Happy New Year to you all. We were very busy with family visiters in December and were glad of a few quiet moments over Christmas itself. We had Christmas Day lunch at Forest Hills Golf Club - having done it before - which was very good, followed by feet up and a glass of something alcoholic. New Year was spent with my sister and family, seeing the New Year in with their neighbours. This time of year is usually expensive for us, but even moreso this year with three essentials having to be replaced - larder fridge, iron and built-in oven. Hopefully, if it happens in threes, we are OK now!
Had grandson staying with us for half-term, so spent a couple of nights in Chorley, Lancashire. On the first day we visited Southport, which was very blustery on the seafront; also the establishment where my hubby had worked when we lived up there, along with the house we occupied, and then met my son's close friend and grandson's godfather and family for an evening meal. The next day we drove up to Blackpool, took a ride on a tram, spent about four/five hours in the Pleasure Beach and then rode again on a tram up to Fleetwood before having a fish and chip supper before walking a considerable distance along the Blackpool front looking at all the illuminations, which were a fascination for the grandson.
We celebrated our golden wedding by going on a Viking cruise down the River Danube. The weather was good to us, and the scenery fantastic, visiting several towns with excursions included. The ship, Viking Egil, was a superb five-star accommodation with everything you could want or need. So much so, we put several pounds on and are desperately trying to get rid of them now.We started in Nuremberg, Regensberg, Passau, Vienna and Budapest. For photos, see "Photo Gallery".
Our Lincolnshire friends spent four days with us recently and the weather was good to us. We didn't go far, a trip to Lydney and out for Sunday lunch before they returned home. Immediately after we had our grandson with us for a couple of days, and spent a whole day in Cardiff Bay, visiting the Barrage, having lunch, and a boat trip round the bay. Everyone was tired, so an early night.
It may be the end, but it lasted a long time. We spent a week driving through France, Belgium and Holland visiting places we'd been to before as well as those we had not. We started in Namur with its beautiful Parisienne atmosphere and we sat having a drink in the evening and listening to a local accordian player. Next morning seeing the statue (below) in the Place d'Armees of the old town. We then travelled on to Vise (Visay) near to Maastricht and were lucky enough to see a marching band through the town on the Sunday morning. It would appear it only happens three times a year, so we were lucky. On to Maastricht where we stayed in the Derlon Hotel in a quaint square (although the hotel was very modern inside) in order to attend an Andre Rieu concert in Vrijthof Square. A fantastic show. Next day to Rochefort and Cambrais visiting the Thiepval Monument where my great uncle is remembered amongst 72000 other British soldiers of WW1. On to Albert and Arras, the latter very cosmopolitan. Our last stop was at St Valery Sur Somme which we had visited 30 years ago, with its quaint medieval old town and estuary. (More photos - see Photo Gallery).
Still further treats for my birthday with a weekend down in Brighton. Arrived on Saturday to some lovely gooey cakes (see photo). Sunday a trip to Lewes which has many 16th century buildings including Ann of Cleves' House and while there had Sunday Lunch out. Monday my son and his wife treated us to a fantastic meal at The Ivy, Brighton, and Tuesday we spent on Centre Court at Eastbourne Tennis seeing Johanna Konta and Andy Murray amongst others.
Not a lot exciting happening since Christmas and New Year. A very mild winter, so we've been able to get outside, although not gardening. A new roof required for hubby's workshop so have been labouring while he was up on the roof (!) measuring and sawing new joists etc. If we continue to have good weather, it could be completed in the next week or two.
Besides that a dental appointment and hospital for eye laser surgery, and now an appointment for removal of cataracts (something I'm not looking forward to). I have, however, joined a tai chi class which has been very beneficial for my arthritic spine.
A busy period. Family with us before Christmas and family with us for New Year. In between we went to the Forest Hills Golf Club for Christmas Lunch, something we have done before and really enjoyed. With the chance to catch up on some films, including "The Foreigneer"; "The Christmas Chronicles" and "Rex", it was feet up and a glass or two.
A planned surprise for hubby's 70th birthday saw us meeting up with son and daughter-in-law in London, a meal near Shaftsbury Avenue Theatre where we saw "Motown the Musical", an overnight in a hotel before visiting the Sky Garden, a fantastic and unique garden on the 35th floor of a glass building in the business quarter, where you could look out over London from an open-air balcony.
Recent visits to the cinema to see "Johnny English Returns Again" with Roan Atkinson (a good laugh); and "Bohemian Rhapsody" (the story of Freddy Mercury and Queen), the latter quite a sad and emotional film.
Besides the above, we've met up with friends in Lincolnshire, and also visited Batsford Arboretum (in the Cotswolds) with its spectacular autumn colours.
We eventually got to see Andre Rieu, albeit a cinema broadcast from Maastricht. It was a fantastic show, but I felt the lack of cinema audience (about 20 at most) didn't give it the atmosphere it could have. However, having seen it, we have decided we are going to go to Maastricht next year to see him "in the flesh".
Since then, we've been for a visit with family in Brighton, and had our Lincolnshire friends here for a few days
Went to see "Mamma Mia 2" at Cinderford this week. Good film although a little weak in parts. The main problem was somone decided it was a good idea to bring a baby/2 yr old into the cinema who cried and shouted through most of the film.
