It’s our last day in China today! Tonight we head off to the airport for our flight home!
We have a slow morning after last night.
I need to go back to the Pearl Market before we leave, so we head over around mid day. This place still amazes me. If I had the time and money, I could spend all day here.
I get to a couple of things I want. I could certainly get carried away here but I’m strict with myself! I have a lot to squeeze into my case already.
After shopping we go to Linda’s for dinner. We order noodles, egg plant, chicken Kung po as well we 2 other dishes. It’s our last chinese meal in China. All the meals we have had here have been good, and this one also doesn’t disappoint.
As we sit outside eating, I can’t help but smile when I see their delivery van! It’s a bit different to our Amazon delivery or the postman!
After lunch, we are all quite tired so retire to our rooms to lie down and have a quick snooze!
We spend the rest of the time chatting away or packing.
Finally it is time to head to the airport. I can’t believe the holiday is over. It has been the best ever.
I would definitely recommend Viking River Cruises if you ever want to visit China. They treat you so well, everything is so organised and you get to visit and learn about so many new places.
We were also lucky to be able to spend a few days with some great friends who showed us even more of China.
As we take off I close my eyes and capture every single memory into my brain. It has been the best 3 weeks ever.
I can’t believe we only have 2 full days left in China.
I was awake at 4 am, so checked into our return flights. The trip has flown by.
We are having a lazy day today. Our host has offered for us to wash all our clothes so we have a clean case to go home with. I’m not good at letting others do things for me, but accept. I have work the very next day when I get home l, so this will help me.
We go to brunch at another ex-pat complex. After all the food I have eaten, pouched egg and salmon on crusty toasted bread is just what the doctor ordered.
Back at the house, while the girls get to the washing, the boys play pool. They really are competitive.
When you stay with people in China you have to register at the police station within 24 hours, so while the boys played we went off to register.
Tonight we are going out for dinner. It’s called the lost plate! You get onto a tuk tuk and are taken to 4 different restaurants ending up at a pub.
As Beijing are preparing for the 70th anniversary of China’s peoples republic, there were warnings of potential traffic jams and road blocks, so we decided to head into the city early.
We parked up not far from the Hutongs. As we drove, I recognised some of the restaurants we had eaten in whilst with Viking.
We arrived with plenty of time so went to a pub that sells a massive selection of draft beers.
We were a bit peckish so I ordered some spicy nuts and crackers. When the crackers arrived, the guy serving us poured what looked like water over them. I thought it was a bit odd, but as it hit the bowl the crackers were in, steam came off it!
The crackers was absolutely amazing. I thought whatever he had done would make them soggy, but they were so crisp. They were also cold but very tasty.
We eventually headed to our meeting place for the tuk tuk ride. Again we were early so found a lovely place opposite for another quick drink.
A word of warning about drinking anything in China! What goes in must come out! The toilets are not always great! Most are just holes in the floor and many don’t have doors on them!
There was due to be 10 of us on the trip, with maximum 4 to each tuk tuk.
4 of the group were running late so we were given a beer to keep us going.
Eventually 2 of the 4 arrived, but we had to leave without the other 2 as they were under pressure to get us around before some of the restaurants closed.
Just as we were heading off the final couple arrived so they managed to catch us up.
The tuk tuk ride takes you through the Hutongs. They are very windy. It is great seeing into the alleys, peoples houses and bars etc.
Our first stop was for noodles. They were amazing. I learnt on the Viking trip that Shanghai to Xi’an is rice country. Once at Xi’an it’s noodles, so we have only had them a couple of times on the trip. These were the best I’ve ever tasted.
Next was a Mongolian BBQ. We had a couple of dishes here. The first was a beef dish cooked on a griddle, the next a lamb one along with mushrooms. I don’t eat lamb but the beef was delicious. They give you a pot to which you add chilli, garlic and another seasoning to your liking. When the meat is cooked you dip it into your mix before eating.
Throughout the evening there was unlimited beer or soft drinks, which you would take from restaurants to tuk tuks etc.
The third stop I wasn’t sure about as I heard it was a pie. I had no reason to worry, it was the best pie I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what the pastry was made of, but I would say it was steamed, although the bottom was caramelised.
The pies were served with a selection of dishes.
To go with this, they gave us a bottle of the fire water to share. I did have the one shot but no more! It is lethal. Hubby couldn’t say the same. The boys in the group finished the bottle off!
The final restaurant we had About 5 more dishes which included my favourite dish – Kung Po chicken, before heading back to the pub we had started our evening at. Another beer was included in the tour.
It was gone midnight by the time we had finished and it had been an absolutely amazing experience. I would certainly recommend it.
I think we were all ready for our bed by the time we got home!
It’s funny but after over 2 weeks in China I’ve seen so much. What I hadn’t seen though was an actual house. Lots of apartments, but seriously, not one single house.
When we arrived at our friends last night, I was so shocked to see their house. It is so not what I was expecting. 2 living rooms, dining room, breakfast kitchen, 5 bedrooms – one is used as an office, 4 have en-suite and the master has a walk in wardrobe which is bigger than the dining room at home and a fantastic, enormous bathroom, area for gym and a balcony overlooking the front living room. If that wasn’t enough it has a double garage and a basement where they have a full size pool table, Darts board, bar, lounge area and even space for a full drum kit. To put the icing on the cake it also has a large garden. It is definitely a dream house.
This morning they have taken us to Hong Qiao, or as it’s also known, the pearl market. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was enormous, and simply sold everything.
We wanted a handbag for a gift and a cap for hubby! What we ended up with was 2 bags, iPod headphones, cap, T-shirt, 4 scarfs and a camera lens! If we had more money, we could have bought so much more !
Afterwards we went in search of tea. If you read my previous blogs you will know that I’d been to some tea places with the tour but the prices were too high for me to justify buying them. Our friends knew of a road full of tea suppliers. We only went to one of the malls, but that was enough. I’ve never seen so many places that sell tea. Everyone was so so friendly.
Our friends wanted to try Lychee tea. They were more than happy to give us a taste. It wasn’t for me as far too sweet, and for me it tasted like liquorice. They bought some and at 80 yuan for 500 grams it was a bargain. For £1O they have enough tea to last years.
The initial place didn’t have the chrysanthemum tea I wanted, but they took us to another one that did. Again they happily made us some to try. I loved it. So light and refreshing. I bought 500 grams for less than £20. As you reuse the leaves multiple times, it is going to last years.
Wandering around the mall, and when I say mall I have to point out it’s very basic, we looked at teapots and tea caddies. I ended up buying 2 tins for less than 50p and a beautiful chinese tea set. I have no clue how I’m going to get this all home.
It’s been a brilliant day and so different. We have been to places where the locals shop. We have also learnt there are 2 prices. One for tourists and the other for locals! My friend got us some amazing deals.
This evening the boys are playing pool before firing up the braai. I decide to throw some darts. I’m trying to think when the last time was that I played. I think it must be 35 years! I’m very pleased when I get 4 bullseyes!
I’m so glad we added these extra days on with friends as we are seeing another part of China and I’m still loving it.
Dinner was fabulous. Steak, jacket potato and salad. It was just what I needed.
We sat in the garden chilling before heading to bed.
Today is our last full day on the official Viking Tour. We are leaving the hotel at 7.45 am to travel to Tiananmen Square before heading to the Forbidden City. Either before or after lunch we will be doing a Rickshaw ride. It should be a good final day!
We arrive near Tiananmen Square and queue up. Terry already has our entrance tickets for us.
In the next few days there is due to be an important event in the Square, so security is very high.
We have been queuing for some some now, but not moving. We can see that Terry has gone off and we can hear him talking to officials in our earpieces. I can see him talking to many of them and on his phone too.
Eventually, he pulls us all out and breaks the news to us. The police won’t allow us through without seeing our visas! Terry has tried everything. As we don’t have them with us we can’t visit the Square.
We are all disappointed, but there is nothing we can do and we know Terry has really tried for us. We can all see he is really disappointed for us too so we all reassure him that it’s ok, we understand.
We talk a walk to meet our bus to go straight to the Forbidden City.
In the meantime Terry warns the other tour guides that were coming after us. They were in the queue too so would wait to see what they said to them.
We reached the Forbidden City and any disappointment I was feeling soon disappeared. Oh wow! I didn’t expect it to be this big or beautiful.
I can see why they say it is the worlds largest palace complex, with 980 buildings and 9,999 rooms. I wonder if they ever counted the rooms and if so, why they didn’t round it up to 10,000?
The palace dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Terry explained all the pavilions, courtyards and gardens to us, including the concubine courtyard and room. Sadly you could only see in through the glass to this room.
The whole place is just stunningly beautiful and I was so pleased we could spend so much time there. Even if we still only saw a fraction of it.
I’ve since heard that the other groups were allowed to enter the square without their visas! I’m jealous but these things happen.
We left the palace and headed to the Rickshaws, where we had a 20 minute ride around the Hutongs. These people must have really strong legs, cycling with hubby and I in the back. It was good fun even if they used the Rickshaw in front as it’s brakes.
It was time for lunch now. For the first time this trip it was actually quite late for lunch, and I was thankful for this.
I have to say, this was the best lunch I’ve had all holiday. My favourite was a chicken dish with nuts including walnuts. It had a bit of a kick, but I loved it.
This was our last meal with our travelling companions As we were checking out tonight. It is a night earlier, but we are going to stay with friends who are living in Beijing for 3 nights.
