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The title may be a bit misleading; ‘one day in Florence’, because I was there for 7 days in total, 3 days of which I used to take days trips to San Gigmignano (via Poggibonsi), Siena and Lucca. But today (22/04/17) was my first full day in Florence and I was ready to explore!

the wonderful streets of Florence

the wonderful streets of Florence

Quite tired from all the travel, and extensive walking I had done in Pisa I slept in, had a leisurely cup of tea in bed with a biscuit, then up and dressed and by 09:30 I was out the door. I avoided going down in the lift, I just didn’t trust it really (although by the time I got back in that evening 9.5 hours later, I didn’t have any such qualms!! After all the apartment was on the 3RD FLOOR!!! LOL

one day in florence

the hood where I stayed; gorgeous weather! Love the street names; Via Ventiquattro Maggio – sounds so romantic

The day had dawned bright and blue; such blue skies on a regular basis…what bliss! I took a photo of the street where I was staying just so I’d have some reference for my return, and with mapmywalk on I set off at a brisk pace – I had a city to explore.  By now of course I knew my way, and within 25 minutes I was back at the train station. (platform 16 led down to the street next to the fort where the buses congregate, and is enroute to where I was staying – in case you wondered 😉 )

Before too long I was back in front of the wonderful Santa Maria Novelle Church, and couldn’t believe my eyes at the crowds! By now, feeling a tad peckish, I looked around for somewhere to eat. To my delight I found a tiny little cafe just a few minutes walk from the church piazza; Caffe Dei Fossi which then became my first stop every morning I was in Florence.

one day in florence

Santa Maria Novella, scenes of the square and Caffe Dei Fossi

Una cappucino e croissant, mille grazie 🙂 See I can speak Italian hahahaha Just don’t answer me in Italian….. Actually jokes aside, their croissants were A.MAZ.ING!! Filled to bursting with pistachio creme or Nutella (OMG!!) or custard creme, the next day I had 2 instead of just one. Btw, this cafe was excellent value for money. One cappucino and a croissant = 2 euro!!! Wow. Highly recommend. Of course, as I was soon to learn, they don’t do ‘grande’ in Italy!! I suspect that the selection of sizes that we get in USA & UK are a popular American coffee chain’s (no names mentioned) marketing ploy to make bigger profits. So yeah, no grande, but we did eventually agree on a bigger glass cup for an extra 0.50 cents.

Moving on. After the heavenly delight of the croissant I set off for the river.  I had thankfully found the direct route and now I reached it within a few minutes. Oh how beautiful it is.

one day in florence

the River Arno, Florence on a stunning day looking downstream. looking upstream = clouds!! and behind me, looking different to last night, what became ‘my point of reference’ – Piazza Carlo Goldoni

My curiosity was piqued by a tower I could see ‘towering’ above the buildings that lined the banks of the river on the opposite side so putting on my navigating hat I set off. I seldom use any form of map or GPS, preferring instead to get lost…hahaha. But oh the places I found on my meanderings. But first I made my way upstream towards the Ponte Vecchio. I was keen to see if I felt differently about my impressions from the previous night….sadly I didn’t 😦 Ohhhh, such a disappointment. It’s a lovely enough bridge, but nothing at all that I was expecting. Lined with gold and silver and jewellery stores, it just seemed…ordinary really. The centre of the bridge is terrific, quite beautiful really and the ‘shops’ that make up the rest of the bridge are quite intriguing. But I have to say that it wasn;t at all what it looks like in photos. Perhaps the photos have been photoshopped!!

ponte vecchio florence

The world-famous Ponte Vecchio that bridges the River Arno in Florence, Italy

Now, if we were talking about the view…….well, what more could you want? Stunning.

river arno florence

stunning view downstream of the River Arno from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Still, here I was, in Florence standing in front of one of the most famous bridges in the world, so without further ado I crossed over and into the maze of streets beyond. Oh how I love the architecture in Italy. They really have got the colour scheme and shabby chic down to a T!!. Stunning.

florence italy

shabby chic. I adore the architecture in Italy. France is lovely, elegant and cold, but Italian architecture feels like a warm embrace.

I made my way through the streets, meandering here and there. I love the scooters that whizz by…so Italy. The buildings are enchanting, and so very old. Oh the stories they could tell. Eventually I found myself at the edge of a massive piazza and realised I had found the church with the dome I had noticed earlier further down the river. This turned out to be the fabulous Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine.

piazza del carmine and santa maria del carmine

Piazza del Carmine and the Santa Maria del Carmine Church which belongs to the Carmelite order. Est 1296 it suffered a devastating fire in 1771. Now restored.

I bought a ticket to see the Cappella Brancacci; a small chapel within the Santa Maria del Carmine Church, with absolutely no idea what it was I was about to see. Wow, sometimes it pays to just not know. That way you form no perceptions. Breath-taking, mesmerising, exquisite…oh I could list so many superlatives, but none of them would come close to describing the sheer beauty of these frescoes…

The Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine

The Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy

I spent ages here just looking. So much detail, such beauty. Amazing. I have inserted a link here to their official website which gives you more details, opening times and cost. I can highly recommend that you visit if in Florence, especially if you enjoy the exquisite art of the old masters. These are quite simply exquisite. Besides the chapel, there is the evocative Room of the Last Supper just off the courtyard….

santa maria del carmine florence the last supper

Room of The Last Supper by Alessandro Allori – Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.

The rest of the church’s interior is just beautiful. There was a service going on while I was there and sadly I missed visiting. Nonetheless what I could see was wonderful.

the painted dome and interior of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

the painted dome and interior of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

At last I tore myself away and set off back through the streets and along the riverbank back towards the Ponte Veccho.

the streets of florence italy

strolling the streets of Florence in Italy

When I got there I spent a short time walking around in a circle (yeah I know LOL) and kinda like north, south, east, west which way should I go? I eventually settled on up!! Never one to take the easy route to wherever it was I was going, I started waking along Costa S. Giorgio and street the went up and up and up and up some more!! Whew!!

exploring florence italy

as I climbed higher and higher, little did I know what I was to discover at the top…ever heard of the Baboli Gardens? LOL I hadn’t….

