personal and travel

A personal blog post. 10 years on.

I received an email this morning from Intelligence Squared.  I often go to their topical talks and debates but the headline for this one really jumped out at me.  '10 years on'.  It referred to the financial crisis and it made me quite reflective.  You see I was one of those left unemployed in the wake of the recession from my marketing job.  First we saw those scenes of the bankers carrying out their possessions in boxes from their gleaming towers.  Then it started happening to friends around me.

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Notes from a small island: Santorini in a couple of days

santorini

Visiting Santorini has definitely been on my bucket list for photographing a wedding so I was hugely excited when Roxy and James, who I had met an another wedding in Tuscany got in touch to tell me about their plans.  I tend to just fly in and out of places and on to the next thing at this time of year but I decided to extend my stay to be able to see a little more of the island as I doubted I would be back unless for another wedding.

End of September is getting towards the close of the season out there which means less people (although it still felt pretty crowded) and more changeable weather.  I prefer it a bit cooler so it suited me to be exploring away from the scorching summer heat but it did mean that the wedding day was a little cloudy and so the backdrops were not really the picture postcard azure seas but a rather more gentle hazy light.

I’m going to blog about the wedding more soon but I just thought I would share some of my tips from my vast knowledge having spent three days out here!

  • Hire a car!!!  Or a buggy.  The island is tiny and it’s so much fun to scoot around and the views from the roads are spectacular (I did get beeped at by locals several times for rubber necking at the views and swerving around the roads).  A car means spontaneity and a sense of adventure.  There are regular buses around the island though so it’s not absolutely essential
  • Book an average hotel.  One realisation I had on this trip was although I was disappointed not to have the budget for one of the grand sea view hotel along Oia or Imeriogli it did mean that I was way more active than I usually am.  I love a comfy sun lounger, ace book and incredible view (with a glass of something cold close to hand) but on this trip my modest but comfortable and clean hotel in Fira (Renas Suites) meant that I was keen to get out and explore
  • Find a great spot for sunset.  I’d scouted out the area around the wedding venue (Le Ciel) for great spots to take Roxy and James for their couples shots.  Further north along the coastal track in front of the hotels (and a great hike if you are staying around there) is a couple of beautiful and typical churches.  Unfortunately the night I took R & J up there was literally 6 other brides, a gaggle of photographers, a drone… and smoke grenades *face palm* .  I was a little embarrassed to take them there but they gamely pushed on through.  Unfortunately the sunset was not so spectacular that night but the following night it was peaceful up there with beautiful views over the other islands in the bay
  • Caldera views and Cape Akrotiri lighthouse - with a 3am wake up for my flight I arrived tired in Santorini early afternoon.  I intended to have a nap but once I got behind the wheel I just kept driving.  I loved the sense of freedom that being on a small island gave me to explore - and the fact that you can literally see from end to end and across it’s breadth at most points.  I headed south to the more scrubby and sparsely populated end of the island.  The views over the bay looked towards the Southern tips with the towns dotted along the peaks of the cliffs.  At the end i found a light house and many couples (this was to be a common theme every where I went).  As I headed back towards Fira I stopped off at Good Heart Tavern, one of the many tavernas strung along that road for some late lunch overlooking the sea.
  • Ammoudi  Bay - I drove the car to the furthest tip I could find and that led me down on to Ammoudi which sits at the bottom of a steep cliff atop which perches Oia which is literally breathtaking.  When I first arrived on the island I was puzzled by the white tipped cliffs - snow?! - but then I realised that it was the stretches of white houses along the key coastal points.  There are lots of great seafood restaurants on that bay and I then walked, along with some horses, the 200 odd steps up the cliff and into Oia where I sat and had my Greek salad perched high up over the bay.  Oia was uncomfortably full of tourists but it was a must see to get a sense of the architecture of the towns which cling vertiginously to the edges of the cliff, gleaming white and interspersed with with it’s signature blue of church roofs and pools.  Not for the faint hearted.  I did have a twinge of envy seeing tourists lolling in their private pools with a pretty epic view - although not so private.
  • Perivolas Beach - the beaches in Santorini are mainly pebbly or volcanic sand so don’t expect stretches of golden shores.  Quieter than Kamari beach was Perivolas Beach further south around the coast.  You can sit for free on the loungers or eat lunch in many of the great restaurants.  I had a delicious crab salad (for 2) at Sea shore?
  • My final stop before the airport was breakfast (chip and feta omelette - better than it sounds!) at the south end of Kamari beach.  It’s a bustling little town and the beaches tend to fill up quickly on the free sun loungers.

After three days I felt really connected to the island and it’s features familiar to me.  I loved the simplicity of it, the spectacular views at every turn.  And there is nothing like travelling alone to really stretch your curiosity legs.  I’m glad I’ve had a chance and hope I get to a chance to return.

