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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

62006441If I felt more industrious this Sunday afternoon, I could easily list at least 50 things about this country that could come as revelations to newcomers and visitors, but it’s a lovely day and I’ve already put in time feeding birds, cleaning tenrec dens and picking up dog poop.

Funnily enough, the fact that people living here deal with such mundane things startles some who assume days on these lovely islands simply must be passed in sun-soaking, wallowing in the warm sea and strolling down sandy shores as birds sing and clouds drift overhead.

If only.

I’ve written before about the Disneyland mentality of some visitors and how annoying it can be when assumptions are made that we here are responsible for the weather and have nothing more important to do than make a holiday perfect, and new residents can be almost as exasperating in their giddiness at actually living in paradise.

“My toilet is broken. Do you know a plumber who’ll come out on a Sunday night?”

“I’ve been looking all over for authentic pork pies. Where can I find some?”

“The power’s gone out! What do I do?”

(The answers are, 1) No, 2) Yes. In England, 3) Hand wash the dishes … in the dark)

So … in an effort to help some stumble the Seychelles path (Watch out for potholes!) as they learn to negotiate their way around, here are 10 things to know about the country and the people who live here:

1) We don’t go to the beach nearly as much as you think. Often we choose to stay home, indoors, and do exciting things like laundry.

2) There are virtually no addresses. Although roads do have names, house numbers exist in only a very few areas, so if you are invited to visit someone’s home be prepared to take directions. You may want to write these down, as they’re complicated. For example: Turn left at the shop with half a mannequin by the door (a right turn will put you in the sea), drive up the road, pass the 5-to-10 guys sitting on a rock under a mango tree drinking, then look for a dirt track to the right just after the place where the road is white from squished breadfruit, etc.. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be going along a trail of spilled paint … which is helpful.

3)  When we do decide some beach time should happen, choosing a beach is done by committee. Not just any beach will do, even though they are all lovely, so much consideration goes into the choice. Micro-climate has us calling people who live on the other side or up north or down south to check if it’s raining. If it’s rough on the east coast, perhaps it’s calm on the west. If we’re bringing kids, the shallow or inside-the-reef options are taken into account. If snorkeling is desired, we all have our fav spots. If it’s a Sunday and we don’t want our meditative communing with nature disturbed by picnickers with a generator hooked to fridge-sized speakers blasting crap music to distortion … well … we know where to avoid.

4)  We use the airport as a pee stop.

5)  We swap entertainment … books, movies, TV shows … so if you have any, share.

6)  We are annoyed when there are more than 10 people on a beach.

7)  We get really excited by new products. This isn’t quite as big a thing these days, so we hardly ever, now, call all our friends when we find mushrooms or nice cheese in a shop, nor do we tend (as much) to buy up the whole stock of whatever to share out or hoard. We do, however, continue to be right chuffed at discoveries of rare or never-to-have-been-available-in-Seychelles items, and given how much shopping we do when overseas, it’s a given that there are a lot of things that fit the category.

8)  We ALWAYS have candles.

9)  People are as recognized by the number plates on their cars as they are by their faces. Driving someone else’s car can introduce you to a whole load of people you’ve never seen before. (And it is amazing how many people you’ve never seen before on this tiny island.)

10) Mahé is 17 miles long … Praslin and La Digue even smaller … yet the idea of driving to the far end of the island takes almost as much contemplation and preparation as a plane ride of 12,000 miles. I live in the south and get to Beau Vallon (in the north), on average, once every 2 years or so. Friends in the north visit me about as often. Meeting up in town used to happen, but that was before Victoria became a traffic and parking nightmare and options outside that hellish perimeter were available.

So … that’s it for today. Hope it helps.

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There’s no doubt I’m behind in this account of tootling, but will backtrack at sometime and tell all about London, Surrey, Gloucestershire, the fab peeps who hosted me and adventures encountered along the way. For now, however, it’s Dorset.

Dorset

Dorset


I lived in Bournemouth some years back, and this has been my first visit back to the area. Thankfully, one friend from that time is still in the area so a very enjoyable reunion has been happening this week. Martin is pretty much the only person I still speak to who knew me well throughout my time here, so being able to share thoughts has been a gift.
PrettyPlace
Martin and his husband, Ciaran, live in the village of Pimperne just outside of Blandford Forum, and with the luck of (mostly) glorious weather, walks in pretty places with their Westie, Boris, have been a hoot.
The Boys at Studland

The Boys at Studland


A day at the beach at Studland had Boris introducing us to dalmatians, poodles, spaniels of all persuasions, various herding dogs and the occasional manic pointer. There was even one Dogue de Bordeaux that was every bit as sweet and drool-producing as a Hooch should be.

A day out in Bournemouth provided proof that things change a lot in two decades, although the building whose top floor was my flat looks pretty much as it did. The price has gone up by about £100,000.00 since I sold it, so, yep, things are different.

