10 Days on a Bike in Vietnam

So a year long wait and finally we did it!  10 days on motorbikes travelling through Vietnam’s countryside – why the bloody hell not!!!

true friends

That’s the motto of  TRUE FRIENDS EASY RIDER, operating out of Nha Trang, Vietnam. Benny and Bi are the most likeable, funny, crazy, safety-conscious weather professionals you’ll ever meet!

But let’s start at the beginning……………….

We met Benny a year ago whilst visiting Hoi An. Just finishing our lunch at a small restaurant, two guys walked in and asked if they could share our table, and being the sociable couple that we are, of course we said yes and ordered another round of drinks.  It turned out that one of them was Ian from Melbourne on a 15 day bike trip and the other was Benny, his tour guide, and suffice to say that we left the restaurant around dinner time!  After lots of stories from Ian, lots of beer and lots of fun, we made up our minds that afternoon to do a trip ourselves, and we were going to do it with Benny. We felt we made a couple of friends that day, one of them a “True Friend“.IMG_2891

So we came home, told our stories and showed our photos,  and two of our friends decided the bike trip sounded awesome and they were coming!  Now we just had to wait a year to do it! And  it was defiantly worth the wait – it was the most fantastic trip, so much fun, so many laughs, a great experience and a huge amount of memories to treasure forever.

Benny has a great knowledge about his country and loves to share it. He kept in contact over the year to make sure the trip was exactly what we wanted, our theme was history, war and culture and Benny made sure we got all of that with some added crazy bits in between!IMGP0749

We rode part of The Ho Chi Min Trail, leaving Nha Trang and finishing in Hoi An, visiting Da Lat (crazy house), Hamburger Hill, Khe Sanh, Cua Tung Beach Tunnels, Hue, Lak Lake (where we stayed in a traditional long house) and Ban Me Thout (coffee capital of Vietnam).  Sampling Happy Water, Durian fruit, bbq chicken feet and many other things along the way!IMG_4393

Of all the places we went, all the beautiful scenery we saw, the crazy things we (or the guys) did, the most memorable for me was the people. Gentle, kind, timid even, the Vietnamese people are beautiful.  Big smiles and big hearts, so welcoming, open and honest.happy villagers.jpg

If you even have the slightest inclination to do this trip – stop thinking and just DO IT – you won’t regret it, trust me.

DON’T BE LAZY – BE CRAZY!

TRUE FRIENDS EASY RIDER NHA TRANG

Follow me as I add new posts on our day-by-day bike trip!

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon?

It doesn’t matter what name you choose  to call it, Ho Chi Minh is a BIG city!

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh City

It covers an area of over 2,000sq. kms, and is made up of about 24 districts, with District 1 and District 3 being the most popular for tourists. These two areas have the most sights, museums, eateries, bars, etc.

I loved Saigon (I choose to call it by its former name, don’t ask why, I just do)!  It somehow felt like an “Asian London”  if that makes any sense!  The size, the new with the old, the way it welcomes visitors and makes you feel at home.  Although it is an extremely busy metropolis I felt totally comfortable wandering the streets from one tourist site to another. Of course, crossing the road was a feat in itself!  Luckily there are no drunken westerners on motorbikes to contend with like in Bali, just locals who have the dodging and weaving down to a fine art!

 

Saigon has many beautiful buildings, one being the Reunification Palace which is open to the public and well worth a couple of hours of your time.  For those of us old enough to remember, it is where the tank broke through the gates and thus signalled the end of the war in 1976.  The Palace has been kept really well and down in the basement you can see the  “war rooms” as it was back during the war. It’s a must for anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War.

Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace

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We found Saigon very easy to navigate and really enjoyed wandering around each day. The people are far less “reserved” than those in the northern city of Hanoi.  Our favourite place of course had to be where the street food was in District 1,  Ben Thanh Market.

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BBQ Grill stall

food marketWe ate there every day, no matter what the time, it was a place to sit and chill with great food and cold beer. Can’t wait to go back in November and take my friend!

There are so many stalls serving different types of food, not all Vietnamese but Indian, Korean, French and I wish I could stay there long enough to try them all!

Food Saigon

Typical dish cost about $2 !

The markets are all undercover and next to the food is the retail market.  If you can’t find what you’re looking to buy here,  it doesn’t exist! market There are clothes, shoes, bags, luggage, kitchen ware, watches, jewellery, gadgets just about anything you can think of. Haggling with the sellers is huge fun, they expect it and if you do it well there are bargains to be had! Just have a figure in mind and stick to it.  Be prepared to walk away if they won’t agree – they’ll eventually give in!

