Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

5….4…..3…..2…..1…..

31 Jul

Tomorrow my new website goes live.

I will send you an email to welcome you over to the new site but if for whatever reason you don’t receive it you can go to www.scarletjonestravels.com and click on the ‘Follow me’ button.

I hope that you enjoy the new features.  I have a lot more content currently in the pipeline that will populate the new pages over the next few months.

A HUGE thank you must go to the best guy in the business for fielding my many panicked messages in the run up to to this relaunch – check out www.boxel.co.uk to see what he can do – just don’t contact him on Christmas day!  Thank you Chris x

Thank you also to Lisa Eldridge of www.girlabouttheglobe.com for your help and support over the last few weeks

And thank you to you for following Scarlet Jones.  Please continue to tag along with me and find out what else I am going to get up to.  May you enjoy Scarlet Jones Travels even more

Jane

 

 

 

Advertisements

Countdown to Re-launch Day

22 Jul

It’s almost here. I have set a date for the re-launch of my new-look website and blog.

All being well you will be able to check out my new site on Friday August 1st.

I am very excited about this new project and I hope that you will enjoy the new features and that you will find them entertaining and useful. As soon as the new site goes live I will trigger a blog post to alert you. Please do take the time to check it out. I very much look forward to receiving your comments and observations.

In the meantime, enjoy the following pictures of some of the orchids and other exotic flowers that are to be found in Colombia.P1050445P1050439P1050406

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1020109

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1050407

Baños and The Santa Cruz Backpacker Hostel

21 Apr

Trundling down the Avenue of the Volcanoes we were treated to yet more spectacular scenery through the window of the bus on the way to Baños.

Just a few days previously I had received a flurry of messages from friends and family who wanted to know that I was all right as the Tungurahua volcano had erupted. It has been rumbling away for a few years now, every so often sending plumes of flame and ash high into the air, causing roads to close because of lava flows and villages and towns to be evacuated. Web sites were advising us not to travel to Baños at the moment – but every Ecuadorian that we asked looked at us as if we were mad and raised their eyebrows. I guess they live with the threat of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis every single day and if they were to put their lives on hold with every tremble and puff of smoke they would never do anything, so off we went.

The bus wound its way around and down the side of the valley, crawling like a tiny and insignificant beetle against the side of the volcano and we were deposited unceremoniously in the drizzle at the terminal. Resembling a beetle myself with my large rucksack and smaller pack worn on my front we crossed the main plaza in search of our hostel.

The Santa Cruz Hostel is situated behind brightly painted walls very close to the town centre. 20140407_150449The rooms were contained within two separate buildings which were separated by another small plot, but both had chimneys/open fires, self catering and kitchen areas and TVs. There were some little gardens with hammocks and security was very good with large metal gates. Myself and M were given a triple room – containing bunk beds and a wide single bed and although small small it was very clean. We were on the ground floor and outside on a little patio area there were deckchairs and our own hammock. A covered courtyard at the front contained plenty of tables, chairs and seats, a television and a computer and a large raised open fireplace, together with a good supply of logs.  The receptionist Monica Flores was super friendly and the cleaning staff thoroughly cleaned all of the rooms including the windows when guests checked out.

P1040673

The colourful Santa Cruz hostel

We had just got ourselves settled when a friendly face from Quito turned up and checked into the room next door. H had arrived, fresh from climbing up to the snow capped rim of the Cotopaxi volcano. We were to share a bathroom with him via a little interconnecting corridor, so leaving him to freshen up and sort himself out we set off to climb our own mountain.

P1040676

one of the gardens at the Santa Cruz

I am not sure how far we clambered but it took us an hour. We made it up to the very top where a large illuminated cross stands and we were rewarded with a great view of the town just as dusk was falling and all the lights began to twinkle below. We then realised that we had to get back down the very muddy, slippery path and didn’t have much time as the twilight would rapidly be turning to dark. We got down in record time – in just twenty five minutes although we covered the last few hundred yards in the pitch black. To reward ourselves, me and M took ourselves off to the hot springs.

P1040552

Banos at dusk

Fed by natural hot water which came from deep in the volcano we joined hordes of other people in the large pool. It was busy but very calm and relaxing as people were content to sit neck deep on the ledge around the sides, gossip with neighbours and generally absorb the atmosphere. The complex was situated at the bottom of a waterfall which crashed loudly down the sheer mountainside, and which was lit up with pretty coloured lights in the dark. Steam rose from the hot water into the cool night sky. The water was a dirty sandy colour but it had a very clean, metallic smell and it was as hot as a very hot bath. After a while we went to investigate the smaller pool. P1040571I dipped a toe in and I almost fainted. It was scalding. I managed to get in up to my thighs but I couldn’t manage anymore. We were quite the celebrities and the locals were all giving us advice and laughing at our discomfort. Against my better judgement I decided to trust them when they persuaded me to sit up to my neck in the cold tank. They promised that it would help but I remembered from my physics class that this would only accentuate the heat. After I had turned numb from the cold I got into the cooking pool… and…they were right. It worked. I got in and I managed to stay in for about seven minutes before feeling my internal organs giving up, so with some approving smiles, I scuttled out as fast as I could.

