina’s house, it was at least 4 inches deep. In Germany it is against the law to drive on roads covered in snow, ice or slush without appropriate tyre’s capable of driving in conditions such as these. The rule applies from October to Easter.

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This all came about in half an hour!

On the way back to Sabina’s, we stopped off to pick up Christian. By this time the snow was causing trouble for some drivers. One even span out in-front of us on a roundabout. That evening we were all going to the Nuremberg Christmas market. Known to locals as ‘Christkindlesmark’. We would be taking the train, and meeting Rebecca there after she’d finished at University.

In this region of Germany and a selection of other European countries, they do not celebrate the figure of “Santa Claus”. It is the ‘Christkind’, meaning Christ Child.

“Why does the Christkind exist if we already have Santa Claus?” I hear you ask!

In short: Santa Claus originated as a Catholic figure. The Christkind was created by Protestants.

The Cristkind is transformed from the suggestion of Baby Jesus, into a blonde angel. In Nuremberg each year, a teenage girl is chosen to represent the Christkind in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  In Nuremberg, she is known as the Nürnburger Christkind and, much like with St Nicholas (Father Christmas), children take pictures with her and tell her what presents they would like. This has been a tradition since 1969.

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It really doesn’t matter what age you are, or even if you’re a Grinch at Christmas. I don’t believe that you can not feel an overwhelming sense of magic. You were surrounded by Christmas tradition everywhere you looked.

 

 

Now to go over a few of my absolute favourite things from the Christkindlmarkt. Firstly, the tree decorations. I’m one for tradition when it comes to Christmas, and the Nutcracker isn’t very big in England, so couldn’t resist getting a Nutcracker soldier tree decoration and freestanding figure for beneath the tree.

Secondly, Lebkuchen. This is a sweet gingerbread flavoured cookie that hails from Nuremberg. I honestly could have eaten these all evening, every evening. They are only available over the festive period, so I made sure I had my fill.

Thirdly, another food item. You can see where my priorities are. “Drei im weckla”. Which translates to “three in a role”.

 

 

This extremely tasty signature sausage of Nuremberg, which includes peppercorns, spiced garlic and marjoram, has been awarded the European Union’s highest cultural food honour: Protected Geographical Indication. Meaning they can only ever truly be made in the city of Nuremberg.

After consuming all that the market had to offer, we parted company with Christian and Rebecca and headed back home. A truly wonderful evening, which was to be repeated all over again the next day.

Monday was to be my last full day in Nuremberg before I headed back to Munich for my flight home. Today Rebecca had kindly taken time from University to show me around the city.

What better way to take a break from all the exploring, than at a cat cafe! These 6 little cuties played and slept whilst Rebecca and I had a drink. Not sure Paula wanted me to stroke her, regardless, I was having a great time!

 

After recovering our energy, Rebecca took me to the Nuremberg castle. It’s a good job we had a break, because the hill was steep. But the views at the end were well worth the climb!

After the castle visit, we made our way down the hill towards the Christmas market, for more food and Christmas present shopping! In the market square stands the Schönner Brunnen (beautiful fountain), one of Nuremberg’s many famous fountains. On the railing surrounding the fountain lives a golden ring, which is said to bring you good luck if you turn it three times anti-clockwise. So of course, that’s what I did.

 

For dinner that evening, Rebecca took me to a lovely little restaurant that served food famous from this region of Germany. It was so tasty, beef with dumplings and red cabbage. Washed down with a dark German beer. Then came my last wander around the Christkindlsmarkt, of which I’ll definitely be returning.

 

 

So came my last day of my ‘German Christmas Adventure’. Ahead of me this morning was a two-hour bus journey to Munich, where I’d spend the day exploring before my flight. Munich, of course, had a christmas market. But it wasn’t the same. It was so much more commercialised. The food however, was still yummy! Munich didn’t disappoint and turned out to be a very pretty and interesting city, including a shop that sold awesome cuckoo clocks.

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My time in Germany was now over, after spending four days being shown all things Christmas in Nuremberg and surrounding areas in Bavaria. I would definitely recommend a visit to Nuremberg, even if it’s not over the festive period.

Thanks Sabina, Rebecca and Christian. Can’t wait to share a Lebkuchen with you again!

 

If you enjoyed this post and now want to check out what all the fuss is about in Germany at Christmas, leave a like. Any questions? Comment below!

For more pictures from my travels, follow me on Instagram.

Ireland, My Wild Atlantic Way..

So came my next adventure, a 996km road trip down the west coast of Ireland. The drive is aptly named the “Wild Atlantic Way” and I can see why it’s ranked one of the best driving routes in the world. The views, as you’ll soon see, are stunning. So stunning they bordered on distracting and I found myself stopping to take in the scenery around me.

Day one brought along a mixture of excitement and mild stress. The flight went without a hitch, on time, great. Picking up the rental car was again sorted with no issue. Timing, it seemed was the thorn in my side. When originally planning this trip, it didn’t get dark until 6pm. When the light started to fade at half 3, it was a race to fit in as many picturesque stops as possible before I reached my first Airbnb.

