A week in the Lakes

Following on from the success of last years two week long holidays [12] in dog friendly accommodation, and to continue the pursuit of visiting the 10 most dog friendly beaches, we decided to head off to the Lake District for a week.  As a child, most summer holidays from 1980 until probably 1990 were spent in the Lakes, staying with my Godfather and his family.  Amongst all of the beautiful spots, one place stood out, and that was Wastwater.  Consequently, that was where I decided we should base ourselves close to.

After a bit of searching, we came across Scafell View:

a three bedroom cottage in the small Hamlet of Santon, in the Western Lake district, a 10 minute drive from Wast Water

Richard and Skitters play in the garden

This seemed to meet most of our requirements for a holiday home:

  • dog friendly (up to 3 well-behaved dogs allowed)
  • garden (enclosed)
  • well equipped kitchen (shame the dishwasher didn’t work, but otherwise all good)
  • double bedroom
  • parking (garage parking for two cars with off road parking for a further two cars)
  • near a dog friendly pub (less than a mile walk)
  • have walks from the house
  • have a bathroom with a bath and a shower

…so we booked it.

Richard, Skitters and Wastwater in the background

On our first morning, we headed out armed with an OS map and quickly discovered that it pays to check the gradient of a “short stroll”.  We had walked over the top of a fell and down the other side, which of course meant we had to do the same again in reverse. A lesson learnt. At least the views from the top of the fell were lovely, giving Richard his first view of Wastwater, and reassuring me that it was as beautiful in real life as it was in my memories.

St Bees headland

On Monday we headed out to St Bees, somewhere I don’t recall every visiting as a child, and walked a little bit of the Coast to Coast as well as ticking off another of the 10 most dog friendly beaches.

Skitters at Buttermere

Tuesday found us at Buttermere, following the easy track around the mere, enjoying the scenery, and feeling justified for a stop at a farm cafe for a cream tea before getting back in the car. This was another area that I don’t remember visiting as a child, and another lovely place to spend time.

One man and his dog: at Wastwater

Wednesday found us fulfilling an ambition I’d had for a while, to walk around Wastwater. Looking at the OS map there was a definite footpath over the screes, but as we discovered, there is no path, more like a set of rocks and scree to scramble over, something that was a bit disconcerting at times. We’d parked at Wasdale head and tackled the walk in a clockwise direction, heading over the screes whilst our legs were still fresh. This was a sensible decision.


We had our packed lunch under the trees at the far end of the lake, looking across it, before heading past the beautiful Wasdale Hall youth hostel and on along the shoreline.

Thursday was the one wet day of our week, so we headed off to one of the more forested areas, Ennerdale Forest, and explored that, trying to keep out of the rain.

One man and his dog: at Mile 21 Fortlet

Our final full day, and we headed off to see what else we could find. We started off at Mile Fortlet 21 where Skitters had a good run along the beach until she got distracted by the wildlife.

Richard and Skitters look down over Derwentwater

To avoid further doggy distraction, we decided to head off to Dodd wood, and go for a walk in the woods, following the Dodd Summit trail to get some wonderful views over DerwentWater and Bassenthwaite.

Our final morning, before starting the drive back to Brighton, we headed to Ravenglass, just a short drive down the road for a pre-drive walk wandering past ruins of a Roman castle, and along the river banks before walking back through the very pretty main street.

Wastwater from the fells

So, a combination of old and new places for me, almost all new for Richard, and probably all new for Skitters. My memories of Wastwater weren’t exaggerated – it is a most beautiful place. And all in all, another great week spent in the UK with comfortable accommodation, and exceptional weather (there is a reason why there are Lakes in the North West!)

See more photos

Sparkling wine thing

Last night we attended the latest geek wine thing event: Sparkling Wine Thing. It was a blind tasting of 8 sparkling wines, ranging from non-vintage champagnes, to new-world sparkling wines, to vintage Cava. We were given the list of wines, and then attempted to identify them one by one. Each one was revealed before we moved on to the next, so the last ones were easier than the first ones.

