Saturday, 23 July 2016

Closer to Home - the Solace of the Green Valleys

Escape to the hills of North Wales.

Time for some rest and relaxation and with the sunshine drawing us to venture further afield than our  usual Thursday lunchtime choice Allen asked,
'Well, where do you want to go?'
'I don't know, I just feel the need to wander by a river.'
Do you want to go to Betws-y-Coed and have lunch at the Waterloo?'
I jumped at this and needed no further bidding. After the hurly burly of the last couple of weeks another escape was called for.
Turning out of our village, away from the town and the usual drive along the A483/A5 through Llangollen, Allen turned the opposite way towards the Mold road.
'I am coming this way for a change.'
'Fine by me'.
We found that the dual carriageway had a reduced speed limit to 50mph. Neither of us could see the sense in this but knew that there had been a few serious accidents further along where the road went back to single lanes before the sharp bends.

Taking the Corwen road at Pontblyddyn we were soon climbing through the leafy, sleepy road towards the hills and moors of Llandegla. The sign for Pentredwr reminded me that we were on the other side of the mountains that we were used to on the Horseshoe Pass. The many sheep grazed contentedly on the lush grass, keeping their balance on the steep pastures as the hills rose and fell into deep valleys.
It was lovely driving through the valleys to Betws-y-Coed. Mile after mile of green fields in the sloping mountains - such solace. 

Just after the Rhug Estate and ancient chapel, we turned onto the A5  - it is an historic route being the old post road from London to Holyhead and the ferries to Ireland - just past the Ruthin junction, stopping off at the newly expanded Rhug Estate  café/shop/bistro. For many years it was a simple stop and a favourite with bikers as there was not much else along this stretch of road. The Rhug Estate breed Bison cattle and a feature of the menu is 'Bison'. We settled for the outdoor seating area with a cup of tea. There is also a covered 'no smoking area'  where the milk and sugar etc. is found. The Bistro looked very inviting as did the Farm Shop which stocks organic  and artisan products. Many of the food there was gluten free. We spent a happy time examining all the wonderful array of labels on the cakes, meats, preserves - they even have a bacon butty sauce - and the vast selection of artisan cheeses. The washrooms were excellent. A bison's head with a bow in its hair proclaimed 'Merched/Ladies. My husband told me that the bison on the gent's door had a bow tie.

Onwards to Betws-y-Coed and after crossing the ancient Waterloo Bridge we passed the sign informing us that Betws-y-Coed is the 'Gateway to Snowdonia'.

After an excellent meal in the 1815 lounge/bar of the Waterloo Hotel,we decided against going further into Snowdonia on this visit but headed home through Corwen and         Llangollen.

The solace of the hills and valleys had done their work (although I didn't get to wander by the river which tumbles over the rocks -above).


Saturday, 2 July 2016

Monfortinho - a hidden gem in Portugal

Monfortinho and the Termes de Monfortinho.

To round off our journey through France and Spain to Portugal, I must tell you about a most delightful village near the  Portuguese/Spanish border.
As you cross the border from Spain,  the delightful, cobbled village of Monfortinho is hidden from the road as it nestles in the valley.
The cobbled streets wind up and down and around the village to bring you, past the church and back onto the main road again. As it was siesta time after a wonderful lunch in Termes de Monfortinho, we didn't have the opportunity to explore more. Most sensible people were sleeping off the effects of a good lunch.

Termes de Monfortinho is a village which has developed around the Thermal Springs which have become famous for their therapeutic properties. In this area, many rivers flow down
from the mountains which surround the area.

Before meeting family one day, we decided to take a look. We were very pleasantly surprised at the scale of the village and the very modern properties. Reaching a junction, we came upon a long, tree-lined street. Parking up we wandered around and came upon the welcoming and traditional Hotel Boa Vista.
As it was so hot, we decided not to rest on the terrace but settled inside for a cool drink. Chatting to Rui he assured us that there was a lift asked if we wanted to see some rooms. The hotel is about 100 years old and, in order to facilitate a lift, they  had built it on a corner outside and surrounded it by glass. Very innovative and shows what can be done. The rooms are traditional with all modern conveniences.

