The Purbeck Breezer

We’re heading down to Weymouth for a huge family get together at the weekend – so decided to have a couple of nights in Poole, en route, in order to fit in a day’s coastal walking .. and a ‘U’ for the parkrun alphabet!

Our original plan was to walk 14 miles today but at the last moment we replanned this to an 8 mile walk. To be honest, I am still feeling the after affects of the covid I had 4 weeks ago – can’t believe how long the general lack of energy lingers. This turned out to be a fabulous decision as we both said this had been one of our favourite walks to date. It had everything – hills, woodlands, cliffs, sun, sea and sand, blue skies, pleasant walking conditions, a gentle breeze … and a lovely boat to round it all off.

We left our airbnb at a reasonable time, rather than the crack of dawn, and caught the ‘Purbeck Breeze’ bus to Swanage. We sat upstairs to admire the amazing Dorset countryside views (there’s nothing like it) and we travelled through beautiful places like Wareham (my place of birth), Corfe Castle and Langton Matravers, finally reaching the beautiful seaside town of Swanage.

As we walked along the Swanage promenade we could see a vision of steepness ahead – oh goody! When we reached it there was an initial climbing of steps but after each phase of ascent there was an equal distance of flat. Turned out it was as the guide had suggested – ‘undulating’ … I love that word, I get great satisfaction out of saying it!! Having said that, the final uphill bit was a trifle gruelling but definitely mustn’t grumble as the rest of the day’s walk was a total breeze.

We followed the Purbeck Way along to the stunning spectacle of Old Harry Rocks – quite a crowd today, half-term walkers. One legend said that the devil (Old Harry) slept on these rocks! A bit dodgy getting near to the edge but we were oh so brave.

After a spot of picnic lunch we hit the Studland Woodland path which led us to the fabulous Studland Beach – a sheltered bay with golden sand and beach huts. We couldn’t believe it was the end of October – it could have been a summer’s day. Warm and sunny, so many children playing in the sand, plenty of swimmers – just generally busy. So wished I could have stopped for a swim.

On the way to the beach we had passed “The Pig at Studland” restaurant with rooms – looked fascinating. Would definitely like to try it out one day.

It was a long trek along Studland Beach, passing the notice which informed us of the Nudist section. Being a bit chilly it wasn’t heavily populated – but we did see amongst the sand dunes one chap in a cap, but nothing else, braving the elements.

And so we made it to South Haven Point where we caught the ferry over to Sandbanks which was, as usual, basking in its microclimate sunniness.

From there we hopped onto a ‘Purbeck Breezer’ back into the town of Poole, enjoying the luxury views of Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs on the way. Back to our humble Airbnb which has disco lighting, no heating and a list of rules as long as your arm!

We’ll be up early in the morning to tackle the Upton House parkrun – a ‘U’ for the collection – hopefully it’ll be a breeze.

Time flies … it’s time to fly home ✈️

Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th October 2022

Our final swim at the Butterfly Beach hotel

We woke up on our last full day to find torrential rain and the loudest thunderstorm you’ve ever heard. Any thoughts of a boat trip today went out the window – the sea was unbelievably choppy. We met a hotel guest returning from a fishing trip – soaked to the skin – he didn’t recommend it. By late morning the rain still hadn’t cleared so we were delighted when Mark and Karen messaged to say that they had hired a car – did we want to have a drive around the island with them? Yes please was the answer – beats mooching round a hotel room.

The hire car didn’t have a GPS so we did the best we could with the old fashioned method of ‘map.’ We thought we were heading to Bottom Bay on the East Coast but somehow found ourselves going round in circles inland. Great to see some local Bajun life – plenty of rum bars but not a coffee or snack bar in sight. Finally came across a Chefette and so settled for chicken roti and chicken wings. And then we found a route up to a place called Bathsheba, on the Atlantic coast. The weather was still wild but the views were stunning. We enjoyed watching the young surfers in the huge waves and also a pair of pelicans. (On a recent tour in Bridgetown, we were told that there were no more pelicans in Barbados, even though it’s their National Bird … happy to say we found some)!

The elusive pelicans

Drove on up to a local bar with fabulous views over Bathsheba – would be a perfect spot for a holiday home.