We say goodbye to the group, although I’ve missed Terry, which I’m gutted about. I leave a thank you note and a tip with reception for him though. He has been an amazing guide.
We get back to the hotel, pack and leave at 6 pm. I’m going to be sad leaving the tour part of the trip, but the holiday isn’t over yet!
I have no idea what our friends house looks like, so I’m excited.
We arrive and it’s huge and beautiful. Nothing like what we have seen in China up to now.
Tonight we go out for dinner in a western pub. A chicken Dorito is just what I needed after 3 weeks of chinese food!
We sit in the garden of the White Swan. It’s so different to what we have been used to, but it’s perfect to catch up with our friends. I’m looking forward to the next few days, to see a different side to Beijing.
Although yesterday I said this was my third favourite hotel this trip, I think the bed was the most comfortable so far. I slept so well.
We have a good routine going in the mornings. I wake up and make a tea for me, and coffee for hubby. While my tea cools I grab a shower.
As our case left the night before us in Xi’an, I didn’t have my Avon So Soft Spray on yesterday. As I look in the mirror now, I see that this was the perfect opportunity for the mosquitos to have a party on me. I have 6 bites around my neck and chest and 3 on my legs.
After my shower I completely cover myself in the spray. I’m not given them another day of fun!
We go for our first breakfast in this hotel. The dining area is beautiful with colourful lanterns everywhere.
There is a great selection once again from western to Chinese.
After dinner last night I felt so bloated, so I decided to just have fruit today, however I did allow a small smoked salmon roll to sneak in too.
We leave the hotel at 7.00 am for the 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. I am so looking forward to this, I just hope my bladder holds out for the duration of the drive!
I’m pleased to say I made it. The trip reminded me of when I was a kid going to the seaside. Searching the landscape for my first sight of the sea. We drove through the Badaling Hills which is the highest point of the Guangou Gorge. As I look around it is all so beautiful, and then, there it is, my first view of the Great Wall. It was amazing.
During the drive Terry our guides tells us all about how it was made, the staggering length of over 6200 miles in total.
We get off the bus and all quickly head to the ‘facilities’ as Terry calls them before starting the final part of the journey to the wall.
To get to the wall you take the Funicular up. I’m so pleased as I was expecting a climb! It takes just over 3 minutes and gives you a chance to take in the gorge a little.
Once at the top, you walk out and it’s there right in front of you. We take our first steps onto the wall and I can’t believe I’m here.
Terry is there ready to take our cameras so that each couple or group can have photos together.
The section we are on is part of the best preserved section. We decide to walk up the steep part first while we have fresh legs.
Some of it is steps , other parts slopes. Going up is very steep at times, but the views are amazing. 360 degrees of outstanding views in fact.
As we walk along the wall I have to keep pinching myself that I’m here.
When you see how far into the distance the wall goes, I can’t help wonder how on earth they got the bricks up here, nether alone to build it. It is a really beautiful, incredible landmark.
After the wall we visited a Jade factory. Hubby and I loved a table and 2 chairs made of Jade. It was only $1.8m, so we ordered 2 sets!! In our dreams!
They showed us how they cut the stone and the different colours. I always thought it was only green, but you get all variety of colours including red, yellow, blue and white.
After a tour we head upstairs for lunch. We have the usual array of dishes, but this time as well as the beer they gave us a bottle of ‘fire water’. We all take some on our table and toasted each other before downing it in one! Jeez, I now know why it’s call fire water! It was so bad we had to have a second toast!
After lunch we had time to walk around the shop. I decided to treat myself to some lovely blue earrings. I wanted a pendant to go with them, but sadly they didn’t have one in the same colour.
Some of the pieces were quite expensive like the table and chairs. These bracelets were from £1000-£1300 each, although they did offer 30% discount!
It was lovely walking around though looking at the pieces, especially when you know they were cut from one piece of rock!
We then took a walk along the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. The walk is lined by 18 massive statues of elephants, lions, camels, and mystical beasts, protecting the tombs of Emperors. As we walk through the tree lined avenue, Terry explains the meaning of each of them and the old customs and suspicions. It is so peaceful and the smell of the pine trees adding to its calmness.
At the end of the Avenue you pass through the Great Red Gate which is more than 400 years old. With its 3 archways, it is one of the largest stone archways in China.
We start the journey back to the hotel. As we drive we pass buildings for the Beijing Olympics, which Terry points out for us. One of the beauties of Viking, is that you get a whole lot more than you expect every day and Terry is such a fabulous guide, explaining everything to us. He also cracks quite a lot of jokes which gets the whole group in stitches.
Back at the hotel we have a few hours to ourselves before leaving for dinner.
In the basement of our hotel and across the street is a big, high end shopping centre. The memory card on my small camera is already full and Hubby’s camera is close to being full, so we decide go on the search for a camera shop. Jimmy from Viking had suggested there may be a store in the basement of China World opposite the hotel. After a while we find a shop and are pleased to buy two 32MB cards for less than £12 each.
We arrive back to our room with 1.5 hours to spare before going out to dinner.
I’m so full, I really can’t cope with any more food. It’s a different style to normal with custard filled dim sums at the beginning as well as custard tarts.
I sample a little of some of the dishes, but I’m just still so full from lunch.
After dinner we join Kellie and Joe, a lovely couple from USA, who we have met on this trip, for a drink in the bar before heading to bed! It is the end of happy hour so Prosecco is 2 for 1 until 9 pm. We made it with 6 minutes to spare!
The mini bar in the hotel is free so we finally retire to our room for a drink before going to sleep.
Our alarm was set for 6.30 am this morning although hubby and I were awake about 5.30 ish. Not sure why hubby was awake, but for me, whenever I have something important to do, I worry I will oversleep.
Today we have to leave our room by 8.30 am to be on the bus. We are flying to Beijing today!
I’ve made tea and showered. I start to get dressed as my worse nightmare happens! The night before we had to take our clothes out for today as our cases had to be out by 10.30 pm. In my head I’ve taken out shorts, vest top, bra and pants. Now dressing what I’ve actually taken out is 2 vest tops, shorts and bra!
I cannot believe it. I checked it twice last night. I’m usually so careful. I check with reception but my case is already at the airport. It’s not good, I’ll have to go commando!
Hubby looks at me and my shorts! He doesn’t think it’s a good idea so offers to take one for the marital team! He gives me his underwear! My hero!
Now, as I grew up, my mum always said my underwear should always match. I mean, what if you had to go to hospital. Since then, I always make sure I’m suitably dressed! Today though, needs must!
I look in the mirror and feel a little bit like Mr Bean! I can’t help but laugh!
The plan is, as soon as we get to the airport we go shopping, either for hubby or me!
It’s absolutely lashing with rain as we leave. I hope it improves for Beijing.
We arrive at the airport and quickly check out the shopping. It’s not looking good. We have 10 minutes until we need to be at our gate and ready to board! We have to accept that hubby is going to have to stay commando! Then we see it. Is it a mirage? Thankfully no! There is in front of us a Victoria Secret. I quickly run in and bought a pair of pants.
We have 5 minutes so I run to the ladies and change and swap with hubby! Phew! He really is my hero today. One of the many reasons why I love him so much.
We board the plane. As we arrived at the airport we were handed 2 very large lunch boxes. Probably 30 cm square each, from the same restaurant we are at last night.
On board, we open them and wow, so much food. The sandwich was 5 layers! A pot of what looked like sausage rolls but sweeter, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, almond Croissant, 3 slices of a sponge slice and a banana. Just as we opened it the air hostess came round and gave us a bag of food too, with a bottle of water.
I currently feel like I’m going to pop with food. I eat some of it but a lot is left.
On the way to airport our guide Terry had told us about his childhood. The struggle and sacrifice his parents made to give him and his brother a good life. I felt so guilty that I had food here that could help a family out. If you have read my previous blogs, you will know how I like to help the homeless out. Now I felt even worse. I might not be rich, but I have a lot more than some, and I’m so humbled.
The flight is very quick. Less than 2 hours. It is actually very comfortable.
What Viking do well is making travel easy! Our luggage is always taken care of, so we only have the look after ourselves. It takes all the stress out of it.
When we land it’s raining again! Seriously, it needs to do one!
We are still going to do a tour so are praying the rain eases, which it does. First we visit a bell tower. It’s only rung once a year for Chinese New Year.
Opposite is a beautiful chinese building.
Inside the bell tower, we get a tea tasting experience. I’d been to the presentation on the ship on tea, but this was actually tasting the tea.
The lady doing it was so funny and the whole experience was really good fun.
She explained why the tea was so expensive, so now I understand why it seemed expensive on the ship.
After the taster you could buy the teas. I love my tea, but I’m still struggling to pay so much for it.
We then walk down the back streets. It’s so narrow and I’m intrigued. We suddenly arrive at someone’s house.
Terry jokes that the owner looks like Jackie Chan and he does. We sit in is lounge while he tells us his story. He has birds in his yard that are taking away in chinese. It’s really fascinating.
When you see how they love, you can’t help wondering how they cope when temperatures drop!
The owner was so lovely and it was an enjoyable visit.
We then take an early dinner.
On the third floor (our second floor) we were treated to another chinese banquet and a new beer – U8.
The group we have been with for the last 2 weeks mostly come from different parts of America. We are loving hearing all their stories and getting to know each other.
