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.

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.

 

California Dreaming (6)

It’s certainly true what they say, that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The motel (Sands by the Sea) at San Simeon was actually really comfortable, the food was good in the adjacent restaurant and I had a really good nights sleep. Unfortunately I have now picked up the cold that our friends have had over the last week, which is not great when you’re on holiday.

Hearst Castle

William Randolph Hearst was in the movie and newspaper industry and was worth millions upon millions of dollars. As a young boy he visited Europe with his mother and was fascinated with the history, architecture and art. About 50 years later he built a “ranch” on the hillside overlooking the bay of San Simeon, which he loved. He bought sculptures, tapestries and furniture. What he could not buy he had made. It took over 20 years and when he died it still wasn’t completed.

The result of all this is what is now known as Hearst Castle. This is a rambling estate built atop a hill, with a 5 mile road that was built especially to reach it. It resembles a Mediterranean village with a castle at its centre and smaller cottages for visitors. It has an indoor and outdoor pool and is dripping in artwork. It was visited by the rich, famous and influential, by invitation only.

We took the grand tour, which covers the downstairs of the main house. Our guide was informative, not only about the building and its history, but also about Mr Hearst himself, who was a quiet man influencing politics and policies from the background. One of the really interesting things was the fact that his chief architect was a woman, Julia Morgan, who was way ahead of her time in her achievements.

Included in the tour was a 40 minute film which told of Hearst’s background, his determined father and his forward thinking mother. It told how Hearst, despite his fortune was a philanthropist and wanted the house that he built to be seen by the people as a museum of architecture.

It is certainly an impressive place. Afterwards we were allowed to wander the gardens and see the indoor pool before getting the bus back down the road to the visitor centre. It was definitely a worthwhile visit, helped immensely by the helpful and informative staff and the lovely sunny day.

A scenic coastal drive

Our journey then took us southwards down the coast, calling off to see a colony of elephant seals, sunbathing on the beach. I have never seen or expected to see so many seals in one place. What a site! We watched them for ages before continuing our journey.

We also called at Moonstone Bay, at the bar and grill, for some lunch. This was recommended by a member of staff at the castle. Lunch was beautiful, as was the view across the bay.

We drove through Cayucos, another beautiful town, before viewing Morro Rock from the bay. Although it was warm it was really windy in the bay, so we took some photos and continued our journey.

Pismo Beach

Our overnight stay was at Ocean View Hotel at Pismo Beach. What a beautiful hotel, in its own grounds, overlooking the sea. It was not lavish like the Fairmont and Monterey Plaza, but was pretty and practical with a stunning view over the beach. The grounds had BBQ’s , fire pits and tables where families could sit out and play and cook their own food. It had a lovely atmosphere.

We walked along the extremely flat beach to the pier and then back, just as the tide was coming in. I had a very brief paddle in the sea as the water was freezing. The wind was blowing the sand like some kind of mist across the beach, but not up in the air, which something I’ve never seen before.

For our evening we went to The Cool Cat diner, which was a traditional American Diner. The food was great and the staff were friendly and helpful.

We then went back to the hotel and sat by one of the fire pits before going to bed.

California Dreaming (4)

The only word that I can use to describe today is WOW!!

Drive to the Big Sur

Before we arrived in California we knew that parts of the Pacific Highway were closed due to damage caused by the rain over the winter. Today we set off towards the Big Sur, knowing that we would have to drive back as there is no longer a through road. It was definitely worth it. There were so many beautiful places to stop and take photos along the way, I almost lost count.

One of the first places we stopped was Monastery Beach. The sky was so blue and the sun was shining. There were huge waves crashing into the beach. Just a little bit further down the beach we caught sight of a seal just making its way back into the water. This was just the start of some of the wonderful things we would see today.

Stopping further down the coast at several beautiful coves the views were fantastic.

We saw sea otters playing in the sea. We watched one using a stone to break clam shells and eat the contents!

Bixby Canyon Bridge

One of the most amazing sights along the Big Sur is the Bixby Canyon Bridge. It is an unbelievable feat of English jeering, but the fact that it is surrounded by stunning views makes it even better. We had to stop off here to take photos of such an iconic place and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

We then drove further south, calling at The River Inn for an amazing lunch. We then had to turn around and make our way back to Monterey as the road was closed yet a little way ahead.

Nature at its best

On returning to the Plaza, we walked along the beach front towards Fisherman’s Wharfe. There were a number of seals and sea otters playing in the sea and sunbathing on the rocks. It was great to see them in their natural habitat. Also along the rocks were some very large red star fish.

Walking back along the pier we saw what we thought was a seal on the beach. It then became clear that it was actually in distress. Luckily someone had called the local sea life rescue and after waiting anxiously for quite a while, they turned up to asepsis the animal. It was in fact a walrus pup that had been separated from its mother, but they soon sorted it out and sent it back on its way.

A relaxing spa afternoon

On returning to the hotel we went into the top floor to spend some time in the spa. This is open air, glass fronted, overlooking the sea. The hot tubs were wonderfully warm, the changing rooms were luxurious and there was an open fire to sit by just for relaxation.

To add to all this, whilst in the spa, looking out to sea we Were treated to seeing a peregrine falcon resting on the balcony below and a whale and some dolphins swimming past the hotel.  You really couldn’t make today any better.

After a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant and a cocktail by the fire pit, it’s time for bed, with dreams of a Suberb day and hopefully more to come.