The hours drifted by and so we found we just about had enough time to get back to the SOCO hotel as Ben Waters was going to play at 5.30pm. I had my last night outfit ironed and ready but ended up going straight there in my walking clothes! When we arrived the guys were on the beach watching the baby turtles making their way to the sea. A conservationist lady rescued some to take to the turtle sanctuary as there is such a low rate of survival.

Ben did a fabulous set followed by Mike D’Abo – there was lots of dancing, cocktails, beer and chats with the lovely Rock and Roll crowd. Then it was time for goodbyes (again) and Steve and I caught a ‘packed to the rafters’ reggae bus back to our hotel.

Ben Waters playing at the SOCO Hotel

Barbara and John getting a jive on!

Mark having a boogie!!

And before we knew it, after two months of being away it was time to fly home. So bye-bye beach, bye-bye Barbados, bye-bye Caribbean – we’ve had the most magical time. I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll be back.

Our last glimpse of the Caribbean Sea – you’ve been a dream

Rock and Roll in Barbados …

Thursday 6th – Monday 10th October 2022

We spent the first few days in Barbados exploring our local area of Oistins Bay. The climate here is much more manageable for walking … and there’s the bonus of pavements. Having a kitchenette in our hotel room has meant that we can continue to self-cater for breakfast and lunch – so a trip to the local Massey Store was one of the first things on our agenda … this brought back wonderful memories of our supermarket shopping days in Choiseul, Saint Lucia (prices unfortunately still crazily high). Apparently Massey is a Trinidadian chain.

We’re only a short walk away from Oistins Bay Fish market with all the wonderful fish cafes and so many pretty beach areas to enjoy too – quite spoilt for choice.

The fish market was closing up … but thought this sign was great!

Anyone want to make an offer or it’s going on ebay!?

The size of the avocados is quite incredible … and SO tasty

The houses are so pretty

Steve took this photo while out running at warm o’clock!

The rocks are alive with these little chaps

A fellow walker found this in the shallows – we presumed it was a Flying Fish as seen on all the local menus

On Thursday we got to meet up with our lovely friends Mark and Karen. Steve has known Mark for over 30 years, through business and they live not far from us in Turweston. We don’t get to meet up often as they run a hugely successful outside catering business and are the hardest workers we know. So it’s a brilliant coincidence that we’re getting to spend some time together in Barbados and hopefully they’ll be able to switch off and relax.

We met up in Bridgetown where we’d booked up to go on a walking tour with Kirsten. So after big hugs and ‘hellos’ (not Kirsten) we were taken on an extremely interesting and informative tour of the old city. We learnt so much about its history, about colonisation, plantations and slavery, various invasions, the Jewish settlers introducing the sugar plantations, British rule, their modern politics and new Republic status and right up to the fact that they have their first female Prime Minister, plus their first President is female too. Yes, come on ladies!! Would thoroughly recommend the tour and our guide, a young history and politics student, was a pure delight. We loved it despite the fact that there were frequent downpours of rain. Mark even had to nip into a shop to buy a dry T-shirt.

Independence Square, Bridgetown. Their independence means so much to them.

The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow. The first Prime Minister of Barbados and known as the “Father of Independence”

Heading out on our Bridgetown walking tour … with Kirsten and our lovely pals Mark and Karen

Bridgetown harbour

Government buildings (disguised as a church)!

This area is soon to be condemned in order to build new hotels, even though they already know that there are hundreds of bodies buried underneath the ground here, the bodies of the slaves that didn’t survive the journey from Africa.

This was the first Rum bar in Barbados – the country where Rum was invented.

Bridgetown Synagogue

We got asked to do a video review of the tour … as the rest of us shied away you can guess who stepped up to the mark – Steve in full speech mode!

And then we tackled the bus station to get a bus back to our hotels. Took a fair bit of working out and waiting – but lots of chatting and banter with the local people helps. Have since got the hang of the transit van buses (or reggae buses) – amazing value, even though a little overcrowded and noisy at times)!!!!

Bridgetown bus station

Waiting patiently at the bus station … at this point anyway!

