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Dubrovnik Show and Tell

Most of you know that Mr. Grace and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a great Christmas escape to Dubrovnik, Croatia. If I’ve not written about what a fantastic week it was, what an excellent way to spend Christmas, it’s probably because I’m still trying to get my head around the experience. This was a return visit for us because when we went last year, I tore a meniscus in my knee our second full day there and had to depend on tour buses and taxis, missing out on the best part of any place, which is the walking. Well, we most definitely made up for it this year with miles and miles of fabulous walks. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to make today’s post a Show and Tell, and I’m going to share a bit of what we learned about Dubrovnik. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Dubrovnik this trip meant warmth and sunshine.

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Dubrovnik was a medieval walled city-state that rivaled Venice, and it was independent until Napoleon invaded. That glorious wall still surrounds the city, and you can actually walk on top of it around the whole of old town.

 

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Dubrovnik is build on some serious hills

 

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Dubrovnik has a cool fort.

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Cats like Dubrovnik, and apparently, Dubrovnik likes cats.

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Two words Adriatic Sea!

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The Adriatic Sea means fab fresh seafood. Cat’s like that.

 
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Great statuary!

 

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Some mythological

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Some churchy

 

IMG_4890 Some very naughty

 

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Some practical

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Some in Grave yards

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Some just fun

 

The local holiday cuisine can be enjoyed at kiosks in the sunshine. I did mention the sunshine, didn’t I?

 

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The party’s all in Old Town on Christmas Eve. Party till midnight, then go to mass.

 

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The sunny days mean clear, moonlit nights.

 

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Clear moonlit nights mean a view of Venus on the horizon in the morning and  … more sunshine!

 

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And coffee! On the balcony! In the sunshine!

 

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Dalmatian wine! Just saying … on the balcony in the evening!

 

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Lots ofCroatian Beer. Has to happen. (It was sunny and hot)

 

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More Great Coffee!

 

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Great walking!

 

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Fabulous architecture!

 

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Waking up to sunshine! Again!

 

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More great walking … in the sunshine! Ain’t no map for this!

 

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Great views!

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Lots of inspiration for future stories.

 

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Ha! That was the short version! We both came home rested, happy, inspired and down a couple of pounds from all the delicious walking. Now THAT’s a great anniversary and Christmas gift!

 

 

Predictions from a Muddy Walk

IMG00118-20111113-1422“Lets take the route through the woods,” I said. “It’ll be safer, less muddy,” I said. Gawd, am I glad I’m married to a man who isn’t into ‘I told you so,’ cuz Wow! I think I actually came home with mud in my ears yesterday after our annual New Years Day walk. Although having said that, the downpour that we walked in the last third of the walk might have washed the mud out of my ears as while. It did wash most of the ten pounds of extra weight off my boots en route. Nice, easy cleanup that way.

As we got closer to finishing our walk — and we did manage a little over eight miles — I got to thinking that if I were a fortuneteller, I might consider how the first walk of the year goes to be an indication of what’s to come in the year ahead. And, actually, as a fortuneteller, I might do okay in this respect. Here’s what I figure.

 

Prediction One: Sometimes things won’t go according to plan

We approached the walk with enthusiasm, chatting about which route to take, because living in Surrey, as we do, we’re spoiled for choice. However England in the winter means LOTS OF RAIN and many of the paths turn into mud baths from December through to April. Prediction: Like every new year, like every new beginning, we approach with enthusiasm, we plan and scheme and take into account as many variables as possible, but there will be times in 2016, things just aren’t going to go according to plan. My logic for the choice of paths we took was sound. It made perfect sense to both of us to take a flatter path rather than a steeper, more treacherous one. We might have been safer, but we worked four times as hard just to stay on our feet. Never mind! We managed with lots of laughing and joking and a minimal amount of blue language from yours truly.

