Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

I wrote about Harlow Carr Gardens in my last post (see here) then remembered that I’d never blogged about an attractive alternative to driving there from the centre of Harrogate. I hunted out photos taken in Spring 2015 from my archive. On that occasion there was a family gathering for my brother’s milestone birthday and with space at a premium we stayed in an apartment adjacent to the lovely Valley Gardens with Mlle who’d come up from London for the occasion.

The Valley Gardens extend at the upper end into woodland known as Pinewoods. We decided to follow the signposted route one day to see where it led us. The pathway is gentle and undulating though did get a big boggy in parts so sensible shoes (or better still boots) are a must!

At one point the trees and bushes suddenly make way to give you an uninterrupted view across the valley towards the Yorkshire Dales. There is an information board giving you details of the Pinewoods Panorama. It was one of those clear crisp sunny early April days and we had a glorious view across to the moors. The Pinewoods Conservation Group is a registered charity that works to conserve the environment and natural harmony in this area and other parts of Harrogate.

From memory, the walk from Valley Gardens took us about 25 minutes or so before we came out at a little stile by the Harlow Carr carpark area. Naturally morning tea at Betty’s Cafe was obligatory before we wended our way back into town!

 

For more interesting walks around the world head over to Restless Jo and her regular Monday Walk here!

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Apologies for my lengthy absence from the blog! We are in the midst of  major renovations to the kitchen and laundry area and it has been somewhat chaotic to say the least but we are looking forward to the end result!

I did start my series on our recent European trip with a couple of posts about York (see here and here).

Today is a pictorial tour round Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate, always a favourite spot for a walk when I’m visiting my family (see here and here for a previous visit in spring and by way of contrast, autumn).

On the day my dad and I visited in April, it was unfortunately rather grey and gloomy but the moody sky did provide a nice contrast to the deep pinks, soft peaches and golden yellow colours of the tulips.

No trip to Harlow Carr would feel complete without an afternoon tea at Betty’s Cafe (one of several in Yorkshire, there is another one in Harrogate on the corner of Montpellier Parade in the town centre). The rainy weather provided the perfect excuse to head indoors and enjoy a delicious Yorkshire cream tea!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Despite the rather grey and chilly weather, the walk round the old City Walls in York was a real highlight (see here for last week’s post).

Nevertheless the wind still had a definite chill to it and I wondered if I had been too optimistic in wearing a lighter jacket – perhaps my warm coat would have been a better option? By the afternoon, however, the sun had broken through the clouds and burnt off any lingering mist. It was simply glorious and I began to feel quite warm for the first time since I’d arrived in the UK.

York has multiple attractions and I’ve been lucky to visit many times previously. The Jorvik Viking Centre is a must see if you’ve time (see here), the Minster, magnificent both inside and out, the Castle Museum fascinating not to mention the gorgeous old streets with quaint names such as Spurriergate, High Petergate and the famous Shambles where you can wander for hours popping in and out of the myriad shops. And that’s just a few ideas for starters!

On this occasion both my brother and I wanted to do some shopping post lunch but first we had a wander round and browsed in the markets next to the Shambles.

 

 

By mid afternoon there were sunbathers in the York Museum Gardens (not me it didn’t seem that warm for someone visiting from the Antipodes!). I took some photos of the old Benedictine Monastery of St Mary’s Abbey that are situated in the grounds. First built in 1088, the abbey was destroyed as part of Henry VIII’s “Reformation”in the 1500s.  The ruins basking in the spring sun provided a perfect backdrop for a bridal party busy taking photos.

 

 

Strolling round I also came across the York Observatory. The oldest working observatory in Yorkshire, it is open each day from 11.30am to 2.30pm but it’s best to check before planning a visit as it is manned by volunteers and not always open to schedule.

 

 

We finally made our way back to the river, after a detour up to the Minster and enjoyed an early dinner at a pub we discovered a few visits ago – the Pitcher and Piano.