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Carrigafoyle Castle as the light was slowly fading..

I’d flown into Shannon airport, which is just under half way down the West coast. On the first night I stayed in a lovely house not too far from the beautiful Banna beach, in a place called Ardfert. (Where I stayed on night one..) I’ll link all of the Airbnb’s I stayed in if you wish to follow my journey for yourself!

Day two I was up and about bright and early, wanting to make the most of the, what seemed good weather. As the drive reached it’s first hour, the weather didn’t fancy being kind. Mist, drizzle and a chill in the air. Good job I was driving and not hiking! One of the more picturesque stops I made on day two was at Slea Head.

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As you can see, the weather looked awful. But with the road hugging the coast so tightly, it didn’t matter. If you love driving, you HAVE to drive the “Wild Atlantic Way”.

It’s for views like this that make the crappy weather totally worth it. I must admit, it didn’t improve throughout day two until I reached the destination of (Where I stayed on night two..). It was a little town called Caherciveen. I was hosted by the most wonderful lady. Her name was Uschi. She was full of stories of her travels around Europe, her time in Ireland and her dreams of opening a rock cafe for the language students and local children that live in the town. In the evening we went to a local pub and watched the Ireland vs Denmark World Cup qualifier. The atmosphere was fantastic after Ireland scored in the first five minutes. The end result however, 1-5 to Denmark dampened the spirits a little. But still a very enjoyable time was spent in Caherciveen.

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Day three was welcomed with open arms. As was the sunshine that came with it. My first stop of the day was at Ballinskelligs castle. This was one of my favourite locations, not only because I got some great snaps of the castle, but I felt like a kid again, scrambling up the stairs and across the top walls. Fun fact about most of the castles in Ireland. When the English invaded, the inhabitants of the castles actually took to destroying their once were homes, in a sort of “if we can’t have it, neither can you” attitude.

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Where I stayed on night three.. was in a beautiful spot. Near to the town of Glengarriff, but a steady 15 minute drive round amazingly windy and narrow roads made the stay there even more fun. The accommodation was in a plush loft. With a big screen tv and a heap of DvD’s too choose from. Cool Runnings was one of the choices, obviously I couldn’t turn down a watch of that classic!

Day four was, for location reasons, my most anticipated day. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The gem of the day would be Mizen head, but we’ll get that in a bit. As I drove down the West coast, I met lots of interesting people. Mainly in pubs to be quite honest. I got chatting with an older gentleman about where I’d visited and he started telling me about the 4 different types of tomb that once existed in Ireland. Here is a brief description and history behind the four different types.

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This is the Altar Wedge Tomb

My drive continued very South and a bit West. So much so that my next location was to be the most South-Western point in the whole of Ireland. Mizen Head. Now when it comes to the top spots of outstanding natural beauty, obviously somebody has put a gate there. This said gate was shut, being “out of tourist season”. Luckily me being a giant, I had no issue hopping over and continuing the path down to this view. I hadn’t travelled all that way to be denied the chance to sit on the cliff top and watch the world go by. I even saw three seals playing in the calmer waters back around the headland!

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Mizen Head, the most South-Western point in Ireland..

I wasn’t finished there. After a beef in Guinness stew for lunch in a local pub and a little top up of fuel I was back on the road to my next destination. Baltimore. Not much happens here, just another little coastal harbour. But the views were stunning, as was the sunset.

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A short climb up a hill and over some rocks led me to this next picture. It was such a relaxing spot, sat watching the waves crash against the rocks. It gave me a good excuse to try out my camera in some different settings. As I was leaving, a wedding party turned up for a photoshoot. I can’t name them for choosing this location, it was magical.

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After all the excitement of the day it was time to head to (where I stayed on my fourth night..). This time it was a beautiful farmhouse, in the County Cork countryside. I always love turning up at Airbnb’s, you never know what you’ll find. This time I was accompanied by this adorable trio, who’s names escape me. Although, the one on the right is nick-named Churchill. I think we can all see why!

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Onto day five. “I wasn’t ready for my adventure to end”, I thought to myself, then remembered I still had a whole day of exploring to do. My first location of the day was only a 5 minute drive from where I stayed.

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It was called Drombeg stone circle and is said to be the second best example of a druid stone circle behind the famous Stone Henge. I get an odd feeling whenever I visit ancient places like these. To imagine what it would have been like at the time of building this structural feat. To stand where others had done over 1000 years ago, puts things into perspective a little, but at the same time saddens me. To think back then the world was a much purer and healthier place. No factories making harmful plastics, no chance of global warming coming from anywhere but the geothermal activity created by the planet itself. I’d have loved to have witnessed that planet.

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My next location on my drive allowed me back in time again. Timoleague Abbey, still used as a burial site to this day, although you have to question its structural integrity. Renovation work is being undertaken to repair outside walls. You can still walk around the collapsed halls of the Abbey, visiting the library, common rooms, chapel and garden areas. Standing in absolute silence, you can try to picture what it must have been like when in use.