With absolutely no idea of what I would find, as my feet took me further and further until suddenly there before me was Forte di Belvedere!

fort belvedere florence

The Forte di Belvedere or Fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere (often called simply Belvedere) is a fortification in Florence, designed & built by Bernardo Buontalenti over a 5-year period, between 1590 & 1595, by order of Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici

Well well well. Who knew. I guess it makes sense to do real proper research before visiting instead of a cursory sweep of ‘things to do in Florence’….however, I find it thrilling to discover these places by accident! What I was discovering more and more was the influence of the Medici family on Florence in particular and how far-reaching their empire.  I remember learning about the Medici in school, so it was fascinating to be finding these places….little did I know what was just around the corner…..

Palazzo Pitti - home of the Medici family

Palazzo Pitti – home of the Medici family – The House of Medici was an Italian banking family, political dynasty and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de’ Medici in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th C

The Baboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti. A location that turned out to be not only the home of the Medicis but is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, OMG!!! I was thrilled when I discovered that. Now I could add another UNESCO site to Project 101…Bonus!!!!

Come this way as I show you more about Palazzo Pitti and the Medici….post to follow soon.

P.s. if you’d like to follow my travels around the UK and Europe, connect via instagram and say hello.. My next adventure is Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim. N.Ireland.

 

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Many years ago, back in the days when I still actually ‘liked’ Facebook and set up my profile (2007), I filled in one of those ‘where have you been in the world’ online maps. At the time I was already living in the UK and had been for a few years, so had had the opportunity to travel to quite a few places.

flag-map-denmark-puerto

Map by andrewfahmy on Reddit

While I was pinning names I realised that not only had I visited quite a few countries, but I had also visited quite a few islands…wow, awesome. And so an idea was born; I would visit 100 islands before I die. Okay!! So since I’m not and wasn’t then, planning on dying in the near future, I set about compiling a list of islands I would still like to visit, and since the UK has 6,289 (LOL) I was spoiled for choice. However, since I also wanted to visit Europe, the scope for achieving my goal widened substantially. Did you know that Norway has 240,000 islands, islets, reefs, coral reefs and cays? Now that…would take me quite a few years then!!! As if!!
Jump forward a few years (almost a decade) and subsequent to my stay on the Isle of Wight in January this year where I discovered the Domesday Village of Nettlestone amongst others, an idea was born! Supported by a previous list of the many many villages and towns I’ve visited in the UK since 2007 in my capacity as a Carer for the Elderly, and of course all my holidays; in the UK and abroad, I started thinking……..
I realised that not only had I unknowingly visited many other Domesday villages, but I had during my travels visited a great number of castles, cathedrals, cities, most of the counties in England and Ireland, palaces, famous houses, a random selection of rivers, and to my surprise, a substantial number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites!!! Wow, I had not realised this.
Thus a new list was compiled and Project 101 was born….100 is so yesterday!! LOL.

I immediately set about updating the list with these new categories and updating the details of those I had already visited or been to – this is Project 101; to visit 101 in each of these categories before I die….whenever that may be. I have a separate list of places still to visit. Clearly some categories won’t cater to my 101 target, like the counties of England for instance…only 48, so not much chance there then, but combine them with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the numbers add up ;).

I’m planning (hoping) to write about each of these places, but this will take quite a while as I have to go back in time to find the photos, do some research and write the article….so to kick things off, I’ll start with my more recent travels which to my delight was Italy.

travel in europe

I dreamed of Florence, and Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca 😉 all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites except with the possible exception of Lucca.

With one trip I was able to visit 5 or 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 5 cathedral cities and by extension their cathedrals, 4 or 5 walled cities, famous gardens and a river.  I’ve done research on Lucca and in google searches it comes up, but when I go to the UNESCO site it’s not listed. Further research will be needed… Some places just make it easy; cathedral city/cathedral/UNESCO site(s)/famous house(s)/palace(s)/river……think London & Florence 😉 6 birds with one visit LOL.

Of course now that I have started this blessed list my mind is like……’hmmmm, should I add Roman cities to the Project’? Or maybe churches…..and then I remember just HOW MANY churches I have indeed visited in the last 15 years alone….and my head says NO NO NO!!! So for now (?) here are the categories I’ve settled on…for now 😉 I’ve haven’t listed any of the places in chronological order; that would just be too time consuming. So in no particular order….. these are the places I’ve already been to; looks like I have some catching up to do to visit 101 in each category….now where’s that campervan?!!

ISLANDS (16)
United Kingdom
Portsea Island – UK
Ireland
Arran Islands
Manhattan – USA
Long Island – USA
Sanibel – USA
Venice – Italy
Torcello – Italy
Burano – Italy
Murano – Italy
Providence – Bahamas
Bruges – Belgium
Isle of Skye – Scotland
Iceland
Isle of Wight – UK

COUNTRIES (14)
South Africa
Swaziland
England
Ireland
N.Ireland
Scotland
Wales
United States of America
Bahamas
Italy
France
Netherlands
Belgium
Gibraltar

U.K. COUNTIES
ENGLAND (29)
Greater London (I’ve lived in or visited 25 of the 33 boroughs, including City of London)
Hampshire
Surrey
Norfolk
Suffolk
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Oxfordshire
Devon
Cornwall
Kent
Hertfordshire
Herefordshire
Lancashire
Warwickshire
Worcestershire
Bedfordshire
Berkshire
Dorset
Middlesex (now considered part of Greater London)
Shropshire
Somerset
Wiltshire
East Sussex
West Sussex
Essex
Gloucestershire
Bristol
Isle of Wight

