Vacation all I ever wanted

Time again for vacation! While most of my trips are relatively short  this is another big one. Two full weeks. Off to Copenhagen and then a nine day Northern Baltic cruise!  

Once again my friend Linda joins me on this adventure. We’re  currently chilling out at LAX waiting to board the nearly eleven hour flight to London.  

Stay tuned for the adventure!

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Back to Paris!

Over the past several days Facebook is reminding me of where I’ve been the last several years. Apparently I love going out of the country this time of year. This year it’s back to Paris and joining me is Amy, one of my best friends who has escaped her husband and children for several days in the City of Lights. 

This trip is a bit different. I’ve rented an apartment where we can lounge with platters of cheese and pate, sipping wine and enjoying each other’s company. I’ve always wanted to pick up more of the wonderful items seen in the markets and since its cold about an apartment fits the bill. 

The apartment is perfectly situated only a few blocks from rue Moufftard for our delicious shopping needs. Unusual is that it’s and affordable cozy two bedroom with living room, small kitchen and dining room. Perfect! We met the owner to get the lay of the land then headed out for lunch and market shopping. 

First up lunch! Duck confit is always a good way to start. Love duck confit so expect to see it again.

Next we worked our way up the street checking out the different shops for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. 

We loaded up with roast chicken and potatoes, cheese, fresh butter, eggs, pate, a baguette, croissants, raspberries and asparagus. Perfect for dinner and breakfast. We’ll supplement as we go. 

Our roast chicken, potato and asparagus dinner was wonderful and relaxed as we simply hung out in our comfortable clothes catching up and simply enjoying each other’s company.  Plus there are leftovers!I love having the full benefits of an apartment!

Tomorrow will be a busy day. We plan on hitting the big Puces St. Ouen flea market and start experiencing more of the sights. For now it’s time to chill in the living room with a glass of wine and try to interpret the conversations floating up from the street. Bonne nuit!

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All about food

No story, just food. My trip so far. 

Just glad I have another day! Burp. 

And I continue. Let me note that these are just great food scenes. I haven’t eaten everything here sadly. I wish. I need more time in Paris. 

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Paris arrival day

I’ve been enjoying Paris for the past several days yet sadly have not been blogging about it. I didn’t think I’d do much this trip yet I’ve been running around like a maniac.

I definitely did the right thing and booked my room at the Hotel Cler for the night before I arrived. This allowed me to have a room available when I arrived before 9am Thursday morning. So glad I spent the extra money as I napped, showered, strolled to the Eiffel Tower and napped some more. 

Finally I managed to head out to a delicious roast chicken dinner at Cafe Roussillon near my hotel. 

Then spent a few evening hours strolling. After all I had all that chicken and yes, pan drippings to work off. Seriously, gotta love a place that serves a side of the roast drippings. 

This is one of the main reasons I choose to come to Paris.  The flowers. Okay and the food.  I’m returning in November but the gardens of Paris are just lovely. What I didn’t expect was for so much to be closed. I realize it’s August and a month for vacation but so many small shops, restaurants and cafes are closed. 

My room calls to me and while it feels I’ve been napping all day I’m looking forward to a shower and a good night sleep. 

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Take a moment

All too often we get caught up in our own lives and the travel chaos we create. But the greatest thing about travel are the lives of the people we meet. 

While waiting on a delayed flight from LAX to JFK I stuck up a conversation with a gracious older woman. She was frustrated by the delays so I tried to help out. Learned she delayed breakfast counting on the business class breakfast but with the delays was thirsty. Helped her quickly acquire a bottle of water and offered my banana. 

We spent he next several minutes chatting back yard produce and chickens. Raising backyard chickens spans generations! 

Turned out she grew up with WWII rationing and her stories were touching. 

This is what travel moments are all about. A few moments span generations and lifetimes. I like to think I helped make this woman’s delays a bit more bearable and am thrilled to have her give me a wave as I sit just in front of her. 

Take a moment. Talk to others and live in the moment. That’s what travel us all about. 