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Marble Mountain, Lady Buddha and more….

Oh, beautiful Da Nang!  On the back of a motorbike from Hoi An to Da Nang beach, nice wide roads and cooling breeze – can’t wait to get to the beach!

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Da Nang Beach

Oops, forgot I can’t swim!  Never mind, just lazing around keeping out of the heat of the sun watching Rick swim was good enough for me!  Dan Nang beach is beautiful, white sand,  lots of sun lounges and beachside restaurants a great way to spend a morning.

Bike hire in Vietnam is really cheap, about 5AUD per day and petrol easily available and equally as cheap.  Once out of the busy cities, the roads are wide and for the most part empty.

We spent a few days on the bike leaving Hoi An and basically just getting lost!

Dan Nang beach

Dan Nang beach with basket boats

After the beach we cruised up to Marble Mountain,  where we decided to take the elevator to the top instead of climbing the 150-odd steps!

Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain is a group of five marble and limestone mountains, named after the five elements of the ancient oriental philosophy: metal, wood, water, fire and earth.

Once at the top there it is quite a surprise, much bigger than we thought and there are temples and pagodas everywhere!

Temple Entrance Marble Mountain

Temple Entrance Marble Mountain

The main attraction though are the temples inside the cave, it is definitely worth the trip for that alone.  We easily spent a few hours here,  wandering around and stopping every now and then to take in the view and grab another cold drink.

We decided not to be totally lazy, and took the steps on the way down!

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After a nice seafood lunch at one of the beachside restaurants, we continued along the beach road and up the mountain to see the Lady Buddha.

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She is amazing, so pure white and standing 72 metres high, the largest statue in South-east Asia. There are 17 floors in the statue, each floor has an altar with 21 Buddha statues which have different shapes, facial expression and posture.

Lady Buddha can be seen from anywhere in the city, standing on the side of the mountain she dominates, and the views from there are spectacular.IMGP0284 (1)

There are many statues at this site, all are pristine white and made of solid marble.

Dragon at Lady Buddha

Dragon at Lady Buddha

Again, like everywhere you visit in Vietnam,  the sense of respect for everything is something you can’t help but feel.

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Hoi An – City of Lanterns

You’re staying HOW LONG?

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That’s the response we got when telling people we were staying 10 days in Hoi An!  Apparently no-one stays that long!  A few days, maybe 5, but usually no more.  I guess that’s because there isn’t really a great deal to do in Hoi An, but unlike most visitors, we rented a motorbike and went off exploring nearby villages, beaches and other places like  Da Nang and My Son.

My Son

Old Temple at My Son

 

My Son

Bridge leading to ruins of My Son sacred site

Hoi An itself is a beautiful city and rightly named the City of Lanterns.  Sitting on the riverside, the old town is closed to vehicles at night making walking the streets very comfortable and safe.  Numerous restaurants, bars and little shops everywhere all plying for your attention.  We met so many wonderful people there,  the Vietnamese are so welcoming and friendly.  We shared a lot of laughs and jokes with them all and the girls in the markets loved to rub Rick’s tummy exclaiming  “Happy Buddha!”

Bridge Hoi An

Bridge over river that separates the Ancient City from the newer city

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The markets are a sight to see, the fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood is all so fresh, and unlike a lot of markets, it doesn’t smell!

If we had been staying in self-catering accommodation we would definitely been shopping there every day!  The fish were still flapping about in the bowls, they were straight off the fishing boats!

At night the city transforms into this wonderland of lights and for a few cents you can buy a candle and set it afloat along the river with hundreds of others. Hoi An is one of the cheapest places we stayed as far as food and drink went. A bottle of beer could be had for less than a dollar and cocktails for about $3. A meal for the two of us cost about $20 including drinks!  And during happy hour all cocktails are 2 for 1 “until you are drunk!” (quote)

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However, our favourite food was the street food, and the night markets provided that in abundance!  For a dollar or two a meal and a laugh could be had from any of the carts and we sampled just about all of them!

And again, like everywhere in Vietnam, it is the people that make it so good, the feeling that you belong there and are so very welcome.

Street Seller in Hoi An

Street Seller in Hoi An

 

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Traditional Village Wedding…. And more..

For those of you that are wondering if that’s me in the header picture, well guess what – it is!  Back in the days when I was an actress on the big stage………. Wait stop!  I’m dreaming again!  But seriously, it is me, but no, I’ve never been an actress on any stage! (Although my husband may beg to differ!