Travels with my camera: A journey through time (the Jurassic Coast)

 Setting off from Honiton station to Exmouth to the start of the route.  You an also start from Poole and do it the other way around.

Setting off from Honiton station to Exmouth to the start of the route.  You an also start from Poole and do it the other way around.

When things don’t go to plan and you leave space for the unexpected some wonderful things can appear.  I had two weeks roughly mapped out ahead of me to share with a friend when those plans fell through.  I was left feeling alone and flailing.  As someone who fills my time almost compulsively with work, friends and activities I felt bereft at the idea of this vacuum.  And so I decided to to continue on alone and with the help of friends embarked on a small journey to challenge myself.

I grew up with the privilege of plenty of travel abroad.  I continued that into early adulthood and have never refused the opportunity to get on a plane - sometimes to escape, sometimes to keep moving and sometimes because I didn’t know what else to do and have felt that moving through exotic spaces colours me in a way that gives me substance.

My own country has been neglected in these constant wanderings.  And yet I discovered a perfect solitude in walking a small part of the South West Coast Path this last week, along the 95 mile Jurassic Coast.  I discovered a sense of independence and freedom and clearness of mind.  I let go of needing things to be perfect or on time.

One rather painful discovery is that rushing leads to injury!  As I was trying to complete this alone my hardwired competitive side came out - I had to do it in as fast a time as possible.  And after two 16mile days over rough terrain I sustained a knee injury.  I hobbled along for a further day, desperate to be able to continue, but in the end had to accept that having reached half way I would need to stop, rest and return at a later date to finish the second half.

 This is the view looking back towards at the end of the climb into Beer. 

This is the view looking back towards at the end of the climb into Beer. 

The other lesson learned, on the back of the above, is that waiting leads to adventures and discoveries.   As I hobbled down into the nearest village to figure out what to do, and waiting for the pub to open so I could tap into their wifi and make a new plan I called out to a passing man to see if there was a local campsite (loathed as I was to return to the awful caravan park I'd passed a mile back) to rest and stay the night.  He happened to be the local cider farmer and had a small campsite in his apple orchard.  By a river.  With an all day cider bar and live music that evening.  Perfect!  He bundled me into his landrover and I found myself in the most idyllic spot to while away the afternoon and evening (note:  the nicer campsites are set back off the trail if you have the energy to walk a mile or so inland).  And my neighbour even made me supper and we compared notes about the trail - he told me of his intention to do the full 660 miles next year over 4 months to raise awareness for mental health issues.

I’ve also learnt of the kindness of my friends and the possibility of asking for the things I need.   Despite having trekked in some quite extreme places including Patagonia and Nepal I'd never done anything longer than a 2 hour walk on my own.  Without my dear friends Rich and Marie to get me started I probably would have ended up staying in London but their support got me going and their tough love kept me walking so that I discovered the joys of walking and being alone.

 Views towards Golden Cap - a hill and cliff between Bridport and Charmouth in Dorset. The cliffs are the highest point on the south coast of Great Britain at 191 metres.

Views towards Golden Cap - a hill and cliff between Bridport and Charmouth in Dorset. The cliffs are the highest point on the south coast of Great Britain at 191 metres.

The walk itself in the end started at Exmouth and I finished at the very quintessentially English village of Abbotsbury, taking in swims in Sidmouth and the bustling Lyme Regis.  Most of the route was amazingly quiet with few trekkers.  Highlights included the rainforest like undercliffs of the Axmouth to Lyme Regis route and the climb up to Golden Cap at sunset before dropping down into the tiny Seatown for a delicious fish ploughman at The Anchor.  Also the unexpected Bredy Farm visit in the apple orchard at Burton Bradstock.   When I resume it will be from Abbotsbury and on through Weymouth and finishing the route at Poole.

 End of the road - pub lunch in Abbotsbury - taken by Rosie who joined me for the very slow, final walk along Chesil beach

End of the road - pub lunch in Abbotsbury - taken by Rosie who joined me for the very slow, final walk along Chesil beach

I travelled with the excellent lightweight MSR Hubba Hubba tent and initially a small trangier but decided to get rid of some weight on the way since there are so many cafes and pubs along the route to eat at I didn't feel it necessary to cook for myself, although this can get pricey.  Campsites were frequent and always had space but can be expensive when travelling alone as you are paying per pitch rather than per person usually (£14 - £26 a night).  I also took my thermarest, a warm sleeping bag and minimal clothing.  A 35l rucksack is fine - I had an Osprey Stratos 36.  Next time I might take walking sticks - you look like a pensioner but I think it really protects your body when doing long distances.  Carry plenty water.  I was lucky the weather was a bit cloudy so not super hot but I was drinking a good 2-3 litres per day.  There is a bus (The Jurassic Coaster) that travels along the full length of the coast path so it's really easy to drop your car and then get back to it.

 Exmouth to Abbotsbury

Exmouth to Abbotsbury