Imperial Jewels of China – Day 13- The Great Wall

It’s another early start with a 5 am alarm call!

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.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 12 – Beijing

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 !

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 11 – Terracotta Army

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.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 9 – Shibaozhai Temple

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.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 8 – Goddess Stream by Sampan

I’ve had an upset stomach since we left Shanghai which none of my pills has seemed to help. I was awake in the middle of the night due to stomach cramps so thought I might sit on our balcony.

As I opened the curtains I noticed the ships light searching the river bank. As I opened the patio door I suddenly realised it was pouring with rain. Maybe I won’t sit outside then!

I went back to bed. When I woke up the rain had stopped and the scenery was breathtaking. We were in the Lesser Three Gorges.

As we ate breakfast we moored in Wusham along side another boat which looked almost identical to ours.

I decided to see the ships doctors about my upset stomach. He spoke very good English and prescribed me with antibiotics. I need to see him again later today. He said he would give me a receipt for my holiday insurance so I am expecting a big bill, although I couldn’t leave it any longer and was worried it would ruin our holiday. We see at the end of the cruise part the damage!

Just after 9 am, we left the ship to board a little Sampan. It’s a traditional boat which would take us through the gorge. The views were outstanding. Our guide talked about her peoples culture and the area around us. She treated us to some traditional folk songs. She had such a lovely voice. The trip lasted about for just under 2 hours and was a great way to see the views.

Back on board we soon set sail and Elliot gave us a commentary on Wu Gorge and the mountains which we we were passing through, enroute to Shibaozhai.

As we came out of the gorge we passed under a large bridge where there before us was a huge city suddenly coming out of nowhere. Thankfully this coincided with lunch so by the time we had finished eating, the beautiful landscape had returned.

This afternoon we are going to be sailing through the Qutang Gorge. Elliot will again give us a commentary as we sail through.

As you come to the gorge, the beautiful scenery hits you again. In the mountains you can see natural caves. They were used by the Ba people, who would place coffins inside the caves. The coffins would be sticking out and so they got the name ‘hanging coffins’. Sadly, the Ba people no longer exist and their culture gone with them.

When the dam was built the government removed the coffins and placed them in museums. If they hadn’t done this, they would have been destroyed by the rising waters.

You may have noticed on some of my photos how clean and white the lower part of the mountain stone is. This is where the river rises to. I’m amazed by how much water comes into the river to cause it to rise that much.

This is only a short gorge – about 5 miles long but it is stunning.

These mountains reminded me of a certain chocolate:

Did you get it ? A Toblerone!

This gate marks the end of the Gorges and once again the landscape has changed.

There is a lot of debris in the river. Old shoes, plastic bottles, polystyrene and lots of twigs pass by constantly. It’s sad to see so much going into their river.

On this stretch we have seen a lot of passenger ships. Apparently this area is very popular with Chinese tourists, who take short cruises to see it.

I have to see the doctor again soon so hubby and I are just going to chill out on our balcony.

Tonight we have a briefing on our disembarkation in 2 days time. Afterwards, we have a special dinner presented by Chef Danny! We are not sure what that is but I’m sure it will be stunning.

You may have noticed that when I talk about the staff they have English names rather than Chinese. When they are learning English at school they are asked to choose an English name for themselves. It does make it a lot easier for tourists.

On the ship everyone is called by their first name. The companies ethos is that everyone is part of one big family, and you certainly feel like that.

After a briefing on what is happening tomorrow and when we leave the ship the following day, it was time for Danny the chefs Chinese menu. As expected it was amazing. I had king prawns for starters followed by seabass for main a a sweet coconut and mango rice pudding.

We decided that as we have an early start tomorrow we are going to chill on our balcony with our gifted champagne and listen to the sounds of the evening.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 3 – Shanghai & Yoyuan Gardens, and so much more!

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.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 2 – Free day to explore Shanghai

Phew I’m exhausted! Today is the only full day we have free on our tour of China. My hubby and I have decided to make the most of it.

The alarm went off at 6am. I’ll be honest, I could have quite happily put it onto snooze for a while if it wasn’t for the fact there was so much we wanted to see today!

I put the kettle on and used the time it took to boil to get a few more minutes of shut eye! I have to say though, I am really enjoying the Chinese tea in our hotel room. It’s funny, at home, the tea is in bags and the coffee loose. Complete opposite to here.

After a quick shower we head for breakfast. I decide to try some of the local food as well as some traditional food. Sorry but I really can’t resist baked beans! I’m loving the eggs boiled in tea especially though and great steamed corn bread.

The fresh fruit is lovely too although I don’t know what the purple things were and they were not my thing!

After breakfast we walk down to the water front. It’s quite quiet right now so great for taking photos. The beauty of starting early is you miss the crowds.

It was lovely just walking along the waters edge watching the boats sail by and looking at the landscape. Today though we are also heading to the Pearl Tower.

The Pearl Tower is on the other side of the river. You can take the ferry for 2 yuan each way or like us, you can do the tunnel for 70 yuan return. Yes it is a lot more expensive but it’s quite fun. You get into glass trams and as you travel through the tunnel you are treated to an amazing light show. I’ll show it to you on my YouTube channel when I post my video on it soon.

The whole trip only takes less than 4 minutes, but it is worth it.

We headed straight to the tower. As it was early – around 9.30 am there was only 1 person in the queue before us. The entrance fee is 220 yuan each. It seems a lot but it is absolutely worth it.



Initially they take you up in the lift to the sightseeing tower which is 263 m high. You get stunning 360 degree views of the city.Next stop is a little lower! Don’t be fooled though! This is where you find the glass floor! I have to say it took me a few attempts to get my legs to stand on it! When I did I kept to the metal joints just in case. My hubby told me later he could feel it move. I’m not sure if that was true or not but if I’d known that I wouldn’t have gone near it!

There were people lying down and posing, taking selfies. Not me, no way!

You can then take a lift up to 351 m where you get even greater views, on a solid floor, before coming down to the outdoor viewing level at a reasonable 90m.

I have to say, the whole experience exceeded my expectations!

After getting my feet onto solid ground we headed to the cruise port for an hour trip down the river. You can pay 130 yuan each or for 160 yuan you can go on the upper deck. This is what we chose as you could go outside and get better views and of course photos!

Afterwards we took a lovely walk along the waters edge before heading back through the tunnel.

We walked our little socks off, taking in the beautiful buildings and people watching, although many Chinese seemed to be doing the same with us.

We headed up Nanjing Road East, passing the Peace Hotel which seemed to be getting a lot of attention. I must ask Terry out Viking guide why that is. Carrying up the road we came to the shopping area. It was fascinating seeing the types of shops and habits of the Chinese.

Finally the humidity got to us and we decided to head back to our hotel for a quick shower and rest for an hour before heading out for the evening.

A quick check of my Fitbit shows we have already done over 22,000 steps today with more to come!

We head off about 5.45 pm to get a good spot before sunset. The lights on some buildings have already started to come on, so it’s taking on a whole different landscape. We find a great spot opposite the Pearl Tower and wait. During the hour wait, the skyline starts to change. Rain was forecast for 4 pm but there is so far nothing! We are keeping our fingers crossed it stays dry long enough for the photos.

Boats are passing us now illuminated with brightly coloured lights. It’s so beautiful. We have waited an hour and hubby is getting frustrated as there are still no lights on the Pearl. I have a theory. We can see the tower from our hotel room. Based on the time we arrived, I think lights go on at 7 pm. Just a few seconds before we are asked to move as professional photographers need our area to take paid photos of tourists. It was so annoying as we had a great spot and had stood patiently for over an hour.

We walk down the promenade a little. It is packed with people but I manage to find us a small gap. We finally get the photo opportunity we wanted and the buildings didn’t disappoint. It was spectacular and well worth the wait.

We decide to head back to our hotel via the shopping area where we were earlier. Oh wow! I have never seen so many people in one place, apart from when leaving a major concert. It is well organised though with each side of the street going one way only.

We arrive at the shopping area which has now really come to life. We decide to take some quick pics before heading back to our hotel for something to eat and a hot bath.

It has really been a full on day with over 27,000 steps in total, but what a day! I love China.

Tomorrow is back to the tour programme with an 8 am pickup, so I will say goodnight for now.

Imperial Jewels of China – Woo hoo we are on our way!

I cannot believe that after 6 years of planning and saving the day has finally arrived. I’m going to China. It’s like a dream come true! I always expected something to get in the way to stop us coming but today it’s actually real.

We had planned to wake at 6.30 am to have time to have a cup of tea in bed before taking the dogs for a walk. As it happened hubby and I were awake around 5am. We had a couple of cups of tea while watching TV before having to get up. I think we were both a little excited.

The dogs are going to kennels today and I think they know. Fido looks very sad. He likes his routine and suffers from anxiety. The kennels they go to is lovely. They have both been there since pups. The owner really looks after them as do the staff. I’ve used it for years. It’s not the kennel for Fido that worries him, it’s the lack of routine. He does like to wake up at the same time each day and be in bed by 9pm!

Lola is completely different. She is all cuddles today but the thought of being around loads of other dogs fills her with joy. She is such a party girl.

We finally get up after lots of morning cuddles and walk them. Because we were awake so early we have plenty of time.

After the walk it’s time to shower and do the final jobs. For me it’s a quick hoover around the house, pay window cleaner and check every plug is off! I don’t know why it’s so important to leave the house clean before going away but it is! Finally it’s time to go.

We have to take the dogs to kennels first. As we take them in they are both excited. I know I said Fido looked sad but when he arrives he is always excited to see the girls. Lola is beside herself. Both go off without a backward glance. I will miss them so much.

Our friend is taking us to airport so we head to his house. I really could pinch myself that this is actually happening today!

We arrive at airport. We have already checked in online but I’m hoping for an upgrade. I’ve heard of so many people getting them. Sadly not today. I’d have loved to see what business class was like. Somethings are just not meant to be! On the plus side I’ve prebooked the airport lounge.

We check in to No1 Lounge. We are both hungry having missed breakfast so decide to eat first? A lovely salad to start, followed by chorizo and chicken stew and of course fizz for me and larger for hubby. It’s a really relaxing way to start the holiday, and what a holiday it’s going to be! Sitting watching planes coming and going I’m now really excited. It’s a holiday of a lifetime to celebrate hitting 50. 3 weeks in China starting in Shanghai!

Our flight is called and we board our Emirates A380. We are obviously in standard class but I can see she stairs to the floor above us. That first class. What I’d give for a sneak !

We settle into our seats 82 A&B. Hubby always prefers the window seat as he finds it easier to sleep. We wait patiently for the passengers to board. Woo hoo. The plane is not full so we have the 3 seats to ourselves which means we can spread out.

I settle in to watch the new Mary Poppins film. I’m a massive fan of the original version. I won’t spoil it for you but it’s brilliant. And yes I shed a few tears !

I’ve preordered my food. Emirates are great for giving you lots of options. I always choose the low fat option. I don’t like creamy food so this is perfect for me. Mine was a salad to start followed by chicken in a tomato sauce with rice followed by fresh fruit salad.

It’s the first of 2 flights today. This the the Birmingham to Dubai leg. For approximately 7 hours hubby and I are able to kick back and relax over a few wines. Of course he had to make sure we clinked our plastic cups for a celebratory cheers.

Now what else to watch ?

I decided upon Ladybird. It wasn’t what I expected but still good. A snack was brought round of a chicken roll.

I really should have tried to sleep but I’m so rubbish at that. Put me in a car and I’m gone in seconds.

We are shortly due to land in Dubai for a short stop before the final leg to Shanghai.

