“Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.”
— Gregory Maguire.
This is the first post on my new blog. It is also the most basic, easiest and quickest way to relax. If you read only one of my blogs, if you remember only one thing, only one word; then let “breathe” be it.
Yes we are breathing all the time without needing to think about it. Yet do you know that for most day to day activities; we are only using about 20% of our lung capacity. Which means any sudden shock or threat may feel a lot worse; simply because your brain and nervous system does not have enough oxygen. Your heart rate increases and things can get worse and worse!
Yet remember to breathe and breathe deep and everything seems to magically seem better. You do not have to be in the safety of your bed or favourite chair; you can do it commuting to work, waiting in a stressful queue, or dealing with others who are using all their breath to berate you.
Personally, I breathe in through my nostrils until they start to tingle and my chest stops filling against my diaphragm; whilst letting thoughts cross my mind. Then as I breathe out through my nose; those same thoughts now seem only to be good and calm.
The mission of this website is not for me to make money and massage a deluded and vain ego. It is to help others as well as myself. Yes, everything on this website is for me if no one else; simply in order to relax.
I hope you remember everyday in every way; to breathe deep and relax.
‘Grounding’ or ‘Earthing’ is a therapeutic concept that involves connecting to Mother Earth via our bare feet. This will apparently reconnect our natural magnetic connection to Earth which is lost through shoes, floors, beds and buildings. Which may bring benefits such as a stronger immune system, reduced risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses and as well as improving our mental health.
So on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late March; I decided to test the concept out for myself. Near to where I live is a range of hills known as Wansdyke after a boundary between two ancient tribes. Covered entirely in chalk grassland; these hills seemed like a remote but safe place to reconnect with Mother Nature.
I parked the car at the start of the driveway to Bridge Farm in the Vale of Pewsey. This is where the road coming north out of the village of All Cannings crosses the Kennet and Avon Canal. There is also a byway opposite; yet be sure to always leave enough room for a tractor to pass by your car.
Leaving the car, I crossed the road and walked west on the byway. Crossing over the Kennet and Avon Canal and then shortly after forking right over fields. Here you will see a modern burial chamber on your left and the hills of Wansdyke in front of you. Cross these fields and then pass to the left of a small group of houses. Here, take care crossing a main road; then begin climbing up on to the hills. Although there are few signposts you can see where people have walked and worn a pathway over the grass. Reaching the ridge of the first hill; you can see the ridgeline running east towards Tan Hill. However, passing over a second stile; I turned west or to the left.
The grass is lush and green as I passed over a second hilltop and the earthworks of an ancient hillfort. The wind blew strong here so I paused for a moment to breathe in this fresh anodyne like air. I then climbed a taller hill to the Wansdyke ridgeline. From here, I could see far to north over Avebury and Silbury Hill. Continuing north over an open field; until I reached the ancient earthworks of the Wansdyke territorial line. Thought to possibly be a man made boundary between Britons and Anglo Saxons in the Dark Ages after the Romans had left our shores. To find out more about this amazing part of our history; see here: https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/Wansdyke/
So turning left, after passing through a gate in a hedgerow. I soon reached a tarmac farm track passing back over the ridgeline towards the south. It is here I tried the barefoot ‘earthing’ for a short distance on the lush green grass. Then I descended back into the Vale of Pewsey on the tarmac road until I passed some barns to the left of the track. After these barns the track turned to the right. Looking across a field on the left to see the byway that would take me back to the start of the walk.
Walking around the perimeter of the field as to not damage the crop and avoid the road. I walked along the byway and past the modern burial chamber. Which is worthy of note when considering where you want to finally sleep: https://www.thelongbarrow.com/. I then walked back over the hump back canal bridge and back to the car.
My first conscious experience of ‘Earthing’
As I understand the concept; Earthing is reconnecting the magnetic fields created in the human body with Mother Earth beneath our feet. Every thought and muscular movement are created through electrical pulses travelling through muscles and nerves. Furthermore, our modern fast paced lives; have put barriers between us and Earth. Walking over artificial flooring, driving cars with rubber tyres and wearing rubber soled shoes. As well as sleeping on wooden framed beds with foam mattresses.
So by walking barefoot all electro magnetic fields in our bodies are equalized and grounded with Mother Earth.
One of the main advocates for ‘Earthing’ has a website that explains the concept well: https://www.groundology.co.uk/about-grounding. The website states that the Earth is a reservoir of free electrons. By walking barefoot we are able to balance the charge of electron deficient free radicals.
With ‘free radicals’ being: atoms, molecules or ions with at least one unpaired electron. These free radicals come from pollution sources outside of the body and change our cells to balance their unpaired electrons. Which in turn; can cause disease and illnesses such as cancer. It also states that ‘Earthing’ reduces the clumping of red blood cells; which will in turn reduce the risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, there are many modern electrical appliances such as mobile phones. Which give out electromagnetic radiation that disrupt the natural electrical signals in our bodies. By ‘Earthing’ we can dissipate this voltage into the Earth.