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Pennsylvania/Cold Ashton to Bath

It’s the last leg of our journey as we push on toward Bath. We’ll walk a little over 11 miles over a variety of landscapes with the last couple of miles within the city of Bath. 

Our hosts at the Swan Cottage were extremely gracious and friendly as well as excellent cooks.  

So after a hearty breakfast we hit the trails and took our official start photo in front of the old church in Cold Ashton. 

We continued with inspiring country views and soon reached a “gentle slope” to really warm up the legs. 

You can see how well the trail is marked. It’s been great to simply follow the markers and only pull out our guide book to read historic descriptions or do an occasional trail check. 

Yes, that hill is steeper than it looks and usually continues up yet another hill once you think you’re at the top. 

The trail continued through more picturesque fields until eventually we reached the historical Landsdown battlefield.

The terraced fields we had skirted were the scene of some of the battles and we walked through the filed where the last battle waged. Just picturing the scene from 500 years ago gives one a chill. 

The CW joined the Landsdown walk as we worked our way around the battlegrounds and monuments. 

Leaving Landsdown behind we caught or first glimpse of the cities below. 

Again we experienced a dramatic change of scenery when we emerged along a bridle path adjacent to a golf course! 

We then returned to the fields and found a perfect picnic spot at just over the half way point.  Check out these views!

Over the next couple of miles we continued to have fantastic fields, baying sheep and cows. Trail traffic also increased. It also became apparent which walkers were out for a short hike compared to the distance walkers! 

As we finished the final field (pictured above) we emerged into the outskirts of Bath where the trail became city streets and steep (yes seriously steep) paved walkways. 

The CW markers soon disappeared at Victoria Park and we relied upon our guidebook which had us passing by the famous Royal Crescent and The Circus (not pictured). 

We were now in the thick of Bath. . . and tourists!

Eventually our sore legs led us to the official end of the Cotswold Way located in the square of the Bath Abbey and Roman Baths. It seems surreal to finish a 62 mile hike in a square with street performers and hoards of tourists but what a sense of accomplishment! 

We found the trail marker on the ground in front of the Abbey and I must admit I came very close to breaking out in sobs and couldn’t hold back a few tears. 

We continued on toward our B&B which was a huge disappointment. Contours had us in a dismal location. About half a mile from the city center but miles away from charm. Also  right along a busy street with no nearby services. The inn itself  was fine. Nice breakfast room and quite a nice room although stuffy with a noisy street prohibiting leaving the window open. Not the way we wanted to end the trip. The hosts didn’t live on property so we left a note and found better located accommodations. 

We’re now at the Abbey Hotel in the heart of the city and moments from the Abbey. Definitely a better end to our trip with restaurants and bars within hobbling distance. 

Tomorrow we plan on simply playing tourist although there’s so much to see. Perhaps I’ll go crazy and dig out my makeup. Perhaps not, but the hiking boots are done! 


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Old Sodsbury to Pennsylvania/Cold Ashton

It’s a solo walk for me today. Linda’s badly bruised toe took a beating over the last two days and it needs a break so I’m pushing on this short section solo. Tonight’s stop is in Pennsylvania just before Cold Ashton and while our walking tour coordinator  pegged it as nine miles it was closer to seven. 

Since I was expecting a longer walk I started early and set a pretty fast pace which was quickly slowed as I soon hit the “gentle hills” of Dodington House, unseen from the trail. 

Amazing how trail grade just doesn’t come across in photos! This section of the trail is certainly downright gentle compared to two days ago! 

The path led through the village of Tormartin with its picturesque church. Every village has a picture perfect church!

One of the many charms of the country has been the chickens! Perhaps it’s because I’ve three backyard chickens, but I’ve noticed how many homes here are raising their own. In fact our first B&B in Painswick had a flock and as I lie here in Pennsylvania, I can see geese and chickens wandering the yard across the street. 
As I left the village, the trail soon changed as the sounds of livestock became the distant (and not so distant) hum of traffic and the buzz of power lines marching across fields replaced the rustling of crops. 
With relief, I finally returned to field paths yet could still hear the sounds of cars in the distance.  The fields however were beyond rewarding. Bright yellows against a perfect blue sky; towering windmills appearing as nearly modern sculptures dotted the landscape. It’s hard to choose just one field photo to share as I found myself capturing nearly every field so excuse me while I share!

