Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Tag: walking

The Trapper’s Tent, Casa dos Loios, Portugal

Trapper's Tent, view from decking

“They’ll be dancing in a minute. You just watch.” Glenn and Dianne smile at us knowingly. We’re stood in the square of a central Portuguese mountain village, attending their annual festa. It’s gone 11pm and the band has just started up. Despite the time, the square is busy with packs of teenagers, laughing friends, and families, from tiny children to their great-grandparents. This is the village event of the year, and everyone attends.

And then a couple start dancing, a relaxed but slightly jumpy partner dance. Another couple follows, doing the same style of dance. Soon half the village are in the space in front of the stage, dancing with a friend or partner or other family member. It’s like they were born knowing how to do these steps. There’s one woman who’s particularly captivating, agily weaving through the throng with her partner. An older couple are slightly slower, but still perfectly in time. I imagine them doing the exact same dance together, nervously, fifty or sixty years ago. Back then he would have had to ask her Mother and Grandmother for permission for just one dance. (Apparently even as recently as ten years ago, this was the norm here.)

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This is the sort of event we’d never have discovered if staying in a bog-standard hotel or B&B. But from the moment you meet Glenn and Dianne (in our case, over coffee in the local supermarket, where we also chatted to some of their friends) you know your time at the Trapper’s Tent is going to be anything but standard. And that’s before you see the tent itself.

Trapper's Tent, Portugal, view from bed

Regular readers who remember my aversion to nights under canvas might be wondering how John persuaded me to stay in a tent. But the Trapper’s Tent, set in the hamlet of Fonte Longa, is another of Canopy & Stars‘ ‘glamping’ destinations, and comes complete with a proper bed, wardrobe, shower and toilet (the latter two of which are inside a separate shepherd’s hut). You have your own semi-covered kitchen with kettle and hob, all the cooking equipment you’d need and a view over the valley. There’s also a barbeque if you’d prefer (remember to stock up on charcoal). The tent is covered, too, so even the sound of rain didn’t really bother us like it might in your typical under-canvas experience. To paraphrase a well-known ‘supermarket’, this isn’t just camping

Trapper's Tent reading spot
Barbeque Trapper's Tent portugal

You will be the only people staying here for the duration, and so everything you see in the pictures* is for your exclusive use – the only people who might pop by are Glenn & Dianne’s friendly pets, or, occasionally, the couple themselves to check everything’s OK or to offer advice on where to go.

*The pictures in and around the tent that is.

Trapper's Tent pets

It’s hard to tear yourself away from this idyll, but Dianne is wonderful at recommending nearby places to visit based on your interests (you have a quick chat about what you’d like from your stay when you arrive – but not before you’ve had a chance to gawp at your surroundings), places to eat and she even drew us a map of a local walk she enjoys. She has also written a guide to the area that you’ll find in the tent, even including information on the others who live in Forte Longa; you’ll learn about Paula, who’s family used to tour as a reggae band, Miguel the shepherd, Zeca who looks after the goats you often spot grazing in the fields below the tent…

Following Diane’s advice and hand-drawn maps, we explored the Roman ruins at Conimbriga, hopped over rivers in search of Lousa Castle, skimmed stones in the river by a tiny, deserted (man-made) beach by the Mondego River (near Penacova), and meandered down the streets of local towns and markets in this lesser-travelled area of Portugal. Then we’d come back and watch the sun set with wine* or beer and a book and a smile on our faces.

*Top tip: The €3 fizzy wine from Lidl is actually not bad.

Mondego River, Portugal

Is this experience for everyone? No, probably not. If you don’t like the idea of being Internet-less in a foreign country (unless you want to pay for roaming; personally, we loved the escape from technology – to pick up a book, rather than check up your emails, as you wake up slowly in bed is such a wonderful feeling) or possibly having to skip to the toilet through the rain, or no television and room service – then this is an experience to avoid. But if you want to enjoy the great outdoors in relative comfort, or like the idea of barely going ‘properly’ inside for your entire stay (well, excluding supermarkets/museums/restaurants), or fancy experiencing quite a different country and culture not too far from home, all with expert advice from locals, then I’d highly recommend the Trapper’s Tent for a relaxed, friendly and slightly unusual escape.

Practical Information
Getting there and around: We got the train from Lisbon to Coimbra (and then from Coimbra to Porto); both journeys were very easy. From Coimbra, I’d recommend hiring a car to really make the most of the local area. Once you’re out of Coimbra, the roads are pretty quiet, so driving isn’t too difficult. Though despite Dianne’s helpful maps, I’d consider hiring a sat nav.