The following day we took family there for  lunch. The welcome was even greater than on the previous visit and with all parties using  a smattering of Portuguese and English plus a phrase book we negotiated our way around the menu which, I have to say, involved very good portions of food..  Before this, we had strolled around the village looking what they had to offer. It is utterly charming. After lunch, on seeing the Artesano (pottery)shop, we stopped the car and dived inside into the coolness of this wonderful shop full of Portuguese pottery. Really, I could have filled the boot of the car!
Perhaps next time?
There are many images on Google at


Friday, 1 July 2016

Rosalie Marsh books in the Smashwords Summer Sale

The Smashwords summer sale kicks off with 50% off all Rosalie Marsh Titles in July. Coupon Code SSW50

  1. Go to:

  2. Select your book of choice.

  3. Go to checkout

  4. Quote SSW50

  5. Download the digital format of your choice 

  6. Sit back and enjoy!

Coupon Code SSW50 for 50% off marked price.

All photos and images are in full colour in eBook formats.

Biographical  Just Us Two Travel series.
Just Us Two
Chasing Rainbows
The Long Leg of Italy
Travel-Based Fantasy-Fiction:
ORANGES: A Journey
Lifelong Learning for Career, Employability, and Personal Development.
Lifelong Learning
Release Your Potential
Skills for Employability Part One
Skills for Employability Pat Two
Talking the Talk

View the full Smashwords catalogue for more savings in the summer sale.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Heading South from Burgos. Part Two of our Recent Portugal Adventure

Sercotel Cuidad Burgos.
From Burgos and south through Valladolid, Salamanca, and  Plasencia to Portugal.

After the guided mystery tour via Satnav to the centre of Burgos with its tall, elegant buildings - in a rush hour - and then having a helpful Spanish Senor directing us to our excellent Sercotel Cuidad Burgos hotel in Rubena, after an excellent dinner and a huge G&T, we were all set for the next leg of our journey through central Spain. Making a note to 'come again' for the excellent Wi-Fi reception and facilities - not least the said G&T - we loaded up and headed south west towards Valladolid before turning south  to Salamanca.

Don't the very names instantly conjure up an image of a romantic, ancient Spain in days gone by with dark-eyed Senors riding their stallions while dark-haired beautiful Senoras and Senoritas toiled in the  home and on the land as they waited for their men to come home?

It was still a dull and windy morning but today was, hopefully, a shorter day before we reached our destination. The land was flatter - or so it appeared - but in reality we were on the plateau of Central Spain. The view, from our position almost touching the clouds, stretched for miles. We found a small fuel station with a café. It was  most unlike the large ones nearer the more inhabited parts we had just come through but clean and cheap.  A coffee doble con leche (double coffee with milk) and cold drink was an astounding three euros.

Heading towards Salamanca, the terrain changed as we came down from the plateau. Gentler mountains came into view. Verdant mountains covered in trees and many kinds of vegetation. The roadsides were awash with masses of yellow broom.               Further on, this gave way to the centre reservations stretching for miles with brightly coloured red, pink, or white shrubs. Amidst the sweeping pastures, a lone church rose high into the sky. Its tall spire almost reaching the clouds as it surveyed and laid claim to the scattered inhabitants surrounding it. Eventually, at Plasencia, we turned west towards Portugal. In my planning I had marked out that we would go south west for a bit longer and head towards Cuidad Rodrigo before dropping south. However, our helpful lady with her disembodied voice, politely commanded us to head towards Plasencia.
It is interesting how, in Spain, the address of a place list the road (carretera) and the numbers of kilometres along it depending from where it started. This number is used for the junction. See example.

Trusting the Satnav.

My husband asked that we paid attention to the 'lady' as she seemed to know what she was doing. I had to agree as, this later model we had just traded in the old one for most certainly did know what she was dong but I bartered for the return journey to be via Cuidad Rodrigo. Harmony was restored. We were now the very heart of a country area and needed some refreshments. Lunch called but a snack would do. Taking a chance we followed a sign off the newly made road and turned off to what seemed to be the old road. Here there was a modern filling station - for the car - and a modern café for filling us. It did appear that the café had been extended to include a restaurant, no doubt for all the extra traffic with the road improvements, of which there are many.
We found a wonderful light snack of a slice of tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette with potatoes) each with drinks at the Meson Iberico Casa Marco on the National 630 KM371 in Fresno Alhandiga. A glass of vino tinto, small Coca Cola and 2xPinco (our snack) came to the grand total of four euros forty cents including tax. Can't complain at that!

