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.

UNITED KINGDOM. JUNE 6th-27th AUGUST 2019 First month.

FINALLY we got to use our frequent flyer points for a business class flight and it was a good leg to do so, allowing us to sleep through the night and arrive early into London not as wiped out as we could have, especially as we had a car to pick up and friends to join for our first day.

We had booked a fiat 500 which we had happily driven for a few days in France last year, but for a few extra pounds a day we were talked into upgrading to a Renault Clio which I have to say is very comfortable.

Interestingly it’s better to hire four weeks at a time to get better deals than for a three month period, strange but true. James my car researcher has managed to get us three different 1 month leases at $100 Aus a week.

We went straight from picking up the car to Chiswick to be greeted by friends from the Central Coast Melissa and Stephen whom were in London on their grand Europe adventure.

We drove to Windsor and left them to do the castle as we had done it last year and we spent the time picking up a few clothing requirements from good old Marks and Spencer’s and a few other items before strolling over the bridge into Eton and then meeting back up for lunch and a boat ride on the Thames.

Both having the next day free we met up in London at Covent gardens. A coffee and cake to wish Stephen happy birthday then the boys went off to the transport museum and Melissa and I walked around unfortunately it rained a lot which took the gloss off a bit but we did wander into one of the theatres and mingled with the intermission patrons and used the much nicer theatre toilets.

After lunch with the menfolk we all strolled down to the Thames and Westminster and surroundings before we all hopped on the train back to our respective accommodations. Stephen and Melissa were staying with her cousin and taking them out for dinner for Stephens birthday and thank you for having them.

We had booked into a bed and breakfast in Ealing which wasn’t too far from where they were staying once we knew we could catch up.

We were really impressed with Ealing, also the home of Ealing studios the oldest in England.

It had some lovely homes, parks and the shops were fairly extensive with most of the familiar names.

Our accommodation was very comfortable with an en-suite and breakfast was excellent, the full English.

Saturday was time to drive down to Wiltshire to Edington where we were to start our first house sit.

Driving through the UK countryside is wonderful and we drove straight past Stonehenge not far from our destination.

The local village fete was on so we had a look at that and had a coffee at the local farm shop and cafe where they also brew their own beer all which gave us a taste of the local area before we went to meet Sydney and her daughter Koala our Australian sheepdogs with their owners Lucy and Peter to go over everything and do the hand over.

Well we couldn’t have got a warmer welcome from the dogs, while we all sat down for tea,Sydney sat at my feet and Koala at James. After waving Peter and Lucy off we settled in with our girls and started enjoying the country life.

The house is extremely comfortable and surrounded by farms and fields of wheat, cows, sheep and horses oh and rabbits.

The house has a commanding view as it sits high and even if it’s raining is lovely.

We’ve since taken the dogs for walks over fields where the cows will come racing over to the fence to say hi. Down the village lanes and up over the hillside at the back of us. They are very affectionate and lovely natured and really make us feel loved.

The weather hasn’t been fantastic but we’ve managed to get out most days in the car for a few hours as there is a lot to see from here, we drove past Stonehenge on our way here and the Wiltshire white horse carved into the hillside is just a few miles down the road. Other great places to visit including Bath, Bradford on Avon and Devizes are all close by and have been enjoyable trips.

Devizes has one of the most locks on its canal for barges to navigate and it was wonderful watching as we walked along the canal bank how many people were energetic enough to take up the challenge. There are around 50 in a short space so it’s hard going and constant work. Think we’ll give it a miss.

Even going for a drive through the quaint villages is a highlight so just going to get groceries or to the movies is pleasant. The town of Westbury has Tesco, Morrison’s, Lidl and Aldi and Trowbridge a few miles further is quite a big town and where we went to see Rocketman at the Odeon. Fairly expensive to go to the movies but they do a couple of movies on a Wednesday and Thursday called Silver screens for over 55s for £3 including tea/coffee and biscuits. The movies are a rescreening of past movies but great value.

