Monday, 24 December 2012

And here's Rudolph Dogstarke


Missing from last post


But writes dog- gerel after too much Christmans spirit

'Twas the day before Christmas and out in the park

not a creature was stirring, no pals for Dogstarke.

She scampered around, a little downcast,

tail a bit droopy,but it didn't last.

For out of the gloom came Biscuit and Brora, followed behind by Hamish and Flora

then Staffordshire terriers, Mimi and Lola.

Here's Lucy, "come by Lass", there's Simpson and Hector,

and slightly aloof,portly old Victor.

All big doggy sniffs and wet doggy noses,

warm human handshakes, hip flasks and Roses.

The park is a muddle of mud,licks and cheer.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good year.


And woof,woof form Dogstarke





Saturday, 22 December 2012

And remembers some fondly

As the song says, "the weather outside is frightful ...and since we've no place to go" let's remember somewhere we've been.

Oban. Before the visit I only knew it from Alan Warner's Sopranos and the guide books weren't entirely complimentary so maybe not the best destination for a landmark birthday? The weather wasn't auspicious either as clouds gathered, but at least the Rest and be Thankful was open. Alt na Craig house proved to be a great find once we did. Lovely big room with a view over the harbour. Ah but the view, it was getting a bit less lovely as the clouds had followed us in. Dinner was booked at Coast, a nice walk into town, we were offered a taxi but declined, we also forgot the umbrella. Or rather we remembered the umbrella just a little too far on to make it seem worthwhile turning back. Then the rain started. Big plops, slowly at first but soon finding their stride. By the time we arrived at the restaurant I looked fresh from the shower. My mood wasn't the best, even after a session with the hot air blower in the bathroom. Poor Mr Starke, it was his birthday.

I needn't have worried, the food and surroundings cheered me up and we left to clear skies. Our walk back was much happier, even tho it was uphill. And so to bed.

Next day and for the rest of our stay, the sun shone. Perhaps the fairies came and looked kindly on us. When they do it's hard to believe there are more beautiful places than the west coast of Scotland.

On our trip to Kerrara did we disturb their more mischievous kin? We'd missed a turning on the path to Gylen castle and were resting enjoying the view, suddenly the sheep began to run as a huge hairy goat materialised. Alarmingly it ran towards us, sitting quite close to the cliff edge, over which it seemed to disappear. Was it my shakes that stopped me taking a picture? Later looking back to our perch from Gylen castle, no goats could be seen. Our nerves were settled by tea and cake from the Kerrara tearoom. There was even a puppy to play with ( no Dogstarke back then ).


Kerrara tearoom dog with one of her brood!

Exploring Oban we bought chocolate and whisky, scrambled around Dunollie castle tho' never made it up the hill to McCaig's tower and bought fresh fish on the seafront. Car free we sailed to Mull and visited Duart castle. Enjoying a dram outside we watched the Laird, his Lady and their dog brambling.

Duart castle chimneys


Back in town we ate well, never a bad meal in fact. And what could be better than delicious seafood from Ee-usk watching the lights of The Lord of the Isles coming in to dock? A Cal-Mac ferry has never before seemed so romantic.


View from the Mull ferry.

Then all too soon, time to go home. The long drive east. Through the rain.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

But will put up with a leaky roof from time to time.

This summer Mr Stark and I spent some time in Australia. Mostly we stayed in perfectly nice but unremarkable corporate type hotels but for Mr Starke's two actual holi-days we skipped away to a couple of quite different places.

First off to Lady Elliott Island Eco Resort, a tiny coral atoll at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef. Of course being an island we couldn't skip there, our early bird taxi took us out to Redcliffe airstrip where we made sure to avoid the sky divers' queue and boarded a 12 seater for our trip out to the island. Any cloud induced glumps lifted as they did and then disappeared completely as our pilot took us down to get a closer look at migrating whales and a first glimpse of our destination.

Not a terribly Eco way to travel but the only way to get there.

Now tight rubber isn't usually my thing particularly set off with fetching little ankle bootees but the fishes have probably seen worse and to be honest weren't likely to care. Me? I've never seen anything like them.

We signed up for a sunset cruise, Mr Starke wasn't that enthusiastic but there were snacks and fizz. And then there were whales...

Whales. Huge humpbacked whales. None of my photos do them justice. They were elegant and truly awesome. They knew we were there and could have flipped our boat but they just kept on doing their thing. I've rarely felt so small. Never in daylight. They swam around us and then away, the sun sank below the horizon and the birds flew home to roost. We returned for dinner and bed.

