We are going off the island!

Where are we going? Well, you will have to see but we have missed seeing the grandchildren since we last got off the rock in the very early part of March 2020 so that must be a bit of a clue.

What have I been doing in the last 15 months? Apart from capturing sunsets at the wonderfully photogenic Port Erin (see above), I have been through all my old photographs that had been taken using film as well as many of the ones that my parents had taken and have digitalised them.

Some photos were in albums with no negatives so photographing them was the only way to get them digitalised but others were scanned using a special scanner for slides and negatives that I bought locally.

Some of the quality of the slides and negatives have deteriorated over time but others remain good. Whether I will keep them long term though remains to be seen.

Here then is just a sample of a few old photos from those days when Slides and Negatives were king. One from the 1960s, one from the 1970s and one from the 1980s

Peel Pantoloons

IMG_9266It’s a Panto and for those of you who have never heard of it, Wikipedia has a very good description.  The Peel version is definitely NOT of the Mime variety.

This year’s production was Peter Pan which was fitting being as it was the 90th anniversary of Peter Pan author JM Barrie gifting the rights to the Peter Pan books to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH) in London.

I am of course biased as the Director is my daughter, Mel who has being directing or at least at the forefront of producing the shows for probably 12 years and never tires of it.

The cast includes many children who audition as early as July for the start of rehearsals beginning in September and for the show that is the 1st week of December. (I have not included any pictures of the children but I can assure you they were wonderful)

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Mel as a crocodile

Tickets always sell out fast and this year was no exception. There were some memorable performances from the cast, the usual deliberate (and perhaps not so deliberate) mistakes and of course we hope that it gives the youngsters confidence in the coming years whether they be on the stage as actors, dancers, singers, stage management or even just in their adult life.

I was not involved on stage but as father of the director still had a lot to do including taking tickets at the door – not as easy as it sounds believe me.

As it was a special Panto we took advantage of the Isle of Man’s recently issued Commemorative 50p coins and each cast member was presented with an uncirculated coin in an especially designed presentation pack.

2020’s Panto is the 30th Anniversary one so we are hoping for some extra special entertainment.

An Autumnal Jersey

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A week looking after Harry in Jersey was preceded by a visit to some friends in Woodford and a relative in Bushey so we chose a hotel mid-way(ish) between the two just outside St Albans.

Home territory of sorts as we both went to (different) schools in St Albans all those years ago.  If we had been to the Green Dragon Pub in London Colney before it was an exceptionally long time ago but neither of us could recall.  Anyway, the food and drinks were good and reasonably priced.

Another hotel stay near Gatwick and a flight to Jersey on the Friday before Half Term at a time that suited us well and we met Sarah in St Helier for lunch before using her car to get back to her house.

KBTW8609Most of the indoors time looking after Harry was spent with his extensive train set but we did manage to get out and about albeit the weather was not particularly kind.

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Rough seas at St Ouen’s Bay

Although not for me in the temperatures of the autumn, Sarah and Harry did venture into their hot tub.

Christmas is getting earlier and earlier I think and a local Garden Centre has jumped in on the act by hiring in 3 singing and moving penguins. This was certainly an attraction although sadly I only have a video of it, not a still to put here.

Our return flight was again on time and we stayed overnight in Basingstoke with a day visit to see Cody in Wiltshire before another hotel stay in Liverpool and a ferry home from Heysham in the afternoon.

Winter is setting in so it is soon to be Panto time, (Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes it is!) so no travelling for a bit, but we are hopefully back in Jersey for Christmas (drones permitting!).

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Harry’s costume for a school project

Cyprus

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Hotel Louis Ivi Mare, Paphos

Monday 7 October

We haven’t really had a holiday since our cruise for a number of reasons and as we had originally meant to call in on Cyprus on our cruise earlier this year (the port was dropped from the itinerary a month or so before we set sail) we thought we should give it a try as we had never been there.

After our weekend in London with the family and a stay overnight at the Holiday Inn at Gatwick where we could leave our car we utilised the services of Special Assistance as we both are suffering from walking issues at the moment.

Whilst the Special Assistance service is good at Gatwick’s South terminal as well as at the airline (BA in this case) there appears to be little joined up service between the two so you have to ask twice.

