Archive for May, 2015

Lundy Island

Years ago I read a book called “Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast” (highly recommended!) and this is where I first heard about Lundy Island – and I’ve been wanting to visit it ever since :) It’s 11 miles off the coast of North Devon (2 hours by ferry from Ilfracombe), about 5 km long and 1-1.5 km wide. It’s an amazing place where you really get away from it all: no cars, no wifi, no tv’s, hardly any mobile signal (and you get fined if you use your mobile in the pub). There is one village (populated mostly by Landmark Trust wardens) with a shop and a tavern, where they let you run a tab :) People are really friendly. There are no signposts, explanations or warning signs and you don’t even have to stay on the paths – you are encouraged to explore the island with your own common sense. I love this attitude, and I totally fell in love with Lundy Island!

But I’m getting ahead of myself now, let’s start from the beginning. It took me 6 hours to reach Ilfracombe from Reading, where I had been for a course at ECMWF. The next morning I went to the harbour to check in for the ferry. They give you colour coded labels for your luggage, which is loaded on the boat in crates. Ilfracombe is a pretty village, but (like many others) I had mixed feelings about the enourmous Damien Hirst sculpture in the harbour – it seems quite out of place there.

View over the harbour of Ilfracombe, with the Verity sculture by Damien Hirst From the other side the sculture is quite erm, cruel I think! Would look impressive in front of the Tate Modern or something, but it looks a bit out of place in this small harbour town - it's over 20 m tall!

It was cloudy with a bit of rain in Ilfracombe, but it cleared up during the two hour trip to Lundy. The MS Oldenburg rolls quite a lot though, and several people were getting seasick. I was just having fun :) it was very exciting to see the island come into view. From the jetty, everybody has to climb the hill to the top of the island (they do take some people up in a Landrover), but luckily you don’t have to carry your luggage – they deliver it to your cottage :) People were either visiting for the day (4 hours on the island), or for 2 or more days. I would have loved to stay for a whole week ;) but I had to get back to work so I stayed for 2 nights.

The MS Oldenburg on the jetty at Lundy Island Climbing up to the top of the island

The Landmark Trust has lots of holiday rentals on the island, and they all look amazing. Millcombe House (below) sleeps 12 and is actually quite cheap if you share the cost with 12. I went to reception, where they told me my cottage was ready. I was more keen to just start hiking though, so I bought some chocolate biscuits (what’s a girl to do if the bread hasn’t arrived yet? ;) ), rented binoculars and started walking. The sun was shining, it was going to be a beautiful day!

Millcombe House on Lundy, also a holiday rental! The tractor road that goes south to north on the island

There was flowering gorse, very pretty against the blue sky. I visited the ruins of some cottages that I think belonged to an old quarry.

Flowering gorse against the gorgeous blue sky! Ruins of cottages which I think belonged to the quarry

The view to the south was really nice :)

Daffodils & the view south Ruins seen from the other side

I continued my way north, alternating between walking on top of the cliffs or following some path lower down. The island is full of funny names, an easy way to keep track how far you’ve come are the walls that cross the island: quarter wall, halfway wall, and threequarter wall :)

Impressive rock formations! The threequarter wall - it's easy to know how far you've come on your hike :)

The views were amazing the whole way.

Panorama looking south - you can see there's several paths to follow, either on top of the cliffs or further down Nice views

The cottage is in the photo below is called Tibbetts – another holiday rental. It’s built on the highest point of the island, quite far from the village and it doesn’t have electricity, but what a view! It was originally built as a signal and watch station, in use until 1926. Would love to stay there once!

Tibbetts, which you can rent as well! It's a long way from the village and it doesn't have electricity, but what an amazing place to stay!!

Finally I reached my destionation: the north tip of Lundy Island. There is a lighthouse there, simple called the North Lighthouse (you can guess what the lighthouse at the south tip is called). A beautiful wild place, and I happened to catch the MS Oldenburg passing on its round-the-island trip. The lighthouse was built in 1897, and automated in 1985.