Friday night in these parts means only one thing – the Oistins Bay Garden Fish Fry. Tourists and locals alike gather to feast on amazing fish dishes, listen to music and dance. Mark and Karen joined us as we mixed into the chaotic atmosphere, finally picking a place to eat (so much choice) and enjoying the food, atmosphere and plenty of beer. I had the marlin which was absolutely mouth watering, Steve and Mark had shrimps and Karen enjoyed a fabulous dish of lobster. There were some dance performances on the main stage and we sort of shuffled and swayed at the side .. but I still didn’t get to have a full on boogie (I’d put my sports bra on and everything, thinking I’d be jumping up and down)! I guess being oldies and leaving at 10.00pm it was probably just hotting up!

Arriving at Oistins Friday night Fish Fry

Lots of lobster on offer

My Marlin, macaroni and coleslaw

Anyone for a fillet of Dolphin!!!!?

Dance performers – outstanding

On Saturday we got to meet up with Ben Waters and his entourage. Ben is a friend from back home, Dorset born and bred – I met him through my brother Phil … and Steve and I are big fans of his music – he played at Steve’s 60th Birthday Party. Ben is one of Europe’s top Rock and Roll pianists and has worked with the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Rod Steward and Jeff Beck. He is also a top bloke and the best of company. As well as performing Ben runs where he organises amazing holidays at home and abroad – his followers get to spend time with each other, and him, and he performs gigs with other musicians throughout the time they’re away. So we have been lucky enough to meet up with the gang over the last couple of days and listen to some fabulous performances from Jack Daniels and Micky Biggs and we’ve had the best of times in their beautiful hotel setting. We’ve also met Ben’s lovely wife Ruth for the first time. Mark and Karen are part of this group too – it is so funny that we both know Ben from different paths.

Ben and Ruth, with me and Karen in the background

Jack Daniels

But a true highlight was listening to a session by Mike D’Abo who is out here with Ben. Mike was the lead singer for Manfred Mann in its latter format. He had a number one with Bob Dylan’s ‘Mighty Quinn.’ He also wrote ‘Build me up Buttercup’ and “Handbags and Glad Rags’ for Rod Stewart. As soon as he started he was absolutely captivating – a true professional – producing so much emotion in all of us. And we were literally sat on sun beds around the pool with the sun setting – pure magic. We were all up dancing at the end … and as we looked around we saw the kitchen and restaurant staff dancing away in their areas – that will be a very special memory. And he still has the Rocker twinkle in his eye – a lovely man and a real charmer.

Mike D’Abo – magical memories

On Sunday, we met up with them all for a fabulous lunch at ‘Jake’s’ followed by some beach bar drinks, including Tequila shots, before sensibly managing the beach walk back to their hotel (the SOCO Hotel) before the tide came in – got just a little wet! After a few rounds of cocktails and a set by Mickey Biggs, Steve and I headed off for a reggae bus ride back to our very pink Butterfly Beach Hotel.

Waiting for the others to join us at Jake’s

Beach bar drinks
Ben in party swing

Making our way back to the SOCO hotel, avoiding incoming tide

Karen and I having enjoyed a cocktail or 5!!

Such a fun night

So another fabulous few days. Time is running out now but we’ll make the most of every minute that’s left. Had planned to do boat trips and island tours but the weather and ‘rock and roll’ gigs have sort of nicely interfered. Still we’re happy with the great company we’ve had, the relaxation of walking, swimming and simply looking up at blue sky and palm trees. What more could you possibly want. And something tells me we’ll definitely be back – so it’s good to leave things for the next time.

It’s our last night tomorrow and Ben’s going to be doing a gig at the hotel which will be such a fabulous way to end off our Caribbean travels. (For our MK friends, Ben Waters will be performing at The Stables on 1st November) – think you’d enjoy it.

Until next time – a sunny pina colada cheers!

Au revoir Martinique …. hello Barbados

Friday 30th September – Wednesday 5th October 2022

Pretty Martinique

Our last few days in Martinique passed by in relaxation and continued partial confinement (just in case). The weather had taken quite a downward turn – more wind and rain than we’ve had up to now but it has meant that we’ve been able to walk without feeling so drained and scorched. And our spoken French is picking up – it takes a few days to get into the swing. So plenty of ‘bonjours’ as we’re out walking and a few short conversations with staff and other visitors. We are definitely the only English speaking guests here – as there are no direct flights from the UK it would seem that it’s not a popular destination for the Brits. It’s a shame as it’s very pretty, lovely people, fabulous clothes shops and delicious French foods available (still at a price however, although the wine’s more reasonable).