If you’d rather not hire a car, minibus and additional public transport can be found on the Canopy & Stars website.

Price: From £42 p/night, going up to around £65 p/night in summer. If you’re going for your honeymoon, you can pay a bit more to go fully catered and some other special features – see the website for more information.

Language: Although many chat away in English that puts us native speakers to shame (for example, the wonderful girl in the car hire office), not everyone in the area speaks – or is confident speaking – the language. I’d highly recommend learning a few Portuguese phrases and keeping a phrasebook on you. Based on our experience, locals will appreciate you making an effort regardless of whether they speak English or not.

Conimbriga ruins Conimbriga ruins Conimbriga ruins Lousa Castle Mondego River View from Penacova of Mondego River viewfromkitchentrapperstent
Trapper's tent portugal kitchen
Trapper's Tent Portugal kitchen
Trapper's Tent Portugal bed
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Jumping for joy, Trapper's Tent

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Walking Copenhagen

Christianshavns
Copenhagen harbour

Copenhagen is best seen from the pavement. It’s a city where your journey could take you down a street pock-marked with foosball tables. Where a riverside walk leads you past moored boats painted with happy murals and bursting with flowers on their decks. Where the suddenly slow-moving traffic you pass by is the result of a sausage cart vendor dragging his stand to work.

Copenhagen

Assistens Cemtery, Copenhagen
Assistens Cemetery Copenhagen

We wandered through Assistens Kierkegard, final resting place of Hans Christian Anderson and exactly the lively sort of place you don’t imagine when you think of cemeteries. A sunny afternoon, locals (families, friends, couples) were scattered among the graves – reading, talking, kissing, sleeping – with their bikes at their feet.

Frederiksberg Gardens

We strolled through Frederiksberg Gardens, whose grass stretches for miles, past post-work runners. We climbed its hill and looked down over the city we for which we fell, instantly, head-over-heels in love.

Tante T, Viktoriagade, Copenhangen
Tante T tea
We were typical Brits; in a city known for coffee, we sheltered from the rain in Tante T on Victoriagade, a tea shop filled with chintzy chairs and black and white photographs on the wall. (John, to be fair, did then order a coffee.) They provided an egg timer with different strengths marked at different points, to make sure my coconut-flavoured tea would be just right.

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illums
Illums Bolighaus

We discovered the beautiful Illums Bolighaus, which feels more art gallery than designer furniture shop. We spent an hour drooling and planning which sofas and chairs and lights we’ll buy when we make our first few million.

Lego Nyhavn

We found ourselves in the Lego shop a few streets later, marvelling at their models of Nyhavn and other landmarks and making plastic versions of ourselves. We even managed to represent the almost-a-foot height difference. By giving me a Lego child’s legs.

Copenhagen Latin Quarter by
Latin Quarter by Ania Krasniewska

We took right turns and left turns at random in the Latin Quarter’s bright backstreets full of vintage clothes shops and studenty bars. One of the city’s many cyclists passed us, eating an ice cream.

Copenhagen botanic garden

We slowly circled the lake in the (free) botanic gardens and found ourselves in one of the greenhouses, surrounded by cacti and other spiky, wonky, jutting, alien-like plants.

 

torveshallerne

We resisted eating everything in the Torvehallerne, glass-walled markets with stalls selling coffee and spices and vegetables and larger meals from around the world.

Karriere cocktail bar, Kodbyens

We explored Kodbyens, the meat-packing district, come nightfall. We passed al fresco diners making the most of free blankets (they – the blankets – are a common site in Copenhagen), neon lights flashing from dimly-lit bars and a bonfire outside Karriere cocktail bar. We walked through its plastic flaps, left over from its former life as a butcher’s shop, and sipped a rum cocktail.

We meandered past the large ponds behind the planetarium. Down side-streets full of independent shops. Past small artists’ galleries, prints tempting us from the windows.

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We breathed in the coffee and the hot dogs. We sat on benches and the sides of harbours, not because we were tired, but because we wanted to watch the city go by.

We walked slowly (Copenhagen does not rush). Hand-in-hand. Happy.

