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.

Letter to my scales!

It is with deep regret that I find myself writing this letter!

We have been together for many years now! You have always been a trusted friend. We have seen some highs and lows. You have always been honest with me. You have never hidden the truth from me, regardless of how bad it has been!

You have ensured my clothes on a Wednesday don’t exceed 0.3kg! You have even made sure I have never exceeded my baggage allowance when I went on holiday!

We have fond memories of my puppies when we checked how much they were growing! It was lovely to see them grow week on week.

You have been such a huge part of my life.

It saddens me now that you have suddenly changed towards me! I don’t understand why! There seems to be no explanation!

I’m doing everything I can for you. I’m eating well, I’m going to the gym. I’ve even done dry January ! What more do you want from me!

I really don’t want us to part company but this attitude towards me has to change!

I hope this letter will clear the air between us.

I look forward to seeing the changes in you when I see you again soon!

Your ever hopeful friend

Xx

New Year, New Start

So 2018 is almost over! I still can’t believe how quickly this year has gone.

I am now like millions of other people! I’m sitting here planning what changes I am going to make for next year!

First one – lose weight! This year, I have really struggled to maintain my ideal weight. I think a big part was to do with my hubby, family and friends constantly telling me I was too thin! I decided that the odd pound on didn’t matter then! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there!

Over Christmas, I feel I have just eaten rubbish. I am not having the balanced meals I would normally have. I am actually craving fruit and salad!

So from 1 January, I am back on Slimming World properly. I’m also going to put one of my temptations out of my way! I am going to do Dry January!

My hubby couldn’t stop laughing when I said this! Ok, I fully understand why. I mean, I do like to have a glass or 2 of wine at the weekend, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go without it too! Slimming World have dropped down the syns you can have daily. You can now only have 12 per day, so with Slimline Wine, that is only 3 small glasses. I know I could stick to this, but I want to be able maximise my weight loss by having the minimum of syns possible.

By not drinking, I can save my syns for other things like the odd piece of chocolate or hot chocolate!

I plan to get fitter too! Don’ get me wrong, I’m not unfit. I already do a lot of walking and go to the gym around 4 times a week, but this year, I want to see if I can start running again. If not running (I’m not sure my knees could stand it), power walking!

I’ve also stopped doing my 100 sit-ups a day. I used to have quite a toned stomach. I need to start making sure I do it every night while watching my soaps.

So what else to I plan to do? Well I’m going to keep telling the stories of Lola through my blog – The Adventures of Lola, as well as building on my website and Youtube channel. I’m still a novice on Youtube, but it has been fun doing it and trying to improve.

I’m also going to hit a certain birthday in 2019! I have a list of things I want to achieve during the year. I will share that list with you in a later blog!

The main thing for me is to be happy and healthy! Life is too short to waste it!

Whatever next year has ahead for you, make sure you enjoy it!

Size does matter!

So you want a glass of wine. You look into the cupboard and see 2 glasses ! A champagne flute and a large wine glass! Which do you choose ?

Recently I have been using the champagne flute ! I want a glass of wine, but I don’t want lots of calories ! In my head, using this glass, I feel I’m still drinking, just a little less ! If I want more, I have to physically walk back to kitchen to fill it up ! It should slow down the drinking and burn calories in steps ! I’ve got it all sorted !

Tonight, my hubby poured me a large glass of wine ! I need to be good, so I fetch the champagne flute out of the cupboard! I start to decanter the large glass into my champagne flute ! Hubby is looking on! I don’t think either of us were expecting what happened next ! The large glass full of wine fitted into my champagne flute !

OMG!

This is a massive lesson! Size certainly does matter ! Just because something looks bigger or smaller than something else, it doesn’t mean it actually is !

This is such an important lesson in making sure you measure everything ! How often have you said ‘I’ve been so good this week. How have I put weight on?’.

Calories can easily creep into our lives without us knowing it !

If you are serious about losing weight, or even not putting it on, you really need to have your eyes wide open!

Is that really a teaspoon full of food? Or is it an actual tablespoon ?

Don’t get caught into that trap! Weigh everything!

Success will come if you let it !

If you are unsure, do the same test ! I guarantee you will be as shocked as we were !

Good luck on your journey too x

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!

 

 

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!

 

Walking in the Peak District

As the weather promised to be so nice this weekend, my husband and I decided it would be an ideal time to do the 10 km walk we ran out of time for on our last trip to the Peak District.

It’s only a 2 hour drive from home, so we felt it would be a good day out with the dogs!  We set the alarm for 7.30 and had a nice start to the day, with a cup of tea in bed and a nice cooked breakfast.  We wanted to be on the road by 10 am, so were happy that we actually got out by 9.30 am!