This is the first time we have flown BA with the newish catering arrangements and although we noticed the M & S food was not particularly pricey on the plane, it certainly was cheaper land side.

Our flight to Paphos left from Gate 38 so we were grateful for the Special Assistance team and their mobility carts as Gate 38 is just under a mile from the main seating area of South Terminal.

Our four hour flight was on time and the only issue I had was with coffee – a coffee bag you put into a cup of hot water – which ended up being a bit of a “bitty” drink. The assistance at Paphos was made stress free with their assistance although the car rental was slow.

I was not sure about how I would get to the hotel as my Sat Nav didn’t cover Cyprus and it was dark when we arrived but armed with directions to the hotel on my phone and a good sense of direction, we only had one hiccup as one road was closed which caused a slight diversion.

We are staying this week in the Louis Ivi Mare Hotel which is modern and only opened in May this year. First impressions were favourable although it was in the dark.

Tuesday 8 October

We drive out today after a very filling breakfast to Avios Georgia’s church for a drinks stop – iced coffee – then on to Latsi Beach for lunch and ice cream.

Just because it is there, we take the long drag up to Kathikas from the coast road and are rewarded with some lovely views, some very quiet areas and lots of banana trees.

We are on half board and the buffet tonight has a Greek theme and there was nothing wrong with that especially as a glass of wine is included along with a bottle of still water.

It was quite amusing to hear a waitress struggle with a fellow guest and his Vegan dietary requirements.

This is not a hotel just for the British, many languages are spoken and all age groups (except school aged children as it was during school time) represented.

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Louis Ivi Mare Pool

The pool is almost a boomerang shape and does have a life guard although he doubles up as a towel provider setting out the towels in nice neat rolls for the many loungers (there seem to be ample) around the pool.

Being new, the privacy between the pool and the beach walkway is non existent at the moment but the planting has been done and within a few years a nice hedge will separate the walkway from the hotel grounds.

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An uncrowded pool

Wednesday 9 October

Today we head out towards Larnaca stopping for a photo at Aphrodite’s rock, find the hotel that our friends Pete and Lorraine stay at and have a lovely coffee at the nearby old village of Pissouri.

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Pissouri Village

Back along the Motorway towards Paphos to find the old town but there are so many roadworks and limited parking we only manage a 30 minute stay and a brief look around some of the shops.

The buffet section at the hotel for dinner is excellent again tonight which is why it is always the most crowded, our advice: get there by 6:45 pm to get a good front row seat to watch (tonight anyway) a fabulous sunset.

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Sunset from our dining room table

On staff recommendation watch a jazz band in an upstairs lounge – they were good.

Thursday 10 October

A lazy day with only a longer visit to Paphos for a coffee and a brief walk to Agia Kyriaka Chrysopolitissa church (our friends’ son was married there a few years ago).

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Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa, Paphos

The church is one of the earliest Christian Churches, dating back to the visit of St. Paul in AD 49. One of the pillars outside the church is Paul’s Pillar where he was scourged.

The present Church contains beautiful icons, it is used by several denominations including Catholic and Anglicans.

The heat is taking it’s toll on us although I do manage a swim again and a dry off in the sun.

Dinner in the buffet section tonight followed by a walk to St Thomas’ Church at the end of the walkway.

This is a recently built church but with old features so that it looks as though it was built many years ago.

The ceiling in particular is spectacular but so difficult to photograph as I didn’t have my wide angle lens.

Friday 11 October

Not so sunny today to start with but better later as we venture into the mountains with a drive up to Troodos with a stop in the pretty but popular (with tourists) village of Omodos for lunch and a brief look around the Timios Stravos Monastery intermingling with a French speaking tour.

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Omodos village

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Timios Stavros Monastery

On the way down from Omodos and the Troodos Mountains, we miss the turning back to Paphos as many of the non motorway roads have little pre turn signage, and our detour takes in some new sights and villages not seen before we get back on the road to the Motorway.

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Toodros Mountains

Saturday 12 October

Our last day in Cyprus with just some pottering around but with temperatures now up to a lunchtime 35C, it was too hot to do very much other than a cool walk around the market with some discount on some beauty products ( €75 down to €25 ).