SCOTLAND (5)
Edinburgh/Midlothian
Inverness
Moray
Fife
Ross and Cromarty

WALES (4)
Pembrokeshire
Cardiff
Swansea
Newport

N. IRELAND (3)
Armagh
Down
Antrim

Republic of IRELAND (14)
Dublin
Wicklow
Galway
Clare
Meath
Cork
Kilkenny
Waterford
Wexford
Kerry
Limerick
Tipperary
Mayo
Donegal

CATHEDRAL CITIES (26)
London
Westminster
Winchester
Dublin
Belfast
Edinburgh
Inverness
Brussels
Antwerp
Canterbury
Rijkavik
Chichester
Oxford
Worcester
St David’s
Venice
Verona
Salisbury
Exeter
Chichester
Wells
Pisa
Florence
San Gimignano
Siena
Lucca

CATHEDRALS (26)
St Paul’s Cathedral – London
Southwark Cathedral – London
St George’s Cathedral – London
Westminster Cathedral – London
Worcester Cathedral – England
St David’s Cathedral – Wales
Inverness Cathedral – Scotland
St Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland
Christ Church Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland
Glendalough Cathedral – Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Exeter Cathedral – England
Winchester Cathedral – England
Chichester Cathedral – England
Christ Church, Oxford – England
Salisbury Cathedral – England
St Mark’s Basilica – Venice
Notre Dame Basilica – Paris
Canterbury Cathedral – Kent
Chichester Cathedral – England
Wells Cathedral – England
Duomo Santa Maria Assunta – Pisa, Italy
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence, Italy
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta – Duomo di San Gimignano, Italy
Duomo di Siena – Italy
Duomo di Lucca, Cattedrale di San Martino – Itlay

ABBEYS (9)
Westminster Abbey – City of Westminster, London, England
Sherbourne Abbey – Dorset, England
Shaftesbury Abbey – Dorset, England
Bury St Edmunds – Suffolk, England
Great Malvern (Priory) – Worcestershire, England
St Mary’s – Trim, Ireland
Kylemore Abbey – Galway, Ireland
Quarr Abbey – Isle of Wight, England
Torre Abbey – Torquay, England

I visited so many abbeys, priories, friaries and monasteries in Ireland that I’ve quite lost track…so if I can I will one day try to revisit as many as possible 🙂

DOMESDAY towns & villages (87) – Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror.  My list needs updating; research still being done LOL Admittedly when I complied this list it surprised me that I had already been to so many!

Ashford – Kent
Ayot St Lawrence – Hertfordshire
Bath – Wiltshire
Battersea (London) – Surrey
Bermondsey (London) – Surrey
Brading – Isle of Wight
Bressingham – Norfolk
Blackford – Somerset
Bodiam – Sussex
Bradford-on-Avon – Wiltshire
Brighton – Sussex
Bristol – Somerset
Bromley – Kent
Bury St Edmunds – Suffolk
Bushey – Hertfordshire
Canterbury – Kent
Castle Cary – Siomerset
Castle Combe – Wiltshire
Chatham – Kent
Deal – Kent
Dover – Kent
Epsom – Surrey
Fishbourne – Sussex
Godalming – Surrey
Gravesend – Kent
Hastings – Kent
Hatfield – Herefordshire
Hawkhurst – Kent
Holborn (London) – Middlesex
Hythe – Kent
Ingatestone – Essex
Lambeth (London) – Surrey
Lavenham – Suffolk
Limpsfield – Surrey
London – City of
Maidstone – Kent
Margate – Kent
Meon – Hampshire
Meopham – Kent
Mortlake – Surrey
Nettlestone – Isle of Wight
North Cadbury – Somerset
Norwich – Norfolk
Oxford – Oxfordshire
Oxted – Surrey
Pakenham – Suffolk
Petersham – Surrey
Puckpool – Isle of Wight
Rochester – Kent
Romney Marsh – Kent
Rye – Sussex
Sandown – Isle of Wight
Sandwich – Kent
Shanklin – Isle of Wight
Shaftesbury – Dorset
Sherbourne – Dorset
Sidmouth – Devon
South Cadbury – Somerset
Southwark (London) – Surrey
Sparkford – Somerset
St Albans – Hertfordshire
Stanmore – Middlesex
Stoke Newington (London) – Middlesex
Stoke Trister – Somerset
St Pancras (London) – Middlesex
Stratford-Upon-Avon – Warwickshire
Sundridge – Kent
Tatsfield -Surrey
Templecombe – Somerset
Thames Ditton – Surrey
Titsey – Surrey
Tonbridge – Kent
Trumpington – Cambridgeshire
Tudeley – Kent
Wells – Somerset
Weobley – Herefordshire
West Camel – Somerset
West Meon – Hampshire
Westerham – Surrey
Westminster (London) – Middlesex
Weybridge – Surrey
Whitstable – Kent
Wincanton – Somerset
Winchester – Hampshire
Windsor – Surrey
Woolston – Somerset
Worcester – Worcestershire

CASTLES (36)
Cape Town – South Africa
Dublin – Ireland
Trim – Ireland
Blarney – Ireland
Clontarf – Ireland
Dalkey – Ireland
Howth – Ireland
Kilkenny Castle – Ireland
King John’s Castle – Ireland
Rock of Cashel – Ireland
Malahide – Ireland
Waterford – Ireland
Tower of London – England
Edinburgh – Scotland
Urquhart – Scotland
Eilean Donan – Scotland
Deal – England
Dover – England
Midhurst – England
Sherbourne – England
Rochester – England
Canterbury – Engalnd
Pembroke – Wales
Tonbridge – England
Hever – England
Warwick – England
Leeds – England
Bodiam – England
Oxford – England
Windsor – England
Hastings – England
Rye (Ypres Tower) – England
St Briavels – England
Carisbrooke – Isle of Wight
Rocca Scaligera – Sirmione, Italy
Castelvecchio – Verona, Italy