Dubai airport is very beautiful but very expensive. We have an hour to kill so decide to stretch our legs and walk around the shop. Everything we looked at could have been bought cheaper at home. There are some interesting shops though. Very high end.

Time to board another A380. This time we have seats in the middle set of 4. Not our choice but at least I can get up and down easily to stretch my legs. We are just hoping it’s not a full plane. We are not hopeful as the boarding gate is full.

Sadly it is a full flight but it’s fine. It is what it is.

I start looking at all the films and decide upon Stockholm. It is based on a true story so it should be good. We are waiting to taxi down the runway when we are informed that due to congestion over Muscat we have to wait 2O minutes before we can leave! It reminds me of my daily commute. They are always delays because of congestion on the trains!

Finally we taxi down. By time time I’m struggling to keep my eyes open so pause the film. The next thing I know is we I’m being woken to give me my lunch ! When did we even take off ?

My special lunch is amazing. The salmon was a massive surprises as hubby was having noodles. It tried to take to take as photo but as the plane was in darkness so everyone could sleep it didn’t come out well!

I was planning to stay awake to watch the rest of the movie but I was soon fast asleep only waking just before the next meal was due. Again booking my low fat meal was perfect.

Fish again but that is just up my street. I managed to stay wake now to watch the rest of the film which actually was good.

I still had some time before we landed so started watching the new Dumbo movie. Sadly I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough so abandoned it.

As we descend to Shanghai airport I switch my screen to watch the camera view from the plane. I don’t know why but I’m underwhelmed by the view. I’m not sure what I expected but not this. Finally we land. Now you would think that we would soon be picking our bags up but oh no!

Firstly, it’s a really long time from landing to when we dock. I couldn’t believe how busy it was. We follow another plane for what feels like 20 minutes and it’s so close. Planes due to take off are also pulling out in front of us. It’s so bizarre!

Finally we leave the plane. I have to say Emirates do a great job.

As we head for passport control we are met with signs directing us to have our fingerprints done. We had to do this for our visas too. We get them done and given a slip of paper to take to passport control. After a long queue we have the do them again. After a long time we are finally reunited with our bags. The holiday really starts now.

As we walk into arrivals Lounge we are met by Viking representative who takes us to a private car to take us to our hotel. She says it’s about an hour drive so we relax.

As I look out the window I’m again underwhelmed. High rise buildings are everywhere. It doesn’t seem like China at all. Then something magical happens. We cross the bridge and suddenly Shanghai comes to life. The sun is setting. It’s the biggest orange sunset I’ve ever seen. Sadly I couldn’t photograph it. Maybe another time.

We can see the Pearl Tower. That is something we plan to visit.

Finally we arrive at our hotel -Westin Hotel. We are met by Terry from Viking. He has already checked us into our room and what a room it is.

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This is starting off in a great way.

Tomorrow is a 7 am start for the first of our adventures. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime it’s time for 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.

It is here! I’m finally 50!

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 excited.

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 weeks.

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 us.

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 views.

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 crossed.

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!

Day 1 of my 50th Birthday Celebrations

It is official, I am now 50 years of age!

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 atmosphere.

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 machine.

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.

And of course it rained!

It’s so typical of the great British weather! It’s absolutely gorgeous all week. Come the weekend and the sun decides to take a break too!

This weekend was no different. All week it was beautiful. Friday I worked at home. Temperatures reached 25 degrees. Did I go outside and enjoy it? No! Why? Well firstly I had work to do, but secondly, I thought I’d have plenty of time in the sun at the weekend.

We had 4 friends coming to stay and had planned outdoor activities!

Firstly breakfast on the patio followed by a lovely walk around Stratford-upon-Avon. It was the river festival. Bands would be playing and a few little stalls selling a variety of goods. As it is held on the banks of the River Avon, it was going to be a lovely few hours relaxing!

Well that was the plan! What wasn’t planned was the rain! Not to be put off we all still ventured out to Stratford, after eating breakfast indoors !!

Dinner was going to be a braai! We had the biggest piece of meat to cook!

Just as we thought the rain was going to stop, it started up again! The Gazebo it was then. Rain was not going to stop 3 South African men from doing what they do best!

As we 3 ladies watched them through the lounge widows sipping our Gin and Tonic, you can’t help but laugh at the body language of the men!

One of them checks the heat of the fire using the hand test! Then another checks it! Wait for it, yep, the third one has to check it too! Just in case one of them got it wrong !

The meat was a big beast and a challenge to cook. The fire to hot, the outside would burn but the inside would be raw. The fire too low and it would never cook. So, as with the 3 bears, it has to be just right!

After a couple of hours it was done. Absolutely gorgeous!

Sadly we had to eat indoors again!

My ice cream cake was probably the only thing that was pleased about the change in weather!

You know, the weather may have not been in our favour but it didn’t matter. We still had fun!

It doesn’t matter how much you plan things in life, something always goes wrong! Take it as an opportunity not a disaster!

Don’t put things on hold. Adapt and have fun!

Here is the video to my weekend:

This week the weather is going to be unpredictable. Don’t let that stop you enjoying life! Embrace it!

Have a good week.

How am I doing on my 50 things to do in my 50th year list?

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.

2)Visit Croatia

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!

6)   Bake with Paul Hollywood

Sadly Paul hasn’t popped over to help me in the kitchen yet!

7)  Be my own boss

I’m still searching for that ‘ah ha’ moment that will make me rich!!

8)   Buy 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!

9)    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!

12) Fly first class

@Emirates – can you help me with this one when I fly with you to China in August? Pretty please!!

13) Complete a successful ‘Dry January’

Woo hoo!  I absolutely smashed this.

14) Walk 5,000,000 steps in 2019

As I am still half way through the year, I have time to complete this!

15) Learn to crochet

I think this is for a winters evening don’t you!!

16) Visit Stonehenge

I made this happen in March this year and loved it!

https://youtu.be/j9PDDkP5dg8

17) Swim with dolphins

Not sure if this will happen, unless they appear in Lundy!

18) Run 10k

This was always going to be a tough one!

19) Learn to decorate a cake with icing

Oh wow, I forgot about this one.  Work had a festival week and one of the sessions was about Cake decorating!  I’ve done it without even realising!

https://youtu.be/yOTVetHzo5Y

20)Learn to ballroom dance with Anton De Beke

Well I haven’t danced with @antondebeke but I did get to meet him at @thismorning Live this year.   He is still a delight to spend time with!

https://youtu.be/Qln3XrVmjgI

21)Be on the panel of Loose Women

I’m still waiting @LooseWomen

22) Own a designer handbag

Maybe I’ll get one for my birthday!  Hint hint

23) Replace my greenhouse

Oh it is looking pretty sad at the moment so I think this may need to happen soon!

24) Reduce 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!

25) Teach Lola to walk off a lead

Yer right!  Hmm, not sure this is not going to happen!

26) Teach 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!

27) Teach 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 weeks!

32) Improve 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 homelessness

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 more!

36) Have a professional make over

Still need to sort this one out!

37) Have a ‘hot’ Christmas

This may not happen this year, but one day!

38) Remember friends and family’s birthdays

I’m doing better.  I could be a bit quicker poster but it is an improvement.

39) Be surprised

Not yet!! 

40) Have 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 so busy.

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. 

43) Drink more water and less diet coke

Right now I am drinking a litre of squash!  I’m trying!

44) Have a girls night out at least once every 3 months

I’ve just 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 canal trip

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.

48) Learn 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!!

When it’s not quite how you expected!

So today I’d planned the topic of my blog out! It was supposed to be titled ‘The Sun is out, the sky is blue!’. Well the sun is definitely not out and the sky is a grubby shade of grey!

The weather reports have been promising us a heatwave. Europe is steeped in temperatures in the 40’s. We were not going to get those type of temperatures, but in the 20’s is still good for me!

Yesterday was a horrible day. It did start off around 18 degrees and humid, but oh boy did it rain. I really considered not taking the dogs out, but then that wouldn’t be fair. Being Border Collies they have so much energy. If you don’t exercise them you know about it! Especially Lola who is currently going through the terrible 2’s!

So I popped on a pair of shorts and raincoat. Yes you heard right, shorts. I figured that wet legs would be more comfortable than wet trousers or jeans! And I was right!

By the time we got back the 3 of us were dripping wet. I was able to jump into the hot shower but the dogs had to settle for a rub-a-dub-dub! In normal speak, a towel dry!

The downside to wet dogs is that smell! Eek! Lots of Scentsy wax warmers were needed. I tried opening windows but the rain was just heavy!

Thankfully it finally stopped late afternoon, but not before it had dropped around 50mm of rain! I know that as I bought my hubby a weather station for Christmas. It’s great for keeping a check on what the weather really did in our area.

Working at home yesterday meant I had time to be creative in the kitchen last night. I do love having that extra hour our so. I’ve posted one of my videos from that session here:

Tomorrow I will publish my gorgeous breakfast cakes.

After an amazing dinner it was time to relax, in anticipation of the heatwave today!

I woke up all excited this morning. I dressed in shorts and a fleece!

As I stepped out of the house it dawned on me. Instead of sun it was raining. That was not forecast!

We had a drizzly walk. Quite cool too! I’m not loving this.

It’s nearly July and I can count on 1 hand the sunny days we have had this year! I’m so disappointed.

I’m praying now that this is just a blip! Tomorrow I’m going to be swamped in that heatwave.

Fingers crossed guys!

When you take flexible syns too far!

Ok, confession time!

If you follow my vlogs you will know that after 4 weeks of maintaining the same weight, I decided to do a week of Extra Easy SP on Slimming World.

For those who don’t know, EESP is a way to give your weightloss a kick start. You focus on foods that are classed as ‘Speed’ – your body burns the calories quicker, or ‘Protein’ which keeps you fuller for longer!

Basically, you don’t eat potatoes, pasta, rice, bananas, grapes and anything else that isn’t classed as speed or protein.

For me, I only had a few pounds to get within my target range. My motivation to get there isn’t what it used to be as everyone I know, including my hubby, parents and friends didn’t like me at my target range. They said I looked too thin. I don’t agree, so still strive to get there. I’m also not going to drop a dress size if I get back down to my target range!

So I embarked on an EESP week. I had originally planned to just have a normal ‘on plan’ day on the Sunday, as I really enjoy my Sunday roast, which includes the roast potatoes, but the other 6 days, I would be strict!

Every day, you are entitled to have up to 10 syns. As I usually don’t really have my syns, this wasn’t going to be a problem!

I was extremely good all week. I kept to my EESP plan every day. I recorded in on my vlog as an added incentive.

Follow my week here:

Come the weekend, I usually enjoy a glass of wine! I decided I would use my syns for this on Slim Zero wine. At only 3.5 syns for 125 ml, I could have 357 ml of wine each day. To make sure I didn’t go over, I weighed out my wine! Yes you heard me right, I weighed out my wine!

Come Sunday, I was so focused, I decided I didn’t need my roast potatoes. One week without them wouldn’t hurt. The feeling of getting to my target range was more important, so it was roast butternut for me instead!

I went to the gym everyday, and walked the dogs twice a day to make sure I had plenty of body magic!

Come Wednesday for my weigh in, I was soooo excited as I stepped on the scales.

I cannot begin to describe how I felt when I looked at the number in front of me! 1lb off! 1lb off! I couldn’t believe it. All that effort, commitment and focus for 1lb off! I was gutted.

