Although organised tours can be worthwhile sometimes off the cuff days can be special and this was one of those days.
One of the things that intrigued us about Madeira was the Toboggan sled rides. Unfortunately, one of the problems with going on these, is that they are at the top of the mountain and it is often covered by clouds. For the first few days this was the case but on this day we woke to a clear sky so set off on our adventure, although I hadn't told Sue yet.
You can walk to the top but we decided to take the cable car as this was a lot easier. The views were impressive and the houses clinging to the cliff sides even more so. Not a place to sleep walk in the night!
On arriving at the top we had a lunch in a small cafe overlooking the view and then set off to explore. The first place we arrived at was the Jardim Tropical Monte Palace.
Our rep in the Hotel had told us the queues were longer earlier in the day for the Toboggan rides, particularly if a cruise ship was in, so we had time to spare.
We had heard of the garden and decided to explore. This proved to be a good choice as it was a fascinating place where we spent about three hours. We slowly walked down the hillside wandering through the sculptures and pathways finding interesting views and features at every turn. Although tropical, a lot of the sculptures etc. had a Chinese theme, which surprised us at first. Eventually it opened out to a stunning view of the house and lakes. I wanted to sketch this but people commandeered the best places to sit and it was too hot in the sun.
Eventually we found a sheltered spot where I drew a pond with a small bridge. Just as I finished a couple came and sat in front of me.
Next we moved around to the other side of the small lake where I sketched the tower building,
As we made our way back up the hill this had been a superb afternoon and really enjoyable.
After leaving the garden we made our way to the toboggans. As it was late afternoon there were no queues and we were soon on our way. This was an exhilarating experience and not to be missed.
The ride finished half way down the hill. We were told by our rep in the hotel that the walk down to town was quite manageable and not to take a taxi. What she didn't mention was how steep it was and the fact you had to dodge cars coming down the narrow road. Our knees suffered but we made it to the bottom.
An unplanned day and one we will always remember.
Although our hotel was just out of city centre, it was ideally situated for a walk away from town towards the other hotels and Lidos along the coast.
Here there were more of the larger hotels and concrete lidos, where you could spend the day sunbathing and swimming. There are not a lot of beaches and these are ideal for people who just want to relax in the sun with every convenience on hand. The one I sketched was typical of these.
Further along the road you came to the new shopping centre, the Forum Madeira, where more high street retailers are found. This was a nice change to be able to walk around out of the heat. The roof garden was excellent but under used. I felt a bit sorry for the man who sat up there all day with a hawk; probably to frighten off pigeons etc.
Another organised tour was to the Nun's Valley. This is a small village situated in the crater of an extinct volcano, which has kept its 16th-century Santa Clara Convent; where the nuns used to hide from pirates who were attacking Funchal.
The trip started at a stunning viewpoint, where we could look down on the small village. In the first picture you can see the original road used by villagers. A winding treacherous way clinging to the cliff side.
Having said that the new road is still very narrow in places and as we sat having a drink, at the viewpoint, we watched two coaches trying to pass at a narrow section. This was like two stags fighting with one advancing and then retreating, then the other doing the same. This went on for about twenty minutes before one gave in and reversed so the other could pass. Drivers pride was at stake I think.
One of our hobbies is Geocaching, where we look for hidden caches. On our travels we try to find one at every stop. As we looked at the viewpoint, we found the hiding place, which was a deep hollow in the rock side. As we considered putting our hand inside, another man code name 'Peter Pan' without even thinking about it, reached in to retrieve the treasure. Much braver than us, so an apt name. After chatting he told us this was his 499th find.
After the road was clear we descended the valley to the village. This was quaint but a little disappointing. Maybe because we didn't have long to explore it. Again we decided to look for a Geocache, which was at the local Fire station. As we rooted around a fireman came out and gave us a hint. As we opened the log we realised 'Peter Pan' had achieved his aim of collecting his 500th cache. So congratulations to him, but we will get there one day.
Two interesting trips; one organised and one where we just explored the area. Both chances to see different parts of the island.
Just a quick blog today.
I find the idea of sketching sunbathers an excellent topic as they tend to stay still, which is an advantage for an artist.
The first pictures shows a couple we met on the trip to the west coast and enjoyed their company.
