Monday, May 30, 2011

Eastbourne and Beachy Head

When we received our travel guide for England earlier this year we were immediately smitten with the picture on the cover.  After some research we discovered that the picture was of Beachy Head and that it was located only a short 1.5 hours south of London, just outside the resort town of Eastbourne.  Yesterday morning we headed south via rail towards Eastbourne for our first English ramble.

We arrived just after 1pm and headed straight for the beach, our first experience of an English seafront.  Fully equipped with Victorian era attractions including pier and bandstand, Eastbourne is adorable.  The pebble beach, common in England, looked completely uncomfortable but absolutely charming.  I'm not sure if we would lounge on that beach but the pebbles certainly made the scene super picturesque.

At the beach we headed west towards the trail head, following a lovely beach side path out of town.  The trail head is at the base of a steep hill and the wind started to pick up almost instantly upon gaining a bit of elevation.  We wound up battling an intense headwind throughout our ramble and, though we wanted to continue to Seven Sisters, a series of hills west of Beachy Head along the chalk cliffs, we turned around after about a mile.  Although the scenery and views were gorgeous (we've never encountered 'chalk cliffs' before) and well worth the effort, the wind was proving a time-consuming battle and we had a train to catch.

Overall, our ramble was probably only about 5-6 miles (Beachy Head is 1.5 miles outside of town).  We started our walk at around 2pm and were back in Eastbourne around 6:30pm, tired and hungry.  The initial elevation gain was steep and the trail follows rolling hills along the cliff side, providing many similar ascents (and descents) throughout.  I'd say the trail was of moderate difficulty.

We hope to return sometime this summer for another attempt at Seven Sisters.  The area was stunning, even on our windy and miserable day, and I'd love to see it on a sunny summer's day.  Perhaps when we venture to Eastbourne's more popular neighbour, Brighton, later this summer we'll attempt to tackle the girls again?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sóller to Deià

The only place in Mallorca 1,000 Places To See Before You Die mentions is a hotel in Deià, a small town on the north side of the island.  The book also mentions that 'an old mule track provides a delightful three-hour trek through mountainside lemon and olive groves to the nearby village of Sóller' and, although we have no interest in going out of our way to see a posh hotel, a 'delightful three-hour trek' has our names written all over it.

On Day Nine of our recent trip to Mallorca we awoke early to catch the morning bus to Sóller from Port d'Alcudia, an almost three-hour trek all of its own.  Weaving through the mountains and occasionally stopping in adorable little hamlet villages to drop off or pick up backpackers and/or locals, the drive provided us with amazing vistas of the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.  The drive was breathtaking.

We arrived in Sóller just before noon and were almost instantly smitten with our surroundings.  Situated gorgeously in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, Sóller is a delicious little town and, although it possesses a few tourist attractions (a scenic train to Palma (€10/€17), a trolley to the port area (€4), etc.), Sóller felt very authentic and we loved every bit of it.  If we ever go back to Mallorca, Sóller is where we'd like to stay.

Our plan upon arriving in Sóller was to promptly begin our hike to Deià and then grab the bus back to Sóller in time for the last scenic train to Palma at 6:30pm.  We did linger in Sóller for a bit longer than originally planned but, after getting our instructions from the tourist information outlet and finding the train station, we made our way to the trailhead without further delay.

The 'old mule track' was very well maintained and of moderate difficulty.  The picturesque tiered olive groves and occasional views of the Med beyond the jagged mountain peaks made the effort worthwhile by themselves and, accompanied by the sounds of bells around the necks of grazing sheep, this truly was an idyllic experience.

Although we highly recommend this hike we would not recommend it during peak season.  Our experience would've been vastly different had it been crowded and the trail, at times quite narrow, is not meant for high occupancy.

Due to our excessive picture taking, the walk took us almost four hours to complete, which meant we didn't have any time to spend in Deià before catching the bus back to Sóller.  But, from what little we saw of Deià and the posh hotel mentioned in my book we don't think we missed much and were happy to get back to Sóller.

Our excursion from Sóller to Deià, including the morning bus ride from Port d'Alcudia, had been a perfect way to spend the day and remains the highlight of our three weeks on Mallorca.


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