Weddings are always great occasions,  but when it’s a marriage of two cultures, it becomes so much more…

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A while ago we were privileged to be able to attend a traditional wedding in a small village in West Java, Indonesia.  The trip to the village was an experience in itself, let alone the actual wedding!

It started with a flight from Perth to Jakarta, IMG_7826then a 3 hour train ride to Cirebon, and then about 30 minutes drive to the village of Sindagjawa.

I think we were probably the only western people in the village, and certainly the only ones that could speak English! But what a day!  Absolutely wonderful, the Javanese villagers made us so welcome, we were family!

And what a wedding!  The costumes, the ceremony, the music,  it was like being  in a movie!  I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like it.  And I must say,  I’ve never seen so many Aussie males have such a great time without any alcohol being served!  That in itself was quite unique!

But it wasn’t only a lot of fun,  it was a wonderful cultural experience,  the wedding traditions, from the bride and groom feeding each other,  IMG_0688to the coin and sweets throwing for the children, IMG_0750the blessings given by the families,  and then of course all the usual speeches  (which we didn’t understand a word of, but everyone was smiling so I guess it was all good stuff)!IMG_0710

After a whole day of celebrations, we returned to the hotel in Cirebon for a welcome cold beer or cocktail and nice dip in the pool.

I believe all of us that were there will treasure that day in our memories forever, and for the bride and groom we all wish them a long and happy marriage.

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They called it Paradise!

And paradise it is,  even today!

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Norfolk island map

Norfolk Island is about a 2hr flight from either Brisbane or Sydney  and no matter where you are coming from, it is well worth the journey.

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Famous for it’s Norfolk Pine trees, this tiny sub-tropical island is the idyllic place for a holiday.  A peaceful haven to get away to, leaving the hustle and bustle behind.  We spent 2 weeks there and both agreed it wasn’t long enough.  One day we will return to do all the things we didn’t have time for the first time.                   Find accommodation on Norfolk Island

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Original Ford truck still running tours for Pioneer Village

So why is it called paradise?  Well that came from the first settlers and when you go there you can see why.  I think it’s paradise for everything it DOESN’T have!

It’s an island, but doesn’t have any pesky seagulls to steal your food on the beach!  It doesn’t have any poisonous plants or insects.  It doesn’t have any (or at least so little it’s not mentioned) crime – after all where would a criminal run to? And most of all it doesn’t have any flies to annoy you when you’re dining alfresco.

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Country lane where cows have right of way!

What it does offer is picturesque scenery,  fantastic fishing (my husband calls it ‘catching’ not fishing!)  great local produce, safe swimming beaches and the most friendly locals ever!  Getting used to doing the “Norfolk Wave” was quite fun, it’s a subtle one finger raise from the steering wheel as you pass another car!

And talking of cars,  a hire car usually comes included with your accommodation!  That’s because even though it is a small island, only 8kms x 5kms,  it is full of hills and winding roads, a car is really essential.  Just drive slowly to avoid the many roosters and cows that roam free everywhere. (oh yeah, and the pot-holes in the roads!)

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Emily Bay safe swimming inside the reef

Norfolk Island is an external territory of Australia, and was self-governed up until 2016.  It has one pub, mainly for the younger crowd, but has a golf club, a Leagues Club and an RSL club. You’ll find you won’t be allowed to drink alone, the locals like to make everyone feel at home and are really welcoming.  The capital – yes an 8x5km island has a capital,  Kingston,  is quite cosmopolitan with some great restaurants, cafes and bistros with alfresco dining.  Off the beaten track you can also find some nice homely rustic restaurants, little hidden gems.

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The history of Norfolk Island goes right back to the Mutiny on the Bounty which is what brought us there in the first place – read more about that on my other post here.

There is plenty to do on Norfolk Island, like I said,  we left there after two weeks wishing we had more time. Between museums, art gallery, pioneer village, historic buildings, national park walk trails, beautiful swimming beaches, wineries, and oh so much more!

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I could really go on forever raving about Norfolk,  but I’m not going to, you really need to go see and enjoy it for yourself.

Why Norfolk Island?

When we said we were going to Norfolk Island people either asked “where’s that?”  or “why there?”

Well apart from the fact we like going to places little known and especially small islands (Norfolk is about 8x5kms) I had found out I actually had a connection there.  I’m not sure if it still holds true, but when we went there the rule was that to be able to live on Norfolk you had to have ancestry there.mutiny on the bounty

Fletcher Christian led the mutiny on the “Bounty” and ejected  Captain Bligh and those loyal to him from the ship. Christian and eight mutineers, one being John Adams, along with 18 Tahitians lived on Pitcairn Island and made it their home for almost 20 years.