Lunch time coincided with my next location and a 45 minute drive to get me there. The Old Head of Kinsale. Someone had a clever idea and decided to build a private golf course of the tip of the headland, so that’s no longer accessible for everyone to enjoy. Although there’s not a bad view from the cliffs that look out to the tip of the headland. The glare from the sun was so bright, I genuinely couldn’t get a decent picture. But I did manage to get one of just how turquoise the water looked.

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The weather was coming over grey and the wind was picking up. I didn’t care, sat tucking in to my lunch and watching a seal bob around in the calm waters. One of my Airbnb hosts described them as “dogs of the sea” and I can see why. Their brown speckled heads and long whiskers really do show some similarities from a distance.

This was to be my last stop before my drive to Cork city where I would spend my last evening. I sat contemplating the journey I had taken and how incredibly lucky I had been to see all these amazing places. Then I started thinking about adventures to come and whether I’d ever come back this way. I think I will, most definitely. It’s a beautiful part of the world. Great people, great food and a great craic.

I’ll leave you now with a picture from my favourite location on my Wild Atlantic Way drive. A sunset view from the Baltimore beacon. I wandered around this spot for near on an hour, watching the waves crash against the rocks. A wedding party even turned up to do a photo shoot. Who can blame them?

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Thanks a million, Ireland.

If you have enjoyed. reading all about my wandering along the Wild Atlantic Way, be sure to give this post a like. if you’re interested, why not check out my post from when I visited Morocco. Marrakech, a foodie’s rooftop tour. I’ll be soon heading out to Nuremberg to visit some friends. They’ll be showing me how Germany does Christmas, with their traditional markets and I can’t wait.

To see some more pictures from my wanderings so far, check out my Instagram on the side of this page. I also have a Gallery where I put all my favourite pictures from my 2017 wandering.

 

 

 

Ireland Planning and a quick look to Nuremberg..

With my Wild Atlantic Way road trip down the West coast of Ireland is only five days away, it’s time to get excited.

This will be my first road trip outside of England. I’ll be spending five nights in five different locations on my journey, all seemingly as beautiful as each other. This trip will be a perfect mixture of escaping the real world and getting amongst the great outdoors, whilst giving me an excellent opportunity to practice my ever-growing love for photography. Especially landscapes, which the West coast of Ireland will provide a stunning bounty of I’m sure.

This is said to be one of the best roads in the world to drive, the rugged and forever changing scenery providing the ultimate compliment along your journey. Travelling in November I’ll be lucky to get perfect weather for much of the trip, but that’s what makes for part of the adventure.

Wild Atlantic Way

 

A look ahead to Nuremberg..

Finally, Nuremberg is booked. This is a trip I’ve been planning for many years now, even before I had the bright idea of seeing more of the world. I’ll be visiting and staying with some family friends during my time there. I cannot wait to experience the famous Christkindlesmarkt, the food and drink, the decorations and the atmosphere scream traditional Christmas.

I’ll also be attending my first German football match with my friend Becca’s boyfriend, Christian, to see the mighty Nuremberg FC take on SV Sandhausen. Back in September, Christian accompanied my father and I to watch the team I support, Plymouth Argyle. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the result we wanted, losing 3-0. Hopefully I don’t bring any bad luck!

This trip will see my travels come to an end for 2017. But I can assure you of lots more to come in 2018. Keep an eye on my Destination Checklist to see which exciting destinations  I have planned.

To follow me on my travels along the Wild Atlantic Way, be sure to follow me on Instagram where I’ll be posting daily updates on my story!

 

 

 

Pictures credited to..

http://www.thewildatlanticway.com/

http://www.br.de/franken/inhalt/kultur/2013-christkindlesmarkt-nuernberg-100.html

http://inishowenindo.ie/2014/01/e400000-spent-wild-atlantic-way-signs/

Autumn in a nutshell..

A month has now passed since the wonder of Marrakech and the summer is well and truly behind us. Autumn is in full swing and it’s being welcomed with opened arms. The trees seem to compete against one another for the best set of colours before they give up for another year. There was always a magic about autumn growing up. Conker wars, chestnut collecting, Halloween and bonfire night.

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This picture was taken on a walk near to my grandparents house. I have probably walked this route nearly a thousand times (no exaggeration). The ever-changing seasons paint a different picture each year. Autumn’s picture is my favourite.

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Next year I’ll hopefully be visiting Canada for the first time. Autumn, or Fall as they call it  out there, look absolutely incredible. It also coincides with the beginning of the ice hockey season. Winning! Walking through wooded forests surrounded by massive golden and red maple leaves, possibly spotting a couple of bears foraging for their winter supplies is the dream.