After another meal where I feel like a beached whale we head to our hotel. It’s 6.30 pm and the traffic is bad, but it gives us a chance to look at the buildings.
We finally reach Kerry Hotel and get our room key. Our cases are already in our room. As we open the door we wonder what it will be like.
I’ll be honest, we were disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an amazing room. I’m currently laying on the fabulous grey chaise lounge writing this! It’s the bath that disappoints. The previous 2 hotels has a free standing. This is still really nice, we have just been spoilt so much.
On the other hand, the toilet is something else! It’s all electronic. You can even have a sit down shower and dry, if you know what I mean!
Tomorrow we have a 5 am start, so we have pooped to a local shop and picked up some wine and beers to drink in our room. Tomorrow the Great Wall awaits us !
As we expected, the bed was so comfortable last night. The room is really comfortable especially the bathroom. We had a bath last night, but this morning is shower time. The shower has 2 different shower heads including a rain shower, which we have at home. I opted for this one and it was so relaxing.
The hotel has an assortment of toiletries if you need them from shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, toothbrush, and razor set etc, so if you forget anything you are covered.
In the wardrobe are 2 really soft gowns and slippers.
As dinner in the hotel was so amazing last night, we had high expectations about breakfast and we were not disappointed.
You can choose from sushi, pastries, fruits, cooked breakfast, as well as Chinese food. You won’t go hungry that is for sure .
Today we are off to see the Terracotta Army and I’m quite excited. We leave early to try and miss the crowds.
It takes about 45 minutes to get there. When we first arrive we park in the car park and go through the ticket area. There you pick up a golf like buggy which takes you to the main museum area.
There are 3 buildings. The first one is the amazing one. It’s where we meet the Terracotta Army. I’ve seen them so much on TV or in books etc but to be this close to them is amazing.
Each soldier is of a variety of ranks and with individual features.
As well as the army it also included horses and carts. The carts were made of wood, so sadly didn’t survive, but the horses were equally spectacular.
Not everything is excavated yet, but with the help of modern technology they are able to see what is still to be unearthed.
Out of all the pieces, only one Crossbowmen was found in one piece.
In total over 8000 pieces are part of the collection, which was discovered by farmers in 1974 when they were digging a well to find water.
Amongst the Terracotta figure, bronze statues were also found.
Although the statutes are grey in colour, they were originally painted, however the change in humidity caused the change.
It really was incredible to see. I can’t begin the comprehend how they were made, and who by. Every detail was there. The photos just can’t do it justice.
After the museum we went to see how they make the statues you buy today, as well as lacquered items of furniture. I have so say, the furniture was amazing.
After the tour we had lunch in a restaurant in the same place. Terry recommended we tried the beef noodles and hamburger, which I did and both were really tasty. The hamburger was not a beef burger but like pulled pork in a ciabatta type roll. It’s hard to describe so I’m gutted I didn’t take a photo to show you. In addition there were so many more dishes available on the buffet. I’m definitely putting the pounds on with this trip!
Afterwards we have some free time. Outside they have some figures that you can have your photo taken behind. It was so much fun.
On the way back to the hotel I was surprised to see their local crop being grown in so many fields. Pomegranate is a major crop to them. As you drive past the trees you see that all the fruit is wrapped in clear plastic bags part filled with water. This apparently stops birds eating them.
What further surprised me was that I’ve never seen anything pomegranate related here, so I assume it mainly exported. The next time I buy some at home, I shall definitely be checking it’s origin.
We then had a couple of hours free to just relax. We decided to just chill in our hotel room.
We left the hotel at 6 pm to go out for dinner. It was a chinese of course again at the Tang Dynasty. Dishes included beef, Kung po chicken, a couple of Tofu dishes (which I don’t really like), cabbage with chill and so much more!
Outside the restaurant we found these old instruments on the wall and were quite fascinated by them.
We were hoping to go for a walk afterwards but it’s raining too hard so I have to satisfy myself with a quick photo from the hotel porch.
This used to be the TV tower but is now a restaurant. It is right in front of our hotel and looks lovely all lit up at night.
As we can’t walk, we buy some beers from a store and take them to our room. We fly to Beijing tomorrow, so we need to pack as our cases are leaving at 10.30 pm tonight.
I am just about to go to bed but then as we sit on the balcony, we start to see lights ahead of us. There in front was the most amazing bridge I have ever seen. A light display plays in a routine. I have never seen anything like it before. It is stunning. I have to delay going to bed until we have passed the bridge.
The next morning it’s an early start again. Today we are going to visit Shibaozhai Temple. Instead of catching the usual bus, we are walking to the temple. From our balcony we can already see the temple opposite us. Towering over the river.
As we step off the boat, we see people washing their clothes in the river. It still amazes me that in 2019 people still live this way. They all seem very happy though.
It’s a steep walk up to what they call ‘the village’, passing lots of little stalls selling everything from scarfs, purses, tops etc.
The village is relatively new. In fact the road we are walking on was only completed the day before. The old village was relocated when the dam was created and the river levels rose. As they couldn’t move the temple they built a wall around it to protect it from the river.
We walk through the village as shop owners are setting up their stalls. The all mostly sell the same things but it’s still interesting to walk along and look.
As we near the temple we approach a suspension bridge which joins the village with the temple. As we step on it, it starts to bounce up and down. I’m not great with heights, so this was a little scary. If I was brave enough to look up I could see some amazing views though.
Finally I’m across, the bad news is that I have to go the same way back!
The temple sits above the Shibaozhai Hill adjacent to a 12 storey Pavilion. We walk up all 12 floors. It’s extremely humid today so we are all struggling. Sweat is pouring off us as we climb the steep stairs. The view at the top is worth it though. You then get to walk through the Temple. The bright colours and statues are beautiful.
The walk back down is so much easier.
My hubby wanted to take a photo of a little girl selling nuts and biscuits. I give her some money and hubby snaps away. Her mother is across the road and thanks us, but the little girl is upset that we haven’t taken something from her. I tried to explain that we gave her the money for the photo but she didn’t understand. As we walk away she comes running after us with some biscuits in her hand. When I take them she smiles. It was so humbling.
As we walk back past some the shops, I want to buy some gifts to give something back to these people. I choose 2 purses for my nieces. You haggle here which is fun. Eventually the owner persuades me to buy 3. I don’t need 3 but I couldn’t say no.
Next I look at silk scarves for my mum. Apparently they are 100% silk. I eventually agree to buy one. It’s not until I get back on board and look at it that I realise it’s 100% silk like polyester. I had to laugh. I’ve just been ripped off, but it’s still pretty and there need is more than mine.
Before we get on board there is a man begging on the street. We still have the biscuits from the little girl that we won’t eat as we have so much food onboard, so I hand them to the man. He is so grateful it warms my heart. One simple photo has helped 2 separate people.
We start to sail by 10.30 am. I’m full of cold today so not feeling great, so we Plan to just have a relaxing morning. At 11 am there is a talk on Tea which I’m really interested in which I decided to go to. I’ve learnt about the different types of tea and their benefits. For example, the first tea was found by Shen Nong. He added water to some leaves and apparently because of his transparent stomach, he was able to see all the toxins clearing. Imagine that – a transparent stomach.
Chai means clear in Chinese, hence how it got it’s name! Well that is what she said but when I tried to look it up I couldn’t confirm that.
The different teas include dark tea which is anti aging, helps with weight loss, cures sore throats, is anti cancer, caffeine free, clears toxins and lowers blood pressure.
Black tea cures headaches, regulates the stomach to relieve pain, takes away toxins and is also anti aging.
Green tea is something I drink daily at home. It is a diarrhetic, relieves fatigue, prevents diabetes and cardiovascular disease, enhances immunity and diminishes inflammation. What I didn’t realise is that it also has caffeine in it, so maybe that is why I don’t sleep too well.
White tea is good for your liver and hives, anti radiation and lowers blood pressure and body temperature.
Snow chrysanthemum tea I’d never heard of before. It’s caffeine free, lowers blood pressure and sugar, good for eyesight and sleep, cures colds, maintains youth and beauty and reduces body temperature. I definitely need some of this.
And finally another one I’ve never heard of – Oolong tea. It helps prevent heart disease, weight loss, digestion, lowers cholesterol and relieves fatigue.
I would have bought some tea on the boat but it was quite expensive. About £50 for a small tin, so I will see if I can pick some up elsewhere cheaper. Mind you, with my cold I’m certainly in need of it.
Lunch on board today is a Chinese themed menu but with a difference. As well as the usual array of Chinese food, you could try chicken feet, pigs tail, feet and ears and a few other weird things. I’ll be honest, I did look but I certainly didn’t touch!
After lunch we then had the opportunity to visit the bridge. I’m not totally interested in this but hubby is keen. Coming from a shipping background he loves this sort of thing. We had a 20 minute tour to see the controls and devices to sail the boat safely.
I was then torn. I wanted to go to the session on China, but I also needed to go back to bed. Hubby offered to wake me in time for the presentation so back to bed I went .
The presentation on china was really interesting. Elliot talked about their culture, dating, marriage and religion. The Chinese have a huge respect for family.
We were given some interesting facts like the selective abortion for girls was introduced in 1978. This then caused an imbalance in the number of boys and girls. This has meant that it has been harder for men to find a wife.
A lot of marriages are arranged through match makers. There is even a park in Shanghai where parents place umbrellas down on the ground and attach resumes of their children which includes their height and weight. Their children don’t know their parents are doing this. If someone thinks their child might be a match the parents set up a meeting.