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I have ancestry there.  A distant (very distant) maternal uncle was John Adams.

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John Adams

A Cockney orphan, had been brought up in the poorhouse, and joined the Bounty under the name of Alexander Smith.   In Pitcairn, Adams filled his days with Bible reading and drinking spirits distilled from the juices of the ti-tree root.   He turned religious and took upon himself the task of educating children.

By the 1850’s Pitcairn had out grown their tiny island and Queen Victoria agreed to relocate the islanders to Norfolk Island. 193 men, woman and children arrived to Norfolk on 8 June 1856. The settling of the Pitcairners on Norfolk Island marked a complete break from the island’s convict past, establishing new patterns of life.

So there you have it – my reason for wanting to visit Norfolk Island!

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John Adams Grave on Pitcairn Island

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My Top 2 Places to Eat in Mandurah

Mandurah has a bevy of great cafes, restaurants and the like, in fact so many that sometimes we sit and debate for hours where to go to eat!  Luckily for us, all are within walking distance so a few wines or beers with dinner is never a problem.  There are western A’ La Carte places,  Chinese,  Malaysian,  Thai,  Indonesian,  Vietnamese,  Mexican,  Rib & Steak houses,  Italian,  and probably more that I can’t think of right this moment!

So to pick my 2 favourite places was really, really hard! But, here they are:

Murphy’s Irish Pub

Oh where do I start, the food, the service, the entertainment?  Because all of that is good, I mean REALLY good!  Owned and operated by Edward Janiec,  AKA “The Man Who Can’t Say NO”  the staff are  friendly and extremely helpful, with wait-time at the bar and tables pretty much non-existent.

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Murphy’s Irish Pub, Mandurah Terrace

We have been dining here fairly regularly  since it opened in 2007 and it has become our “go-to” place if we decide to eat out at the last minute because we know we will NEVER be turned away.  Which is why I nicknamed Edward “The Man Who Can’t Say NO”.Edward

“Sorry we are full”  is a phrase that just isn’t in Edwards’ vocabulary, and if you were to ask any of his staff if they are fully booked, they just look at you like you’re mad!  There is always another table and some chairs to be found somewhere!

Murphy’s has some kind of entertainment on every night of the week, be it a quiz, karaoke or music, there is never a dull evening, and on weekends, the afternoons are also filled with music and sport on the many tv screens.

Murphys

Entertainment on a Sunday night

Murphy’s isn’t a place I’d recommend for a romantic dinner, but I say save the romance for when you get home and enjoy a meal at Murphy’s first!

Oh, and the food, of course I haven’t said anything about the food yet!  Well guess what,  I’m not going to, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, and honestly, would I be raving about a place if the food was no good? You just have to go and try it for yourself.

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Thai on the Terrace

If you like authentic Thai food in equally authentic setting, then Thai on the Terrace is the place to go.  menu

You can choose to have your dishes any stage of spiciness from none at all (woosy) or,  like my husband,  over the top Thai hot (masochist).  The menu is extensive and the staff are lovely Thai girls,  as is the owner/chef.  Thai on the Terrace is a no-fuss kind of place, where the importance is put into the food.

Thai on terrace

Small and intimate dining room

We have never been disappointed here, whether we have dined in or had take-away.  I like small owner/operator type places, and Thai on the Terrace is the sort of restaurant you’d expect to find in a back street in Thailand, run by a family. I you find yourself visiting Mandurah  and like Thai food, do yourself a favour and give this place a try.

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Nice is Nice…

The recent happenings in Manchester and London reminded me of the horrible night in Nice,  when so many people were killed or injured on the Promenade Des Anglais.  Such a sad night for the whole world, something we will never forget,  and it would be remiss of me to do this post without a mention or a thought to all those that suffered that night.

Hearts

Exactly one week before that night, we had been in Nice, and on our last night had been celebrating with thousands of people on the soccer win over Germany.  The streets were alive with locals, tourists, soccer fans, adults and children everywhere.  There were car horns blaring,  fire-crackers,  singing and dancing in the streets.  It was amazing!   We had such a wonderful time because NICE is NICE!

The Promenade Des Anglais is awesome,  running along the beach it’s the perfect place to wander along or sit and people watch,  and as it is covered, there is plenty of shade from the hot south of France sunshine.   We spent every evening doing just that and of course, chatting with the street vendors and performers.

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Nice has much, much more to offer than just the Promenade, and in our few days there we managed to explore a some of these places.

