ROAD TRIP NEW ZEALAND. Monday 21st January 2019 FINALLY! After 16 weeks based in Auckland with the occasional side trips to some beautiful northland areas and visits to family and friends we packed up the car and waved Auckland goodbye as we headed South on our no plans road trip. The new owners of Matipo Road the old Shaw family home since 1956 take possession this week and start their redecorating. We look forward to catching up with them on our return to Auckland to see what they’ve achieved. Meanwhile we are going to let go of all the stress of cleaning out the house and saying goodbye to the property where lots of memories were made and enjoy seeing more of this beautiful country. After leaving Auckland our first stop was Waihi for James to fuel up his belly and I bought some 3/4 pants which are nice and lightK fo trip. Waihi is a cute old town with enough going on to make it a place I’m sure people enjoy living ,there. A quick stop off to my niece in Welcome Bay to gift a punch bowl set we headed on to Whakatane for our first night stop. $99 for the night got us a clean double room with en-suite at The Whakatane hotel in the Main Street. Complete with shared kitchen facilities, laundry and comfortable lounge area with outdoor seating we felt we did ok. Dinner will be bbq chicken, salad and rolls we bought at countdown. Got to use these facilities when we have them. Over the next days we traveled the coastline as much as we could stopping for a night in Hicks Bay at the hotel there. Gisborne in a bnb run by two gorgeous older men with lots of little home made treats and luxury aircon. Napier in another bnb and from which we were able to visit my sister in law Jan and her partner Alan in Taradale. The scenery was great particularly from Hicks bay to Gisborne. We arrived into Wellington early evening on the Friday and decided to book for three nights and take the ferry to Picton on the Monday morning. We lucked in getting a studio in The Terrace, right in the cbd. A pleasant walk to the waterfront for pizza and a bottle of red wine. A treat as we had been cooking wherever we were at which sometimes was as basic as two minute noodles at Hicks bay when after taking the coast and walking up the East Cape lighthouse we were too late back for takeaway shop or general store. Our first full day in Wellington was spent at Te Papa museum. After going through the Gallipoli exhibition and New Zealand’s migration and indigenous peoples history we were thrilled to have purchased tickets for their exhibition of The Terricotta warriors from China. The next day started rainy and overcast so we headed up the Coast after doing a reconnaissance for the ferry next morning to Paraparaumu to The Southward car museum. We also visited a few of the old haunts from the days I had lived there back in the mid 80’s. Before we knew it we had been gone from Auckland a week and were lining the car up at the wharf to drive on and start our South Island adventure. It was an early start to be on the wharf by 7 pm and after a lovely crossing we arrived at Picton around 11:30. We decided to drive towards Nelson which we did and after a late but substantial lunch began heading towards Takaka a lovely town with a hippy feel about it and found a great bnb run by a couple originally from Belgium. They have been living in NZ for seven years and have put together a lovely homestay experience, including spa tubs, indoor pool and sauna. Although we didn’t hear many voices during the evening there were quite a few in the kitchen/dining/ living room to enjoy breakfast the next day. Surprisingly most visitors were from Germany or The Netherlands and it was completely coincidental. Not one had booked knowing that the hosts would be able to communicate in German/Dutch With them. After our breakfast and our first full day in the South Island to look forward to we drove towards Cape Farewell and after a few lookout stops we decided the heat was just too much to go trekking out in the full sun and ventured back to Puru springs to walk a short spin in the bush and check out these beautiful clear water springs. We started driving towards Westport when I saw a sign showing St Arnaud was not far off the track. I remembered how beautiful it was from when I had visited many years ago and so we ventured there and weren’t disappointed. We decided to look for accommodation in the town and found a ski lodge that takes bookings all year round and run like a backpackers. Super clean and great facilities. The next morning we drove up Mount Robert to take in the views of lake Rotoiti and took a walk up one of the tracks through the Forrest before heading back towards Westport. We made quite a few stops to view gaze and happily made Westport early afternoon and snagged a great room at the Tripinn backpackers for two nights. What a lovely room in this old historical mansion with en-suite for $100 a night. We headed off to Tauranga Bay and the seal colony during the drive the road and coast was covered in a sea mist and when we arrived we couldn’t see the beach to start with, but as we walked it cleared into a beautiful afternoon with great views and incredible ocean waves crashing on rocks and lots of NZ fur seals lounging around then braving the waves and sea to head off oozing for their dinner. We walked towards the lighthouse and back before heading back to town to shop for supplies and cooking risotto in the large shared kitchen. Our room was everything we expected, comfortable, roomy and we were delighted that it was also very quiet. There was a 9pm curfew for drinking and all quiet after 10:30pm. I think most we tired travellers whom were glad for a good bed and early night. The next day we headed to Karamea and onto The Oparara Basin where you walk through the native bush to either the Oparara caves or the Moria Gate Arch. Both fabulous walks and sites. We planned to head to Dennison and old mining town and great view point but the sea mist which had cleared briefly was back, but with over 100 kms back to Westport and 16 kms on gravel to start we weren’t home much before 7pm and with the kitchen in full action we’re glad we were heating up leftover risotto only. The next morning was Friday February the first and we packed up the car and headed towards Greymouth stopping at quite a few lookouts along the way to check out the Wild West Coast in all its wind swept glory including perpendicular point. A couple of walks down to beaches and then onto Punakaiki tavern for coffee and out onto Punakaiki coastal walk to view the pancake rocks and blowhole. This area lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park and was fantastic. Especially on such a wild day. We headed into Greymouth but the weather had turned to heavy rain and so after heading to a cafe for lunch decided against visiting The Shanty town attraction with its gold mining history and head into Hokitika where we picked up a cottage for the night on Airbnb. Pretty nice to have a whole house to ourselves and three bedrooms to choose from. Old home but we’ll set up for travellers and we cooked a lamb roast for dinner. The weather actually fined up later in the day but was so late in the afternoon that it wasn’t worth going out and we used to the time to relax. Saturday the 2nd February saw us heading to Hokitika Gorge for a walk to see what is normally Turquoise waters but after the rain more milky but still pretty. We got back on the highway and headed tonRoss a historic gold rush town and stopped for lunch before making our way towards Franz Joseph Glacier where we headed in for the one and a half hour walk. I was devastated to see how much the glacier had receded since we took the kids there in 1996. Unbelievable really sad. We headed on towards the Fox glacier area where we booked a hotel for the night. Spent the evening looking and booking accommodation for our three nights in Singapore in April. Once we have confirmed bookings with Andrew and Jett for their arrival in May will book those too. Always something to plan and sort out to keep the travel plans in action. Our Sunday turned into a marathon of walks all the way to Wanaka. Lookouts, walk around Lake Mathieson and The blue pools saw us head into Wanaka later than we normally do and with few accommodation options ended up in a hotel near the golf course which did have kitchen facilities so we saved again cooking at home. Monday we had a walk around the town centre and then a drive around the lake before driving on to Cromwell where we had booked two nights due to costs and low availability in Queenstown. Actually this ended up being one of our best rentals. Really decent sized studio with free laundry services and decent sized kitchen bench and brand new bbq outside. Again we cooked both nights here and even froze a meal to take on with us to Te Anau to heat through in our electric frypan. Our day in Queenstown was enjoyable from the walk round the lake, walking through the town, which had grown exponentially since I was last here, and a great view from up the gondola. Again pricing kept us moving on but not to anywhere cheaper, Te Anau was probably the most expensive we had paid so far and not that awesome but was a really great location right in town and right across the road for our pick up by coach on the Thursday down to Milford Sound and cruise. Nice for James to have a rest from driving and it was a very pleasant day. Not much in the way of waterfalls as it’s been dry here for a few days but the scenery all day wasn’t too hard to take. What we did like is that the coach had a glass roof and really large picture windows on side of coach. We’ll set up for everyone to see maximum views on the trip. Great coach driver/ orator as well. We went with Go Orange. The next day we spent on a tour of Doubtful sound. Attractive scenery once again and met some lovely travellers whom were great to share the day with Katherine from Singapore travelling solo and Tammy and Louise driving around in Big Bertha their massive rental campervan. Thanks girls you made a great day even better. After getting off the tour we had booked a night at Mossburn old railway hotel less than 100 klms on so with an easy drive and comfortable accommodation, great in-house restaurant and pleasant staff we were very happy campers. Our next stop was a backpackers in invercargill on the Burt Munro weekend. The town was full of bikers and lots of events to keep them happy. With so many great cafes, interesting buildings and lots of motorcycle shops and paraphernalia James was in his happy place and I left him at the motorcycle museum and headed off for a well overdue haircut. We had organised a catch up with Christel and Paul Raynes at their beautiful home and enjoyed a wonderful evening. It’s so special when travelling to have these visits with people that you know to give life a little bit of a normality and make you feel connected with your family and friends. The next day craving a little rest from touring we headed to Riverton a coastal town not far from invercargill for two nights. We had chosen a bed and breakfast in an old two story home run by Barry and Sue who turned out to be quite the odd couple but very hospitable. Barry was the host listed but it was Sue doing all the work while Barry who had quite the eccentric personality was off ice skating or riding his bike while Sue did all the running of the house between them they had 12 grown children! One great thing about our accommodation was that we had a DVD tv and as I had never watched The worlds fastest Indian, the movie about Burt Munro and his landspeed record was great that they had it here in their collection so spent an evening sitting up in bed watching it. Anyway Riverton and the surrounding areas were beautiful and we really enjoyed our little trips to the different beaches around the area. The One day we kept on running into this one couple Sharon and Steve from England but like us are just travelling the world. We ended up sharing a bottle of wine at Orepuke cafe after they popped in knowing that was where we were headed next. It was delightful