Everyone’s Talking About….

Well another month has gone by and a few things have changed. We have had another baby in the family, which is always a lovely thing.  She is my great step-niece (if that’s an actual thing) I haven’t met her yet, but from the photographs she looks beautiful, so it will be lovely to see her. Unfortunately last night my brother told me that she is in hospital, so I’m keeping my fingers (and everything else crossed) that she is okay.

My eldest daughter has returned to live at home, after working abroad for a few months, she was really unhappy, so is now back with us. It’s nice to have her home, but I’m sure it won’t be long before she finds some work again.

A trip to Portugal

As our daughter was working out in Portugal, my husband and I decided to go out and visit her for a few days. We stayed at the Vila Gale Cerro Alagoa in  Albufeira. The hotel was really lovely, set in really beautiful grounds with a really big pool. The rooms were really nice and we had a room overlooking the pool. We only had breakfast there, which was amazing. There was some much delicious food to choose from, both healthy and not quite so healthy.

When we left the UK the weather was amazingly hot, so arriving in Portugal to an overcast, but warm day was a little bit disappointing, but as the day wore on, the sun came out and it stayed hot, but quite windy for the rest of the days we were there.

Albufeira was quite nice, although quite a busy place. We only got to see a small part of it over a few days, so it’s really difficult to give a proper opinion. Maybe we’ll go back one day and see a bit more of it.

Everyone’s talking about Jamie

On Sunday afternoon I went to see Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. This was recorded from the theatre, but shown at the cinema. I have heard some of the music from it previously and knew that it was about a sixteen year old boy who has the dream of becoming a drag queen.

I was absolutely blown away by the show. Everything about it was absolutely amazing, from the set, the singing, acting and dancing. Everyone who was in it was so talented. The story has you laughing one minute and crying the next. It is a really feel good show, but with the message that you should follow your dreams and accept people for who they are.

I have to say that I would love to see this live now at the theatre, so I’ll add this to my “must see” list.

 

 

 

 

Back to reality

Our final leg of the canal journey took us through beautiful countryside, with glorious sunshine.

Peace and quiet

Friday started off with a gentle mist rolling down the canal. The sun was out and the sky was a clear blue. Other than the birds singing there was hardly a noise. It was so quiet in fact that when a hot air balloon passed overhead you could actually hear it. I live in a town, near a road and it is unknown for it to be so quiet.

There were fewer locks today, but the ones we passed through were very pretty and well kept. We moored up at Penkbridge, where we had a lovely meal at the Littleton pub, which was a short walk into town.

On Saturday we were up early as we had to make our way through the last few locks before returning our boat. We had a short stop off for breakfast before heading off home.

An American in Paris

Most of the weekend was spent washing and sorting out after our holiday. The weather was still beautiful, so we had all the garden furniture out and washed that too.

Later, on Sunday afternoon, I had booked to go to the cinema, to see An American in Paris, which had been filmed from the stage show. It was absolutely amazing!

The singing and dancing by all the cast was superb. It was a really great end to what has been a wonderful week.

Chugging Along

Our journey continued yesterday through the lovely countryside at a lovely steady pace. The weather was a little mor overcast and cooler, but it still stayed fine, so we were really lucky.

Goose wrangling

At the first lock we came across a couple of geese and their goslings that had got themselves stuck in th lock. My husband opened the gate and managed to gently shoo them along whilst someone on another boat tempted them with cornflakes. Luckily they all managed to get out of the lock safely.

We moored for the night at Fradley junction, where there were lots of boats moored up. The area is really pretty and we ate at the Swan Public House (aka The Mucky Duck) which is apparently the most photographed pub on the canal.  It was motorbike meet night, so there were loads of bikes and bikers outside. By this time the sun had finally come out and it was a beautiful evening.

On a go slow

This morning dawned bright and sunny again. We had to start the day by going through the swing bridge and lock at Fradley Junction. There were a number of boats waiting to go through the locks, so it took much longer than expected.