Bare foot forward
So I have walked barefoot many times before this day. From being in the garden on a summers day, to strolling on a long beach.. Yet today by focusing on the feelings that were coming from my bare feet. I was definitely more aware of being reconnected or ‘Earthing’ with the solid ground.
Critics state that ‘Earthing’ is nothing more that pseudo-science; with the only research being carried out by people with a vested interest in the holistic industry. The doubters state that no benefits have been proven and ‘Earthing’ may be nothing more than a placebo. Yet whatever the academics believe or can prove; I think what matters is your experience and enjoyment. So try Earthing in your own time and come to your own conclusions.
The risks of walking barefoot
Although there maybe long term benefits to Earthing, there are also many clear and present dangers to walking barefoot. First of all, there could be hazards such as: broken glass, sharp stones, animal faeces or rusty nails. There is also the unseen risk of contracting the very deadly sepsis through broken skin. Sepsis only needs the tiniest cut to enter the body; so you may not be aware that your skin is broken because of the numbed sensation of walking barefoot.
On this walk, I was lucky to be only stung by stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). Which still gave a fiery but short lasting pain through the thick skin on the soles of my feet. Therefore, I will probably using walking boots to get out into nature and enjoy all its relaxing rhythm. Then when I return to the safety of my grassy garden; I will sit with my bare feet connecting with Mother Earth.
So, I believe there is a time and a place to appreciate every feeling and thought in yourself and nature. Therefore, I will continue to walk barefoot and reconnect with Mother Earth. Yet only when I can see that my path is safe and sound.
A short ride up into the quiet Castanesa valley made me realise the importance of relaxing now. By being relaxed I could appreciate every second of every passing moment in all its simplicity.
High in the Spanish Pyrenees lies the Castanesa valley. Relatively untouched by tourism or main roads; a journey into this valley seems to transcend both space and time.
I first heard about this valley when reading a newspaper article about the last remaining shepherd in the valley. Along with his views on the possible construction of a large ski resort by the local government. Whilst studying google maps for a bike route into the valley, I also noticed a memorial to a local folk singer: Pau Donés.
I began this ride from a gravelled layby just below the village of Noales, on the N260 between the towns of El Pont de Suert and Castejon de Sos. If you are looking for fresh bread for a picnic or a just sweet, after ride treat; why not try the reputable bakery just across the road? Check their Facebook page for opening times: https://www.facebook.com/panesfarredelaigua.
After changing in to more comfortable cycle clothing, I climbed on my bike and took the steep righthand road up through Noales. It seems like you are cycling into the private yard of house in Noales where the cobbled road narrows between the houses. Yet keep cycling and you will soon be out the far side and surrounded by the lush green pastures of this valley.
By chance the road had recently been resurfaced with a smooth layer of tarmac. This meant I did not have to worry about potholes or loose gravel and I just focused on the beautiful countryside views as they opened up, as I climbed away from the valley floor. The road is steep in places; yet I was not afraid to stop and catch my breath.
For a while the road is shaded by trees on either side that afforded me some relief from a hot autumn sun. After a while the road began to level as I left the forest behind me. Soon after I arrived to a T-junction and turned left towards Montanuy. If you want to see a small rural hamlet, turn right and you will soon see Escaner! There is a water fountain just after the junction so be sure to refill your water bottles in hot weather. From here, the road keeps climbing up through pastures until it reaches a ridgeline in the distance. Lookout for a gravel track on your left before a 5.5 tonne weight limit sign. It has a wooden signpost showing Ardanuy is a 1 hour 20 minute walk.
This is the route to take after visiting the nearby memorial to local singer Pau Donés and a viewpoint over the Barrabes valley. So for now, continue on the paved road for approximately 200 metres. Here the road will turn sharply to the left as the Barrabes valley opens up in front of you. At this point, if you look to the right, you will see a viewpoint behind a wooden fence. Stop here and take a moment to see the view of not just the valley but maybe your life too.
Vivir es urgente – ‘Life is urgent’.
Pau Donés was a local singer, songwriter and guitarist from the village of Montanuy which you can see in the Barrabes valley below you. Pau went on to form the Spanish rock band: Jarabe de Palo. You can listen to their songs via the YouTube link below.
In 2015, Pau was diagnosed with colorectal cancer; to which he eventually succumbed on the 9th of June 2020. In the last years of his life he returned to his childhood home of Montanuy to enjoy the fresh air and relaxing mountain valley life. Pau maintained a positive outlook on life until the end, by not being afraid of death and fear. Coming to understand, realise, relax and enjoy this one life that we are all given.
After his death, a T-shirt was designed by his brother Marc to help raise money for a Spanish cancer research organization: CRIS. With over 500,000 euros raised so far, they have been able investigate 53 lines of cancer research and conduct over 300 clinical trials. You can find out more here: https://www.lacamisetadepau.org/#
Printed on the t-shirt is a mantra of Pau’s: ‘Vivir es Urgente‘, or in English: ‘Life is Urgent’, a high priority, it is pressing, it is now!