We were lucky enough to stay at the Mercure Hotel, which is on a corner off the Promenade and so we were able to walk everywhere.  And walk we did!  Right after a wonderful breakfast in the hotel, we would set off each morning in a different direction to see what we could find.            Search Flights to Nice

Our first day was spent wandering around the old town of Nice, with narrow streets, loads of shops,  cafes,  bars and restaurants.  There isn’t much you can’t get in the old town!  It is a really pretty part of Nice and most of the  shops are decorated with hanging baskets outside.  There are numerous artisan bakers, and little places selling all sorts of delicacies like olives, cheeses, pickles, cured meats and local sauces and wines.  It made us a little sorry we weren’t in a self-catering apartment!  Nice Old Town covers quite a large area,  and it’s easy to spend a whole day wandering around, stopping now and then for “une verre de vin” (or two) and of course some lunch!

Flowers Old Town Nice

Flowers for sale, Old Town Nice

My favourite part of the old town was Cours Saleya , known as Marche aux Fleurs  which is a flower and fruit and vegetable market, held every morning.  I have never seen so many flower displays in one place before.

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Vegetable stalls Cours Saleya

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 2 sent us past the Old Town and around to the port where the ferries come in from Corsica,  this walk along the waterfront offers some great views back into Nice.  From there we found ourselves looking up to the cliffs and seeing people walking around, we wondered how to get up there without a car.  (It was a long way up and I certainly wasn’t keen on climbing the hill!).  While standing at the bottom looking at the steps debating shall we/shan’t we? I noticed a little sign and barely visible arrow pointing to “Elevator” Yes! There is a God!  I was going to get to the top and still be able to breath!  And so glad I was,  it would have been such a shame to miss what awaited us at the top.

View over Port in Nice

View over Port in Nice

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Waterfall at Castle Hill, Nice France

The Castle Park (Parc du Chateau) is apparently one of Nice’s top tourist attractions and I can see why, it is beautiful and gives amazing  360 views of Nice. I’m a bit ashamed to say I had never heard of it before we went there!  It isn’t just the views though, it is the gardens, statues, remains of the original chateau and the history that is really interesting. Having been there it is a place I would advise all visitors to Nice to make sure they don’t miss.

Day 3 – Just wandering.  As our second day was so full-on we decided to just wander the nearby streets and so glad we did!  Only a block away in the opposite direction to the Old Town we found a shopping mecca!  All the brand names you could think of,  but with a price tag to match I might add!  There were clothes, shoes, electronics, everything and anything,  and all the genuine article!              Find Hotels in Nice

Of course, once again we managed to find some great little drinking and eating venues, and a place to go back to that evening for dinner.

Seafood Chowder Nice

Seafood Chowder Nice, France

On a narrow side street, a bit away from the crowds, we found a small family run Italian restaurant where Rick had a seafood chowder served in a crusty cob!

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I’ll leave you with this delightful video of the water park….

 

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A Haunting in Chagford

It was by chance that we happened on the little town of Chagford one cold and rainy evening………

Sounds like the beginning of a scary story eh?  It wasn’t exactly scary, but it was interesting, and my husband did say he wasn’t keen to stay another night!

We stayed at The Three Crowns, which was once an old manor house belonging to Sir John Whyddon,   before the hotel had it’s refurbishment,  and it was, for us, the quintessential piece of English history.  Built in the thirteenth century,  with big open fireplaces, oak beams and narrow winding stone steps to the bedrooms, The Three Crowns had a real sense of history.

three crowns inn

Three Crowns Inn

Travelling through Dartmoor can be pretty but can also be pretty spooky!

If you’ve ever been to this part of England, you’ll know that you don’t really want to be driving at night on the moors.

Even though it was mid-summer, the moors are cold and wet and often covered in mist.

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Dartmoor, Devon, England

After checking in we dumped our bags in our room, (The Sidney Godolphin Room) and took a few photos admiring the four poster bed and beautiful portrait of the cavalier behind a comfy winged-back chair.  Then we went downstairs to the bar for dinner, a few drinks, and a chat with the locals. That’s when it started to get interesting………

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Four poster bed Three Crowns Inn

A woman who used to work there but had since moved away,  was planning to come and celebrate her next birthday there and asked the manager to book her a room.  He winked at the other barman and said  “Yes you can have the Godolphin Room”   To which the woman quickly snapped back and said  “No thanks – that’s haunted!”

I looked at my husband in horror and he laughed, saying they were just winding us up and it was fine. He was a non-believer in things that go bump in the night.  I said was…..

So after a few drinks and laughs we decided to call it a night and head up to our room. We said goodnight to the bar staff, who both said goodnight back, with the added phrase “take care”.  Is it normal in England to remind people to take care when retiring for the night?  How much trouble can you get into when going to sleep?