 

St Martha's Hill 2 23 novPrediction Two: Sometimes things will get messy

Prediction Two is very closely tied to prediction number one. Things will get messy. It’s a given. Might as well get used to it now and not let it get under my skin. I always let it get under my skin. I like things to go according to plan. I like to keep the mud off my boots, so to speak. So here is the warning sigh for the muddy bits. Be prepared K D! Take a couple of deep breaths, think peaceful thoughts because you know, as sure as you’re sitting here pounding out a blog post, that things will get messy.

 

Prediction Three: This too shall pass

Eventually, we came out of the woods onto solid ground – a paved road, actually, a part of a route we’d not walked in a while. We abandoned our original plan in favour of just getting out of the mud and then we remembered why we had enjoyed this particular forgotten route so much. There were great views of the Downs and solid footing – even a bit of cover by the trees when the rain properly set in. Our ordeal in the mud had put us in a reminiscing sort of mood, remembering all the walks that we’d had in which the weather or the circumstances were less than ideal and yet, when we ended up at the pub at the end of the day celebrating over a pint, some of those walks were the best ever. We decided we could write a book about those walks that went wrong and then turned glorious. Which leads me to prediction four for
2016.

 

raindrops 3Prediction Four: 2016 will result in new war stories

The best walking war stories we have are the ones from the most difficult walks. We never get tired of talking about them, and we always laugh and smile when we do. The best walking stories come from the most difficult walks because the most difficult walks challenge us and test us; some have made us really dig deep to see what we’re made of. Those are the ones that make us earn our pint. That goes with most of the challenges we face every year, and this year will be no exception. I have war stories from 2015; I’ll have them for 2016 as well. In fact, the very first one is a walking in the mud story from January 1st! Nietzsche might have said ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” but I say what doesn’t kill us will be worth a good laugh about over a pint when we get through it.

 

 

Prediction Five: Even if it gets messy, it’s gonna be good!

I’m basing that little prediction on the track record of the past … well … whole bunch of years of my life. I have to admit, I can be a bit of a ‘glass half empty’ sort of a girl from time to time. Fortunately I’m married to a ‘glass half full’ sort of guy so we balance each other out, and it’s good! Even at times when I’m up to me ears in the mud and the rain, it’s all good. That’s more than just taking into account that this too shall pass and that there’ll be beer or coffee or both waiting at the end of the tunnel. That’s the fact that all things being equal, I expect lessons along the way, and I also expect that some of them I’m not going to like very much. Usually those are the ones that I learn the most from. I don’t come out unscathed. I always come out with a few new battle scars and war stories, and I always find myself, at the end of the year, astounded that I made it through at all! What are the chances? I mean really? What are the chances of any of us really being here, and yet we are, and we laugh and we cry and we love and we fight and we squirm and we angst and we struggle through the mud, and we get there and we shine, at least a little, and that’s what we remember. That’s what matters. I have to say, I’m with Edna on this one!

 

 

 

Sun through trees NDW Nov 2011

 

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night,

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May there always be a nice pub and a pint at the end of your muddy walks in 2016.

 

Best Summer Memories Coast to Coast with Holly: Part I Reliving the Best Holiday Ever!

Best Summer Memories Giveaway: A Romp through the Archives & Our Coast-to-Coast Walk:

Welcome to Part I of Coast to Coast with Holly, my best ever summer memory.

I’ve been wanting to share the Coast to Coast walk Raymond and I took with Holly two years ago once again, I suppose as much for my pleasure as I hope for yours. But one of the best things that happened on that walk across England is that I blogged it. I walked in the day and sat in pubs or at our B & B in the evenings and blogged our adventures. Raymond took masses of pictures, so the blog record could be as visual as possible, because the views were fabulous and the experience was amazing. Some of my very best summer memories are from that fantastic two weeks as we walked in all kinds of weather from St. Bee’s Head on the Irish Sea all the way to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea.