The road less travelled
After taking a while to consider the risks of cancer and my mortality; I retraced my steps and turned right onto the gravelled path. The valley views to my left soon cheered me up and I appreciated the natural beauty that surrounded me. I never met another soul on this path; so I soon saw it as an allegory to life. I may meet people along the way; yet they may be going in the opposite direction. Nature on the other hand and its raw simple beauty will always accompany me. So I realised that appreciating just being in nature, being in the moment; is as a relaxed view of this life that I can ever hope to see.
Into the Castanesa valley
I followed the path for approximately three miles before arriving at tarmac road worn and cracked by the extremes of the mountain weather. Turning right and uphill, I steadily gained height towards the hamlet of Castanesa. With records of habitation dating back to 1015 and a twelfth century church, this small cluster of houses is a great example of mountain life that has lasted almost unchanged for hundreds of years.
There is of course all the modern amenities and a restaurant and hostelry too: https://cadegraus.com/. Yet it gave me the impression of a more relaxed life of yesteryear. The Catalans can keep the hustle and bustle of Barcelona for themselves and the beaches of Benidorm are for the British not related to me. The natural slow pace of mountain life seems natural to the rhythm of both heart and soul.
As children born in the valley left to find work and experience the wider world and the elder generations have passed on; these high villages have been gradually depopulating over the last 40 years. However, a new form of resident has occurred in the form of rich Barcelonans and Madrilenos buying second homes here, to stay for just a few weeks a year. Furthermore, the ski resort of Cerler in the next valley, is part owned by the regional government and a bank. With the sole purpose of making more money from ski tourists and the construction of any new holiday homes and hotels; they have decided to extend the chairlifts and ski area into the he upper reaches of this valley.
In the article above, the shepherd Rafael Casal explains that the access road to the upper valley is blocked almost every winter by rockfall. In addition, the slopes in this valley are mainly south facing; so any snow will soon melt under the skis. Yet, others residents further down the valley welcome the thought of year round employment and new life in these now dormant villages.
However, no connecting road has yet been built up the Castanesa valley from Fonchanina. So come and enjoy this wilderness before the views and pace of life change forever.
Another issue worthy of note is the introduction of brown bears into the Pyrenees by the French government. They claim bears are an essential part of biodiversity as an apex predator. Yet the bears know not of borders and are regularly crossing into Spain. Already livestock has been mauled to death for which shepherds are compensated. However, what is stopping these grizzly beasts from now stalking us as we concentrate on riding a bike over steep or rough ground, or relaxing at a picnic on a long walk with young children? https://www.heraldo.es/noticias/aragon/huesca/2018/06/28/un-pastor-enfrenta-oso-valle-castanesa-1251624-2261127.html
A viewpoint for the blind
I cycled up to Fonchanina and decided to go no further. It was late in the day and thunderclouds were building around the mountain tops at the head of the valley. Returning to the bend in the road, I looked back at the upper Castanesa valley for a moment. Even with the coming storm, the houses of Fonchanina and the narrow road; everything manmade seemed at peace and balanced with society.
From there I returned back down the valley, staying on the tarmac road all the way to the car. Not long after passing back through Castanesa; I came across a layby with a viewpoint information board. The sun had briefly broken through the clouds, so I stopped to sunbathe as well as putting on a gilet for the cold descent. My understanding of the Spanish language needs: ‘un poco atencion’. Yet when I happened to glance at the information board, I noticed the diagram was covered in a series of shapes and braille near the place names. I turned and realised the unusual number of disabled car parking spaces were for a good reason.
What can you see?
This viewpoint had been built for the benefit of the blind. The shapes on the information board represented different areas in the landscape. With triangles representing forests and squares the open pastures down below.
I was amazed and stared in stunned silence for a third time in one day. Realizing that although I am lucky to be gifted with the power of sight; I am possibly blinded by the stresses, anxieties and anger caused by modern society. Which has caused me to take simple views of nature such as this one for granted.
I swore to myself to respect the blind as well as the natural born gift of my sight. I now take every view as a precious gift from mother nature.
A sadder but wiser man
After resting for a while to understand these nuances of life; I got back on my bike to just focus on the long descent ahead of me. The road was obviously quiet for lack of people, so I used the whole width of the road to maintain a smooth line. It was evening now and I was cold, tired and hungry.
Yet I stared at the passing landscape as if I were in a dream.
Change is unavoidable, uncontrollable and like our mortality, at some time to our detriment. Yet by avoiding the reliance on social status or modern technology to make us feel relaxed; change come at a more natural pace. I think we should simply: look, listen, smell, taste and hear Mother Nature by going out and meeting her everyday.
Do not worry about tomorrow until the morning. Life is urgent, life is now. Relax and enjoy every passing moment.
