Saturday, January 24, 2015

Walking part of the Levada dos Pionais and living to tell the tale

Yesterday we walked one of the many levadas here on Madeira. Our host Jorge drove us to the nearest one and started the walk with us along with his dog Zuulaika and a neighbor's dog.  He then bade farewell after a few minutes and we were off.

The beginning of the walk was a wide path with beautiful views - "this levada walking is a piece of cake" I thought....

As you can see the scenery around us was beautiful.  We then actually got to a levada....which was pretty cool.  Mostly there were bars alongside the exposed areas (although if you lost your footing and did not hang on you would not have a happy ending) so it was easy going.

And then we got to some tunnels....

Yes, we had to squat over and slither through, no hope of preserving any dignity there.

I forgot to take my backpack off for this tunnel... oops....
Then we got to the bit where we walked along a thin strip of pavement that was approximately 14 inches wide with no barrier and a long way down. (as in if you fell it would be a one way trip)   I could handle the parts of the levada with no barrier where there was vegetation beside me to hide the chasm but this part was terrifying for me..I have vertigo.  I shuffled along watching my feet all the time...I didn't dare look sideways.... with June encouraging me.   I don't have any pictures as I was too scared to do anything but keep shuffling. When there was a break in the concrete it was "just lift your foot Laurie".  I kept saying "do the things you think you cannot do".  However yes there was definitely some swearing going on.  We passed a fellow who had turned around as the trail got even narrower with a sheer drop as in not being able to see anything but space below him. (we could see rocks, trees way below us at this point - that is if I had dared to look) so we stopped at a bridge for a quick rest and ate a pear, some cookies and had some water.  I knew I couldn't go much further and the more tired I got the shakier I would get.  This is not classed as an easy levada to walk as you might imagine....
So back we went....

This was the easy bit.

June got a new friend..okay mister are you the one who pooped in the middle of the path?

We were out walking for about two and a half hours.   I am so glad we did as much of it as we did and am looking forward to doing another levada walk but nothing like this ever again.  When you have vertigo and even if you don't, walking along a thin precipice is sheer lunacy.  However I can say I did it and lived to tell the tale... though if I ever have a nightmare I am sure that walk will be part of it.

After the walk, we took the bus to Camara do Lobos and celebrated with a meal at one of the harbour caf├ęs.  Then we walked the 30 minute back to our room at Jorge and Andrea's place.  And then we got shit faced with wine but that's a whole other story.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A 30 year old dream realized

Well here I am on the beautiful island of Madeira - somewhere I have wanted to visit since the 80's.  It's not high on North American radars but it should be... on second thought, no no you don't want to come here.... I don't want it to become too popular you see because to me this is paradise.  The temperature right now is about 17C for a high and then cools off at night. 
Our airbnb home is lovely and the view from the house is spectacular.  It is west of Funchal, the main town and overlooks the ocean and Funchal.    When we arrived the airport bus dropped us off too early and luckily a young fellow walking by helped us out by phoning Jorge who came to pick us up there instead of the bus stop we were supposed to be dropped off at.  Stress!  Once we got here though we were thrilled to bits.  Jorge served us home made soup on our arrival and it was delicious.

Home sweet home for the next week
Oh yes and June brought the type cover for my tablet so I am now in business again.  It feels so good to actually type again.  And this means more blog posts folks.  You don't want to know how long it took for me to "type" on the touch cover and how often I felt like throwing the thing against the wall in frustration.

Last night we walked to a nearby fishing village where we picked up a few groceries and a bit of wine.... we then went for Tapas at a local bar which consisted of espada fish in passion fruit sauce, sardine bruschetta and lappas which is a small version of mussels.  Yum.  We also had a drink that the bar invented called Nikita (after Elton Johns' song) that consists of beer, wine and ice cream and is really quite delicious believe it or not. Don't try creating that at home folks as I think it could be quite scary in the wrong hands.  When we got back Jorge brought us up some tea. 

This fishing village is a 30 minute walk from where we are
Today was a wonderfully busy day but I will tell you about that another time! 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Here she is finally

Well here I am... a week late and a few dollars short.. or should I say a few pounds and euros short.  As I am pecking away on my online keyboard I can hear the rain pouring down here in Lisbon but it is supposed to stop for a while later this morning.  I've had quite a bit of rain here but then again it is winter and beats the snow at home any day.