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Whist on these Autumn adventures, my mind turns to my upcoming travels overseas. Next month I’ll be driving part of Ireland’s west coast, along the wild Atlantic way. This is said to be one of the most picturesque drives in the whole world. Having that sense of escape and being at one with the natural world is something I live for. Hopefully the weather will allow for some photography practice! I’ll be driving from Shannon, down the coast towards Cork. I wanted to do something other than the traditional Dublin visit, going to the Guinness distillery and wearing a shamrock hat.

 

If you missed what I got up to last month in Marrakech, check it out here!

To keep up with all my travels, visit my Instagram.

 

Marrakech, a foodie’s rooftop tour

Anywhere I visit, one of the first things that enters my mind is usually whether the local cuisine will be any good. Marrakech certainly didn’t disappoint. It offered a flavour road trip, with traditional sweet and savoury tagine and cous cous options to try. Many of the restaurants and cafe’s offered a Mediterranean twist to their menu, if you weren’t feeling  the local options 100% of the time. We ate at as many different places as we could, to try to get a real sense of what was on offer.

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Our first stop was a lunch time visit to (apologies if the spelling is incorrect) Cafe Fes Bab Fetouh, which is literally just off the North East side of the Djemaa El Fna square. Something you’ll realise when searching for places to eat in Marrakech, they always look so much nicer from the inside. It just so happened that 95% of the places we ate at had a rooftop balcony. The menu here was traditional, simple and tasty. Another handy tip with this place is that we used it as a point of reference for navigating our way in and out of the souks.

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Location 6/10 Menu 6/10

For dinner on the Monday, we visited a real gem of a place called Cafe Kif Kif. Which is also the only place we ate at twice. Cafe Kif Kif is in a fantastic location, just outside of Djemaa El Fna with an incredible view of the Koutoubia Mosque. Inside, the decor is traditional with rugs and African art adorning the walls. The food here was really good quality, for a nice price too. The second time we returned we had chicken tagine, which came with prunes and roasted almonds.

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Location 8/10 Menu 8/10

Tuesday 19th

After realising Marrakech had some amazing places to eat, we did a little research on where we should visit next. When it came to lunch on Tuesday, we were prepared. After a relaxing walk around La Jardin Secret, which I’ll feature in the follow-up post, we headed to the near by Atay Cafe. This cafe had 3 floors to choose from. Obviously, we opted for the rooftop.

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Incredible views over the Medina.

The views from this cafe were stunning. It gave a view over the Medina, with a welcome breeze and quiet escape. The location was incredible, now for the food. We chose the beef tagine, which was cooked to perfection. This was washed down with some freshly squeezed orange juice.

 

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Location 8.5/10 Menu 8.5/10

Dinner that night was eagerly anticipated, having booked a table at the popular Nomad restaurant. Nomad is the featured picture for this post! This place was amazing, relaxed, breezy, modern yet a real sense of traditional values oozed through the service. This is a little more expensive than some other restaurants, but well worth it. The highlight of the meal for me was the chocolate and date sponge cake. If you visit Nomad you have to try it!

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Perfection!

Nomad is very polar with tourists, we enjoyed a natter with a couple of friendly British holiday makers on the table next to us, one of them took our advice and went for the date cake! We stayed there for the sunset, it all turned very pretty.

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Location 8.5/10 Menu 8.5/10

Wednesday 20th

Now we were really getting the hang of things, almost immediately after returning from dinner on Tuesday, we were researching the lunch location for Wednesday. Cafe Des Espices would be our lunch spot of choice. This one was a cracking location, overlooking a busy square.

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Location 9/10 Menu 8/10

Another nice point to make is that Cafe Des Espices has water mist spraying in intervals to cool you down in the hot sun. Just the thing you need to help tackle a tagine! Most of the decent restaurants in Marrakech have straw sun hats with the name of the place sewn in to them. Thought i’d model one..

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I think it suits me? Ha!

On to dinner. Now I must admit my travelling companion Imi did the majority of the foodie research, but this next one was a great shout by me. Looking like a normal building from street level, a steep flight of stairs takes you into a seemingly normal looking restaurant. Up another two flights and onto the rooftop is where Cafe Guerrab steals the show.

 

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Location 10/10 Menu 9/10

It was breathtaking. An amazing view of the Djemaa El Fna, a mosque towering above the landscape on each side and all to ourselves. We went for a set menu, 3 courses. For me, this was the best beef tagine of the trip. The flavours of the sauce and the sweetness of the sultanas really made this dish stand out from the crowd. We stayed at Cafe Guerrab late into the evening, long enough to hear the last call to prayer of the day. What an experience. Each of the mosque’s striking into tuneful prayer within minutes of each other. It was almost as if they were competing to go one better than the next.

Thursday 21st 

The last full day of the trip. We had to pull something special out of the bag to top what we’d experienced so far. That is exactly what we did. Lunchtime came around, after a morning of haggling in the souks. The location we chose was a little elusive, managing to get us a tangled in the narrow streets before we eventually found it. Behind the red clay walls of the alley lay Le Jardin. A beautifully presented wall garden in the center of a Riad. The food was as good as the decor. I opted for something other than tagine and it didn’t disappoint.