There were some volunteers helping at the locks, who were mostly friendly and helpful, however one of them was slightly condescending and proceeded to explain how to work the locks. Although I said that I had done plenty of locks before, he insisted on explaining step by step quoting the official health and safety regulations along the way. I managed to keep my cool and thanked him for his help before moving on to the next lock.

Me and my husband walked for quite a way over the next hour or so and were surprised when our friends didn’t turn up for quite a while. Eventually they turned up behind a a boat that was moving very slowly. We hopped back on the boat and before long there were three boats stuck behind the go slow. We asked him to move over, but he seemed oblivious and just kept pottering along. Eventually after explaining that he was going too slow and there was a queue of boats behind him, he pulled over to let us past. Unfortunately he wouldn’t let the others pull past him and they had to stay behind him for some time.

Later in the day at the locks and mooring point, we chatted to several people who had got stuck behind him in the course of the day. He had clearly caused chaos on the canal!

We moored up at Shugborough for the night. The sun was still shining and we walked to the farm shop where we bought supplies for the next day and had a coffee and cake at the cafe. It was then back to the boat for a cheeky prosecco before showering and going to the pub for tea. Another amazing day.

History, Concrete And Regeneration

Black Country Living Museum

This morning we awoke to another  beautiful sunny day. We had a lovely breakfast and sat outside with a coffeee whilst we waited for the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley to open.

The museum was amazing. When you think of a museum, this is not what you would expect. It is a living museum, with houses and community buildings set in 26 acres around the canal basin.

We walked around the houses, many of which had people in them to tell you the story of the houses and the family that lived there. I found it fascinating to see how people lived in the past. The museum has houses and shops dated from the 1800’s to post war.

The shops have staff in there who again tell you the story around the shops and the goods in there. There are other people wandering around in costume telling tales and helping people out.

There is also a working fairground, a school, a chapel, a mine, a pub and lots of industrial buildings. Many  of the buildings originated in the Black Country and were taken down and reconstructed in the museum. Even the tilted house, which came from an area of mine subsidence has been rebuilt with the correct tilt to recreate the subsidence.

We had a tour down the mine where the enthusiastic  guide, George told us all about the mine and the people who worked there.

We then had excellent fish and chips for lunch and of course had to buy sweets from the old sweet shop to eat later on. During the day the buses were running up and down the site and an occasional vintage vehicle passed by from the showroom on site.

Everyone that worked there was so friendly and helpful, giving lots of historical information and being genuinely interested in who we were and where we had come from. I would definitely recommend a visit here if you get chance.

 

Moving on to modern regeneration

Back on the barge, we thencontinued on to the Wolverhampton level canal and then the Birmingham main line. This took us through some very built up areas outside Birmingham, including travelling under a long stretch of motorway which was under construction, supported by scaffolding. The workers carried on working whilst we travelled underneath, causing a rainfall of watery cement to fall on the boat (and the driver)

Continuing further along we went through three locks. These were a little run down and were much harder to wind and open than the ones we passed through yesterday. Unfortunately as we were approaching the locks my friend stepped off the boat whilst it was moving and fell headlong onto the path. She is now sporting a lovely graze down her arm and knee.

We then carried on into Birmingham where we moored up at Cambrian Wharf right outside the sea life centre and the Birmingham Arena. This is a beautiful area which has had some regeneration and is lively and bustling. There are lots of bars and restaurants.  The buildings are beautifully restored and the area looks very smart.

Other than the slight mishap, it’s been another great day!

Back on our travels

Hi it’s been quite a while since I last wrote my blog. I feel that the first part of the year has kind of crept past mostly unnoticed.  So just a little catch up. Our eldest daughter is now working abroad in the show team for Thomas Cook. Our youngest daughter has now past her driving test and bought herself a car. Other than that nothing much has changed and life is ticking along fairly smoothly.

A leisurely four miles an hour

On Saturday me and my husband and a couple of friends set off for a weeks canal boating holiday in the midlands. It’s something I’ve always fancied doing but not ever got round to it.

We booked a hire boat from ABC Boathire and collected it from Gailey Marina. After unpacking our bags we were instructed on the daily maintenance of the boat, how to drive it and a quick practice with the locks, then we were off.

