A year ago the thought of being able to go to California for a month was a pipe dream, but the National Health Service and specialist Travel Insurers made it possible and we have just returned from 31 days in California.
We started by visiting Jo and the children in San Jose.
We had a lovely week end and then Oliver was sick so we looked after him on the Monday when he should have been at school. We then spent Tuesday with our friends Sharon and Cliff whom we met on our trip to Sorrento back in August. They had just moved back to their home in Richmond near San Francisco after a spell in the UK looking after aged parents. They made us very welcome and we enjoyed a pleasant prolonged lunch before returning to Jo’s.
We had heard the day before we left the UK that the swimming pool at Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs would be closed for major renovations throughout our stay. So it was with some trepidation that we left Jo to head for PS. However, we were greeted with an invitation to a Pot Luck supper starting an hour after we arrived – a hasty trip to the supermarket saw us ready in time. It was lovely to meet up with our friends and sit in the pleasant evening warmth.
The pool may have been disappointing to look at but the palms at sunset and the mountains were just as beautiful as ever.
We walked for about 4 miles on most days and found it very pleasant finding different routes around the local area. We also visited Lake Elsinore, Dana Point and Idyllwild where we had lunch at one of our favourite restaurants – Gastronome. At one mile above sea level, Idyllwild was somewhat cooler that Palm Springs but the crispness of the atmosphere and the alpine smells made the trip as wonderful as ever. Bristol may have had its Gromit and Shaun the Sheep trails in the past but Idyllwild had a series of painted deer dotted around the town. We managed to find one right outside our restaurant.
During the three weeks we were at Ocotillo we had another two Pot Luck suppers and two invitations to dinner at friends’ condos. Our friends at Ocotillo are very special and despite the lack of a pool we enjoyed our stay with them.
Our final few days were spent back in San Jose with Jo. We celebrated Oliver’s tenth birthday with a fondue supper followed by a large ice-cream birthday cake. On Saturday the children were with their father but Jo, Annie and Gerry managed to see the new James Bond movie Spectre (well worth a trip) followed by a brilliant evening of cocktails and food just a taxi ride away from Jo’s home. Alexander then returned on Sunday and the four of us went fishing at Capitola. It was a great trip. Alexander caught 7 fish Gerry two and Jo one when she was using Gerry’s hired rod!
We headed back from San Francisco airport with Virgin Atlantic. The flights were very good and we had paid for extra legroom which made travelling in cattle class very much more enjoyable. The return journey was rounded off with a very quick trip through Heathrow and then we were met immediately by our friend Ray who drove us home.
Back to earth with a bump as we awoke to wind and rain and a day of medical, dental and hair appointments.
We have had a glorious week in Yorkshire. The weather was brilliant for the whole week. There may have been fog on a couple of mornings but that soon burned off. We spent our first night with friends in Thorner and (as is customary on such a visit we went for a curry at Rajas in Leeds. The meal set the scene for the rest of the week! (we enjoyed two delicious curry meals at Spice4U in Pickering)
After Thorner we headed for Pickering and the Pear Tree House Bed and Breakfast. What a find – great room, great welcome and great breakfast. On our way to Pickering we visited Middleham and Richmond and their castles.
Both towns and castles are well worth a visit. In Richmond Castle grounds we came across a whole host of butterflies.
We also stopped for a wander around Leyburn which was another pleasant town. Once based in Pickering we did have a day on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) that included a trip to Whitby and lunch at The Magpie (as good as ever) and then to Goathland for a meander around the village and the setting for the TV series Heartbeat.
On another day we spent the morning walking in Farndale which was peaceful and very pleasant with fantastic views.
In the afternoon we headed to the Fosse Falls near Littlebeck.What we found was a house (Midge Hall) in the middle of a forest clearing with a delightful open air tea room where we enjoyed coffee and a cake (for Annie) and a scone with jam and cream (for Gerry). The setting was quite magical and we discovered that they had in fact had 28 marriages conducted there this year. After tea we found the water fall itself. Despite the lack of rain in the preceding few days the flow was still good over the 9 metre drop. If you are ever in the area do try and visit Midge Hall.
We headed back to Fairford via Helmsley and enjoyed an hour walking around the market and shops. Even Gerry found the shops interesting!
Another great Yorkshire Break.
We stayed in Sorrento which was a very busy town with many, many tourists.
A visit to the cathedral is a must. The external appearance is quite austere and almost boring but inside it is magnificent. We did find that we could get away from the crowds by walking in the narrow back streets and descending to a small fishing village called Marina Grande which was just below our hotel and much more inviting for us than the artificial bathing areas with hundreds of parasols and deck chairs!