I’m not sure if this was true or a joke but their wedding car is usually a BMW as it stands for ‘be my wife’!
During the talk I was looking out at the river bank. There seemed to be a lot of fires going on, and the haze was getting worse. When I left to join my hubby on the balcony I was shocked by the poor air quality. It hurt by throat and eyes. I couldn’t stay outside. Hubby soon joined me. It was horrendous. We don’t know for sure but we think they may have been burning their rubbish. Whatever it was, it cannot be good for the environment.
Tonight was our last night on board. We should have been making the most of it but all I wanted was to go back to bed, so after dinner hubby and I retired to our room. It will be sad tomorrow To be leaving the cruise part of the trip. Tomorrow we will disembark at Chongqing to take the bullet train to Xion.
I woke up around 6.20 am and looked through our patio doors. The sun was just rising over the Yangtze River, it was so beautiful. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures.
Today we are mooring in Jingzhou where we will visit a school in the morning then this afternoon visit the old wall.
We dock just before 7 am so I watch the boat as it moors. Our balcony faces the port side so after breakfast we sit on the balcony watching the comings and going’s. Men are fishing on the bank, others just walking around.
Each day the staff give us a small booklet with has the latest news from home. We obviously get one on Britain which is a great idea.
Our bus is leaving at 9 am to take us to the school so we have plenty of time to sit and read before we need to leave.
We are just back from our school visit. I wasn’t sure what to to expect. When we arrived we were greeted by 100’s of children ranging from 6-12, all waving at us. They would come up and high 5 you.
We were treated to a little show where 3 groups of children performed different dances. We were then taken to see them in their classes.
Each child came and took one of our hands and asked us to sit in their seats. They are grade 2 children so haven’t learnt English yet. We tried to talk to them. My hubby was across the classroom from me and I could see about 4 children around him, fascinated by his camera and beard!
Many of the children board at the school while there parents work in Shanghai or Beijing. They only get to see them about once a year. The little girl with me was a boarder too. It broke my heart to think of her not going home to her parents each night.
Their grandparents would be playing a big part in their lives, but there is nothing like a mothers love and I’d imagine she must have missed her parents so much when first sent to school.
She was so cute. When I left she gave me a big hug and I can’t help but wonder if she is missing affection? I have nieces her age and I couldn’t imagine them not seeing their parents for long periods of time!
In China the parents devote all their money to make sure their children get the best education possible, so I can see why they have to board their children if they want to earn good money in the city for them, but it is still very emotional.
When you leave you can give a donation to the school which of course we did.
Now back on board I’m chilling on our balcony after another great lunch of prawns on toasted bread to start, pork ribs for main and green tea icecream for dessert. I mustn’t forget my glass of fizz!
When we returned to our cabin we had a lovely surprise. We have got friendly with another couple on the boat. They have a suite which also came with a bottle of champagne. As they don’t drink it, they had it sent to our room. I couldn’t believe how thoughtful they were. Hubby and I will certainly enjoy it, so thank you Joe and Kellie.
As I sit here on the balcony I notice a women on the bank. She is washing her laundry in the river. If you look at my photos above you will see how dirty the water is and I can’t help but wonder how clean she gets her clothes.
She first wets the item in the river then lays in on the bank where she takes what looks like soap and scrubs the items, first with her hands and then her feet. She takes a long time with each item before rinsing them in the river. It seems sad that this is her only way to wash her clothes.
I could sit here forever watching the world but I need to head to the bus again to go to the old wall.
It’s only a short trip but gave us an opportunity to visit the city walls and experience some of the locals selling fruit. It was nice just to walk around and see how they live. A man was carrying 2 buckets of water hanging then on either side of a plank of wood balanced on his shoulders. Little moped trucks were piled high with boxes or scrap metal etc.
The county really fascinates me.
We get back to boat around 4 pm so we have time to chill in our room catching up on the BBC news before we have to get ready for dinner. It’s a western menu tonight.
As I look out from the balcony there are now some men swimming. I give them a wave and they happily wave back. They swim over towards our boat for a closer look. Others are fishing. We decide to go up to the top deck for a walk and people watch more.
It was perfect timing as we were just setting off again down the river. We stayed a short while just soaking up the quietness and reflecting on their way of life. Eventually it was time to shower and change for dinner. But not before watching a he sunset.
Before dinner there is a briefing on what is happening tomorrow, as we travel through the 3 Gorges. I am expecting a huge change in the landscape tonight as we sail towards them.
After dinner there is a show where we will be shown different traditional dress. Sadly hubby has come down with a cold today so I’m not sure if he will make it.
We decide to go to get he shied after all and it’s good fun. The staff are dressed in an array of costumes and perform traditional dances for us. It’s all bright and colourful. A lovely end to another good day.
Today is a sailing day so there is no need to get up too early however as we have a safety exercise at 9.30 am we decided to set the alarm for 7.30 am. I have to say this was a good decision as I had the best nights sleep last night in so long. I think it was the sound of the water that must have relaxed me so much. If the alarm hadn’t have gone off, I’m not sure when I would have woken up.
There are no kettles in the room so hubby was keen to get up and head for breakfast so he could get a coffee.
I really wasn’t that hungry today so settled for just some fruit and a mint tea.
After breakfast I’ll be honest I went back to bed for a couple of hours, while hubby sat on our balcony reading and watching the activity on the river.
I think we are both very surprised how wide the river is and how much commercial traffic is on it. I don’t think we have seen any other passenger ships on the river yet. It’s so peaceful you can’t help being relaxed.
As I had a light breakfast I was getting quite hungry so around 12.30 pm we headed to lunch. You can either eat from the buffet or off the menu. You will never starve on this trip that is for sure.
I opt for a tuna salad to start followed by spaghetti bolognese and Chinese green beans, while hubby had the same starter with a lamb curry. I really fancied sorbet but it wasn’t on the menu. I asked Eddie our waiter who said it wasn’t a problem and quickly returned with some.
Drinks run freely over lunch so I opted for the fizz while hubby had a beer.
During the day there are activities going on. I was gutted to read I’d missed a lecture on the Yangtze River this morning. Now reading the programme I see there is a talk on Chinese medicines after lunch and a lesson in Chinese. I am planning on going to the latter. In the meantime I’m going to chill out on the top deck watching the world go by.
It’s nice and warm but there is quite a haze today. As I sit watching the activity on the river it’s hard not to fall asleep. It’s really is calming sitting on the deck. There are fishes jumping out of the river. I don’t know what they are but they come right out.
The staff come round offering ice tea or water to keep you hydrated.
When we pop back to our room the maid has been. Again, they have left some really lovely extra touches such as bookmarks. Hubby had been reading his book but didn’t have one so had folded it over. She had noticed and gave him a Viking one. She also left a card each for us with our own Chinese year on and what it means. They must have got our years from our details. Hubby is a rabbit and myself the rooster. The description for both of us was actually quite accurate.
I did go to the Chinese lesson but couldn’t get into it so decided to return to our balcony to chill. Later we have welcome drinks with the captain as well as a Chinese themed menu. Eddie assured us at lunch that if we didn’t like Chinese they would make us something else, but you can’t scare me with Chinese food.
Before dinner we were invited to deck 5 for the welcome party with the captain. On arrival we were given champagne which was continuously topped up. Canapés were offered too.
The evening started with a dance performance before the key staff were all introduced to us. The captain had been sailing this river for over 30 years so we are in safe hands.
As we were listening to the speakers, we looked out of the window and saw the most spectacular sunset. Sadly we didn’t have any cameras with us but will definitely be making a plan to get some photos tomorrow night.
After a quick briefing about the next days tours it was time for dinner, and what a dinner.
As it was a Chinese menu, food plates of different dishes were placed on our Lazy Susan for us to help ourselves. Kung po chicken, ribs, fried rice, fish etc etc. It kept coming. A lovely dumpling soup and banana sorbet completed the meal. Oh of course more bubbly.
After dinner we retired to the bar for a couple before bed! Tomorrow we are off to visit a school and the old wall.
It was a bit of a lay in this morning. The alarm was set for 6.40 am. Today we leave the Westin hotel in Shanghai to go to the airport, to fly to Wuhan where we will board the Viking Emerald.
I’d packed most things last night so this morning I only had to shower and pack the toiletries into the case, ready to be collected at 7.30am.
We don’t leave the hotel until 10.45 am for a 1.25 pm flight, but Viking are sending our luggage ahead. We don’t see it now until we are on the boat!
After the cases are outside our door, we settle to have our last morning cup of tea in our room before heading to breakfast.
As we have scales in our bathroom hubby thought it would be good to get on them as see how much Our weight has changed in the last 5 days. We seem to have eaten so much I wasn’t sure I wanted to know! In for a penny, in for a pound, I got on them. I had stayed the same! Woo hoo I was so pleased. Then hubby got on. Drumroll please………….. he had lost 1.4 kg!! How on earth did he do that ? I was gutted! He is always lucky that he can eat and drink what he likes and not worry too much about it. That’s men for you ladies! I can put weight on just eating lettuce!
Talking of food, we then went down for our last breakfast in Shanghai. I’m sure the breakfasts for the rest of the trip are going to be just as good but in the meantime we savour the selection available to us.