The second picture is a general picture around the pool.
Finally i looked up from sunbathing and the pool was empty, but all at once a group entered and stood at the deep end. This appeared to be because it was coming to the time for the evening meal and I wondered if they were just cooling off before going to get ready.
Because of the angle I was at I could only see their heads and it looked like seals or as Sue said just bobbing heads. It seemed quite surreal and I just had to capture the scene. Maybe it was too much sun influencing my vision.
I used to do a lot of these studies in the past and some of the paintings from these are in the Holidays page of this website.
After several years of holidays abroad, we have realised that we are no longer sunbathers. We can no longer lie for hours and all to soon we become restless. As well as that, we are not ones for returning to a place we have visited before so we like to explore n different countries whilst we can.
Like many holiday makers we attended the holiday Rep's presentation. This is mainly to find out information and if reasonable; plan trips. We had done research and talked to close friends who had visited the Island, and because of this we had an idea of what we wanted to do.
On arrival the hotel receptionist had given us a leaflet of trips recommended by them. The best package included two full days and one half day tours. At the meeting these same trips were offered at three times the price.
We have done trips with various companies including one on which we were the only English speaking couple. This was not ideal. The guide would spend ten minutes describing something and then in English say something like "We are passing some ruins".
In this instance we went with the Hotel's tours, as the Rep's were a little on the expensive side for the same tour.
The first one covered the West side of the Island. After being collected at the hotel the minibus took us to the next harbour at Camara de Lobos, a quaint harbour with small streets covered with decorations. This was my first sketch showing the white houses and boats.
Next a stop at Cabo Girao a glass bottomed sky-walk. We had been on these before so knew what to expect and the views were certainly worth it.
After that it was on to Ponto do Sol for a coffee break and a walk around the town where we were impressed with the church.
Then to something we had heard a lot about a walk along a Levada; on of the many walks along the paths by the side of the irrigation channel. A nice walk above the clouds, although this one was dry because they were building a new reservoir nearby. A note to myself, 'Wear long trousers next time because of the thorns'
Next, we stopped for an included lunch at Porto Moniz, famous for it's rock pools. Unfortunately, we didn't have costumes with us as these were very inviting on a hot day.
Another stop at Veu da Noiva, allowed us to see the old road around a headland, where at one time you drove under a waterfall and as the driver pointed out this saved him washing the van afterwards! This road was no longer safe for coaches and had been replaced by one of the many tunnels through the mountains that have been constructed.
After another short stop, at a small village, where we saw another highly decorative church interior, there was a steep climb to the viewpoint at Encumeada. From here you could see impressive views of both sides of the Island.
So was it worth paying only a third of the price for the trip. On the down side the air conditioning wasn't perfect but apart from that there were no complaints. We went to the same places, parking was easier and the local driver knew shortcuts where large coaches couldn't go. We also met a lovely couple from Belgium and sat with them for lunch.
A highly recommended trip and a good start to our exploration of the Island.
After a couple of busy breaks, it was nice to come on a restful holiday. Our hotel was just out of town with a reasonable downhill walk to the centre.
After settling, we decided to explore this beautiful city and over two weeks wandered around finding new places to explore on every trip.
At the bottom of the hill, we stopped in a small park for a rest before continuing. Next we came to the new town lined with the more expensive restaurants, where people sat out to eat. As we turned the corner, a pink building stood out at the end of the road; this was the first of many interesting buildings we saw.
Every time we walked down, we were spoiled by the variety of excellent cafes and in one instance sat on the balcony overlooking a square, watching the world go by, whilst enjoying one of the fantastic selections of cakes. Our favourite being the Maderian Custard Tarts- Pasteis de Nata.
If the cakes weren't temptation enough there were several ice cream parlours, including an interesting one on the sea front, to tempt you to enjoy the variety of flavours.
After looking for the fish market, on several occasions, we finally stumbled across it on the last couple of days. This proved to be interesting; seeing the huge variety of fish on sale as well as seeing some of the ones we had been eating in the hotel. Also there were several souvenir stalls to browse.
Finally, I must mention the CR7 Museum. Being a Manchester United fan it was impressive to see the number of trophies Christian Ronaldo had won as well as to reminisce on the time he spent in Manchester.