Our first visit to a historic site was to Herculaneum. Like Pompeii it was destroyed in AD 79 when Vesuvius erupted but unlike Pompeii, the deep volcanic ash which covered Herculaneum preserved wooden and other organic-based objects. It was very hard to accept that what we were seeing had been preserved by the ash. The buildings looked so natural as did various artefacts and mosaics (although we were to see a lot more and much better examples when we visited Naples’ archaeological museum later in our visit).
The streets had very deep kerbs and there were pedestrian crossings constructed so that pedestrians could cross the road without getting their feet covered in whatever was flowing down the road (there were no sewers or drains).
We did not spend all our time studying history but enjoyed a wonderful day out exploring the Island of Capri. We took a boat trip around the Island and marvelled at the stunning coastline and houses perched on the tops of cliffs (well beyond our price range!!!!!) as well as the blue waters of grottos and caves. We then took a bus to the town of Anacapri and were again treated to stunning views and a beautiful church (now a museum) where the floor depicted the expulsion of Adam and eve from the Garden of Eden.
Another day was spent travelling around the very beautiful Amalfi coast. Once again we marvelled at the stunning views and the exceedingly narrow roads hugging cliff faces with groups of houses seemingly glued to the hillside.
The Cathedral at Amalfi was magnificent on the outside and truly stunning inside.
We were based in Sorrento for just one week and although the time went by very quickly we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday and learned a lot about AD 79!
July was a much quieter month than we hoped for. Despite many months notice, Jo’s ex-husband had failed to sign passport applications for 2 of the children (!!!!!). As a result Jo, Alexander, Oliver and Sienna were unable to come on their long planned holiday. It was a great shame as the children’s cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents were all looking forward to spending time with the American arm of our family.
July is of course the month of RIAT. James, Hannah, Rosie and Ptolemy as well as Jon, Jess and Oscar and Lucy came to stay. The photos show Hannah holding Ptolemy with with Rosie and Oscar on the carpet and then Jon Jess and Oscar.
We had a lovely time together and Rosie enjoyed watching the planes especially the Red Arrows. The Vulcan flew over The Nook which was quite a magnificent sight especially as it is the last time the aircraft will fly at Fairford before it is retired from flying at the end of the season. It is a great shame and the end of an era.
Early in August, Bethany, Callum and Elsie came to stay at The Nook. Grannie and Grandpa had a lovely if not tiring time. The children must like Annie’s cooking as they turned down a trip to a restaurant for lunch in favour of one of Annie’s lunches!! A great time was had playing in the Park, with grandpa’s trains and other toys as well as watching a movie – Mr Poppa’s Penguins which all three found hilarious and filled the house with their laughter. The next day we went to explore Goodrich Castle. We had taken the children before but they wanted to go again and had a super time climbing the tower, and descending into the dungeon.
They also enjoyed walking around the moat and clambering on the rocks at the base of the castle walls. Grandpa went along as he wanted to make sure they were OK but he need not have worried.
They were confident and careful as they climbed and crossed the rock face. We had a lovely picnic before heading to Symonds Yat for ice cream and then the long journey back to Caversham.
We had returned from France for Gerry to have a series of medical appointments including his second session of rituximab which took 6 hours. Annie and Gerry both decided they wanted to get away again before everywhere got crowded in the school holidays. We both agreed to return to France and to the exact same mobile home we had left a few days previously. Bookings were made and we were just about to set off when P&O Ferries sent a text to say Dover was closed because of industrial action in Calais. Annie managed to re book the ferry for the following day and Gerry managed to transfer the hotel booking for a day later. Our journey to Dover the following day involved detours for road works and road closures to accommodate parked trucks that had not been able to get on a ferry. We managed OK and were then horrified when we started to drive out of Calais and saw all of the immigrants trying to get into the backs of parked trucks and then a blocked motorway in front of us. Gerry saw the traffic jam in time to take an exit and we travelled across country to our overnight hotel in Montreuil.
Our journey to Moulin La Geneste the next day went smoothly. The next week was spent walking every day in glorious weather (perhaps a little hot on occasions (high 30s Celsius)). We were both pleased with what we managed to achieve. The walks were very peaceful and often required us to manoeuvre ourselves through overgrown footpaths and across quite rickety bridges. One walk was described as a nature walk but we only saw dead animals; badger, mole, snake and hedgehog. However, the walk itself was very pleasant.
On other walks we also came across the Rapunzel tower, various statues dotted around the countryside including a laughing cow (vache qui rit), frogs and a couple of calves that had just been born. In fact, as we were watching the calves, the farmer arrived to make sure that they could stand up and that their mothers were happy to accept them!