company and we hope to meet them somewhere else in this big wide world. On our way back into Riverton we decided to go to the town to check out dinner options when as we come to the bridge we see lots of people looking over the bridge railings so as James drove the car I stuck my head out to see what they were looking at to find it was a big school of bottlenose dolphins. Well they entertained everyone for about an hour as they made their way slowly out of the estuary, leaping and showing off in such a marvellous display. How wonderful it always is to see these magnificent creatures and the joy it brings to all who witness them. Our next journey was taking us onto Dunedin and having found some accommodation in the city we were able to easy walk around seeing all the beautiful preserved buildings of yesteryear. Including the gorgeous Dunedin railway station where we booked a trip on the Taieri gorge trip for the next day at 2:30, this would allow us to get up early and arrive at Larnach castle to get the early arrival special. Having contacted one of my dearest friends from childhood we caught up with Karen after she finished work at around 8:30 pm for drinks, quite a few drinks actually. But it was great to see her after too many years and she even called the next evening just as we were arriving funnily at the same bar for dinner and headed over to see us again. Awesome!. Sooo after our quite a few drinks that first night it seemed we didn’t feel quite as cheerful about getting up early the next day, BUT we did and so glad as the scenery along the way was out of this world. Sea mists of long white cloud enveloped the hills around Dunedin and with the spectacular waterways and mountains was jaw dropping. Larnach castle was gorgeous, so much restoration done and still going on. What a labour of love and devotion by the Barker family whom bought it in a rundown state and lived there while bringing it back to life. No small undertaking. Boy what a sad story the original family have. For all their wealth and community standing they either died young, killed themselves or bickered over the money. Our afternoon train ride couldn’t have been better timed as we headed back to our hotel from the castle for a rest and lunch before we needed to walk down to catch our train. Five hours of diverse scenery, outstanding building feats to make this rail journey possible to move goods throughout the Otago and beyond area. More unbelievable was that we were allowed to stand out on the open areas between carriages to take photos etc even over the viaducts with over 100 feet drops. The staff are fantastic and a real credit to the company. Making sure everyone had as enjoyable time as possible. Then a few more drinks with Karen afterwards topped off a Grand day. After checking out on Valentine’s Day we headed towards port Chalmers and were delighted at what a gorgeous little town it was. The port was operating moving containers, the Majestic Princess was in dock as well and with the fabulous lookouts around the town and a cemetery with a great view as well it was a lovely stop. One lady taking her grandson to look at the wharf action from one of the lookouts said it’s like watching a toy town and that’s exactly what it was like. The gloom had set in low clouds and drizzle which later became rain, but, it didn’t dampen our enjoyment of our trip up the coast.stopping at Morekai on Karen’s suggestion took us to the lighthouse and the unexpected seal colony. First there were signs and fences then next thing we’re in a large open area full of seals lying around while their fellow seals wandered around on rocks below and some swimming. We even spotted a penguin swimming. What a highlight. Best was everyone there was respectful and just loving it. Really fantastic. We stopped at Hampden town for some world famous fish and Makikihi potatoes made into chips no they weren’t lying they really were that good. We drove into Oamaru and after a look around town and drive and coastal walk decided we would find accommodation here for the night. This town has so many incredible Victorian buildings and a real quirky feel. Certainly worth a look. Ps happy Valentine’s Day. Time the next day to take the trip inland to Tekapo and the gorgeous turquoise lakes. On the way the scenery was once again stunning with several stops for photos including several dams. Then just before we got to the lake we came to Tekapo airport with signs offering scenic flights, having already enquired at another airport and been put on a list we decided to take the opportunity when it was available and had a fantastic flight over Lake Tekapo and Tasman, Fox ,Franz Joseph glaciers and a close up look at Mount Cook. What a treat. Lake Tekapo didn’t disappoint but unfortunately the church of the good shepherd was overrun with tourists and a take no photo policy that wasn’t there last time. On to Timaru and a lovely overnight stay in a semi backpackers in another grand old home. The next day we were disappointed that we missed catching up with our relatives Nadine and Stephen from Darwin by perhaps an hour but luckily we will see them in April in their home town. We had made arrangements with Diana and her dad Rudi in Christchurch that we would stop and stay with them from Sunday. We met them on our 2017 world cruise and caught up with Diana and partner Frank when they were in Auckland earlier in our NZ stay. We were looking forward to spending some relaxed time with them even though Diana was working long hours at this time of the year. Anyway we started making our way towards Christchurch on the Saturday and at Ashburton a campervan show had us pulling over and paying the $5 admission to see what was on offer. This was quite a cool concept, there were new camper and caravans on display but also people were able to display and sell their own second hand ones. This gave way to a huge array of all styles, tastes and vintages and was a very entertaining wander. Stayed the night in a not so glamorous side of town but was brand new and quite well appointed. Sunday morning saw us off to visit Roz and Russ from our 2010 Cosmos tour, unfortunately Russ suffered a stroke late December and although looking great still getting tired after an hour or so. We didn’t, we hope over stay our welcome but it was fantastic to see them both and look through their new home. Great taste and after building something new decided to sell all their old furnishings and buy new. They could get a job styling show homes. Just lovely to see them. Onto Diana’s and Rudi’s to settle in for a few days. But we did go into the city gardens to watch the last of the summer free Sunday concerts. We met Frank there and with such a lovely venue and sunny afternoon no one went home disappointed. After a rest it was time to venture out to dinner at one of the best Thai restaurants I’d been to. We met Rudi’s other daughter Leonie, her husband Graeme and one of their sons Scott there to share the delicious meal. Thanks Rudi for shouting us all it was very kind. Monday bought more good weather and James and I headed into the cbd which from Diana’s is very close. After visiting the information centre we took the tram tour brochure and just walked it’s route. It’s an easy city to walk in as it’s all flat and I don’t mean that as a funny since it’s still recovering after been knocked ‘flat’ by several earthquakes. A lot of rebuilding has happened and lots taking place. Hopefully they will use this opportunity to build some significantly interesting places as a few looked awfully like dark boxes. We had a few good stops, one for coffee one for a lie down under a tree in the botanical gardens and one for lunch at the RSA. There are some great places to see and the Avon river running through adds something tranquil that lots of cities don’t have and still offering punt rides on the river quite charming. There are surprisingly a lot of very old structures that stood up to the earthquakes so still lots of historical buildings surrounding the new. Definitely worth taking the time to walk the city centre or take the tram tour if times an issue. Tuesday Rudi came with us as James drove Rudi’s flash motor to Akaroa. A place early family of mine had settled at when they first came from Denmark. The drive was scenic as it’s all volcanic and lots of beautiful bays as well as grazing hills. Akaroa was delightful and I’d like to go stay a few nights to fully enjoy its charms. It’s a Mecca for the tourist crowd and coincidentally the port of the day for the ship Columbus on its 2019 world cruise. The ship we sailed on last year for ten weeks of its 2018 world cruise. Of course we did run into two couples who had been on it last year and they thought about 60 repeat world cruisers from the year before. Young Leigh whom was part of the entertainment crew last year came past and he’s now the entertainment director. He didn’t look quite as fresh as he did last year. Another lovely drive home through lyttelton and it’s tunnel and it was rest time before sharing the evening with Diana. Wednesday saw us have a relaxing day at Diana’s catching up on our housekeeping administration and James had the car booked in to have the brakes checked to make sure all good for our journey back to Auckland. A lovely evening again with Frank joining us for a few hours and Rudi also coming in for dinner. It was a treat to relax for so many days in one spot and just as well as the next day we headed off thinking we’d probably take three days to get up to Picton. As it turned out we headed to Hanmer springs had a little lunch break there and not interested in doing the adventure thing or soaking in the hot pools on a warm summer day moved on back towards the coast and headed into Kaikoura where we were keen to stop and stay. Unfortunately no accommodation available so we drove on to Blenheim but not before enjoying watching a huge pod of dolphins having fun just off the beach. They were the most playful either of us have ever seen dolphins before. Literally doing 360deg flips and huge leaps. Was absolutely spellbinding and such a treat. We also stopped on the way further north to watch the seals. Sooo sooo many of them and lots of babies as well. They were vocal and entertaining as they waddled along, some having little fights, some swimming some just relaxing but really great. We got an upgrade from the hotel we booked in Blenheim to a really large studio apartment which meant we were also able to cook there as well. So we decided to book the ferry back to the North Island and call it time on our trip around the South Island. Headed into Picton early so stopped for coffee outside a cafe when who’s voice should we hear, none other than Duncan from our 2017 world cruise and consequent catch ups in Hong Kong, Auckland and their home in Opua in the bay of Islands. Soon Angela his lovely wife joined in the reunion and none of us could believe we had run into each other so randomly. What a great surprise and laugh. Wonder where we’ll next meet up? Finally snaring some accommodation in Wellington we were able to board the Interislander ferry with confidence that we wouldn’t have to drive for hours after disembarking to find a bed for the night. So long South Island it’s been another fabulous part of our road trip. HIGHLIGHTS WERE, obviously catching up with friends and making new ones makes the experience greater, but also the diverse scenery and wildlife feature big on our memories. The gorgeous towns we drove through that have retained their old heritage buildings and charm. Our flight over the glaciers and Lake Tekapo a big highlight. Milford and Doubtful sound we’re lovely day trips. The pancake rocks at Punakaiki, and the fact there are so many wonderful places just off the road to see and enjoy. The dolphins at both Riverton and Kaikoura plus all the seals we stumbled upon. The amazing forests and native bushwalks, and apart from the occasional rain we had a very good run with the weather. Let’s see what our trip up the West Coast of North Island, through the forgotten highway and up through Taupo etc brings.