Not really being a pair of scardy-cats and relaxed by the drinks, we both fell asleep quite quickly.

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I woke in the night because I had that sensation that some-one was watching me, c’mon, you all know what that feels like!   I just lay there unable to go back to sleep for ages,  I thought I had heard creaking footsteps walking around the bed.  There was of course no-one else in the room except my husband sound asleep next to me.  Or so I thought….

Well, he was next to me, but he too was awake, having had the same “somebody watching me”  feeling and also hearing the creaky floorboards!

Fireplace Chagford

Fireplace in the bar at Three Crowns Inn, Chagford

Before going down for breakfast the next morning, I noticed the painting of Sidney Godolphin on the wall  was hanging a bit wonky,  but neither of us could remember if it was like that all the time, was it our imaginations just getting the better of us?

We told the staff about our night visitor, real or imagined, and they casually remarked, “Oh, again?”

We later found out that it was in the stone porch entrance that young Sidney Godolphin, aged 32, Cavalier and poet, and described as ‘one of the four wheels of Charles 1sts wain,’ was killed during a skirmish with the Roundheads in 1642.  He died on one of the stone seats in the sides of the porch.

When we returned to Australia and had our photos developed,  there was the one of Rick in the winged armchair with the painting behind him, and yes, you guessed it – it was straight!

Believe what you will!!!   Would I stay there again?  Most certainly!!

Would you?   If you don’t believe me, maybe you should try for yourself!

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You can just see the painting, and yes it is straight!

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Chagford itself is a beautiful market town, they used to have wild pony sales, and neighbouring village Tavistock still hosts the annual Goose Fair!

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Pepperpot building, market square, Chagford

Sitting opposite The Three Crowns is the church St Michael of Archangel, built in the 15th Century,  with some parts dating back as early as the 13th Century.  This church was also the place where Mary Wydden was about to marry when she was murdered by a jilted admirer.

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St Michael of Archangel, Chagford

So maybe The Three Crowns has two nightly visitors?   I dare you to visit and stay in the Sidney Godolphin Room !!

 

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The moors, beautiful by day

Chagford isn’t the least bit touristy I couldn’t find any little tacky something to bring home, so all we have is photos and memories.

Ahhh  but what memories!!

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Oldest Pub in Britain?

This post by Stephen Liddell is well worth a read!  Click the link and enjoy his blog – you won’t regret it!

This time last week I was giving a lovely guided tour to a charming couple to the old Roman city of St Albans which as it happens is just 5 miles from my house and an hour out of central London. We visited some of the sights which I might post on next time but […]

via Ye Olde Fighting Cock – The Oldest Pub in Britain? — Stephen Liddell

So, Exactly Where is Mandurah?

It just occurred to me that in my previous post about my town,  I never actually said where “my town, Mandurah” is on the map!

Well Mandurah is a beautiful low-rise city about an hours drive south along the coast from Perth, Western Australia.

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I have lived in Mandurah since 2009, and love every little part of it. From the beautiful grassy foreshore, with its walkways, shady trees and barbecues, to the white sandy beaches ideal for swimming and fishing.

Mandurah is a fantastic holiday destination for families and couples, it has so much to offer, especially with the wonderful sunshine this part of the country enjoys.  One thing I really enjoy is taking friends out on our boat at Christmas, through the canals to see the lights displayed at many of the houses.  The Mandurah Christmas Lights in the canals has gained world recognition and rightly so!  IMG_1461

I’m afraid my photos don’t do the lights justice, they are truly magical and to watch children’s  (and adults too I might add)  faces when they see them is priceless….

Mandurah has always been a holiday town,  and I remember coming here for a “day out” with my sister and her family when I first came to Australia. There has been so many changes over the last 40-odd years, Mandurah has really kept up with the times.  Some may say its progress, others may not!  One good thing is that through all the changes, (I won’t say “improvements”)  Mandurah has managed to keep quite a few heritage sites and has not forgotten it’s days of yore!  Many streets are named after founders of the town and the museum houses some great memorabilia. mandurah-traffic-bridge-boardwalk-east-rcn-d162355689.png Even as I write this, more changes are being made, the new traffic bridge is almost finished, as the old one just cannot cope with the amount of traffic that passes each day. There will be walkways and cycle paths underneath and platforms at either side for fishing.

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Mandurah  also plays host to many festivites throughout the year,  in March there is the Crabfest where locals and visitors can enjoy loads of activities on the foreshore, watch watersports and shows, partake in cooking classes and demonstrations,  and of course plenty of food and  beer on offer! There is always a well-known band playing in the open air stage and when the sun goes down, the fireworks start!