I don’t have tasting notes for many of these, but I did glean some Fizz Facts:

  • The reason champagne and other sparkling wines have foil around the top of the bottles is because originally they didn’t fill the bottles up after disgorging so it disguised the empty part of the bottle
  • Cava must use the traditional method to be a Cava
  • Polish glasses before pouring champagne as dirty glasses make the bubbles flat
  • Champagne can only be made from three grape varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir
  • Champagne should be served in fluted glasses which taper in at the top to trap the bubbles and the aroma. The goblet style glasses might have been all the rage at one point, but they don’t give the best champagne experience
  • Non vintage champagnes are popular because you get consistency for the blend – so Mumm, Veuve Cliquot, Lanson always taste like the same regardless of what year you buy it
  • Sparkling wines made using the Traditional Method will have beaded bubbles

And after all this, what did I learn? Well, I discovered that I don’t need a fancy champagne to keep me happy. I actually really enjoyed one of the cheaper wines on offer, the Lindauer Special Reserve NV from New Zealand, which I thought had good flavours, was quite full of bubbles, and had a beautiful blush of pink colour.

50 hours in Tokyo

After our initial stop-over in Hong Kong, and then 2 weeks in Sydney, our final stop-over was Tokyo. Our time here was limited so this was a convenient way to get a taster, before deciding whether to spend more time in Japan some time in the future.

We arrived at Narita airport at 6am-ish on the 14th January 2010 to an outside temperature of -2 deg C, quite a shock after the (at least) 20 deg C of Sydney. This is a pretty ridiculous time to arrive in any city. Our main priority was to get into the city centre, and get to Shinjuku, the area our hotel was in. A small amount of research done on the flight, using the Lonely Planet “print and bind” guide we’d got at Sydney airport, had pointed us in the direction of the Narita Express train service, and the Suica pre-paid travel card which we could use for one airport to city journey, and for travelling around Tokyo. We had an hour or so wait for the train, so ambled around the airport, sampling coffee and tea and generally killing time whilst waiting.  I spotted this lonely little bear looking rather lonely and thought he ought to have his photo taken.
Lonely, lost bear at Tokyo airport

We arrived in Shinjuku station, and followed the signs to our hotel where we dropped our bags off but were told we couldn’t get our room until 2pm or so.  So, we decided to make the most of our limited time and get straight on with exploring.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

So, after a quick breakfast we headed off to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to get a (free) view across the city.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of our strategies is often to start our trip to a new city with trying to get to the top of a tall building to get a birds eye view, and the beginnings of our bearings. The Government building was only a short walk from the hotel, so proved perfectly placed for our first exploration.

Kumano-jinja shrine

From the tower, we spotted the Shinjuku Central Park area nearby and so headed off to investigate it, discovering the Kumano-jinja shinto shrine within it.

Shinjuku Street View

Our next mission was lunch, and so we headed back finding a place in the station complex which seemed busy, and reasonably priced. We also took a break to check in at the hotel, freshen up and unpack before heading back out to see what the more commercial areas were like, and having our first experience of getting horrendously lost in the rabbit-warren of passages beneath Shinjuku Central Station. We wandered around quite a few of the vast department stores, being completely fascinated by the sheer amount of wonderfully presented items in the Isetan food hall.  Our next attempt was to head to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden but we’d left it too late, and we arrived just as it closed, as it seems to close at around 4.30 pm all year around.

Shinjuku food stall

The Keio Plaza hotel has a bar area at the top of one of the towers which serves beer and light snacks, and it is here we found ourself that evening planning with great care the places we wanted to get to the following day. With such a limited amount of time available to us, we wanted to get the most out of it that we could, but without exhausting ourselves completely, so planning was essential.