Back at our home in the village we have Netflix and Sky so have been lucky to have something to binge watch in the evenings or on a day at home.

We took a drive to Glastonbury where we had had a quick stop on a 2013 tour and thought we’d go back, but once there we realised we really had covered it on our quick stop so had a bite to eat after walking around then came on back to our very excited to see us girls. Just driving there had been pretty enough so not a wasted trip at all.

Glastonbury is a town of some character and full of Old and new people embracing the hippy/ tarot card/ crystal/ healing spiritual lifestyle.

For some reason it came across a little bit more sad than anything and it’s cafes etc were extortionately priced. The overpriced food and drink establishments were probably because there were no “brand names “ there. Some would say that’s a good thing but it seemed that the pricing seemed inconsistent with the alternate lifestyle projected as most of the other shops were either second hand stores or alternative healing/ reading venues.

The Glastonbury festival is on in a few weeks from our visit and as it’s some distance from the town centre preparations were in full swing when we drove past.

It’s a massive undertaking and from the amount of trucks etc you would think it was a few days off not weeks.

On the Sunday of Father’s Day here in the UK we drove over to visit with Pam and Tony and their Honey whom we’ll be sitting for later in July.

Lovely afternoon visit and it was great to see where we would be going to stay and of course meet the gorgeous ms Honey a golden cocker spaniel who had been rescued from a barn where she had been kept for three years and used as a breeding bitch.

Five years later she is relaxed and ready for lots of cuddles.

Back to Sydney and Koala, we have taken them on a few outings in the car and they’ve been perfect. Avebury which has a site similar to Stone Henge and is surrounded by some stunning historic homes. The dogs not only behaved in the paddocks with the sheep but sat quietly at the cafe while we had our coffee.

This meant we knew we could walk through the fields to our next village Bratton to a cafe there with them. Bratton has some amazing old buildings including one where Bloody judge Jeffrey sat during the 1685 trials.

Another day after our visit to vets for vaccination shot for Koala we took them to Devizes where we knew they would enjoy walking along the canal as do all the other dogs.

James and I managed a night at Bath Theatre Royal to see Noel Cowards play Blithe spirit featuring Jennifer Saunders who was brilliant as was the rest of the cast and the set.

When we came out it was still light at 9:45pm and was just getting dark when we arrived home at 10:30pm. It gave the town of Bath a beautiful feel and as it was fairly quiet you could imagine the people of yesteryear strolling the streets in their long skirts and top hats.

As it fast approached our end date for this first sit we couldn’t think of one negative aspect of staying here in this lovely home with these two beautiful girls who have just been the best company and so loving. We will miss them greatly when we have to say goodbye.

We were rapt to receive a five star review and would be delighted to go and stay with Sydney and Koala again for sure.

MANCHESTER Sit number 2.

We enjoyed our drive to Manchester and were warmly welcomed by Jo and Phil into their lovely three floor terrace home. A modernised Coronation Street house.

They have the lovely cocker spaniel Grover and Ridgley the rabbit who is going strong for 9 years old apart from one eye white with a Cataract.

Most enjoyable evening drinking copious amounts and eating a delicious slow cooked pork dinner. There was beer, wine, brandy,Amarillo,sherry, port, +++

In fact we arrived at 5 pm and we all went to bed at midnight which was wicked considering Jo and Phil had to get up at 4am to catch their flight to Rome.

Slightly dusty the next morning.

The area around the town is full of funky bars and restaurants and some great parks and woods for walking. It’s also not too far from some other well known towns and cities.

We quickly settled in to our new home and were spoilt with ultra modern bathroom and large bedroom.

Grover quickly got comfortable with us and even Ridgley the rabbit got more and more relaxed about having us pick her up to give her her meds and would feed out of my hand by the second day.

We didn’t use our car for a few days as we walked the local area and to Old Trafford cricket ground where some of the world cricket games were being played while we were in town.