“…He went like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn”.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Other routes to relax in this area:
I really recommend other breathtaking routes through nature in this area:
A six-month review of a comfortable classic Italian walking boot. Price: £120
The Lomer Keswick MTX walking boot is comfortable, warm and stylish. Made by a respected Italian shoemaker, it is built with both quality leather and expert craftmanship. Longer lasting than any other boot I have known; I really recommend this boot for anyone who enjoys a good walk.
I first had a pair of Lomer boots when I was a teenager. My dear mother bought a pair of that were slightly too big so I could grow into them. I did grow into them, and they kept going with me for well over ten years. Having tried boots from other popular brands; that have fallen apart within a year. Struggling to source another pair of Lomer in England for many years; I bought this pair as soon I saw them by chance on Amazon.
I have worn these on cold winter days to just work in the garden. They have all the flexibility and feedback of a trainer, so it easy to drive in them too. Feathering the clutch, or just not pressing the wrong pedal is no problem in these boots.
For the last six months, I have been on a Sunday walk almost every weekend in these boots. Walking for a distance of anywhere between two and twenty kilometres; they have felt cool in summer and warm in winter.
I have climbed: Scafell Pike and the Corridor Route, the highest mountain in England in these boots. When returning to the car after a week of walking, my feet were not sore, blistered or cold. I have spent fifteen hours climbing: Posets, the second highest mountain in the Pyrenees in these boots. The thirty kilometres of distance and the 2,500 metres in altitude gain had no effect on the comfort of these boots. The low mountain temperatures, sharp rocks and the uneven scree slopes; were no problem for these Lomer boots. The soft but flexible Vibram sole kept me comfortable. The quality leather uppers kept my feet warm but dry from sweat as well as rain. The quality insole and classic lacing system prevented any blisters or skin abrasions.
These Lomer boots are as comfortable as any trainer, shoe or slipper. I would go as far to say that it feels as comfortable as walking through sand with bare feet.
Design and Style
The Lomer Keswick boots is of a classic design. None of those gaudy colours or brand names plastered on like an unwanted cast. The leather on these boots is a smooth chocolate/ coffee brown colour. The uppers are full grain leather that is 2 millimetres thick. Underneath this, there is a patented lining called: MerTex. This membrane allows the foot to breathe whilst being resistant to the ingress of water.
The placement of the lace eyelets allows for a snug but flexible fit. With a line of eyelets further back to maintain tension from the horizontal foot to the the vertical ankle. The boots come with a two-tone colour coded lace as well as the the classic red laces in the photgraph.
On the inside, a smooth leather is used so I have never had problems with blisters or other abrasions. Beneath my feet there is a removable soft foam foot bed. With a: ‘3-millimetre-thick anti torsion mid sole’ to reduce lateral twisting of the foot. For the sole, Lomer has used a soft Vibram sole which flexes well on loose and uneven terrain. However, with a deep tread, you cannot feel sharp and uneven rocks when you step on them.
Lomer started making hiking boots in 1975; in the town of Montebelluna, in Treviso, Italy. An area known for shoemaking for over 100 years, where around 400 companies now employ 6,000 people. Generations of shoemakers have passed down lifetimes of specialist knowledge and skill that is hard to find anywhere else in the world.
With a commitment to: “to produce boots and shoes that offer legendary comfort, coupled with style, craftsmanship and exceptional value.” Lomer can boast that their boots are still designed and made in Italy with only the finest materials.
So, all boots and shoes look good on the super fit and healthy models in the online adverts. These Lomer boots still looked good when I first took them out the box and put them on my ugly feet. Yet hiking in the high mountains is no catwalk in a fashion parade. Reliability and comfort are paramount when you are high on the mountain with the risk of a long and cold walk ahead. Thankfully, I can attest these Lomer boots have served me well so far.
Yet I have noticed a number of build issues and signs of wear:
– where the front of the sole meets the front of the toe box, the glue has failed leaving a small gap.
– the top of the toe box has various scrapes from me stumbling, sharp rocks and undergrowth.
– the soft Vibram sole is showing signs of wear in the heel area. Yet this seems average for six months use.
– after walking in the rain for over three hours, water had entered my right boot and was visible on the insole.
– the care advice states to not use soap to clean the outer surfaces. Instead wait until the mud dries, then brush it off. However, muddy clay sticks to the soft leather and does not come off even when dry.
Apart from the tread wear, I feel all of these issues could be solved with a ‘rand’. A waterproof strip that protects the uppers in the high stress areas just above the sole.
To help protect and maintain the leather uppers; I use Renapur balsam wax. Which helps clean as well as protect from the mud and rain.
So, despite the areas of wear, I am very happy with these Lomer boots. I have tried other boots that have started to fall apart within the same time, such as the: Berghaus ‘Expeditor Ridge 2.0’ walking boots review. Therfore, I will be happy to buy them again if these last for at least five years.
As mentioned, they are agile and flexible enough to be worn as day-to-day footwear, around the house and town. They are capable on any level of hill or mountain walking in the United Kingdom and Europe. However, if you are walking in winter and there will be continuous snow and ice on the ground, I would recommend wearing a thicker winter boot.
