Monday, 31 July 2017

Flavours of Italy.

Leaving hilltop Altomonte in Calabria for the Straits of Messina and Sicily.

"Geographically, we were heading down the very top of the foot of Italy down to the toe. At Cosenza, we passed through many tunnels cut into the rock. These gave us glimpses of the green, lush, mainly pine, covered Sila Mountains which were on my left as we travelled south; lying on the bottom of the foot ‘between Rossano to the north and
The archways and cool greenery in the cloisters in Altomonte, Calabria, Italy.
Catanzaro to the south’.
The beauty, the sheer lushness of the land, and the fertility of the area that is now a National Park awed us. Opposite us on the coach was the stairwell for the back exit. This gave us a clear view through the wide window on the other side of the coach. I was therefore able to catch some of the wonderful views on both sides. To the right, we were now starting to hug the coastal motorway with clear views of the Tyrrhenian Sea as we headed towards the Straits of Messina."

Memories have come flooding back as I prepare an updated eBook manuscript. 

Rosalie Marsh

Saturday, 29 July 2017

38 days to go - Countdown to Island Interludes. Introducing Madeira

Where is Madeira?

Madeira is known as a floating garden in the Atlantic Ocean. Why? The subtropical climate is mild all the year round hardly varies. Madeira lies in the eastern part of the North Atlantic Ocean,off the coast of Africa.
I remember the first time that we visited, our Rep. warned us not to be fooled by the cloud which sometimes appears. 'It is an African sun and can still burn.'
alt = "38 days to Island Interludes release"

Scenes of Madeira.

There is much to tell you about Madeira which is a delight at any time of the year. Due to its climate and position in the warm Atlantic waters, vegetation is lush and flowers abound. In fact, one unforgettable scene in the capital Funchal is the famous colourful and bustling market where flower-sellers,'dressed in traditional costume of red skirt with colourful stripes from waist to hem,waistcoat,white blouse, and a pointed black hat,' display the most wonderful exotic flowers.' The abundant displays of fruit and enormous vegetables in wicker baskets, the masses of flowers, and the cries of stall holders shouting their wares all add to this unique atmosphere.'

alt = "The famous basket ride from Monte to Funchal"The capital of the island is Funchal. Lying on the south coast  at the base of mountains that rise up behind, it has a long history. Today, the harbour welcomes the many cruise ships which brig visitors to the island. The airport has been greatly extended since our first visit there many years ago. The runway is not so short now so you don't think that the pilot will crash into the mountainside as he lands!

On our first visit, we took advantage of the Island Tour. We always feel that this is worth it; worth the long day to see so much of the island and hear about the history and customs.We also had the Monte experience where we hurtled down the mountain to Funchal in a wicker basket.
The following two visits were at New Year when we were treated to the famous firework displays. 
One visit followed on from our visit to the Azores that I chatted about two weeks ago. But I won't spoil the story anymore . . .

Excerpts from Island Interludes - Madeira.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Computer Work versus a Sunshine Escape.

The sun shone. The computer pulled me back. The shone shone brighter.

I looked longingly out of the window. 
'I should be sitting in the sun,' I thought to myself, 'not beavering away on the computer.' The sunshine won. My husband appeared at the study door on his return from town.
'Do you fancy a ride out somewhere? It is a shame to waste the sunshine.'
Needing no further bidding he came back with, 'Let's go to the Bull in Llangefni.'
Off we set taking the quick road along the A55 to Anglesey. This Expressway cuts through some lovely parts of North Wales and bresting hill after hill the whole landscape is spread out before your eyes. We never tire of it.

Rosalie_Marsh photo_Llyn_Ogwen_SnowdoniaI teasingly commented when we neared Llangefni, 'You are having a change using road maps and not a Sat Nav. (We had only picked up a loan hire car the day before and had not had time to set up the Sat Nav.) In any case, we have ridden and driven on these roads many times over more years than we care to remember.
Lunch at the Bull Hotel in Llangefni was excellent as always. After this we took the scenic route back. Leaving the island, the 'humps' of the mountains of Snowdownia told us that we were near the mainland. Taking the A5 - the old main route from London to Holyhead - we passed Llyn Ogwen by the roadside between Bangor and Capel Curig. I think I dozed a little after this as soon we were approaching the Swallow Falls just outside Betws-y-Coed.
Rosalie_Marsh_at Betws-y-Coed_SnowdoniaOur destination was the picturesque railway station with its many craft shops, cafes and ice cream shops in the railway buildings.We enjoyed a Kellys of Cornwall ice cream but only a small one as someone pushed in and put OH off his stroke. A short while later we succumbed and had what we had originally wanted. A chocolate waffle cone with two scoops.  It was lovely sitting in the sunshine as we licked at our cones watching the world go by. It was very busy with tourists.
Soon it was time to head home. After the traumas of the last few weeks with the new car and bureaucratic forms for a Blue Badge renewal (which seems to change every time and staff singing from different hymn sheets) the sunshine and peace of Snowdonia restored our equilibrium.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

45 days to release - Countdown to Island Interludes. Introducing Cyprus

Where is Cyprus?