SPAIN 2019 August 27th- October 27th PART ONE.

Whenever you travel by plane it’s an all day write off and our day leaving the UK for Spain was no different.

Wake up to our once again delicious full English at The Grange Guesthouse in Ealing, final packing or rather squashing in so that our bags fit the regulation two carry on bags. Drive to the car hire drop off, take shuttle to Heathrow airport, take bus to Gatwick airport, flight delayed, take flight to Alicante, go to hire car, blah blah blah with them, check out car in the dark, photograph all scratches, dents etc, take back to car hire office, then drive to hotel on the European side of the road, check in, get food, crash out.

First full day we drive to Benidorm to the cheapest, not complete dump hotel and are pleasantly surprised at how nice it actually is, both hotel and Benidorm.

We are a fair walk down to the seafront etc, but we had a good long explore and were surprised by a few things we hadn’t seen before like tandem mobility scooters!

There were heaps of shoe shops, restaurants, sunshine, people, umbrellas for as far as you could sea and a pretty relaxed vibe.

Back at the hotel we opted for staying there for dinner and had a decent meal. Met a lovely couple from the UK, whom we then ran into a few times at breakfast and hopefully we’ll catch up with them next year in the UK.

We were going to spend only one night there but as the pricing was great we opted for another night and drove off to El Castell de Guadalest. What a lovely drive to the mountains and stunning vistas from the lovely town.

Really enjoyed it.

This was a great trip for James to get comfortable with driving as not busy and he also had to navigate the incredible amount of roundabouts. I’m really impressed.

That evening we walked into the old town and had a lovely dinner over looking the length of the beach from the terrace of the restaurant. A lovely stroll along the waterfront then back to our hotel.

We’re already acclimatising to the Spanish lifestyle as we always do and not having to check out till noon helps tremendously with not having dinner till at least 9 pm at night and we have never minded an afternoon siesta.

After two nights staying in Benidorm we booked a hotel not far away in Albir. But before heading there we took a drive to Denia. The town and beach didn’t really float our boat but we had a nice lunch then drove to our cheap but again comfortable and clean hotel.

This one turned out to be a closer walk to the waterfront and we were really impressed. Lovely boardwalk, bars and restaurants, so stopped for a couple of pre dinner drinks and people watching before finding a lovely Italian restaurant for a delicious meal and with a glass of wine that was the largest glass of wine I’ve ever been served and very drinkable for €1.50!!

A really lovely evening.

What a delightful surprise breakfast was. Fresh, fresh, fresh, bread, pastries, fruits, eggs, bacon etc and also including the little yoghurt drinks and a decent coffee machine.

There was a nice pool area which we made use of later in the day after we took a trip to Calp another lovely seaside holiday spot with a fantastic waterfront and after a good walk we were able to enjoy a very tasty and affordable lunch overlooking the esplanade and beach.

On the way home we had a quick look at the beach closest to us Aleta, but the wind had come up and it was a pebble beach so decided to head back to the comfort of a sun lounger in the shade pool side where of course you can also order a beer.

Once again we walked into the heart of the town for dinner and enjoying our meal the night before and the generous drinks- opted to go straight to the restaurant just after 9 pm, the night before we had arrived at 10 pm. See what I mean about living the Spanish lifestyle.

Both nights we had met lovely people to chat with either while having a drink at the bar or sitting next to us at dinner.