Assistance at Airport again excellent, flight again full and on time and whilst assistance at Gatwick was good, we were abandoned by the assistance support at Baggage reclaim. We had to make our own way to the hotel bus which thankfully came along quite quickly.

A bit of a shock to the system (35C in Cyprus to 11C when we arrived in the UK).

Sunday 13 October

A drive up to Nick & Ute in Cambridge for a lovely lunch and catch up and a drive to the Crowne Plaza at Stratford upon Avon in much improved weather. Hasn’t their son, Paul grown!

We booked on the assumption we would get there late and so included access to the Club Lounge which came with some drinks and snacks, useful for tonight and breakfasts.

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A paper bottle of shampoo

It is nice to see that the hotel chain has ditched the individual plastic bottles of toiletries for a cardboard based one although single use water bottles are still used – it is a step in the right direction though.

Monday 14 October

A tradition for this day is to meet up with Phillip & Sylvia but they were not able to meet up until lunchtime which left us time for a short walk before it started to rain quite heavily for the rest of the day.

Dinner in The Lamb Restaurant conveniently situated a few roads away from the hotel in Sheep Street.

Tuesday 15 October

Ferry home to have a week in order to prepare for a week in Jersey with the family looking after our grandson, Harry after our visit to our 19th Country of 2019.

A family visits London

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The Thames looking west from the London Eye – what a lot of building going on

Shall we go to London for a weekend, Sarah said to no one in particular on the family What’s App group, Harry wants to go.

Well we arranged it (and to co-incide with a visit to Cyprus just after for us) for early October with a ferry by us and Mel, a flight from Sarah, Ali and Harry and a train journey or two by Flic, Gary and Cody! A military operation if ever there was one.

We had stayed on Friday night at the Holiday Inn at Gatwick leaving the car and luggage for Cyprus whilst we went up to London.

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At the Space exhibit

First stop on Saturday 5 October was the Science Museum meeting up first with Mel, Sarah, Ali & Harry who had an eventful journey from their hotel and the rest later in the morning.

The Science Museum, a place I haven’t been to for about 25 years, was crowded but the higher you went up the building the crowds thinned out.

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Cody enjoying an interactive display

It is, however, showing it’s age and some of the exhibits weren’t as interactive as they were supposed to be.

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Splendid architecture near the Science Museum

Nevertheless, it was a good experience although perhaps Harry would want to go again when he is older and can appreciate some of the exhibits more.

Lunch eaten which is always going to be a challenge with allergies, likes, dislikes and non meat eaters amongst us we progressed to our hotel in Victoria (Premier Inn, Victoria) whilst the younger generations sampled Hamleys and a few other Oxford Street area stores via buses and tubes at the request of Harry.

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Grandma and Grandson

We met up again for dinner at Giraffe near Victoria Station with us staying overnight nearby, Flic, Gary and Cody returning home and the rest staying near Wimbledon as the accommodation was cheaper there!

Sunday 6 October

With only just over a half day available (flights back for Mel, Sarah, Ali and Harry) we made the most of it by spending time on the South Bank.

First of all, the London Eye which had been pre-booked (it’s cheaper that way) although Gary stayed at the bottom guarding the pushchair.

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London Eye photo

We followed this after lunch by a ride on the Thames by the scheduled water bus before some went on to Tower Bridge before those for Gatwick met up at London Bridge for our journey South.

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Cuddles with Grandma / Nana

It is amazing what you can pack into a few hours in London and perhaps we can try again when we have more time available although I must say London is becoming somewhat exhausting for us oldies.

Now, for us, it is a swap of suitcases which we had left in our car at the Gatwick hotel before our trip to Cyprus tomorrow.

 

 

Little Moreton Hall and the Central Wales Rail Line

12 September 2019

After our Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling guests had departed in early September, we needed a break. After all, there is a limit to how many days in a row at our age we can get up early to make breakfast for four guests when virtually the rest of the year we are not used to such an early rise!

So, we decided to have a short UK break to an area we had not been to before and that did not involve much walking.