The North Lighthouse The MS Oldenburg was doing a tour of the island, before going back to the mainland, and I managed to catch it passing the north tip :)

The MS Oldenburg on its way around the island I loved the lighthouse :)

I spent quite some time around the lighthouse, before starting my way south again. I came across these Japanese Sika deer, they are so cute! They are indigenous to South East Asia, and were introduced to Lundy in 1927. They are supposed to be shy and hard to spot, but I saw quite a lot of them. They won’t let you come very close though.

Old railway to where provisions used to arrive - it's an automated lighthouse now Japanese Sika deer - very cute!

I walked back along the west side of the island, the wilder, Atlantic side, with spectacular cliffs…

The impressive wild cliffs on the west side of Lundy

Lundy also has wild sheep, a flock of Soay sheep originally from the Hebridean Islands, introduced to Lundy in 1944. They are adorable! The Highland cow was a lot less adorable, he started stamping at me when I tried to pass…

Lambs of the wild Soay sheep - aren't they adorable?? This one wasn't quite so adorable, he was stamping around and I got scared enough to take the long way round, through a swamp...

More pretty views…

Looking north And looking south. Wow :)

Walking towards The Old Light. Nearly 200 years old, this lighthouse was built for a lot of money but never worked well. It’s modern new flashing light actually caused a ship disaster in 1828, and in foggy conditions the lighthouse was too high up and lost in the fog. Finally it was abandoned in 1897 and replaced by the two lighthouses at the north and south tip.

On the way to the Old Light - can you guess the dominant wind direction? :) The Old Light

I was now nearing the southern part of the island again – time to finally go and visit my cottage: Hanmers. Hanmers was built by a fisherman on the path from the beach to the castle, and it has the most amazing views! I fell in love with this cottage, perhaps the prettiest place I ever stayed!

The Old Light Hanmers cottage, where I was lucky enough to spend 2 nights - perhaps the prettiest place I've ever stayed??

Here’s an impression of the cottage: two living rooms…

The living room of my cottage Another living room with books and games

The incredible view from the windows…

View from the window And view from the window looking south, you can see all along the island, so pretty!

One of the bedrooms (the other has a bunk bed), and the kitchen…

One of the bedrooms (it sleeps 4, there's another room with a bunk bed) The kitchen

St Helen’s church in the evening, and sunset at Hanmers…

St Helen's church in the evening Hanmers Cottage at sunset :)

The view to the village in the evening, I love the golden lights :) and the view towards the mainland. In the evening I had dinner in the tavern, a very nice and social place.

View towards the village in the evening - love all the yellow lights :) the building with most lights on is the tavern ;) Night view towards the mainland, you could just about see the lights over there. The long exposure makes the sea glassy smooth, but it actually was very calm then

It had been a long day and I fell asleep early. After a couple of hours I woke up from a lot of noise: the wind had changed direction and got stronger, and the cottage was creaking like crazy in the wind. There were also other strange noises right behind my bed, which I tried to ignore ;) The next day I found out those noises had come from a pygmy shrew that happily walked around the cottage, checking out the bins… (it’s a tiny mouse, but don’t say that on Lundy as THEY DON’T HAVE MICE :P ).

It was a very windy and rainy morning, so after breakfast at the tavern, I just had tea and biscuits and read books and looked at the view :) until the rain stopped and I decided to go for a walk. I met some goats, and climbed to the top of the Old Light (which is always open) and sat in the deck chairs with an amazing view :)

Three goats, and if you look carefully on the left: two angry birds :D The deck chairs at the Old Light - what a great idea!