 

 

 

I always find new discoveries on every visit to York. This time I stopped to read the little plaque on the wall near St Martin’s Church. I must have walked past it many times before and never noticed it – another small vignette of York’s history this time from the 20th century.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

Back from our recent trip to the Uk and Germany and trying to get myself organised before we begin major kitchen and laundry renovations in a couple of weeks time! I thought I would write up my posts on our latest trip now whilst it’s still fresh in my mind and then go back to complete the lengthy series on Canada and Alaska (see here and here for those posts so far).

I spent about 10 days up in Yorkshire visiting my family. Of course I have blogged about this lovely area before but even so one always seems to find new things to do and places to visit. York is a perennial favourite of mine and I spent an enjoyable day out there with my brother. Despite its myriad attractions (see here and here for previous posts), I have never walked all the way round the old city walls before. I’ve taken the iconic photos of the Minster from Lendal Bridge and occasionally walked along a short stretch of the walls near the Castle Museum but this was my first complete circuit.

We strolled along at a leisurely pace stopping regularly to take photos and it took us about an hour and an quarter but according to the tourist information you should allow 2 hours (see here for more information). I’m quite sure we didn’t miss out any sections and we didn’t walk particularly fast so perhaps that is a conservative estimate. There are 5 main bars or gateways and you can access the walls at any of these main points. The history is well explained as you go round – the history of York is colourful, sometimes tragic but always fascinating and you get a feel for how the city has evolved over the centuries, a melting pot of different peoples, cultures and religions. Romans, Vikings, travellers from the Middle East, Jewish people, and opposing armies in the English Civil War have all walked here before.

The City Walls originated in Roman times but their course has changed considerably since then and they curve round what would probably have been the old medieval city. They are remarkably well preserved though there are sections where you just have to walk along a modern street for a little while before climbing the steps and rejoining the path along the walls. Dogs are not allowed unless they are guide dogs and you do have to exercise some caution as one side often didn’t have railings. Although they drop off to a grassy embankment I wouldn’t fancy falling off so do take care when passing people especially with elderly people and children. The steps to get on and off the different sections are also rather steep so might not be suitable for everyone. We arrived back near to our starting point at Lendal Bridge ready for a hearty lunch!

 

I was also very sad to read about the light plane crash in the Ketchikan neighbourhood the other week (see here). I had written about Ketchikan just before we went on holiday last month (see here). It’s a beautiful small fishing port, which relies heavily on the tourist industry for business – thoughts are with those affected by this tragic accident.

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Braving the elements we set off to explore Alaska’s Ketchikan (see here for Part 1)!

Billing itself as Alaska’s First City (since it’s the first port of call once you cross the border from Canada), tourism is the lifeblood of this region. We found the locals friendly and welcoming even on a cold damp August day.

We hadn’t realised that this part of Alaska has a coastal maritime climate and actually doesn’t get as cold as one would expect at this latitude though it does rain a lot! Apparently it has a similar feel to Scottish towns such as Aberdeen and Inverness or Stavanger in Norway (you can read up here for more information).

The abundant greenery is part of a temperate rainforest zone and although it does snow in winter we were told that temperatures don’t generally drop too far below freezing and the snow usually melts quite quickly. The area is also connected to Canada by roads though I should imagine it is a tough route to follow and most tourists come in by boat. I did find some information on the road system in the south eastern part of Alaska here.

We hadn’t pre-booked any of the tours available via our cruise liner Holland America and preferred to explore at our leisure. Our cruise was the second last of the 2018 season, which starts up in May, so all the shops were offering bargains aplenty. The salmon industry is a vital part of Ketchikan’s raison d’être and the market and shops greeted us with advertising signs.

 

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We had a good look round the myriad of salmon options on offer and tried a few samples of the various varieties, which were delicious. Most shops will ship goods all round the world. You do have to be firm to avoid bulk buying huge amounts of salmon especially as we can get a good variety here in Australia including frozen Canadian sockeye.