'The enchanting and mysterious [to me] island of Cyprus basks in the sunshine of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Lush and fertile it sits below Turkey, east of the Greek island of Crete and west of the countries of Syria and Israel. The north of the island belongs to Turkey and the south to Greece.'

'Basking quietly in the warmth of the Cyprus Sea, the island holds many secrets of its ancient and colourful past that, today, blends with its more modern surroundings as many tourists flock to discover its rich history and culture or simply to soak up the sun. Perhaps both.' (Excerpt from Island Interludes.)

Discovering Cyprus.

You might want to head west to Pafos (Greek spelling) and beyond. There are many smart hotels along this sunshine coast. Just outside Pafos are the remains of the House of Dionysus with its fantastic mosaics. It was built around the end of the second century AD. Further along the coast is the Rock of Aphrodite.

Lefkara,a sleepy village in the hills above Limassol, is famous for its silver filigree work and lace making. The men do the silver while the women concentrate on the lace. You will see them sitting outside their shops in the sunshine as they work at the piece resting
on a kind of cushion on their lap. I brought a lovely lace mat back one year. It is hard to tell which is the 'right' side and which is the 'wrong' side, such is the skill of the women.

The Troodos mountains to the north west offer another cooler experience to the hot sunshine of the south coast. Hiring a car is a good way to get around and why, on two of our visits, we were able to explore so much of the island. You get the chance to see more of the real Cyprus with its charming mountain villages such as Polis high above the north west coast . . ..

I won't tell you anymore now. It will spoil your own experience of an armchair traveller as you read about our exploits in Island Interludes.

Copyright Rosalie Marsh

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Countdown to Island Interludes-52 days. Introducing the Azores.

Where are the Azores?

The Portuguese islands of the Azores lie in the North Atlantic Ocean on a parallel line between Lisbon and New York, about one thousand three hundred kilometres west of mainland Portugal. They are volcanic islands and, lying in the path of the Gulf Stream, winters are generally mild. Of the nine islands that make up the archipelago, São Miguel to the east is the largest with the city of Ponta Delgada being the capital of the region. 
Sao Miguel.

On the map, they appear to be dark and mysterious, very small blobs in the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean and seemingly inaccessible all those years ago.
In our thirst for adventure and new horizons we realized, from the holiday brochure that wasn’t ever far out of my reach, that it was possible to visit. Christmas of 1998 therefore, saw us in Ponta Delgada.

Swimming on Christmas Eve and more . . .

Christmas Eve dawned with yet another dramatic sunrise over the sea. In the distance, we could see a big boat moored off shore. Following our guide and boarding our coach, we headed for Santana on the north east of the island. She explained that here, the people have blue eyes and brown hair.
(Watching the video later, Allen explained that as the road meandered down we ended up looking backwards. The fields were divided by bamboo and had taken over the road.)
On the north coast, we went to the only tea plantation in Europe. Allen was fascinated and thrilled to look at the machines one of which came from Manchester which is only a few miles from where we grew up. In fact, the machine was made at the firm where his brother worked. Inside, we were given a demonstration of how the tea leaves were sorted. Outside, a cow grazed quietly. Was it for milk for the tea?

Pretty Furnas Valley. Sao Miguel. Azores.
Heading now to the Furnas Valley we all gathered round to watch men from a nearby hotel prepare our lunch. Huge vats of the typical dish of meat and vegetables (cabbage) were placed carefully in cooking holes in the ground where the heat of the earth and the steam would cook our meal for us. With the crater being near to the centre of the earth the water in the hole boiled away furiously, cooking the meal. The whole crater was covered in bubbling holes with explosions of steam. It was astounding.

Leaving our lunch to cook, our guide took us to the Botanical Gardens next door to the beautiful hotel where we would lunch. Being forewarned, I and others had packed a swimsuit. Along with a few other guests, after changing in the changing huts in the gardens, I swam in the therapeutic, naturally hot, outdoor pool that was set among all kinds of plants and trees. The huge circular pool was very old; unlike modern-day swimming pools it was built with brick with a huge spout dispensing the warm therapeutic water from its source into the pool. This surprising experience, added to the lovely warm day in this remote part of the island, lent an air of unreality to what was Christmas Eve."

Later... "A family of ducks followed us back to the coach which would take us along the lake back to the hotel for lunch before going to the hot springs. Perhaps the ducks wanted to share our meal."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ End of excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing excerpts from Island Interludes which is due for release on September 5th 2017. As with other books in the Just Us Two series it is illustrated with photographs.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Travelling to Portugal through France and Spain - a return visit with a difference.

Crossing the English Channel in glorious weather.

Our journey was smooth and arriving at the terminal, we were offered a choice of earlier bookings. Opting for the free one, we parked up until the call came. Swiftly loading, the train glided off to emerge again into the sunshine in France.

Toll Stations.