Many Sunday afternoons throughout summer,  parks play host to outdoor concerts sundownerwhere people come deckchair under arm and picnic basket in hand to sit, relax or get up and dance to live music.  My town – Mandurah I just love it!!

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My Town – Mandurah

There are numerous travel bloggers to be found on the net, but very few write about their home town. And it occurred to me recently just how beautiful my home town is.  Well Mandurah is officially a city but that brings visions of lots of skyscrapers and a busy CBD, which Mandurah doesn’t have, so I like to call it a Town.

 

I am extremely fortunate to live here, 1.5kms from the town centre, an easy stroll along the water’s edge. Whilst on my (I’d like to say daily but that would be a lie!) walk I had the privilege of witnessing a mother dolphin and her calf playing in the Estuary.  This is not uncommon, as there are a couple of dolphin families living in our Estuary, along with pelicans and many other birds. It’s not unusual to sit in our front garden and watch the colourful parrots bathing and feeding, right there in front of us.

Mandurah is a town right on the ocean’s doorstep with magnificent beaches and huge Estuary for boating, crabbing and fishing enthusiasts.   Before we came to live here, we would spend weekends in the marina on our boat.  I always thought it would spoil the “holiday” feeling if we moved here permanently.  How wrong I was!  Mandurah is a holiday town, no two ways about it, and whether you live here or are just visiting, it always has that “holiday” feeling.   It’s just that kind of place.

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So what else can I say about Mandurah?  I never realised how much I take for granted until I started writing this post.  I live and breathe here, yet I have had to stop and really think about what to write – I thought it would just flow out!  But then maybe that’s because there is so much going on here, which bits do I include?  The restaurant scene? The arts scene?  The festivals? The watersports?  The spectacular sunsets?

Have you visited Mandurah as a tourist?  What did you like most about it?  Were we a friendly lot?  Would love to get your feedback on my town.  Do you want to know more about Mandurah – you ask and I’ll post it!

Perhaps just some images in this post and more details in more posts…………….. stay tuned!!

 

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Gray or Grey??

Like “To Be or not To Be” then Gray or Grey? …….that is the question……

Is gray a colour or lack of colour?  Is gray an adjective, noun or verb?

Gray to Americans and Grey to English. Either way, to me gray or grey is miserable!

The word conjures up views of english grey skies, full of rain, but yet cloudless, just a vast grey sky.   An intermediate between black and white – a “nothing” colour.

Grey is a fence-sitter, neither one nor the other,  detached, neutral, indecisive, does not stimulate, energise, or excite.

Grey is boring and sad, depressing. greynsky

Grey – a colour without colour.

Imagine a world without Grey………..

L’ile Rousse

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We based ourselves in this little coastal town on the North-western side of Corsica for three fabulous weeks.  After much research I decided on L’Ile Rousse because it looked to have everything we craved; beach, daily markets for fresh produce, a town square for events and people-watching, a magnitude of restaurants and of course, glorious weather!

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Marche L'Ile Rousse

Daily fresh produce market

We looked forward to our morning trips to the market, wandering through and tasting all the fresh produce!  Never needed breakfast! The sellers liked to try out their English and to correct our badly pronounced French, all the while offering us a little taste of this and that!  There was all different kinds of honey, cheeses,  olives, seasonal fruit and vegetables, bread and pastries and of course, our favourite – charcuterie!   Charcuterie is king!!!!

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L’ile Rousse beach

Set in a bay, the town beach was always busy, very popular with families and people would be there until sunset in the evening. There are a lot of other accessible beaches just outside of L’Ile Rousse which are not so busy, but you need to take your own shade, the sun can be relentless. Our favourite go-to beach was close to some large rocks that divided the sandy beach.  It made like a small lagoon style area that was perfect for me –  being a non-swimmer!  (Yes, I know, I live in Australia and I can’t swim!!).

The town was alive morning, day and night, luckily not too busy, June is just before the holiday season but it was busy enough to be interesting. Always something to see, the local men playing petanque was particularly fun and Rick did try to have a go one night!

They take their game very seriously, even playing in carparks if necessary!  petanqueIn 2016 L’Ile Rousse held the 6th International Petanque Pascal-Paoli

In the evenings the hardest thing was where to eat – should we eat in (with all that fresh food we had bought in the morning) or go out?  Then the next decision was if we go out where to eat?  So many choices, so many restaurants – and ALL GOOD!!

I think we only ate at the same place 3 times in the 3 weeks we were there, we aimed to try somewhere different each night, but there was a few restaurants that deserved a come-back!