Summer graffiti Copenhagen

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Copenhagen
Copenhagen botanic garden

Photo Credits
Assistens Kierkegard (x2): Open City Project
Tante T: Tante T website
Latin Quarter Photo One: Euroshop
Latin Quarter Photo Two: The New Diplomat’s Wife
Torveshallerne: Heather Spalling via Flickr
All others my own, please credit if using.

Food Friday: Beese’s Bar & Tea Gardens, Bristol

Beese's Bristol by Andrew Bennett

On its website Beese’s describes itself as one of Bristol’s best-kept secrets. Considering how buzzing it was on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I’d argue that’s not quite true, but it’s still not the sort of place you’re likely to stumble upon. Nestled on the riverbank on the opposite side to the Bath and Keynsham footpaths, Beese’s has to be sought out – by foot, bike, car or, more unusually, river ferry.

(The river ferry harks back to Beese’s roots. It was founded by a Mrs Beese in 1846 to provide refreshments to passengers on the Conham River Ferry, which her husband captained.)

Beese's Bristol

As well as putting in the effort to find Beese’s, you also have to be patient to experience this lovely pub. Although I say you’re unlikely to stumble upon this lovely pub/bar/restaurant, that’s actually exactly how we discovered it. An impromptu Autumn walk in neighbouring Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve spat us out into the Beese’s car park. But Beese’s is only open from Easter weekend until the end of September, we’d been waiting six months before finally, finally a weekend where it was open coincided with a weekend where it was sunny and a weekend where we had decided to take a break from DIY.

We had decided to have a light lunch so plumped for the baguettes – egg mayonaise and brie and cranberry. Simple food, done very well.

If you wanted something more substantial, the Sunday roasts smelt and looked amazing and the burgers were making our mouths water a little too. We’ll definitely be back for a larger meal next time. Possibly in an evening, so we can sit outside as it goes dark, beneath the lights strung between the trees.

Alternatively if you just want a snack (Tarr’s ice cream, afternoon tea with scones) or a drink (alcoholic or non), they cater for that too.

Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve

It’s also in the perfect location for a post-food walk. Very few people seem to take advantage of Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve, which is right next door. To be fair, that suited us fine (so don’t tell too many people about it!). We sat and watched ducklings paddle round one of the ponds (or ‘lagoons’) and meandered through the woodland and by the river. The perfect end to our lunch date.

Whether you’re planning to eat out with a partner, all the family (it’s very kid-friendly) or catch up with friends, Beese’s is the perfect place to while away a Sunny afternoon or evening in Bristol. Simple, beautiful and just plain lovely.

The Details
Beese’s Bar & Tea Gardens
Wyndham Crescent, Bristol, BS4 4SX

Booking is available and probably recommended for larger parties. However there are a few T&Cs.

Getting There
Public Transport: Get the No 1 bus (which starts at Cribb’s Causeway and goes to the city centre via Park St) to the Good Intent Pub, Brislington

A number of Bristol ferry companies run boat trips from the city centre.

Beese’s has a car park (where you can also leave your bike). If you’re on the other side of the river, you can park in Conham Road car park and contact Beese’s, who will ferry you across!

For more details, see Beese’s informative website

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Picture credits
Header of Beese’s: Andrew Bennett via Flickr
Beese’s beer garden: Good Bristol
Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve landscape: Chopsy Baby
All others my own, please credit if using

Bako National Park, Sarawak

Bako beach

I have mixed memories of Bako National Park. On the one hand, it was probably the most beautiful place I’ve been lucky enough to visit. On the other, it did give me a distrust of monkeys – or at least macaques – after one made a leaped onto our table and made off with my much-needed chicken leg dinner.

One thing’s for certain: it knows how to make – and leave – an impression (generally for the right reasons).

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Getting to Bako

First thing’s first, you need to get to the Park. Although quicker to grab a taxi or hire a mini-bus with a group, the public buses are by far the cheapest way to get there at RM3.50 one way (around 65p) – and they still only take 35-45 minutes from Kuching (catch it towards the end of Jalan Bazaar/further from the bus station and you’ll save yourself a bit of time). They come once an hour.

However road transport can only take you so far and you’ll be dropped at Kampung Bako. From there, visit the ticketing office to charter a boat to take you on the 30-minute journey to the National Park, past stilt-houses rising out of the water, fishermen, foliage-covered mountains (I told you Bako knows how to make an impression).

Boats cost just under RM50 – about £9 – return. They can fit up to five people so the cheapest thing to do is club up with others on your bus to share one. However your boat driver will ask you for a return journey time so you need to make sure the others on your boat have similar plans for their trip to you. For a bit more flexibility, go it alone (or at least, alone in your group).

