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Adventures & Learning Articles Travel

Laurissilva Forest Trail Ride, Madeira

Por favor, volte (please, come back).
Por favor, volte (please, come back).

Look­ing for a bit of “horse heav­en”, I con­vinced Stephen he would love a group ride in the woods. After a quick check on Tri­pAd­vi­sor, we dis­cov­ered to our sur­prise that Madeira’s Num­ber One attrac­tion fea­tured hors­es! With a call to Quin­ta do Ria­cho, I com­mit­ted. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the image of Tex, an enor­mous ani­mal with a mind of his own (Stephen’s last equine “expe­ri­ence” on a rocky Ore­gon beach), popped into my head. Could we make this work? Des­per­ate to jump into the sad­dle, I man­aged to cajole him into action.

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Adventures & Learning Travel

Madeira West Road Trip


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Fea­tures: beg­ging lizard, smil­ing dog, tree-hug­ging bear, park­ing tick­et, and explod­ing tyre

The alarm went off at the ungod­ly hour of 7am, and we slow­ly dragged our­selves out of bed. A lit­tle known fact: dark­ness pre­vails at 7am in Madeira. Why on earth had we orga­nized a car rental for the day, I’d rather just mooch around in my work­out shorts for the next two hours, cup of tea in hand, and take a good long look over the bal­cony at the evolv­ing sea scene below.

Nev­er mind, we got our­selves orga­nized: we packed up the swim­ming gear, the cam­era gear,  the food & water and car­ried every­thing to the local car rental office across the street.

The agency pro­vid­ed a Renault Clio, black, that had been around the block a few times, I’d say. The tyres appeared pret­ty bald and the odome­ter reg­is­tered 69,000 kilo­me­ters. Not too bad if the island were the size of Cal­i­for­nia, but it’s only about 30 miles long. So it has had a good num­ber of short trips. The agent care­ful­ly point­ed out the spare wheel loca­tion and con­firmed a tool kit and jack on board. First time a rental agent has done that in the recent past.

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Adventures & Learning Travel

Granite Way Cycle Path

On route again through last underpass
On route again through last under­pass

We ful­ly expect­ed a fun day, our first taste of bik­ing in the UK. We embarked on the Gran­ite Way, a main­ly traf­fic-free cycle route from Oke­hamp­ton to Lyd­ford, Devon and a part of the exten­sive Nation­al Cycle Net­work (NCN) in the UK-route 27 “Devon coast-to-coast”. Built along the course of the old South­ern Region rail­way line, the rel­a­tive­ly flat trail cov­ers about 15 miles.

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Adventures & Learning Articles

Miniature Pony Centre

A good mane day, Mom!
A good mane day, Mom!

Locat­ed inside Dart­moor Nation­al Park, near More­ton­hamp­stead in Devon, the Cen­tre hous­es minia­ture and Shet­land ponies along with hors­es, minia­ture Mediter­ranean don­keys, and an array of oth­er farm ani­mals (includ­ing a hefty Kunekune pig). Start­ed by the Den­nis fam­i­ly in 1986, the farm now trades under the own­er­ship of the Hutch­ings fam­i­ly, includ­ing four daugh­ters — no sur­prise they want to car­ry on the fam­i­ly tra­di­tion.

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Adventures & Learning Articles Food

Pencarrow House

My Lady, could I interest you in a cup of tea?
My Lady, could I inter­est you in a cup of tea?

Vot­ed loca­tion of Best Ani­mal Con­ver­sa­tions, this his­toric tran­quil 50-acre estate still sur­vives near Bod­min in Corn­wall. The pri­vate home remains in the pos­ses­sion of the Molesworth-St. Aubyn fam­i­ly and fea­tures a Geor­gian house – an archi­tec­tur­al style from 1720 to 1840, named for the first four British mon­archs (Georges I, II, III, and IV) – along with a 17th cen­tu­ry café, lake & ice­house, Ital­ian & Amer­i­can gar­dens, wood­land, and pas­tures. And as ref­er­enced above, the estate hosts some of the most artic­u­late domes­ti­cat­ed crea­tures in Britain.

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Adventures & Learning Articles

England’s Exmoor National Park

What are you doing with those scissors, Missy?
What are you doing with those scis­sors, Mis­sy?

Nation­al Parks are pro­tect­ed lands through­out the UK just as they are in the US. Numer­ous loca­tions are free of charge and many have love­ly tea rooms (think lus­cious Devon clot­ted cream, home­made scones & jam, along with a mul­ti­tude of oth­er fresh­ly baked good­ies rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the region). The Eng­lish Nation­al Trust (as well as the Scot­tish Nation­al Trust) rep­re­sent great val­ue. With a rea­son­ably-priced annu­al mem­ber­ship, you can vis­it a wide range of amaz­ing land­scapes, mines, coun­try homes, cas­tles, and his­toric sites wor­thy of roy­al­ty, for­eign­ers, and local folk alike. The coun­try­side draws you in, with roads so nar­row at times both sides of your car touch dense shrub­bery at once. And the ani­mals, wild and tame, actu­al­ly talk to you. Yes, it’s true. Friend­ly and polite, these crea­tures wel­come you and your con­ver­sa­tion at a momen­t’s notice.

More pho­tos

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Adventures & Learning Articles

Brazos State Park, Texas

Photo of alligator
Alli­ga­tor loung­ing 10 feet from the path

We’ve been spend­ing the last week or so in and around Sug­ar Land, TX and went to vis­it Bra­zos State Park with Chris (Stephen’s son) and his wife Michelle.  This is a com­plete­ly nat­ur­al habi­tat for the indige­nous wildlife in the area, includ­ing many, many bird species, deer, and last, and not least, alli­ga­tors.   We walked around the lake in the park on a beau­ti­ful Texas spring after­noon and came across loads of alli­ga­tors close to the path.  This guy on the left was about the largest we saw and I snapped his pho­to as he was yawn­ing!

He could have cared less about us and accord­ing to the park rangers they are only inter­est­ed in eat­ing tur­tles, water birds and fish.  The ones we saw must have been well fed since they had birds crawl­ing all over them and they did­n’t bat an eye­lid!

Crane and alligator together
Crane walk­ing past alli­ga­tor