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Little Moreton Hall

As what we had planned was not until the next day, it allowed us to take advantage of the National Trust properties in the North West of England and we settled on Little Moreton Hall just outside Congleton, Cheshire.

The Hall was built by the Moreton family in the 1500s and took over a hundred years to complete, improve and extend the property but you can see from the photos that it has a few structural issues but hopefully in the hands of the National Trust, these will not result in a collapse.

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The inner courtyard

Behind the entrance gate (over the moat by way of a drawbridge) is a small courtyard off which are the downstairs rooms. Lots to see here including the pantry, a wonderful stone fireplace and some ancient wallpaper.

One part of the upstairs hall (The Long Gallery) was used in a recent art exhibition by letting used “Wimbledon” tennis balls roll down the uneven floor surface resulting in them all rolling to one side of the structure.

The resultant film is on a loop in the hall and you can have a go yourself – very interactive.

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The camera was straight for this, it is the building that is crooked

As with many National trust buildings, volunteers help with interpretation, giving history lessons and practical commentary and this was no exception.

There were even dressing up clothes for children to use when they came a school parties.

The gardens outside are not extensive but are worth a stroll around and at the time of our visit, the archway probably could have done with a haircut. But there is water around which allows wildlife to thrive.

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Archway to the gardens

It was now down to Shrewsbury for our overnight and at the recommendation of the hotel, a great evening meal at the Peackock Inn which is a short drive away.

I had booked our tickets on line before we left home and tried to pick them up at the station that evening to save time but there was only one person at the ticket desk and I had to buy Discount Railcards so couldn’t use the machine.

After a 25 minute wait whilst one person was being served, I gave up.

13 September 2019

Having arrived earlier at Shrewsbury Station than planned, I managed to get the Railcards and tickets without any delays and waited for our train to Swansea via Llanelli.

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You couldn’t miss this house.

I had read that the train was now only a single coach so hopefully there would be enough seats as reservations were not possible on this service. If it is only a one coach is it a train or a coach ride?

The train arrives and many people get off including some with bikes. Fortunately there are enough seats, the carriage being probably three quarters to 7/8ths full. But are they all going the whole way which is 32 stations to Llanelli and another couple onwards to Swansea?

As we leave Shrewsbury, more or less on time, we vere off to the right and then see the MidWales line to Aberystwyth disapear to the right and we make our way South Westwards and quickly into Wales after Knighton, the 7th station on the line.

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Welsh countryside

Whilst initially the views aren’t great as many trees obscure the views, some trees not being cut back far enough to avoid hitting the train, these soon disappear to reveal rolling hills, sheep, golf courses and in general, wonderful countryside.

Many of the stations on the line are request stops where the train has to slow down in case anyone wants to get on.

Some of these are very well used as locals go about their day-to-day business visiting friends or shopping in nearby larger villages. It is indeed a lifeline for many remote communities.

These passengers have already told the guard who has advised the driver that a stop is required.

Stops allow a few photographs to be taken from the train but trying to capture decent photographs from a train moving at about 40 – 50 mph is somewhat difficult.  the picture above of the yellow house is a case in point.

As most of the journey is single track, there has to be some passing places here and there to allow northbound trains to pass.

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Llandrindod Wells Signal Box

One of these passing places is at Llandrindod Wells where we are told, the train has to wait for 20 minutes to allow the northbound train to pass.  Just time for a coffee the guard tells us but what he didn’t tell us is the awful taste of the coffee bought from the nearby shop – not to be recommended.

Not sure if the signal box is now used, as many lines are signalled using modern technology but certainly the exterior of the signal box needs some TLC.

We are off again past even more spectacular countryside and ever increasingly difficult station names such as Llangammarch, Llanwrtyd and Cynghordy.

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I hope the locals know how to pronounce this

One station name is easy to pronounce and probably only exists now to allow walkers, cyclists and ramblers access to the magnificent countryside – Sugar Loaf.

It is named after the nearby hill and has a claim to fame as it was at one time the least used station in Wales.

In 2017, only 228 passengers used the station but by the following year this had risen to 1824 following some publicity on, amongst other media outlets, YouTube.

Unexpectedly, the train stops just before the junction with main line at Bynea and after a few minutes we are told of a points failure which is preventing us going forward.