Had a good time down the pub last night with a couple of Martin & Ciaran’s local friends and had a laugh with some of the young lads drinking around the snooker table. I was, however, surprised to see them walk out carrying two-pints-to-go containers. They weren’t driving, but it still seemed an almost New Orleans thing to happen.

Elves like us ...

Elves like us …

Since ’tis the season, we shopped for, then decorated, the boys’ Christmas tree, which was a hilarious venture with a good outcome. They’re all set for the holidays now with plans in place and the house tarted up in festive fashion so the clear sky and bright sunshine feel as Cris-cringley as a blanketing of snow.

No lasers handy ...

No lasers handy …

Ta-Daaaaaa!

Ta-Daaaaaa!

Heading off tomorrow and, as I have with everyplace I’ve visited this trip, I’ll miss the place and the people that make the world special.

Going no place, no how ...

Going no place, no how …

I doubt I’ll see another bin as secure as the one attached to the log at the bottom of the page again …

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CowThe drive from Cornwall was very pretty with hedgerows, sheep-covered hills, sea cliffs and such, and a bit of adventure when we were stopped by a farmer herding his cows down the lane and one … a very handsome, curly beast stopped to poke her head by the car window and say, ‘howdy’.

I’ve admittedly been a bit of a slug the past few days, so haven’t actually seen much of Paignton yet, but have until the end of the week to check out more than the view of the bay. It’s so comfy and warm here in Pat’s mum’s house, as it would be for a 92-year old who runs her own home in style.

Not often finding myself in the company of someone so intimately familiar with a Britain that’s now hard to find, it’s been fun hangin’ with Pauline. Her sense of humor is still well in place, and the fact that she does snarky so well … veddy, veddy British snark, of course … has had me cracking up. Pat’s dad had been a pilot with the RAF and Pauline an encoder in the WAF, so she has terrific tales to tell that I’m lapping up.

She, being interested in new things, allows me to feel as though I’m doing my bit entertaining her with bits and pieces about Seychelles and animals, which went well with my trip to the Paignton Zoo, which was a great day out.

Isn't he gorgeous!

Isn’t he gorgeous!

Not only was the weather mild and dry, the bachelor group of five gorillas had me grinning like a … well … a baboon? Not large, the hilly setting makes for a lot of variety in enclosures and a number of water features for flamingos, pelicans, a variety of ducks … including whistling tree ducks, which are a big fav for me … and setting off islands for the orangs, adding atmosphere.

PaigntonPaignton, being an English seaside town, is the usual mix of Victoriana and kitchy, touristy stuff. The bay is full of boats, the town rife with arcades, bars and chip shops and is a busy place even on an off-season Tuesday afternoon. There’s a steam train and a paddlewheel boat, so I envision major fun here in summer.

The "English Riviera"

The “English Riviera”

We’re cooking in, so I’ve nothing to say about restaurants, but can recommend the Paignton Sainsbury’s … but I have been known to be overly impressed with supermarkets lately.bcdca111-2c1a-4782-9f39-3a613b908427.1

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With more miles under the belt, there’s more to yack about and more photos to post, and now that I’ve re-entered the swing of this again, here ya go …

Well, hello ...

Well, hello …

Cruising from North Devon to Cornwall is a beautiful trip this time of year, even with the bit of fog that crept in just before the sun set … at about 4pm. The leaves still managing to cling to trees are every shade of gold, red and yellow and there’s interesting fauna to go with the flora: pheasants wander, sheep that are outstanding in their field and the occasional hairy cow stopping by the window to say howdy … or, more likely, “good ahftahnoon”.

Rescue me! (Sing it!)

Rescue me! (Sing it!)

Although far less attractive, the highways even manage to keep me amused with the ubiquitous cones-by-the-bazillion and signage. I’ve yet to figure out how in hell a lay-by can be closed or why a road might have delays until the end of December. (That’s seems excessive and I’m hella happy I’ve not caught it when it’s THAT bad as I have places to be before then and no inclination to sit in the car for a month. ;-), and, yes, bad jokes travel with me.) The ones that offer “Free Recovery” crack me up every time and put me in mind of friends who really could use that on a regular basis.

Destination: Eden Project did not disappoint, although the hemp exhibit I was supposed to shoot had been pulled out weeks ago. That glitch was almost made up for by the butternut squash soup and freshly-baked bread I had for lunch.

The Eden Project. It's warm in those domes.

The Eden Project. It’s warm in those domes.

The tropical warmth and smell of cinnamon was a welcome reminder of home, but I did spend time wondering why my garden doesn’t look just like the inside of the domes. EdenSign

I’ll be posting more on the Eden Project in future, but must share the very Seychelles-like Christmas decor I spotted …

Just like Seychelles ...