I had a couple of reasons for not blogging.... this insane keyboard.  I have a surface tablet and have the touch keyboard which is driving me insane. Not good for typists like me..more for the pecking crowd which is what I have to do.  Relief is coming next week in the form of a new keyboard.(and even better a friend to join me) I also have had problems getting into blogger but for now I have found a way in.  The other reason?  Feeling a bit down in the dumps despite being in this beautiful city,  Why? On my arrival into Lisbon by airport bus we hit a woman apparently jaywalking.  I did not see it but heard a horrible loud thump and a howling screaming sound which turned out to be the driver who was absolutely devastated as you can imagine. I don't know the fate of the woman but I can only imagine.  Emergency services were arriving as we were leaving the bus.  As it turned out we had already passed my stop but I could not understand the announcement. It hasn't escaped me that if I had gotten off there we never would have hit that woman. I try not to go there. I can still hear that horrible thump which was more like a bang and the screaming. One split second bad decision and this happens to that poor woman. And the poor driver having to deal with this. I don't know what kind of services are available here but I hope he gets the help he needs. 

So Lisbon has been tinged a bit with sadness and yes a bit of fear. Fear that yes bad things really do happen and especially if you are not careful. Need I add I am a bit paranoid crossing streets. 

Lisbon is absolutely gorgeous I must say even if it hasn't worked its way into my (currently) sad  heart. I wish I wasn't so darn sensitive. Ah well.

My hotel is wonderful and a warm haven to come back to each day. Very handy to everything. Thanks for the recommendation Pat!

I have been out exploring the different neighborhoods each day and taking lots of pictures.  I will share more in the coming days now that I can access my blog once again.

Here are a couple of my favorites to enjoy until my next post which hopefully won't be a week coming.

View from park in Bairro Alto

Rossio Square

View from lookout in Alfama

Sao Jorge csstle

Belen tower 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moseying around the East End of London on a Sunday afternoon

I had full intentions of finishing up a 10 km walk today, I really did.  Then I got on the train and changed my mind....  So off I went but silly me got off at the wrong station.  I got off at Whitechapel so had a bit of a walk to get to Brick Lane...but it was a new area for me so it was all good.

So without further yakking I will let the pictures tell the story...street art and food was the Sunday Upmarket today but I resisted going in and looking at the craft stalls.  I will do that in a few weeks with a friend....Sunday is THE day to go to the East End if you like markets....and get off at East Aldgate tube station and away you go! 

Christ Church Spitalfields in the background

Very popular place as you might guess. 

Momos!!  Yes that was lunch.

Side street

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reporting month on the road

Well one month ago today I headed off on this big adventure....first stop Iceland and then onto London.  As I was on the bus "home"tonight I was thinking how much I am enjoying this and feeling so lucky to be in the city I love above all others.  I know I am fortunate to do this...nothing to tie me down and having the financial resources to make a long standing (since 1979!) dream come true.

So I thought I'd write a summary of what this last month has brought to me - both good and bad...hopefully I will do this on approximately the 10th of every month until June.

Beds slept in:  three so far...Snorri Inn in Reykjavik, Iceland; Iolanthe (my home from home) in Hampstead Garden Suburb and here at my pet sit in Alperton, Wembley.  

High point:  There have been lots such as the joy of seeing all my favourite London sights again, spending Xmas with my buddy Pat, enjoying the magic of the Nutcracker but the spine tingling best bit was the Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall...those trumpets and that booming organ and the chorus...oh my.  And when the audience joined in to sing it was major spine tingling time.  Sometime I will never forget - until I lose my marbles that is.

Low point:  Definitely losing Scylla, the cat I was looking after.  She was a sweet little cat and losing her had a profound effect on me; holding a life as it ebbs away is something you never ever forget.  RIP sweet little Scylla...your parents loved you very very much and I thought you were kind of all right too.    

Best meal:  the one I just had...a Marks and Spencers ready roast lamb meal with roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and veggies. (veggies cooked by me)  I moaned and groaned my way through the meal (I do enjoy my food..and it shows!) and Emma (the dog) was the backup moaning chorus. Second up was the steak and ale pie I got at Borough market.   I have been cooking the majority of  my meals here at the house.  Yes it is cheaper than eating out but it has also been so much fun going grocery shopping.  I will be eating out 99% of the time for the next three weeks so it's nice to eat in while I can.  I can't say "cooking" really as it's been more like heating up the main course such as quiche, meat pies, etc. and cooking veggies to go with it.  And yes I am obsessed with brussels sprouts...and they are so cheap here!  

Best place I stayed: always...I may opt for a bigger room next time but then again having to watch my budget who knows...I definitely want to go back before I go back to Canada...I am thinking right before I come home.  Looking out at that park in early June will be an absolute joy. 

Regrets:  none.  I did all I could do for little Scylla..she was on her way out when I took over her care. 

I enjoyed my time in Iceland however I wouldn't go back in the winter again.  I wanted to go for the Christmas decorations which were okay and the market. (laughable)  I wasn't disappointed..don't get me wrong..I am in love with that place.   I liked the place I stayed but it was just a little bit out of the way...I am hoping to stay with Michael down by the harbour when I return on my way home in June. I loved roaming the streets, learning about their Christmas traditions, having lobster soup again at the Sea Baron, learning more about Iceland at their National Museum and visiting the ducks and geese at the city pond.  I am looking forward to returning in June when I will be based in Reykjavik once more but taking day trips out into the country every day with very little time in the city itself.   