We decided to head round town on one of the local buses, which we discovered took exactly the same route as the flashier and more expensive tourist ones. Our driver was helpful and pointed out sights such as Dolly’s House on Creek Street once a bordello back in the day!

We loved the brightly painted timber houses that stood out in the gloom!

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The Native Tlingit peoples used the area as a summer fishing camp and the town is well known for its collection of totem poles that are of great cultural significance. You can see some of them at the Totem Heritage Centre,  which has a large display of 19th century totem poles rescued from abandoned villages in the area. We didn’t go round the museum but saw many other colourful and interesting examples round the town.

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Not surprisingly we soon felt the need to warm up and get out of the drizzle. The harbour front is dotted with small restaurants, cafes and bars and the “Crab Cracker Seafood Bar” caught our eye. Toasty and warm inside the cosy cafe, we enjoyed hearty bowls of their delicious clam chowder and crab bisque – a welcome antidote to the damp outside!

Fortified and insulated against the chill, we explored the deep water harbour and then headed to the local mall. Not unexpectedly it was packed with souvenir shops selling clothes suitable for an Alaskan climate, artwork, Christmas ornaments and other artefacts. I also made friends with a few of the furry locals and we admired the giant sculpture of a whale suspended over the centre from the upper floor ceiling.

Heading back to our ship later that afternoon, we enjoyed a hearty evening dinner.  Something to do with walking around in the cold seemed to make us ravenously hungry!

Later just before sunset the Noordam glided out of the harbour towards our next stop, Alaska’s capital, Juneau.

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The rest of our Alaska trip will have to wait awhile as we’re heading off overseas again to see family in the Uk. We also have a few days booked based in Mainz, Germany, situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhein and Main. We’re looking forward to relaxing and exploring this beautiful region.

In the meantime wishing everyone a very happy Easter and special thoughts with the people of France following the tragic fire at Notre Dame – somewhere we’ve enjoyed visiting on several occasions.

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

After a couple of nights and a full day’s sailing on board the Noordam (see here), it was rather surreal to open our curtains the next morning and realise we had docked in port.

Below us on the quay we got our first glimpse of the USA and South East Alaska’s first port of call, the little town of Ketchikan. Not a particularly auspicious start as it was pouring with rain and the town was coated in a thick mist reminiscent of sea frets in Scotland or northern England on a bad day (from my childhood memories!).

However the green wooded hills dotted with timber cottages reminded me not only of Scotland but also Scandinavia and in the gloom we could also just about make out shops enticing visitors along the quayside stocked with foodstuffs, jewellery and interesting objects such as totem poles reminding us of the First Nations heritage of the area.

So fortified with a hearty breakfast and well rugged up against the rain and cold we braced the elements and set off to explore the township. More to come in the next post!

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We had booked a seven day cruise up from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. Check-in was relatively quick and efficient but you do have to be patient lining up for US Border Control procedures, which for convenience are carried out in Vancouver (the Alaskan US/Canada border is a few hours sail time north from here).

So on a slightly overcast late summer afternoon we found ourselves boarding our floating home (or rather hotel) for the next week. This was our first experience at cruising and I must confess we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Our ship the Noordam, part of the Holland America line fleet, carried about 1900 passengers yet we didn’t feel our space was unpleasantly crowded. It was somewhat bewildering at first to get our heads round the vast number of possibilities – as well as several cafes, restaurants and bars there were gyms, a swimming pool, a spa retreat, libraries, talks, wine and beer tastings, concerts, musical entertainment – the list goes on! Rather than go into great detail you can read up about the various options here.

 

 

For now I just want to focus on our own personal experience. The itinerary cruises up the Inside Passage along the western Pacific coast of Canada, past the Haida Gwaii (also known as Queen Charlotte Islands) before crossing the US border into Alaska.