PALACES (20)
Buckingham Palace – City of Westminster, Great London
Hampton Court Palace – Hampton Court, England
Kew Palace – Kew, London
Windsor Palace – Windsor, England
Burlington House – City of Westminster, London
Westminster Palace – City of Westminster, London
Banqueting House (remains of Whitehall Palace) – City of Westminster, London
St James’s Palace – City of Westminster, London
Richmond Palace – Richmond (now a private residence), Greater London
Lambeth Palace – Lambeth, London
Winchester Palace – Southwark, London
Tower of London – Tower Hamlets/City of London, London
Kensington Palace – City of Westminster, London
The Old Palace – Hatfield (home to Elizabeth I)
Eltham Palace – Royal Borough of Greenwich, Greater London
Palace of Versailles – France
The Doges Palace – Venice, Italy
Palazzo dei Cavalieri – Knights’ Square, Pisa, Italy
Palazzo Pitti – Florence, Italy
Palazzo Vecchio – Florence

FAMOUS HOUSES (18)
Jan Smuts House – Transvaal, South Africa
Anne Franks House – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Burlington House – City of Westminster, Greater London
Chartwell (Winston Churchill) – Kent, England
Ham House – Ham, Greater London
Strawberry Hill House (Horace Walpole) – Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Downe House (Charles Darwin) – Kent, England
Benjamin Franklin’s House – City of Westminster, Greater London
Marble Hill House (Henriette Howard) – Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
The Queens House – Royal Borough of Greenwich, London
Bleak House (Charles Dickens) – Broadstairs, Kent
Turner House (JMW Turner) – Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Apsley House – (1st Duke of Wellington) – City of Westminster, Greater London
Kenwood House (William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield) – Hampstead, Greater London
Hatfield House (Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury) – Hertfordshire, England
Shakespeare’s House (William Shakespeare) – Stratford Upon Avon, England
Keats House (John Keats) – Hampstead, Greater London
Chiswick House (Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington) – Chiswick, Greater London

UNESCO World Heritage Sites (25)
Venice and it’s lagoon – Italy
City of Verona – Italy
Pinvellir National Park – Iceland
Historic Centre of Bruges – Belgium
Palace and Park of Versailles – France
Cathedral of Notre Dame – Paris, France
Paris; Banks of the Siene
17th century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht – Netherlands
City of Bath – England
Stonehenge – England
Palace of Westminster – London, England
Westminster Abbey – London, England
Canterbury Cathedral – England
Tower of London – London, England
Old and New Towns of – Scotland
Maritime Greenwich – London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew London
Everglades National Park – Florida, USA
Piazza del Duomo – Pisa, Italy
Baboli Gardens & Palazzo Pitti – Florence, Italy
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence, Italy
Historic centre of Siena – Italy
Historic centre of Florence – Italy
Historic centre of San Gimignano – Italy
Historic city of Lucca – (although this is mentioned as a UNESCO site, I can’t find it listed)

WALLED CITIES (37)
Dublin – Ireland
Cashel – Ireland
Cork – Ireland
Galway – Ireland
Kilkenny – Ireland
Trim – Ireland
Waterford – Ireland
Wexford – Ireland
City of London – London
Exeter – England
Canterbury – England
Winchester – England
Chichester – England
Oxford – England
Rochester – England
Rye – England
Hastings – England
Salisbury – England
Warwick – England
Worcester – England
Bristol – England
Warwick – England
Worcester – England
Edinburgh – Scotland
St Andrews – Scotland
Pembroke – Wales
Verona – Italy
Amsterdam – Netherlands
Gouda – Netherlands
Paris – France
Gibraltar – British Overseas Territory
Brussels – Belgium
Pisa – Italy
Florence – Italy
San Gimignano – Italy
Siena – Italy
Lucca – Italy

RIVERS I’VE MET ALONG THE WAY (31)
Orange River – South Africa
Vaal River – South Africa
Great Kei River – South Africa
Storms River – South Africa
Sabie River – South Africa
Klip River – South Africa
Jukskei River – South Africa
Blyde River – South Africa
River Thames – London
Eden – England
Avon – England
Spey – Scotland
Ness – Scotland
Medway – England
Severn – England
Wye – England
Yealm – England
Lea – England
Exe – England
Wey – England
Stour – England
Cherwell – England
Cam – England
Itchen – England
Dart – England
Hudson River – USA
East River – USA
Tennessee – USA
Seine – Paris
Liffey – Ireland
Arno – Pisa and Florence – Italy

So, I’m guessing that if I ever get to visit 101 of each of the above categories, I’ll be able to consider myself; Well Travelled LOL

inspirational quotes

Die with memories, not dreams

UNUSUAL PLACES I’VE BEEN/THINGS I’VE DONE
Toured the HMS Eagle Aircraft Carrier in Durban Harbour – South Africa
Explored the Echo Caves – South Africa
Explored the Cango Caves – South Africa
Hot-Air Balloon ride – South Africa
Abseiled off a bridge – South Africa
Paragliding – South Africa
Rock wall climbing on a cruise ship – Bahamas
Parasailing – Bahamas
Wookey Hole – Somerset
Climbed the O2 – London
Helicopter Ride over London (my 60th birthday gift from my daughter)
Fire-walk – London
Stood on Greenwich Meridian Line – London
Sailed along Thames on a Tall Ship – London
Visited the Roman Amphitheatre – London
Kissed the Blarney Stone – Ireland
Climbed The Monument to the Great Fire of London 1666 – London
Followed the Gloriana in the Tudor Pull – London
Participated in the Green Man ceremony – London
Part of the Magna Carta flotilla – London
Stood on two of the earth’s geological plates at the same time; Eurasia & American in Iceland
Visited Stonehenge
Visited all the Cinque Ports in England; Sandwich, Dover, New Romney, Hastings, Hythe, Rye and Winchelsea
Walked along WW2 Tunnels at Ramsgate
Lived in a Gypsy Caravan on Eel Pie Island on the banks of the River Thames
Lived in a Castle in Scotland
Slept on The Mall in London for the Wedding of William and Kate 🙂
Bell ringing at a church in Cambridge