Strangely one of the paths is laid with old headstones and it just seems quite odd to have it as a path.

When we did venture into Manchester cbd we took the tram which was quick and easy with no parking hassle either.

Another day we drove to Blackpool on one of the sunniest days we had, Blackpool is a child’s delight with so much to do and of course theirs lots of night shows as well, but we were shocked at most of the people visiting… pretty rough diamonds would be the nicest way of putting it. The streets are full of guest houses just as we have seen on tv shows and have since heard there are a lot of people living full time in them as it’s pretty good place to live if you’re not accustomed to working….

On another day we drove part of the Peak District making Sheffield our destination for a late lunch and walk around before returning home to a very happy to see us dog and clean house as the cleaning staff had been. Parts of the Peak District are stunning and we really enjoyed the drive.

We finally made the decision to get a National Trust Pass so we could start exploring all their historical places. At £120 for a couple it will take just over three places to pay for itself.

We purchased it when we went to Lyme Park and we were blown away by how many people volunteer to help at these properties not just as tour guides, but in restoring, working in the grounds etc, etc.

it was a beautiful day and the place was well attended as you can picnic in the grounds without paying to see house etc.

The amount of effort that goes into making these places interesting for everyone is to be applauded. Things for children and events and displays changing to make it interesting for return visits.

We had such a great day we quickly looked up the places we had been given recommendations to visit from people and went off to Quarry Bank mill and Manor a few days later and Dunham Massey the day after that.

Both fantastic days out with great guided tours that we managed to get on at Quarry Bank which had been a cotton and textile mill. Really interesting to see the industrial revolution in a setting which included what was a whole village built around it.

Dunham Massey had a sawmill and deer park in the grounds and another fascinating family story that begins way back….including its use as a hospital during world war 1 .

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Our days were once again quickly disappearing before our next move to Marbury where we will be in an old Black and white Tudor cottage minding George and Rosie, two cats.

On our last Tuesday evening we met Harry Fell our friend Dina’s son off the tram and we all went to the pub for drinks and dinner to watch the English girls football team unfortunately get beaten by the USA girls.

It was fantastic to see Harry as we had stayed with Harry and his brother Zac several times when Dina had to go overseas for work. Funnily we all have tickets for the cricket at old Trafford on Saturday so May see him again there. It’s Australia against South Africa in the World Cup cricket.

We had spent one day at home booking tickets for the cricket, motoGP in late August, accommodation for our last few nights in the UK and our flights to Alicante end of August where we are excited to be seeing all our lovely English friends we met on our cruise in 2018 to England.

James drove to London to change cars over for the next four weeks , after all that driving there and back they gave him the same car… and we began getting our stuff organised for our departure to Marbury.

Our second sit was another success for us and the pets as we all bonded well and I think the pets like the fact we’re not off for long stretches of the day. There’s lots of big welcomes even if we’ve only been gone an hour. Grover really loves cafes and restaurants and knows all the ones that leave a bowl of water out for dogs. James thinks he must be a retired executive whom misses lunching and breakfast meetings.

He also likes to have either one of your socks or a shoe with him in his bed, he doesn’t chew them it’s more like a comfort thing. Today he has James thong under his head.

we enjoyed having another fabulous kitchen to use but did manage a couple of pub meals out and a fantastic tapas dinner not more than 100 metres from our house sit on the funky Beech Road.

We left Manchester early in the morning sneaking out quietly as Jo and Phil had come home late the night before. We exchanged messages later and both parties were more than happy if a return sit came up, so we’re happy with that.

Next stop MARBURY in CHESHIRE.

SINGAPORE 3rd – 5th JUNE 2019

It’s almost like coming home arriving in Singapore now. We had the frequent visitor pass in our passports so whizzed through immigration etc and off to our hotel. This time we’re at the Holiday inn express, Clark Quay and it’s a great set up here included breakfast buffet is great and as it’s busy they’re restocking frequently, our room is smallish but comfortable and we have no complaints about non maintenance.