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Location 9/10 Menu 8/10

There was a real sense of calm and tranquility. Birds chirped and played in the cool breeze within the high riad walls. There was even some reptilian life, as we were joined by this delightful little guy. We first noticed we had company when he bumped into Imi’s foot on his way round the restaurant floor.

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On a mission!

The last supper. The creme de la creme. This meal has to be up there with my top three dining experiences ever. Restaurant Pepe Nero is where we enjoyed our last evening in Marrakech. What a find. Admittedly, it’s not in the most tourist friendly part of the Medina, a ten minute walk East of the Djemaa El Fna. But once you arrive, you’re made to feel like royalty. We didn’t have a reservation, but luckily they accommodated us with open arms. Unfortunately I do not have any photographic evidence of how amazing this place was internally. A crystal blue pool ran through the first room, with lime trees standing guard around an elegant mosaic fountain in the main dining room. Next to our table was a wall fountain, cascading into a tiled pool of blue and green, creating a memorizing reflection on the wall.

Location; (Externally 6/10) Internally 10/10 Menu 11/10

We both went for the roast duck with orange glaze and sauteed potatoes for main, following a starter of Norwegian salmon cake for me. I can’t quite recall what Imi had specifically, but it involved aubergines and looked delicious. Desert was hands down the best lemon pie I’ve ever eaten. Such a tart, refreshing flavour with a beautifully crisp pastry base. Imi went for an incredibly rich chocolate sponge pudding, which I helped polish off. This was also the only time in Marrakech we had alcohol. I think obtaining the licence to sell it comes with a nice price.

Friday 22nd

Friday was sadly our last day, so for lunch that day we returned to the nearest of the cafe’s to our riad. Cafe Kif Kif. We both went for the chicken tagine, which came highly recommended from Imi after our first visit back on Monday evening.

CLOSING THOUGHTS..

If you love food and have a thirst for new flavours and cuisines, Marrakech is definitely worth putting on your destination checklist. I was hesitant prior to the trip, hoping I’d like the tagines, kebabs and cous cous. I loved them all. With each cafe/restaurant giving a simple dish their own unique take. Every tasty dish deserves a refreshing drink to wash it down. Something that screams stereotypical Marrakech is fresh orange juice. It’s everywhere and rightly so. Most restaurants and cafe’s serve it up for anywhere between 12-20 dh, but you can pick up a glass from a stall on the Djemaa El Fna for only 4 dh.

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TOP TIP!

Download an offline version of the Medina area on google maps before you head out. You’ll find it extremely useful when navigating through the souks to get to all these places.

 

If you have enjoyed this post, please leave a like and a comment with any questions! For more pics from the trip, visit my Instagram! ↓↓↓

Planning for Marrakech

A week to go, it’s come around very quickly. It only seems like a couple of weeks ago I was trekking across the top of Durdle Door in blazing thirty degree heat. I can expect heat in Marrakech too, with a medley of culture to dizzy the senses. The colours, smells and sights all blend into one to create this hectic awesomeness.

 

We’ll be staying in a traditional little Riad, I’ll post up pics in my write-up. The breakfast balcony has a stunning view out to the Atlas Mountains, which hopefully won’t be blocked by telephone cables! We decided that five days was enough to soak up the atmosphere of the place, I can imagine too much longer would start to become a sensory overload.

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The view from our balcony

There will be a couple of places of interest outside the hustle and bustle of central Marrakech too. One of which will be the tranquil setting of the Jardin Majorelle which was purchased by Yves Saint Lauren in 1980 and restored into the serene garden and museum that stands today.

Majorelle Jardin

I’m a massive foodie too, so cannot wait to get in and around the souks and try all the flavours they have to offer! I’ve heard that taking pictures can be quite a challenge in and around the souks and main square, market sellers asking for donations to have their wares photographed. Fair enough I guess, so I’ll have to try my best to document it.

So, sun cream and spices here we come.

3 days in Dorset..

Summer is well and truly here. Well, it was whilst I visited Dorset, with day time temperatures staying at around 28°c. Sun cream was on the agenda, along with ice cream of course. I would be camping during my time in Dorset. No better way to take in the sea breeze and feel at one with nature. My Dad joined me on this wandering. Any excuse for a break away!

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Sunday – 

Arrival day. We set off fairly early, wanting to avoid any traffic, which we nearly achieved until we reached Weymouth, then it was every car for itself. I think everyone were all heading for the beach. We were off to Charmouth beach, home of the Dorset Ichthyosaur. The best time for fossil hunting is in winter, after storms have collapsed parts of the cliff to reveal fresh clay, full of trilobites, belemnites and ammonites. The latter of which I managed to find an okay specimen.

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Despite it’s relatively small size, around an inch in diameter, it was still a fairly well-preserved ammonite. A couple of hours had passed and my eyes had started to tire due to staring at rocks all morning. Time for a swim. The water was so calm and blue, you’d mistake it for somewhere in the Mediterranean if it weren’t for the pebbles rather than sand.