The first evening we travelled about 8 miles (at about 4 miles an hour), then moored for the evening close to the Anchor Inn, where we had a very nice meal.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a massive fan of boats. For the first day I panicked a little every time the boat rocked. I also really struggled to step from the boat to the canal side without worrying that I was going to fall in. I survived the first day! I actually really enjoyed it. I didn’t try driving the boat as it’s huge (62ft long) and I’m pretty sure I’d run aground or crash!

Locks, Locks and more Locks

Today saw the second leg of our journey. Me and my husband started the day by walking on the tow path, keeping up with the boat which was driven by my friend, ably assisted by her husband, the navigator.  After walking for about 4 miles, we jumped back on the boat for a short while before beginning the rise up the 21 locks  to take us into Wolverhampton.

The locks are an amazing feat of engineering and we soon got into a good team routine opening and closing the gates and using the windlass to wind the paddles up and down to fill and empty the locks. It took us about 2 1/2 hours all together with a short stop for lunch in the middle. It was a brilliant experience, helped immensely by the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day.

I had a short turn at driving the boat, but it wasn’t massively successful and I had to concentrate so hard to keep the vote in the centre of the canal. I soon handed the tiller back.

Our journey ended today at The Black Country Museum. We moored up there for the night and then had a short walk to an amazing pub called Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory. The pies

 

were amazing. I had allotment pie which was topped half with pastry and half cauliflower cheese. Amazing food, ooh and I had a sneaky violet gin too.

All in all a superb day. Looking forward to visiting the museum tomorrow and then travelling on a little further.

 

Marvellous Majorca

As I wrote my last blog, I was sitting on a sun bed by the pool at a beautiful villa in Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. We have been to Majorca for the last three years because it is such a pretty place and we feel able to relax and enjoy ourselves there. It is the first time that we have been without our children and the first time that we have stayed in a villa. Unfortunately I have now returned to a cold, rainy and windy England, but thought I’d let you know what I got up to on my travels last week.

Old Town Pollensa

On Sunday morning we took a trip up to the market in the Old Town of Pollensa. This is a beautiful market square, surrounded by lovely old buildings and a church in the corner.  The stalls sell lots of beautiful fresh fruit and veg, cheese, cured meats, olives, nuts and sweets.

As we were staying in a villa we bought some lovely fresh fruits and salad to put with our barbeque later on. I also bought some olives, which I love and some very brightly coloured jelly sweets.

We walked up the Calvari Steps, which are 365 steps up a very steep hillside, leading to a tiny church. There are pretty little houses on the way up the hill and there were also a couple of buskers playing acoustic guitars which sounded lovely It was extremely hot, but the view from the top was amazing. It was made more worthwhile as I felt able to treat myself to an iced coffee with cream and ice cream when I got back down. I’m pretty sure that the walk had burned all the calories off!

Soller

Soller is a beautiful little town on the west coast of Majorca. To get there you have to drive along the  very twisty roads that run through the mountains. Although the journey feels quite treacherous, it is definitely worth the drive.

We had breakfast and a wander through the town, before taking the tram down to Puerto del Soller, which is such a beautiful coastal area with a glorious beach and harbour. It was very hot by this time, so after a short walk, we went for ice cream, in a restaurant overlooking the bay and just watched the world go by.

Alcudia

We visited the old town of Alcudia during the evening to have a meal. The town itself is set in a medieval castle, so is inside the walls. It is a lovely setting, particularly on an evening as it starts to get dark. There are lots of restaurants to choose from and there is a lovely atmosphere, sitting outside within the impressive walls of the city.

Walking and snorkelling

Both me and my husband really enjoy snorkelling. This is something that I have come to enjoy fairly recently, over the last few years. I tried scuba diving when I was younger, but found that I didn’t really like the feel of the mask and breathing apparatus. I had a go at snorkelling when we went to Majorca. The water there is so warm and clear that I found I really enjoyed it. Another thing that it also did for me was to slow my breathing down. When I was struggling with anxiety, I spent the majority of my time breathing really fast and sounding out of breath. Once I had my head under the water, all I could hear was my breathing and it helped me to concentrate on that and deliberately slow my breathing down, which really seemed to help.

