Sun on Saturday: Duke of York Square, London

I arrived in Chelsea earlier than I'd intended, but too early to wait for MOH outside the station, which was a good job as t was chaos there with people arriving on trains trying to find their way to the Chelsea Flower Show and those that had already had their fill looking for trains home. I decided a wander was in order, I quite quickly found Sloane Square with it's pop-up drinks tent but decided to carry on and see what else I could discover.

Just opposite Peter Jones I saw this grand entrance, so without too much thought I ducked into the alleyway leading to the Duke of York Square. And what a discovery that was.

THE GRAND AND UNDERSTATED ENTRANCE

THE GRAND AND UNDERSTATED ENTRANCE

The florist in the archway was a sign of things to come, and as signs go it was a pretty good one.

I started to think I might be discovering something special when I saw this tribute to Princess Charlotte outside the jewellers; although Kate was faceless the rest of the details amused me. Ahead of me was a Comptoir Libanais and if there'd been a free seat outside I'd have been tempted to stop, especially as the chairs were so pretty.

Many of the shops around the square were taking part in Chelsea in Bloom, an alternative floral art show produced by the Cadogan Estate in association with the RHS. The theme this year was "Fairy Tales" and each shop interpreted the theme in it's own unique style. During my visit I only saw a few, but they were spectacular.

The Liz Earle entry caught my eye, and it was popular among the visitors for photographs. I had to smile at the sign inviting people to make use of one of their selfie sticks - surely a sign of the times!

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A SIGN OF THE TIMES

A SIGN OF THE TIMES

AND BEAUTIFUL ANTIQUE KEYS

AND BEAUTIFUL ANTIQUE KEYS

Mary Quant also had a swing, but they had less shopfront space than Liz Earle but I liked this one too.

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Others like Dubarry and LK Bennett chose displays inside their shops.

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Back to the square and I was now being temped by more restaurants - and with the lovely warm weather, they were definitely an option for a post-flower show food stop. I love Polpo - we've been to the one Soho several times and we've never had a bad evening. And well, it seemed rude not to try this Chelsea version - for the record it was just as good!

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At the end of the square is the iconic Saatchi Gallery. I didn't get much further than this as it was time to head back to the station to meet MOH as we had a Chelsea Flower Show to visit, but another time this is somewhere to come back to and visit.

And remember in my last Chelsea Flower Show post I mentioned the Pimms tea pot and hadn't made the Alice in Wonderland connection - well here's a photo of that. It was quite eccentric and I'd just put it down to that - and no, I didn't get a "tea" from here either!

On my way back to the station I walked back through the square, this time pausing to admire some topiary box balls and thinking that this would be a great square to visit even if Chelsea in Bloom wasn't taking place. The shops here are pretty high end so I'm not sure quite how much I'd spend, but it'd be a great place to browse and perhaps make the odd purchase or two.

And then I was back at the Comptoir Libanais and before I left I spotted one last display in the corner of a shop window - and while this may not be my best photo, I love the reflection of the cafe and those pretty chairs at the top of the window. 

Picking up our hire bikes and setting off...

Getting to Füssen took us while. Our journey started early one Monday morning with a crack of dawn flight from Gatwick which was delayed. That meant we'd missed our train from Munich's Haubtbanhof (central) station by a matter of minutes, which wasn't so bad really given that the delay had doubled the flight time!

We arrived in Füssen - our first base - two hours later than expected and eventually found our hotel after a march around the town with suitcases in tow. We had directions but they didn't make much sense to our tired selves. After a couple of dunkel (dark) beers and a schnitzel it was time for bed, in preparation for collecting our hire bikes and the 34km circular route planned for day 1.  Actually I was struggling to keep my eyes open so bed was the only option, and no matter that it was just before 9pm (and with the time change) - we were on holiday, and that day that was how we rolled!

THE 34KM CIRCULAR ROUTE FOR DAY 1'S RIDE

THE 34KM CIRCULAR ROUTE FOR DAY 1'S RIDE

The next morning after a hearty breakfast - well we needed fuel for the ride - we were ready to hunt down the cycle hire shop, pick up our hire bikes and set off on our first cycle.  

Oh and it was raining. I'm not sure I ordered that.

The plan for the day was a circular route clockwise around the shore of the Forggensee, with views of the Alps. The highlight of the day for me was the visits to Hohenschwangau castle, the Gothic castle and nearby Neushwanstein castle with its fairy-tale turrets.

The castles were just a few kilometres from our base at Füssen so the ride really was just a very long winded route there - but a beautiful one no less, even in the wet.