My funny feet are slightly different in size. With my left foot measuring just under a UK 9.5 (Euro 44 or US 10) and my right being just under a UK10 (Euro 44.5 or US11). Yet a pair of these Lomer boots in UK10 (Euro 44.5 or US11); fit me perfectly whilst wearing a thin office type sock and a thicker wool sock over the top. Without any movement or feeling too tight in the pressure point areas.
My apologies again for not blogging more often. I have plenty of ideas, that will hopefully make for an interesting read. With the long cold nights of winter upon us; I hope to use the time wisely and put all those ideas to paper. Today’s blog is about my ascent of the second highest mountain in the Pyrenees. Standing at 3,369 metres and over ten miles from the nearest road; climbing Posets is a great day out in nature. I have written a full account of my day on Posets; which you can read here: Posets.
If you do not have time to read or just prefer photographs; here below is a photo journal of that day.
A view back down the valley to the Refuge Angel Orus and the approximate route through the trees.
To the Canal Fonda
A view up the Canal Fonda; without snow in early October 2022. The path keeps to the cliff on the left until it reaches the Coll in the top left of the photograph.
Espalda of Posets
Views from the summit of Posets
Taking it steady on the descent
“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.” ― Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps
I started walking at 4am and reached the summit around 11am. I am a slow walker, and I was carrying a fairly heavy rucksack with too much emergency clothing and cold weather equipment. The route was easy to follow, yet a headtorch is obviously needed if beginning your walk in the dark. Watch out for the path on the right in a wide grassy valley, approximately an hour above the Refuge Angel Orus.
I spent approximately twenty minutes on the summit; enjoying the views as well as a packed ham and cheese baguette. Having climbed many mountains of similar size; I knew reaching the summit is only halfway. Descending can be just as tiring on your legs and joints. As well as the reduced grip caused by your centre of gravity being slightly behind you as step down. On the higher slopes there are many sections of oose rock or scree. Take care and concentrate on each step.
A route to relax
I stopped many times on the descent to take in the views and rest my now tiring legs. There is a stream in the valley before the Canal Fonda for drinking water. It looks clear yet I used sterilising tablets to be safe.
I think this route is unsuitable for younger children. I would only consider taking a teenager who wants to do the walk. Similarly, small dogs might struggle with some sections, high on the mountain.
This route is not technically difficult so I would highly recommend to any keen hill walker if you were in the area. My level of fitness was low at the time, so I struggled walking for a few days afterwards.
A memorable day all the same. With many wide and varied views in the natural beauty of the Spanish Pyrenees. I hope you can come and enjoy it too.
An alternative Algarve: The country of Portugal and especially the southern region of the Algarve; are popular places to go for a holiday. The welcoming climate and long sandy beaches are a perfect place to feel happy and relaxed.
Yet, do you feel fed up with the madding crowds of tourists? Are you exhausted from baking on the beach like a ‘Lagosta’ in the local ‘taberna’? Do you want to experience local life; instead of visiting the seemingly transplanted English bars? Do you want to taste the local seafood; instead of the familiar ‘fish & chips’?
Come, come and explore an alternative Algarve.
Check yourself in to a good honest family run hotel; forego the temptation of a late bar, get to sleep as early as you can. So the next morning when you wake up before the alarm; you will hopefully be met by a beautiful sunrise at breakfast.
Do not lie in your bed or return there after breakfast; you can do this on any rainy day in your own country. Have a quick shower to freshen yourself; clean those teeth and get out the hotel long before the cleaners even arrive to your floor.
The Algarve can become unbearably hot from spring until autumn for most northern Europeans. Yet by getting out early to explore the local area is one way of escaping the heat. Or using the midday; to travel in a air-conditioned car. Yet another alternative Algarve trick; is to go to higher cooler places, or find the cool westerly breezes that blow in off the Atlantic.
Voyage / Viagem
For most, the easiest way to get to the Algarve is via aeroplane to the airport at Faro. Low cost flights fly here from all over Europe and beyond. If you can, try to book a flight that arrives at a quieter time; to avoid the stress of the queues at passport control.
Leaving the airport; don’t be lazy and order an expensive taxi or direct airport transfer. The public transport system in Portugal; is as good as any in Europe. In Faro airport; you can walk from the arrivals door to a bus stop in two minutes. Where you will find regular buses that will take you to the nearest bus and rail stations. Personally, I found a brilliant family run hotel on Faro beach; just a ten minute bus ride from the airport: https://www.aeromar.net/en. From where I could reach every part of the Algarve within a few hours.
Therefore, if you need to travel out of the way places; there are many hire car companies at Faro airport. Waiting to the last minute; using website discounts; only hiring the car midweek or just the days you really need it; can all make a hire car a very reasonable form of transport.