If you’ve read this far…bravo!!! Thank you, I appreciate that you did. I post photos of the various places I travel to on instagram and will be updating Project 101 as I go. My next trip is The Giant’s Causeway in Belfast next week Wednesday; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and then I’ll be visiting Ironbridge in June which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’d love for you to join me on instagram …say hello if you do.

(I found the map at the top of this article on 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World. Fascinating; worth a visit)

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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu

This couldn’t be more true of my life right now. As mentioned in a previous blog, in January of this year I joined the #walk1000miles challenge that I saw advertised on Facebook (it has it’s uses 😉 ). I’ve always loved walking and in my youth (?) I could easily walk up to 8 hours in a day, just meandering here and there…wherever my feet took me.

Since I joined the challenge, I’ve reached the ‘Proclaimer’ point of 500 miles, and of course I will walk 500 more!!

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂

Prior to joining the challenge I had started training for my September Camino (the one I’ve been speaking about for the last 18 months LOL) at the beginning of 2016. Having this 1000 mile challenge to spur me on has been really useful and it certainly helps on those days when I simply do not have any desire whatsoever to get out and walk…although there are days when my bed wins the tug-o-war!! – mostly on days when I’ve had 2 or more night calls and I simply have to catch up on sleep or…….!!! With all the planning I have been doing, researching the route and distances between towns on the Portuguese Coastal Route, I suspect I may well reach the 1000 mile mark while on the Camino…this would be super awesome.

The last few days in Ireland have been wet and rainy, and have provided the perfect excuse to not go out! But today when I opened my emails, there to spur me on and reinvigorate my spirits was a notification to say that the Camino shells and my Camino Passport (Credential) have been despatched!

Talk about motivation to get out again LOL

Now to tackle to backpack issue. Urgh. Talk about dithering; which size to get? However today one of the ladies on a Facebook group I follow, said she is taking a 40Litre pack, so that’s me decided. I really really love the Osprey Tempest 40L Mystic Magenta (pink) yayyy. It will fit in perfectly with my colour coding – yessss, I know, colour coding should be the least of my considerations, but bear with me, I’m a woman and anyway, most of the clothes and equipment I bought in South Africa is in shades of lilac/purple…so my bag should definitely fit in with that!!! But most importantly, it weighs the least of all the bags, coming in at 1.08kgs. And since weight is one of the BIGGEST issues on the Camino; the less the better apparently, then this has to be THE one! 😉

From the website: Tempest 40 is built to be lightweight, comfortable, durable and exceptionally versatile. No matter the adventure, Tempest has your back.

https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/tempest-40-17

the mystical, magical Osprey Tempest 40l Mystic Magenta Backpack 😉

Features:
– Adjustable torso length
– AirScape mesh covered accordion foam backpanel
– Base zip entry
– Designed for Women
– External hydration access
– Fixed lid with dual zippered pockets
– Internal key attachment clip
– Internal top load compression strap
– LED light attachment point
– Light weight peripheral frame
– Removable sleeping pad straps
– Removable top lid with dual compartments
– Seamless lumbar to hip-belt body wrap

– Sternum strap with emergency whistle
– Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment
– Stretch front pocket
– Stretch mesh side pockets with InsideOut compression
– Stretch pocket on harness
– Top lid access
– Twin ice axe loops
– Twin zippered hip belt pockets

Not sure I will need the ice axe loops (?) unless I’m planning on climbing frozen waterfalls, which I’m not, but I’ve no doubt the loops will come in handy for hooking wet clothes to dry on the go! Trust me, when I say I’ve done research, I have! I compiled a spreadsheet with 5 columns of information comparing features/size etc of different backpacks. In the final analysis, this is the one and so I’ve just gone ahead and ordered the bag because no doubt, the ideal bag is not out there.  I could give the manufacturers some suggestions on adding some of the features from other bags….but that would likely make it quite expensive and as it is, this bag is not cheap. However since I have another 10 walks waiting in the wings for planning, I have no doubt this will get good usage.

So there it is, step by step, I’m gathering my equipment, buying the right (hopefully) items, sorting through what I do and don’t need and made some interesting observations along the way….every time I click the ‘buy now’ button on my computer I get heart-palpitations LOL.

Who knew that ‘walking The Camino’ would prove to be so stressful….before I even set foot on hallowed ground!!

On the bright side, as mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been following Facebook Camino page updates, reading blogs etc and besides the A.MAZ.ING scenery I can expect to see,

Arcade - Portuguese Route

Arcade, a town in Galicia along the Portuguese Way

many of the other Pilgrims experience similar twinges of fear. I guess it’s just the wtf am I doing moments that pop up from time to time as the reality sinks in and the date approaches.