The first evening we had an amazing steak dinner together with Allison and her James at a restaurant just downstairs from their apartment at Marina one.

A bottle of wine which we hadn’t had since we were probably there last time went down a treat as well.

We picked up our things that we had left with them, thankfully, as at Penang airport they weighed our carryon and at 10 kilos each were over their 7 kg limit.

So our hi vis vests finally came in to play, we went off got them out of our bags put them on stuffed the many pockets they have full of our iPads, kindles, phones, I put a pair of shoes, raincoats, etc in mine, James had his snorkel and mask in his. Hilarious but hey we got those carryon bags down to the required weight.

Luckily we’re using our frequent flier points to fly business class to the UK so our carry on weight won’t be a problem, apparently we’re allowed two bags up to 23kgs each as CARRYON! As long as they fit the measurements we’re good to go.

Our first morning after breakfast we took off walking around for about two and a half hours. Really the more we come here the more we see, so interesting and it’s easy walking except the humidity. There’s a lot of similarities between the old architecture in Singapore and Malaysia with the Shop houses and street art. There are also a similar mix of religions as well. We walked one street and went past a Hindu temple, a mosque, a Christian church and Chinese temple.

We had a date with our friend Catherine that we met on a day cruise of the Doubtful sound in New Zealand, high tea at the Goodwood hotel near Orchard street. What a beautiful property and an amazing buffet of goodies.

Catherine is another avid traveller and it was a lovely way to catch up, two and a half hours went in a blink.

Back to our hotel to face the final pack for our trip north to the UK and then Spain, plenty of new adventures to look forward to.

Luckily our last day here in Singapore was a public holiday and Allison and her James had the day off so we were able to check out and take our bags to theirs and spend some of their day off together strolling around part of the botanical gardens. It really is stunning and apart from the amazing plants etc we saw big lizards and turtles.

But the humidity got to us all and two hours was more than enough to decide to head back to theirs to relax pool side before we had to say our final farewells and head to the airport to enjoy the Business class lounge before our flight to the UK.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT SINGAPORE.

The more we went the more we saw to like.

There’s still a lot more to do here that is on our list but the humidity really means you should take it slowly.

It’s easy to be here with English widely spoken and it’s first world Asia for those who can’t cope with more basic facilities as found in some other Asian countries.

Cheap food can be found and is brilliant at the hawker markets.

Afternoon tea is a real thing here and not only popular but sensational.

Taxis are cheap and they also have grab and gojek.

The airport is great if you need to spend time there before a flight.

Flights to other Asian countries are easy and cheap from here.

PENANG, MALAYSIA. 24th May – 3rd JUNE 2019.

This had been a highlight day of our cruise in 2018 so we were keen to spend a bit more time mooching around and seeing some of the sights we missed on that one day visit.

We booked to stay in an old Shophouse building now run as a guesthouse on Noordin st.

We had a warm welcome and our large room was well appointed and the furnishings were in keeping with the style of the property which retains much of its original charm.

It was a great location for seeing the city but with the heat and walking everywhere draining we booked a scooter after the first day and are keeping it till the end of our stay in Penang. This allows us to keep the walking around for places of interest not just as a way of getting there. We see so much more with the scooter.

Below is the shop we hired our scooter from. They were fantastic and easy to deal with and made sure they gave us rain coats due to the unpredictable weather. We used them several times.

We booked four nights at Noordin st House and it was quite easy to see that for the first three nights we were the only guests, though they tried to deny this. We didn’t see anybody, hear anybody and the dining room was set just for the two of us each morning.

On our last day quite a few guests checked in and of course there were more settings at breakfast and we could hear and see these totally Real people moving about the property.

Unfortunately maintenance was not their forte and a lot of the public areas were in need of repair, cleaning and tidy up, a shame as we particularly booked it as it had a pool but there was just too much green algae around the sides to contemplate a dip.

But! This was a great base to see all of the famous areas of Georgetown and surrounding areas, including the artwork on the shop houses, the clan ferry wharfs, little India etc etc.