We had collected transponders for the French and Spanish tolls at the Folkestone services. [The transponder is a little box which holds your data; the cameras at the toll stations read your registration number and other data; charges appear on your credit card statement a few weeks later.] In France we were able to sail through the specially designated '30' lane without stopping - much to the astonishment of some of the French people it appeared.
At toll stations, as traffic slowed down, we saw magpies standing guard in the road only flying off to safety at the last minute. Then, as soon as the coast was clear, zooming back like kamikaze pilots to land back beside the tasty morsels that they were enjoying before being disturbed.
France have also introduced new emission regulations requiring a certificate to be displayed on your vehicle if going through certain cities

On the road.

The journey on the first day took us through Picardy and the Somme. The next day saw us travelling through Normandy. The countryside changed here and we enjoyed the best weather that we have ever had in this part of France at any time of the year. The land is undulating with high viaducts straddling deep, green valleys.Tall cypress trees and bands of closely planted dark green trees rose above the fertile fields. Passing by Camembert - think cheese - we saw a small squat church among the trees in the distance, its tall spire rising above them. There was some cloud that day before we reached Poitiers.

After Poitiers and heading south we crossed French/Spanish  border in the Pyrenees at Irun. The Basque country was as awe-inspiring as ever and, thankfully, did not have to travel through in torrential rain as we did last year. After an overnight in the very reasonable hotel in Rubena, Burgos, our journey took us south via Valladolid, Salamanca with windmills for company, and Plasencia where, turning west to cross the Portuguese border we arrived in central Portugal. 

The forty-five degree heat was unbelievable for June; unprecedented we were told by the Boa Vista hotel which thankfully had air conditioning. After a few days of family catch-ups on the farm – Quinta/infrastructure is work in progress – reached down a long dusty red  road we were ready to head off again. But not before we had visited the Barragem / lake, high in the mountains where the tables were turned. My son held my hand while I paddled at the edge as instructed.
It was a pity that the air conditioning in the ‘new’ car packed up. It made life a ‘bit difficult’ to say the least. Especially as there was a very long drive across the plateau of central Spain via Madrid to Zaragoza without its cooling presence.

From Zaragoza we crossed the Haut Pyrenees. Some of the landscape is similar to North Wales. You know that road round the mountain at Penmaenmawr where you have a sheer drop to the sea on one side? And the road down the A5 to Betws-y-Coed? We were on the other side of the Cirque du Gavarnie that is featured in Just Us Two.

But what a fantastic drive, over mountains.  Instead of taking the scenic D road near Eaux Bonnes to Argeles Gazost and Lourdes, the sat nav took us further down to the very minor D35 through sleepy picturesque mountain villages - it was siesta time.

Reaching our ibis hotel in Lourdes, guess what?  
“The air conditioning main unit has gone down.”
Refusing offers of a different hotel, accepting fans and gallons of free water we looked forward to a relaxing few days. In the still-baking heat we headed north towards Tours before setting off early the following morning for La Coquelles and the tunnel. Thankfully it cooled down a bit. 

Satellite Navigation.

After finally making friends with the new Sat Nav, the Eurotunnel directions (post code) took us to La Cite. 
‘Just follow  the junction number and signs,’ I sighed. Which we did. Surprisingly, there were no border checks at the French side – just gun toting soldiers patrolling. Soon they were on the train and headed to their hotel in Sevenoaks where we found a display advertising Christmas bookings. In June. Why can’t we enjoy summer first? 
All told we covered 3200 miles.  All we had to do was return the transponders and wait for the credit card bill for the tolls. Oh – and get the air conditioning fixed in the car; now that is another story.

Rosalie xx

Monday, 3 July 2017

Leaving full-time Education? Changing jobs?

The Importance of  Employability Skills.

You may have had an interview? Were you successful or are you still waiting for that all-important job offer? What do employers expect?

Either way, one aspect in any job is good customer service. 

Internal and External Customers.

Does the statement above surprise you? Just because you are not dealing with the general public in a face-to-face or telephone situation or selling something to them does not mean that the person to whom you are speaking or writing to is not a customer.

What is a customer? 

"A customer is someone for whom you do something, e.g., carry out a task, sell something to, or provide a service. These are the backbone of the business . . ." 
(Skills for Employability Part Two: Moving into Employment/Chapter Four. The Importance of Good Customer Service.)

Good communication skills are essential.

We will look at internal customers in this short post. A person from another department will probably ask you to do something for them such as find information, carry out some research, or even simply gather some records for them. These may not seem much to you but the 'customer' may have an important meeting or deadline on which further work depends.
The 'customer' may not be someone above you. It could be a junior assistant or operative.

" For an organisation to operate effectively, all parts must work together." The needs of the customer must be balanced by the needs of the organisation. Therefore you need  to have a mix of sound knowledge and skills. Any company worth its salt will be training you in important aspects of the company. Its products, people and clients.

  • You need telephone skills. 
  • You need e-mail writing skills. 
  • You need a basic level at least of Information Communication technology (ICT) skills.

Take every opportunity to learn.

Above all -  show a willingness to learn, to be adaptable, to be helpful and cheerful.


If you are waiting on the results of your exams then I wish you well. If you have been offered a job, well done. If you are still looking, then keep beavering away and take some voluntary work in the meantime. And add it to your CV. It speaks a lot about your attitude to work.

Take-away: Here is the link to another post from last year.The Importance of Good Customer Service.