All this week I’ll be revisiting that fabulous journey by posting those travel blogs again. During that time, I’m hoping that you’ll drop me a comment and share your best summer memories. And to encourage you to share your fun, I’m offering a copy of one of my back titles — winner’s choice. All you have to do is comment for a chance to win.

KD Goes Coastal!

Anyone who has ever enjoyed reading a good book knows that the best thing about a good book is that it has the amazing ability to take us out of the ordinary and transport us into the extraordinary.

For writers, it’s no different. When we’re in the zone, when the Muse is with us, we are transported to extraordinary places in our imaginations, places we can’t wait to put down in words and share with other people.

My experience of writing The Initiation of Ms Holly was just such an experience, an experience that started in the dark in the Eurostar tunnel, and while I wasn’t going anywhere, my imagination was off and running, and a year later, Holly was born.

Starting the 8th of August, Raymond and I are setting out to walk the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path across England. This has been something we’ve dreamed about ever since we started walking seriously. So we’re very excited. It’s not just going to be the two of us though. That’s right. It’ll be a threesome, because Holly is going with us! I’ll be sending back reports as often as I have wi fi along with picture of just where Holly is as we walk the 190 miles across Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The first five days we’ll have lots of company, walking with a group of friends we often walk with in the Lake Disctrict, led by the amazing Brian Spencer and his equally amazing wife, Vron, who have been instrumental in my research for the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy. But the last nine days it’ll be just Raymond and Holly and me hoofing it across England.

The First Update:


 Now that the itinerary is set for B&Bs and the Coast to Coast is really going to happen, I’ve spent evenings pouring over the maps and studying the rout, getting butterflies in my stomach at anyplace I’m not clear on. And with moors and fells and ruins of mines and bogs and villages and farms and long stretches of open space, there are lots of places to be unclear on. Fortunately the C2C is a well-travelled walking trail, so we won’t be running the risk of falling off the edge of the earth, though we might occasionally run off the edge of the map. It’s by far the longest walk we’ve ever attempted on our own.

I’m confident of our navigation skills, and we’ve both trained for it, but we have one 24-mile day that will definitely be pushing our limits. I’m nervous and I’m excited and I’m already there in my mind. I’ve dreamed about doing this for a long time.

And what does any of this have to do with writing? Well, everything actually. I have two novellas and the another novel I have to walk. I’m just hoping 190 miles will be enough. And Holly, well she’s already a world traveller, so I expect her to acquit herself very well.

Today we drive to Cumbria.

Tomorrow…WE WALK!

 

A Very Long Walk for a Very Good Cause

Nick and Lucy stopping for lunch in East Texas

When Raymond was in the States in January, he sent me a link from the Monroe Louisiana paper about a couple who were walking across the US for charity. Being a walker, I was outrageously impressed, and knowing the lack of public footpaths and right aways for walkers, I knew that Nick and Lucy Russell were going to be facing some serious challenges. This lovely couple is sort of dear to my heart because not only are they taking on an amazing challenge for a great cause, but they’re from the UK! Well, I just had to email them. To my surprise and delight, they agreed to let their feet rest a bit while I interviewed them. And they even sent lots of cool piccies! Please welcome Nick and Lucy Russell, from somewhere in the deserts of West Texas.

Our starting point on the beach at Tybee Island

KD: Of all the things you might have done to raise money for charity, what inspired you to walk across the USA? Why this walk? Why this charity?

N&L: We disagree as to whose idea it was in the first place to walk across America. One of us originally suggested trying to walk across Russia (we only ever seem to take our holidays in Russia, for some odd reason), this was quickly dismissed as being far too difficult! So, America seemed a much shorter option in the end (ah for the benefit of hindsight).

KD:Could you give us a basic description of your route, from where to where? Why this

Pecan trees in the morning in Georgia

particular route? How long do you think it will take you?