Engineers are on their way we are told. I must say, during the 40 minute wait we were kept updated regularly but by the time we got to Llanelli the information had ceased.

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Bridge over the River Towy

Eventually, we establish that the train was being terminated there instead of going on (well backwards actually) to Swansea & we had to cross the bridge to the other side and catch a train to Swansea where we arrive 70 minutes late and thus have little time to get refreshments and relax as our onward journey is due to leave in 20 minutes time and even then was subject to a very late platform change.

Our onward journey was on a separate ticket and back to Shrewsbury via Hereford and we were somewhat glad we had reserved seats as the train was crowded to standing room only as far as Newport although thinned out after Cwmbran with commuters from Cardiff returning home.

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Cody does love the fish

Back to our hotel and we go back to the Peacock Inn for another evening meal, just as good as last night’s. It arrived speedily as well which is what we wanted as we were both somewhat tired after the day’s travel.

Off to see friends John & Deirdre tomorrow then to see Flic and Cody for a few hours. We met them at Henry Street Garden Centre just outside Reading where Cody loves to watch the fish.

For some reason (probably to do with the two tickets being photgraphed on one photo) Transport for Wales would only refund one of the tickets for the late arrival of our train but that is better than nothing.

Jersey for summer

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Harry surfing in St Ouen’s Bay

Thursday 25 July

Afternoon ferry to Liverpool and stop off at Cheshire Oaks before our stay overnight at HIE in Shrewsbury.

Friday 26 July

A few hours with Flic & Cody with a meal out by the Kennet & Avon canal at Pewsey Wharf at the Waterfront Bar and Grill before we head off for our overnight stay at Portsmouth North in the Holiday Inn Express ready for our ferry the next morning.

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Now that’s what I call an Ice Cream

The landlord of the Pewsey Wharf is a character and the food good value for money (4 adults + an infant including drinks was £110).

Saturday 27 July

Rain for a change after a week of hot weather and the boat is absolutely packed as, once again, the fast ferry was Cancelled so lots of passengers had been transferred to the slow boat we had been booked on. Even the Club Lounge was full.

Sunday 28 July

Breakfast at Cafe Ouen and time on the beach watching Harry and Sarah surf with Sarah’s friend, Tracey after a last visit for Harry to Sarah’s old office.

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One last look at the old office for Harry

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Harry’s volcano

Monday 29 July

Take Harry to Corbiere for a play in the rocks before lunch at Quennevais Sports Centre and, for Harry, a scoot around the cycle track.

Tuesday 30 July

A dull day and we are out for lunch with Laura & Jim in Gorey as Sarah is working at home today due to her office move.

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A trip on Pallot’s Steam Railway

That said, some of the time was spent preparing Harry’s home made volcano which, when we were home was well demonstrated to us.

Wednesday 31 July

We take Harry to the cinema – Toy Story 4 – and then Harry and Sal go on the open top Beach Bus whilst I negotiate the stupid paying arrangements for the underground car park before meeting them at St Brelade’s Church and lunch on the rocks at Corbiere

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Awaiting departure on The Pallot Steam Train

Thursday 1 August

The Pallot steam Museum is open daily but the two circuit Standard Gauge Steam train runs on Summer Thursday’s only and whilst we had taken Harry last year, another visit was always worthwhile.

Harry brought his own “hand me down” camera and was enjoying himself taking photos whilst we went round.

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A Tomato grader

Even the tour around the Museum showed up some new exhibits since last year, or perhaps I just don’t remember them.

An afternoon visit to one of Harry’s favourites, Rocco’s mini-golf – he didn’t “cheat” as much as he had in the past!

Friday 2 August

A visit to a WWII gun emplacement at Noirmont which Harry was interested in and from where you could view all along the South Coast of Jersey followed by 10 pin bowling (I hurt my bum!).

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Noirmont, Jersey

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Ship from St Helier passing Noirmont

Saturday 3 & Sunday 4 August

Not a lot happening so a restful sort of weekend with a walk down St Catherine’s and a visit to the Sand sculptures.