Also check the tides before you go – or at least take some waterproof sandals. Although we got dropped off at the National Park’s jetty, the time we wanted to go back happened to be low tide, so the boats couldn’t get up to it. Instead we were picked from the park beach – well, the sea by it. Trousers rolled and bags held above us, we waded back to our boat through the (Singapore bath warm) water and dried our legs in the sun as we were taken back to the bus stop – it may not be glamorous, but it was certainly a memorable way to leave!

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To stay or not to stay

If you’re short on time – or not too bothered about undertaking lots of treks – Bako can be done in a day. Get one of the earliest buses from Kuching and ask your boat driver when the latest is that they’ll pick you up.

But I’d highly recommend an overnight stay. The accommodation is basic and the food isn’t anything to write home about (and that’s if it doesn’t get stolen by cheeky macaques). But it really allows you to make the most of your time in the Park. You can relax with a drink in-between walks, watch the sun set over the beach at park HQ or get up early and enjoy one of the trails before the next day’s visitors really get going.

You can also go on their night trails for a small fee, where a guide will point out wildlife you might not see during the day.  We were exhausted and didn’t, but part of me regrets that decision now.

We booked our accommodation online and confirmed our reservation with the Kuching tourist office when we arrived in the city. Despite this, we did have some problems on checking in, the people working at the Park HQ reception seemingly not being able to find our reservation. However they did honor it. So I’d recommended taking a print-out of your reservation and also phoning to confirm – at least then you know a room should be allocated to you, even if they’re not sure quite where you’re supposed to be saying. This all said, it looked like we were the only people having trouble so I don’t think ours was a common experience – don’t let it put you off!

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Treks and trails

On arriving at the Park headquarters, you receive a paper map detailing the 17 walks on offer. This includes a list of how long they are and a rough idea of how long they should take to complete one way. I’ll admit it, we had a good chuckle at that at first. 45 minutes to go 1km? Maybe for someone who’s seriously out of shape…

Turns out, the people who put that map together know what they’re talking about. The trails may not be particularly long, but on many of the routes you’ll find yourself clambering over, up and down steep paths laden with tree roots and rocks. You’re also in the middle of a hot, sticky jungle. And let’s not forget that occasionally you might want to stop to look at some of the plants, wildlife or stunning views (or just to catch your breath and have some water – though I highly recommend a Platypus or similar).

Don’t be put off by this though – we’re of average fitness and probably found the heat and humidity the hardest element to deal with, rather than the treks themselves being hugely difficult. If you’re not a confident walker, you could pack a walking pole (I am a huge fan of walking poles). But there were plenty of people do the trails in flip flops and – in some cases – swimming costumes. I wouldn’t recommend following their example, mind.

There are also some slightly easier trails too; the first one we undertook, to Telok Delima, was often along boardwalk and mostly flat. The park guides at reception should be able to offer advice if you’re not sure what will suit your fitness levels.

And the trails may have been tiring, but absolutely worth it. I’ll let the photos in this entry speak for themselves as to why.

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Telok Delima trail, Bako

What else is there to do

Not content trekking through mangroves and spectacular jungle or relaxing on stunning, secluded beaches? The Park also has an abundance of wildlife. As well as the macaques, we also saw Proboscis monkeys (best looking animals ever?) and silver leaf monkeys also call the area their home. The Park HQ and nearby beach are home to bearded pigs, who you might see snuffling around the cabins or snoozing in the shade. And then there’s the many other insects and small mammals that you might spot. We saw some groups on trips with guides who were pointing out these animals to them, so if you’re a wildlife buff then this could be a worthwhile investment.

Macaques near Bako Park HQ

Wild boar, Bako

In short…

If you’re visiting Kuching, Bako National Park is a must-visit. It’s hard to describe how visiting here makes you feel. I haven’t made it sound like a hugely relaxing experience and yet, despite the sweat, the stickiness, the tricky trails, it somehow is. Probably something to do with getting to the end of a trek and being greeted by almost-empty beaches surrounded by tropical trees, with views of endless water or mountains rising from the sea. Simply breathtaking. (I told you it left an impression!)

Just make sure you eat your dinner inside – or at least away from the sides of the canteen!

Bako Park HQ beach

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Telok Paku trek

Telok Pandan Kecil trekTelok PakuFalling coconuts...947129_10100215658532607_897540613_n