Richard and the map

Our only full day started with us heading to Shibuya and after a little time watching the crossing, and finding the statue of faithful dog Hachikō we headed off in search of Kiddyland to go and spend some time browsing through the toy store. My main purchase was a new camera, no real surprise I guess, but I left clutching my new Superheadz Blue Ribbon along with a few odds and ends as gifts for friends and family.

Gate to the shrine

From a shrine of toys, to a true shrine, our next stop was to the Meiji Jinju Shrine, a Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.  This shrine is situated in a large amount of forest area, and is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend an hour or so.

Wedding procession

Whilst we were at the shrine, we had the pleasure of watching, and in my case photographing, a wedding procession.


After all of that culture, our next stop was Akihabara Electric Town to explore what gadgets and gizmos were available.  We managed to keep our credit cards in our wallets and definitely restricted ourselves to window shopping.

The Tempura bar food ordering machine

Hunger struck us at this point, and after a quick wander around we managed to find a great tempura place with a unique, at least for us, way of ordering food. Press buttons which are either covered in illustrations (good for us Brits) or script, enter some money and get receipts. These receipts are then taken by the waiting staff and food arrives.


We then attempted to get to the gardens of the Imperial Palace, but we were about 15 minutes late getting there so headed straight off towards Ginza where we explored the Sony store, the Leica showroom and various other interesting places before heading back to Shinjuku.

Ginza at night

We finished our final evening in a conveyor belt sushi place in Shinjuku, where we were adopted by a Japanese gentleman who was keen to ensure we had the best experience possible.  He remained concerned that we weren’t eating enough, and when we looked around us at the other patrons and the amount of empty plates they had stacked up, we began to realise why.

Our airport bus left the hotel at 6am the following morning, and after a quick breakfast in the airport we were on a flight heading back to the UK armed with memories, souvenirs and lots of photographs.

As with Hong Kong and Sydney we used a lot of iPhone apps to get around Tokyo, but also found the Lonely Planet guide which we’d purchased in Sydney airport to be very useful, and being unbound and in a cardboard folder, quite discreet.

Tokyo was a wonderful place to spend some time, but 50 hours was far too short, I could easily have spent another couple of days there without running out of things to see and do. Although it was cold, the air was crisp, the skies were blue and the light was amazing for photography. I’d love to return to Tokyo, and Japan sometime, probably combining some more sightseeing with some snowboarding. I found the whole experience exiting and exhilarating, with a slight feeling of being in the film set for Lost in Translation.  Recommended.

Dog friendly beaches – 4 down 6 to go

I’ve always loved beaches, holidays as a small child were always in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, and holidays as an adult have often involved Cornish coast and the like. When we got the dog, it was fairly obvious that beaches needed to be involved. After a quick search, I found a really useful resource from the Times Britain’s 10 best dog-friendly beaches and over the past 18 months we’ve visited 4 of them, with another couple in the plans for the not too distant future.

1. Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Rhossili Bay

A beautiful, long beach in a really dog friendly part of the world, the Gower peninsular where there are lots of dog friendly beaches to choose from. Other favourites in this area were Oxwich Bay, Three Cliffs Bay and the tree lined Whiteford Sands.

2. Danes Dyke, Yorkshire

Skitters on Dane's Dyke beach

Despite having been brought up in Yorkshire, I don’t recall ever going to this beach having, as a child at least, being more frequently found in Bridlington. It is situated at the bottom of a woody path, and is quite a lovely beach. The other beach we enjoyed a lot in the area was Filey which is dog friendly from the edge of Filey itself, all the way past Hunmanby for about 5 miles.

6. Camber Sands beach, East Sussex

Silhouetted Man and Dog

The only one of the list that we’ve visited more than once, and this is mostly due to it being only an hour and a half or so away from home. A lovely long sandy beach. Our last trip was at the end of April, when we stayed in the lovely Ship Inn, Rye and made the most of the full extent of the beach before the seasonal dog restrictions (May – September) come into play.