Now, I don’t know why I was so surprised. Historically EESP hasn’t never been great for me. The norm is that the following week I see a greater loss. I’m not sure if it is because I work out so much that my body craves the carbs or what it is, but the following week is always better. What I should have done is kept this in my head and gone home refocused. Instead, I went home extremely deflated and just lost my way!

I decided to have a glass of wine with my dinner. That is ok on SW as you can normally have 15 syns a day! I should have gone for my Slim Zero wine? Or measured it out! But no, instead I poured myself a very large glass of normal white wine. With 10 syns for 250 ml, the second glass definately wasn’t on plan and so neither was the chocolate I ate!

The next day was no better! Don’t get me wrong, all my meals were planned and in plan! It was the biscuit here and there, and the large glass of wine with my meal that weren’t! Come Friday, we decided to go to the Fish and Chip shop for dinner! Normally this isn’t an issue as I would have chicken meat and salad! Not this Friday! Oh no. It was chicken meat, salad and a small portion of chips. Now that in itself would have been ok, if I hadn’t then had a bottle of full sugar wine and some more chocolate!

Saturday I woke up with good intentions again! It was all going so well, until the crisps came out as nibbles! Initially I went for the baked ones – well they are healthier, but as the evening started I hit the full fat ones. On a good note, I was drinking slim wine, just too much of it to be in my syns! Then my hubby got the biscuits out! That was Saturday completely out of my syns!

Sunday was Mothers Day. I had booked to take my parents out for a meal. It was a set meal and normally this wouldn’t be a problem as I would ask the pub to change it for me. Not Sunday, I went full on! Starter was ok as it was scallops. Main was turkey roast with all the trimmings, including pinching a couple of my dads onion rings! The final course was a cheese board which was huge! All enjoyed with a bottle of white wine.

When we got home, a further bottle was enjoyed!

By Monday I decided to draw a line. I had stepped on my scales and seen the damage! I was putting a stop to this!

As usual, I had planned my meals and they were all on plan!

For days now I had been craving Jammie Dodgers. Now I really had to have them! So on the way home, I called into Tesco and grabbed a packet! My hubby and I shared them on the train journey home!

By the time I got home something clicked. If I had actually given in to my craving last week when I wanted the Jammie Dodgers maybe I wouldn’t have gone so far off the rails! Maybe, if I had stayed within my syns, my weight would have come down. Maybe, I needed to remember why I am doing this!

I decided there and then enough was enough! I had to get my syns back under control!

It is a bit late for this weeks weigh in, but you have to start somewhere!

I’m know I am going to get a gain this week and I completely deserve it! I am going to buy a 6 week plan and give myself a strict target each week.

I know I can do this, and I will.

Sometimes, when you don’t have the same motivation and drive it is hard, but with a little bit of commitment you can. I’m going to ignore everyone telling me I don’t need to lose anymore, or I look good as I am. I know I won’t go down another dress size when I’m at my chosen weight, but I know how much better I will feel, and that is the most important thing!

So whatever you goal is, don’t let others sabotage it. They may not mean to, but mentally it can effect you! As does a bad week on the scales!

Take a step back, focus on what you want and put in place everything you can to help you get there!

Next week is another week!

And then it was Friday!

Another week has flown by! I can’t believe it’s Friday already! So much has happened in just a few days!

Technically for us it was only a 4 day week as we took Monday off. If you read my previous blog you will know we spent the weekend in Gloucester. As we hadn’t had a break for 6 months, I really needed to charge my batteries!

So on Monday, we decided to extend our weekend and head to Stonehenge for the day!

I can’t believe I’ve never been before. It’s only a couple of hours drive away. It’s also free if you belong to English Heritage, which we do, so there has really been no excuse.

The weather was on our side! It was a beautiful spring day. Don’t get me wrong, it was blooming cold and windy, but the sun was out.

When you drive to Stonehenge you may be surprised to see it from the road. Well I was! It was just like the first time I saw the pyramids in Cairo.

I had visions of them being in a remote area. Next to a busy road was not what I expected!

Although it is free to enter for us, you still have to book a slot. This is such a good idea as it limits the crowds.

Once you collect your tickets, you can go into their visitor centre which tells you all about the history of Stonehenge. English Heritage are really good at giving you information in the form of audio equipment. Sadly, in the excitement we forgot to get ours! It didn’t matter though, there was still a lot of information about.

Next you get to walk around a replica village. I was a bit disappointed here as only one little house was open for you to view! This meant everyone was focused on the one building rather than spreading it around.

Next you board a shuttle bus that takes you to the stones. They run every few minutes, so it’s all relaxed! You can walk it if you like, but as I said, it was a tad chilly!

Nowadays you can’t get very close to the stones. I can’t believe people used to try and damage them!

There is a good footpath around so you get a great 360 degree view of the stones. With the sun out and perfect blue skies, our cameras were busy!

If you go, look out for what is left of the old road next to the stones! Being so close, I can see why they moved it!

Here is an account of our day.

It was such a lovely day we decided to call into Bourton-on-the-Water for a very late lunch.

One of the benefits of going to tourist places this time of the year is that you miss the crowds.

We only had 1 extra day off, but I felt like I’d really had a good relaxing break!

Tuesday was back to work. Boo hoo! We live in hope to one day win the lottery so we can both travel more! It probably won’t happen, but you have to have a dream!

Have a great weekend!

Dr Foster Went To Gloucester

That line had been going around in my head all weekend! My hubby and I were in Gloucester for one of our date weekends. It was driving me mad, so I decided to look it up on Google! And there it was! A nursery rhyme from my childhood:

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester,
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

Thankfully for us, the weather was dry. It was quite cold, but the sun was out. In fact, I would go as far to say, a perfect spring weekend.

It got me thinking though, how the nursery rhyme came about. I have a fascination with these things, as well as phrases and words. I decided to research the nursery rhyme a bit more!

There are many stories about how it came about, but my favourite is about King Edward I. He apparently was travelling to Gloucester on his horse, when he fell off into a puddle, and refused to go back there again!

I have to say to most, Gloucester wouldn’t be many peoples first choice of a destination for a date weekend. It certainly wasn’t mine, but when my hubby suggested it, I thought, why not!

I couldn’t remember ever going to Gloucester in the past, so it would be a new experience. Also, the whole purpose of a date weekend is to spend time with hubby relaxing, seeing new things.

We had heard that the Quays and Cathedral were both worth a visit, we love photography and exploring, so we set a date in the diary.

I went to my trusty website – Booking.Com, to see what hotels were available. Initially, we wanted to stay near the Quays, so we could go out in the evening for a nice meal and drinks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that was either still available, in our budget or nice.

I did see a beautiful old hotel called the New Inn which was in the centre, unfortunately, it didn’t have parking on site. Check out my Youtube video of our trip to see this hotel. It really is stunning. Another hotel kept popping up though! Hatton Court Hotel. It was a beautiful old manor house, about 10 minutes drive from Gloucester, with panoramic views of Malvern Hills and Gloucester. It looked perfect.

The rooms all looked lovely, but as this was our first break in 6 months, I decided to upgrade to the Junior suite to get a spa bath! My Youtube video doesn’t do the place justice!

With the dogs being looked after, on Saturday morning, we drove the 50 miles to Gloucester. We decided to head first to the Quays. Old warehouses were now converted to places to eat, drink and shop. Many of the top names had outlet stores there. Hubby and I are not shoppers so only did a very quick walk through the shopping area, but if shopping is your thing, I think you would really enjoy it.

The warehouses had been restored beautifully. Photography is our thing, and we were able to get some lovely pictures of not only the warehouses, but the docks too. It certainly was worth the visit. Some warehouses are still in need of a bit of love, but you can still see their beautiful and feel the history behind them.

It is so nice to think that this area has been preserved in such a way that its history can still live on with modern life.

If you have watched the recent Alice in Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass, with Johnny Depp, you may even recognise it!

We next headed to the Cathedral. As we walked up to it, it took my breath away. It was absolutely beautiful. We expected to have to pay to go inside, but was pleasantly surprised that the only charge was £3 to take photos.

The man in the shop selling the photo tickets was so lovely. Very warm and welcoming.

The Cathedral inside was magnificent. There was so much to see. There were rooms everywhere, plus a viewing balcony over the whole of the cathedral.

The Cathedral is the resting place of King Edward II but the king that never was! The son of William the Conqueror!

When you look at my Youtube video of the day, you may even recognise some of it from Harry Potter! I have to say, as I walked down the corridors, I was waiting for Harry to pop out of his invisible cape!

Mary Queen of Scotts, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who were also filmed there!

The stained glass windows are amazing. It is worth taking time to look at them in detail. They all tell some amazing stories. Some of my favourites are captured on my YouTube video for you.

The city itself is a city of 2 halves. There are a lot of modern/60’s buildings around, but every once in a while you will find a little gem! There are still some beautiful old pubs and buildings worth a visit.

I am glad now we went. It was certainly a memorable visit. If you are ever visiting the Cotswolds or Cheltenham, I would certainly say stop off there for a day visit.

The hotel for the evening – Hatton Court was beautiful. The views were to die for. Our room looked right out across the Malvern Hills. As I said above, I had upgraded us to the Junior Suite. At first I was a little disappointed as I was expecting a sofa and coffee table in the room. That was purely because of my own expectation, but when I got over that, the room was lovely.

If I had one criticism (except the sofa!!), it was that the bed needed to move to the opposite side of the room, so you could lie in bed looking out at the views across the Malvern Hills. That said, you still had nice views over a field.

The bed was sooooooooo comfortable and big. I don’t think I have ever slept in such a comfortable bed!

The Spa bath was definitely worth the upgrade. After a day of walking around, to relax with a glass of bubbly in the bath was divine!

We booked dinner in the restaurant. I have to say, that was outstanding too ! Service was second to none as was the food.

In the morning we went down to breakfast. There was a lovely array of cereals, pastries, fresh fruit and juices, plus a comprehensive hot menu to order.

The waitress was busy, so we told her not to worry when she apologised for a short wait in taking our order! Hubby and I were chilled after a fabulous day and evening, so were not in a rush.

After 45 minutes though we were a bit concerned. I asked the manager! Our slip had fallen off in the kitchen and been missed. They were so apologetic. I think we had 3 separate apologies in total. I don’t mind if things go wrong when you get this kind of service.

This hotel is certainly on my top 10 of UK hotels to visit. If you want to try it yourself, visit http://www.booking.com/s/42/mariaw59 to get £15 off your next booking.

So our date weekend to Gloucester was a huge success. Sometimes, the less obvious of places have the biggest surprises!

Check out my video to see what we did and saw. https://youtu.be/v7UUH6Stu58






When you see your name in print!

Oh wow, how excited was I on 21st August , when I opened my emails?  There, in black and white, was an email from Countryfile Magazine, telling me a photo I had sent in of one of my dogs,  was selected as the winning entry, for the September edition of their magazine.  The competition was being sponsored by Halti, so I was also to receive a selection of their products!

I have been a fan of Countryfile ever since it started! Thankfully, my husband really enjoyed it too.  It has become a religion in our house now.  Every Sunday evening, we would have a roast dinner, then curl up on the sofa, to watch that weeks episode.

One day, I was sitting in a waiting room waiting for my medical.  On the table was a Countryfile magazine.  I had never seen it before, but was so absorbed in it, I was gutted when I had to go in for my appointment.

I immediately went out and subscribed to the magazine.  That was June 2012. And I’m still subscribing to it!

Every month, I have read the articles, looked at the walks and the competitions.  I have mentioned to my hubby many times that he should enter the competitions.  Both hubby and I love photography.  I have seen his photos, and I firmly believe he has some award winning pictures of his own.