London has been "brilliant"as they say here...everyone should see London at Christmas once in their lifetime...they know how to do it up right.

Roasting chestnuts


I am enjoying looking after Emma although sometimes it is a drag having to time my outings...however being able to hang out with a dog and live in a house makes up for it.  I enjoy Emma's foraging missions (I hesitate to call them walks as it consists of me pulling her away from all the lovely munchies she longs for - and sometimes gets before I can stop her) and have gotten to know the neighbourhood through them. Sadly this is not a dog friendly neighbourhood and most people shy away from her or look at her with disgust.  I have grown quite fond of the girl and perhaps I will be back later in the year for much shorter periods of time..who knows?   I never thought I would say this but I am enjoying a "pet free" lifestyle at home...for the first time ever in my life... Now I would have my much loved dog Sandy back in a heartbeat if I could but I can't.  So I must say it will be a relief to not worry about anybody but me me me for a while. However having free accommodation for three weeks has been wonderful and I've been able to do things I might not have been able to do (financially) otherwise.  I have an airbnb home booked for three weeks in February in SE London (Brockley) followed by a week in St Ives, Cornwall.  

My pet sitting job ends on Monday morning/afternoon sometime - from there I will head down to Brighton for three nights and then on to Lisbon and Madeira for two weeks....slowly I am gathering my things together, the suitcase is in the living room now and things are getting put in as they are washed...another advantage of a house..having access to a washing machine and yes..even a dryer...very unusual here!  The washing machine stops various times during the cycle and takes forever but it beats going to a launderette and spending ten me strange but it's always a good feeling to have nice clean clothes on the road.  I am cleaning the house bit by bit - tomorrow night it will be completed...


No more pet sitting jobs on the horizon...they are very difficult to find and at this point I am I really want this?  So many of the home owners have multiple pets which is a real tie down...I will see what happens I guess...I had anticipated a retirement in a few years of petsits around the world however I've learned this is a very popular thing to do now...and from bitter experience I've decided NO MORE OLD PETS!!! 
Stay tuned to see what the next month brings!  

Friday, January 9, 2015

A walk along the Grand Union Canal from Alperton to Greenford

 When I took on this petsitting job I had no idea there was a canal anywhere near Wembley so it was a pleasant surprise. Since arriving I have wanted to walk the tow path from Alperton to Greenford and finally the right day arrived.  This morning was sunny but clouds predicted for the afternoon. Rain is predicted for tomorrow and cloudy on Sunday and then I am outta here so it was a case of now or never.

So off I went.  I had done part of this trail a couple of times previously but instead of turning around I carried on.   The same gang of swans were there to hiss and give me dirty looks as I passed by.

Moody teenage cygnet
It was pretty quiet along the tow path and I only ran into the odd walker - or should I say nearly got run over by the odd cyclist...don't get me started.  Is it too hard to say bike on your left/right or ring a bell..?   It was hard to believe I was in one of the biggest cities on the planet as it was so peaceful.  I realize that one of the walks I do with Emma is on the other side of the golf course and cemetery I could see on the other side of the canal.

Piggery Bridge....where did they get that name from? Do I really want to know? 

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday...

At the Horsenden Hill visitor centre I took the opportunity to use the facilities and then started up one of the paths that led up the hill..I ended up walking beside a golf course so was hoping no stray golf balls would hit me on the noggin.  As it had rained yesterday the paths were very muddy and I was so relieved that I had thought to wear my hiking boots.  The view of North London was lovely.  I ran into a trio of walkers, one of whom took my photo and I returned the favour  I sat on a bench up there, ate my snack of a pear and cookie, had some water and then decided to venture back.  The hill is 276 feet above sea level and the summit is part of an ancient settlement from the Iron Age.

I opted to go back the same way I had come up as I can get lost in a paper bag...I decided to "be safe"and not explore.  And can you believe I left my phone charging on the kitchen counter?  Yes Laurie, go walking on your own and forget your phone...duh....need I add I am not one of those people who are tethered to their phones?  

Back onto the path which was even quieter as the clouds started rolling in.  Finally the walking bridge appeared which indicated I was heading to the end of my walk.

This path to Horsenden Hill was good compared to some of them. 

I saw a few canal boats on the move today

This is where I left the path and headed back home via public transport. 
I followed the easy instructions back to the tube station and after a short tube and bus journey I was back in Alperton.   I rewarded myself with a late lunch/early supper - momos...and veggie korma.....very nice.

I really enjoyed this walk (probably about 5 or 6 km) and it's given me an incentive to do even more canal walks during my time in London.  

A picnic in Peter Rabbit country

When I was visiting England two and a half years ago I stayed with friends Janette and Martyn who I got to know through my German friend Cl...