A highlight was having Sen and Ana two sisters we met on our Cosmos Christmas tour in 2017 picking us up and taking us to little India for lunch on James birthday, they even bought a cake with a candle to sing happy birthday.

These two awesome girls have traveled themselves a lot over the last six years or so and constantly looking for new places to tour. Their personalities are infectious and we could spend hours talking to them about their lives and travel bucket lists.

Georgetown is great for the architecture of the Shophouses and the six different recognised styles depending on the era they were built. They give Penang a real sense of character and charm.

An English film company was in town filming scenes for a film based on earlier days in Singapore.

We booked after arrival in Penang our last six nights at the Copthorne orchid at Tanjung Bungah. A little out of the centre of Penang and coastal but an easy six or seven kilometres back in if we want to head there.

It’s quite a bit tired but we have a balcony with sea view, breakfast included, a massive pool and a great little village of restaurants, food markets and convenience stores just a five minute walk away.

We did enjoy the sunsets in the evening from the balcony.

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We found a German style restaurant serving huge meals so shared one between us which we often do. Bought in some supplies and headed back to relax and enjoy the serenity.

Our first full day over in our new location we ventured out after breakfast on our scooter and went to places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise and this is exactly what we love. Just riding around wherever we happen to like the look of and discovering little pieces of local life away from the tourist trail, that’s not saying we don’t love ticking of the favourite spots, they’re favourites usually for a reason.

Late Lunch back at the German restaurant was a shared salad and iced tea. Then it was poolside to read and swim, finishing the day with a dinner of British style fish and chips.

There are a lot of great looking little beaches with clean sand along the coast but I’m not sure the water looks that inviting, and there was a sign we saw somewhere about toxic poisonous stingers, not sure if that’s seasonal or not.

As the days drew closer to our leaving date we had one full day not venturing out anywhere new and just going over to the local village shops for dinner and spending the day lounging around reading.

Another day we rode off after a lovely breakfast at a local cafe (breakfast at hotel not that great) and went to the Kek Lok Si Temple. WOWSERS! All I’m going to say is that’s it’s well worth the trip, it’s free and there is quite a lot to see. I’ll pop in some photos of this incredible Hindu temple for you to try and grasp the size and work involved in creating such a wonderful place.

The sheer workmanship alone is hard to take in. The most intricate sculpting in stone is breathtaking.

In one area they had stone statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. There was also quite a few other stone animals including the very adorable seats with dogs depicted at each end and also some rather strange ones of tortoises mating!

Having enjoyed our breakfast the day before we headed back to the same cafe the next day and met a couple we had spoken briefly with a few days before, as we were both just arriving at the same time we sat together and enjoyed a wonderful hour swapping life stories.

Brian and Sue are a couple about to move to Penang to live after living in Singapore for some years. Originally from the Uk and South Africa their life of moving and living in quite a few different countries was fascinating. Certainly hope we catch up again sometime somewhere.

From breakfast we took off on our scooter north up through the mountains and past the tropical fruit farms including Durian farms, which you smell as you get closer to the side stalls selling them.

The first photo below is a tree with Durians growing,they have been covered by newspapers to protect them before harvesting.

We stopped several times to take photos and put raincoats on and off as the weather changes very quickly here as in most of Asia. We rode into little villages on the flat and located next to rivers where the colourful boats were moored up, we sighted a large monitor lizard, wild monkeys swinging from branch to branch, as we rode around the winding roads up and down one mountain and the next, completing a circle ride of about half of the island before arriving back safely to our hotel to give our bums a rest.

Our last day began with breakfast with Ana and Sen in Georgetown, we ate like kings and queens for next to nothing and loved every minute spent with their exuberant personalities and zest for life.

We left them with promises to see them again and a possible road trip in Malaysia together or who knows maybe meet up overseas.

We drove into the centre and had a coffee and I purchased another pair of trousers from the lady on the Chin Jetty.