L’Ile Rousse is not all about food, wine and beaches though. It has a great history.   It was founded in 1758 by Pasquale Paoli to create a port that would not be in the hands of the Genoese like Calvi, and there are restaurants, schools and hotels named after him.

 

 

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Our Daily (Corsican) Bread…..

Remember I said we like food and wine?  Well Corsica is THE place for both! The wonderful charcuterie that comes from the wild boar is amazing!  I must say that it is the best we have ever had from anywhere on the planet. affinageAlmost all cafes, restaurants and bistros serve charcuterie platters for sharing and they usually come with olives, cornichons and the best-ever french bread!

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A fresh baguette cost around a dollar, so we bought one every morning!  It doesn’t need any butter, just slice and eat!  plattterAlong with some wine and maybe olives, pate and cornichons what else does one need??

Of Course, Corsica isn’t just good for charcuterie and bread, it also has the best Gelato I have tasted!  And it’s eaten anytime of the day, no guilt – just whenever you fancy!   Are you starting to see why I loved Corsica so much?? IMG_1892

Where else can you have a glass of wine in one hand and a huge gelato in the other at  ten o’clock in the morning?   That’s my idea of morning tea!!

I found Corsican wines to be not so “full-bodied” (if that’s the right terminology!), almost weak in a way, but that’s what made them so drinkable!  It’s easy to see why the locals sit and chat with a glass or two any time of the day, starting as early as breakfast sometimes.  Yet, saying that,  even though people seemed to drink early and maybe throughout the day, not once did we see any bad behaviour.

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Corsican food is mostly organic, with  local produce available direct from growers and at farmers’ markets.  Products include; cheeses, olives, vegetables and fruits, honey, herbs and spices, nuts and of course, charcuterie. The sellers encourage sampling before buying so it’s a great way to spend a morning!

500_____LIQUEUR DE MYRTE_136Apart from their wines, Corsican’s like their home-made  Liqueur de Myrte.  Made from the berries and leaves of the red myrtle tree, it is usually drunk after a meal, like a port. It is so popular that in most restaurants they just give you the bottle and leave you to help yourself after your meal at no charge!

Surprisingly enough, although Corsica is an island, it is not renowned for seafood. This is perhaps due to the Corsicans moving more inland and up in the mountains many years ago. You can still get seafood in some restaurants, but you will pay for it.

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Where’s Corsica?

Oops!  This has become more like a “London Blog” – not my original intention!  But as you probably guessed it is my love!

So how about a bit of Corsica for a diversion?  Corsica mapWhen we first told our friends we were going to Corsica for a holiday, most of them said “where’s that?” The next question was “What made you choose Corsica?”

Corsica or Corse to the locals, is a small island above Sardinia, between France and Italy. Although it is closer to Italy it actually belongs to France, and is French speaking.

Well, what makes us choose any place?

FOOD, WINE and PEOPLE of course!        Or should I say of Corse!!!

Before we went I thought it would be a mixture of the two cultures, but in reality, Corsica has a culture all of it’s own.

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Isula Rossa (Ile Rousse) Corse

We spent three fabulous weeks on this beautiful island, basing ourselves in Ile Rousse with a hire car to do day trips and once an overnight stay in Bonifacio.

Although the distance between Ile Rousse and Bonifacio is just about 185kms, the mountainous terrain means it takes about 3.5hrs! It was worth the drive, and the sights on the way were awesome!

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Bonifacio Harbour

I must admit, the first day we drove around the mountains (on the wrong side of the road  – well for us it was!)  I had my heart in my mouth at every bend!  From a sheer drop on one side to an overhanging cliff on the other, cyclists, wild pigs, goats and a few cows to contend with, I was so glad to see our first stop and lunch! A couple of Corsican wines and some food soon relaxed me and a stern word or two from my husband Rick kept me quiet for the rest of the trip!

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Then it was back to our apartment and a dip in the pool before venturing into the town for dinner.

thumb_IMG_1916_1024       Ile Rousse is a picturesque coastal town at the bottom of the mountains. With Place Pascal Paoli home to daily fresh food markets, local butchers, bakers, and bistros, it was the perfect place for us.

Each morning we would wander around the markets and artisan shops sampling (and sometimes buying) fresh local produce.

A mid morning stop was mandatory for a glass or two of Corsican vino, accompanied by the obligatory bowl of corsican olives. Just to sit and people watch was magic and of course the weather was great!

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I think I have to dedicate some more posts to this awesome island – Corsica has so much to offer, and one day we would love to go back!

If you have been there I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, so stay tuned for more of this beautiful place.

corse map

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