Near the extensive shopping area on one of the lower decks was an information board and map charting our progress and current nautical position.

It took a day and a half to reach our first port of call, Ketchikan in South East Alaska  (a narrow strip of land, surrounded by the sea and British Columbia, Canada, dotted with settlements that just about clings on to the larger Alaskan land mass to the north west). Southeast Alaska is the northern end of the Inside Passage, a protected waterway that provides a passage between the many small islands and fjords in this area. Its southern terminus is in Puget Sound in Washington state. The waterway system was of great importance to the local First Nations peoples, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. We learnt a great deal about their heritage and culture during the time we spent in Southeast Alaska

I’ll cover the history, heritage and wildlife of the various small towns and communities we visited here in the coming posts.

Back on ship you certainly don’t have to join in anything on board that you don’t want to – the idea is to relax and enjoy yourself. We had booked a suite with a balcony facing towards the land side of the ship. I only took a few photos for some reason but this gives you an idea. It was incredibly comfortable and we were well looked after by our delightful valets – we got custom folded towels each night and they were friendly and helpful without being intrusive. Certainly you can just sit on the balcony and watch the world (or sea) go by if you like.

 

 

 

However we liked to get out on the main deck and soak up the pure fresh air – it was most invigorating and we covered a lot of steps on the Promenade Deck during the course of our trip. Laid out with attractive wooden decking it is designed so that you can walk laps to your heart’s content (or sit and relax on the deckchairs). There is a separate zone on an upper deck for joggers though a few did use the Promenade Deck as well. Three laps was equivalent to a mile so we made sure we got in nine laps a day at least!

We saw our first whales somewhere off the island archipelago – I managed a few distant photos. The ship’s crew are very good at announcing sightings over the loudspeaker – you just have to be in the right place at the right time to spot things though.

 

 

 

Our cruise package covered up to 15 standard drinks a day (which I certainly didn’t use, others though….). There were options for wine deals too but with an all-inclusive drinks package we weren’t tempted though I did go with one of our friends to a very interesting wine tasting where there was nearly a fight (nothing to do with us I hasten to add!). A couple of parties sculled their glasses of wine before the sommelier had a chance to explain the tasting notes thus rather missing the point of the event! However this hardly justified a couple of wine snobs having a go at them in the rudest manner possible – the situation was fortunately narrowly defused!

There were a couple of optional gala dinners on board and whilst I was a little apprehensive as we hadn’t packed anything too fancy (coming all the way from Australia with dinner jackets and ball gowns was not an option) it was actually more casual than I’d expected and a pleasant chance to a enjoy a gourmet dining experience.

 

 

I was also worried about potential seasickness beforehand as I have no sea legs whatsoever. I had bought some special bracelets from the pharmacist before I left home, which you wear on your wrist pressure points to ease any sickness. Whether it was psychosomatic or not I had no problem at all even on slightly rougher days. I heard later quite a few people had been sea sick on the first couple of days so I was glad I had the wrist bands with me.

So from being a sceptic I can say we would certainly consider doing another cruise at some point in future – not too long though, for us a week was just about perfect.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

I did a quick preview of our Alaskan travels just after we got back home here.

I’m now starting to collate and write up the stories of our travels there last August. By way of a superb photographic introduction I’m sharing a gallery of photos taken by an Italian girl named Cecilia who we met on a day tour of Denali National Park. She very kindly let me have some copies with permission to publish them on my blog. I don’t think any further words from me are necessary – grazie molto Cecilia!

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Having viewed the Kicking Horse Pass from the Spiral Tunnels Lookout point (see here), we stopped a little later to get a closer look at the river as it thunders through the Natural Bridge another tourist attraction in the Yoho National Park. It’s only a short distance off the Emerald Lake Road, west of Field and is well worth the little detour.

With spectacular rock formations eroded over time by the elements, the river passes through a narrow chasm in the rocks with incredible speed and a thundering noise!

