Day 17 – Our last day in China

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.

Until next time!

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Day 16 – The penultimate day

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!

Day 15 – Staying with friends in Bejing

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.

Reliving a special day from my childhood

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 very special.

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 Island.

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 option!

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 me.

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 past.

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 that. 

See the day here on my Youtube Channel: –

If you ever get a chance to visit the island you should.