During our stay we also picked up the news that Calais was once again hit by industrial action and that this time it was lasting for at least three days. The chaos at Calais was apparently far worse than when we travelled from England.
We decided that for peace of mind and the avoidance of delays and traffic jams etc we would try and book another ferry crossing. We managed to get an overnight sailing from Le Havre to Portsmouth on the Friday and so were able to return to Fairford without hassle and a few hours earlier than the much longer drive via Calais and Dover. Not worrying about the return journey meant that we were able to really enjoy the last few days of our holiday and also a bonus of a few hours in Honfleur before getting the ferry.
We began our holiday in France with a meander to Canterbury via Scotney Castle and Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. We had visited both National Trust places last year but returning was well worth it. The gardens at Scotney were absolutely full of colour.
After a delightful stay at the Canterbury Holiday Inn Express we set off for Dover knowing that there was bad weather in the English Channel. Our fears were confirmed on arrival at the port when we were told we could travel on an earlier ferry but that, because of delays, we would leave around noon (nearly an hour later than we should have any way!) At least we were luckier than those who had been waiting since before 6am. Despite warnings from the Captain that the crossing would be quite rough, it was in fact very smooth. Exiting the port of Calais we had a pleasant and uneventful journey to our overnight stop at a delightfully modern Best Western hotel in Evreux. The journey to Moulin La Geneste the next day went smoothly and we were greeted by site owners Sharon and Steve who made us very welcome. Our home for the stay was the same static caravan that we had in September 2013.
We had brilliant weather for all but one of our eight days and, despite temperatures of 30 degrees C and above we managed to walk at least 8km on most days. Although we re-did some walks from our two previous stays, we also found some new ones. What was really noticeable was the absence of people and the fact that the French footpaths were mostly well maintained although a few were very overgrown and required some detective work to determine the correct direction and then a bit of hacking at the brambles to clear a path – all great fun.
Our first walk was from the town of Segur Le Chateau, one of the most beautiful medieval villages in the Limousin. We had been to the very sleepy town several times before and it felt a bit like going home as we sat on the bank of the river enjoying a coffee. The walk was our first of the holiday and a bit of a test as neither of us had walked in the 32Cplus heat for a long time. However, we both thoroughly enjoyed it and paced ourselves such that the heat was not really an issue.
We also travelled to Turrene a pretty village, dating largely from the 13th – 16th centuries and sitting on the edges of a hill. It was quite a steep walk but we made it to the top of the hill and were treated to some lovely views from the top of the village across the countryside and forests to the mountains beyond. Another day we drove down to the Dordogne area and the town of Cahors. However, Cahors was busy, noisy and full of people and although the river looked very pleasant, we very quickly decided to head home.
Our food was generally very simple but Annie made a wonderful fish soup one evening and special salads most other evenings. In fact we ate very well and thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the fresh air to eat – we only ate one dinner and one breakfast inside the caravan during our entire stay.
One other walk of note started in the town of Uzerche and followed the line of an old railway for some kilometres before we crossed over the river and walked back along the river bank to the centre of the town. We were treated to some lovely views looking up from the river bank at the old town itself.
Reluctantly, we left our temporary home after 8 nights and headed to Montreuil sur mer the town we stayed in a couple of months ago. We again stayed at l’Hermitage Hotel and enjoyed a wonderful supper at Le Darnetal Restaurant which was just as good as previous visits. The next morning we took an early morning stroll around the ramparts before visiting the Wine Society shop and filling what space we had in the car. Our journey to Calais and the ferry crossing went smoothly but the drive from Dover to home was a bit of a Friday evening nightmare. We were therefore very pleased to be invited for supper by our neighbours Glenda and Keith.
Our longest holiday for 18 months and one that we had both been looking forward to for some time we were not disappointed. Hopefully, buoyed by our success we can put the health issues of the last 18 months behind us and do some more overseas travel in the intervals between Gerry’s 8 weekly hospital appointments.
We spent 4 days based in Bala North Wales last week. We travelled with our neighbours Glenda and Keith and enjoyed good weather and some great train journeys as well as visits to Chirk and Powis Castles. Our first visit was to Chirk and its beautiful gardens.
We then moved on to Llangollen where we travelled on the Heritage Railway to Corwen and back by diesel multiple unit. The views of the Dee Valley were outstanding and the train uncrowded and very relaxing!
We then arrived at our hotel – The White Lion Royal Hotel in Bala. This was where Annie and Gerry had spent a few days last September. The hotel is really quite quaint but deserves the refurbishment that has just started!