 

 

 

I did take a short video, which gives you an idea of the immense power of the torrent of water. If you click on the start button the video does come out the right way despite appearances to the contrary!

 

 

 

Having taken time out to explore the Yoho National Park and its attractions, we were keen to get a move on to our overnight stop at Kelowna. We already knew that there was a wild fire near Revelstoke on both sides of the Trans-Canada Highway and whilst it was safe to pass through the area, the air was thick with smoke, which reduced visibility. Hence we didn’t take too many photos. The following map taken from Geology.com (link here), gives you an idea of the scale of the land. Banff, where we had been staying, is 126.8 km west of Calgary.

(Copyright information: The map on this page was composed by Angela King and Brad Cole and is copyright by Geology.com © 2008. This image is not available for use beyond their websites. If you share the map with others, please link to their page (link in previous paragraph) as per their request. The satellite image was produced using Landsat data from NASA and the map was produced using data licensed from and copyright by Map Resources © 2008.)

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It was interesting to journey through some of British Columbia’s lesser known places for example we stopped off for lunch at the quaintly named Golden with its history closely tied to the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway line. We had lunch on a little island in the river (reached by bridge).

 

 

Afternoon tea and a short stroll round the small town of Revelstoke.

 

 

 

And finally a drive along the Mara Lake and the lush pastoral region of the Okanagan as the sun was just starting to set in a smoky haze.

 

 

The next day we arrived back in Vancouver, having come full circle through the Rockies (Vancouver to Banff via Kamloops on the train and back on the road via Kelowna). You can read the full collection of Canadian posts here.

The following day we boarded our cruise up to Alaska – plenty more posts about our adventures there to come!

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

Heading back along the Trans-Canada Highway towards Vancouver we stopped off for a break at the Spiral Tunnels look-out point west of Lake Louise. Now back across the border in British Colombia (clocks go back an hour to Pacific Time) we were retracing some of the journey we had made on the Rocky Mountaineer (see here and here).

One memorable part of the rail journey passes through a series of tunnels that twist and switch back on themselves as they wend their way under the appropriately named Big Hill. The Canadian Pacific Railway wanted to cut through Kicking Horse Pass in the Yoho National Park en route to the west coast. The “hill”, near the tiny settlement of Field, was by far the most difficult and treacherous part of the track and a decision was made to upgrade to a tunnel system in the early 20th century.

Why did the pass get its unusual name? Originally the area was explored by the Palliser Expedition between 1857 and 1860. An unfortunate incident occurred when Dr James Hector, the surgeon to the expedition, was out and about and somehow got himself kicked by his horse. Believing him to be dead his fellow adventurers dug a grave for him but he regained consciousness at the 11th hour (well that’s what he told everyone later)! Maybe the horse had got totally fed up with having to ride through the dense and mountainous terrain and vented its frustration on its master. Anyway the moniker stuck and it remains Kicking Horse Pass to this day.

Journeying in the train it reminded us of the switchback system used on many of the Swiss railways we’ve travelled on where you go into a tunnel in one direction and come out again going the opposite way – somewhat disorientating! From what our guides told us on the Rocky Mountaineer, the Swiss engineering system was indeed the inspiration. You get a sense of the achievement when you look out across the pass that appears almost impassable when viewed from above.

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Despite the improvements the Kicking Horse Pass area remains a challenging route for trains till this day. I was quite shocked to read the following whilst researching this post (taken from the Wikipedia article on the Big Hill and Spiral Tunnels that I’ve linked previously).

The most recent derailment occurred on February 4, 2019, when Canadian Pacific train 301 was proceeding westward to Vancouver. 99 cars and 2 locomotives derailed at Mile 130.6, just outside of the western portal of Upper Spiral Tunnel. The train crew consisted of a locomotive engineer, a conductor and a conductor trainee. The three crew members were killed.

One can only admire the efforts and sacrifices made by the pioneering rail engineers all those years ago.

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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