N&L: We started out at Tybee Island (just east of Savannah, Georgia) and will (hopefully!) finish in San Diego, California. We chose a Southern route mainly because it allows us to avoid the colder weather further north and mountain ranges (it’s also a slightly shorter route, which is always welcome). It also takes us through parts of the country which we wouldn’t have otherwise visited. It should take us 6 months to complete…injuries and bad weather permitting!

KD: Tell us a bit about Nick and Lucy. Who are they now and who were they in their previous life (Before the walk began)?

Road sign for Hiway 80, which we followed the first 1000 miles

N&L: Neither of us were particularly keen walkers at all! We might go for a short walk round London on the weekend or whilst on holiday, but nothing more than that – so this represents a big change from our regular routine. We grew up in rural Lincolnshire, but both lived and worked in London for a few years before starting the walk (and are planning to return to do so again once done walking); Lucy for a charity and Nick as a civil servant. It was perhaps a case of finding something as different as possible from sitting behind a desk all day that prompted us to start walking.

KD: After months of walking, you must have your routine down by now. Could you tell us a bit about a day in the walking life of Lucy and Nick?

N&L:We generally start walking between 7.30 and 8.00am, when it starts to get light. An average day is usually 20 to 25 miles in all, although these distances are getting longer now the further west we head. We try and walk for about three to four hours in the morning before having our first rest; we find that if we stop beforehand, we’ll then need to stop every hour or so throughout the day. Talking to

A quieter road away from the main highway

each other really helps pass the time, as does listening to music; quieter days definitely drag much more than the ones which we can talk. We try and stock up on as many calories as we can whilst walking, so we survive on a pretty unhealthy diet of trail mix, protein bars and chocolate whilst walking. We then walk either to the nearest motel or, as has been the case more recently, until sunset and pitch our tent – then it’s time to collapse! Our routine has changed slightly over the past few days, we recently got a trailer to push our food, water and bags. This has taken a lot of weight off of our backs, which we’ve definitely enjoyed.

KD: What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to face in your walk so far?

N&L: Probably the boredom. When all you do each and every day is just walk, it can be difficult to get enthusiastic about doing it all over again the next day. That’s why we try and keep our minds a little occupied and not solely focused on walking.

KD: What has surprised you the most in your walk?

Our bridge across the mississippi and into louisiana

N&L: I think it’s how little parts of America are set up to facilitate walking. In many of the towns or cities we’ve been through, pavements are either missing, lead to nowhere, or in a state of disrepair. It’s a much more car focused country than we’re used to. This leads to us looking a little out of place at times when we try walking along roads which clearly weren’t designed for pedestrians!

KD: What have you enjoyed the most so far?

N&L: Probably the little things…like when it’s really hot and a car pulls over and hands you a cold drink, or a comfy bed and nice meal at the end of a long day (especially pecan pie, something we’ve really enjoyed). We’ve also had some really spectacular sunrises and sunsets along the way, which are always nice ways to begin or end the day.

KD: Do you feel this walk has significantly changed you as people? If so, in what way?

N&L: I think we’re still the same people as we were when we began; we’ve perhaps grown a little crazier, and have a greater appreciation of chairs and remaining sedentary, but we haven’t had any epiphanies as of yet! Given all the hospitality we’ve received along the way, it does make us think that we too should become nicer to strangers once we return – as people have been to us.

KD: How did you train for walking all the way across the US?

N&L:We both started walking into work, instead of taking the tube or bus. Lucy walked there and

Dallas, the biggest city on our route

back each day (around 8 miles), Nick’s walk in was around 5 miles. We also started doing some weekend walks around London, generally up to 20 miles in length (these were pretty tough going, too!). Finally, we went to the Peak District for a week, partially for a bit of a summer holiday, but also to get some more practice in. We definitely didn’t enjoy the hills!

KD: What have been your outstanding impressions of the America you are seeing as walkers and its people? What has been their response to a couple of Brits walking across the US?