I have never really thought any of mine would be good enough.  Then in July, after a trip to Isle of Skye, I saw the competition regarding pets on holiday.

I love taking photos of Fido and Lola, and had been pleased with how they had come out.  My hubby actually was the one who thought I should enter one of them into the competition.

I thought – why not!  What have I got to lose?  So on 16th July, I send off my photo.

When I received the email telling me I had won, I was absolutely shocked.  I didn’t care about the prize!  It was the fact that someone had thought my photo was good!  I couldn’t stop smiling.  Immediately, I started spreading the news!  I was now an award winning photographer!  Ok, it isn’t like I’m on TV or anything, but I was having my photo published in September’s edition of Countryfile Magazine.  I mean, Countryfile!

I have been waiting in excitement to see it in print.

Last night a friend received her copy of the magazine.  Mine hadn’t arrived, but she sent me a photo.  I was again in ‘smile’ mode!  She promised to bring me the magazine into work the next day.

When I saw it in print, it was like I had won the lottery!  Ok, most people won’t know me, but everyone who buys the magazine, will see the picture I took of Fido!

I was always into photography and competitions, just not both together!  This has given me a new motivation, to get out there and take more photos.  Learn more about my camera and  explore the countryside.

Sometimes, you just have to have confidence in your own ability.  If I hadn’t won, I wouldn’t have been disappointed, however now I have, I feel 10 feet tall.  I am very proud of myself, but more importantly, I am proud of my husbands word.  I know he takes some amazing photos too.  I will be pushing him more to get his work out there now!

Don’t ever doubt yourself.  Push yourself out there!  Sometimes, it turns into nothing, but other times, it fulfills your dreams and more!  I certainly will be doing more photographic competitions.  You never know, once day it may even get me on the TV with my photo in the Countryfile calendar!

You have to have a dream and ambition!

I have now started uploading some of my photos to YouTube.  If you are interested, subscribe to my channel.

Can dogs make you a better person?

You may think this is a funny question to ask, but I think they can!  I’m not saying if you have dogs you won’t commit a crime,  but I do think dogs as pets do make a difference in your life!

Since I was born, my parents had dogs.   As a child, there are many options  we want as pets.  Some want fish, some cats, some even want snakes and spiders, but like me, it has to be a dog.  Whatever the pet, the one thing they all teach kids is responsibility.

If you own a pet, you have to make sure its given food, water, a nice home to live in, and depending on the pet, exercise.  What it also does is give you the feeling of love!

How many times have you seen homeless people with dogs?  I have seen many! You may wonder why they have them when they don’t have a home.  For someone who is homeless, they not only give them someone to protect them, but it also gives them someone to love, and love them back!

When I left home at 19, I decide to have 2 kittens, rather than a dog.  I loved my cats dearly, but they are very independent creatures. Yes they would be waiting for me when I got home, but they still wanted to be out exploring!

Dogs on the other hand want so much more from you, and give even more back!

As a child, my fondest memories were of walks at the weekend with my parents, siblings, and the family dog.

We lived near Warwick Racecourse, which is also public land. When the weather permitted, this was a great spot for walking the family dog.

I’ve always loved walking, which I think came from that experience. Even when I left home, I continued with my walks!

One day, I was walking on my own around the Malvern Hills! It struck me that something was missing in my life! I loved my walking, but I really missed that one true friend ! Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of friends socially, but just going for a walk needed a special friend. – a dog!

I worked full time so knew a puppy was out of the question! I decided a trip the the ‘Dogs Trust’ in Kenilworth was the answer !

If you have ever been to a dogs home, you will know what I mean when I say, you know ‘the one’!

I hadn’t really got anything in my head, except it has to like walking!

I looked up and down the kennels, I saw lots of cute dogs, but none said ‘take me home’! So I decided to give up and go home !

Later that day I spoke with my mum. She was disappointed that I hadn’t taken her with me! I felt bad, so even though my last trip was unsuccessful, I decided to return the same day with my mum.

As we walked around the kennels I saw the same dogs again.  My views on them hadn’t changed.  I felt sorry for them, they were cute and sad, but none still didn’t pull the right heart string!  Then I saw her.  She was a beautiful golden dog.  She was called Tilly.  They thought she was a german shepherd and greyhound cross.  She was 8 years old.  They didn’t know much about her except she was found in Ireland.  I fell in love with her immediately.

I registered my interest in her.  When you take a dog from a dogs home, they always make checks on you and where you live before they agree if you can take the dog home.  Thankfully, I passed the tests and Tilly came home with me a week later.

The dogs home had named her Tilly.  She hadn’t been in there long so didn’t really know her new name.  I decided to change it to Sophie!

She was a beautiful dog.  Very loyal.  In the 4 years I had her before she passed away, I never heard her bark.  She was frighten on newpapers though and bangs.  She had a bullet a few millimetres from her heart.  It was believed she may have been shot.  As it was so close to her heart, they couldn’t remove it.

Sophie and I became immediate friends.  She would love coming out for walks with me.

When you walk with your dog, something changes.  You become more sociable.  When its just you walking down the street, you wouldn’t often say anything to someone you pass!  When you have a dog at your side, you seem to have to be polite and make a gesture.  Good morning or afternoon become normal phrases.

You meet other dog walkers.  Funnily enough, you always get to know the dogs names but never the owners!  I was ‘Sophie’s mum’.

I have had 3 more dogs since Sophie.  Ember was next.  He was 2 years old and again from the dogs home.  He was my best friend and very beautiful.  Everyone would stop and talk to me, sparked by their love of my dog.  He was so well behaved.  It broke my heart when I lost him 10 years later.

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We had  a great time with him.  He was walked miles in the Lake District,  up and down Snowdonia as well as the Peak District.  He came down to Devon and Cornwall with us.  In fact where I went, he came too!

He helped me through my cancer treatment.  He didn’t need a lead, so I could walk him straight away.  The exercise helped me keep fit and prepared for my radiation treatment.

Dogs need walking.  You can’t just ‘veg out’ in your house!  You have to get up in the morning to walk them, and again in the evening.  Not only does it give you exercise, but it means you are always out and about meeting new people.  This was vital after my cancer operation.  it could have been so easy just to sit around at home, worrying.

It can be extremely lonely, if every night you just go home to an empty house.  I know some people who go home on a Friday night from work, and not see or speak to someone again until they return to work on the Monday morning.    That is when depression and loneliness can set in.

Having dogs mean you have to leave the house.  Even if you don’t speak to anyone, they will speak to you!  It forces you to be more sociable.

I actually met my ex husband from walking my dog.  He had seen me out and about and wanted to get to know me.  He didn’t have a dog, but he had noticed me.  Whilst he is now my ex, it does show that having a dog can bring new experiences in your life.

I now have 2 border collies. Fido and Lola. They are very beautiful and draw a lot of attention.  Even people without dogs stop to talk to me about them.

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One of my walking routes takes me around an estate where there is a lot of bungalows.  This means that there are a lot of elderly people there.  Every day I meet many of them, either looking out of their window, going to their cars, doing their gardens or putting out the bins.

As I pass them, I always give them a wave, or say hello to them.  I wonder how many other people they see or talk to in that day?  I feel that that little gesture to them, may make a lot of difference to them.

When we are not walking we are also missing out on our surroundings too.  We have recently come back from a week in the Lake District.  We had the 2 dogs with us too.   One of the walks we did was not far away from our cottage.  We had driven the same road every day when we were there.

As we started our walk, I spotted a river which I hadn’t seen before.  I had passed that route so many times, but I had never seen that river.  I then started to spot other things.  Feels with cows and sheep, views over the countryside.

During that week we did over 139,000 steps.  It took us to many places.  If we hadn’t had the dogs we might have just jumped onto a plane somewhere.  Instead we explored the countryside.  We did the same in June in Scotland.  We got to see some stunning views as well as get plenty of exercise.

Dogs help us see more of our surroundings, which we are blind to when we are just driving through!

So do dogs make you a better person?  Yes they do!  For so many reasons

Our walk from Pooley Bridge

So this morning we can’t blame the neighbours for the early start!  They seemed to have left yesterday!

5.24 am Lola lets off a half-hearted little bark.  I know that is a signal that she needs the loo, so I get up and take them both out.  We come back in and both of them jump straight back into their beds!  I’m ever hopeful of a few more hours sleep!

Ok, it was going quite well until just before 7 am, when Fido starts whining and howling. Only gently, but you know he isn’t going to stop until you go to him.  Lola has her attention seeking bark and he has this!

Hubby is awake, so offers to go down to him. He comes back with a cup of tea for me.  I say I’ll just have 20 minutes then I’ll get up and join him.  That turned into an hour!  Whoops!

This is our last full day in the Lakes.  We decide to go to Pooley Bridge.  There is a 7.2 km walk from the village, which takes about 2 hours!  From the walk you should get amazing views of Ullswater, see the Cockpit stone circle, and Cop Stone.

The route to Pooley Bridge is via the Wrynose Pass again.  This really isn’t a fun road, but we are now getting used to it.  Before hitting the village you also go over the Kirkstone Pass.  Nowhere near as bad as the Wrynose Pass that is for sure!

What we had forgotten until we arrived at the village, was that in 2015/2016 floods washed away the old bridge.  There is a temporary one in place at the moment, but it isn’t a photo opportunity!

We start the walk and head up the hill to the stone circles.  It’s a bit cold and damp.  Then it all goes a bit wrong.  We keep climbing, but can’t seem to find all the right paths!   The higher the climb the rougher the wind!

After 2 hours of some really steep climbs, we decide to turn around and go back to the car.  The forecast was for heavy rain around 3 pm.  It was now 2 pm.  It had been very windy and damp at the top so didn’t want to risk it any more.

The views from the top were stunning though, so I wasn’t complaining.  Ok, I wasn’t quite complaining, but one of the climbs was really really tough.  We had to stop a few times, before we got to the top.  I think even the dogs struggled!

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As is usual for us, the 7.2km walk turned out to be 12.67km.

As we head back down the weather feels likes it’s improving, so we think we must have missed the worst of it.  We could see heavy rain in the distance though!

While hubby takes the dogs to the car, I pop to a local shop called Chestnut House, to get a bottle of wine.  I was amazed at this shop.  It had so many Gins, Vodkas and whiskey’s in the one place that I have ever seen!  I ended buying a couple of miniatures as well as the wine to try when I get home!  I was hoping it might had some sweets or biscuits too to take home as gifts, but sadly not!

We picnic in the car before heading home.  The weather has now taken a turn for the worst.  Hubby rightly takes the decision that we shouldn’t go via the Wrynose Pass on the way back, as it would be too dangerous.  I was so thankful.  Visibility wasn’t good on the Kirkstone Pass, so the Wrynose would be worse!

I took a video of the Kirstone Pass and Wrynose Pass which I will put on Youtube shortly.

He sets the sat nav to detour us via Lake Windermere!  Although it was pouring with heavy rain, it was still nice to drive through that way.  I hadn’t been there for many years.  Although we didn’t stop, I was still surprised at how it had changed.  So many more shops. It felt very commercialised now.

We are now home safe and sound in our comfy  cottage!  Tonight is scrabble and curry!

Tomorrow we are heading back home.  We plan to take a detour via Morecombe.  It will break up the journey but also give the dogs a chance to stretch their legs.   We are in no rush to get home so we may as well make the day of it.

Its been a good week even if the weather wasn’t on our side.

Taking the Line to Latrigg!

Taking the Line to Latrigg is another walk from our AA walking book of the Lake District.