On Friday afternoon we decided to venture into the village for early beers and early dinner (outside only of course). Since our first wander into the fishing village we’ve discovered a whole new beauty about it and it seems a shame that we weren’t able to make full use of it (darned Covid)! But at least we didn’t leave not having appreciated it.

Our pretty fishing village in Sainte-Luce. The sea laps up to the restaurants

A touch of Art Deco in the village

Over a few ‘Lorraine’ beers we got chatting to a German chap who is travelling to all the UN registered countries in the world. He has done 147 already and next on his list is Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan! Strangely enough he was a huge cricket fan, even though cricket is not played in his country, Steve and he naturally conversed on the subject in utter bliss!!

Turned out that the restaurants didn’t open till 7.00pm which meant drinking beer for 3 hours – such punishment. When we did finally eat we seemed to make an unlucky choice as the tuna was tough, bland and generally inedible. Luckily we had a little kitten with us all evening – he ate very well.

At least someone enjoyed the overcooked tuna !

Although quiet during the week, at the weekends the beaches become party land for families and friends. Huge tables (posh with white tablecloths) are set up with food and drink and the locals gather to chill or ‘lime,’ On the Saturday we managed to find an uninhabited little stretch of beach and spent a couple of hours on what felt like our own little desert island, swimming, reading, snoozing … that was until a nearby house went into full reggae and 70s disco mode, at unbelievably loud volume, with some fabulous dancing in the garden (Steve edit: The music was loud enough that I was able to Shazam a couple of songs on the beach for future use in the kitchen!). We bobbed along to the rhythm but still didn’t get an invite! They had no idea what they were missing!

On Sunday we fancied some exercise so plumped for an early morning 6 mile walk – out and back on the coast trail. There was shade in parts but jolly hot where there wasn’t … felt so good to be up and out though and good to explore this part of the island that’s been home for the last week.

After the disappointment of the tuna, we enjoyed dining in the last couple of nights – sitting outside on the verandah to enjoy our amazing views and the night skies. It has been such a blessing to have the kitchen this week while I’ve been poorly, as well as my wonderful Chief Cook and bottle washer Steve (lucky I packed him)!

And then it was time to leave Martinique on Monday morning, so we said our ‘au revoirs.’

Leaving Brise Marine Hotel

Woah, we’re going to Barbados, … Woah back to the palm trees

Flying high on Coconut Airways ….. Climbing high, Barbados Sky

Charlie drove us to the airport which turned out to be a more sophisticated operation than we’d imagined. In fact the whole journey from beginning to end was absolutely trouble-free. There were just 8 of us boarding the ‘Air Antilles’ flight to Barbados – thought we might be sitting with the pilot. Took off and landed 20 minutes early and then there was a slick taxi booking service in Barbados, unlike so many countries where you’re bombarded with drivers waiting to rip you off. Before we knew it we were completely unstressed in our Butterfly Beach Hotel in Oistins Bay – a very pink and heavily butterflied hotel on the beach – just as it says on the tin!

Martinique Airport

Walking out to our little plane

The Butterfly Beach Hotel

lots of butterfly artwork

Barbados looks like it’s going to be fun. Within an hour of arriving, we’d had a terrific lunch with wine, got to know the restaurant staff, checked out the facilities, lost the hotel key in the sea (fell out of Steve’s pocket) and I got nipped on the ankle by a crab – scared the Bejesus out of Steve with my blood curdling scream! I think they knew we’d arrived.

Our lovely hotel in Barbados

Our hotel beach

I keep going to speak in French now so need to adapt back (just so cosmopolitan)! And just about all the guests are English including a touring Cricket Team from Bicester and Oxford. Our hotel is a small family run establishment renowned for its repeat customers – everyone seems so happy and friendly. Steve’s been out running, we’ve walked a fair bit and loads of swimming, both pool and sea. But largely chilling (our new way of life it seems).

Having a really bad weather day today – huge winds and rain, massive waves – so it’s a perfect time to blog.

We have some friends from England due out this week so it could get busy – we’re not bored with each other (honest) but looking forward to some company! Seven days to go before heading back to Blighty – let’s see what Bajun life is all about.