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The sun had finally taken its toll. Time for an ice cream and a coastal drive to our first campsite. By the time the tent was pitched, the intense heat of the day had passed. The addition of a gentle breeze was welcomed with open arms. What’s on the menu for dinner I hear you ask? Traditional camping grub. Hotdogs, along with a big bag of kettle chips and a cool salsa dip. As the sun set on the end of the first day, I thought ahead to the coastal path climb from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. Would it be as hot as today? Yes.

Monday – 

The day began early. Waking up to sound of birds performing their morning chorus. We were up and about, tent packed up and ready for the day. Already I knew it was going to be a hot one. On the checklist today was Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. Somewhere I hadn’t visited since I was a child.

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Lulworth Cove!

This part of the Dorset coastline has a really interesting geological history. This rock formation is known as the “Stair Hole” and was formed where layers of soft and hard rock meet. One erodes faster than the other creating these arches in the rock.

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Leaving Dad on the beach, not fancying the walk in the heat, I set off up the steep coastal path towards Durdle Door. Temperature was now a cool 29°c. I took my time on the walk, savouring all the views along the way. On the dusty path I passed groups of excited school children, clearly not bothered about the geography of the area. Who can blame them? What’s more exciting than being on a trip with a beach involved? Resisting the urge for an ice cream from a hill-top cafe, I soldiered on. When it felt like I’d never reach it, it appeared.

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I hope you get a sense of scale from the picture. The tourists look like ants!

Not wanting to burn to a crisp in the heat of the day, I headed back towards Lulworth Cove for a swim and some lunch. On arrival, I found dad bobbing around in the clear blue water. As quickly as I could remove my shoes, I was in too. The Cove is so calm. All that can be heard was the sea lapping the shore, along with the occasional bark of a mischievous dog.

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The afternoon was spent in and out of the water, in the shade of the chalky cliff that towered over the beach. Fish and chips and a honeycomb ice cream finished the afternoon off nicely. Time to pitch the tent at the second campsite, which so happened to be conveniently located near the cliff top of Durdle Door. No excuses to not head there for sunset. That’s exactly where I went. A perfect excuse to continue practicing with my, still relatively new camera.

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What an end to another amazing day.

As I walked the winding path back towards the campsite, I thought ahead to other sunsets I’ll encounter this year. In Morocco, with the Atlas Mountains as a back drop and in Kerala, India, a tropical beach. “How lucky”, I thought to myself.

Tuesday – 

My last day in Dorset. Another day of sun. Corfe Castle was on the agenda, before lunch in a small coastal town called Swanage. With the temperature not showing any signs of cooling, we didn’t fully visit the castle, to allow us to head home a little earlier and beat the rush hour traffic. Still, from what we saw of the castle, I can imagine living in the little village of Corfe, it’s not a bad view to wake up to.

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What to do when visiting Corfe Castle

From there, we wound our way down the little country roads towards Swanage. Again, a place I hadn’t visited in over 15 years. We wandered along the seafront, taking in the smell of the sea and watched the boats come and go into the harbour. Swanage doesn’t look like much when you first arrive, but make sure you explore all the little side streets. That’s where all the neat shops are, like a vintage record store. Dad found great pleasure reminiscing with the owner about “when music was good”.

We found a nice little spot for fish and chips, watching the seagulls fighting over a crab one of them had caught in the low tide. On the way back to the car, we passed a wall with mosaic art. Each year there is a competition and the winners design is turned into a public display.

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If you’re planning on visiting Britain, or you already live here and are stuck for ideas of places to visit. Dorset is definitely worth considering. Ideally, you’d like a week here to explore it properly, but hopefully I’ve given you a little insight on my 3 day tour.

Next up for me is a long weekend in Amsterdam with a couple of friends in July! If you want to see some more pictures from my Dorset wandering, or any of my other adventures, be sure to follow me on Instagram.  Or to read what I’ve been up to, head over to my posts page, Where’s Nick Now?

 

 

A view to a grill..

The warmer evenings are finally upon us, it can only mean one thing. Fire and food. Every summer I come up to this spot for a little (controlled) fire. This time I was with a couple of mates, armed with burgers.

As the flames slowly charred the wood, burning it down to embers, it was time to start cooking. Bear Grylls would be proud. The burgers sizzling away, in proper BBQ style as the flames lapped at them, giving them a smokey flavour. The only thing that dampened our spirits was the lack of ketchup. We’ll know for next time. They tasted alright, what do you think?

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Golden brown..

The food was gone, time to appreciate the sunset. Evening walkers came and went as they gazed upon the setting sky. With the tunes playing, we stoked the fire for some heat. As the sun set, the flames grew higher. Luckily, we didn’t fall in to the burning ring of fire.. (I couldn’t resist!) These are the times in life to just relax and think. Appreciate everything we have and think upon the good times to come.