I was so happy this morning!  The first bark from the dogs next door wasn’t until 7.13 am!  An improvement on the previous days!  Even better, Lola only managed a weak bark, then went back to sleep!

Just after 7.30 am Lola then did her usual attention seeking bark, as she needed to loo!  Obviously, she must have been lying there wondering if she had the energy to get up or not!  Eventually, her bladder won!  I didn’t mind then as I was already awake.  I took them both out  and came back to make the usual cups of tea for hubby and I.

As he was still sleepy I returned the favour from yesterday, and let him sleep, while I came down and sorted dogs out.  I wanted to catch up on the news anyway so I didn’t mind.  I do miss that hour of the news in the morning.  It also gave me time to sort the picnic out for the day.

Today we were going to try and do a lighter walk.  After yesterday we felt we, and the dogs needed it.

We decided on a walk from Keswick, along a disused railway line.  The line was used regularly from 1864 until it was closed in 1972.

The walk according to our AA walking book would take around 2 hours,over 8 km!

To get to the starting point, we had to drive over Wrynose Pass again!  Thankfully hubby offered to drive today.  I wasn’t going to argue.  Although I’m not sure if being a passenger is worse.  At least when you are driving you are more in control! At least I got to take some photos and videos on the way!  Check out my Youtube channel to see them!

The walk starts at a car park outside what used to be the old railway station.  It’s now a hotel, but I’m pleased to say they haven’t changed the look of it from the outside.

As we started our walk we saw a few signs talking about a bridge being closed.  As we had walked over 2 bridges, which took you over the River Greta, we didn’t think they related to us.  In fact, we thought they were signs that hadn’t been taken down!  Well, that was until we reached the reached the bridge that was actually closed!

A flood in 2015 damaged a lot of the old railway track path, as well as taking out the bridge across the river!  We thought our walk had ended before it started!  Have no fear, we found a signpost just back down the path, and decided to take it!

As luck would happen, although this was quite uphill and with a few nervous drops to our right, on some thin paths, it actually took us back onto the path we wanted.

After a long climb, we eventually came to a view point at Latrigg, which gave spectacular views over Keswick.  It was extremely windy, but the sun did try and come out!  At the top, I remembered that I had been here a few years earlier.  We had been to the Lakes with my mother, brother and sister in law.  My mother and sister in law were over from South Africa for a holiday, so my hubby, stepdaughter and I had a week together with them in a log cabin in the Lakes, along with my brother in law who also lives in England now.

There was a carpark to the right of this view point, which we drove to, then walked up to the viewpoint. It was windy that day too!

Many years ago, hubby and I were up in the lakes with our old dog Ember.  We did a walk up Cat Bells.  It was such an exhausting walk which took us about 7 hours in total.  The views were stunning though.  From the viewpoint at Latrigg you can see the same mountain.  When you look at it, you can see why it was so tiring and long!

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We really wanted to do this walk again on this holiday, however the weather has been against us!

We then descended down a track.  The views on this trip were amazing.  Wherever you look, there is always something to photograph! Thankfully we missed the rain, which after yesterday was a great bonus!

So, the walk was supposed to be 8 km.  My app on the phone worked today!  Ok, we do stop a lot to take photos, so it was always going to take longer.  In fact for us, it was 2 hours 44 mins.  How far did we walk?  Over 11 km’s!  That detour must have really added on the km’s.  Not that I am complaining.

Another quiet night is required especially for 2 tired dogs!

Tomorrow is our last full day.  I have clocked up over 130,000 steps in the last 7 days!  Tomorrow, will no doubt be another good walk!

Yew Tree Tarn From Coniston – Lake District

Well today started a lot better than the last few days!  The dogs next door didn’t start barking until 6.30 am!  What was even better, Lola and Fido must have been so tired as Lola  gave out a little quick bark, but that was it!

I came down anyway just to check on them.  Lola was fast asleep on the sofa!  Yes the sofa!  She isn’t allowed on it, but had got herself comfortable with her head on the cushions!  Fido was in his bed.  I took them both out for a walk anyway, so they could do their business.

They both must have been very tired, as I hadn’t even put the leads away when Lola was back on the sofa asleep!

I went back to bed for a bit.  The dogs next door had quietened down very quickly today and we didn’t hear from them until 7.30 am.  I got up and made a drink to take back to bed.  I was so so tired.  I was so relieved when hubby told me to go back to sleep, and he would go down with the dogs!  Lola was quiet but Fido was crying for attention so we couldn’t really leave them on their own.

I slept right through to just after 9 am!  Heaven!

Today we decided on a 10 km walk from Coniston to Yew Tree Tarn.  It was absolutely pouring with rain when we arrived, but as we started to walk it eased off!

Just before we went around the Tarn we spotted an ice cream van.  Hubby can never resist an ice cream so while I had a diet coke, my  hubby and my stepdaughter both went for a 99!  Just what the doctor ordered!

The walk round the tarn was beautiful.   With the rain there was a lot of mist, but you could still see the beauty of the place!  We were doing so well up to this point, but then we just couldn’t work out the correct route.  We use a book called ’50 walks in The Lake District’ by AA. Most times it’s easy to follow, but today it certainly wasn’t clear!  We had to change our route a couple of times and were still not convinced if we were right.

At this point the heavens opened!  And it stayed heavy for the rest of our walk!  We really wasn’t sure our path was the right one and with the rain, our book was getting soaked and so it was hard to turn the pages!

In the end, we saw a path for Coniston.  Even though it wasn’t the books route, we knew we would be going in the right direction for the car.  We had been walking for 4.45 hours at this point,  we were soaking wet, and hungry.  I think all of us just wanted to head back to the car!

According to the signposts we were 1.5 miles from Coniston.

We start to see the village in the distance and my spirits lifted!  By this point, my shorts were so wet they were dripping!  I had a waterproof on, but I don’t think they are designed for this type of rain.

We finally reach the carpark.  When we arrived, I spotted a shop that sold lolly pops.  When I say lolly pops, I don’t just mean your ordinary ones.  Oh no, this one had probably about 30 different flavours if not more!  I just had to stop and get some for my stepdaughter.   I wish now I also got a couple for me too!  They smelt delicious. I just didn’t think at the time! Doh!  I have never seen a shop with so many.  Next time I’m definitely stocking up!

We got into the car and I think we could all agree that we were starving.  We were only 45 mins from home, but after walking what was actually nearly 16 km in 5.5 hours, we just needed fuel!  I’d done my usual picnic so we all sat in the car tucking in!

On the way home I had the heating on to try and dry us all out!

The hot shower when we got home was so so welcome!

The fire was put on to dry the book out and our bags.  Even though we were wet I think we all had a good day.  Even the dogs.

Sadly the app on my phone didn’t pick up all the walk, but my fit bit recorded 25,000 steps!  I think we will all have a few aches in the morning!

A quiet night in front of TV is definitely in order tonight!

Walk around Buttermere Lake

Ok, I’m quite a tolerant person, but enough is enough!  Once again not long after 5 am the dogs next door start barking!  Of course, that is going to wake up Fido and Lola, who have been fast asleep all night.

The problem is, with Lola and Fido, they are really good all night.  Once they have had their evening walk that is it until they wake up again.  Once they are awake both will need the toilet.   Even if I wanted to ignore them I can’t! So once again I am out walking them early!

They are both really good now at going in the new place, so I don’t spend as much time out in my pj’s with them!  Mind you I say that, but I’ve done over 3000 steps before we have left the cottage for the day so maybe more than I think!

Hubby and I both decide that once next doors dogs start barking,  there is no point in trying to lay in bed.  They don’t stop until the family obviously get up to them, which is not for another 2.5 hours!  I can’t believe they can sleep through it or even ignore it.  I don’t let my dogs bark for even a few minutes, for my own sanity, for their behaviour and also for anyone around who may hear them!

I was already cross with the owners last night.  I took Lola and Fido out about 11.30 for their last walk of the night.  It’s pitch black out the back, so I only had the torch off my phone for light!  They just opened their back door and let their two run out.  Both were barking and ran straight to Fido.  They were barking in his face.  He was on a long lead so he could have a bit of freedom.  I couldn’t see him very well and was desperately trying to pull him back to me.  I was calling to Fido so they opened the bedroom window to look.  They gave me the look that I was in the wrong.  My 2 dogs were on leads and behaving!  Their 2 dogs were barking and running riot!  I was not impressed.

The male owner is a big guy and hubby had advised I don’t say anything to him!  I fully agree, we are only here for a week so it’s not worth a fight,  but I am not a happy chappy!  Another night of only  5 hours sleep and I’m certainly not impressed.  I get up at this time every day for work.  I go to bed early to make up for this which is my choice.  I don’t expect to have to do the same on holiday, just because next door can’t control their dogs!

Anyway I’m not going to let it spoil my holiday!

Today we decide to do a walk around Buttermere Lake.  After yesterday, we decided something flatter might be better for all of us and the dogs.

The drive there is a nightmare! You have to go over Wrynose Pass again – we did that on Sunday too!  It’s so scary at times, sheer drops with thin single track roads.  There isn’t many passing places either, so not great on the nerves.

You then go through my favourite town in the Lakes, Ambleside then Grassmere!  Next you head to Keswick.  We needed to get something from the town, so had a quick stop off there.  I stayed in the car with the dogs.  It was a good excuse to try and get the first reception on my phone in over 2 days!  I got a little, but not enough to get all my emails and messages sadly!

The next stretch was over Honister Pass.  This is another steep climb before we got to Buttermere!   The journey should have taken us around 1.5 hours, however due to traffic and lots of lorries trying to pass on narrow roads, it ended up nearly 3 hours!

We are looking for National Trust parking but end up behind the Fish Inn.  Parking there is £6 for only 4 hours!  I don’t know about you, but I think that is expensive to park on what is effectively gravel!  What is worse, you have to pay 30p to spend a penny!!

The weather is a mixture of showers and sunshine.  We have waterproofs, so we are not going to let the weather stop us getting out!  We did over 25000 steps yesterday, so I don’t want today to be much less than that!

Lola broke her lead before we came away.  I thought I had repaired it!   We had swapped it onto Fido as he doesn’t pull as much.  Today of all days it decided to fail again.  Fido didn’t mind.  It is an extendable lead and now it was full length.  Yey, so he thought!   Not likely!  I had to use Lola’s figure of 8 lead which wasn’t ideal, but did the job!

The changing weather really transforms the landscape in the Lakes, and today is no exception.  The walk is quite relaxing but there still is a lot to see.

The walk takes just over 2 hours and is 8 km. We stop at the car again afterwards and have lunch.

My walking shoes have this holiday started to fail me.  I’m gutted as I love them.  They are 12 years old, so have done me well! I have a summer pair and winter pair, and these are my summer ones!  We decide to call back into Keswick on way back and get myself a new pair.  I saw a pet shop there on the way in this morning, so plan to call there too to get a new lead!

The route home started off easier!   We didn’t have to do the Honister Pass.  Woo hoo!  The sun was out when we left Buttermere so I had high hopes for the journey home!  In Keswick it was still warm, so yey!

I bought my boots and a bit random, but a pair of binoculars too!  I have a small pair, but they are not great for birds of prey at a distance!  Along with sheep and highland cows, I have a fascination for birds of prey!  Who knew that Millets give you 15% off if you are members of National Trust!  It would have been rude not to buy them!

I also managed to get a new lead for the dogs.  I love the extending leads, but I won’t have the cord ones, as I have seen and experienced too many friction burns from them.  I am sure they are great for small dogs but definitely not my size dogs!