Traffic noise became a thing of the past as the trail wound along the extensive walled-off grounds of Dyrham Park. This area became one of my favorites of the day as it is was perfect for a picnic. I found a quiet spot along the terraced hillside to enjoy.  Linda would have loved this spot! A perfect Cotswold picnic location. 

A few more fields to descend and I was in the village of Dyrham with the impressive back of Dryham House emerging from around the bend. 

The trail continued along field borders, ponds  and between several horse farms.  

Rather appropriate to wander among horse farms as Linda told me there’s a world renowned dressage event taking place soon in nearby Badminton. 

Way too soon I reached the little hamlet of Pennsylvania. Since 12:45 was too early to arrive at the guesthouse I continued up a bit further to Cold Ashton where another nearly 1000 year old church begged to be photographed. 

Not wanting to venture too much further I found a nice comfortable spot nestled against a stone wall to enjoy a snack, read and of course update Facebook. 

A short while later I returned to Pennsylvania and the Swan Inn Cottage where Linda was waiting. There’s the little hamlet below! Very very little. 

Our hostess offers a dinner service and we enjoyed a delicious homemade meal of cottage pie, vegetables and wine. An incredible apple crumble with ice cream finished the meal.  

Looking forward to a good night sleep then the final push to Bath tomorrow. 

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Wotten-under-Edge to Old Sodsbury

The morning greated us with blue skies and a clear forecast. Such a relief from yesterday’s rain. We can expect some muddy trails but at least it’s dry and sunny. 

Our walk today takes us south to Old Sodbury which is approximately 12 miles. We started full of energy (and looking rather coordinated). 

Our first steep ascent was within moments of leaving the village. It turned out to be one of only a few climbs. Good to get this steep one out of the way. 

Soon we were crossing along fields and emerging into more wooded paths.
There’s a great variety of trail to keep your interest and there’s just something about waking through fields that makes me wish I were a poet. Stanzas evoking images of strolling through wooded English glens and wind buffeted pastures; patchwork vistas and swaying grasses. Ahh, to be a writer would be grand! 

This section of the Cotswold Way features lots of creeks and some little mini waterfalls as this area historically had numerous mills. 

The sound of bubbling brooks, birds, baying sheep and cows are heard in the distance. We soon arrived in Alderly which featured a beautiful old church and impressive manor house. 

The next several miles took us through gorgeous fields and a variety of livestock.     

Soon the Somerset Monument outside the village of Hawkesbury Upton appeared in the distance.

Hawkesbury was our eight mile point with four more to Old Sodbury. We detoured quarter of a mile into Hawkesbury to avail ourselves of the conveniences before returning to the trail. 

As we emerged from a wood the emense Harcourt Hall could be seen through the trees below. It is one of the largest and oldest private residences in the country. 

Picture perfect scenes begged to be photographed. In fact this horse followed us much to our panic as he nearly jumped up a rise and quickly approached to pose majestically in front of this nesting folly. 

We continued downhill through more fields of baying sheep and a surprise Guinea fowl sighting to come upon this serene moment. 

After nearly twelve miles we reached the church in Old Sodbury. 

And of course since we had gone up, we had to go down. This resulted in my favorite photos of the day. 

Shortly thereafter we reached The Old Dog Inn and after checking us we joined the local men in the pub. The wine is medicinal dontcha know. We’ll get a good night sleep and back to the trail tomorrow. 

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King Stanley to Wotten-under-Edge

Let’s rename this section to Hell’s Steep Climbs and Descents. The first leg is described as 6 1/2 miles of “streneous in sections” between King Stanley and Dursley. Boy are they not kidding. Hiking poles became essential and likely a lifesaver. 