This year we walked to Cala de Boquer, which is about a 45 minute walk from Puerto Pollensa. It’s quite a rocky hilly walk, but if you set of early enough, you  can get there before it gets too hot. There is nothing there at all except for a beautiful rocky cove and obviously the sea, which is full of fish and great for snorkelling.

The other walk we did was to Cal San Vicente. This is quite a hilly walk, again to a beautiful cove with a soft sandy beach. There are a couple of restaurants here and sun beds on the beach. The sea, again is crystal clear and great for snorkelling.

Mosquitoes, car hire and fish bites

Just a couple of things that you might want to be aware of if you are thinking of going to Majorca.

We hired a car from AVIS and met the rudest person I have ever met behind the “customer service” desk. She told us we had not hired a 7 seater vehicle and that there wasn’t one available unless we paid an extra 25 euros per day. Luckily we had booked through Villa Plus, who managed to sort it out for us with a phone call. Having read reviews about Avis, this appears to be a bit of a ploy to get extra money from customers.

I have been to Majorca several times, usually in July and August. I have never been bitten by mosquitoes, but this time I had a lot of bites. I understand this is more common in September, so be prepared if you go at this time. Some of us had bites, some did not, so it appears mosquitoes like particular blood types, scents etc. It certainly didn’t spoil my holiday, but it is a bit of a pain when you are scratching and spotty.

For some reason whilst I was snorkelling this year I was bitten/ stung by something in the sea. This has never happened to me before. It was a bit of a shock and felt like I had been cut by something. After the initial mark, which swelled up a bit, there were no other effects. I understand that there are no dangerous fish or jelly fish on the island so there was no panic.

Not sure why I was so attractive to the hungry wildlife this year!

Something for everyone

Whilst we were in Majorca, my youngest daughter was also there, but in Magaluf, on her first holiday abroad without us. She also had a great time, but a completely different holiday to us. We’ve certainly recovered quicker than she has and I think the most of her holiday was spent partying. She returned home safely despite this, so that’s a relief.

If you’ve not been to Majorca I would recommend it. It’s a very scenic island with lots of lovely coves and bays. It does get busy in some areas, but this depends on where you go and what time of year. It is certainly one of my favourite places and the other bonus is that it is a really short flight and you can get there so quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tempus Fugit

Yes it’s true my blog is late again. The reason I used the title tempus fugit  is because it is generally translated as time flies, which is just my clever way of saying that I’m late writing my blog. There is no real excuse or reason, other than time really does fly. So here is a catch up of what’s been happening over the last few weeks that I’ve missed telling you about.

Kynren

Kynren is an outdoor performance on a massive scale held in Bishop Auckland in County Durham. Someone told my husband about it a few weeks ago and we decided to book. What a great decision that was.

The venue is a purpose built stadium with tiered seating. The whole performance takes place in the valley and hillside opposite the stadium seating. There were over 1500 people  involved, all locals who take part voluntarily.

The performance was amazing, literally the history of Bishop Auckland told through the eyes of a young boy who travels back in time. There was music, battles, history, dancing, digital backdrops and pyrotechnics.

The organisation of the whole thing, from parking up to leaving was superb and we had an absolutely great evening.

Family fun day

Do you ever go to a family funeral or wedding and see people that you’ve not seen for months, or sometimes years? At those events everyone says “We must get together soon” and for some reason you never do, until the next funeral or wedding.Well this was how family fun day began.

A friend of ours, not actually related in any way decided that instead of promising to get together, he would arrange a family fun day. Four years ago, we had the first one, on an August Bank Holiday weekend, where we turned up at the rugby club, played rounders, races tug of war and had a number of quizzes. It was a great day and has just taken off.

Each year extra people get invited and some that have been the years before no longer come, but it always a really great day, with lots of banter and laughter. It is lovely just to get together for no other reason than to spend some time together.