Sunday September 1st saw us pack up the car and head towards Villajoyosa a lovely colourful beach town that we had visited on our 2015 tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

After a stroll along the promenade we hopped in our car for our last leg to arrive at Cabo Roig to our friend Paula’s home where we are going to stay till late October. This was a wonderful offer by Paula last year on the cruise where we met and we quickly took it up as an opportunity to immerse ourselves into the expat life on the Costa Blanca.

A very warm welcome from Paula and her little friend Dolly the cute dog she was sitting.

After looking at all the houses on A place on the sun tv show we were not expected to arrive at such a generous sized home and grounds. Not only that but it’s very close to the large town centre with lots of shops and services. A great location for the European expat community. Not only that but she has her own swimming pool and there’s also a communal one too.

Paula had dinner organised for that evening and also on Monday night.

Monday saw us go on a Paula tour of the local area and the chance to get a SIM card for our phone sorted.

Wednesday we caught up with Pat, a lovely coffee out and lunch back at Paula’s and will be seeing her and Derek again on Friday when the whole gang get together for lunch.

It was a day of visits with little Dolly being picked up by her mum and later Eileen popping in. The evening was a lovely Chinese restaurant meal where Paula’s gang meet every Wednesday night and have done so for years.

We got a very warm welcome and what a bargain meal. €9 each which included a tip got us a drink( beer, wine,water,soft drink) a starter, main, desert and a liquor to finish!

Great company and an invite to join them again.

Friday saw the gang from CMV 2018 have a catch up lunch at The Castle.

What a stunning day it was, undercover the temperature was perfect for outdoor dining and laughing and chatting away, making plans for more dates while most of us are in town.

Unfortunately Paula will miss out but I’m sure she will be enjoying her time in the USA with her very dear friends.

I didn’t feel so great, not sure what it was ( not had any alcohol so can’t blame that) but I headed to bed after getting home and basically sleeping the night away waking up completely recovered.

Saturday morning was time to take Paula to the airport and wave her off for her six weeks away.

On the Sunday We decided to take a walk to the beach and ended up taking a fabulous coastal walk to La Zenia beach where we had brunch at the cafe/bar on the beach.its one of several at the different beaches offering the same menu.

We had a swim and walked back home.

That night we drove back to the airport to pick up daughter Allison who flew in from Milan to spend almost two weeks with us.

Monday we took a quicker walk to La Zenia with her then the coastal walk back home. We were all glad to be able to dive in the pool on our return as we had left a little later and it was very warm.

Tuesday we only made it down to Cabo Roig beach and swam and had brunch there before returning home in time for allison to get ready to take the bus to Alicante and catch up with a work mate from her time in London. She ended up going back to Benidorm with her mate and staying the night.

We just relaxed at home as we sometimes do.

With warnings of bad storms about to descend our way we were glad to make an early getaway on Thursday morning for a few days in Granada. We had been before but Allison hadn’t seen The Alhambra Palace and we wanted to take her on a road trip there and spend a couple of nights in Granada.

We had a lovely lunch stop at Velez-Rubio with its lovely old streets and church in the square.

Our Airbnb in Granada was down a narrow lane and it was with trepidation that we not only made it there but with guidance from our host got the car parked in the underground car park. Really a motorbike would have been more suitable.

Our apartment couldn’t have been more fab, newly decorated with style and comfortable beds. Each bedroom, kitchen and lounge had a little Juliette balcony onto the street. We were all thrilled with our choice and once the car was garaged there was no need to get it out again till we left.

Just a great location for exploring the city centre. We quickly got ready to make the most of the afternoon and headed off exploring. Some places were familiar from our previous visit in 2015 and we managed to cover a fair amount of area resting for a cold drink just directly opposite The Alhambra as James and I had done with tour friends in 2015. Of course the prices were ridiculous but you have to do it for the view just once at least.

We headed home for a siesta although it was a 7 pm one and left for a stroll for dinner around 8:45pm. After our meal we walked back to see the Alhambra at night then made it home before it was already the next day.

A slow start the next day but with our tickets already purchased online we headed out for our 20 minute walk all uphill to start our day at The Palace. As with our last visit we were in awe of the majesty and magical scenery and buildings that make up this must see Palace.

A lovely stop for lunch at The American hotel in the grounds turned out to be both tasty and inexpensive. The courtyard setting was delightful as well.

The storms that had hit the coast looked to be descending quickly our way and we made our way back to our apartment all happy with our outing.

Fortunately they passed over quickly and the afternoon spent resting at home before dinner out was dry allowing us to open all our balcony doors letting in the fresh air and sounds of the world making their own way through the day.

After our obligatory siesta we headed out later and decided to take the tourist train around and then have dinner. Best idea as we got to see so much more than we knew existed in Granada. Then a lovely little alley way for dinner and walk home.

Granada was everything we hoped for and more.

Our trip home we decided to go towards the coast and look at the beaches on the way up from Motril, well apart from Calahonda we wouldn’t spend a half day at any.

If the beaches weren’t unappealing the acres upon acres of plastic greenhouses right from the mountain ranges to the sea line definitely were. Also we had watched a documentary by Simon Reeves who spoke not only about the appalling conditions of the poor African immigrants working in these ridiculous hot conditions with no basic human rights but also how as the plastic rips and is useless for their needs they are just buried in the sand near the waterways where when a storm comes along they are taken out to sea polluting our oceans and seas.

On return to Paula’s it was to find her property had sustained very little effects from the wild and ferocious storms that had passed over the area, killing at least three people and leaving huge devastation behind.

A good sweep and clean down of the back yard, a backwash of the pool,vacuum and skim had everything back to rights.

Sunday late afternoon we headed down to visit our friends Melissa, Tom and their two daughters Tara and Ciara who planned a stop for the night so we could catch up. Fantastic to see them and catch up on all the news over drinks by the pool then dinner out.

Monday they were heading to Seville and we were off to Malaga for four nights.

We arrived at our three bed,two bath Airbnb in Malaga by 4:30 pm and after a rest we decided to walk into the old town for a look and dinner.

Malaga old town is sensational looking at night as we soon found out and we were all thrilled with our first look around.

Tuesday we drove the most scenic route through the mountains to Ronda.

We had been there before but wanted to show Allison. What can we say it’s a wowser from every scenic vantage point.

If you ever do a trip to Spain put it on your list, you won’t be disappointed.

So Tuesday was a wonderful day for me as I got to catch up with my old neighbour and bestie till 1969 -fifty years ago when her family sailed back to England.

As youngsters we probably spent almost every day together and I still have great memories of those days.

It was a bit tearful when we saw each other and we had just the best time catching up.

Dallas and her lovely husband Derek live on The Costa Del Sol between Malaga and Torremolinas. It’s a fabulous place. We loved it. Their apartment is extremely spacious and wonderful sea views filled with their charming company, what more could you want.

All too soon it was time to leave and I know we’ll be back to visit again.

Another great evening of walking around Malaga took us along the waterfront and seaport with all the new development of bars and restaurants , just past that is a long stretch of beach. We walked back into the old town for another evening meal of tapas and drinks. It’s so funny we didn’t sit down to close to 10 pm and even walking home at 11:30 people were still sitting down to dine and drink.

Thursday our last day here we ventured along the waterfront then cutting in to take the quite steep climb to the top of the Castillo de Gibraltar’s. Walked the fortified walls and then back down.

there we took a visit to the Cathedral de la Encarnacion de Malaga.

I think it is probably one of the most impressive and beautiful Cathedrals we’ve been to. It really was breathtaking.

We left Allison to shop and we started to head home via Costa coffee for a beer! Because yeah that’s a thing here, you can buy beer or a bottle of sangria even an ice cream at Costa in Malaga.