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Sand Sculptures at St Catherine’s

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Sarah, Harry & Tracy getting in some surfing practice

Monday 5 August

Ski school for Harry in rainy weather and after dropping him off, we head for Colleen’s at Greve de Lecq for our regular breakfast. It is such a nice place to have a bought breakfast when in Jersey.

Tuesday 6 August

Meet up with an old colleague, Anne Holden at Ransom’s Garden Centre and bump into another Coutts colleague, Karen White who I haven’t seen for close on 17 years.

Out for an Indian meal with Laura & Jim at an old NWB branch at St Aubin. Very crowded and noisy and slow service but at least you know it is being cooked fresh. Food OK but I must admit, we have tasted better Indian meals.

Wednesday 7 August

A brief visit to St Helier and I now have a MacBook Air.

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Sunset at La Saline

Thursday 8 August

Dull and rainy start to the day. Coffee at Poplar’s tea room, it has been 20 years since we last went there, I think, and the place is still as I remember it – old fashioned.

Whilst the tea and coffee were OK, the scone was a tad hard, possibly yesterday’s.

Traffic bad as today is Battle of Flowers but we avoid the worst.

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Greve de Lecq

Friday 9 August

Sand delivery, lunch with Sue at Colleen’s, not crowded. Harry didn’t win a hat 😕

Saturday 10

Another breakfast at Colleen’s (do you get the impression we like the place?) followed by a visit to town for Sarah to update her phone. Collect Mel from airport – she is looking after Harry next week – it was a bumpy ride from Liverpool we pack up to go home.

Our overnight traditional ferry is 2 hours late because of unseasonable strong winds with the fast one already cancelled. That’s a bit like coming over when the fast one was cancelled – you can see why we use the traditional one.

The ferry is going to be crowded again. In fact it left close on 3 hours late with Guernsey still to call at! But, we had already booked a cabin so we were alright despite it being somewhat rough – force 7-8 winds between Jersey and Guernsey.

Sunday 11 August

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All sizes of trains and tractors interest Cody

Ferry only an hour late into Portsmouth but that means we have an hour extra in bed and the sea was a lot calmer after Guernsey or maybe we were so tired we just didn’t notice!

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Engine 35011 under restoration @ the Swindon & Cricklade railway

Off to Flic’s where we empty the car of clothes and toys from Sarah and head off to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway for a ride on the train and view of the steam tractors, rollers.

There was supposed to be a spitfire flypast but we didn’t see it.

A fascinating restoration project has just started to a locomotive 35011 General Steam Navigation which apparently will take about 20 years to complete – there’s dedication for you.

Cody doesn’t protest at night time tonight- the first time for a long time, we obviously wore him out.

Monday 12 August

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Push me Auntie Laura!

We have Cody to ourselves this morning before Flic and Laura join us for a visit to Rowde near Devizes and the Rowdey farm for lunch, a play for Cody on the playground and a look at the animals including a Rhea, and young cows.

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Rhea at Rowdey farm

We now have some rhubarb and Daisies for our garden.

Tuesday 13 August

An early start and we are off to Coleford to see Rob before heading north for our smooth crossing ferry home after Lunch at Dobbie’s Garden Centre in Shrewsbury and a food shop in Sainsbury’s at Cheshire Oaks.

Now a few days rest before visitors for the Manx Grand Prix and festival of Biking.

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Portlet Bay

Lake Maggiore and Switzerland (Pt 2)

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Lake Como

Friday 12 July

A coach ride to the lakeside city of Como and after being dropped off near the railway station spend some time in the cathedral admiring the fabulous artefacts before heading for the department store, Coin.

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Inside Como Cathedral

We are told the shop has a cafe with fantastic views but after going up 4 floors find it’s closed for refurbishment!

Instead, have a coffee in a small cafe nearby and then head for the lake for a tour around the lake using the local ferry which takes around an hour.

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Como from the lake

Apparently, George Clooney has a villa here but he wasn’t in residence.

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Torno church

Some wonderful little villages like Torno are lakeside and we are tempted to get off and explore but there is limited time and instead, return to Como and have lunch at one of the restaurants nearby (Why not?) being serenaded by a 3 piece band whilst watching the world go by.

A brief lakeside walk was all we had time for before returning to the coach journey back to the hotel.