So, onwards counting the days; 118 days to go!!! Whewwww!! I wish I’d stop counting the days….adds to the stress.

inspirational quotes

Sometimes we have to stop being scared and just go for it. either is will work or it won’t. that’s life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the first things I did last year when I had first made serious plans for walking the Camino was to find out what equipment I needed and what I should wear. I confess I did go on a mad spending spree while in South Africa last year in May and bought a whole load of clothes and things at the duty free store LOL!!! I’m sure they saw me coming with my bushy tail, bright eyes and Rands (£’s) to spend!! I also went a little bit mad last year when I got home and I’m sure my purchases increased the profit margin of Mountain Warehouse quite substantially. Since then I calmed down a bit and did the sensible thing: research!! I found a fab link that I downloaded immediately

Printable Packing List

a most sensible list

So, in light of all this excitement, and especially since I have now booked my plane ticket, and the journey is real, I have set up various spreadsheets and done loads of research;

Equipment – what do I need, what’s useful and what can I realistically leave behind?

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Lookie looook!!! 🙂 Some of my #Camino2016 gear has arrived!! In keeping with the colour of my jacket and rucksack, I’ve bought as much as I can in purple…can’t help myself; colour coding LOL. So in this pile is a Summit 250 sleeping bag, an emergency foil blanket, survival bag, waterproof pouch (for carrying stuff with easy access), poncho, BPA free water bottle, IsoCool t-shirts, microfibre travel towel, travel bottle set. All of which will be useful for future walking trips and camping too.

I bought a lot of equipment/accessories while I was in South Africa, and so far the tops and pants I bought are going with. The jacket has been converted from two layers to one; the fleece will go with me, the outer rain-jacket will stay at home (too bulky). The gloves will go with, as will the woolly cap. Not sure I will actually need them, but I don’t want to spoil my experience by freezing. The khaki bush-veld sun-hat I bought, although totally unflattering 😉 will go with me. Trainers I bought in SA are totally not suitable and hurt my feet like blazes, so they have been traded in for a different pair, which so far, although quite comfortable, will also not be going with me…not quite right. So the search for suitable walking shoes is still on, although the sandals I bought are amazing. I foresee lots of walking along the beaches of Portugal in those!! Pants; found the ideal type, only problem is that they are men’s. Why don’t they make women’s pants with the same accessories….like leg pockets on both legs??? You have no idea how useful those pockets are for accessibility and storage. Oh well.

Clothes and accessories – again, how much do I realistically have to have.

Fortunately I have a sister and brother-in-law who do a lot of hiking and camping out, so they have given me some advice. Of course being a woman, my inclination is to take enough for every eventuality, but common sense is struggling to prevail and I am already mentally discarding this, that and the next thing. The Facebook pages I joined have been very useful as experienced Camigas have posted updates on what they took and what they discarded as the days went by and the pack got heavier (funny how that happens!!). One thing I have decided on is that I will cut my hair very short before setting out. Save on carrying shampoo and conditioner, and also for ease of wear. I tried on a monk’s outfit at Torre Abbey In Torque earlier this year! Perfect!! I’m seriously considering…..

Backpack – I have taken to accosting people at airports and train stations when I see a backpack that looks like it might fit the bill.

camino luggage

some ideas for the equipment

LOL The wearers have so far been very accommodating and happy to answer my many questions. So many aspects to consider….who knew??? But so far, the backpack I was going to borrow from my daughter last year has been found wanting, my backpack has been found wanting, and after much research and 5 columns on the spreadsheet to compare features, and the many I have seen on the Camino forums, it seems that Osprey will fit the bill – now to decide on which one. It’s a toss-up between two models: Osprey Sirrus 50 L or Osprey Tempest 40 L – urgh. Decisions, decisions.

the portuguese route to santiago

A map showing Portuguese Routes to Santiago

Distances – how far can I walk each day to accommodate my time allowance without killing myself!! My average speed/gait that I walk normally, is 4 km’s per hour. That means I can comfortably walk 24km’s in 6 hours. However, there is the backpack to consider, the heat to consider, the terrain to consider, and my durability to consider. The towns where I have decided to overnight (this is open to change) are all within 20-26 km’s apart with only 1 day being 32kms; Tui to Redondela. I am therefore staying in Valenca for 2 nights and a day to recover/prepare for the next stage. So far the total route is either 260 km’s or 285 km’s depending on which site you read. I’ve done a google distance calculation from town to town, added on a km to each and hoping for the best. Except for the last 100 km’s which you have to do consecutively in order to qualify for the certificate; Compostela, I can if necessary use the occasional bus or train. But I feel this would spoil it somehow so hoping to manage to walk the whole way.

Walking!!! Yes this raises all sorts of issues: care of feet, the correct shoes, types of terrain and poles!

Gosh, who knew that poles could be such a contentious issue? I posted an update just the other day to say that I had bought a paid of Nordic walking poles and had anyone on the group any comment? Yes, they did. 90% were positive but one or two were quite patronising and scathing. LOL. Anyway the concensus is that they are a good thing to have, now I just have to learn how to use them properly…there is apparently a special way of walking with them for maximum benefits. If they save my knees and ankles, then baby I am there!! Besides the training, it seems you need the rubber tips for cobbles and spikes for beach. Hmmm, who knew? I’ve also found a fab site, Camino Ways, and although I haven’t booked any tours with them, their foot care advice has been most useful. http://caminoways.com/footcare-when-walking

Accommodation – where to sleep each night?

sculpture of a pilgrim in dublin

I saw this truly evocative sculpture at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin

The obvious choice would be alburgues, but from what I’ve seen on the various forums, this is a bit tricky. They are cheap and highly sought after and in many instance ‘pilgrims’ jump ahead by using taxis to get to the next town early and secure the accommodation before the ‘walkers’ get there. Seems a bit ludicrous really and not at all in the spirit of the Camino. To each his own hey! So I think I shall take a mix of AirBnB, hotels and the pilgrims alburgues. The AirBnb would give me the benefit of a private room, a place to prepare a proper meal, a comfortable bed and a dedicated shower LOL. Hotels likewise except for the meals, but mostly they include a continental breakfast….the alburgues are very basic, communal facilities and bedrooms with bunks, but mostly with kitchens where meals can be prepared, so I shall balance the 3 to both enjoy the experience and stick with the pilgrim aspect. From what I’ve seen on the forums, except for the purists, this mix appears to be the norm.