Feeling very relaxed and with skin baby smooth we went back to the Santa Cruz Backpacker Hostel where P1040567I sat by the crackling log fire and chatted to a couple from Toronto who were touring down through the Americas from Canada on their motorbikes. Adam and Jen had chosen the hostel to rest and recuperate and to do a little bit of work on their bikes which were locked securely in the courtyard.  The best bit about travel for me is the people that I meet along the way and listening to their stories. Everybody has their dreams and their reasons for travel and they are all interesting.

The following morning M lost her tweezers. Hunting around the bedroom she swore that she had been holding them just a few minutes before. Giving up, she carried on getting ready to go out and then stopped. Laughing loudly she said, ‘Ooh, I think that I know where they might be. There is something hurting my foot inside my walking boot’. M had found her tweezers!!

Baños is jam packed with activities for adrenaline junkies and whilst I am definitely not the adventurous type we did want to do something whilst in the area. The volcano was off-limits due to its current volatile state so we went to check out what Geotours had to offer. Guests at the Santa Cruz Hostel could get ten percent off here – along with a free bike if they stay at the hostel for four days or more.  We had met Geovanny Romo the man in charge of the tour company the previous night because he is also the manager of the Santa Cruz hostel. I will tell you in another entry if I did in fact do that bungee jump, go canyoning or anything equally dangerous.

 

Note:- Whilst I received complimentary accommodation at the Santa Cruz Backpacker hostal this did not influence my opinion or review in any way.  I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay

 

 

 

 

Cascais Cuisine

25 Sep

I flew back into Lisboa airport, caught the by now familiar Aeroport Bus to the city centre and then due to road works I had to yomp for twenty five minutes to the railway station.  Boy, was I glad that by now I had managed to shed all of the books that I had brought along.  The train to Cascais followed the coast out of Lisboa, passing the now deserted wasteland where the Optimus Alive Festival had been held and skirted the  beaches whose sands were still packed with holiday makers at 6pm.   Cascias is the next town along from Estoril and just forty five minutes from Lisboa on the very cheap and efficient train.

One of Cascais's beaches

One of Cascais’s beaches

My dad was at the station to greet me and to show me the way to our hotel.  Situated at the top of the town, the Hotel Cidadela was more than adequate for our family holiday.  It was quiet and informal with more than enough sunbeds around the large pool and the rooms were spacious and clean.  My parents had wangled a suite again but to be honest, had me and Sis been allocated one it would simply have given us more empty space to fill with clutter.

The view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

Over the next week I understood why my parents continue to return to Cascais.  It is a lovely seaside resort and had a very similar feel and atmosphere to Lagos in the south of the country.  The town was hosting its summer festival while we were there so every evening we were treated to several bands or singers on the large stage in the main square.  On Sunday we saw the tail end of a religious parade through the town and the wine was VERY cheap and VERY drinkable.

One of the benefits of joining the oldies was that over the years they had done their homework and they had found some real gems of places to eat.  The week was to prove a gastronomic delight.  Whilst in Cascais we usually ate at small unassuming back-street restaurants patronized mainly by the Portuguese and which usually specialised in local dishes.  Fish was plentiful and fresh, their beef stew was served in dinky little saucepans and we often ended the meal with a complimentary ginja liqueur.  We also ate at a Brazilian restaurant one evening where waiters circulated among the diners with long skewers loaded with meat and who would come over to your table if you tipped your indicator to green (little wooden blocks with one end painted red for ‘hold fire for five minutes’ and green for ‘feed me now’).  On a day trip into Lisboa we lunched in The Cervejaria da Trindade – the city’s oldest beer hall which is situated on the site of an old monastery and took a drink in what I think is the oldest bar- the Brasileira Cafe.  I think that our favourite restaurant of all was the Melody Bar in Cascais – it looked like a cheap caff from outside but the food, service and friendly atmosphere were quite special and it won a landslide vote when we were deciding where to go for our last evening.