And so to the leaky roof. Our day on the island had been sunny and bright but night brought rain. Heavy,heavy rain. Imagine the scene, I'm lying in bed listening to the rain rattling on the iron roof, thinking my espadrilles left outside to dry would get wetter, but at least it would be fresh wetness. And then my goodness how suggestible am I? I'm listening to the rain and thinking my arm is feeling wet. My arm is feeling wet. Rain is dripping through the ceiling. It's only dripping through a tiny spot though and the bed is fairly big so I move to a drier bit and snuggle down again. Next morning all is dry even my espadrilles.

Don't assume the leaky roof means a rackety resort. Next day the staff were hugely apologetic but I didn't mind anyway. It's not a fancy place, there aren't butlers at your beck and call. The staff are friendly and helpful, meals are hearty but not fine dining and the rooms are comfortable and clean (mostly watertight!); there is one phone and one Internet access point but the modern world is not why you go. The luxury is in the surroundings, whether you snorkel, dive or simply laze around you're surrounded by nature, sometimes wet, sometimes noisy and messy (I'm thinking of the bird breeding season) but to be cherished and celebrated.



And what of our second stay? Well that one was nearer to conventional luxury. Spicers is a small up market brand and Spicers Balfour in Brisbane's trendy New Farm was certainly well appointed, with the requisite clean sheets, fluffy towels, cold and piping hot drinking waters on tap and all the technology you might ask for. But nice though these things undoubtedly are, they weren't the best thing about our stay. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed them but what made our stay memorable was the attitude of all the staff. Eager to help but not in your face and always,always friendly. There was no stuffiness and no disdain just a feeling of being in a very comfy and stylish home. My only regret was that we couldn't stay longer and just enjoy a little more of our surroundings.

Connecting, with people, with nature. That's the value of travel.

Now all I need is for Australia to move a little closer to Scotland and I'll be back in a flash.


(Mrs Starke does not like long haul flying but that's another story)


Saturday, 8 December 2012

And is having fun enjoying her own

No! Not like that. This is not a fifty shades of Starke. Just enjoying the loveliness of a freshly made bed. Not at the moment obvs, I'm not that lazy and Dogstarke precludes long lies these days. So fresh(ish) from a sleep in my own clean sheets I embarked on what has been the most expensive dog walk to date. No Dogstarke didn't misbehave, quite the opposite but lots of our lovely local shops and cafes are dog friendly. Add in vintage and craft fairs and there goes a fair wodge of cash. I can't even pretend that I've been buying Christmas gifts. No one but me is going to wake up on Christmas morning with an orange feathered hat in their stocking. Sorry GlamourPuss.


I did manage to pick up a couple of gifts, but will keep them secret, just in case......of course there were also the shoes,from our lovely independent (ooh Ruby Shoes) because shoes always fit. And after indulgent but dairy free hot chocolate( I'm blaming you The Chocolate Tree ) that may be an important factor in wardrobe choices later.

Mmmm could I flout the no hats with a frock after 6pm rule?


Thursday, 6 December 2012

And still manages to keep one

No not a reference to stealing hotel linens nor worse habits. It's a footballing analogy and due to another successful Louvre body swerve (mixed metaphors here, that would be the egg shaped ball game). Instead of the "place which must not be visited" we followed a sociable lunch with a long wait outside the "Paris seen by Hollywood " exhibition at the Hotel de Ville and a short time inside. More tiny clothes, this time belonging to Audrey Hepburn, but also some surprisingly large boots worn by Gene Kelly. He must have been fleet footed to avoid tripping over them! Interesting early film of Paris crowds, reminiscent of Caillebotte's "Rue de Paris - temps de pluie" at Musee d'Orsay.

After Friday night with friends, Saturday night dinner was just me and Mr Starke. We ate at Pramil, rue Vertbois 3e. Highly recommended. Again small and cosy but more polished than Thursday's choice. Pink lambs liver, delicious and no ill effects, take that Westminster Council.

Lazy Sunday morning, a last decadent breakfast and then a visit to the Musee de la Vie Romantique followed by our now traditional Sunday in Paris activity, a visit to a cemetery. Last visit it was the frozen Pere Lachaise where we paid our respects to Oscar Wilde.

(Pere Lachaise February 2012)


This time it was Cimetiere de Montmartre, patrolled by cats, and the (almost) last resting place of Zola, moved to the Pantheon in the '70's, and "la Goulue", Louise Weber, former Can-Can dancer at the Moulin Rouge.


Bypassing the place of her triumph, besieged by coach loads at Sunday lunchtime, we preferred to emulate her nickname with a long lunch at the beautiful brasserie Mollard opposite Gare St Lazare. It's an historic monument, officially because of the gorgeous art nouveau decor, but should be for its platters of seafood, lunches en famille and traditional hierarchies of busy waiters - only the maitre d' finishing off the crepes Suzette and lobster.

Then back down to earth with a bump. The Gard du Nord and the RER to CDG. And over that journey I'll draw a veil.