I start the drive back to the cottage.  The road isn’t too bad, but then I remember I have to go through Wrynose Pass!  What is worse, it starts to rain really hard!  My heart is in my mouth!  There are so many steep drops and the roads are steep, twisting and very narrow!   I really don’t feel happy doing this drive.  Its only 10 miles, but believe me, it feels like 100!

I am so glad when I see our cottage.

We get out the car and guess what?  The neighbours have gone out and left their dogs again, and they are both barking!  Great!

I am so so tired today!  I prepare dinner and while its cooking have a quick shower!  Time for a nice glass of Slimline Wine!  I so deserve it!

Keep watching my Youtube channel for more photos of today, including some gorgeous scenery and cows.

 

 

Walk around Wallowbarrow Gorge – Lake District

Can you believe it!  Both of us forgot to turn our alarms off for work!  So we can’t blame the dogs for the early wake up call today!

The dogs are still quiet!  Well there were until the dog next door started barking! It is 6 am so they have done very well!  I get up and take them both out for a quick walk.  I’m in my PJ’s again but its dry.  In fact, it is a really lovely morning.  Thankfully both dogs don’t take long to do their business so I’m back in bed quite quickly!

The both of them go back to bed until the neighbours dog starts barking again!  I come down and tell them both off!  To my joy they both go quiet and back to bed!  This is such an improvement on the previous day! I think they are getting used to their home for the week!

Hubby and I decide that we may as well get up and have tea and watch the news anyway.

As with yesterday, we try and plan out the day ahead.  According to the news the weather will be dry until early afternoon then rain!

Yesterday we had quite a drive.  Although in miles it wasn’t bad, the steep roads with drops were a bit of a strain on the nerves.  Hubby thinks today we should stay closer to home today.  There is a lovely walk from here in Dunnerdale, to Seathwaite Tarn, past the reservoir dam.  Here we retraced our steps heading down hill across a boggy field.  You cross some stiles towards Fickle Steps.  Here there are huge boulders that allow you to cross the River Duddon.  It says in our walking book that if its underwater we should return to the road!  There is a wire cable across the river to help you but it is very much under water!  My stepdaughter wants to cross it, so hubby agrees.   I’m miss clumsy so not jumping for joy as worried about the dogs and me!  One of us has to fall it!  It wouldn’t be me if that didn’t happen!

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My stepdaughter goes first followed by hubby and Fido!  I’m under strict instructions to stay put until my hubby returns.  The plan was to take Fido across first, then he would come back for me and Lola!  The current is fierce!  Fido is not a happy dog.  He doesn’t like going further than his tummy normally.  He steps onto the first boulder but doesn’t want to go any further. He is quite cute actually the way he is testing the water and decided ‘no way’!  My hubby tries to encourage him across, but he isn’t going for it.  He tries then misses the boulder and ends up in the river.  The current takes him, and he tries to swim.  Bless him, this is his first-time swimming and he has no chance against this current!  I’m absolutely beside myself.  I’m about to tie Lola to a tree to jump in and rescue him as hubby pulls him.  But then my worst fear happens, his harness comes off and he is now loose in the current.  I love my hubby right now.  He manages to balance himself and grab him by the collar, picking him up into his arms.  Unfortunately, the dogs lead has got wrapped around his legs so my stepdaughter comes back to help him.  Lola is beside herself too!  Thankfully Fido being an alpha man is absolutely fine with it all!

I decide that rather than try and cross the boulders Lola and I should go across just in front of them in the water!  I get in and realise its deeper than I thought.  Just about thigh level and the current is fast it takes you off balance.   Lola isn’t enjoying it either!  Hubby comes to the rescue again picking her up and carrying her across.  Thankfully we are all across, very wet but safe!  It certainly was an adventure.  Can you believe it that none of us thought to get a photo to show you until the end of the walk!

The next part of our walk is through Grassguards Gill, then climbing along to Wallowborrow Gorge.

On one path we meet up with a bull!  We wisely decide to do a detour!  Bulls on their own are never good to come face to face with, but with 2 dogs, that would be a seriously bad idea!  We just have to look the an alternative route and go with our instinct to get back on track.  As my hubby and I always seem to get lost on long walks, I have every faith in him that he will get us on the right track, which he does.

We then head along a very difficult patch across boulders back down along banks of River Duddon. The boulders are very slippery in places, and it seems to go on forever!  I really didn’t enjoy this part of the walk.  I spent the time looking at my feet rather than the beautiful surroundings!

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We finally come out at a field and we can see the church parking we are heading back too!  Yey!

When we started the walk, hubby said it was around 6 kms!  I have an app on my phone which I had set before we left.  We arrive at the car and check it!  It’s actually almost 14km’s in total!  Wow what a day!

The weather today has been far better than we expected.  We had rain initially, but the sun then came out which gave us some lovely views over the mountains.  The odd light shower was quite refreshing when it did happen, but it was so light, it didn’t actually wet us!

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A lot of the paths we took were under water.  With the amount of rain we have had, there were a lot of waterfalls coming off the mountains.  It has transformed the landscape into something beautiful.  After walking through a river, I no longer cared about getting wet!  The dogs thought they were in heaven!  They had a licence to get as wet and muddy as they liked!

 

Time to have our picnic before we head home for bath and showers!  We are all tired, no-one more than Fido and Lola!

When we arrive back at our cottage our neighbours have obviously left their dogs behind.  I’m very surprised as it says strictly that dogs shouldn’t be left in the cottage.  I saw them arrive with a crate so obviously that is why they felt they could leave them.

We arrived home around 3.30 pm!  It is now 7.30 pm and the dogs haven’t stopped barking at all!  They must be so stressed.  I so want to go around and let them out.  It breaks my heart.  How can people leave dogs in so much distress?  Such a sad end to a really good day.

Tonight, is going to be another night of Monopoly!  I get killed off after a good fight!   I really thought hubby was going to be first out!  Mind you, he got houses on the reds while my stepdaughter had the prime estates – Pal Mal and Mayfair!  The only hotels I got were on Whitehall Road and Old Kent Road!  Eek!    Hubby and Stepdaughter do a great challenge with each other.  It could be anyone’s game!

In the meantime, both Fido and Lola are absolutely dead to the world!   I am hoping that means a quiet night with them both!

After a really good fight, hubby wins!  You have to love Monopoly!

Time for bed ready for Day 3!

Check out more photos on my YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Our first full day in the Lakes

So today was our first day here.  The cottage has beautiful views over the mountains.  I imagined waking up gently, to the view shrouded by sunshine!  Instead, I was woken just after 5 am by Lola with her attention seeking bark!  Believe it or not, Lola has 2 distinct types of barks.  There is a deep bark which means she is unhappy, and then there is this high-pitched bark which is solely to seek attention!

I know you should ignore her when she is seeking attention, but that time in the morning she knows she has got you! It rings through your ears!  She is such a little drama queen!

The cottage we are staying at is dog friendly, however there is a strict policy of no dogs upstairs!  The dogs are therefore downstairs whilst we sleep upstairs.  At home both dogs sleep in our room so this is a bit weird for them.

I sleepily come down stairs to find Lola by the door.  She obviously needs a toilet break!  I have to make a quick decision!  It’s absolutely pouring with rain outside!  I could find my car keys and run out to get my coat – which I stupidly left in there last night.  This would cause Lola to bark further!  We are in a semi-detached cottage, so I didn’t want to wake the neighbours!  The alternative was to take them out in my PJ’s (a vest top and shorts) and try and take shelter under a tree as quickly as possible!  I opted for the latter!

So just after 5 am I am stood under a tree in the pouring rain wishing Lola and Fido would hurry up!  Typically, as this is a new place for them, they both had to sniff around a lot before they could even think of doing anything!

Finally, I get back inside, completely soaked, but at least it was still warm outside!  I leave them both downstairs and go back to bed hoping to get another hour or so!  Oh, I wish!  Lola is now obviously awake!  I can hear her moving around and I just know she is up to no good!  I have to go down and check on her!  Thankfully I did, as I found the oven glove in her bed!

With a telling off I head back to bed!  She doesn’t want to be left so we get a few bouts of the high-pitched barking again!  By 6.30 am we could almost kill her if we didn’t love her!  She then goes quiet!  That is always dangerous!  I lay there not thanking my lucky stars for some peace and quiet, but wondering what she is up to!  I have to take a look!

What do I find?  Our walking book in her bed half chewed!!!  I was so cross at her!  She knew she was in trouble as she immediately hid in the kitchen!! And then she does the most un lady like thing! I think you can guess!  I can’t help but give out a little laugh.  She looked horrified !

I tried to tell her off for the book and barking again, in the hope that she will go back to sleep!  But oh no!  She really doesn’t want to go back to bed!  I end up making tea for hubby and I!  Even drinking that in bed is a no no!  More barking results in us both having to get up with her!  So much for a holiday lie in! I have to point out that Fido is being the perfect little boy!

So it’s not even 7.30 am and hubby and I are up having our second cup of tea!

When I’m at home I always love to watch BBC news in bed drinking my tea.  We don’t have one in our bedroom at the cottage so having to get up meant we could watch the TV in the lounge.

It sounds silly but I love mornings.   Once the dogs had chilled out it was relaxing just sitting on the sofa, drinking tea, watching the news and discussing with hubby plans for the day.

When we originally planned this holiday, we both wanted to do a specific walk.  It’s 15 km up Cat Bells.  Its quite a strenuous walk so we thought it should be one of the first walks we did of the week.  Now today looking at the weather outside, that really isn’t going to happen, so what was our plan B?

We have our waterproof clothes and walking boots, so the weather shouldn’t really stop us going out, but we do have to think about slippery paths and how muddy the dogs might get.

After a good bit of reading by hubby we make a decision!  A walk around Grassmere!  It is relatively flat and from memory the paths were really good!

The walks starts at Dove Cottage, the home of Wordsworth.  You then head towards some woods before you come to the Lake.  A lovely walk around the lake brings a changing landscape.  Whilst the heavy rain has gone, there is still the odd sprinkle!  Surprisingly though it’s really humid! The weather means the mood of the lake changes continuously.  It’s still very beautiful.

The walk takes just under 2 hours and 6 miles.

We return to the car to have lunch and plan on what to do for the rest of the day!  We decide that its probably not the weather to do a long walk so instead head to Lake Windermere!

En-route we stopped off at Ambleside.  There is the most amazing Apple Pie shop there.  It also does a great selection of cakes and breads.  My stepdaughter loves Soda bread and flapjacks which they have available.  In fact, the flapjacks are still warm as only just been made, so it would be rude not to buy them.  If you are ever in the area, you really have to stop at this bakery.

Just as we head off to Windermere, the heavens open!  We decide that it would probably be better to head back to the cottage!

The road to the cottage is a challenge!  Its single lane, very steep (1 in 3) with lots of shear drops. With a distance of 10 miles through these roads, it certainly tested your nerves!   I have a 4 x 4 but even my car was struggling at times.  It was no surprise then that we saw one family stuck halfway up a hill.  Their small car just didn’t have the capacity to go any further!  The family had to get out of the car to lighten the load, while the father reversed it down the road.  With other cars like ours on the single track, it was quite a difficult move for him!

We get back to the cottage.  I didn’t bring  my book with me, so knew that sitting doing nothing wouldn’t be my first choice.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m terrible at just sitting doing nothing!  In the morning when I was out with the dogs, I saw river just behind our cottage.  I suggested to hubby we try his camera lenses out there with the tripod.  He has some filters which he hasn’t yet had the chance to use properly.  This seemed an ideal time just to play around.