If you are going further afield, up the country, to Lisbon and Porto or Spain; then there are regular trains at reasonable prices from Faro train station. For example: a single from Faro to Lisbon in a high speed train; costs me less than £30. In England, a similar distance of 170+ miles on a train; would cost three to four times the amount!
Happy feet off the hot sandy beaches
Although, the idea of lying on one of the many sandy beaches of the Algarve seems dreamy. In reality, the hot sand can burn your feet as the dangerous solar rays cook the rest of you. Relaxing under a parasol whilst reading a good book and taking a dip in the sea can help; as well as the necessary sunscreen. Yet, sometimes it is best to escape the beaches and the crowds and head inland.
In the Algarve, you will find a rich rural hinterland; with orange and lemon groves, quaint white-washed villages and various viewpoints. Hire a car and follow directions to highly recommended restaurant. Climb one of the many hills of the Algarve; such as the mountain of Fóia. Check out my route on this mountain here: Trilho da Fóia (Track of Foia)
Or just go for a joyride through the landscape and experience the big bit of Portugal that comes after the beach.
The wild west coast
There is a whole country to explore beyond the southern shores of Portugal. If you have to stay in the Algarve to catch a return flight home; the quieter west coast is worth exploring. Being bashed by Atlantic swells and gales; the west coast has a more rugged coastline. With countless coves and slightly more inaccessible but deserted beaches. There is a long distance walking path called the Fisherman’s Trail; as well as numerous towns and villages to explore. Check out my walk to a quiet west coast beach here: Castelo Aljezur & Praia Amoreira on the Fisherman’s Trail.
Going further north, above Lisbon; you can explore the Silver coast and then the Green coast; more info here: https://www.visitportugal.com/en. Both of which are much quieter options and an ‘alternative Algarve’. For example: approximately halfway up the west coast of Portugal is the coastal town of Nazaré. A place known for its big wave surfing; where waves of over 80ft have been surfed! If you cannot even stand up on a surfboard; you can still enjoy a stroll on the beach and watch man pit himself against the full force of nature!
You cannot come to Portugal and the Algarve without tasting the local food. I made a conscious effort to not enter any restaurant with a English menu outside. I stayed away from the more attractive but expensive restaurants on the main thoroughfares and followed the locals to where they eat.
I tried to eat many different seafood dishes in the Algarve; from the juicy bowls of Cataplana, grilled sardines to the countless ways to cook ‘Bacalhau’ or cod. Arriving to Porto in the north; I couldn’t resist the taste of a ‘Francesinha’: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/user/213143/recipe/francesinha
Going up the country
If you are in no rush to go home; why not hop on a train to Lisbon? The centre of Lisbon has some sights worth seeing; from its trams to old architecture. Yet at times, the amount of tourists seems too much; like a Kafkaesque theme park of foreign travel. So I enjoyed escaping to the modern expo district that stretch along the banks of the Tagus River.
Heading further north on the train; I arrived to the world famous city of Porto and the Douro Valley. Where instead of following the crowds to the the expensive wine tasting bars; I went for a walk in the hills: Douro Valley Vineyard Walk
To the beach
So if you really must just escape to the beach and forget about trying to do much on a holiday. Then why not choose a beach far off the beaten track? Looking on a map there are various islands off the coast of the Algarve; between Faro and the Spanish border. Culatra, Tavira and the Armona Island are all within easy reach via a boat from the town of Olhão.
Pack a picnic and a parasol then arrive early for the ferry in Olhão port. Then when you have got to a island; keep walking away from the boat terminal until you find your own secret spot to relax. Saúde
A cool, colourful and comfortable off-road trainer
I decided to take up running last autumn; as a way to keep fit in the long nights of a English winter. Check out my previous post: Run to relax; for my views as a new runner. Having used a pair of Adidas Terrex for these four months; I noticed they were beginning to show signs of wear. Therefore, after weeks of online research; I decided to buy and try these Salomon Speedcross 5 trainers. Designed for trail running; these work perfectly in soft or broken ground, well away from the knee beating tarmac.
Designed in France and made in China
I had heard of the Salomon brand from friends who own and run in these fashionable French trainers. So like a magpie; the bright orange sole and the ‘Crystal Teal/ Barrier Reef Blue’ uppers caught my eye too. Realising a huge part of running, is having the motivation to get out and run; I thought investing in these trainers would give me extra drive to go for run. In addition, spending £120 on these trainers; has given me the confidence to enjoy a run and not just see it as a necessary evil to keep fit.
However, experience replaces naivety day by day; so I am well aware of the questionable build quality and strength of these Chinese made shoes. The upper materials are paper thin and the sole is glued on; so I am open minded about these possibly Icarus like trainers.
Cool and clever features
Salomon has a range of features that make this shoe worthy of wearing on a long off road run. It has ‘SensiFit’ which uses soft rubber to help mold the shoe to shape of your foot. It has ‘EnergyCell+’ which is a midsole compound; that helps return some of the downward energy to your foot as you lift to take the next step. Traditional laces are replaced by a lighter drawstring cord that stow neatly in the tongue. It also has ‘Molded OrthoLite® sockliner’ which helps cushion your foot as well as allowing breathability which is important on a longer run.