Food – what to eat?

I recently spent 10 days in Italy between Pisa and Florence and as usual was so busy exploring and tramping the streets trying to see as much as possible, I didn’t get to eat much…as a result of which I have suffered terrible cramps in my feet and legs since getting back home. Obviously my body couldn’t cope with the burning up of nutrients without being topped up!!! Lesson learned. I asked on Facebook and got some useful advice that I shall follow. Meanwhile I’m beefing up on protein. Being vegetarian this is a bit tricky but research has given me some fab food groups to incorporate into my diet. Nutrition is going to be key for a healthy Camino. So lots of fruit and vegetable protein will be on the menu. I’ll have to do some research on what’s available for my very spoilt British palate. We have way too much variety and choice in this country!!

Locations – this is the best part for me. I adore history, so my research on the different locations along the route have provided hours of pleasurable reading. Oh my word! So much extraordinary history. It’s almost unbearable. I wish I had twice the time I have allocated so that I could spend 2 nights and a day in each location. But I have chosen the highlights and of course; my favourite venues – the churches and cathedrals, anything Roman and of course amazing architecture.  Some snippets:Portugal is a country I have wanted to visit for some years and although not top of my dream list so to speak, it’s history has intrigued me and of course there’s the stunning scenery. I’m also intrigued by the fact that they are such a small country, surrounded by sea and Spain, and have yet maintained their independence through thick and thin.

My Camino de Santiago will start in September from Porto:

Porto, a coastal city in northwest Portugal, is Portugal’s 2nd largest city and known for its stately bridges and port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes, and is also a UNESCO world heritage Site. São Francisco Church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors.

I cross over into Spain from Valenca and so to Tui; from there will complete my final 100 kms to qualify for the Compostela (Certificate).

The gateway through which the Portuguese Way passes into Galicia was, and continues to be, Tui.

I am currently working on a project called ‘Project 101’. Many of these locations will fulfil some of my objectives and to my delight I have discovered some UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some fantastic cathedrals and Roman towns on the route. I’m planning on spending 3 days in Porto before I start walking, to acclimatise and of course, most importantly to explore the city. It too is a UNESCO heritage site and last night I discovered that the town of Coimbra (which is a place I’ve wanted to visit) is only an hour by train from Porto, the University is a UNESCO World Heritage Site…so that too is now on my Project 101 list, and a must visit while I’m in Porto. Gosh will I have enough time to do it all??

So yes, time, like me, is marching on and I’m reading up on as many blogs, doing loads of research, watching videos, learning how to use my Nordic walking poles, and walking walking walking…… And exactly 4 months from today, I will have started walking…..my Camino 2017. I should have made inroads (pun intended 😉 ) on my 2nd 500 miles by then and I hope that I might just complete the full 1000 miles while I’m there…that would be awesome!!! #walk1000miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂

You can follow my journey on instagram

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Back in 2010 my interest was piqued by a conversation I had with the niece of a lady I was caring for at the time. I mentioned to her that I was thinking of walking ‘The Camino’……and it turned out that she had already walked the route!! 🙂 A woman. Solo. On her own! Hmmm…….since then of course I’ve discovered that thousands of women walk solo every year; from teens to octogenarians. Pretty damn awesome!!

Prior to that I had heard of the Camino de Santiago in an obscure sort of way; I can’t recall exactly when I was first aware of it, probably in one of the many books I read, and of course my father had already cycled some of the routes. My father was in London one year (I think it was 2007) and we met up to watch the Tour de France pass through the city. We chatted about the Camino and made tenuous plans to ‘do it’ together….but he wanted to cycle whilst I want to walk…so it was probably never going to happen.

camino de santiago

My father in his latter years, shortly before he died at the grand old age of 85.

But the seed was planted and after the conversation I had in 2010, the idea took root: I would actually walk it myself, by myself. And of course there was the movie ‘The Way’ with Martin and Charlie Sheen that was released in 2010. It’s taken some 7 years, but I have finally put my money where my mouth is and booked my plane ticket!!! On 19 April 2017 I posted this on our family’s ‘WhatsApp’ news feed:

*Breaking news*  Yes!! Its done …I’ve just booked my flights for #Camino2017
I Fly to Porto in Portugal on 7 September for 3 Days in Porto  then start walking 285 (260?) kms to Santiago de Compostela on 11 September along the coastal route to Caminha, then inland to Valenca for my last night in Portugal, then crossing the Minha River to Tui the next day for the final 100 kms to Santiago de Compostela. I’ll spend 3 days in Santiago and then fly to Barcelona for 3 days and back to UK on 28 September. Too exciting for words!!

I cannot tell you how terrifying and yet exciting it was to finally make the decision and when I posted this to the family news feed and then made a Facebook update it was with a huge sense of trepidation; am I doing the right thing?

I actually wanted to walk the Camino in 2016 but due to one thing and another, namely; reasons and excuses, I didn’t take the final step of booking my flight! I had started training earlier in the year in preparation since I didn’t want the pilgrimage to be spoilt by lack of fitness and too much pain, but even so, I realised by September of 2016 that in fact, despite my desire to go and love of walking I wasn’t anywhere near fit enough. Reasons and excuses.