We now have just under 2 hours before we leave for the airport so I relax on the chaise lounge in our room and catch up on @MYDIY on YouTube with Kathy. Today she is making scarecrow wreaths. They are so cute. I do enjoy watching her videos. The only challenge is in China you have to use a VPN to use your phone or iPad. It keeps cutting off, which frustrates me. I do finally get to watch it all though.
Right, it’s time to check out. We still have 2 weeks left of the holiday, but it’s still sad to be leaving Shanghai. We really have had a great time and our room has been so comfortable. The bath especially which is free standing and big enough to fit 2 people side by side! The boat will only have a shower but fingers crossed our rooms on Xion and Beijing will have baths too.
We are now on the bus to the airport. Terry is giving us an update on what will happen when we get to the airport. He is a character. He was telling us that when he sees phrases on movies he has to check it is suitable for tourists.
We arrive at the airport and are given our passports and boarding passes as well as our lunch boxes. Viking do make things so easy for you. All we have to do is go through security again.
We head to our boarding gate and all open our lunch boxes. It was supposed to be a club sandwich. When we all opened the bags there was a roar of laughter. Many of us instead of a club sandwich got something with a purple and orange layer! It tasted of butternut and yams. Hubby was lucky and got a club sandwich so kindly split it with me.
We were also given a banana and 2 madeleines which were nice. I was craving bananas so it was timely.
Our flight is boarded as I settle down. Hubby has taken the window seat again. The gentleman next to me has an awful habit of picking his nose. Not a little go by a full on rummage for most of the flight. To make it worse he was flicking it or wiping it on his table. I was literally heaving. I was desperately trying to not look, but it was so difficult. I was desperate to get off the flight.
There was some positives though. The air hostess noticed I was reading my book so put my light on for me. They also brought around water for us which I kept on my lap, not wanting to put anything in the seat pocket.
I did have a look at the duty free shopping magazine though. Now, I have to say I have never seen anything quite like it. When I first opened the magazine I came to knives, saucepans and kettles! If that wasn’t bizarre enough, I turned over and saw fridge, cooker and bikes! I couldn’t wait to see what their trolley looked like. Sadly I didn’t buy anything as my baggage allowance might have been exceeded!
The flight landed and thankfully the guy next to me rushed off so I was able to get my antibacterial wipes out without offending anyone !
As Viking were taking care of our luggage we just had to identify it so they could check everyone’s had arrived. As we left the airport Terry informed us that the sandwich issue was a mistake and had ordered us all a KFC to eat on the bus. That was a really thoughtful gesture and went down well with everyone.
Unlike UK KFC this wasn’t fried but marinated chinese style and was delicious.
Before going to the boat we did a detour to Hubei Museum where we first were treated to a traditional bell performance followed by a tour of one of the exhibitions.
The Bell performance was so relaxing I could have fallen asleep. I was so enchanted. The musicians and dancers were in traditional dress using old musical instruments, which were beautiful in themselves.
We were then given a private viewing of an exhibition of Marquis Yis. When he died, he had buried with him 13 girls and women whose ages ranged from 14 to 26. All were killed as human sacrifices. Within the tomb were musical instruments, food and wine vessels along with furniture. He believed in the afterlife, so all the items were placed in the 4 chambers for him. The women were to care for him and play him music. The tomb was discovered when some soldiers were trying to build their houses. It was really fascinating.
After the museum, we headed to the boat. As I got off the bus and I walked down the gang way I was so excited.
When on the boat we are greeted by the staff who take us to our stateroom and show us around. The staff are all very friendly and really want you to have a good experience.
The stateroom has a king size bed, sofa, coffee table, dresser and plenty of wardrobe space. On the balcony we have 2 more chairs.
The bathroom is basic with just a shower but I was over the moon when I saw they use l’octaine products. They had these on our previous cruise with them, and I have to say I do love them.
As it was after 7pm we went straight to dinner. Tonight was a western menu. You choose off a menu and as is Viking, they cater for all tastes.
I had ham and melon to start, salmon with new potatoes for main and sorbet to follow.
Alcohol is free during mealtimes so they keep you topped up with a drink of your choice. Mine was white wine.
The dining room is set out in tables of 8 so you get a good chance to meet and get to know the fellow passengers.
After dinner we have a briefing on floor 5 in the bar area so get ourselves a drink. Carey who took us to our room earlier serves us and he has already learnt our names, which I think is brilliant in such a small amount of time.
We are due to sail at 9.30 pm so hubby and I go onto the top deck. The buildings around us are lit up and change colour in unison. It is spectacular.
We sit on the desk for a while over a glass of wine, until the lights are now a distant memory.
We planned to have one last drink in the bar before bed, however we got talking to another couple and settled in for the rest of the night.
As we were outside of meal times you pay for your own drinks. We were recommended the drinks package. For £250 for both of us, we could have unlimited drinks. We decided this was a really good deal and signed up for it. I was even more glad I did it when I found out you could have fizz too.
Another 6am wake up call today. This will be the theme of this trip I am sure. It is great to wake up and have a beautiful cup of Chinese tea, or two while getting ready. I am really a massive fan of it. I will definitely have to bring some home with me.
Today we are off to old Shanghai and Yoyuan Gardens but not before breakfast.
Chinese breakfasts are also a favourite part of the day. Hubby commented about how adventurous I am being with my food. I am determined to try new things each day. Today was pork stuffed dumplings. I also had to have my boiled eggs in tea, although I learnt today it also has Soy Sauce in it. I really need to try making them when I get home.
Today is also the first official day of the trip – Imperial Jewels of China. The last few days were an optional extension to the tour. Everyone will now have arrived, so it will be interesting to see what they are all like and where they are from. The people we have met so far are mainly American or Canadian, with only another couple from the UK.
I look around breakfast to get my first view. Most of the people here will be on the same trip, getting something to eat before we leave for our trip at 8 am.
We are a large group so for the rest of the trip we have been allocated our guide. We still have Terry who has been with us since we arrived which we are really pleased about.
We all meet in the hotel lobby where Terry checks the batteries to our voice boxes. These will be with us throughout the tour so we can always hear him. We were also given badges to write our names on. This is new as we didn’t do this on our last Viking trip. I’m so bad at names this will really help me.
The weather is awful. It is pouring with rain and a lot of today is outside. The hotel has provided umbrellas in our rooms which will certainly be needed today, plus we have our waterproof jackets.
We get on our bus and meet some people from the day in Suzhou and discuss what we all did yesterday. New arrivals were feeling tired after long flights the night before. I remember how tired I was and have been thankful for the extra days to help me adjust.
The first stop is a trip to old Shanghai. It only takes a short time on the bus. I have to say, from now on, I’m sorry but I won’t able to confirm the cost of the things we see, as Viking are excellent at including all tours in the price of the trip!
As we walk to the old town from the bus, it is still pouring with rain, but it doesn’t take away the beauty of what I saw. Traditional Chinese buildings surround us. It is surreal when I look up and see the top of my hotel roof from down here. I feel I’m in a completely different city.
I’ve learnt that in China it is as important to look up as it is to look straight ahead. There are so many hidden gems in the roof tops. Beautiful architecture including many carvings.
We walk through the old town to Yoyuan Gardens which dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Here it is really important to look up. Carvings of ancient warriors and dragons adorn the roof tops. The curves of the roof add to the beauty. It’s still raining but we still enjoy walking around some of five acres of gardens, through rockeries, pavilions and grottos. It is just so peaceful here.
We are then given some free time to explore the garden and old town more.
In a shop window a lady is making something which looked like a sweet dumpling. She saw us watching and smiled a beautiful smile before showing us what she was doing. Another thing I have found is that the Chinese are so friendly.
The rain hasn’t stopped so we are relieved when we head to our next destination – a silk carpet and embroidery workshop. I have to say, the silk embroidery absolutely blew me away. One piece in particular was of a leopard cub. See what you think :
It is absolutely stunning isn’t it.
A lady is sat showing you how they are made. Some take over 200 days to make. It is a great skill to be able to produce something like this. Plus what amazing eyesight they must have.
There were carpets too. Sadly whilst I’d have loved to bring a few back, they were not in our price range this time, but who knows, if we win the lottery we could be making a call!
From here it was time for lunch. In China, it’s not unusual for lunch to be served from 11.30 am.
We were told that lunch would be dim sum in a local restaurant just above the carpet and embroidery workshop. I wasn’t expecting much except a sample of a few dim sums, so when lunch arrived, I was blown away. It consisted of about 10 different dishes ranging from noodles, fried rice, egg plant, beef and chicken dishes to the dim sum itself. This was accompanied by a local Chinese beer.
If I’d have realised how much food was coming, I’d have cut back on breakfast. I know I could have said no to some of the dishes, but it smelt and looked so good. It tasted good too. This is the trouble with Viking, they give you the most amazing food everyday, you can’t help tucking in.
After lunch we visited the Shanghai Museum. Over 4 floors you can explore art and antiquities from over 5000 years. For us the statues were of most interest, but each floor was full of amazing things.
Can you believe that this is actually a pillow. I’m not sure I’d swap my feather ones for it today!
After the museum the tour should have ended with a trip to the bund. Due to the rain it was decided to delay this until tomorrow morning, so we all headed back to our hotel, arriving back at 3 pm.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough, dinner was to be served in the Crystal Garden Restaurant in the 5th floor. We decided to have a bottle of beer with dinner. The cost in the hotel is 58 Yuan which is about £7.25 for a 330 ml bottle. I didn’t see the wine list so can’t say how much it is.