Yet this is all packed into a trainer that weighs just 320 grams (11.28oz); which feels incredibly light as you run through heavy mud or grass. The thick 5mm tread lugs give reassuring grip in mud and grass; yet don’t feel too slow on hard concrete. With uppers made from a material that reminds me of fibreglass; these trainers are amazing just to look at, let alone wear!
‘Grounding’ or ‘Earthing’ is a therapeutic concept that involves connecting to Mother Earth via our bare feet. This will apparently reconnect our natural magnetic connection to Earth which is lost through shoes, floors, beds and buildings. Which may bring benefits such as a stronger immune system, reduced risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses…
A short ride up into the quiet Castanesa valley made me realise the importance of relaxing now. By being relaxed I could appreciate every second of every passing moment in all its simplicity. High in the Spanish Pyrenees lies the Castanesa valley. Relatively untouched by tourism or main roads; a journey into this valley seems…
A six-month review of a comfortable classic Italian walking boot. Price: £120 The Lomer Keswick MTX walking boot is comfortable, warm and stylish. Made by a respected Italian shoemaker, it is built with both quality leather and expert craftmanship. Longer lasting than any other boot I have known; I really recommend this boot for anyone…
Find some decent trainers, a quiet path and time every few days to go for a short run. In just a few weeks, you will be running further and longer; you will be running to relax.
I took up running this year as a way to keep fit in the long dark evenings of the English winter. I normally keep fit by riding my bike; yet starting and finishing work in the dark has meant that I would be riding in the dark after work. Although I could obviously use bike lights to show the way through the dark; I sadly feel unsafe cycling on the busy roads near my house. So deciding to taking up running was the only logical option for me.
Dusting off a pair of older trainers; my running life began in early autumn. Thinking of a few quiet places I could run on the drive home from work. I remember that first evening, like the slow kid on a school sports day; I tied my shoes laces and locked the car. Climbing over a stile, I was met with the view of the long avenue in the photograph above.
Conscious that I was out of shape; aware that someone might be watching; expectations of the coming pain; I started walking faster and faster. A fast walk became a jog, a jog became a run and I was there! I laughed as I was doing the seemingly impossible; I laughed at the freedom and the speeds I could reach. Drinking in the air for all its oxygen as I constantly changed my untrained pace. After what seemed forever; I slowed to a walk to recover and catch my breath. I looked around to see the distant I had covered; it could not have been more than a 100 metres!
Yet I had took the first steps and I knew that the only way was forward.
Routes and running shoes
When you first start running; your choice of training routes is the key to success, enjoyment and relaxation. Local running clubs choose to run around the estate where I live; probably because it is flat pavement and well lit with streetlights. However, I prefer to run on grass or muddy trails because I believe this helps cushion the impact on my knees.
I prefer routes far away from roads as well. This to not only avoid the danger of vehicles and their pollution but the stress of worrying about crossing roads or giving way to other pedestrians and obstacles. In addition, to make running for interesting; I always try to run a different route every time. This helps the distance feel shorter as I concentrate on the differing landscape.
If you feel conscious about your appearance; then wait until dusk, when there are a fewer people outside. Or use a map to find remote footpaths or find a friend who is willing to go running with you.
Eucles and the runners of the Sahara are able to run in bare foot; soldiers are trained to run in boots; yet we are lucky to be able to choose well designed comfy running shoes. If you are new to running and not sure if it is for you; then you can find cheaper running shoes for about £20 in shops like Sports Direct. Yet, use Google to research the vast choice of shoes available and choose a pair to fit your budget, style and foot size of course.
I started running with a pair of Adidas that I had already bought as a pair of casual shoes. Although the trainers have a well cushioned sole with tread by Continental rubber; they have a small toe box for my wide feet. They are well made, with quality materials; yet within just a few months of running in them, I can see signs of wear.
Discipline, goals and just doing it
So in just a few months I have gone from not being able to run for a bus; to running ten kilometres. I started off with the target of five kilometres. I have found Strava to be very helpful because you can keep a record of your times over chosen distances. In the beginning I would walk more than I could run to recover; my pace was too fast and my arms flapped like a drunk ostrich.
Yet with the discipline of running at least twice a week; my stamina has grown. I can now run five kilometres without needing to stop once to rest. My pace is slowly increasing every time. I have learnt that a gentle swing of the arms helps the legs and body weight on to the next step. I have seen new places in my local area; in my need for new routes.
I weigh just over 100 kilograms; so I am happy with my new fitness. Yet I am aware of my limitations and know I need to protect my joints as I am past the age of forty. If I run fast one week yet slower the next time; I am not worried, for I know I am exercising the same. My goals are to reduce weight through dieting as my running strength increases. I have a dream that I can one day do a Olympic length triathlon; not for competition or praise but just to know I am at a standard of fitness that will help me enjoy this life.