Mike Masse and Jeff Hall were returning to the UK for a one-night show on Friday 29 June so we decided we would extend the weekend and also find a musical to see. The Masse/Hall concert was very good and was held at "Under the Bridge" (Chelsea Stadium). We met at the local Pizza Express before the performance. Fortunately the venue was only a walk-away from where we were staying. Saturday we had breakfast al fresco (pancakes and strawberries and blueberries with maple syrup and coffee mascarpone) at a local eatery before using our bus passes and travelling into the city centre. We hunted down Leadenhall Market - recommended to us, and I must admit it was historically a lovely place, but there is little of it left as many gigantic structures overpower it in the business quarter. We had lunch at Wetherspoons and then made our way to the Aldwych to see "Tina". It was rather expensive but worth it - a fantastic musical giving the story of the awful life Tina Turner had as a child and early in her adult life with Ike. The temperature in the city was overwhelming and we eventually got back to our accommodation to rest and freshen up before walking down to Cote Brasserie for a meal al fresco again. We returned home on Sunday via the Cotswolds (don't like motorways).
Went to see the film "The Book Club" at Cribbs Causeway Vue. It's a good "chick flick" and a laugh here and there, but go with your girlfriend, not your partner or husband. They just don't get it. Four elderly ladies (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenbergen and Candice Bergen) meet up each month to discuss their chosen book. One of them brings "50 Shades of Grey" and during the course of the next few months, they also read the sequels, and decide that their lives need livening up. This includes dropping an overdose of Viagra into one husband's beer, registering onto a dating agency, not accepting family invitation to "move in" and become the resident baby-sitter, and letting go of the business venture which has taken up 100% of her life.
Well, we were supposed to be in Vienna (see previous blog) but have enjoyed a long weekend at Warners, Alvaston Hall, Cheshire. Blew the bank account and had a Royale Suite this time overlooking the gardens. This weekend was a Motown Weekend, and it was very good, and so was the weather (up to 27 deg C on the Sunday). As we have a cousin living in Mold, we thought we could meet up in Chester on the Saturday and have lunch. However, they had plans to meet up with my brother in law and wife in Shrewsbury so we joined them (much to the surprise of brother in law). Had lunch at a quaint pub and a walk round the town before returning for a rest and dinner at Alvaston. Sunday we visited the Anderton Boat Lift and then met up with cousin again, in Chester this time. Having never been to Chester before, it is a very quaint and historic town, with lots of black and white buildings. Caught the Park and Ride for £2 return rather than try to find a car park in the town, which was much easier. Couldn't leave without having a cake and coffee at Patisserie Valerie in the High Street! Monday on leaving Alvaston Hall, we had arranged to meet up with our friends John and Jane for lunch near Stourbridge so took the country route (which was far more pleasant than the motorway).
I said I would let you know about why I don't like holidays unless I have control of them. Several times I've booked holidays via travel agents or companies, and it's turned out disastrous.
Four years ago, we decided to revisit Malta, so booked through Co-Op Travel, Cinderford. We had researched where we wanted to stay (Valetta) having been to Malta before, and all was well until we got to Malta. Without any prior notice, at the airport they arranged to take us to our hotel, approx 3/4 hour away from Valetta, halfway up the coast. With lots of phone calls to our travel agent, and arguments with the resident courier, we got nowhere, but we did find out that their system is at fault. We had given the travel agent details of where we wanted to stay, and paid a deposit to them. However, the hotel booking had not been confirmed nor the deposit paid to the hotel until days before we were due to arrive, and so the hotel had taken it that we didn't want the booking because the enquiry hadn't been followed up, so had taken another booking.
This year, we decided we would like to go to Vienna for four days, including a live concert to see Andre Rieu. The package, arranged by Newmarket Travel gave us the choice of airport we would like to travel from (Birmingham late afternoon), a choice of hotels, a city tour, the concert and transport to and from the airport to the various venues. On our return from our Norwegian trip in March (which we personally arranged every step of the way), we got a phone call from Newmarket Travel to say we could no longer travel from Birmingham as no direct flights were now existing; and we could choose from Manchester or Luton at 6am! Let's think about that. While thinking we phoned the airline at Birmingham and they said there were direct flights, just not on that particular day and they had us on their list for the next day flight. We went back to Newmarket Travel who didn't offer us a flight the next day, and even if we chose to fly from Birmingham, miss out on the city tour, they would not give us transport to and from the airport, and only recompense for one night's hotel accommodation we would lose. Needless to say, we found Newmarket Travel totally inflexible, especially considering they had not told us the whole story, and were not prepared to accommodate the people they had disrupted.
Now you know why I don't like package deals.
This was one off our "bucket list". We had planned to make this journey in 2019 but then decided, while we're able, why not do it now. We arranged each stage individually ourselves (not keen on package deals as will tell you shortly) so we travelled to Heathrow by coach from Chepstow, spent the night at Heathrow as it was such an early start the next day, flew to Tromso via Oslo and stayed in a very nice hotel in the centre of Tromso. We also booked a night safari in a Tesla electric car with Pukka Travel who were very very helpful. Once there, we booked a trip to Tromso Domes (yet to become an ice hotel next year), and took the cable car above Tromso both at night and during the day, both times giving us fantastic views (of the aurora and mountainous region around). We only stayed four days, but it was a fantastic trip helped by specifically kitting us out with the proper clothing for the region (minus 10 deg C most of the time there, but very good weather). If you want to see what we saw, choose Photo Gallery from the menu and then Aurora Hunt.
A sudden unexpected death amongst the Forest Ladies which was a complete shock, having met up with and spoken to Brenda a couple of days before.
Not such a good start to the New Year. Stayed with family in Staffordshire but came back a day early as I went down with "flu", a strain not anticipated, I'm told, when the flu jabs were issued. Of course, I didn't keep it to myself, so hubby ended up with it a couple of days later, and my sister has not been well since. Let's hope it clears up soon!
Retired, grandmother who enjoys cardmaking, gardening and genealogy with not enough hours in the day. Married to Tony who enjoys my gardening (!), and is an amateur radio operator with his own website.