A wedding invite

On bank holiday Monday we were lucky enough to be invited to the evening reception for a friends wedding.  It was a beautiful evening, in a lovely venue.

When the invitations came out you were asked to choose a song that you would most likely get up and dance to. We chose “oh what a night” by Franki Valli. We had only just arrived at the venue when the song was played, so we were straight up to dance. It was a real pleasure to share the celebration with their friends and family.

A late summer break

So after spending a few days back at work after the extended Bank Holiday Weekend, it was time to set off on a cheeky week away in the sun. Just as everyone was getting their children ready for setting off back to school after the summer holidays, we flew off to Majorca for a nice break, with my brother, his wife and two of our friends.

As I write this we are a few days in and I am sat next to the pool at the villa, enjoying a sandwich in the sunshine. We have had a lovely few days, in Puerto Pollensa, doing a bit of Walking, a bit of snorkelling, lots of eating and drinking. I’m not really a sun worshipper as I am mostly pale and freckley , but it’s lovely to be sat out in the fresh air, nice and warm with a cold drink in my hand.

Hope to write my blog on time next week, but until then…..cheers!!

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A Lottery Dream

Just recently some friends and I got talking about what we might spend our money on if we won the lottery and also about the things that we would like to do when we retire. I find it fascinating how different we are and what we think would make us happy if money was no object.

Some wanted new houses or very elaborate home improvements, some wanted to buy a fancy car. I don’t have particularly expensive tastes and I’ve never been a big fan of “things”. My house is somewhere that we live as a family, where people can come and feel comfortable. It does need some refurbishment, but it wouldn’t be anything particularly swanky or expensive,

I don’t particular wear a lot of jewellery and I’m not really into designer clothes. I do quite like a nice pair of shoes, but I’m not sure I’d spend my full pension or lottery win on shoes!

My ideal way to spend the money, would be to travel and see all those places that I’ve not been able to see, either due to lack of finances or lack of time. There’s lots of places in America that I’d still like to visit, Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, Lapland, in fact there is plenty of the world that I’ve not seen. A lot of the holidays that we have had have suited us as a family and it’s only been very recently that me and my husband have started to visit some of the places that we want to see, that the girls may not have been particularly interested in.

The other thing that I would love to do is to be able to book and see lots of different musical theatre shows, without having to worry about the cost. It would be lovely to travel to London, Broadway or Las Vegas to see different shows every few weeks. I am very lucky in that I do go to the theatre fairly often, but tend to book things that I’ve seen before, or that I have a pretty good idea that I am going to like. It would be wonderful to be able to book something without having to think about paying a lot of money for something that I end up not liking.

To be fair there are very few musical theatre shows that I haven’t enjoyed. Even those where I have thought it wasn’t my particular cup of tea, I’ve enjoyed watching just for the sheer spectacle, the costumes or just seeing the wonderful talent of the performers. I love a good show or a concert and I would certainly be able to fill my time with these things.

Who knows, I might even be wearing a new pair of shoes !!

 

 

California Dreaming (11)

So yesterday we began the last leg of our journey travelling to San Diego. Along the way we passed and stopped at some of the most beautiful beaches and coves that I have ever seen, Newport Beach, Balboa Beach and Laguna Beach.

We saw pelicans flying in formation, using the warm air currents to fly. they looked unreal, like remote controlled or CGI. It was an amazing site.

After we arrived at the Hotel in San Diego (The Hilton at Mission Beach), we spent the afternoon lazing by the big pool and reacharging our batteries for our last day in California.

In the evening we went out for Somthing to eat. It was the first time that we had had to drive to restaurants, but we found a nice Italian, Pomodoro Ristorante, where we had a lovely meal at a decent price.

San Diego

This morning we set off for a tour of USS Midway. this was something that my husband really wanted to do. Before we started the tour we had breakfast and walked along the bay. One of the loveliest sights I’ve seen was the statue of Embracing Peace, which is the iconic statue of the sailor kissing the nurse at the end of the war. It looks beautiful with the backdrop of the harbour.