In reflection we have decided that Malaga is one of the most liveable cities we’ve visited. It’s easy to walk, there’s a great vibe, historical museums and areas,awesome Spanish food etc, a sea port to travel from, an airport, countryside and mountains to escape too along with beaches we don’t have anything to criticise.

Our last night we walked back into the old town for our last night of delicious tapas and soak up the vibe. On the way Allison managed to buy a few more things as her shopping in the afternoon was cut short due to shops closing for siesta.

We got away by 9:30 am the next morning and with just one stop for lunch and another at lidl for a few things were home at Paula’s around 2:30 pm.

We had an early start the next morning to get Allison to the airport and it’s hard waking at 6 am to darkness, in fact it wasn’t light till 7:30 and it’s just the beginning of Autumn.

It was a tearful goodbye, but we will be in Singapore the first weekend in November and Allison will be in Australia for a wedding in December so have actually managed to see her quite a few times this year.

It was a great visit for road trips and sharing the experiences that travelling brings and hopefully we’ll repeat a trip together next year.

UNITED KINGDOM 2019 Part four!

On the day we were to arrive at Carolyn, Alan and their son Dougies home we first went into Swindon to the outlet shopping centre to look around. We made some great purchases and I was rapt to buy a whole new wardrobe of tops in different colours as I try to faze out the black and head towards a change to navy as a base.

Arriving at 3 pm after driving through the rural countryside and one way lanes we were met by our new furry dog friends Mac and Laurie and little cat Bonnie.

As Alan showed James how to use the ride on mower, work the spa pool etc, Dougie the son and I cooked dinner for everyone so that when Carolyn got home from work we were all ready to break bread together and chat before it was time to head to bed for their early pick up for the airport.

Another beautiful country setting and comfortable home to enjoy for the next three weeks.

We can’t believe how well behaved all the dogs have been and affectionate the cats and one rabbit have been. Each has been a joy to spend time with and you really do bond quickly.

Our first day was our food shopping day and pottering around home so the animals get used to us, a lovely walk with the dogs in the afternoon through the fields surrounding us and we enjoyed a drink sitting outside in the perfect summers evening.

The next morning after our watering the garden and taking care of our charges, including some bed snuggles with Bonnie while we had coffee in bed ( yes there’s a coffee machine), we headed off towards the Cotswolds to visit Chastleton Park stopping at the ridiculously cute town of Burford for a wander and cream tea ( of course). I managed to pick up some 3/4 pants in navy and tan to help my change over from black being my dominant colour scheme.

Chastleton manor was built in the Jacobean fashion four hundred years ago when the family had money. But their wealth soon declined and until they handed it over to the National trust they never had enough money to update anything so when the National trust got hold of it they made a conscious decision to keep it as it was. The furniture is from the house including the dining setting, and as each generation actually lived there although not updated it hadn’t fallen into complete ruin.

It’s fascinating to walk through history as it was.

The next day we were off again this time to Basildon Park another fabulous trust property given to then in 1978 by Lord and Lady Iliffe who fell in love with the dilapidated property in 1952 and started an ambitious program of repair.

The property originally built for sir Francis Sykes who made a fortune with the East India company.

Lady Iliffe had impeccable taste and with money obviously no problem they created a stunning home that they still lived in a part of even after giving it to the Trust, till their deaths.

Occasionally you have to have a day at home organising tickets and accommodation for further on in our travels and also go food shopping and haircuts etc. We do some house work and or gardening everyday to keep on top of everything and we find the animals love it when you’re outside even the cats.

Little Bonnie likes to come for her morning snuggles on the bed and Mac comes up says hello then plonks himself outside the door keeping us safe. His brother Laurie sits outside each night keeping watch while we watch tv inside with his brother Mac and Bonnie. Funny little personalities they all have. The boys are so good, go to bed when you tell them, lie still while I brush them, just very relaxed and no bother at all.

Another day we went off to Waddesdon Manor but didn’t realise we had to book in our tour of the house times so did that for a couple of days later and headed to Nuffield house.

Owned by lord and Lady Nuffield. Born William Morris he started out from humble beginnings starting with a bicycle repair shop to building one of the most respected and successful car businesses.

Having no children themselves and living very frugally ( they even sewed car mats together for the carpet in his bedroom) and famously saying ‘ you can only wear one suit at a time’ they gave away literally almost all their money for good causes including using the car factory in the height of the Polio epidemic to build iron lungs and donating them free of charge all around the UK and Commonwealth.

They gave huge amounts to hospitals etc even built a few.

Wonderful people and a lovely story.

We then went on to Greys Court a Jacobean style home where we also managed to get a private tour of the gardens which was wonderful.

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We really are loving The National Trust pass its given us a great excuse to potter around the country down through villages and towns visiting places we had never heard of before and some we have seen in movies and tv series.

We went back to Waddesdon Manor and were in awe of the sheer magnitude of the collections in held. Plus as The Rothschild foundation still have a large hand in its upkeep etc it is in excellent condition. It’s actually not as old as you would think as it’s decorated in a earlier time period than when it was built.

Architecturally French Chateau and with wine cellars as you would expect from The Rothschild family we along with everyone else were ooohing and aaaahing and going WOW the whole way through.

Another day trip to Oxford to catch up with David and Gerry, friends I met in New Orleans in 2000 we coincidentally sat at the same table in the same bar we had with Pratek and Damian just over a week earlier.

A few wines, lunch and then a move to a cocktail bar later………

Isn’t it wonderful catching up with people all over the world in their home towns.

We also caught up with our previous house sit couple Tony and Pam for morning tea in Newbury, a lovely couple I’m sure we’ll see again, already planning our next house sit for them with Honey girl next year.

Other day trips have seen us drive to Bourton on the water. An historical town that was completely overrun with tourists but luckily we got there before it was tooo ridiculous and enjoyed a cuppa at a cafe beside the stream and the great motor transport museum.

On the way home we stopped at the ruins of a Roman villa. It’s incredible how much history England and the UK have and these Roman villas are so unexpected when they’re very much like you would imagine you’d see in Italy. The same bath houses, mosaic tiling etc and there are so many of them.

We took a look at Bicester outlet village LORDY LORDY it was all designer shops and incredibly full of people queuing to get into some of the stores!!

It has a fake fascade feel about it like a movie prop town, Disneyland vibe especially with the people queuing. Anyway we did a lap up and back then hopped in our car and drove to the Tesco superstore just down the road… more our price level haha.

Another home day saw us finally get into the spa pool outside here. Lovely must get into it one evening and look at the stars.

We’ve been lucky to get some recommendations from UK friends about where to go and what to see.

So thanks to Sue and Terry we headed to Woodstock another of those Cotswolds beauty towns.

Not far from Woodstock is Blenheim palace which looks to be beyond fantastic and we will have to try to get there next year when we return as we ran out of time on our day trip as we needed to get home to feed and walk the boys before heading to The Carpenters Arms pub to meet Louise and Tammy two lovely friends we met on our day trip to Doubtful sound in NZs South Island in February. Wonderful to catch up and look forward to seeing them next year.

But although we didn’t have time to give Blenheim Palace a tour we were able to travel the short distance to the town of Bladon to the church of St Martins the resting place of the Churchill family in particular Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill 1874-1965 not a bad innings for an overweight, hard drinking smoker with the stress of running a country during war time.

Our friend Louise had recommended Snowshill Manor with its totally eclectic hoarding by Charles Wade. It’s incredible mix of ordinary items that he seemed to collect en-mass all housed in a manor he bought solely to store his collections, whilst living in a little cottage out back is a great visit.

Even better it’s National trust run so used our pass.

I’ll let the photos show the variety of wares.

I think he was a little mad, definitely eccentric and at 61 he married his wife whom was 44 at the time and for several years they lived in the small hoarders cottage before leaving the estate to the National trust.