Try one of the local speciality drinks (Prosecco and Rhubarb) at Hotel La Palma the adjacent hotel’s Sky bar which has fantastic views and generally a more modern and younger person’s hotel. Another improvement to the dinner.

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Sally’s Prosecco & Rhubarb

Saturday 13 July

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View from Hotel La Palma Sky Bar

A day of rest. We could have gone on a 4 mile walk this morning but why would you in this heat?

Instead, a lazy morning and stroll up to Stresa for a true(ish) Italian Pizza and tiramisu followed by a swim and time spent away from the searing heat which hit 31C this afternoon interspersed with some sun bathing.

More people around today as it is a weekend and by dinner time the promenade in front of the hotel was quite crowded.

Sunday 14 July

Rain is forecast for today’s visit to Zermatt in Switzerland but the forecaster was wrong and we set off in bright sunlight for the Simplon Pass, constructed in the time of Napoleon so that he could easily get into what is now known as Italy, through Switzerland.

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Switzerland from the Simplon Pass

We stop at the high point of the pass, 2005 meters above sea level but we have climbed steadily from Domodossola through narrow gorges and leaving the railway line that entered the tunnel not to be seen again until it gets well into Switzerland.

Snow is visible on the north facing slopes although not enough for any serious skiing or snow walking.

Onwards, after our stop, towards Brigg and our ultimate destination we cross over what we are told is a floating bridge high up over the River Rhône that ultimately flows through Geneva and France.

Turning South we follow the pass upwards towards Zermatt through a number of villages including St. Nicholas which has, apparently a Christmas theme relating to a hermit who gave out presents, before we have be de-coached at Tasch to get on the shuttle train that runs every 20 minutes into the vehicle free Zermatt.

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Traffic free Zermatt

Whilst Elizabeth and many others take the train up to the pass below the Matterhorn, we have a leisurely stroll up the traffic free high street as we have been up on the train about 7 years ago.

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A Rosti for lunch

We have lunch at the cafe at the top of the hill in the town, a Rosti that would have been ample for possibly more than 2.

Back down via the climber’s graves and we take train back down to Tasch for a coffee before our return to the hotel.

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Train for Zermatt

By now the weather is just about to turn and we arrive at the hotel just before the rains start.

Dinner is a buffet tonight which is far better than anything we have had all week but most eyes are on the mammoth tennis final at Wimbledon and the World Cup cricket final at Lord’s which England won by virtue of the more boundaries they hit after scores were level in both the 50 overs and the one over “shoot out”.

A bit of a thunderstorm tonight but not enough noise to keep us awake.

Monday 15 July

I suppose that as there is so much vegetation, it has to rain occasionally and this morning is one of those occasions.

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35 metre tall Statue of San Carlone

We are off to lake Orta which is west of Lake Maggiore and over a mountain range which our coach driver skilfully negotiates in the pouring rain.

Our first stop is just outside Arona to view the big statue of San Carlone, which at the time of building was the tallest statue in Europe and is said to be a self portrait.

It does cost to climb up into to the viewing platform but we don’t, probably because, of the poor weather and being of a certain age, the climb is not for us. Including the plinth, it is 35 metres high.

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Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta

We are then on to the village of Orta which is on a peninsula into the lake by the same name and is reached by ferry from Pella which itself is a quiet little lakeside village and we leave the coach, find the boat.

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Lunch in a hat

Lunch in a town square café was interesting, being served in a straw bowler hat and whilst Sally watched the world go by I ventured up to the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta church and a little further before we all meet up together for a stroll by the water’s edge and through the older part of the town.

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Streets of Orta

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Streets of Orta

Sadly, it was time to go  but not before we had a stop off on the island of Isola San Giulio, an island in the lake where a brief walk around reveals some interesting alleyways and buildings.

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Isola San Giuilio

Now it is back to pack as we leave tomorrow afternoon for our flight back to Birmingham and our ferry the following day from Liverpool.

As I said, we are not normally into package holidays but this was a good one, well organised and with a knowledgeable representative.  We would use Riveria Travel again.

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Lake Maggiore on the last night

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Lake Maggiore on the last morning