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These are the chilled evenings with friends we look back on and remember. Toasty and contented, I started to look ahead to my up coming trips. The heat and madness of Marrakech and the chill and magic of the Nuremberg Christmas market. Good times ahead indeed and I can’t wait to share those experiences with you. This blog was started with the intention of documenting my adventures. But also to help share from my travels. Who knows, some of you may find some stuff interesting and helpful in your own travelling lives!

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They gave me permission to use this, so I’m in the clear. Thanks for a great evening guys, same time next week?

Be sure to follow me on Instagram to see more pictures from my wandering!

What’s planned for the rest of 2017?

So the idea of seeing more of our wonderful planet came to me half way through the year. This post will be all about my planned destinations I’m going to visit before the year is out! I have 6 destinations in mind and can’t wait to visit them, then share them with you.

JULY – AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam

So we’ll kick off with somewhere I’ve been before, but this time I’m going to do it properly. This time I plan to sample everything Amsterdam has to offer. Wonderful food and drink options, such as salted herring, waffles galore and of course, the beer! I’ll visit the botanical gardens, the coffee shops, the museums and completely engross myself in the culture. Also, this will be the first time I’ll be visiting in high summer, so a lazy afternoon canal boat tour will be on the agenda!

AUGUST – DUBLIN

Dublin

Wanting to really explore all the UK has to offer, Dublin has been on my list of places to visit for a while. I’ll be trying to cram in all the city has to offer in 3 days. Ireland has so much to giev and will definitely be exploring it more in the future, but Dublin will be a good taster. I’ll be visiting the Guinness Storehouse, the name says it all really. Temple Bar, one of Dublin many famous pubs. Trinity College Library, which might not sound exciting but wait for the pics! Dublin castle and the botanical gardens will also be on the checklist.

SEPTEMBER – MARRAKECH

Marrakech

It’s going to be a hot one. 4 days of exploring in and around Marrakech. I’ve heard the best way to really enjoy this city is to get completely lost among the souks and market squares. I’m a real foody, so this trip will be a flavour sensation. Visiting various palaces and places of religious significance will be on the list. Architecture in Marrakech is something to really appreciate. Hopefully I’ll hop on a camel, time permitting!

OCTOBER – CORNWALL

St michael's mOUNT

Cornwall has a fond place in my heart. Many family holidays have been spent down at the bottom of England. So this time I’ll be undertaking a road trip. I’ll start in Padstow, an amazingly picturesque seaside town. I’ll spend the day on a nearby beach, Constantine Bay. My tent will serve as accommodation that night, before an early rise of the way down the east coast towards St Ives. This is a place my dad spent many summers as a child, so exploring the streets and soaking up the sun will be on the agenda. That night will be spent in a little BnB on the seafront.

From there, I’ll wind my way across the county, and make my way up the west coast through Mevagissey, towards St Austell where I’ll visit the Eden Project. The final day will be spent in and around Plymouth, where I’ll hopefully catch Plymouth Argyle FC play, my team!

 

NOVEMBER – INDIA

INDIA

This is the big trip of 2017. I’ll be spending 8 days in Southern India, travelling through the tropical backwaters from Kochi to Varkala. India has never been a country that, prior to a bit more research, appealed to me all that much. But having seen a couple of YouTube travel documentaries on the southern part of the county, I fell in love. It looks stunning. I’ll be staying in various family/group accommodation along the journey, learning local traditions and visiting stunning beaches. This is the big trip of the year and cannot wait to share it with you!

DECEMBER – GERMANY

MUNICH

Another country I’ve been meaning to visit for a number of years. We have family friends that live in Nuremberg, so I’ll start my 4 day adventure there. The train will take me up to Munich where I’ll be spending the next 3 days exploring. Germany in December is all about the Christmas markets. I am so excited for the food and drink, which will become apparent are big things in my life! I’ll be taking part in a walking tour, soaking up the rich history of Munich’s past.

 

So, that’s the roundup of what’s to come in 2017. Destinations may switch months, as plans are forever changing. But I think that will be the plan. The next 6 months will be the birth of this blog and hopefully, you’ll like what you read! More pics from my adventures will be up on my instagram page.. nickgoeswandering, so be sure to give it a like to see what I’m up to!

 

Surrey County Show – 2017

It’s that time of the year again. The Surrey County Show. Ever since I was little I can remember waiting each year for the show to come around. To visit all the animals, see the old farm machinery and eat as many sweets as I could before I felt ill. As the years have passed, the enthusiasm for the show is still there. So here is a little taste of the show and what goes on.

 

Something I now really appreciate watching are the bullock and cow judging events. Months of preparing these amazing beasts for size and coat health, all comes down to this event. Some will be sold on as prime breeding stock, others to private collections. All I know is, it’s taken VERY seriously.

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I think number 1215 won the 1st place rosette. He had a certain swagger about him.

 

It’s not just cattle that are competing at the show. Everything from sheep, pigs and goats of all sizes. Usually chickens too, although this year due to the avian influenza outbreak over the Christmas period they were not at this years show. Better to be safe than sorry.