Another fabulous day out recommended by Louise was the British Motor museum in Gaydon.

Loved it, happily spent hours there. Great day out for all. So many awesome displays. They also have a collection of first and last off the line production cars.

Our days were passing by and we still had places to see as well as start planning our departure from the UK. Our tickets for the moto GP finally arrived which was a relief as it was less than a week away.

Our two boys Mac and Laurie along with Bonnie the cat have become quite the furry family, coming upstairs in the morning to say hello and sit by the bed or on the bed for Bonnie while we read or go online. The boys love their walks and we’ve seen, deer, squirrels, hawks, rabbits, dogs, sheep and horses on just about every walk.

There are some Black sheep in a field with some black and white ones which I’ve found out are called Badger faces, a Walsh breed. White with black underbellies and black stripe down their face.

On our last Monday at our final house sit we drove to Hughendon Manor.

This was interesting as it was the home of The Victorian British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It featured beautiful gardens with deck chairs for visitors to sit in and a display about the use of the Manor during WW2 as a secret map drawing property. This only came to light a few years ago as all who served there had been signed to the secrets act. Along with memorabilia of The Disraelis time there and gifts given by Queen Victoria it made for an interesting trip.

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Their grave is in the churchyard next door and in the church there is a memorial to him by Queen Victoria who trusted him as a close friend.

Some of our drives to these places take up to an hour and a half to get to, but half the fun of the day out is travelling through the countryside and villages. There’s usually a first stop at the tea rooms when we get there for a tea and scone or something light to eat.

Our trip on the Tuesday of our last week was to Ascott house another home of the Rothschild family, but this one they actually use and so with an arrangement with the National trust five large rooms are open for visitors from 2-6 pm most of the summer months and a fair bit of the grounds which are fantastic.

The five rooms are also still used by the family so look comfortable and homely considering the collections they hold. Dutch masters, Gainsborough, Turners along with one of Britain’s largest Chinese pottery collection which is so beautifully displayed. Unfortunately no photos are allowed but you can google it.

We planned our Wednesday to include James mowing the lawn/ field in the morning then going out in the afternoon, however fate had a different idea.

James accidentally mowed over the mole deterrent in the garden, breaking one of the belts under the mower, as well as shredding the deterrent.

Googling any local repair shops that specialised in the ride on turned out a lucky hit as the one we contacted was the one they had bought it from and use to service it. They hoped to collect it that afternoon but it was Thursday morning so Wednesday became a right off day.

The rest of Thursday was our start to get ready to move on plan, cleaning, sorting and waiting to hear about the mower.

I think we were just hoping we could get it fixed and back and grass sorted before they got home. We sourced a new mole deterrent and spent a few evenings in the spa enjoying watching the stars come out and our last days in the countryside.

On Thursday evening we traveled back to Burghclere to drop a box of things to our new friends Tony and Pam for them to store for us till next year. We all went to the pub for dinner and we got to say goodbye to Honey again with the hopes that we’ll see them next year to stay if all goes well.

We got the mower back late Friday afternoon and James quickly got onto the lawn. However the repairers had mentioned that there were some other issues coming up with the mower due to general wear and tear but could probably wait till it was taken in for its end of season service. However this didn’t end up being the case and before James could finish the grass it stopped working because the transition belt went. Oh well we had done our best.

Another more stressful event happened. We were expecting our home owners rerun around noon on Saturday. But we heard nothing all day. What had happened to them? We had dinner booked with friends and an Airbnb booked for that night.

We had to cancel both as it transpired they had given us the wrong return date.

They were coming home on the Sunday!

We were relieved that nothing serious had happened and we were able to rebook with our friends for the next night.

We got up early Sunday, fed our babies and sadly patted them goodbye , knowing they would only be alone for just over an hour, and made our way to the park and ride at Towcester to take us to Silverstone race track for the motogp.

Everything went smoothly and we had a great day. It was very warm and we were grateful to get to Sanjees house for shower before going to dinner with Gerry and David.

Sanjeev is a delightful host with the most and insisted he drive us and pick us back up so we could make use of the two for one cocktails. 😂.

Our room was beautifully styled and Sanjee was hysterically funny, great story teller, he’s missing his calling as an entertainer for sure.

One thing we saw outside Sanjees house was a robot delivery happening. A cooler box on wheels driven remotely to a house with a delivery of shopping, the people came out, opened the lid, took out their stuff, closed the lid and the cooler box turned around said Thank you and rode off up the road. Incredible.

Monday we decided to visit Bletchley Park, home of the decoders during world war 2 as it was very close by. Great visit, well worth it if you’re interested in espionage etc.

Most incredibly we ran into Adrianne and Michael from our cruise last year. We had lost their contact details as I’d wanted to visit them when we were in NZ and was so disappointed not to find them. What a hoot. We had a cuppa with them and Michaels sister and brother in law before making sure we had inputted their details into our phones and hopefully we’ll see them in NZ some time.

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We spent quite a few hours at Bletchley before making our way back to where it all started in Ealing early June at the Grange lodge. We knew we’d be comfortable and close to Heathrow for dropping the car off the next day.

It was strange handing the car in after three months and catching the bus to Gatwick to get our flight to Alicante, Spain and new adventures ahead.

We had a fabulous time in the UK and loved our house sitting gigs. They gave us the opportunity to live really like locals including our very own pets, all of whom we fell in love with. We can’t believe how well behaved all the dogs are in the UK.

Even the cats loved cuddles and purred away happily.

Below is a field harvested near our last home. It was an awesome sight.

UNITED KINGDOM 2019 part three

After a comfortable night we headed off towards Burghclere for our next house sit with the adorable cocker spaniel Honey.

We had time to visit the nearby town of Newbury and were surprised at how big it was and what a lovely town centre they had.

Also surprised to see a jewellery shop called J Lawrence jeweller then two shops opposite each other one called Boswells cafe and the other Shaw’s direct. My mother was a miss Boswell before she became Mrs Shaw and of course I was J Lawrence for over 30 years. Will look out for more family name coincidences on our next visit there.

On arriving at our new house sit Tony and Pam welcomed us back as we had visited them before when we were at Wiltshire on our first sit, and we all walked to the local pub for a delicious dinner before Honey, James and I waved them off for the little sojourn in France.

Their home is in the most beautiful location of woodland and estate properties.

But only a short drive to fabulous shopping and Highclere castle where Downtown abbey was filmed so we must go visit.

We spent our first day just going to the massive Tesco mega store to shop and spent the rest of the day chilling at home and enjoying their beautiful garden letting Honey get used to us and feeling secure that we’re here taking care of her doggie needs.

She’s delightful.

Well the second hottest day on record here in the UK found us taking a drive to Marlborough a beautiful town with lots of old quirky buildings and some nice shops to look around.

We had lunch in a redundant church which is now renting out space to several small businesses like the cafe and jewellery and gift stalls.

A great idea to save the church from been pulled down for a roundabout.

Once back home we walked up to Sandham memorial chapel just up the road and part of the National trust. To be honest glad we didn’t go out of our way to visit. It has some of the paintings by the First World War artist Stanley Spencer.

Honey our little girl has settled in well with us and now follows us around and happy to sit near us wherever we are.

She was very excited to go for an outing in the car to The New Forest for a cream tea and walk.

A lovely area with so many walks, hikes, bike rides, horse rides etc it was great to see cows and horses with their foals not fenced off from the public and watch the horses approach picnickers to see if they could get to share.

The church St Michaels of all angels in the historic town of Lyndhurst had the grave of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves whom was The Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Just came across it with no idea it was there.