It does kill a bit of time but not much, so what to do?  I’ve now downloaded my photos onto my laptop.  We don’t have WIFI in the cottage or phone signal, so there isn’t much more I can do!  Then hubby suggests Monopoly!   We haven’t played it for a long time so a good idea.

So, the 3 of us spend the next couple of hours trying to out wit the other while I multitasked cooking a roast dinner!

I really thought I had come up with a great strategy of buying every property I could on the way round to stop others.  My stepdaughter tries some hard negotiation for a swap of some of our properties.  I think it will work for me so agree an exchange to give us both full sets!  Oh, what I fool I was!  Whilst she had plenty of cash to buy properties, I was very poor.  Mainly because every time I passed go I stopped on the tax square!  Grrrrr!

The first to fall was hubby!  I knew that my time was limited!  After a few more rounds, remortgaging and remortgaging, I can’t meet the £1250 bill for landing on her!  My stepdaughter is victorious!

After such an early start I’m now getting quite tired.  We have dinner and I’m struggling to stay awake.

We have basic TV in the cottage, so channels are limited.  We have found Pirates of the Caribbean.   Its great watching classics like this, and this is one of the funniest films.

There is obviously a storm somewhere as the signal keeps breaking!  Then there was the biggest clap of thunder I have ever heard!  The poor dogs (and me) jumped out of our skins!  That was the TV out for a while. We eventually get it back but I’m so tired!

After a hot bath, I decided to call it time!  I know I’m going to be up early again with the dogs tomorrow so its time to stop fighting it!

Tomorrow is another day!

Check out more photos of the walk on my YouTube Channel!

 

 

Staycation or Vacation?

When you have 6 weeks annual leave a year, it’s impossible to always use it to go away.

This year the travel pot is a bit depleted so we had to carefully think how we could recharge our batteries without breaking the bank.

Our first break in 6 months was as you know a little cottage on the Isle of Skye. It was out of school holidays so was cheap as chips. We also took the dogs which saves a fortune in kennel fees. They can sometimes be more expensive than our own holiday!

Whilst this holiday was cheap, I have to say It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had! I felt so relaxed the minute we arrived! Yes it was basic and self catering, but somehow it felt magical!  The cottage was in a really quiet location with amazing views.   Everyday there was something new to explore.  Hubby and I would be up early and out to make the most of the day.

We both love photography so took many pictures.  In the evening we would down load both cameras onto the laptop and talk about the day we have just had.  It was lovely sitting planning the next days route over a glass of wine.

This holiday certainly proved you don’t have to spend much money to have a great time.

I was then fortunate to win a trip to Italy to see where Slimline Wine was made. It was only for a few days but the scenery, food and of course Slimline Wine were amazing !  The company laid on everything for us.  We visited the factory and vineyards, as well as having time to relax around the hotel pool.  Thanks to the generosity of Slimline Wine, we only had to pay for the dogs to go into kennels so another cheap break away!

Last week we had a week off work but opted to have a staycation! Getting away from work is always nice, but I’m not good at doing nothing ! When you are at home everyday blends into the next .

When we were in Scotland there were so many new things to see and do. You don’t want to lie in, you want to be up and out to make the most of the day.

When you are at home there is nothing to rush around for. There is also the housework, food shopping, jobs round house that need doing ! You just can’t leave it .

It’s weird,staying self catering somewhere away from home doesn’t feel the same! Yes you still have to cook and clean but it’s not a chore then . I can’t tell you why!

For me I like to use my leave to do things.  Even though I’m at home, I like to think the break has been worthwhile.  Going on long walks and exploring new things.  When your at home, we seem to struggle to do that.  My stepdaughter was with us too last week.  Anyone with teenagers will know that they are not great at getting up early in the mornings, so our days started quite late.   Then it was what to do?

When you live somewhere you tend to go round with your eyes closed.  You struggle to think what you can do or where you can go?  We did manage a trip to the cinema on one day and a lovely walk in the Cotswolds another day.  It certainly wasn’t the tourist packed days of our trip to Scotland.

As Sunday came closer, I considered the return to work the next day.  When I came back from Scotland I was so relaxed, even though we had done so much.    After our staycation, I didn’t feel like that at all.   I felt like my usual weekend had just been extended.

So am I a fan of staycations?  Certainly not.  I know that you can’t always go away when you are off, and everyone needs time away from work to unwind.  For me though getting out and exploring new things is my way of doing that.  That is why, when I do get the chance to go away I appreciate it a million times more!  I never take anything for granted.  I don’t need expensive holidays to have fun.  I just need good company.

Is the current heatwave effecting your weight loss?

This is a question I asked myself.  My answer was a resounding yes!  The reasons I told myself were:-

Its too hot to exercise?

Ok this is partly true?  I have 2 dogs as you know.  I would normally walk them twice a day.  They are still getting their morning walk, but with temperatures at around 28/29 degrees when we get home at night, its not fair to take them out.

The way I look at it is, would you walk bare foot for an hour in a fur coat that time of night?  The answer is no!  Firstly, you would just die from the heat in the fur coat, and secondly, the sun has heated up the tarmac all day.  You would burn your feet if you tried to walk on it without shoes.  Dogs are the same.  Their paws would burn very quickly.   Instead we allow them to run around the garden.

As for the gym, well yes its air conditioned but they don’t seem to have it turned up enough!

Lets fire up the Braai/BBQ

In my house that means having a plate of nibbles while the fire is heating up, and a cold drink of wine for me and beer for my hubby?

Do you have salad dressings that are high in calories, garlic bread, white rolls too? Of course we do!

Why be inside when I could sit outside?

So I have a choice, the housework or sitting in the sun, in the garden with a book?  Yep, I’m going for the sun everytime!  I mean, we only have it a few months of the year don’t we!

Its such a nice day, why don’t we got to the pub on the way home for a quick one?

Isn’t it funny that as soon as the sun comes out, sitting in a beer garden suddenly seems so appealing.  And its only the one drink.  Then you come home and think you may as well sit in the garden and have another!

Lets invite friends around for a garden party?

Its such an opportunity to get your friends round for some drinks and nibbles.  We can all sit in the garden chatting.  Dipping our hands into a selection of nibbles and not really knowing what we are doing!  Then there is the alcohol!

Its so nice, I could just have an icecream to cool me down!

Well it would be rude not too wouldn’t it!

STOP!

My hubby and I have been doing all of the above to some degree lately!  We were on holiday recently in Scotland, the weather was warm but not like it is now.   We still enjoyed a couple of drinks in the evening, but managed to come back 1.5lbs lighter!

On Monday I got on the scales and am now another 5lb heavier in 2 weeks.  So what is the difference?

I really had to think about this question!  The truth is the difference was me!  Its nothing to do with the weather, it is my own attitude and motivation!

So what did I do differently?

Exercise

I wanted to make sure I did the most steps I could each day, so made sure we chose activities that meant we did a lot of walking.  If it was warm, we took the dogs on routes on grass and near water so they could cool off.

I also realised there wasn’t an excuse not to go to the gym!  Yes it was a bit warm, but I just needed to make sure I drank plenty of water.  I also didn’t push myself as hard if I was getting too hot!  It’s better to do something than nothing!

Food

I planned my food better!  I always put a packed lunch in our cool bag each day.  I planned when I was going to need bread, so that I could have my HEB of a wholemeal roll rather than a white one!

I knew each day what I was eating and when.  I always filled up on the right things so I wasn’t tempted.  If hubby wanted an icecream, I had a diet coke!

I thought about my treats.  I would save them for the evenings in case I wanted that snack. If I did, I measured it out!  I also made sure there were healthy option of treats, and not many bad ones. If I didn’t have them, I couldn’t eat them!

I put plenty of fruit in too!

Alcohol

I kept to my Slimline Wine.  Its less calories than normal wine.  I also love it, so rather than drink it quickly, I’d relax and enjoy it.  It is only 410 calories a bottle, comes in white, red, white sparkling and red sparkling.  The sparkling ones are equal to any champagne you will drink!  Its only available online at the moment, but well worth it.  Check out their website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePncnDheAGk&t=1s .

It’s also sugar and carb free and suitable for vegans! Another bonus is that due to the low sulphur, you don’t get a hangover !

If I was really thirsty I would have a sugar free soft drink first!  You will be surprised how much that makes a difference!

If we did go to the pub, what is wrong with a soft drink?  If you really want a glass of wine, order a small not a large!

Inviting friends round!

You don’t need to stop seeing your friends, just think about it!  If you don’t know what is being served, eat before you go out.  If you are already full, you are less likely to pick!

If you are doing the entertaining perfect!   Fill the table with healthy options, such a raw vegetables, homemade vegetable crisps etc.  Cherry tomatoes are good for picking at!  Look online and be creative!  Pizza made from Weight Watchers wraps are really good and if you plan it in, it could be your HEB too.

If you want garlic bread, again you can make this yourself using your HEB, Garlic Frylight and lazy garlic!

Make sure you have lots of healthy salads available, as well as salad dressings.  Balsamic, lemon and vinaigrette dressings are perfect!

Don’t forget to remove the skin from the chicken!   See how much fat is in the skin on my Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePncnDheAGk&t=1s – you will be surprised!

When it comes to the desserts, avoid high calorie ones.  Fruit salads, recipe on my website for a mousse is delicious.  Check out http://www.slimminginspirations4u.com.

Ultimately, the only thing that is impacting on your weight loss is you!  When you stop and really think about it, there are some easy things you can do to put it right.  So what are you waiting for?  I’ve now given myself a good talking to, so am hoping to get those pounds back off!

Good luck with your journey too!

Top tips when planning a trip to the Isle of Skye

 

Are you planning a trip to this beautiful island?  Well if you are, you have made an amazing choice.  I cannot recommend the Island enough!

To help you enjoy your experience even more, here are a few top tips!

What to take with you?

Food and Drink

Are you self catering?   If you are, don’t expect to get to the Island and find lots of supermarkets.  We were there for a whole week, and the only supermarket we found was a Co-op, just as you come across the bridge.  Now for a small island that doesn’t sound bad, however there are a couple of things to consider here.

Firstly, choice.  From our point of view, when we went in there, it isn’t massive, its  a reasonable size, but I couldn’t see a lot of the things we would have liked to have bought.

Second, its location.  For us, it was 90 minutes away from where we were staying!

There is the odd shop across the island but they are small.  Also, if you are like us and going for the walking, there were days when we actually didn’t pass any shops.  When we wanted some fresh bread for instance, we had to go in the opposite direction to find somewhere to buy it.

I did try to get Tesco to do a delivery as I usually do when I go away in the UK, but unfortunately, they said as it was a commercial property they couldn’t deliver there.  We did see a lot of Asda vans around the island, so you could try asking them.  I will certainly be doing that next time.

There was a bakery in the next village, Dunvegan.  It is apparently, the oldest one on the island.  Sadly when we went there, it was either closed due to a family funeral, or had closed as sold out for the day!

Thankfully, a friend had warned me about the shop situation before we went, so we did take everything we needed.  We had a good sized fridge and freezer in our cottage, so apart from fresh bread mid week, we were fine.

Please don’t be put off by this, for me it is one of the things that makes the island so relaxing and beautiful.

Midge Repellent Spray

From the end of May to September, you are going to be bitten to death by the midges.  Especially early evening.  Make sure you go prepared.  You will see the locals wearing nets over their faces if they are outdoors.  You don’t need to go that far.  Take some repellent spray with you.  I bought Jungle Formula Maximum from Amazon which worked perfectly well!  (https://amzn.to/2JMjl6R)

Guide Books

Skye has so much to see and do that you really want to make the most of your trip.  Get yourself a couple of good books.  A walking book and a guide book.  It will ensure you maximise the time you have there.