8. St Bees, Cumbria

St Bees

After having watched a BBC programme about Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk, and taking an opportunity whilst in East Yorkshire last summer to walk a little bit of the end part, it seemed only right that we should visit St Bees whilst in the Lake District for a holiday this summer. So we did. This beach had a lot in common with Filey, having a mainly earth basis for its cliffs and was very much enjoyed by Skitters.

Which leaves us

3. Holkham, Norfolk
4. Durdle Door, Dorset
5. Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull, Scotland
7. Branscombe, Devon
9. Whitstable, Kent
10. Lepe, Hampshire

on the “to explore” list

2 weeks in Sydney

After our 60 hours in Hong Kong was a more leisurely stay in Sydney, Australia.

Our lovely friends Jono and Anna were getting married, and we were invited, and so it was around this event that we organised our three destination trip (Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo).

Day 1: 31 December 2009

New Years Eve champers

Jono and Anna kindly met us at the airport on the morning of New Years Eve, fed us, gave us tea, and access to a shower, in the hours before we could access the flat we’d rented in Randwick (a 15 minute walk from their place). It was a day of acclimatising, and light shopping at Bondi Junction, before welcoming in 2010 with Jono, Anna, Ash and Mitül and some wonderful Anna cooked food, and quite a few bottles of fizz, watching the fireworks from their sun-room.

Day 2: 1 January 2010

Planning complete

Our first communal (Jono, Anna, Ash, Mitul, Richard and I) task on New Years Day was to put together a basic plan for the rest of the week, making sure that Jono and Anna had all their pre-wedding commitments listed, so “The English”, as Richard and I and Ash and Mitül were collectively known, could sort ourselves out to do the more touristy bits and pieces on those days.


After all that planning, we were hungry and so stopped off for a bite to eat before spending time in the Aquarium, learning the differences between manatees and dugongs, looking at manta rays, crocodiles and a whole array of similar, and different, aquatic species.

Day 3: 2 January 2010

View IV

Whilst planning our days together, Jono had suggested a bit of light bush walking, doing the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. We all trooped off on the buses, with the five of us (“The English” plus Jono) getting off at Spit Bridge, whilst Anna and the children continued to Manly. The walk was a 10km-ish walk mostly along the coast, walking amongst trees, getting a chance to see lizards, and enjoying the warmth on our backs. Jono was a keen pace-maker, and we arrived in Manly after 3 hours and 15 minutes, ready for a sit down and a cool beer. Fortunately, both of these things were possible and we established ourselves at the Bavarian Bier Cafe just in time to watch a sudden shower empty the surrounding streets.

Fort Denison

After refreshing ourselves, we caught the ferry back into the City, enjoying the views and having landmarks pointed out to us by our own tour guide (Thanks Anna).

Day 4: 3 January 2010

Guy looking for a view

Ash and Mitul had previously booked to spend a couple of days in the Blue Mountains, so we opted to travel with them, but just do a day trip, so off we all headed on the train to Katoomba. As we got higher, the clouds got lower, and we spent the majority of the day in the clouds. This meant that we didn’t get to appreciate many of the great view points, but we did get to enjoy a wonderful walk through the rain forest and a trip on the Scenic Railway back to our starting point. We left Ash and Mitül here, and headed off back to Sydney by train, enjoying a lazy evening in the flat.

Day 5: 4 January 2010

East Chamber

A day wandering around bits of Sydney with Jono, he took us around some of the areas he lived in when he first arrived, and showed us the very lovely and photographically inspirational Paddington Reservoir Gardens before moving on to Centennial Park.

Day 6: 5 January 2010

Bronte Bay

Another day, another coast walk. This time from Coogee bay to Bondi bay on a well maintained route – a lovely way to get to see the different beach areas. The area around the Waverley Cemetery was especially beautiful.

Day 7: 6 January 2010

Great Picture Point

This was probably our most touristy day. We knew that we needed to be at the Opera Bar in the evening for pre-wedding drinks with Jono and Anna, various family members and friends, so we planned our day to take in some of the sights.