Another day we took Honey in the car to Newbury to catch the artisan markets then walk along the canal to see all the barges and walk in the park. That night I could hear her having little dreams so cute.

We HAD to go to Highclere castle, home to the Downton Abbey series since it was so close and it didn’t disappoint, we had driven there a few days earlier to see what the go was and the guy told us get there at the opening and beat the coaches. So we did and as the house didn’t open for a while we were able to walk around the lovely gardens virtually with no one else around.

They have displayed the house beautifully and had some large photos of cast in situ which was great.

A lot of the houses furnishings are used as well so the authenticity is believable.

There are a few villages in the UK that have been kept very much original and one town Lacock is mostly owned by the National Trust it also has a wonderful 12th century Abbey which was then bought by a family and there are some wonderful insights into life in those days.

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The wonderful thing about the village of Lacock and also the fabulous village of Castle Coombes is that they haven’t allowed overhead cables etc so filming of these towns is quite common for period shows.

We were fortunate that on the day we visited although there were a lot of showers that day we managed to get enough breaks to walk and see what we wanted, quite incredible considering how much it actually did rain.

James had been in contact with an ex work colleague whom at 30 decided to take a year off work and do his Masters degree at Oxford University. Pratik generously offered to show us around some of his favourite Oxford University spots.

With his student card we were able to access places we would normally never get to see and he has a great knowledge of the history so it was a great tour and we caught up with Damien another work colleague whom met us all for lunch as he was working in Oxford that morning.

We really appreciate the young folk making time for us.

All too soon it was time to welcome home Pam and Tony and say goodbye to our beautiful Honey girl. We had a wonderful stay and hope very much that it works out that we will see them again.

We had booked a night accommodation at The Bear pub in the quaint village of Hungerford for the night before we were due to start our fifth and final house sit not that far from our last one.

Tony and Pam had generously told us to stay the night with them but we had already booked and paid. We have been humbled by the outstanding generosity and warm welcome we have received from all our home owners at our sits. It has been an incredible experience and will certainly try to book a few again next year when we return to the UK.

UNITED KINGDOM 2019 part two

We arrived in the quaint village of Marbury, Cheshire on Friday the 5th July.

Our new homeowners weren’t quite ready for us so we took advantage and drove into Whitchurch for breakfast before returning to meet Tracey and Gary to go through everything before they left with three dogs in tow leaving us to care for 12 year old brother and sister cats George and Rosie. Oh did I mention their home is a four hundred year old black and white cottage!

It’s been superbly renovated and apart from James being a little too tall sometimes ( ouch) we swiftly settled in to our new home and pets.

You quickly start to pick up on each pets personality and Rosie is quite the talker, occasionally bossing her brother, who escapes for most of the day and evening into the incredible fields surrounding the church nearby.

St Michaels church was built in the 15th century on ground where the original was built in 1299. The bells chime the hour for the daylight hours but thankfully not through the night.it has an imposing vista over the large Mer and fields all around.

The vicarage next door to the church is large and beautiful and the has a lady vicar who of course I dub the vicar of Dibley.

There is a fabulous pub called The Swan and that’s all the amenities in the village. Everything else is a fairly shortish drive away through pretty countryside and a few narrow laneways.

We’ve spent our time here exploring the local towns around and a big walk around the Mer and paddocks which had James getting run at by the cows and me scrambling under a barbed wire fence to escape…. lol city folk in the countryside.

Our very first full day here saw us funnily returning to Manchester and literally a twenty minute walk from where we had housesat for Phil and Jo to watch Australia versus South Africa in the cricket World Cup. We sat surrounded by mostly South African supporters but we had some friendly chats and although they won we had had an enjoyable day at Old Trafford.

We’ve used our National trust membership to visit Chirk castle and Erddig hall both in Wales which again were fabulous days.

Erddig Hall was complete with the most outstanding gardens that were just a dream to walk around. The estate was offered to the National trust in very poor condition and they didn’t originally want to take it on. Well what an incredible job they have done.

As the last two estate owners had been childless bachelors there was no one left in the family to pass it onto.

Chirk Castle really looks like a traditional castle complete with dungeons and we happily wiled away a few hours walking their extensive grounds as well as the parts of the castle open to public.

We also took another day trip to the Walsh seaside town of Llandudno. Wow what a fantastic surprise was this place. Similar in some ways to Brighton and other coastal holiday towns but with the added bonus of the the Great Orme with its incredible views, flora and fauna, tramway and cable car it was a fabulous day.

We first took a boat ride around the headland and back which gave us that great from the water perspective.

Then we took the cable car, which started on June 30th 1969 the two miles up to the top of The Orme. The views all the way up were mesmerising and just stunning. There is a blue butterfly and a plant here that are to found nowhere else in the world.

A coffee in the beautiful Victorian town before we concluded our day saw us thinking how we would happily have spent a few days there walking the Orme and exploring the larger area around more.

Some days we’ve just spent at home maybe going over to the swan for a coffee or like one day when we went over for a coffee but ended up having a few alcoholic drinks instead, oh well not far to walk home ..

Sometimes we just go for a drive nowhere in particular and stop somewhere for a coffee.

We did book to go to the theatre in Crewe to see The Lady vanishes by Alfred Hitchcock. What should have been an easy drive in with plenty of time to spare for a drink at the bar beforehand turned into a ridiculous comedy of errors. Firstly the sat nav started us off on the long way there which we weren’t really aware of, which led us to a road closure due to an accident. An alternative trip led us back around to the Accident before we drove back home to see if we could change the ticket dates , receiving a rude NO had us back in the car to the theatre to at least see most of the play. Luckily we had by then worked out that there was a quicker way….. if only we had realised at the start. Never mind we enjoyed what we saw which was most of it.

We had a lovely visit from Tracey and Andy Burt whom I had had the honour of marrying back in 2014 when they came out to Australia to elope. We’ve kept in touch since then via Facebook and after us being here a few times we finally managed to make it work to catch up. Just lovely.

Our charges George and Rosie have been delightful, although George is a late home comer which means we seem to be calling out to him each evening to come home so I can text his mummy he’s in safe. Then strolls in like WHATEVER!

One day we were in Whitchurch for a few things and I went into a shop to buy some 3/4 trousers and started a lovely chat with the shop keeper who happened to have been bought up in Jamberoo Australia, moving to the UK in 1969.

We were delighted when she extended an invite to afternoon tea at hers the next day. We had a wonderful afternoon at Christines gorgeous character filled home and after scones and tea we opened a bottle of wine and had nibbles before we finally left her with the hopes of meeting again either before we go or on our next visit to the UK.

On our last Thursday here in Marbury we drove to the amazing Shrewsbury, an unexpectedly fabulous town with castle, abbey, medieval buildings, and a canal that we really must go back.

We went a little past the town to meet up with Pat and Derek whom we met on our cruise in 2018. We will be seeing them again in Spain yippee.

What a fun couple they are and our lunch at the pub was super delicious and just a wonderful catch up.

With a bit of rain the next day we only ventured to The Swan across the road for coffee, they have a brilliant library of books there and could easily have spent all afternoon reading. We did manage to use the time to look for flights homeward bound later in October/November so getting things in place.

Another day took us not too far away to Nantwich secret bomb shelter. Quite a crazy mix of war time memorabilia and very interesting couple of hours.

We’ve had a lovely message from our next housesit telling us they’ve booked us all in for pub dinner their shout on our arrival night. How wonderful is that.

As you can see house sitting is suiting our way of travelling very well and I’m sure we will be using it again to spend some quality time in places of interest and with the added bonus of warm welcomes home from our foster babies it’s a lovely way to feel right at home.