I have been having wine in my room each evening while getting changed. A Chinese wine from the local store is about 42 yuan (£5.25) and has been really nice though.
After dinner we got back onto the bus to another hotel to visit the Shanghai Theatre, to see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. I was sort of expecting something like the Circus Du Soleil, however this was very different to that. We were not allowed to use photography during the 1 hour show so I can’t show you any pictures. What I can say is that that it was a really good night out. A lot of humour, audience participation (well for the unlucky ones that got plucked out of the audience) and some very talented performers. I would certainly recommend a visit.
We are now back in our hotel. Tomorrow we catch a flight from Shanghai to Wuhan where we will see our home for the next 8 days – Viking Emerald.
Viking are as efficient as ever. They already have our passports to check us in. We just need to leave our cases outside our hotel room door at 7.30 am tomorrow and the next time we will see them will be in our cabin.
When we arrive at the airport they will provide us with lunch boxes to keep us going until dinner too.
So it’s time to say good night for now and enjoy our last sleep in our amazing hotel room. I shall really miss it. Our time in Shanghai has been amazing and thank you to the staff at the Westin Hotel and the various Viking staff for making it so special. Terry will continue with us throughout.
Today is going to be a real blast from the past! It isn’t going to be the usual day you would
expect someone to want to do to celebrate their 50th, but for me it is
As I have said before, having a birthday which always fell during
our families 2-week summer holiday, meant that most birthdays just blended into
the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, my
parents made a fuss of me, but you know what it is like as a kid, once you hit
the beach the day itself isn’t important.
That was until one very special birthday.
We had driven to Ilfracombe and my parents suggested we walk
along the harbour. There moored up was a big boat! Well as a kid anything larger than a dinghy
is a big boat. Dad thought we should go
on board and have a look around! Little
did I know was that they had booked it as a surprise trip for me to visit Lundy
Now, this is where the story of that day is told over and
over and over again! I have always been
a bit of an independent madam! It is no surprise
then when offered help to board the ship I declined it, and the inevitable
happened. I fell in. To make it worse, I refused help on the way
back too and the same thing happened. On
the plus side, it has entertained my parents for many years.
When I was thinking about how I wanted to spend my birthday,
that birthday surprise always came to the forefront of my memories. I researched it and the boat still went, but
not from Ilfracombe on my actual birthday.
I really wanted to spend my birthday with my friends but
wasn’t sure either if they would be interested in going to Lundy. If you don’t know about it, it is a little island
off the shores of Devon. It is a nature
reserve run by the National Trust.
Puffins use it for their breeding grounds and seals and dolphins can
also be seen there.
There are only 28 people living on the Island, with just a
pub, church and shop in the way of facilities.
That said, there is something calming and magical about the place. Well for me anyway.
I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t go to the Island on
my birthday. I did see though that a
boat left from Bideford the next day. Unfortunately,
it was due to leave at 8 am due to the tide.
Now, not being funny, but having to get up and be on a boat ready to
leave by 8 am the morning after your 50th was not a realistic
After further explorations, I found a lovely man – Colin –
from Lundy Charters who was based in Clovelly who could take us over to the Island
on the Saturday at a more leisurely time of 9.30 am! My amazing friends all agreed to come with
So, the morning came, and we all headed off to Clovelly. We were told to park in the Anglers car
park. As we get there, we soon realise it
is also the same day as a festival so there is absolutely no parking. If you haven’t been to Clovelly, it is built
on a very steep hill. The road down to
the harbour is a 25% hill! The road is
single track so there are wardens at the top, middle and bottom with radios ensuring
that traffic is only flowing one way at any given time.
After a lot of worry about where to park, we were advised to
park up in the main car park and get the land rover back down which was
shuttling people that day. Hubby
suggested rather than all 8 of use going back up to come down again, why don’t
the drivers just go up and us ladies stay at the bottom. A very good idea.
As I jump out of the car, I ask hubby if he would like me to
take his rucksack with me, which he did.
I head off to take in the activity of the harbour while hubby takes the car
back up the steep road to the main car park.
I’m stood chatting when it hits me! I have the car keys! My car is one that doesn’t need a key to
start it, but it does need to be in the car when it is being driven. In a blind panic I find the warden at the
bottom. I explain the situation to
him. I now have visions of my car broken
down halfway up the hill, no-one being able to go up or down! He kindly radios to his colleagues to see if
there is a problem. The land rover that
went up after him has arrived at the top. Thankfully the car somehow made it
without the keys!
I’m now panicking as to how is the car going to be locked? The warden kindly tells me to take the land
rover back up, lock the car then come back with the land rover. Roger the driver was so lovely.
The journey back down was with a group of pirates that were
performing that day in Clovelly. I hadn’t
even boarded the boat and the day had already been memorable!
Finally, I can relax, and I meet up with Colin to board his
boat. As I get on, I can’t help but say
the most ridiculous thing! ‘Ooh it
smells of fish’. This brings roars of laughter
from my friends. Why? Well it’s a fishing boat we are on!
The boat sets sail and we are taking longer than I remember the
journey to the Island to be. As we sail,
I take in the views. I do love the sea
so much. So many seabirds hunting for their
dinner. A seal passes us just long
enough to see him, but not enough for a photo.
I am desperate to see dolphins but sadly that isn’t to be.
Gradually the island comes into view just as a puffin flies
We land on the island and I already feel nostalgic. It is a long steep walk up to the main part
of the island where the only public toilets are. We have a stop to look at the shop. We only have a few hours so prioritise what
we want to do. One of my friends hasn’t
seen puffins up close before so we decided to head off to their nesting site.
After a short while, we find out that they have already left. Gutted and being short of time we head back
to the pub for a spot of lunch.
After lunch 6 of us head to the disused lighthouse to explore. 147 steps up give you a 360-degree views of
the island. It is very beautiful.
After heading back to meet the rest of the group it is
almost time to head back to the boat. We
decide to pop onto the beach first and dip our toes in the sea. Well it has been a long time since I got wet
here so it would be rude not to. At
least this time it is just my feet!
As I look amongst the rocks, I find some amazing sea creatures. A poor crab is rescued by a friend. It really has been another great day.
We walk back up to the jetty where the boat will come and
get us. As I look down it dawns on
me! When we arrived, the boat was level
with the jetty. Now the tide was out it
was about 10 feet lower! How on earth
were we going to get onto the boat!
Hubby points to a rusty ladder going down to the sea! Is he serious? Sadly, he is.
One of my friends is even more in a panic as she is wearing a dress!
As Colin arrives back with the boat, he confirms our
fears. We are going to have to climb
down that ladder and land on a bobbing boat!
Then walk around the edge to get into the main part of the boat! Oh boy.
I am the last to go on.
My body is shaking. I am willing
myself to stay calm and not to let go of the ladder! I slowly make my way down. Colin is there to steady me. I step off the ladder onto the boat. It was scary but I made it, completely dry! I was so happy!
All safely aboard we head back. The sea is no longer calm. As we hit the waves, we get soaked. Thankfully it is a warm day. I could move to somewhere less in the line of
fire (or waves), but suddenly I am that child again. I am having a great time.
After 1.5 hours we arrive back in Clovelly. My friends probably are not as enthusiastic about
the day as me, but they don’t show it.
They really have proven they are great friends today.
We walk back through Clovelly itself to the car park just as
the rain starts.
When back at our apartments it is a quick shower and change before heading down to the seafront for fish and chips. As we call for our friends in their apartment, I realise surprise number 2. Another fabulous birthday cake. This one has red shoes, a handbag and bottle of bubbly on it. So me! More bubbles flow. I really have been spoilt.
The sun is back out, so we sit on a bench eating our chips and
taking in the surroundings before heading back to the apartment.
We return to our apartment for more drinks, some of that
amazing birthday cake, and a game of Mr & Mrs. If you have never played this, you should. It is hilarious. My hubby and I always lose, as hubby is useless
at answering the questions, even after nearly 12 years together!
It is time to draw the day to a close! It was everything I hoped for and more.
Tomorrow we head home.
I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday weekend. I have my 6 friends and hubby to thank for
See the day here on my Youtube Channel: –
If you ever get a chance to visit the island you should.
The day has finally come!
I am now officially 50. I’m oddly
excited about today. Yesterday was a great
start to my celebrations. The day was
just as I had hoped with the glorious sunshine, sea views and great friends.
I’m up really early.
I’m like a little kid again. I can’t sleep with excitement. It isn’t like I’m waiting for my presents as
my hubby has already given me that. It
is just that I don’t want to waste a moment.
I look out of the patio windows from our bedroom and can see
the sea. It is lovely and calm. Outside I can her the seagulls. It is such a perfect day.
Hubby makes me a cup of tea and I sit on the balcony taking
in the views. It is really peaceful here. I’m soon ushered into the shower! Hubby and my friends are up to something!
As I walk back into the room, I notice they have now put up
a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner along with a ‘50’ birthday balloon and decoration. My friends hand me cards and presents. A trip to Kew Gardens. I have always wanted to go so I am so
My friends kick me out the kitchen while they cook me
breakfast. I’m such a control freak when
it comes to cooking so this is hard.
Mind you, my friend is too, so she certainly gives me a run for my
money! I don’t mind though as it is my
birthday. I am happy to be spoilt. It isn’t every day you turn 50!