So these are our bikes - and we were to get to know them very well over the next six days.

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The Germans are a tall bunch and when we collected the bikes I needed my saddle lowered. And then lowered some more. In fact they lowered it three times for me before I could even get on the bike and they were totally bemused by my shortness - I'm 5ft 2ish. And then bemused some more when I had them raise the handle bars, but I was comfortable and it was soon obvious that I wouldn't be needing the gel saddle cover I'd bough as a precaution.  I also had an influx of gears which was a novelty - on my Pendleton at home I have just seven gears, on the hire bike I had twenty seven. Once I worked out that the levers on each handlebar worked in opposite ways I was fine... I think!

The bikes came with a pannier each, a small repair kit, a pump and a map holder which I quickly swapped over to MOH's bike thinking that having the directions would give him something to keep him occupied and as most likely he'd be riding in front, it made sense.

We booked the cycling part of our holiday with Inntravel, the slow holiday people and they provide cycling notes and step-by-step directions so that's one thing we didn't have to worry about. They also arrange for your luggage to be transported between hotels, which is a major bonus as it means I can follow my normal packing regime (aka chuck it in just in case) without worrying how I'm going to transport it. We've done a couple of walking holidays with them before - in the South West of France and our first visit to the Alentejo region in Portugal - and have had a great time on both of those trips.

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We left Füssen and headed for the Forggensee and all was going well, or so we thought. MOH stopped as he thought we'd been this way before, at this point I hadn't noticed as I think I was still working out that the gear levers worked in opposite directions but he seemed pretty convinced. And it turned out he was right, as once we were heading back out of Füssen again it all looked familiar. It turned out that we'd turned left too early which the second time round was all too obvious.  

Hmm, the first of our detours. I was beginning to wonder if moving the map holder was such a good idea after all.

We reached the lake and it's huge - 12km long and 3km wide. It's hard to believe that this lake is usually empty from the middle of October to the start of June, especially so as our visit was on June 9th! It acts as a flood prevention method for the River Lech in this natural basin and the artificial lake was first created in 1954. Later on in our ride we crossed the hydro-electric dam at Roßhaubten, but more of that later.

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It was a misty day as you can see from the photos above - and that was fine for our first cycle as we were both rather wary of the 32 degree temperature we'd seen on the weather forecasts the week before.  

I quickly discovered that cycling is not as accommodating as walking for taking photos, and I was conscious that if I stopped to take as many photos as I wanted to then we could be cycling back to our hotel in the dark. I found though, that like walking photo stops are a good way to catch your breath, especially if you time them right.

So it was with pure good luck that our first stop of the day was by these logs...

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These are I'm afraid the first of many stacked log shots from our Bavarian trip, they're just so pretty and I'm still fascinated by how neatly they're stacked.  It seemed everywhere you looked there were logs being stacked, whatever their size.

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The chalet-style houses too are just postcard perfect, this one had the added interest of iron sculptures at the roadside so it was just asking to be photographed.

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Even though it was misty, the views across the Forggensee were stunning and while I can only imagine what they'd be like on a clearer day, I don't think I'd be disappointed.

As we approached the northern end of the lake we started to see these Roman centurion totem poles, and it wasn't until a little further on that we realised their significance. We were cycling along the Via Claudia Augusta cycle route which is a route across the Alps and follows an ancient Roman road.

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As well as the totem centurions there was a small sculpture park which we had a quick wander around before climbing back onto the bikes and heading towards the dam at Roßhaupten.

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The dam holds 650,000 m3 of water, which is a lot of water. Completed in 1954 it's one of Germany's largest dams and is 41 metres (or 134 ft) high. Given it's significance we decided to pose with our bikes:

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And I couldn't help but smile at this sign

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The next section of the ride was mostly on cycle paths alongside the road with the lake out of view. It also had the most hills and while they weren't massively steep - actually one of them was - it wasn't my favourite part of the ride. Our agreement with hills is that I'll see MOH at the top, which means we're both free to go at our own pace - it also means if I want to stop I can and usually that goes undetected! 

I was thinking about a stop when I spotted this snail in front of me - it was huge, the size of snails that usually come on MOH's plate when we're in France. So that was it, it was being photographed and it really did sum up #aslowmoment for me.

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The hill kept going on and on, but the corner was in sight. Imagine then my disappointment when at the corner it turned and went up even more. I was done, and off the bike and walking the steepest part.  A water break and a photo stop at the top, with the promise from MOH that it was all down hill from now on... I almost believed him too, though most of it had to be downhill, surely.

