Split was a way stop for us, overnight in a basic, charmless room but great a/c and comfy bed. Our next ferry wasn’t till 4pm so we had plenty of time to wander around Diocletian’s palace, some of which is rebuilt, the space used by tourist shops and a fabulous fresh food marketplace. Also Italian dresses but I resisted. The history of Croatia reminds me of the present war in Ukraine. Other countries have invaded and destroyed and the local inhabitants have rebuilt and kept their culture throughout.
Monday 3rd October
We took a ferry up the Croatian coastline to Trogir and stepped into a walled city, very small, transported in time as well as space. The town was first settled by Greeks ,third century, then Romans, Venetians and more. it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, There is no traffic inside the walls, the streets are for pedestrians. Alleyways remind me of Italy, one leads to our tiny square and balcony, much photographed because our artist host painted a Romeo and Juliet on the shutters!
Trogir itself is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage town, not least because of its magnificent cathedral which we spent hours in. The carvings are so intricate around the pillars and arches, dating from about 1248 AD. I can’t imagine how they did such fine work without modern tools. I think Gaudi may have been inspired by similar work when he designed the outside of Barcelona cathedral. We wandered around the town, found a cafe with views of the marina and the market for fruit. All fruit here tastes perfect, freshly picked. I prevailed on Pat to book another night.
In the evening we heard a male voice choir, no accompaniment, singing in glorious harmony, gave me goosebumps. There are so many places here with arched ceilings, perfect for music. some Croatian songs then Hallelujah. Bliss.
Wednesday 5th October
We were very slow to get going – again! Breakfast was cranberries, almonds , nectarines and pears from the market, biscuits and peppermint tea. Used the washing machine last night and hung teashirts from a line suspended between our balcony and the wall opposite! Loved the novelty. They dried overnight, luckily because they would have spoiled the tourists’ photos. We keep having to close the shutters for them! Tourist called up How old is this building? Me: Very old, we don’t live here, we’re tourists!
Walked along the promenade admiring the boats in the.marina and the cruise ships, not monsters but rather smart. We walked the other direction and found what they call a beach. A new concrete walkway, a pier to tie up to and a cafe. There were beach chairs and umbrellas on white gravel, not a regular pebble beach or sand. However it is all newly built and there’s a cafe. Coffee here is liquid gold, I’m addicted all over again!
Dinner was lasagne, freshly made (with a warning that it takes 25 minutes to make) and Greek salad with fresh feta. Local beer goes down well. Yum.
Tomorrow we head to Zaharia up the coast a couple of hours by bus.
The day started at 2.30 am! Phil was loading our bags into the car as we stumbled downstairs with the rest. He insisted on driving us, wouldn’t hear of getting a taxi, but that’s Phil. Bristol airport is now a major one, he said twenty flights were leaving around 6 am. It was bustling with white-faced , baggy eyed people, some with sleepwalking children.
There’s a shuttle bus to the Old Town of Dubrovnik and we sat back to enjoy the views along the corkscrew road winding down the mountain. There is no traffic allowed inside the walls, we walked through an ancient fortress gate into another century. The streets are paved with marble blocks worn smooth by many feet. Our room is up one of the narrow streets that rise from the main street in steep steps.
We took a walking tour and learned some of the history, this town has been defending itself for centuries! The Venetians from the Adriatic side and Serbs more recently. A huge earthquake almost destroyed the town hundreds of years ago and the residents rebuilt after all these assaults.
Found the market and bought fruit for breakfast, tubs of pomegranate seeds, grapes that exploded wth flavour. we feasted. Then found a bakery and ice cream shops were everywhere. We feasted again. Wandered the streets with hundreds of other tourists, getting our bearings. Decided we didn’t need to climb up to the city walls. The pharmacy has been operating in the same place since it was first built for herbal remedies. The ceiling is like a fresco, I actually gasped. We met the oldest cat, 18years, in her cardboard box outside the council offices. It is a city of cats, cared for because their ancestors killed the rats during the plague. The residents gave her a box but the mayor’s officers kept removing it until he received a petition signed by 1500 people, demanding that she be allowed to stay.
Saturday 1st October Fruit breakfast and peppermint tea, water in hot tap is fine! Pat wasn’t feeling well sore throat so back to the old pharmacy for lozenges. There was a gathering of people dressed for a wedding , gorgeous long gowns in silk and satin, wearing 10cm heels. The men were all in beautiful suits, quite a few patent shoes too,
We just had to stay for the bride to arrive. The guests arrived on foot, along with the usual tourists, mingling with guys hauling huge rubbish bins back and forth, quite a scene. The bride had an enormous white frothy train, like feathers a foot thick and three metres long. Perfect.
We caught the afternoon train from Exeter by a few seconds, traffic holdups and roadworks. It is becoming a habit. Couldn’t find our booked seats but it didn’t matter. Tickets are a QR code now, scanned by a conductor or not. The internet shows we paid. Countryside is lush green again, hard to believe it was suffering a drought only a few weeks ago. Whenever we go for walks I’m picking up conkers, my inner child still remembers. It’s an English thing, too hard to explain here. A kind of inedible chestnut used in a traditional game.