After a delicious cooked breakfast, we decide on the day’s
agenda. It is another glorious day, so we don’t want to waste a moment of
it. We decide to go to Croyde Bay. I used to stay there as a kid with my parents
for our summer holiday. We would camp in
our big orange 3-bedroom tent. I
remember there was a children’s club on site which we used to go to. I absolutely loved it there. The camp site was just opposite the beach, so
we almost rolled out of our tent onto the beach. It never seemed to rain for the whole 2
It has all changed now. It looks all modern and probably a lot more
expensive than 50 years ago. We didn’t
go in this time as we had parked on the opposite side of the beach. The tide was out so there was a large expanse
of sand to enjoy.
The rocks were full of muscles. This is where I got my love for them
from. They are too small to eat now, but
one day there will be a massive crop. In
Dubrovnik, I ate them every day.
Lifeguards now patrol the beach. They look like they should be in
Baywatch. I don’t remember that in my childhood
either. The sea is now full of people
body boarding. In my day it was just dinghy’s. We had one which mum and dad would take us
out in every day. Mum would pack a
picnic of crusty bread with cheese or ham, and squash. I don’t remember if there was cake or crisps,
but I certainly remember the crusty bread!
We would sit amongst the sand dunes with our windbreaker. They were hot and the sand so light. I loved running up and down them. Now at 50 I’m more of a gentle stroller! Hubby and I had a lovely walk amongst the rocks
and across the beach. I was feeling so
nostalgic, but very happy.
We had brought my stepdaughters body board with us. I have to confess I had never done it
before. Oh well, there is a first time
for everything. While hubby watched the belongings,
I joined my friends in the sea! When you
first get in, it takes your breath away, but as soon as you get fully wet it
was actually nice and warm. Mind you, maybe
a strapless swimsuit was not the most appropriate swimwear to be wearing!
Ok, I am never going to win prizes for body boarding, but I
had a great time.
After a few hours we headed back to the car. In the carpark there was an icecream stall. Well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
These were Judes icecreams. I have never
heard of them before, but they were amazing. I may keep my eye out for them again.
Our other friends were coming down that day to join us for
my birthday celebrations. We were not
sure what time they would arrive but decided to head back towards the apartment. If they were near, they could come and join
Yesterday when we were in Bideford, we found an old ship
that was now a bar. This seemed the perfect
place to go and have a drink on my birthday.
The weather had been great all day, so we sat on the deck enjoying the
We hadn’t heard from our friends so headed back to the apartment
anyway to shower and get ready for the evening.
Again, I was ushered into the shower.
They really are sneaky folks my hubby and friends!
As I came back into the room, I was greeted by a beautiful
chocolate cake with candles, and the obligatory ‘happy birthday’ song! They were really spoiling me. The cake had been made by the lady who looks
after my dogs for me and was absolutely amazing in looks and taste.
It was time for champagne!
Well it is my 50th you know!
My other friends are sadly held up on the M5. It is going to be touch and go if they make
it in time for dinner. I keep everything
Thankfully I get a message to say they are not far
away. It’s going to be tight for them to
get into their apartment, showered and changed, but they can just about do
it. As they arrive, I greet them with cold
beers and bubbles. It’s the least I can do.
In return they hand me champagne – well what else – and a present! A voucher
for me to choose an experience. I haven’t
had time to look at it yet, but I can’t wait to see what delights await me.
We all head off to the restaurant. We go ahead to secure the table and to take
the pressure off them a bit. We are
eating at Moran’s on the seafront. It is
the same place we had cocktails last night!
The food is delicious and the company great. This is just the birthday I wanted.
Check out my video of the day on my YouTube channel: –
We head back to the apartment for some more drinks before it
is time to draw the day to a close.
This has been an amazing birthday. Everything I had dreamed of. I have my friends and hubby to thank for
that. Tomorrow I am reliving another birthday
from years ago!
The celebrations started with a lovely meal out with my
hubby at a local restaurant – Baraset Barn.
The food there is amazing and the converted barn cosy, with a lovely
Thursday morning we were up early to head down to Devon to
really start the celebrations. We have
booked 2 apartments in Westwood Hoe for 8 of us. Hubby and I and 2 of our friends were
starting on Thursday with the rest on Friday.
The weather was absolutely beautiful. As we couldn’t get into our apartment until 4
pm we decided to detour to Bideford. A
quick stop off at Morrisons to get some supplies and lunch, we then headed to
the sea front to find somewhere to sit and eat our lunch. It was so beautiful. We then took a walk along the sea front. I say sea, but it is actually an estuary taking
you out to sea.
I recorded the day on my Youtube video here:
The apartment was ready a little earlier than expected so we
decided to go and check it out.
It was just off the seafront in Westward Ho. I had upgraded to the Premier Apartment at
Westbeach Resort. I wanted to wake up
looking at the ocean on my birthday, so this was the best way to guarantee
that. I am so glad I did. Our view was beautiful. We were looking right out across the sea.
The apartment itself was very modern. 2 bedrooms – 1 double – 1 twin, a nice bathroom
with bath and rainfall shower, plus a kitchen which was fitted with fridge, freezer,
oven and microwave. Even a proper coffee
I quickly unpacked. Our friends were on route, and after a long journey down, I promised to get a cold beer and G&T ready for them.
When they arrived, we sat on the balcony enjoying our
drinks. It was such a gorgeous day so we
decided to go and explore Westward Ho.
It only took us minutes to be on the seafront. There were plenty of restaurants, bars and shops
along the main promenade. It was very
clean and tidy, with a lawned area, childens play area and a large array of
planted borders. The tide was in, so you
couldn’t see the sandy beach sadly.
After a walk around we decided to have a drink in Morans, an
Asian restaurant that we had booked for the next night, for my actual
birthday. We sat outside drinking
cocktails and beer with prawn crackers!
Well it would be rude not to!
Next door was a great fish and chip shop! As we were at the seaside it was the obvious
place to go for dinner! A brass band was
setting up outside, so we sat on a bench eating our fish and chips listening to
the music. It was such a lovely evening.
We headed back to our apartment and sat on the balcony enjoying a few drinks. Slimline wine for me. It was a clear warm evening as we sat watching the sun set over the ocean. What a magical way to start my birthday celebrations.
Tomorrow is the big day!
Stay tuned to see what happened next. I will also be publishing the weekend on my
Youtube channel so don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.
1969 was a great year for many reasons in particular:
Richard Nixon became the 37th president of the USA.
The Beatles gave their last public performance.
Boeing 747 became the largest aircraft and made its first commercial flight.
Concorde took its first test flight.
Sir Wally Herbert reaches the North Pole and becomes the first man to cross the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean.
Judy Garland died.
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
The halfpenny ceased to be legal tender.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC One for the first time.
Lundy Island was given over to the National Trust.
Oh, and not forgetting another important event! At 2.15 pm on 2 August a baby girl weighing in
at 8.12lb came into the world! She was
longer than the average baby, but then she always like to be different!
Yes of course that girl was me. I cannot believe that I have been around now
for 50 years. It feels so old, but time
seems to have flown by. It isn’t until you
stop and look back on your life that the reality really hits you. If you have read my previous blogs, you
will know that I am actually ok about being 50.
I’m in a really good place in my life, and even though life throws me
curve balls, I know with my hubby, together we will get through it.
I’m celebrating the day with some of my closest
friends. We are off to Devon to relive probably
one of my only real memories of my birthday as a child. When I say I don’t remember any others, it isn’t
because I didn’t have a good childhood.
Far from it. I had 2 of the best
As my birthday falls in August, we were always on holiday,
so the day tended to blend into the holiday more. Mum always got me a cake with candles on and they
made a fuss of me, but could I tell you what else I did, then no. That was except for 1 very particular birthday.
We were in Devon and out to Ilfracombe for the day. There was a boat in the harbour, so Dad
suggested we go have a look around it.
What I didn’t know was that mum and dad had booked a trip to Lundy
Island as a surprise for my birthday.
That day has stayed with me forever.
Not least because my parents won’t let me forget it! Not because of the Island, or the treat. Oh no!
It is because as a very confident child, I wouldn’t allow anyone to help
me board the boat! Splash – I was in the
water! Yep that was me. Miss accident prone! As we didn’t have any spare clothes with me,
I just had to dry off. Thankfully it was
a warm day.
On the way back, when offered help, I declined again. I wasn’t going to fall in twice was I? Oh no of course I wasn’t!! Splash – yes in I
went again!! My parents love retelling
that story to whoever will hear it!
Along with a few more incidents such as my zip line experience, which I
won’t go into today, but still have the scars!
Despite that, I have such happy memories of that day. The excitement of being on a boat for the
first time. Seeing the birds and looking
around the Island was so special. It
seemed only right then that for my 50th I should go back and revisit
the Island. Plus with it being 50 years under
National Trust it seemed meant to be. I
refuse this time though to fall in, so if help is offered, I intend to take it.
Sadly, I couldn’t get a boat actually on my birthday, so we
are going the next day. I don’t mind
because the whole weekend is my birthday.
Well it isn’t everyday you turn 50 is it! I’m going to be milking it.
We have our own boat.
Not the normal ferry. I have been
liaising with Colin from Lundy Charters.
We are going from Clovelly this time, which is apparently closer than
from Ilfracombe. I am hoping to see
Puffins, seals and dolphins, so will have my camera at the ready. I’m just hoping the sea is calm after the night
before! We have a Thai Restaurant booked
and no doubt there will be lots of bubbles involved!