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As we cycled towards Schwangau it rained a bit more, though thankfully not a huge downpour - but even so when we arrived we were slightly on the damp side. We'd bought advance tickets that morning in the hotel to visit both castles and set about getting ourselves on a tour as soon as we arrived. As it turned out we had a short wait but found ourselves a pretty German cafe for some traditional Apfel Strudel and a coffee - the bonus was we got a window seat and were able to use the radiator to dry ourselves off and warm-up. Sometimes I'm real class y'know!

I'll share more of our visit to the Castles in my next Bavarian post, but as this post was about the cycle I'll finish with some stats:

Scheduled cycle distance: 34km
Actual distance recorded: 45.4km
Cumulative distance recorded: 45.4km
Number of detours: 1 (of about 3km)
Number of km walked around Schwangau and the castles: c5km
Number of hills walked (instead of cycled): 1
Number of Apfel Strudels consumed: just 1... sadly!

 

A great time, in great places

The last fortnight has absolutely flown by, and we've had a blast in Bavaria. It's gone quickly but not so fast that we didn't enjoy every minute of it. There's been new experiences, lots of sights and scenery, quite a bit of food, more beer than wine and I'm now a big fan of dunkel (dark) beer, four hotels, six bike rides covering 260km, a couple of well, let's call them "detours" (rather than getting lost) and many, many photos. And either side of our time in Bavaria we've spent some time on the allotment, so it really has been jam packed!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this holiday though. When I saw the pictures of the Bavarian castles in the brochure back in January I knew how pretty it looked, but I wasn't expecting it to be quite so breathtakingly beautiful.  Nor was I expecting to fall a little bit in love with Bavaria and its "living simply, but living well" ethos, as well as their bread. Oh the bread... And the pretzels...

The amount of cycling was an unknown; beforehand 224km sounded like a long way, and it is. Even though I was pretty certain I could cover the daily distances I wasn't looking forward to the 49km day. Although in the end that turned out to be shorter somehow at just 43km, we don't know how but I was pleased even though MOH was disappointed. But on the last ride we notched up a 52km ride through choice and ended with the last few kilometres up hill, again through choice and I was more than ok with this. So with all our "detours" we cycled much further than the brochured amount.

Our hire bikes were good and for the first time in a long while I had 27 gears at my disposal (my own bike has just seven) and I made good use of 18 of those with the rare foray into the highest gears. I didn't need the precautionary gel saddle cover I'd taken with me and my new cycling-ish sports tops worked a treat too. I've come home with a shopping list of bike-related items including a waxed Ortlieb pannier for both my bike and (two) for MOH's, a new waterproof jacket and another cycling holiday in the Loire Valley!

NOT MY HIRE BIKE BUT A YARN-BOMBED BIKE IN MUNICH

NOT MY HIRE BIKE BUT A YARN-BOMBED BIKE IN MUNICH

Knowing some German was handy too although I wasn't quite prepared for the speed and volume of the spoken language, but we adapted. While our efforts weren't perfect we were understood and found ourselves doing that strange thing you do on holiday when you speak in the language of the country you're visiting and they reply in English!

Germany was a friendly country and its people pretty relaxed and easy-going and I was impressed with the amount of beer they could drink and still stay upright. The rail network was easy to use both in and around Munich and going further out on the regional services to Füssen. We quickly mastered our way around the busy Munich Hauptbahnhof (the central station) after missing our train by a matter of minutes following a lengthy delay leaving Gatwick.

The weather was mixed, there was some rain most notably on the day we visited the castles in Schwangau but the mist that came with it added to their allure. We had some sun and warm days and thankfully the large thunderstorm happened overnight rather than during any of our bike rides. The following day though the instructions to "cross two dry river beds" on our ride weren't quite so accurate!

 

Over the next few weeks I'll share more from our trip to Bavaria including our bike rides around the beautiful countryside, our days in Munich as well as some of the smaller towns we visited too. There'll be some photos of the architecture and of Bavaria's well known attractions including the Neuschwanstien and Hohenschwangau castles, the Weisskirche - all of which were stunning, and from our trip to BMW World and Museum, which was a totally captivating day out.

I'M STILL TRYING TO CONVINCE MOH THIS IS THE WAY FORWARD... A BIKE-POWERED MINI!

I'M STILL TRYING TO CONVINCE MOH THIS IS THE WAY FORWARD... A BIKE-POWERED MINI!

Here on the blog while I've been away it's been a little quieter than usual but in case you missed any of the posts here they are:

So what else happened while I've been away?