The unassuming exterior of the Melody Bar

The unassuming exterior of the Melody Bar

Late one night when Sis and I were evicted from a bar at 2am (because it was closing time and not because of our behaviour) she wondered aloud where we could go next.  Some blokes advised us that nowhere else would be open BUT we could go with them to a small, unadvertised bar.  We decided that if things turned out dodgy we could run faster than any of them so decided to risk it.  Several streets away from the main square we came to a an unmarked wooden door and after we politely knocked it was opened by a mountain of a man.  Stairs led up and noise and cigarette smoke billowed down.  Sis went up to check it out while I stood guard outside – but it was fine.  It was packed with people and was obviously THE place to go.  The atmosphere upstairs was loud and smoky but friendly.  Dumpy bottles of beer were delivered to the tables in large metal buckets filled with ice which had bottle openers attached by a chain.  We know that it was a good night because we didn’t get back to our hotel until 5.30am and now we found out just why our hotel was at the perfect location.  Whatever junction you came to, provided you went uphill you would eventually reach our hotel.

Elevador/Ascensor Da Bica

Elevador/Ascensor Da Bica

We did have a day out to Lisboa and we covered different areas to that which I had explored with BF just  few weeks previously.  We visited the Mercado da Ribeira (market), rode the Elevador/Ascensor Da Bica (funicular), the bottom of which was tucked in behind a little doorway and clattered woodenly up the incredibly steep hillside and then walking even further up we were treated to a dazzling display of wealth inside the church of S Roque.  The side chapels were all decorated with gold and silver or perhaps gold leaf shining out from the gloom were quite a surprise.

I didn’t make it to Sintra which is a shame as somebody famous once said “to leave out Sintra in seeing the world is no better than travelling blindfold” but at least it gives me another reason to return to Portugal and there is still more of Lisboa that I would like to visit one day.

Our journey back to the airport was in a stretch Merc, driven very sedately by an eighty year old gentleman.  He told us that he was the oldest cabbie in Lisbon.  I guess he is probably the oldest cabbie in Portugal, but must also be one of the most travelled and has been to more than forty five countries in the world.  We caught our plane back to the UK by the skin of our teeth – due to delays at passport control.  They were closing the gate and I had one foot inside the gate and one outside whilst the oldies hurtled along the long corridors to reach me.  I very nearly boarded alone.  On an an extremely tight schedule I couldn’t afford to miss my flight but I reckon my dad was secretly disappointed that they made it as it would have given him the excuse to stay on another few days.

A Sense of Perspective

5 Oct

As I write this, an entire community is out searching for a little girl in Wales whilst the rest of the UK is holding its breath and praying for a happy outcome.

In these days of rolling news and instant updates, I am rarely moved to tears by any items on the news, but I broke down when I watched April Jones’ mum pleading for the safe return of her daughter.

I do not know if I will ever see my children again.  I can only hope that one day they will realise that I acted as I did in order to protect them and to lessen the pain that I knew would come their way.  It was bad enough that one of their parents chose to leave the other, but I never imagined the depths that their father would stoop to in order to a) try to get me to return to him and b) to punish me for daring to leave.

He used the children as bait and then as a weapon to hurt me, but in targetting me, the damage that he has done to them is unimaginable.

As I parent I hoped that my children would grow up to be independent, open-minded and honest.  I hoped that they would be happy no matter where their lives led them and that they would never feel dispair or fear.  April’s mum has a far more basic wish for her daughter.

My children are getting on with their lives.  Not a day goes by when I do not wonder what they are wearing or where they are, or worst, I worry that they are changing so much that I may pass them in the street and not recognise them.

But all of my worries are put in to perspective when I watch the news.  My children are independent, vibrant and alive.

Coral Jones, my heart goes out to you

A valuable lesson

25 Aug

I learnt a valuable lesson last night.

After spending  an hour or so in a bar with a friend, I was waiting for my bus home when it dawned on me that my mobile was not in my bag.  Cold panic set in and I ran back to the office to check I hadn’t left it on my desk, then I then retraced my steps back to the bar to search around and to ask the staff if a phone had been handed in.

I felt frightened, sick and I was also angry with myself.  My phone is a Blackberry and I have never bothered to ‘password protect’ it, so whoever found it would have access to my recent emails. I don’t have a landline and going into a Bank Holiday weekend I would have no way of contacting people, but most important of all, the phone contains valuable texts and voicemail messages which I need to retain in case they are required as evidence in the future.  My ex has already had one conviction for harrassment and as the final stage of my divorce approaches, he has been contacting me again.

Luckily the story has a happy ending and my phone was found but it did leave me wondering how I would have coped if I had lost it when I am travelling.  I have copied out all my contact numbers and the text and voicemail messages and I have emailed them to myself so that I can access them via my Hotmail account at an internet cafe or hotel.  I will also include details of the phone itself so that I would be able to report it lost or stolen and block access to the information held within it.

My phone may be lost or stolen in the future, but at least I have taken steps to limit the damage if that happens.

An outcast wayfarer

life is way too beautiful

Traveling Thru History

Learning about the past by traveling in the present.

Coins N Maps

Tales of our life and travels in Malaysia and South Asia

Healing Walls

Mental health blog and sharing network