So go on; get out there too and just do it. Enjoy it, relax and run.
The second highest mountain in the Pyrenees. My apologies again for not blogging more often. I have plenty of ideas, that will hopefully make for an interesting read. With the long cold nights of winter upon us; I hope to use the time wisely and put all those ideas to paper. Today’s blog is about…
An alternative Algarve:The country of Portugal and especially the southern region of the Algarve; are popular places to go for a holiday. The welcoming climate and long sandy beaches are a perfect place to feel happy and relaxed.Yet, do you feel fed up with the madding crowds of tourists? Are you exhausted from baking on…
To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney: ‘there is nothing you can write; that has not been wrote. There is nothing you can do that cannot be done’ So stop worrying and start writing a blog that helps you relax into a peace of the mind.
Knowing your limitations
It is too easy to focus on your message, your opinion, your point of view; that you forget and struggle to write the simplest words. If you are trying to describe a subject that is too big, technical or obscure; then break the subject into easy sections and save something for the next blog!
My blog focuses on ways to relax as well as rides and walks that I have enjoyed over the years. I know I will never become rich from Amazon associate links or Google ad-sense because my subject is not so interesting to many people. Yet I am rich in a history of memories of beautiful days out in nature; that I can remember when my day is not so relaxing. Just the other day, whilst driving to work in the sub zero temperatures of a English winter; I thought back to one balmy bike ride in the warm autumn sun of Catalunya: Around the Sant Antoni Reservoir, Tremp
Remember how to write
I feel we spend so long writing boring emails at work or abbreviated messages on WhatsApp; that many us have forgotten how easy writing really can be. Do not become weighted down by ponderous prose; use fancy words or worry about placing that comma or semi-colon. Just enjoy writing every word as if you had just learnt it!
In his short essay: Politics and the English Language; George Orwell explains some brilliantly simple rules of writing that I try to adhere to myself. Yet, at the end of the day; just enjoy your writing as much as the subject or passion you are focused on.
Know your audience
Alfred Hitchcock once said: “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible”. So, unless your blog is about horror; try to make the audience happier and more interested with every word, sentence and blog.
Some blogs may cover very specific subjects; from science and medicine to easier subjects about hobbies and cooking. So do not get despondent, if you only have one view per day on your blog about a rare disease. If your words help just one person down the line; then your blog has been worth all the time and thought.
Unless you are writing a blog about how to find gold at the end of the rainbow or you can prophesise next weeks lottery numbers; you may not have a large subscriber base. Yet if you can sell tea to China or ice to the Inuit’s; then congratulations, I would like to hear about your tales too. So do not worry about the money, the subscribers or the likes; just relax and write what you want.
What is more, if you are lost for words; then turn off the computer. Do not sit there for hours staring at a blank page. Set yourself a time limit of an hour or even less and just write away. Peace.
A cool, colourful and comfortable off-road trainer New runner I decided to take up running last autumn; as a way to keep fit in the long nights of a English winter. Check out my previous post: Run to relax; for my views as a new runner. Having used a pair of Adidas Terrex for these…
Find some decent trainers, a quiet path and time every few days to go for a short run. In just a few weeks, you will be running further and longer; you will be running to relax. I took up running this year as a way to keep fit in the long dark evenings of the…
Back on the route to relax Hello everyone; it has been a while! I hope you are all well. I have been busy with work and the day to day chores of life. Yet I hope to focus once again on this website and finding and sharing ways to relax. Whilst I prepare other pages…
Hello everyone; it has been a while! I hope you are all well. I have been busy with work and the day to day chores of life. Yet I hope to focus once again on this website and finding and sharing ways to relax. Whilst I prepare other pages and posts; I would like to share this photo of a great cloud formation I spotted on a cold autumn day. It reminded me of a poem by Atticus:
𝑪𝒂𝒔𝒕𝒍𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒌𝒚 Last night I had a dream I built a castle with my hands and put you in it. But you grew wings and flew away and my castle crumbled. Next day you returned and sat amongst the ruins and told me a secret of why birds must fly And so I built you a castle in the sky.
What poems and songs enter your mind as you walk along? I hope you are all well and feeling relaxed. Peace
To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney: ‘there is nothing you can write; that has not been wrote. There is nothing you can do that cannot be done’So stop worrying and start writing a blog that helps you relax into a peace of the mind. Knowing your limitations It is too easy to focus on your message,…
Start Point If you go down to the sea in Devon; past the bright lights of Torquay and the fishing boats of Brixham. Then on past the safety of the River Dart and long Slapton Sands; you will arrive at the prominent headland of Start Point. Clearly visible from many a mile to seaward; thanks…
Letting nature back in Most of us have gardens, balconies, paths and driveways; which can be filled too easily with concrete or paving slabs that are not natural and relaxing to the eye. Gathering a few flower pots and filling them with colourful flowers can brighten up seemingly drab and boring places in our homes.…