The day started innocently enough with some forest trails, blue sky and more cows thrown in for entertainment. 

The somewhat gentle and easy in hindsight  hills quickly turned into steep climbs that rewarded with incredible views. 

While the views are fantastic the wind whips so strongly that it’s difficult to stand and admire the scenery. Almost comical in how strong it gusts!

After descending one section along a bridle path we emerged near a farm to see a large hill in the distance. And sure enough that’s where we were headed. 

I don’t think the hill would have been possible without hiking poles. Here’s Linda working her way up. If it looks like a gentle slope you’d be wrong  it’s a least a 45 degree angle. And the tree topped hill in the background? That’s where we came from.  Gentle English hills my ass. My soon to be muscled tight ass. 

Soon after the rain started so away went the camera. Plus I was too busy focused on breathing. Eventually we made it into Dursley. Overall we made excellent time of about 6 1/2 miles in four hours. 

At Dursley Linda wisely threw in the towel and took a taxi to Wotten. Me? I’m a bit OCD and had to continue. Unfortunately I failed to read in our guidebook that the first mile or so was also up a “steep climb.” Nearly 3/4 miles of steep forest trail. 

The climb finally plateaued out at a golf course and thankfully the Cotswold Way offered up a short cut that shaved 2 miles off this 7 1/2 mile section. Since it was raining and I’m not quite that much of an idiot I choose the shortcut. 

The walk took me through more forests and fields. Muddy forests and fields. 

Very muddy slippery fields! The field before the one pictured was so slippery that my first step almost took me down. Again my poles saved the day. Soon I was covered in mud from the knees down. 

I slogged along carefully picking my way up and down hills until it was time to climb yet another steep hill to Tynedale Monument. 

More wonderful views from the top and the rain was pretty much done. 

The next couple of miles were down muddy forested paths. Notice the muddy theme? I was able to enjoy walking with an older English gentleman and his yellow lab for a while. He shared some of the local history and his love for the trails. Also heard the good news that the weather would be improving! 

Our paths soon diverted as I headed down to Wotten. Another muddy descent and fine views soon emerged from another monument before the final descent to the village. 

Soon I was trudging down streets to the hotel and oddly enough ran into Linda exiting as I was removing my filthy boots and rain pants. 

Bit of wine and a bit more ibuprophen and I may rally for dinner. And of course we have to climb stairs to reach our room. 

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Painswick to King Stanley

First day of our walk. Bath here we come! Today we’re tackling Painswick to King Stanley covering 9 1/2 miles down the Cotswold Way. Our B&B is another half mile or so outside the village so we’re in for a bit over 10 miles. Here we are looking all energetic at the start of the day.  I’ve got to get Linda to stand in front as the angle makes me look like I’ve a giant head. 

We had a bit of a late start and dragged a bit as we got our packs situated and layers right for the temperature and level of exertion. 

The trail is extremely well marked so thankfully there’s little need to constantly pull out the book which is awesome as between hiking poles and camera my hands are full. Although I still managed to constantly pull out the book to read about where we were. 

The trail covers a variety of woods and meadows. Very charming with fantastic views along the way. 

Just a few photos of some of the interesting scener not necessarily in trail order. 

Yes, we’re walking 55 miles!

Lots of steep hills and sharp descents but the views are incredible and the hiking poles and stability. 

It’s also a fantastic time to walk as the flowers are blooming the the fields are scattered with sheep and romping lambs. So far we’ve not gone through any sheep fields but they’re romping in the distance. 

At one point we had a forced break as we waited out a small herd of a dozen or so cows worked their way down the trail. 

Eventually we made our way to charming Grey Cottage in Leonard Stanley just next to King Stanley. 

Our hostess is extremely gracious and after being shown our room we were chatting like old friends over tea and carrot cake. She even drove us over to a nearby restaurant for dinner and offered to take us to the trail tomorrow which will shave a bit off out big 14 mile day!

For now it’s time for ibuprophen, a hot shower and a comfy bed.  

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