A lot of what we saw or did on the island were not signposted, so without the books, we would never had known about them.

The books we used were The Isle of Skye by Charles Tait (https://amzn.to/2JMjl6R) and Walks Isle of Skye (https://amzn.to/2JJSxkx).  Both from Amazon

Each evening we would sit down and plan the next day.  It really helped us see the beauty of the island.

Walking Shoes

That might sound really obvious but you might be surprised to know, I actually saw a man trying to walk up the Old Man of Storr in sliders (flip flops!).

I’m going to make my own confession here too!  No I didn’t wear flip flogs, but I did wear my trainers!  You may think that sounds ok, but I struggled on some of the steep paths because I didn’t have great grip in them.  I was so cross as I had proper walking shoes in my car!

If you have ever worn proper walking shoes, you will know the difference they make.  You can buy some quite cheaply these days, if you just want them for this trip. You won’t regret it.  I walked over 110,000 steps in 7 days which included driving 1770 miles!

Drive Carefully

Skye is only small and very rural.  There is a couple of double lane roads, but most will be single lane.  There are a lot of passing places, but drive carefully as there are some tight bends, which reduces viability to see what is coming in the opposite direction.  I was initially a bit nervous about this, but you soon get into it.  Everyone is so polite and there are no problems getting around. It just take a bit longer!

You will also note that the quality of the roads is really poor, with lots of pot holes, so beware!

Sheep wander freely too.  They don’t seem to mind the traffic, but they don’t seem to mind where they lay either.  This could be in the middle of the road!  They do move but just take it slowly.  When we were there, they had their lambs with them.  Even these youngsters seem to realise they need to move out of the way of cars.

Look after your dogs!

As there are a lot of sheep about, dogs can get ticks!

People can catch Lyme disease from ticks, just as dogs can. Lyme disease is serious, so if you walk your dog in areas with deer or sheep, make sure you take precautions to avoid them and you being bitten.   Make sure your dogs are treated for ticks and remove them as soon as you can.  Lola and Fido both got them.

You can buy treatment from your vets or Amazon (https://amzn.to/2MmhTGH).  It is best to apply if before you go, but even if you apply it as soon as you get home it will still help.

Bob Martin Flea & Tick Clear Fipronil Spot-on for Large Dog, 3 TubesImage result for sheep ticks in dogs

Symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular rash, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue.

Fuel

As with supermarkets, there are not many petrol stations on the island that we saw.  Again, if you are not going via any of the bigger villages, you won’t pass these.   The rule we had was to fill up as soon as we passed one, when the tank got to half full!

Petrol prices on the island are in line with the mainland, so don’t worry that the lack of them will make it expensive!

Toilets

One of the things that makes Skye so beautiful is that it is unspoilt!  This means that they have not ruined any of the main sights with toilet blocks too!  If like me, you have a weak bladder, be warned!

My advice is to make sure that if you do see a toilet you use it!  Alternatively look for great spots in the bushes!  There isn’t many opportunities, so when you see them, take them!

Enjoy Skye

Don’t be put off by anything above.  It was one of the most magical places I have ever visited.  I’m currently vlogging on YouTube my trip to try and show people, why it has to be one of the places you visit.  Check out my journey as I publish them by subscribing to my channel.  (https://bit.ly/2MnaWFe).

If you like seafood too, don’t miss the Oyster Shed!  The best seafood platter ever!  It is literally a shed, but well worth it!  Head to Talisker whiskey distillery and you will see sign posts for it!

So get onto the internet and start booking your trip to Skye!

Travelling in a car with your dog

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It’s true that a dog is a mans best friend (and women!).  My two definitely are for me. It is therefore really important to me that I ensure they are safe, and well looked after at all times.   Taking them out in the car is no exception.

We all ensure our dogs are on leads when we take them out, have food and water at home, and go on regular walks, but what happens when we take them out in our cars?  Whether its a short or long journey we should still ensure they are well looked after.

The legal bit!

Did you know that if your dog isn’t secured in the car you could face a fine of up to £2,500, as well a getting 9 points on your licence?  Well you can.  Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.’  A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

If it is felt the dog caused or contributed to an accident, you car insurance can also refuse to pay out.

How to make travelling with your dog easier and safer?

Firstly, take them for good walk before you start their journey.  Make sure they have been to the toilet.  Which reminds me, keep plenty of poo bags in your car too!

Don’t have your dog on your lap or loose on the passenger seat.  You may think your dog is well behaved, but what if something distracts them?  What about if you have to do an emergency stop?  You could cause them significant injury or death as well as to yourself.

I have 2 dogs.  If I am going a short journey then they are both happy to be in the boot.  Fido is happy to lie down and just chill, but Lola likes to see what is going on around her.  She will spend the journey looking over the back seat or out of the window.  Whilst she is in the boot she is safe and can’t distract us.   If I break the back of the boot will stop her going too far.

For longer journeys though, I put Fido in the boot and Lola on the back seat.  To comply with the law and to make sure she and us are safe I use a dog seat belt.

Dog Seat Belt.jpg

These are relatively cheap to buy.  This is mine and only cost £4.95 from Amazon.  If using one of these, I would suggest you use it with a harness as it allows the dog to turn around more easily.  You attach the lead part to the harness which is usually in the centre of the back.  If you have to break the harness will give greater support.  Putting it on the collar not only restricts the dogs movement, there is more likely hood of them becoming tangled, which will distract you as they will no doubt get distressed.  I also feel it would damage their necks if I braked heavily so don’t like the idea.

By separating the two dogs, I feel helps them to be more comfortable.  Fido just wants to lie down and sleep, which makes the boot perfect, and Lola likes to be nosy, so can look out of the windows.

Some owners like to use crates.  This is also a good way of transporting your dogs, but please make sure they can stand up and move around in it.  They also should be able to see out so they don’t feel frightened.

I always cover my back seat with a travel rug, with the underside upwards.  This way the dog hair won’t stick to it, and I can use it if we want to have a picnic to lie on.  I then cover this with a towel or blanket for more comfort for the dogs.

As with us, dogs need food and drink.  I would suggest you don’t feed them for a couple of hours before the journey, especially if they get travel sick.  Thankfully both my dogs are fine, but my previous dog was terrible.  He loved the car, it just didn’t love him.  The vets gave me some great tablets that prevented travel sickness.  They are not cheap, but worth it for my dogs happiness.

I always make sure I have plenty of water in the car.  Stop regularly to give them the opportunity to stretch their legs, just like you will need to.  You don’t need any fancy water bottles, old squash bottles will do just the job.  I do have travel bowls though.  They fold up nicely in the car when not in use, but I can also put them into my bag if we go walking.

Dog bowl

Again you can get these quite cheaply from Amazon for around £5.00.  If you don’t want to buy one, an old takeaway pot works just as well.

Take a small pot of food with you.  Just a little treat to keep them going will help them.  There is nothing worse than your dog starving when you are sat in the front munching on your travel snacks.  Just limit it to avoid car sickness!

Never leave a dog in the car.  Many people think that if they park in the shade or leave a window open, then it’s ok to leave the dog.  It is absolutely not.  The car can warm up faster than you think.  A dog can die in the car in less than 20 minutes.  If you wouldn’t leave a child in the car why would you think its ok to leave your dog?

If you need to pop somewhere such as the toilets at a service station, and you are on your own, securely tie it up outside, in the shade!  Maybe ask someone to keep an eye on them for you.  Pop a bowl of water down for them too.  If you can, take them with you.  I have taken my dog into a public toilet with me before now.

It’s always good to plan your journey in advance if you are taking your dogs.  Find places on the map you can stop safely.   Is there somewhere you can walk them?

Keep cleaning clothes and black bags in the car too!  Your dog might not have shown signs of car sickness before but you never know!  On one journey one of my dogs got a little sick.   I was able to pull into a parking spot, clean her bed up and put her bedding into the black bag, tie it up so it didn’t smell the car out for the rest of the journey!

Dogs are such a joy to have around.  Don’t be afraid to take them away with you or for days out, but as you do with young children, plan what you need to take.    This can make your life and theirs more enjoyable and relaxing.

 

 

Walking around Hampton Lucy

Today we decided to stay closer to home.  It’s all too easy to take the countryside around you for granted.  We drive around all the time without really taking in the scenery.  So today, I had picked a walk off the internet, which started off from a beautiful village a couple of miles away from us called Hampton Lucy.

A little bit of history about Hampton Lucy

Hampton means land by the river.  In AD781, the King of Merciathe  granted land to the Bishop of Worcester.  Up until 1549, the parish was know as Bishops Hampton or sometimes, Hampton Episcopi.  The water mill in the village was first mentioned in 1086 and is well worth a visit.

The first church was built in the village in the 13th century, but by 1480 the village was enclosed and many of the villagers were driven out.

The Bishop of Worcester sold the manor in 1549 to John Dudley who was the Duke of Northumberland.  In 1555 though, during the reign of Mary Tudor, he was executed.  The lease was granted to Thomas Lucy of Charlecote by Queen Mary in 1557 which is when the village was renamed Hampton Lucy.

The current church – St Peters was rebuilt by the Lucy family in 1826, and has a Gothic feel to it.  The church is open most days and is stunning inside as well as outside.

Today the village in my opinion, is one of the prettiest in Warwickshire.  It is still very small, with the church being the focal point.  It has a lovely local pub – The Boar’s Head which serves lovely meals.  Its definitely worth a visit if you are around Charlecotte area.

The Walk

The walk starts off in the village.  You have a couple of options.  A 2.3 mile walk or a 5.5 mile walk.  We opted for the longer one.  We will however go back to do the shorter one soon, as it takes in the river Avon.

You enter a huge field through a gate, past River Keepers Cottage.  The warning on the map was for badger holes, and we certainly found a few!  You then enter some woods.  Watch out for the nettles!  That said, the views across towards Warwick over the river are amazing.  On a clear day such as the one we had, you could see for miles.  Why did I know know about this walk before!

The walk takes you through many fields, passing through gates or stiles.  Its quite level, so not overly strenuous.  As usual though, my hubby and I miss a turning past a copse!  Thank heaven we did, as we first stumbled upon a wood full of gorgeous bluebells, and then a nature reserve run by RSPB.  Sometimes it’s ok to go off track, but you really have to make sure you are not on private property!

The fields this time of year are full of rape seed, so you have vibrant yellow wherever you look.  The weather was beautiful so the yellow stood out even more!

There was a short stretch of road towards the end, but apart from that it really is just fields.  What surprised me is that this little road, I travel down quite often, I just never really thought about what was around it.

On one particular part of the walk, we spotted a very large hair running around the field of corn.  It was a little bit like Watership Down, but with a happy ending.  You don’t see this when you are in your car!

I have a fascination with birds of prey, so seeing them hovering around above us looking for food was a joy.  I am hoping to get some binoculars for my birthday this year to see them better.  I really want to learn more about them too.

The walk is a circular walk back to the village again.  It took us just under 3 hours.  Its a perfect way to get some exercise, see your local countryside and just relax and unwind.  We took the 2 dogs with us and they really enjoyed it too!  If you do take your dogs though, please keep them on a lead.  Yes there might be cattle around, but this time of year, there could be birds or other animals nesting in hedges etc, which a dog could upset.

Next time you have a free weekend and are not sure what to do, google walks in your local area.  You will be surprised what you have missed.  I’m now planning what to do on our next free weekend.  Top of my list is the village of Sherbourne!