Climbing the Old Light The Old Light seen from the graveyard 'next door'

After that I visited the Battery, which I had skipped the day before. It’s another chapter in the ‘we need a lighthouse’ story. With the Old Light being problematic, they installed two cannons at the bottom of the cliff which they fired every 10 minutes (blank shots, which I assume means there’s no cannonball in there?? :P ) This was also abandoned when the North & South Lighthouses were built. I also visited the sculpture by Antony Gormley (famous from the Angel of the North) that was erected the day before. There was a group of people on the ferry with someone filming – I realised later it was Antony Gormley and his wife and I assume two journalists. One of them wrote this beautiful article about their visit and about his work.

Going down to the Battery, impressed by all the plants growing on the old wall This sculpture by Antony Gormley had been erected the day before, I actually walked past right afterwards but didn't want to disturb their ceremony

Just below the sculpture is the Devil’s Limekiln, a natural pit more than a 100 m deep. ‘Approach with care’ is all it says in the brochure – there seems to be a path around the edge. I took one look at that and decided against it – especially being on my own ;)

The Devil's Limekiln, a natural pit that's more than 100 m deep

That evening in the tavern was even more social as two women joined me – always very nice when you’re travelling alone! And later on I started talking to a man who was there to ring birds, and ended up being invited to join them to the bottom of a cliff to wait for Manx Shearwaters to fly into a net. It was such an amazing experience, it just shows that sometimes it’s totally fine to follow some strangers down a cliff in the dark ;) They caught a couple, ringed them, and I got to release one of them :) Andrew Cleave was kind enough to send me this photo, you can see from my grin how much I’m enjoying it!

Me holding  a Manx Shearwater

Walking back it was nearing midnight, and that’s when they turn off the electricity. It made me smile when all they could think off was getting to their cottage in time to put the kettle on for ‘one last cuppa’ – oh so British! :D

The next day the MS Oldenburg was supposed to leave late in the afternoon, but we were told to come to the pub at 09:30 for ‘an announcement’. I was hoping we’d go back by helicopter, that’s an often used alternative when the weather is bad. But no, they decided to cancel the daytrippers and send the MS Oldenburg back as soon as it got there. So after breakfast I just went for a short walk around the village to take some last photos. This is the shop…

The shop

The tavern, and another cottage in front of the church.

The tavern, entrance on the left, and the reception on the right A cottage in front of the church

After paying my tabs at the shop and tavern, I made my way down the hill (your luggage gets picked up from the cottage again, a real luxury!).

Church & Gorse Back at the landing place...

I watched the MS Oldenburg arrive – it looked choppy!

The MS Oldenburg arriving with new visitors Arrival of the MS Oldenburg

And then it was time to leave…

Queueing for our choppy trip back to the mainland

The way back was so different from the way there. The weather was very different obviously, but one nice difference was that on the way back I knew a lot of people on board and I had a very social trip back. What a great trip :) I fell in love with Lundy and hope I can come back again!

Rotterdam (Not Just Anywhere)

Sountrack for reading (and understanding the title of) this blog – Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) by the Beautiful South.

It had been years since I’d been to Rotterdam, so many that I can’t remember the last time I was there (other than changing trains on my way to Hook of Holland, but even that is 10 years ago). I tried to visit a few times, but it was almost like there was a curse: once I was stuck in a train on the way to Rotterdam for 5 hours, and then when we could finally move again the train went back to Amsterdam…

But curses are there to break, so when Chanita asked me if I wanted to spend a day in Rotterdam I said yes – and this time I reached my destination without any obstacles thrown in my way :D Chanita has lived in Rotterdam for more than 10 years and turned out to be the perfect tour guide: she really loves the city and she knows a lot about it!

Rotterdam is ever-changing. It’s not like other Dutch cities – it was nearly completely destroyed in 1940 during the German invasion. It was rebuilt in a very modern style, and I think it has made it very popular for architects to build there, as new projects keep popping up. Like the Market Hall (opened in 2014), which was one of the first places we stopped.

De Markthal in Rotterdam Looking up - love the view!