Chickens off the agenda, birds of prey had their time to shine. This year saw the addition of some more exotic species, like this vulture!

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Every year birds of prey make an appearance, taking part in live displays that captivate the crowds. Swooping low overhead in search of a meaty treat. Without fail, there’s always that one stubborn bird that decides the top of a nearby oak tree is much more entertaining.

Birds are known performers, given there is a reward at the end of it. Would you believe me if I told you sheep are no different? No, they don’t fly. They dance!

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This crazy Aussie, a sheep shearer now based in the south of England is a crowd favourite at the show each year with his routine. Essentially the act is a selection of fancy sheep breeds of the British Isles and abroad, that dance. I use the term “dance” very loosely. They move back and forward and tap their hooves in time, sort of, to music. Still, it’s always very amusing when one misbehaves.

It draws in all sorts of celebrities.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my little ramble about the show. I’ll try to add these little day trips to the blog in-between the big adventures abroad.

Be sure to check out my Instagram to see what else I got up to at the show!

4 Days in The Lake District..

This was the beginning. The beginning of my time in The Lake District, but also the beginning of seeing more of the world. Where better to start than one of England’s most loved national parks. The trip would last 4 days, Monday to Friday, so I knew it would be difficult to cram lots in. Especially when walking and even more tricky when the weather wasn’t on my side!

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Monday – 

I set off, not at the crack of dawn but early enough to miss nearly all of the rush hour traffic. My journey was last around five and a half hours, so was well prepared with snacks and drinks. My intention was to visit Castlerigg Stone Circle on the way to where I was staying in Manesty, but the weather was so awful, I couldn’t get out of the car without being instantly drenched. “We’ll leave that for the return journey” I thought to myself.

Still with high enthusiasm, not letting my spirits be defeated by the worsening weather, I greeted my hosts Alan and Cheryl, who ran me through all there was to know about the Shepherds Hut I would be calling home for the next three nights. Alan’s family have lived in Manesty for six generations, so he naturally oozed with excitement describing the best “walks from the door”, along with places to eat and where to see the most wildlife.

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After we had chatted, they left me to unpack and settle in. As you can see, there wasn’t much room in the hut. But it felt just right, just enough to escape and enjoy the great outdoors. Time for a cup of tea and a browse of the walking routes Alan had left me. By the time I’d had a quick flick through, the rain had considerably slowed. Enough for a wander, so on went my water proof clothes and off I went for a wander round Manesty Woods.

Manesty is at the base of the Catbells Fell and after a 15 minute walk through Manesty Woods you reach the south shore of Derwent Water. Regardless of the weather, the views were stunning. Realising I’d not eaten a substantial meal, I headed off to the Borrowdale Hotel.

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On my return from the Borrowdale Hotel, the rain had started to come down hard, so hard that the river had burst its banks. The path to the left of the bridge in the picture above had flooded and with that being the ONLY PATH BACK to the shepherd’s hut, the boots and socks came off.

Once back, the log burner was lit and all was well. Arrival day was over.

Tuesday – 

As I pulled back the curtains to see what Tuesday had in store, It was unsurprisingly raining. My intention was to hike the Catbells Fell, and that is what I did. Because it was horrific weather, the camera didn’t make an appearance. But for perspective, this is where I was hiking in such awful conditions.

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Although I couldn’t take any pictures of the view looking down on Derwent Water, it was still a great experience and sense of achievement on reaching the top. Whether it’s the Catbells or another fell, I’ll definitely be hiking up another one in the future.

Not wanting to let the weather defeat me, I dried off and hopped in the car and headed for Ashness bridge, a spot that’s attracted photographers, professional and amateur alike.

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After I’d got some shots of the bridge, I headed off for some food at the Mary Mount Hotel, which looked out over Derwent Water. By 4pm, the weather had started to considerably improve, I think the sun even made an appearance. On the way back to Manesty, I stopped off and took a few photos of the journey.

After a positive second half to the day, I headed back to the hut to have a play around with editing some of the photos from the day. The forecast for Wednesday was sun, thank goodness.

Wednesday – 

Waking up to bright sunshine on Wednesday morning was such a refreshing feeling. Today I would walk the whole of Derwent Water, about 8 miles in total. My route would see my rise half way up the Catbells fell, to try to at least get some nice views over the lake.fullsizeoutput_62

So, the circuit of Derwent Water had begun. I’ll now just post some pics of the journey round..

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Thursday – 

The weather continued to be kind on my last morning, so I set off to find the Castlerigg Stone Circle I had sought out on the first day, only to be delayed by the weather. It’s like the Lake Districts version of Stone Henge..

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All in all, despite the crappy weather, which was embraced 100%, it was a fantastic trip. The location was perfect, the shepherd’s hut was all I needed for this little escape and Alan and Cheryl were wonderfully helpful. I must admit next time I would stay for at least an extra night, giving you some breathing space for activities if bad weather should strike.

Lake District – Done!

A Note From Abroad

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

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