We were met by Phil and Suzie on the platform , the barriers were open. Didn’t recognise them at first. Phil’s beard is white and he has lost weight. Big hugs all round. He drove us home in the BMW, gorgeous car, one of his collection. He’s always loved cars.
Hilary was cooking, her hair is white too but the smile and hug are just the same. We talked and ate and swapped photos. She has gone back to watercolour painting, roses mainly and is still knitting beautiful jumpers.
They have finished renovating their extensive house, garages and garden. The place looks fantastic. Apple trees are laden and pear trees too. Deer come and munch on the windfalls. Suzie introduced Rocky the rabbit who I know through Instagram! He loves blueberries and banana treats and is quite a valued member of the family.
We visited Slimbridge the following day , a breeding sanctuary for endangered water birds, although there are lots of others who drop in for a free feed. The flamingoes were a healthy pink against the green background. Each pond or stream was connected by bridges we walked over and they paddled under.
The day after was much brighter and Phil took us to one of the canals that crisscross this country and are well used for recreation nowadays. They were built in the industrial revolution to transport goods on barges, long flat-bottomed boats. We walked along to the lock and saw one of the gates opening to let a boat through. The old mechanism works as well as it did two hundred years ago.
Had a great weekend with Jo and Bob, In a little village near Exeter. Jo and I have been best friends since we first went to teachers college, St Matthias in Bristol. Their house is white with a thatched roof and an old baker’s oven behind the fireplace. Jo cooked and we caught up on our news. We walked along the beach and talked, through the sand dunes still talking, their cocker spaniels loving the walk too. Bob produced all the vegetables for lunch and dinners in his allotment garden, I was Impressed by the variety he had, from potatoes to red peppers. Two days was barely enough after missing two years because of Covid.
After getting lost a few times , I was feeling quite good about taking the hire car back till we actually had to do it. We found the industrial estate and every type of car sales rooms, no car hire. We called them, and asked a man in a 2nd hand car yard and eventually found it. The logo of the hire company was tiny, beneath a huge sign of the umbrella company. We asked how we should get back to the town and we’re told, I can call you a taxi! Another 10 pounds. We will avoid the middleman next time.
It was nice to catch up with a friend from our time in Saudi. We were part of an amateur theatre company run on the American base there. Teri is still involved in theatre, we just enjoy attending plays nowadays. We’ll meet up with other friends from that time while we’re here. Being expats in such a different culture creates strong bonds!
We caught the train to Birmingham, impossible to get lost. Almost. Carriage J seats 40, 41. There was no carriage J. I asked a woman in uniform if it was the train to Birmingham and she assured me it was. As it was about to leave, we jumped on and sat in the first free seats.
An announcement informed us that the train had only five carriages instead of nine. They hadn’t told all the stations along the way. It was good to be met by my brother and whisked off to relax at his place. We have rested and walked to the local shops, rested some more, before heading to Devon tomorrow.
Leaving Betty was sad. She is 95 and fed up with old age . She rants against a medical system that is set on keeping people alive when they have to be dependent on others for so much. However she enjoyed having us to stay and sharing memories.
Drove most of the way north to Glasgow until we joined another motorway east to Edinburgh.
Pat and I went to Hadrians wall for a day out. We stopped to see a craft exhibition in a village church and I wondered how many people came to such a well hidden place. There were signs to a priory so we turned off the road again, this time to an English Heritage Trust historic building. It dated back to the 7th century! And . The arched ceilingssurvived until Henry V111 declared himself the Head of the church
. They were masters of stonework, awesome to think it has lasted so long, the arched ceilings are intact. I felt the atmosphere of peace and meditation in these ruins.
Hadrians wall is mostly a lot shorter than when it was built. Farmers over the years took the bricks and made their own walls. They are enormous chunks of stone , those soldiers were very fit. And engineered perfectly over the hills and valleys. Kind of like the Great Wall of China but on a smaller scale. Makes you wonder if our modern buildings will lastAs long, I suspect not.
Spent Monday morning in bed eating breakfast and watching the Queen’s funeral, feeling quite English and nostalgic.
Then drove to Edinburgh area to visit my aunt and uncle. Our booking was in a fairly grim street in Buckhaven but the room and ensuite were fine.
Got a bit disoriented again, the gps didn’t recognise their address, along several narrow country lanes.
Shelagh is also struggling with arthritis but we had a great chat. Freddie has dementia now and had gone to bed for a nap. My cousin Nick lives with them which enables them to stay there. Forgot to take photos.
Tuesday Awful noise outside just after 7, roadworks setting up.Left quickly, forgot to tell Shelagh and she rang when we were nearly at the Forth road bridge. GPS took us halfway back to Glasgow before we realised. We had punched in York. We had a long enjoyable drive through the Dales, James Herriot country . York was busy with tourists.