I love this building! The market inside is REALLY nice, the building is so impressive and the painting on the inside is just fantastic. You can actually live in the building, though I bet it’s not cheap ;)

Lots of really yummy food and a view to another Rotterdam icon: the pencil Going down you can read about the history of Rotterdam on the side of the escalators Beautiful artwork called 'Hoorn des Overvloeds' - and those windows are from apartments!

After that we visited the library, an impressive building with lots of lights…

Inside the library I love the lights!

And then we went to the cube houses, some really modern houses shaped like cubes, which were built in the early eighties. I’d seen them before, and even visited one that’s open to the public. They’ve since turned some of them into a youth hostel! They don’t seem to be doing too well, there were lots of houses for sale (6 at the moment, click here if you’re curious to peek inside those that are for sale)

The famous cube houses in Rotterdam Old & new: the modern cube houses on the left, and the first high-rise building (built in 1898) in Europe on the right

The cube houses with the Pencil in the background The Veerhaven

We stopped for lunch and then continued to the Erasmus bridge. Near there, we stopped to look at the “fire line”, these small lights are placed all around the city centre and marks the perimeter of the burnt city centre after the bombing. You can often clearly see the line as well, with modern buildings on one side, and old ones on the other. Below you can see an example of the older buildings that survived – modern on the inside though! Rotterdam seems to be able to mix old & new in a beautiful way.

The outside/entrance of het Westelijk Handelsterrein Inside het Westelijk Handelsterrein with lots of restaurants

We crossed the Erasmus Bridge, nicknamed ‘the Swan’…

On the Erasmus bridge! Erasmus selfie with Chanita :)

Our next stop was Hotel New York, based in the former headquarters of the Holland America Lines – lots of hopeful emigrants used to leave for North America from here. It is now dwarfed by two huge skyscrapers…

Hotel New York Hotel New York is based in the former headquarters of the Holland Amerika Lijn / Holland America Lines

Panorama of the view in front of Hotel New York. Rotterdam is sometimes jokingly called “Manhattan on the Maas”, since it’s the only Dutch city that has some kind of skyline ;)

Panorama view of 'Manhattan on the Maas', Rotterdam's nickname as it's the only Dutch city with some kind of skyline

My next destination is Canada, so I just had to take this photo :) and then it was time for apple pie & hot chocolate with ridiculous amounts of cream :D

Lots of destinations were written along the quay - and this is my next destination so I had to get a photo! Time for a break - with way too much cream ;)

On the way back we passed the Maritime Museum with lots of cranes and a lighthouse in front of the museum.

A crane outside the Rotterdam Maritime Museum The Rotterdam Maritime Museum

A piece of artwork, and the ‘Koopgoot’ or ‘Shopping Gutter’ – a shopping street below street level that’s quite famous in the Netherlands.

Art 'De Koopgoot' aka 'Shopping Gutter' - a famous shopping area below street level in Rotterdam

Walking back to where Chanita lives, Rotterdam showed that it still has that classical Dutch city look in some areas :)

Even though Rotterdam is full of modern architecture, there are still some areas looking more like the classical Dutch city...

What a fun day! Chanita was a fantastic guide, and I hope to come back for ‘part 2’ one day – we didn’t manage to see everything. And with all the museums Rotterdam has to offer I think it will take a long time to get bored of the city :)

Hyacinths & Tulips

I spent a couple of days in the Netherlands in mid April – perfect time to see the flower fields in bloom. It was mostly hyacinths flowering at that time, the tulips come a bit later. I went for a long bike ride through the fields, and back along the coast/beach. Windwise, that was the wrong way around – the way back felt twice as long as I struggled against a strong headwind ;)

Purple & Pink Purple hyacinths

A lost pink hyacinth And a lost tulip :)

A daffodil between pink hyacinths Inside a tulip

So many colours Blue

These tulips were SO red they were hurting my eyes! A tourist offered to take a photo of me :)