I mentioned earlier the downhill walk into town; this proved to be a lot harder going up and became quite tiring after a walk around town and not something we looked forward to.
We had seen pictures of the Kite Festival in Lytham and decided this would be a colourful display. The weather was fine so off we set. Unfortunately, so did hundreds of others. After being stuck in traffic for an hour we got off the motorway and headed back.
However, the day wasn't completely spoiled because we came across a sign for Astley Hall. This proved to be an impressive building and had several interesting rooms to look at. The ceiling was outstanding with elaborate plaster work and cherubs hanging down,
There was also a display by the local art group at the Farmhouse Gallery, which was situated near the cafe. There was some impressive work on show and at quite reasonable prices. We often like to buy at these shows and soon found a piece that impressed us. It was by a local artist Sandra Sugden.
It was a really interesting style that she used and we particularly liked those done as landscapes.
Her painting was created using alcohol ink and manipulating it to get the required image. They were mainly on ceramic tiles but some were on acetate and some on YUPO paper. One was a trial on Perspex.
Tiles were all sealed with a light gloss many times over so that they could be used indoors or out.
This style was quite unique and the final painting was very impressive and a nice addition to our collection.
It was interesting to visit the gallery and made our trip worthwhile. On the plus side if we had made it to Lytham, there was no wind so the kite festival did not take place. We must try again next year!
We often receive invites to Facebook events and if local try to attend some of them. Recently an Art-walk in Clitheroe was advertised and having a free day we decided to have a look around the galleries.
Having downloaded a map, we set off but this was not as simple as it seemed. The map and our SAT-NAV weren't in agreement. Anyway, we eventually arrived after a detour and refreshed from a hot drink, we set off.
The first gallery we visited was the Knowle Top Studios; here photographs printed on brushed aluminium were on show. This was an impressive gallery based on two floors.
Just around the corner, a lively duo of singers lightened the event and The Keep Gallery had a smaller display of art and crafts. Crossing the road, we visited The Longitude Gallery. Here a range of artwork including some excellent landscapes were on show. It was nice to see that the artists had found a range of subject matter in the surrounding countryside and not a lot of the same view.
Next, we went into an art shop, which also sold framing services before a longer walk to the Ribble Valley Art Studios. Here, a group of artists shared a floor, each working and showing their work in their own studio space. Again, there was a wide variety of styles and topics covered. Even one who focused on competitive cyclists in some of her art.
Then, it was round to the Platform Gallery based (you guessed it) on a railway station. this contained an exhibition of a range of fascinating sculptures made from everyday items such as binders, hot water bottles, cheese graters and even household sponges! This was entertaining as well as inventive.
Our final visit was to the Old Bakehouse Gallery featuring the landscapes of a local artist Peter Taylor.
A really pleasant few hours spent wandering around the town and well worth attending. This year they had two Artwalks one in May and this one in September. As well as the galleries there are some lovely coffee shops to stop at for refreshment. We will certainly look out for them next year.
On a recent trip to Chester we decided to check out the present art scene there.
Our first stop was at the old Chester library. This, at the moment, has been converted into a super gallery space featuring Pop Art Prints from The Victoria and Albert Museum. It featured work from Andy Warhol, Patrick Caulfield and Roy Lichtenstein and many more. A wide range of styles and subject matters and a good start to our expedition. Chatting to the staff it seemed a shame that this space would soon be used for another cafe or such like.
A hundred yards further down the road is the The Story-House, a new Library and Arts centre. It is a fantastic building, with a superb section for children, which encourages reading but I was disappointed as it does not offer an exhibition space, which seems very short sighted for a city like Chester.
Our next visit was to a private art gallery, known as the Chester Art Centre which is a small shop offering a wide range of services for artists. It is good to see a shop where you can frame paintings and have them photographed and prints done, all in one place. You can even hire their gallery rooms for an exhibition. On the plus side I also have one of my prints in their Summer exhibition at Commonhall St Social, where you can call in, view the display and have a drink or something to eat.
