The last time we were in Brsec we were lost and it was going to take a similar lack of navigation skills to get us back there this time.
So we headed optimistically more or less south-east across the Istrian peninsula hoping for signs for Hrastovlie, Pozane, Buzet, Vranja and make Brsec in time to check into the B&B and head for the only restaurant/bar in the village and chilled pints of the local Favorit beer. They don’t get many English/British visitors and in the absence of us having any Croatian language skills German is the common tongue. “Do you have any vegetarian dishes”? “Yes, we have chicken and fish, where have you come from”? It is now that we learn that Buzet is pronounced Tzb, Pozane, Nzp and Vranja, Jnrv. Just take out all the vowels and pronounce it backwards - you get the picture.
Brsec and this stretch of the coast are truly beautiful. The sky is blue and cloudless and there’s a path leading from our B&B down through wild asparagus and sage scattered woods to a secluded cove where the Adriatic Sea is aqua-marine and crystal clear and that’s where we spend the majority of our weekend. Mostly we have the beach to ourselves but at some point the cove fills with a family of seals, their black heads bobbing in the sea as they dive and play. On closer inspection the seals turn out to be a scuba diving club. One of the islands nearby is the home of a flock of Griffon vultures and squadrons of long-necked jet black swan/goose-like birds zoom across the surface of the water.
We venture as far as Labin for gnocci and gorgonzola sauce and walk along the promenade from Lovran to Opatije for ice cream and pizza and that’s as much effort as we want to make.
B&B: +385 51 290 159
Google map: bit.ly/Mc3msD
Head to Rutland, England’s smallest county for a great bike ride for all ages. This 23 mile circular cycle ride follows the shores of the Rutland Water Reservoir - for the young and less able, missing out the reservoir peninsula reduces the ride to 17 miles. The cycle track is mainly off road across a varied terrain - from tarmac paths, to gravel surfaces, to dirt tracks through woodland - there are a few hills, which are occasionally steep in places. The views are spectacular as the route passes through woods, nature reserves and a bird watching centre at Egleton - home to the first ospreys to breed in England for 150 years. Go in April and cycle through Barnsdale Woods when the ground is covered in a blue carpet and the air is heady with the scent of bluebells. Cycle hire is available at Normanton on the south shore and Whitwell on the north shore and there are lots of opportunities for picnics and refreshment stops on route.
As Ted Simon says of himself, “It was going to be the journey of a lifetime, a journey that millions dream of and never make, and I wanted to do justice to all those dreams”.
Anybody who ever rode a motorbike dreams of emulating Ted Simon’s epic four year circumnavigation of the globe (1973-77). The romantic cowboy in all of us, the carefree loner riding off into the sunset and the inspiration for every long-distance bike journey since.
Written with a frank honesty of the highs and lows of the road; insight into the politics, personalities and dramas this book has become a training manual and bible for every biker who ever gazed out of the window and thought, “I wish I was on my bike”.
In fact, the journey was so life affirming that Ted did it all again 24 years later, at age 70, the story recounted in his book Dreaming of Jupiter.
David, the landlord at the Barley Mow pub in the pretty Derbyshire village of Bonsall will regale you with ambitious plans to develop the car park as the first UFO Space Centre in the UK or sign you up for one of his Landlords Walks.
However, the Mow’s major claim to fame is as host of World Championship Hen Racing. This eccentric mix of serious racing and training and hopeless enthusiasm means that the thoroughbreds of the hen racing world stand as much chance as any have-a-goer who can acquire a hen and turn up on the day.
Occasional battles between competitors see yellow warning cards for fighting on the track. Hens might take the warning to heart and reform their behaviour, or ignore it, get the red card and be sent off. Competitors have been known to travel from as far afield as Belper (10 miles), Chesterfield (15 miles), Finland and Australia.
A great family day out, the World Championship supports the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, a registered charity which aims to provide a comfortable retirement for battery hens. (www.thehenshouse.co.uk.)
Adrasan sits in a cove 10km off the main road and just 90Km south of Antalya. At the north end of the beach Hotel Paradise perches on a riverside flowing down to the beach. The water is not deep and tables and seating areas are scattered in the riverbed, connected by walkways. After a day enjoying the numerous family or adventure activities on offer along the promenade it makes for a very cool, calming ambience. Good food too, albeit infused with the strong local garlic.
For hardier hikers the clearly waymarked Lycian Way leads north over a rocky outcrop to the ancient site of Olympos. This ancient sprawling city must have been an archaeologist’s delight. Wonderfully decrepit, the ruins are open to clamber over, around and through. Keep to the south side of the riverbed in Olympos to avoid 99% of other tourists and find yourself alone amongst a 20-tier amphitheatre and Roman baths complex.
Walk through the village stopping at a tree house café for glasses of freshly squeezed orange and lemon then it is a gentle 4km along the beach and walk up to Chimera. This sacred and historic site has a number of eternal flames bursting through the rock with no vegetation to feed the flames.
Keep your eyes peeled too and you might see one of the protected caretta caretta loggerhead turtles.
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