Refreshed we headed towards the Portuguese border and our destination. The road leads you around two sides of a triangle which surround a huge reservoir - the Emblase de Alcantara - fed by the many rivers which flow down the surrounding mountains. Fortunately, the road had been extended at Coria to by-pass the village of Moraleja and link the two sides of the triangle, which lightened the journey. Crossing the border is seamless with excellent signs and no change in road conditions.

Handling the toll booths.

As this was an A-B journey on motorways we were aware that we would be paying tolls. During our recent visit, we had used a hire car and Europcar advised that if we were heading near Castelo Branco there would be not only unmanned tolls but automatic tolls where cameras at the side of the road simply pinged as it captured your number plate and billed on your card later. We had taken advantage of the transponder fitted in the car so that we didn't have to worry about this and could simply sail through the other toll barriers as well. Now, for this journey,we had invested in a transponder for both France and Spain (we weren't using motorways in Portugal) from Tolltickets in Germany. It was the best thing we have ever done. In France, the lane with a letter t - the telepeage - was for normally for those with a French bank account. We had often seen wagons using these lanes but now this facility had been opened up to those outside France. I mention this as it may help some of you who were not aware of this change. In fact, the number of toll lanes sporting the letter 't' had increased with some having  a 30km sign where you didn't actually come to a stop before the camera flashed and the barrier lifted; it was not for card or cash payment and were not manned. In Spain the sign was like a t-shirt. Each transponder fitted behind the rear view mirror. On our return home, we simply posted them back and we are charged for the time used regardless of what we had stated on the order form.  Hope this helps! It was so easy with no fumbling for buttons when the lanes were unmanned.

Next  time, I will chat about  a most beautiful place where they have thermal springs. Montfortinho and Termes de Montfortinho near the Portuguese/Spanish border and a most delightful, traditional hotel with all mod cons.

Rosalie xx

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Stunning Mountains of Pais Vasco - Basque Country

Basque Country.

Our recent journey to Portugal took us through France - thankfully after the fuel strikes - to the Pyrenees where we crossed the border into Spain along with the heavy traffic. The weather was atrocious but had improved once got past Limoges about half-way down.

As the outline of the Pyrenees came into view, they gradually loomed nearer, taller, more majestic.
"Oh, look at those peaks." I reprised my comment on first seeing grey, snow-covered mountains as we made our way south from Foix to Andorra all those years ago. "Aren't they pretty?" I had commented then from my perch on the back of our Gold Wing motorbike.
"Yes," my husband laughed in agreement at the memory. "Until you get closer and they start closing in." (1)
Now, I sat and admired these verdant slopes. At this end - the west - they are somewhat gentler Driving at steady speed past Bayonne, we crossed the border into Spain.

What majesty awaited us.

We had planned a journey across Northern Spain on the motorbike some years ago but it did not materialise. Driving to Central Portugal on our 'family mission' was a great opportunity to capture some of what we had missed. Crossing the border into Pais Vasco or Basque Country heading towards Burgos in Castilla Leon.
The mountains are astounding. Great high needles of granite rose high into the sky. The  
motorway network is a feat of engineering as we rode high above deep valleys and ravines below, wound our way through gorges and swept effortlessly round bends in a never-ending succession of mile after mile of extremely good roads.

As we climbed higher into the mountains - don't forget that the centre of Spain is on a high plateau which fools you into thinking that you are on lower, flatter ground - the weather developed into what can only be described as atrocious and not the sort that you want to be out in when driving through mountains with a sheer drop on one side. At times we could hardly see, even with the wipers working furiously to clear the rain and the spray being thrown up from the massive wheels of lorries as we passed. From time to time the rain eased but the clouds hung low. We were thankful of the excellent service stations in this area and their excellent choice of hot meals or simply a snack.

Nearing Burgos, I just knew that we would have another mystery tour. And so it proved. OH said that he had input the hotel details correctly but even so, we ended up in the centre of the city - not Rubena on the outskirts and just off the motorway.

Our return journey through this area was in gorgeous weather. The sunshine provided us with good photo opportunities as I snapped away through the - by now dirty windscreen - at the jagged peaks of the mountains. The signposts were also in Basque language as well as Spanish. Quite an education.

Next - our journey south through Valladolid, Salamanca, and  Plasencia as we came off the plateau and headed into Portugal.