Our last visit was to Chester Cathedral to see the ARK exhibition of contemporary sculptures. As you enter, the stunning architectures meets you and you are met by Damien Hirst's Sheep in a glass case then as you wander around you are met with surprises around every corner. The setting is superb and compliments the many excellent sculptures. On show are many of the famous sculptures; you find a Barbara Hepworth or a modern sculpture with the backdrop of a biblical scene. Stained glass lighting enhances some of the work and you can't help but be impressed by the work and setting. Even the Cathedral's own sculptures in the gardens don't seem out of place.
Well worth a visit and you can even contribute to the Lego sculpture of the Cathedral. My brick is the one on the bottom right corner!
After a day exploring yesterday, we decided to revisit the dock area and look at some of the smaller galleries as well.
The first area we came to was near the Scale lane swing bridge. This had a really interesting building on it that was itself a work of art but unfortunately empty now. Here there were a couple of ships stuck in the mud as the tide was out. They were quite an interesting subject matter.
Next we visited the Museum area taking time to view the Wilberforce house and read about his famous campaign against slavery.
After a walk along the riverfront, viewing The Deep in the distance, another impressive building, we made our way to the old Fruit Market area. This is a vibrant area known for art galleries and music and performance venues and is an emerging digital hub, which also forms part of the Old Town Conservation Area.
Hull has done a fantastic job of regenerating this area as well as the wide paved areas surrounding it.
After visits to some other large towns it was a joy to have the space these areas provided.
After visiting a number of small galleries we had a look around the Humber Street Gallery. This proved to be quite a playful exhibition based on games. Visitors had a chance to interact with several exhibitions and even add to some of the sculptures. An interesting observation was that in the toilets they had posted the pictures of some of these sculptures and the reactions of some visitors.
Wandering down Humber street there was an excellent atmosphere with street performers and places to sit and relax. The area is fast developing into a must visit area with small art and craft galleries, designer shops and food outlets.
There were also little gems that we came across, like the odd mural in an alley. Also some of the shops had window displays of art work, some linked to the sea theme others to the shopping experience.
Before coming to Hull, we had been given a variety of opinions on what the town was like. Some good and some not as good. From our experience it is a city that is certainly on the up in many areas and has spent the City of Culture money widely enhancing areas that needed developing. It will be interesting to go back in a few years to see how this development has continued.
The only downside to our visit was the timing. We knew that it was the City of Culture but failed to check the activities whilst we were there and our weekend fell at a quiet time. Not their fault though!
Leaving Whitby we set off for our next destination, Hull. We decided to stop at Robin Hood's Bay on the way but due to a miss calculation this didn't work out as expected. Not realizing that the village was down a long, steep hill we didn't put enough money on the parking ticket and by the time we got to the bottom it was nearly time to start back. Still a place we can now come back to.
We booked into our hotel, which wasn't an easy matter as we could see it but had to follow phone instructions through the maze of roads to find the car park. Our first day out took us along the newly paved area to the Ferens Art Gallery. To our surprise we were confronted by a pile of boulders as part of the "Offshore Artist's Explore the Sea" exhibition. After our recent discussions on seashore art possibilities, it was interesting to see the way that different artists had interpreted this theme. From photography to blackboard art and sculpture. An interesting show, which reflected on our experiences in the Whitby area.
As we toured the other rooms it was interesting to see the other themes including the "Skin" exhibition featuring Freud, Mueck and Tunick. and presenting the work of other internationally acclaimed artists. The exhibition explores the nude and in particular how the depiction of skin continues to fascinate today.
One of the main artworks from Hull were the large prints of hundreds of naked people, covered in shades of blue, photographed around the city. These were really interesting colourful images.
The sculptures, often of a large scale were memorable and made you think, although I did feel a little sorry for the member of staff, a young girl, who spent her day sat level with a certain part of the man's anatomy.
After visiting the gallery it was interesting to discuss which paintings or sculptures we remembered. Some by the more famous artists are memorable because of their familiarity from books etc as well as the skill involved. Others stand out for different reasons, possibly size or subject matter; others move your senses. An interesting activity to try after visiting a gallery.
Another thing that has started to interest me, being a people watcher, is observing people in art galleries. Partly because of their reaction to paintings and partly because they tend to be still for a while to allow me to capture their image.
As we entered one room, the young woman was completely engrossed in the audio about the art, when all around people would stop at certain works to admire or discuss them.