N&L: We’ve been more taken aback by people’s support than anything else. We’ve been stopped on a near daily basis for people to offer us lifts (which we politely turn down, of course), food, water, kind words and even a place to stay for the evening. We’ve found that people are much more open here than in England, and much more willing to stop and offer help. When we get into what we’re doing, people think we’re a little crazy (and they wouldn’t be wrong), but always offer support. Our accents also make us stand out, especially compared to the Southern and Texan accents around us.

KD: Tell us a bit about the charity you are raising funds for and are there any ways we who aren’t walking can support you and keep track of your progress.

Setting up camp in the desert of West Texas

N&L: The charity we’re raising money for is close to our own hearts…as we set it up! It’s called The Pamir Trust and works in the remote Pamir region of Tajikistan (just north of Afghanistan), to support small scale community led development projects. We’re working with individual villages to identify what small projects we can support that will make a big difference to the village. We will then fund the project and let the village take it from there – after all, they know best! We wanted to set up the charity after visiting Tajikistan a couple of years ago and being humbled by the generosity of the people there, despite it being a very poor and remote corner of the world. There are more details on both the charity and the walk on our website, including where we are at the moment, www.walkamerica.co.uk. People can also follow us on Facebook
www.facebook.com/walkusa, Twitter @walkusa or donate through our fundraising page https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/walkamerica.

KD: Thanks for being my guests, Lucy and Nick. Wishing you a safe and interesting onward journey and much success with your fundraising efforts. You two are truly amazing!

 

Holly Goes Coast To Coast

Most of you know by now about the Where’s Holly contest running through the month of August. (check this link for details) I’ve asked you all to send me your photos of all the cool and interesting places you read your Holly, or even better yet, the ordinary places you read The Initiation of Ms Holly because anyone who has ever enjoyed reading a good book knows that the best thing about a good book is that it has the amazing ability to take us out of the ordinary and transport us into the extraordinary.

For writers, it’s no different. When we’re in the zone, when the Muse is with us, we are transported to extraordinary places in our imaginations, places we can’t wait to put down in words and share with other people.

My experience of writing The Initiation of Ms Holly was just such an experience, an experience that started in the dark in the Eurostar tunnel, and while I wasn’t going anywhere, my imagination was off and running, and a year later, Holly was born.

Starting the 8th of August, Raymond and I are setting out to walk the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path across England. This has been something we’ve dreamed about ever since we started walking seriously. So we’re very excited. It’s not just going to be the two of us though. That’s right. It’ll be a threesome, because Holly is going with us! I’ll be sending back reports as often as I have wi fi along with picture of just where Holly is as we walk the 190 miles across Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The first five days we’ll have lots of company, walking with a group of friends we often walk with in the Lake Disctrict, led by the amazing Brian Spencer and his equally amazing wife, Vron, who have been instrumental in my research for the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy. But the last nine days it’ll be just Raymond and Holly and me hoofing it across England.

The First Update:


 Now that the itinerary is set for B&Bs and the Coast to Coast is really going to happen, I’ve spent evenings pouring over the maps and studying the rout, getting butterflies in my stomach at anyplace I’m not clear on. And with moors and fells and ruins of mines and bogs and villages and farms and long stretches of open space, there are lots of places to be unclear on. Fortunately the C2C is a well-travelled walking trail, so we won’t be running the risk of falling off the edge of the earth, though we might occasionally run off the edge of the map. It’s by far the longest walk we’ve ever attempted on our own.

I’m confident in our navigation skills, and we’ve both trained for it, but we have one 24-mile day that will definitely be pushing our limits. I’m nervous and I’m excited and I’m already there in my mind. I’ve dreamed about doing this for a long time.

And what does any of this have to do with writing? Well, everything actually. I have two novellas and the another novel I have to walk. I’m just hoping 190 miles will be enough. And Holly, well she’s already a world traveller, so I expect her to acquit herself very well.

Today we drive to Cumbria.

Tomorrow…WE WALK!

 
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