Just like Seychelles …

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LyntonWakeUpIt may surprise some to learn that a small English village could have a world of options when it comes to dining, but that’s very close to the case in Lynton, my home for the last week.

Nothing like a good, old pub ...

Nothing like a good, old pub …

Not only is there an ancient pub with higher-than-standard pub fare (The Crown) and a typical English Tea Room (Lacey’s Tea Room), coffee shops abound and pasta, pasties and pizza are easily had.
Lacey's Tea Room

Lacey’s Tea Room

Yum!

Yum!

A bit more deliciously surprising is the option of great Thai food at Nartnapa , a family-run establishment named after the Thai half of a couple whose other have is Lynton born and bred.

Another import, this one Russian, and her Exmoor-born hubby run the Vanilla Pod, an establishment that offers great food any time and really scores big on their occasional “Russian Nights”.VanillaPodRussianNight

Tapas and Spanish wines on the menu here.

Tapas and Spanish wines on the menu here.

The Oak Room does Spanish cuisine with tapas, full meals and wonderful Spanish wines, and although closed for dinner this time of the year does do lunches.

If it seems I’m encouraging visits to Lynton … well … I am. I LOVE the place, the people and the food!
CoffeeShop

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As yesterday’s post mentioned, I’m presently enjoying the sights and sounds of the mean streets of Lynton, a small village by the Bristol Channel in North Devon. This is Lorna Doone country with all the romantic vistas, tiny lanes on winding roads and blustery winds that made the English countryside the setting of so many novels requiring all that way back when.ValleyofRocks

Staying, as I do, with one of the world’s best friends, Jacqueline, at her fab place, Victoria Lodge , I’m perfectly situated to get out and about and see what there is to see.VicLodge

And there is so much to see … in small and grand ways with art popping out of an inspired population and natural beauty in abundance, not to mention the history of the place.Lynton1

LytonTownHall

LyntonCinema

The wildlife, although perhaps considered tame by some standards, has its own thrill potential … and maybe someday I’ll write about the time I almost died in a goat stampede in the Valley of the Rocks.Goats

And, of course, there’s the thrill-a-minute ride (and it doesn’t take much more than a minute, so within my adrenalin-rush threshold) of the Cliff Railway for those who really want to tempt fate.CliffRailway

It’s a gorgeous part of the world, one I have returned to for reasons of calm and sanity, and I highly recommend a visit for any who might like a little Lorna with their Doone, some Rocks in their Valley or gentle holiday in a beautiful place.

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What a good sleep

What a good sleep!

England in November is such a drastic change from Seychelles at any time that the point is well made that I’m not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I’ve been here for more than a month now, quite comfy since the first day on the cold, cold ground when I traded in my flip-flops for a pair of boots and pulled on the jeans, jumpers and overcoats that had been hanging in my closet for the last 13 years … the last time I faced a winter.

I will be retracing my steps along the way in blog fashion in future, but for now I’m motivated to share a bit for those who may be looking for a great place to spend Christmas while there’s still time to sort something wonderful out.

I’m in North Devon at the moment, in the lovely village of Lynton. <http://lynton-lynmouth-tourism.co.uk/>. Having last visited during a different time of year and a far different time of life, I’m happy to be back to wander the Valley of the Rocks and gaze across the Bristol Channel and wave at Wales.

No time to write much about the experience, but I do want to let people know about a fabulous opportunity for a Christmas getaway/get-together in time to actually do something about it should this be the answer you’re looking for. snooker

Sit down or a bit of telly?

Sit down for a bit of telly?

Victoria Lodge <http://www.victorialodge.co.uk/>, previously a 5-star B&B, is now a fully-kitted and beautiful semi-detached that sleeps 12 in posh comfort in the heart of Lynton and is, unbelievably, not yet booked for the holidays. I can personally attest to the luxury of the accommodation, the two gorgeous sitting rooms, the lush beds, the fab kitchen and the convenient location having stayed here before, and being back in now.

xmas table portrait

My dear friend, Jacqueline, spent a few years in Seychelles as CEO of Cable and Wireless, and since I still miss her presence there I visit her here when I can. It’s not often, but as it goes with true friends we pick up right where we left off, so it’s not just the fact that her place is fab.

Main lounge

There’s much to do and see in the area. In addition to the Exmoor ponies and goats in the Valley of the Rocks there are sites of historical interest that range from Dunster Castle <http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunster-castle/> to the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway <http://www.lynton-rail.co.uk/&gt; with its funky steam train. You can check out the lot here <http://www.victorialodge.co.uk/index.php?page=explore-exmoor>.

If you’re looking for a place to bring the whole family for Christmas … or one to fill with friends avoiding family … this is the perfect place to fill with whatever your version of holiday cheer might be, and at a very reasonable price. Kids and dog welcome.

You can book online, or give Jac a call on +44 1598 753203. Trust me … you’ll LOVE it!

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