Our last Saturday at Marbury we hopped in the car and travelled to Little Moreton Hall a truly fantastic chance to see a real Tudor style home built in 1504 and added onto over the next hundred years but not since.

Complete with sagging floors and bulging outside walls, once again The National Trust have excelled in presenting a magnificent slice of history.

A little nap at home then we started off for a walk to our local canal to watch a few of the long barge boats tackle the Marbury lock.

It’s just beautiful scenery here and we’ve enjoyed our stay here immensely. And although we haven’t been over to The Swan that often they all know where we’re staying and say hi.

One of the things we’ve enjoyed at this home is the beautiful electric range that has cooked our food beautifully.

Our lovely home owners Tracey and Gary arrived home in amazing good form after a long 15 hour day of driving with three dogs in the car. Kudos to them.

We had a quick catch up then off to bed before we saw them to say goodbye the next morning.

What a lovely stay we had and I’m sure we’ll see them all again sometime in the future. Whether that will be in the UK or in France who knows!

We drove on into Birmingham but just couldn’t face the city palaver and headed to our stay at Castle Bromwich. We were early and they suggested a tour of the 17th century garden which no longer combined with the castle was just next door.

We paid our £4.50 each which is not a huge sum but was a massive disappointment they were. Another couple of ladies approached us and asked what we thought and concurred when we said rather disappointed. It was just weeds weeds weeds, overgrown lawn and lacking names of plants or actually anything visually interesting.

After all the beautiful gardens we’ve seen attached to National trust properties I guess we expected similar.

Back to our castle Bromwich and we had a lovely room. A misunderstanding or should I say miscommunication from the staff about menus,times and prices led us from eating there and we ended up having chicken tikamasala at Sainsburys, what a laugh, but actually it was pretty good.

NEXT STOP THE BEAUTIFUL VILLAGE OF BURGHCLERE.

Life at sea and random thoughts.

June 9th

It’s almost three weeks since we came onboard and the “Sea Princess ” became our home. From our original thought of small cabin to our now feeling like its our  studio apartment we’ve come a long way both in distance and relaxing into the groove. 

We know our way around the ship, realise we don’t have to do anything but what we want in regards to what’s on offer. We have used the long stretch of sea days on the first segment of the world cruise Sydney to Dubai to really get in the holiday mood, ( just what we needed).

We’ve settled into having dinner each night in the dining room at our scheduled time of 7:45 and  attending the 9:45pm show. Our waiters Ronaldo and Joseph, both from the Philippines are delightful and we have lots of laughs with them. They call us all “sir” or “madam” in this lovely Filipino accent which sounds affectionately grand. 

Last night was our anniversary dinner and it’s made extra special with about 8-10 of the dining room staff coming over to sing and play a love song just for us and of course there is the “cake”. 

Rudi’s lady love Sylvie did make it onboard and will leave us at Dover when his daughter will join him till New York and Sylvie might rejoin the ship to Auckland. Sylvie is a welcome addition to our dinner table joining us for her first dinner with us last night. A retired English nurse, she is glamorous and reminds me of a young Jackie Collins. Great conversationalist and a really lively personality. Rudi was smiling from ear to ear.

We have Ten days with only the one stop at Aqaba and a tour into Petra before we hit The Mediterranean and start a busy three weeks of port calls, which will probably change our daily habits. The sea days in between we will want to relax, and prepare for the next day off the ship. Wanting to make the most of the ports to see as much and enjoy the sights and experience the food and wines of the different regions.

The last two stops, Colombo and Dubai couldn’t be more different in many regards. Colombo clearly a poor nation and honest in their presentation of their city, whereas Dubai, from the hyper spiel from the guide appeared shallow, sensationalist,  and arrogant in their efforts of one upmanship hiding their blatant exploitation of Indian workers who are the ones really building Dubai into what it is and their appalling living conditions  compared with the obscene wealth of the Emiraties citizens. The old part of Dubai is the area with real character and gives you the taste and feel of those other great African/Arabic and Muslim cities with their gold, fabric and spice souks and markets. And what a lot of lovely things there are to see. This area would bring you back here and if you just accept Dubai for what it is you could have a fun time shopping, on the water and perhaps doing a trip out to the desert. 

June 14: I’ve had my hair done at the salon today and it looks very glamorous, probably should have waited till after tomorrows trip to Petra from Aqaba when no doubt will look like a flat bedraggled mess, but will have to go out to dinner tonight to show it off. This is one of our laughs as we take turns saying our shout tonight for dinner! 

I can honestly say, there is absolutely nothing to complain about on this amazing adventure onboard ” our beautiful and friendly Sea Princess” as our Captain says everyday at the conclusion of his midday chat. The bell rings to announce noon and the captain tells us where we are and what’s coming up and then he gives a little talk about the meaning of some phrase, yesterday we learnt the man who invented the porthole was a James Baker. 

The Captain is from Italy and quite the dishy  looker. In fact Michelle not recognising him in his casual clothes told me the other day that she’d seen the first “hot bloke” on board. A couple of days later when we saw him again in his casual clothes we realised the “hot bloke” is in fact our Captain. 

We have also had a galley tour which was a real eye opener to how the ship is run by a dedicated and professional team. The cleanliness and attention to detail to give each guest the best meal they can was incredible. Even down to a sign by the door as they leave the galley.” Smile you’re entering a passenger zone. If you see a fellow worker without a smile give him/ her one of yours.
The staff are fantastic and we are really treated like Royalty, the ship is constantly being cleaned and having maintenance done to keep it “ship shape”. The food has been incredible, the entertainment has also been diverse and there have been some stand out acts. In fact James was telling me quite a few people mentioned to him that it’s been the best entertainment they’ve had on a ship, believe me that’s a big say as its incredible how many people on here have traveled for basically the equivalent of years on ships! it really is luxury living and the most fantastic value holiday.

At Dubai our cruise director and her husband and fellow entertainment director left to go home to England. Angela and Dave were a great team and extremely funny, especially Dave who was quick with his quips and cockney accent. They have been replaced with John from Trinidad and Tobago with his dreadlocks and another fun personality his new side kick is Song she hails from South Korea. The staff as you can see are very international and we love it.

We have spent the time from Dubai, totally relaxing spending long days by the pool under the shade from he mezzanine deck above. Really feel like we’re at a holiday resort. We are becoming more familiar with different people on the ship, enough for hellos and shared conversations, having breakfast in the dining room where you sit with different people widens the circle and it feels like we are on a floating hotel with a little village community. 

Last night we had an open deck party to celebrate that we have two nights without Pirate watch and forced closed deck curfew. Great night, the weather is hot and we still are bemused that the sea temperatures are the same as the air! Often 32 degrees!!

We are in awe of where we are geographically now, travelling through the Middle East, sailing past Iran, Somalia, Yemen etc places we will not likely travel to on land anytime in the near future. We are now in the Red Sea and after Aqaba tomorrow will start our transit through the Suez Canal. 

We have seen, dolphins and Whales and flying fish on the trip, always a magical sighting wherever you are in the world.

So so different to the Suez Canal, The Panama was a marvellous day watching with great interest the wonderful engineering that is the workings of The Panama Canal.

With our late departure from Cartagena our transit through the canal started a little later which was probably fine by all of us onboard as we were able to get up and breakfast before finding our positions to watch the first loch approach.

During the day we again as we did with the Suez, moved around from side to side, back to front and relaxed by the pool and enjoyed several dips in as it was a steamy hot day.
It was basically a full 12 hours from start of our transit till 8:30 pm when Captain Aldo came on speaker to say we were officially through and into the Pacific Ocean again and about to farewell our pilot boat.
 The first lochs were the Gatun lochs and there were three we needed to transit through.