We met up with Ash and Mitül at Sydney Tower, and enjoyed our birds-eye view of the city. Over the years Richard and I have headed up many tall buildings as a way to get a feel for the extent of a place, so this suited us well.

Cadman's Cottage

Next up was a wander around The Rocks, and a look at the oldest surviving residential building in Sydney area (Cadman’s Cottage)


From here, we walked towards the Botanical Gardens and explored a bit before heading towards the Opera House, and the Opera Bar for drinks.

Harbour Bridge at Night

Day 8: 7 January 2010

Arrived at Coogee

As we’d done the Coogee Bay to Bondi Bay walk the other day, Richard and I decided to walk along a different patch of coast, so went from Maroubra to Coogee Bay, again part of the Coastal Walkway. This section seemed quieter, and the coast seemed a bit more rough, and in some ways a more pleasant stretch to wander along.

Day 9: 8 January 2010

Holding hands

Jono and Anna’s wedding day, the reason we were in Sydney at this time. The ceremony was late afternoon, so the rest of the day was spent just wandering around the local area, grabbing some wifi at a cafe, and generally just relaxing ahead of the evening. The ceremony was held in the open, with kookaburras joining in and was a beautiful occasion which we were delighted to have been able to present at. A lovely venue, with lovely people, and lovely food. Ahh, lovely.

Day 10: 9 January 2010

Genuine Aussie barbie

A very quiet day, attending the well named recovery barbecue at Anna’s Mum’s place on the North Shore and doing very little else.

Day 11: 10 January 2010

In transit

After packing up our belongings, handing the key back to the letting agent, and depositing the majority of our luggage at Jono and Anna’s place, we all (The English, Jono, Anna and Jono’s sister Lisa) piled into the people mover we’d hired and Anna, our designated driver, drove us out from Sydney to the Hunter Valley for a two night stay. We stopped for lunch at Hungerford Hill, and managed to do a quick bit of wine tasting before heading to Cessnock for supplies and finally reaching our accommation at the Lovedale Country Lodge

Day 12: 11 January 2010

Group shot: Richard, Me, Mitul, Ash, Lisa, Jono, Anna

A day of wine tasting in some of the boutique vineyards around the Hunter Valley. Richard blogged about this months ago, so I’m not going to repeat that detail here. The evening continued in much the same manner as the day, involving drinking some of the wines we’d bought, and making good use of the barbecue.

Day 13: 12 January 2010

Wine sales signs

A slow start to the day – probably related to the wine tastingdrinking of the day before – meaning that it was lunchtime before we even left our lovely lodge. We stopped off at Wollombi on our way back for a spot of lunch and then trundled back into Sydney, and made camp at Jono and Anna’s place for our final night in Sydney.

Day 14: 13 January 2010

Lighthouse in context

Ash and Mitül left first, heading off to the airport, and then on to Hong Kong for a few days. We returned to Paddington with Jono, getting to look around the Blender Gallery looking at the Pattie Boyd “Through the eyes of a muse” exhibition before walking across the road to the Australian Centre for Photography and the Montalbetti & Campbell “The Sensualists” exhibition. After meeting up with Anna and Lisa, we headed off to Watsons Bay for a last walk in the Sydney area before heading back to Jono and Anna’s flat, packing our bags and heading to Sydney airport for our overnight flight to Tokyo.

As with Hong Kong, we used an iPhone app as our main guide which turned out to be excellent and was based on the wikitravel Sydney information – see Richard’s post for information about which other apps we used.

So, two weeks in Sydney, and reading back over these notes it doesn’t feel like we saw that much, and we didn’t really venture into any other parts of the vast country that is Australia. But, we did get to go to Anna and Jono’s wedding, and spend time with them, their families and their friends, and that was why we were there. Walking along the coast was lovely, and was a really pleasant way to explore the coastline, and something I’d recommend to others to do. I’d also like to return to the Blue Mountains some time, and spend a bit more time there, hopefully being able to see something other than clouds 🙂