Bletchley Park, home of the WWII code breakers

We drove to Bletchley Park, north of London, to visit Bletchley Park. The tourist information said “allow 4 hours” and when I see estimates I generally think “ok, we’ll be done in an hour or two” but no, we were there 4 hours and didn’t see all of it. Our passes are good for 12 months so if we do return we can take more time. Because we spent so much time in the museum I missed the computer museum, located in the same grounds. Bletchley Park was a stately home taken over by the government to house the top secret code breaking effort. Huts erected in the grounds served as the offices for the team and they’re under renovation to recreate their look during WWII.

The site includes equipment used by the code breakers and a description of the tools and methods they used. There are short videos and audio recordings at various points. The museum is spread over multiple huts so be prepared to walk outdoors as you make your way around. In one of the huts there was a small exhibit dedicated to carrier pigeons, used to send messages from the front lines in Europe, some even making the long journey back to the UK.


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13th May Fuente Álamo Triathlon: Puerto de Mazarrón to Fuente Álamo

Last Saturday was the 28th running of this triathlon. We’re in Puerto de Mazarron for 3 weeks and are renting an apartment on the paseo. We’d heard rumours that the event was taking place but no real information.

On Friday morning the “no parking, 2 day event” signs appeared on the parking spaces close by, where our car was parked and workers began unloading all manner of equipment, barriers, carpets etc onto the paseo parking lot and started fencing off the area.

We managed a quick grocery run in the morning and parked a couple of spaces down, past the upcoming tow away zone. That was it for Friday.

After a lengthy determined web search I did manage to find some information: the swim, 750m, starting point was further down the paseo; the transition stage from swim to the 25k bike ride was directly opposite us and the final segment, a 5k run was inland in Fuente Alamo.

Early Saturday morning the area was transformed as workers and volunteers descended to build barriers, bike stands, and all the needed infrastructure ready for the 4:30pm start. We could confirm the PA system worked perfectly and the music came across loud and clear (inside our apartment I kept thinking “I must turn the volume down so I don’t disturb the neighbours” then remembering it wasn’t me making the noise).

Then just before lunch contestants started arriving and the staging area began filling with bikes. I believe they expected around 700 participants, including some foreign entrants.

You could feel the excitement build as the start time approached. From our balcony vantage point we had a perfect view of the swim stage end / bike stage start.

Then it was 4:30 and the race was underway. The published time in the local news said 4:30-6, which I thought was not a lot of time for 700 people to complete the race. It turned out this time was just for the staggered start as the swimmers were staged into several groups.

And they were off!


Out and around the markers in the bay and ashore at the transition stage

And then they were gone. Several hours later the road was open and there was no indication that anything had taken place. The entire event was organised and managed with perfect precision.

We had a perfect view and we thoroughly enjoyed watching all the proceedings and the first stage of the race.

But I’ve no idea who won; maybe something will pop up online if I look hard enough.

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Puerto de Mazarron – our second visit

We’re back in Puerto de Mazarron for a few weeks. This time we’re renting an apartment on the paseo overlooking the sea. The Costa Calida has a rugged coastline with many bays and natural harbours. The area around Puerto de Mazarron is steeped in history, going back to Phoenician times and beyond. Evidence of Roman occupation is still very much in evidence.

Although there are many expatriate residents here, the region is quieter than the other Costas and there are fewer high-rise blocks overlooking the ocean. Out of season Puerto de Mazarron is more laid-back and the atmosphere is relaxed. Weather so far during our March-May stay has been generally good and we do see the average temperature rising. The sea temperature is also rising so a dip in the sea is not so breathtaking in May as it was in April.

The town of Mazarron is a 20-minute drive from the port and was a mining centre. The port is small and compact with many narrow streets and a challenging one way system for motorists. Many restaurants and cafes line the Paseo, all offering the obligatory Menu del Dia, which varies in price depending on the day and month. We’ve seen it rise from €8 on a weekday in March to an average of €10 on weekdays now in May, rising to €13-15 on some weekends. These set course meals are always good value with 3 courses plus a drink and dessert.

There are many bays and sandy beaches along the coast from the port, the nearest ones in walking distance but you need transport, car or bike, to get to the more isolated ones.

The region is renowned for its tomatoes and seems to be a fertile growing area for all manner of fruit and vegetables.

Away from the port the nearest large towns are Cartagena and Murcia, both within 30 or 40 minutes’ drive. Cartagena is rich in Roman history and is a beautiful city to visit, with a busy pedestrian-only shopping area and a large marina. It has rail links to the rest of Spain and beyond. The nearest airport is Murcia San Javier, a small airport semi-military with limited flights. Alicante, about 1.5 hours’ drive, is the nearest major airport.

We came here initially for a 4-week visit, enjoyed it so much that we’re back for another 3 weeks, and are considering a longer stay next year.

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Morning in Bibury, Cotswolds

We thought we’d spend a quiet couple of hours exploring Bibury in the north Cotswolds. It’s a very very small village with a couple of pubs & restaurants, a shop, a church and a trout farm. 

We arrived just as 4 coach loads of Tourists With Cameras appeared, much to the apparent dismay of a local (if I put my head underwater maybe they’ll go away) swan.

Arlington Row, Bibury

And a lone black swan on the river

A bit further along the street all was peace and tranquility 

Then off to Cirencester, 20 minutes away,  in time for lunch and a brief musical interlude

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Rhydspence Inn

“Mind the step” she said. We spent a night in the Rhydspence Inn a few miles from Hay-on-Wye. It’s a 14th century inn with lovely views over the countryside to England, the other side of the river Wye. 
Apparently people in the 14th century were a tad shorter than today. So, heeding the “mind the step” warning as we entered our room, I neglected to look up, only doing so when I walked into the door lintel. Not content to do it once, I had several more reminders that the door frame was only 5′ 6″ tall. But I didn’t once trip over the step.

Our bedroom was magnificent, all oak beams and a 4-poster bed.

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Hay-on-Wye – books, books, and more books

We visited Hay-on-Wye, home, I think,  of the UKs largest annual book festival. If you want a book, any book, new, old, vintage, this is the place to go. 
But if you’re looking for a specific title be prepared to spend a month or two scouring every shelf in every shop – I think there are around 20 book shops within a radius of a couple of square miles. Each shop has multiple small rooms, each room stacked floor to ceiling with overloaded shelves.

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In England for A Bit of a Do

We’re in Stonehouse, Glos., for a wedding. The location was a country house repurposed for weddings and events. It was a Sunday afternoon so our GPS decided to take us via the longer pretty route. 

With less than a mile to go we were directed off the main road onto a side street that turned almost immediately into a narrow canal towpath. Helpfully, the GPS said we were 6 minutes’ walk away, apparently forgetting we were in a car. 

After a noisy 9-point turn, surprising the lone fisherman enjoying a quiet afternoon on the canal bank, we made it back to the main road and found our way to our destination with time to spare.

The en-suite in our room had a wonderful bathroom with an equally wonderful view

It appears the official wedding photographer was also impressed with the view from our bathroom window 

The Master of Ceremonies, meanwhile, started the proceedings in great style. Ceremonial Sword in one hand and bottle of champagne in the other, he sliced the cork off the bottle. It flew across the room and was caught in a white towel held by the guest on the other side of the room.

In the picture you can see the cork mid-flight halfway up the rightmost curtain

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