We had a short time in Porthmadog and visited the terminus of both the FFestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
Our last full day was spent visiting Snowdon and ascending to the summit on the train.The weather was brilliant and the views absolutely fantastic.
We meandered back to Bala via Caernarvon and Beddgelert where two of the sheep near Gellert’s tomb seemed to pose for us.
It was a shame that the weather had broken and the rain was quite heavy such that we could not fully explore the gardens. Another visit will be required!
It was a relaxing and enjoyable few days.
What a wonderful week we have just had. It started with Bethany, Callum and Elsie coming to stay at The Nook. We had a lovely time with lots of activities including a very enjoyable shopping trip to the 99p store. On Saturday Jenny and Mark came for lunch and to collect the children. Bethany enjoyed showing her mum and siblings a doll dressing programme she had found on the internet.
On Sunday, Martin flew in from Singapore and went to Jenny and Mark’s home at Caversham. Annie and Gerry went across to Caversham and the 5 adults and 3 children went out for a buffet lunch at an Indian Restaurant. We had a lovely meal I was impressed with the children who were prepared to try most of the dishes and all cleared their plates!!!
The next day after lunch Martin came to The Nook to stay for 4 nights. On the Tuesday (after Martin had been for a 22 mile run!) we went to Bristol to visit Jess, Jon and baby Oscar as well as popping in to see Lucy and James before heading back to Cricklade where we had a lovely pub supper.
Martin had chartered a fishing boat for 6 hours on the Solent for Wednesday but the weather forecast the night before was so bad that the boat company
decided that they were not prepared to go to sea. Instead, we went carp fishing with our friend Barry Kilgariff. Barry very kindly took Gerry to buy a rod and reel etc before fishing and lent Martin some tackle so that we could all fish.
We had a great time with all of us catching some lovely fish.
The following day, after Martin had been for a long cycle ride, we went to the National Trust property at Tyntesfield a few miles the other side of Bristol. It was a pleasant day out and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
All too soon it was Friday morning and Martin left us to go and visit Jenny before spending the night with friends and returning to Singapore on Saturday.
It had been a lovely week all the more special because we were able to celebrate Jenny’s birthday with Martin.
We enjoyed four nights in Yorkshire last week. We spent the first night, Sunday, with friends David and Bridget Lindley. Their son Chris (Annie’s Godson) and his baby son, Henry, were at the house when we arrived. Henry is nearly one year old and a really happy child. He seemed to smile all the time and take an interest in everything going on. There was not a murmur or tear during our visit nor subsequently at Raja’s curry house where we enjoyed a lovely meal having been joined by Chris’s wife Lindsey.
The next morning we set off to visit Kirkham Priory. The riverside ruins of the priory are set in the beautiful Derwent valley between York and Malton. Unfortunately, the priory was closed but we were able to look through the magnificent entrance. Undaunted, we set off for Lastingham where we visited the Norman church and its magnificent crypt before having a cup of coffee in adjacent pub. Suitably fortified, we set then out on a lovely circular walk to the lovely village of Hutton Le Hole. The walk was just over 4 miles and included some steep ascents and descents but we thoroughly enjoyed it – the good weather also helped.
We then drove to Pickering and the Eden House Bed and Breakfast. Eden house was absolutely perfect, the room was recently refurbished and the public rooms were immaculate. The next morning, fortified by an excellent breakfast, we set out for Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. En route to Whitby we came across the iconic blue LNER A4 Class locomotive Sir Nigel Gresley number 60007. By the time I had got my camera out we had nearly passed it!
Arriving at Whitby we strolled along the front to The Magpie restaurant. We ate there last autumn and, once again, we were not disappointed. The food, wine, and service were brilliant. Despite a big lunch we set off to visit Whitby Abbey climbing the 199 steps on the way. Gerry was fascinated that there was a little disc on every 10th step giving the number of the step in Roman Numerals – to see CXCIX 0n the last step was much more interesting than seeing 199.
Our final day in Yorkshire was again blessed by good walking weather and we enjoyed a walk from Goatland (Heartbeat country for TV fans). Part of the walk took us along one and a half miles of bridleway over the moor. Unfortunately, the bridleway lacked any definition and we had to follow the general direction over the moor until we hit a defined path that was on our map. Cutting our losses we simply followed that path emerging exactly where we wanted to be.
We arrived home on Thursday afternoon refreshed and then on Friday set off for lunch with Jess, Jon and Oscar in Bristol.
A great week.
James and Hannah’s son, Ptolemy Wolf James Henderson arrived safely on 16 April 2015. Weighing in at 6lb 15oz, Ptolemy and his mum are doing fine and are now back home.
Congratulations to Hannah, James and big sister Rosie on the addition to their family.