At the beginning of this year I joined a Facebook group #walk1000miles and that has given me a massive incentive to get out and walk; almost every day. While working my time is usually limited to 2 hours per day (my break), but I manage to do 5 miles in that time and have loved every minute. Besides that when I’m home, I take long walks along the coast to Margate, Ramsgate, Cliffsend and have even walked to Sandwich (26 kms) on one memorable day 🙂

Due to my job, I travel all over the country and so have had the pleasure of walking in different locations, with different challenges and landscape – this country is so beautiful. I am lucky. All these walks have added to my fitness levels. From the Isle of Thanet to the Isle of Wight, I’ve also walked in Ireland and along the North Downs, the Malverns, Worcester and Oxted amongst other areas. I’m truly fortunate.

camino practice walks 2017

I’ve had some wonderful walks all over the country

camino practice walks 2017

walks on the Isle of Wight

camino walks

walks on the Isle of Thanet, Ireland, the Malverns and Italy

Since 01/01/2017 I have walked  500 #bootson miles. If I had to include my ‘at work/on duty’ mileage I’m certain it would be well in excess of 1000 miles….but for purposes of training I have only added my actual ‘training’ time where I set out specifically to ‘walk’! As of today, in Ireland, I became a ‘Proclaimer’ LOL I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more…..

walk 1000 miles

I have walked 500 miles 🙂 and I will walk 500 more

Meanwhile, and as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have, with heart in my mouth, and a mix of excitement/ terror/trepidation/joy picked up the phone and booked my ticket…..no going back now!!!!

I’m finally going on my Camino. 🙂 hooray!

And exactly 4 months from tomorrow, I shall start walking…..my Camino 2017.

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Today, 27 March 2017, marks the end of a wonderful episode of and in my life. 6.5 years ago, in 2011, I moved in with my daughter for 6 months (Yes, I know right LOL).

Back at the time she had just been through a very traumatic divorce, had moved into a shared house with a lass whose fiance had been killed just recently, so there was a lot of high emotion and stress for both of them. Things didn’t go well after a few months and in time the other lass moved out and my daughter decided that she was settled in the house and didn’t want to move. She was also wary of sharing with another stranger and all the issues that brings with it. So after much discussion and since I had just recently quit my long-term live-in caring position, it was decided I would move in for 6 months to help her over the hump, so to speak.

Things went well. We had lots of tears to start with as she struggled to find her equilibrium and work her way through the trauma of the divorce, but we also had loads of laughter. I work away a lot with my job, so she had the house to herself for weeks at a time and when I came back, we had cupcakes and tea, long walks and talks, plenty of tears, hugs, kisses and smiles as we created new memories for her to take into the new future she was creating.

I loved it. Frankly speaking it was wonderful to ‘come home’ to my precious child and be able to hug the hurts better, chat about everything under the sun over tea, and just be with her.love you mum 05.06.2013

It helped me tremendously being able to see first-hand her progress and development into what was a new skin and a new person. The divorce had changed her. Now she was developing the next phase of her life. We created some memorable and wonderful memories.

After a few years of London living, she decided she wanted to move to the coast, get out of London. We had discovered that it was the pollution in London that was making her so ill. We lived right on a dual-carriageway in Richmond and the exhaust fumes were affecting what was already a fragile health issue; her heart. One night, the day before Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I was home when her heart stopped. Thankfully I was there. And she recovered after a time. After a few months of searching, she finally found just the right place in Broadstairs 🙂

broadstairs

Broadstairs – a seaside town in Kent

and even though the original arrangement was that I would stay on in London when she made the move to the coast, with one thing and another, and due to financial restraints at the time, it was decided that I would make the move with her…it made sense really; since I wasn’t home much she would have the house to herself for 2-3 weeks of each month, I would have a place for my possessions and get to see her more often than if we were 80 miles apart!! We also got to share some fantastic holidays and events!

Taking over the town and standing as a political candidate, she soon found her feet and settled into her new life

The next two and half years flashed by in the blink of an eye and once again we created some fantastic memories.

Creating loving and lasting memories in Broadstairs

Creating loving and lasting memories in Broadstairs

Soon we had a new addition to our happy home; Elsie moved in and not only took over the house, but our hearts as well ❤elsie

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Just look at this little body… @Elsietherescuecat could she have chosen a more purrrrrfect place to sleep? This little girl is so content it makes my heart ache with love. She couldn’t have been chosen by a more loving person…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Cémanthe has done an amazing job of creating a caring, loving, safe and clearly contented environment for a little body that suffered so much in her earlier life; Elsie the happy cat 😉 

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Last year we fetched Fiona – next was her driving licence and now she’s never home LOL

She met a wonderful young man last year, he proposed in December, they’re getting married in May 2018 and it was decided that they would start sharing a home from May 2017.

So today, 27 March 2017, is officially the last day Broadstairs will be my home. Mum’s moving out and the fiance is moving in ❤💑💍👰💂 In future I’ll just touch base for a day/night or so from time to time to change bags, swap clothes, get plenty of hugs and kisses before heading out again. Essentially I’ll be a gypsy living out my suitcase and travelling between jobs 😀😀😀👏👏 yayy. I’ll miss ‘home’ for sure but I’m excited for adventures new. Goodbye Broadstairs; it’s been fun.

And now it’s time for me to start creating some more fantastic memories.

happiness2

my daughter sent this to me…it’s now my desktop pic!! love it, makes me smile eveytime I log on

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As the year moves on, the time for me to step up and out on my dream of and goal to walk the Camino de Santiago (the Portuguese Coastal Route) is getting closer and closer, I’m reminded that no matter how old you are…….

In order to get more fit, I recently joined the #walk1000miles 2017 challenge. I’ve always loved walking and have done loads over the last year, but what I love about this challenge is that there are thousand of people around the world also walking and sharing their experiences and photos. Just brilliant.

What I loved about this quote, besides the image and the words, is that a few months ago I worked in Great Malvern where C.S. Lewis once spent some time, and where urban legend has it, he found inspiration for the lamps in The Witch and The Wardrobe after seeing the lamps there.

lamps in great malvern

lamps in Great Malvern; inspiration for C.S. Lewis

p.s. I had planned on walking the Camino last year, but money or lack thereof got in the way. This year then…..

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