I really enjoyed the tour of USS Midway as I did not really know what to expect. The ship is huge and it is really beyond my comprehension as to how it stays afloat, especially with all the aircraft, sailors, fuel and other supplies that it holds.

The tour is partly an audio tour, but is interspersed with ex midway sailors recounting their service on the ship and explaining how it all worked. It took us about 3 hours to do the full tour, but it was so interesting that it passed really quickly. Amazingly the lovely gentleman that did part of our tour originated from Wigglesworth in Yorkshire which is where our friends live.

Afterwards we walked to the Gaslamp District (via The Cheescake factory – because it would be rude not to). This wasn’t really what I expected as i thought it would be more of a pedstrian area and a little bit more old fashioned. It was really for me very much an area of bars and restaurants.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

What a little gem this place was. It was kind of a last minute decision to just go and have a look, as it was our last afternoon. This is a little village, which held some of the first settlers in california. It has really unusual shops, restauarants, a village sqaure and also a number of buildings which house museums. Unfortunately by the time we arrived the museums were ready for closing, so we didn’t get to see them all. It is free to visit and also free to park at the Trolley station just next door.

We spent a couple of hours wandering round, looking at the lovely buildings. the people who work there dress in costume and there was even a Sherriff watching over everything.

We rounded off our day by eating at The Cosmopolitan hotel. This has an old fashioned sallon at the front and through the back, a courtyard where food is served. The food was excellent (as were the cocktails). This was a really lovely end to our last full day in california.

 

California Dreaming (10)

Well today has been a real eye opener. I’ve seen some things I never expected to see. I also was surprised by some of the most famous Los Angeles sights, unfortunately not always in a good way.

Los Angeles sight seeing

Today we took a tour of the city with Surf City Tours who are based in Santa Monica. I have to say that the service that they provided was excellent. Our guide Garrett was excellent, both in his knowledge and his manner. The tour was on a small open sided covered bus with only six of us, so felt very personal. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to visit the city.

Our first part of the tour was around the areas where the stars live and fiming locations, with our guide pointing out various houses along the way and giving various funny stories.

Our first stop was The Grove and Farmers Market, which is a very pretty area, with a lovely garden area, high street shops and then the Farmers Market, which housed food of every description.

We then moved on to the Hollywood sign. Now this was the first surprise, that you can’t actually get anywhere near it. Maybe that was quite naive of me. However we went to a great viewing point, where you could see the city in all its glory and also take photos with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Our next stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now again I  may have been a bit naive but I expected this to be a very glamorous area, as you see it on the TV. It was actually (no offence) quite dirty, very busy and at the side of a main road. It’s also crowded with people trying to sell you cd’s, beggars and people dressed up wanting you to pay them to take a photo. The best part was seeing the hand and footprints outside the Chinese theatre. The whole thing was very interesting, but not at all what I expected.

On the other hand, our next stop lived up to expectations, Rodeo Drive. Very exclusive shops, fancy cars, very clean and well kept. We walked down the street, but didn’t go in any of the shops or make any purchases.

Santa Monica Pier

After the tour we walked along the pier at Santa Monica. This was the kind of thing that you expect of a pier and we even had a ride on the Ferris wheel, well because you just have to.

Venice Beach/Muscle Beach

We had read the guide books and knew that this would be a “diverse” place, but nothing could have prepared us for this. There were craft stalls, which were genuinely pretty, but these were interspersed with bizarre characters, selling odd bits or simply asking for your money.

It felt as if you needed to hold on to your bag/wallet/camera at all times. I expected bohemian or even gothic, but this was something else. Many of the people appeared to be homeless, have mental health issues, drugs/alcohol problems or all of them.

Muscle Beach was a fenced in area housing an outside gym. There were no bronzed gods, no roller skating beach babes and no feeling of health and outdoor life.

We walked back to the car as quickly as possible. I’ve worked in some scary places in my time, but this beat them all hands down.

I know that tourists will continue to visit, just as we did, but if I could give any advice to anyone travelling I would say give it a miss. That’s the only place I would say this about in the whole of our travels here in California.