Saturday, 13 November 2010

Pictures From The Philippines

Last Tuesday morning I landed at Heathrow Airport at 5.00 am on a wet, cold and blustery English winter day. I had just returned from 10 days holidaying in the Philippines with Kino, who has been living and working in Manila for six months.

The Philippines is a developing country, not particularly focused on international tourism, composed of hundreds of islands in the Philippine Sea, and close to the Equator in the southern hemisphere. I travelled from London to Singapore and then onto Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, where Kino was living.

Her house was an oasis of calm and green behind a gate in a noisy, hot and dirty street.

My first trip was to a restaurant called Laya in Antipolo, where we had a sensational, six-course lunch of the most superb Asian fusion cuisine in a location overlooking Manila itself and the green suburbs surrounding it.

Afterwards we visited the local cathedral.

It was 31st October, Hallowe'en for us, which is not much celebrated in the Philippines, as All Saints and All Souls are more important festivals. However, in a cafe just along the street from Kino's house, the staff had made some striking and rather gruesome Hallowe'en figures!

After three days in Manila, Kino and I flew Philippine Airlines to the island of Bohol, about an hour away by air. This is me at the airport, I didn't straighten my hair while I was away because of the heat and humidity, so it's wild and curly.

Our first stop was Alumbung Tropical Living, where we stayed in a delightful native style hut in a peaceful garden.

We were a short walk from the beautiful Alona Beach where we spent a pleasant afternoon.

The next day we took a tour of local paces of interest.

A cathedral made of coral

The Chocolate Hills

The Hanging Bridge

The Loboc River

A Tarsier in the Tarsier sanctuary.

These little creatures, the smallest primates in the world, are endangered and the sanctuary is dedicated to saving and supporting them. We walked around the sanctuary where a number of them live in their natural environment but protected from molestation, and were able to take photographs. The Tarsiers are really tiny, no bigger than the size of your clenched fist.

That evening we took photos of the sunset over the beach.

The next day we spent at the pool of a local restaurant

before moving on to our final destination on Bohol, IslaHayaHay.

Here we relaxed by the sea as the resort is right on the shore.

More lovely sunsets

A day spent island hopping took us to a tiny sand spit in the middle of the ocean, from where we watched a storm pass across the mainland

The food was lovely, and we ate at a table outside overlooking the beach.

Three days flew past and soon I was flying back to Manila where I said goodbye to Kino for a few more weeks and caught my flight to Singapore and on to London and home.

The Philippines is an exotic and different country, whose people are friendly and hospitable, and mostly speak excellent English. There is much breathtaking scenery and lots to do and see. It's not a destination that is yet widely known to European tourists, and so much of it is still unspoilt and authentic. I shall not forget my visit in a hurry!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Autumn Is Here!

Autumn, my favourite time of year, has arrived, time to make chutney, preserves and - er, alcohol. This year's Elderberry and Blackberry Wine is now fermenting. We had four pickers this year as opposed to seven last year, so we have 3 gallons of wine as opposed to last year's 5 gallons. We are thinking of picking some sloes and making Sloe Wine as well, though, which would be a new recipe for us.

Many of the vegetables are harvested now; our onions, red onions and shallots are drying or dried and hung up for use in the kitchen.

The potatoes and carrots are not quite ready yet, and we are still picking courgettes, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chillies and aubergines. We have put in leeks to overwinter (sown earlier in the year in pots) and they are swelling nicely, and we are planning to sow cabbages to overwinter for spring greens, and garlic for early next summer as well.

In the meantime we have turned our attention to the flower garden. A lot of the flower beds looked like this a few weeks ago, choked with grass and some kind of spreading ground cover.

We've dug everything up, cleared out all the grass roots and the runners and tubers of the weeds, and replanted lots and lots of spring bulbs that were dug up at the same time. We've also been planting some new plants and shrubs for next year, so now it looks more like this!

Our next big garden project is going to be building a greenhouse! It's very exciting, and we are doing research at the moment to choose our greenhouse.

In the meantime I'll finish with some photos from my recent stay in North Devon.

We walked along the coast and inland, and also visited the North Devon Bird of Prey Centre, where I took these photos of their birds.

I really love watching birds of prey hunting, they are such amazing creatures.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Sea, Sand and Castles

I spent last week on holiday in Northumberland. I couldn't believe how many castles there are! We were staying in Bamburgh, so started with a trip to Bamburgh Castle:

The castle looks out over the lovely Northumbrian coast, and is in excellent repair. I was fascinated by the life story of Lord Armstrong, whose family still owns the castle.

The next outing was to the Farne Islands, which lie just off the coast and are managed by the National Trust. We took a boat trip around the islands where we saw the lighthouse

and basking seals,
and then landed on Inner Farne where we could walk around and see the thousands of nesting birds - cormorants,
and best of all, puffins!
These windows are in St Cuthbert's Chapel on Inner Farne.

Our third trip was inland to Hadrian's Wall, which I had never visited. We went to Housesteads Fort, where you could see the ruins of one of the great forts along the wall,

and then walked along a section of the wall which adjoins the fort. I am now determined to return to the Wall and walk a substantial section of it next year.

On the road back from the Wall we passed Alnwick Castle, which we did not have time to visit this year. And on the road past a big stately home we stopped to look at these amazing dragons heads in stone:

Aren't they fab!

On the last day we drove to Craster, just along the coast from us, and walked out to Dunstanburgh Castle, which was destroyed by artillery bombardment during the Wars of the Roses.
It is perched on a cliff edge and right by a golf course.

We walked out to the castle and then back along the sea shore.

What a lovely, relaxing holiday in one of the most beautiful spots in the British Isles!