We are starting the celebrations off tonight with a meal
out. Just me and hubby. The question is, do I open his present and
card tonight or take it with me? I’ve
said I don’t know. I will have to decide
later, I think.
We then head to Westward Ho for 3 nights with friends. My babies are staying at home as they don’t
allow dogs on Lundy Island. I will miss
them dearly, but they will be well looked after.
I don’t know what else we will be doing over the next few
days. That is what makes it fun. Maybe fish and chips on the seafront. Our apartment overlooks the sea, so I’m
excited to be able to wake up on my birthday looking at the ocean. Hubby doesn’t know it yet, but I will be
expecting a cup of tea made of course by him, while I sit on the balcony admiring
There are 8 of us in total, so whatever we do, I know it
will be a good laugh.
Over the 50 years, I have learnt that if you have good
family and friends, everything else isn’t as important. I’m the happiest I have ever been. I don’t know what the future will bring. I’m living for today. What I do know is that I have some amazing
people around me. I feel the luckiest
person alive to have my hubby, my fabulous parents and family. I have some great friends. Every one of them is different, but that is what
makes them special.
I’m actually really excited about the weekend. I’m sad my parents won’t be there to spend it
with me, but I will call them on the day.
I never miss speaking to them on my birthday. They are amazing parents and love them
dearly. No doubt I will be calling them
a few times of the weekend. I know they
will be waiting to hear if I made it on the boat and back without falling
So, I am embracing 50.
I am thankfully for the memories I have already made, and looking
forward to the new ones I will make in the future.
My advice is, don’t worry about the little things. Treasure those that are close to you and live
life to the full. I’ve made mistakes over
the last 50 years, but I don’t regret them. If I hadn’t lived the life I had, I
wouldn’t be where I am today.
Do you remember at the beginning of
the year I decided to write a list of all the things I would like to achieve
during my 50th year? Well we
are now officially half way through that year.
Where has all that time gone?
How have I done so far? Below is my update:-
1) Travel to China
Still on schedule to achieve.
We went as planned in May and oh wow!
How amazing. Following where we
went on my YouTube channel
I still have my last day to publish
– but it is worth waiting for!
3)Weekend away in a VW Campervan
Still not on my radar!!
4) Re-visit Lundy Island
Well after a tricky time sorting out a boat, this trip is scheduled to happen
and I can’t wait!
5) Eat at a
Michelin star restaurant
Still not happened!
with Paul Hollywood
Sadly Paul hasn’t popped over to
help me in the kitchen yet!
my own boss
I’m still searching for that ‘ah ha’
moment that will make me rich!!
a new car with the registration of the year I was born
It is still a few months away before
the 69 plate is out. Sadly by bank balance isn’t matching this wish yet, but
you never know!
Get at least 1000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel
I’m at 149 at the moment so a few
more to go!
10) Take a
hot air balloon over my home town
Still need to do!
11) Have a
weekend away with my parents
Sadly this hasn’t happened yet, but
I hope to make it come true!
@Emirates – can you help me with
this one when I fly with you to China in August? Pretty please!!
a successful ‘Dry January’
Woo hoo! I absolutely smashed this.
5,000,000 steps in 2019
As I am still half way through the year,
I have time to complete this!
15) Learn to
I think this is for a winters
evening don’t you!!
I made this happen in March this
year and loved it!
Oh it is looking pretty sad at the
moment so I think this may need to happen soon!
my daily commute to work
I’m still having fun with the
trains!! At least the morning commute
has changed thanks to 4 extra carriages, which means I mostly get a seat now!
Lola to walk off a lead
Yer right! Hmm, not sure this is not going to happen!
Fido to not bark at the door
We have been trying very hard! I’ve now applied to the programme ‘Dogs
Behaving Very Badly’ for help! Fingers crossed!
Fido not to bark at noises
As above! Eek!
28) Have 5
minutes of fame on T.V. – preferably on This Morning
I’m still waiting for them to snap
me up lol!! I did get to meet Ruth and
Eamon at the @thismorning Live at the NEC in Birmingham. Eamon even had his hand on my knee!! Lol!
They were such a lovely couple!
29)Go to see
a musical at least once in 2019
Still to do, but we are in London
very soon so who knows!
30) Go to a
music festival or concert at least once in 2019
No happened yet, but the summer
isn’t over yet!
31) Write a blog at least
once a week
I’m smashing this with 2 – 3 some
my photography skills
I’ve not had chance much to take
many photos but when I have, I’ve really tried to be creative.
33) Clean out the garage
Don’t tell my hubby but, nah, not
yet! I will though promise!
34) Help raise awareness of
I’m still promoting this.
35) Help out someone at least
once a month
Ooh now I really have to think about
this one. I think I have, but I could do
36) Have a professional make
Still need to sort this one out!
37) Have a
This may not happen this year, but
friends and family’s birthdays
better. I could be a bit quicker poster
but it is an improvement.
dinner out once a month
We have done
this and it has been really nice to have someone cook for me. It hasn’t had to be posh, but good food.
41) Take an
hour out a week for ‘me time’
I’m trying but some weeks are just
42) Get 8
hours of sleep a night as much as possible
I’m totally failing this one. Only 6-7 hours a night at the moment.
more water and less diet coke
Right now I
am drinking a litre of squash! I’m
44) Have a
girls night out at least once every 3 months
about done this, but I really need a few more!
45) Have a
date night with hubby at least once every 3 months
I think we
have done this – yes, definitely. It is
good to spend quality time together.
46) Take a
Well I did
say a trip not a holiday so does the 30 minute trip with work count?
47) Go to
see Wasps at least 3 times during the year
We have been
once but will go more later in the year – promise.
the rules to Rugby
Oops! I really must talk to hubby!
49) Take up
a new hobby
I just need
to find the time!!
50) Keep in
touch more with family and friends who live away
Facebook is great, but I really need
to put some weekends away to see friends.
We have managed a couple of weekends this year, but we should do more!
So, there have been some things
ticked off, I really need to start doing a few more! I will keep you posted!!
So last night I was one of the lucky few to be picked to take 3 friends to the Kings Head in Wellesbourne, to sample their new menu.
The invite said we would get canapé size samples of the menu. From this, I expected just a little bite of different foods. What my hubby and 2 friends got was something else!
Now I must begin by saying that the pub is part of the Vintage Inn group. When my hubby and I were looking to move to Wellesbourne 3 years ago, we went to the pub to see what it was like! I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t impressed!
As you walked in, it lacked character. It was tired and just didn’t have the atmosphere I was looking for! This said, as part of the chain, I knew the food would be good, so we still went and ate there every so often, but it wasn’t the place we would take visitors to the area to. There were nicer pubs and restaurants to show case where we live than the Kings Head!
The staff there have always been lovely, and through talking to them, I knew they were due to get a refurbishment, as soon as planning permission could be agreed. This took a long time but eventually they got it!
After a short closure the pub reopened on Friday 15 March this year. We were lucky enough to go along on that night. The transformation was outstanding. The pub was reborn again. It had a cosy sophisticated feel!
The first night was just a drinks night. As we had a friend staying that weekend, we booked a table and took him there! We were finally happy to show off our local!
The food was excellent, as was the service.
When it came to Mothers Day, there was only 1 place I was going to take mum and dad to! The Kings Head. We had another spectacular 3 course meal. I couldn’t fault the food or the service!
So when I saw the competition on Facebook to sample the new menu, I was there like a shot! I was so excited to discover I had won 4 free places!
We arrived at 7 pm to a really warm welcome from Andrew the manager and some of the team! We were taken to our table and given a free glass of fizz and the menu! Yes, that’s right the menu!
Wow, we certainly wasn’t going hungry! Just look at the array of food above!
Now when you look at the list you might think there is a lot on there! And there was. On top of this, there was also mini chicken pies!
The pizza was a selection of different toppings and the desserts from memory were 4 or 5 different types! Eton Mess, chocolate brownie, milk tart and cheesecake.
We were all blown away by the quality and selection of food!
My favourite has to be the scallops with bacon and black pudding. I could have eaten them a hundred times over.
The beef was cooked to perfection. Slightly pink and melted in your mouth. One beef dish came with Yorkshire pudding and gravy! Oh wow, the pudding was crispy just as I like it, and the gravy thick and lush!
The flavours in the Pies were to die for, with a lovely flaky top.
The burger had a bit of a kick to it! A nice surprise!
The pizza had a perfect thin base, and they brought out a great selection of toppings to try. Unfortunately, by this point I was bursting so only tried 1. Well it would be rude to refuse wouldn’t it!
The Eton Mess was sensational. The chocolate brownie – well let’s just say I loved it!
Now, you may be thinking – surely everything couldn’t have been that good! Well actually it was! Ok, if you had to pin me down, I have to say my least favourite was the dough sticks. The 3 dips they came with were amazing though! I think as a bar snack they would be perfect for us, but I don’t think I will be having it as a starter!
Our waitress Jo was so friendly and helpful.
The whole evening was just amazing. We waddled home very happy.
Do I recommend you go and eat there? Well I’ve already booked a table for Sunday dinner, so I think that is your answer!
If you have never been to the Kings Head in Wellesbourne before, I definitely recommend you go.
If you have been and been disappointed, then you do need to go back. For good food, good atmosphere, and reasonably priced food, the Kings Head is a must!