Not sure if I should have as two days later in Singapore I found the first pair had repairs needing where the fabric has pulled away.

This is becoming more of an ongoing joke as I bought two pairs in France they lasted less than a month, I bought two pairs in Bali one didn’t last a week. The other made it to two weeks.

Oh well that’s life…

After my quick purchase it was time to hand the scooter back and get back to our hotel for some packing and relaxing before heading out for our last meal in our local town.

The Copthorne Orchid hotel had a great pool and fairly comfortable room but it’s very tired and putting a bandaid on the problems as they come up isn’t satisfactory for either the guests or the staff.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNT ABOUT MALAYSIA.

It’s a great mix of cultures.

It’s pretty great value.

It’s countryside is cleaner than Bali.

English is pretty widespread.

The architecture is interesting.

The people are friendly.

There seems to be a lot of empty apartments.

Some families are living on the equivalent of $400 Aus a month.

As with a lot of Asia maintenance on properties including hotels doesn’t seem to be a priority.

The temples are incredible.

The countryside is beautiful.

Three nights in Kuala Lumpur 21-24th MAY 2019

Kuala Lumpur was an easy flight and once again we used the grab app to get around. This had been more expensive than taxis in Phuket for some strange reason, so it was great to find them excellent value in Malaysia.

Our hotel was the Park Royal serviced suites and we were soo comfortable there. It was really a one bedroom apartment. The hotel boasts two outside pools, one on the rooftop with incredible views of the city lights at night.

It’s Ramadan but it’s the first time we hadn’t felt in the least bit uncomfortable about eating and drinking during the fasting hours due to the mixed population.

We quickly found a local cafe/ restaurant which was to our liking and ate there most of the time Feeka is the name should you be in the area.

We were always warmly greeted with a “welcome back” to this very popular and incredibly well priced establishment. The food was so delicious I told them if I lived in KL I would never need to cook again.

We spent the rest of that day just checking out the local area on foot and planning our two days itinerary.

One disturbing feature was a homeless man obviously drug affected who sat on the side walk in the same spot the whole time we were there. His underwear was non existent and his trousers completely ripped from the front to the back fully displaying his genitals for everyone to see. I’m not sure what the go is but he seemed to be getting given food from someone.

We spent our first full day getting dropped off at Central market which from where we were able to walk and see lots of the sights. Temples, mosques, little India,Chinatown and the markets where the Muslim folk shop for clothes etc.

We visited a beautiful Hindu temple just as they were starting their prayers and were not hurried out, just allowed to observe quietly.

A huge downpour saw us huddling under an awning before getting a ride back to our hotel.

Our last day we took a grab to the Bantu caves where they have recently painted the stairs going up in bright colours making it a great photo opportunity for tourists and devotees as well.

The Bantu caves has Hindu temple inside and wonderful gold statue at the bottom of the stairs all adding to the charm.

There are monkeys there, a lot of monkeys and they work for peanuts! Had to say that as it’s what James quoted while we were there.

A lovely gentleman was selling bags of peanuts for five Malaysian ringette and was the best cheap entertainment ever.

The monkeys were very gentle on the whole and we had great fun feeding them one peanut at a time.

Actually we thought it was a highlight of our stay in KL.

From there we took a grab to Colmar Tropicale YES WELL let’s say it was a lovely drive in the countryside but the resort village of Colmar Tropicale was a HUGE overrated experience. At new it was probably a pretty place to wander and grab a meal but now it’s a pretty sad affair with most places shut or should be. We had a coffee and walked around and sad to say that took up half an hour and we were out of there.

Glad we hadn’t booked to go there on a tour! Fancy wasting several hours in a dilapidated ghost town with nothing to do.

Back to our favourite Fekka for late lunch and again for dinner.

Breakfast was included at The Park Royal suites but to be honest it was very ordinary.

We felt we could have spent more time in KL so will keep it on our stop over break list.

Next stop PENANG, MALAYSIA.