The cathedral, called a Minster, towers over the old streets, some from Shakespeares’s time. We spent hours in there and wandered along streets lined with black and white buildings, their upstairs leaning over the street like awnings, nearly touching the other side.
Reached York after roundabout journey over the dales.
Early morning it was not windy so we drove to Fenella beach in Peel, deserted at 7.30, to scatter Mum’s ashes in the waves. She and I scattered Dad’s there ten years ago and she wanted to be with him. I stayed till the tide turned and I knew she was finally laid to rest.
I visited Foxdale primary school at lunchtime to donate a copy of NUmber One Baby Dragon in memory of my dad who used to volunteer in the Reception class, listening to the children read and reading to them. I was so pleased to find the administrator was still there and remembered Dad. I read the story to them, tiny and only just starting school. They listened beautifully. I did Lara’s activity, turned them into baby dragons in their eggs, hatched out and they learned to fly and roar like the story. Fun for us all.
We had time to drive to Port Erin and visit the bookshop, and walk around the prom. Had a delicious Cornish pasty and coffee for a late lunch. The wind returned cold and blustery so no long walks today- all that was left to do was pack bags ready for the early morning ferry.
Friday 16th September The boat was full and we sat with a wagon driver, (truck/lorry) from Whitby Yorkshire, who chatted pretty much all the way, three hours. Once we had the hire car we set off to Kirkby Lonsdale, where I lived from age nine to thirteen. It is quite famous now as the gateway to the Lake District. It’s frozen in time, , the sweet shop in the square is the same as it was over fifty years ago! Great little cafe next door makes yummy cakes and coffee.
Drove through the fells, rolling hills, with hill sheep, off the motorway too early and got lost in Carlisle’s one way city centre roads. Belatedly occurred to me to use the gps, or at least try, and we escaped, arriving two hours late at my aunt Betty’s. She is 95 and got very worried, rang Stephen to find out where we were. Our uk phones ran out of credit and we couldn’t find anywhere to top up on the island. We were pretty stressed too ! She looks and sounds same as ever, shorter still than she was but it is painful for her to walk. However she had booked us into The Metal Bridge pub for dinner so off we went again. We fell into bed exhausted!
Sat 17th September
Betty really wanted us to stay another night but was happy for us to go out for the day. We decided to do a walk along Hadrians wall. En route we found an Art exhibition in a tiny tucked away village church, an ancient priory founded in 110 AD and closed by Henry V111 in the 1500’s. The arches and stonework were impressive structures.
Hadrian’s Wall which the Romans built to keep the pesky Scots out of England, is another impressive bit of stonework. The bricks are about three times the size of ours with bigger ones at gateposts and corners. They are so neatly cut in such straight lines. The wall is a lot smaller than it was because the local farmers used it to make their own walls around their fields once the Romans left.
Breakfast was loud with travel stories, these couples had been everywhere. Even Antarctica. I liked Karina, she was restrained and seemed shy, perhaps fed up with her chatty husband.
I called the funeral directors and asked to pick up Mum’s ashes. The Manon the other end spoke with the soft Manx accent, somewhere between Irish and Scots, or is it Scottish?
‘So how do you want them? Square box, urn, scatter?’
‘Oh, er, scatter please.’ We had to return at 1pm.. Shopped at the supermarket for provisions and find our self catering cottage in Glen Maye. It is classy, especially the fabrics, curtains and sofa cream with poppies, like my Gran’s only hers were roses. Then back to Peel. He appeared from the back of the office with a large cardboard canister, black with blue flowers. I signed to say they had been handed over and picked it up. It was surprisingly heavy. It felt like I was cuddling Mum and a sensation of peace flooded through me.
In the afternoon we drove to the bay Niarbyl which means Bay of the tail, for the rocks that look like a dragon’s tail, (my description), the best place to see sunsets and also storm watch. I scattered some ashes there in the waves and they washed away to join Dad’s. I told her we’ll scatter them in all their favourite places so she becomes part of them.
As we went down for breakfast I heard voices, other people already there,. I muttered to Pat, I hate being sociable before I’ve eaten. Two couples besides us, and our chatty host, all in the same age bracket as us. I had to eat my words along with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. We all had travelled quite a lot and our travels overlapped like Venn diagrams, an area of Maths I found to be an elegant system.
An hour or so later we split up, all going for different walks. Pat and I walked down Sunday-deserted village streets to the beach and set off on the coastal path north. The way was narrow, like sheep tracks, through thick bracken and blackberries, ripening and ready to pick. Ancient Forage food, juicy and refreshing. Some women we met were carrying bags bulging with fruit. We met a man from South Africa with who had applied for a job here and decided to stay. He had a Great Dane,
With clouds gathering we walked back along the road on a footpath barely wide enough for one person and felt the first drops of rain as we reached the edge of the village. Weather changes fast here
Peel castle dates back to Viking times.