I’d packed a cool box full of drinks and snacks.  Healthy ones for me, not so for hubby!

The 10 km walk started at a beautiful village called Beeley, and took in Hob Hurst’s House, which is owned by English Heritage!

We arrive at the village and park outside the Devonshires Arms.  Anyone who knows me knows, I can’t go far without visiting the ladies, so I popped into the pub and asked if I could use their facilities.  They were so welcoming.  The pub was beautiful inside.  Very traditional and I made a mental note to go their on our way home!

We started the walk, which was up through a field by the church.   We met another couple who were on their way down.  They asked if we had done this walk before, which we said we hadn’t.  They said that the stile was blocked by an electric fence and a herd of cows.  They had walked the entire field but couldn’t see a way through.  We showed them our map and they decided to go back.  We thought we would go and see if we could find a way!  We climbed a hill to the top of the field, where we too were met by a herd of cows and the fence!  After walking the field we could see no way through here but there was another stile in the next field.  We decided to explore!  An hour later we couldn’t see a way through that was not covered by an electric fence.

We were so looking forward to this walk and it was very disappointing that the farmer had blocked a footpath off this way!  As we headed back to the car I was determined that my 2 hour drive was not wasted!  My ‘Map My Walk’ app had logged 3.45 kms, but I hadn’t come all this way for such a short walk.

We looked at our book of walks and found another one.  It was only 6.5 miles away and started at the village of Elton.  It was shorter than we had expected – just 6 km but it was a walk.  Lola and Fido were so excited to be out too, so we couldn’t disappoint them!

The walk starts off by the church in Elton opposite what looked like a closed down pub – Duke of York.  You pass through fields, woodland and an outcrop of bouldery rocks.

On the walk you pass 4 upright stones of a Bronze Age Circle, one of several around the area.  There, we met a man who said he had been there 2 hours, and although he had seen many people walk past, we were the only ones who had stopped to look at them!

A bit further on you see many rock formations including a hermits cave where in the 12th century a crucifix was cut into the rock.  It was absolutely beautiful.

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We crossed many stiles, both wooden and stone.  I have to say, I was amazed at both my dogs.  They both managed to jump all of these with ease!  The weather was amazing, so whenever we saw water we would allow the dogs to have a drink and cool off.  Mostly though this was due to the recent high rainfall!  In fact it was so muddy on one occasions my hubby walked out of this trainer!  I laughed so much, but the laugh was on me a bit later when I walked into a muddy bit up to my ankles!

There were a lot of cattle and sheep around but neither dog were bothered.  This was their first test together of being near cattle, so I was very pleased.

The walk was a circular walk back to the village.  It was such a beautiful day, with lots of amazing views.  We did over 17000 steps today.  What a way to get out and do exercise.

Tomorrow promises to be another amazing day, and we can’t wait to get out again an burn off a few calories!

If you want to lose weight, exercise will help you.  Rather than go to the gym on a day like today, you could go for a walk.  Canal walks are gentle, but if you want something a little more active something like this may suit you. You also get to see some amazing views and history!

Date Weekend – Aka hubby’s birthday!

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Every few months I like to book a weekend for my husband and I to get away together.   We call it our date weekend!

We don’t have any children living at home although he does have a daughter living in Dublin.  So most of the time its just the 2 of us and the dogs.  We work for the same company so travel to and from work together most days, so you probably wonder why we need a date weekend!

As with most couples busy lives can just take over.  Yes we see a lot of each other by most peoples standard, but how much of that is quality time?  The problem is that we spend so much time together you forget to make it quality time.  We come home every night and walk the dogs together and yes we do talk on that walk, but when we are home, I prepare and cook dinner, make breakfast and lunch for the next day and tidy house while hubby goes into his own study to listen to music etc.

We have been together for just over 10 years and married for 3.  Both of us have had failed marriages before.  We are both very happy and feel that finally we have met the right person.  As my hubby says you have to kiss a few frogs…….. It is always good to remember why you fell in love with each other.  I truly believe my hubby actually is my soul mate.  We have so much in common and I don’t know anyone else who would do the tourist stuff together like we do!    But neither of us want to take each other for granted, so the date weekends are perfect!  Once every 3-4 months we go away on our own for a night.   Not too far away but every time somewhere different.  Great Little Breaks is my go to website for these.  You can get some amazing deals which include hotel, bed, breakfast and evening meal.  Sometimes its just afternoon tea rather than dinner.  Whatever the offer, it means we can explore new places and spend time together.  Both of us really enjoy them as its a great time to be together, enjoying our hobbies of walking and photography but also having a good laugh together.

It was my husbands birthday on Saturday so what a great excuse to do a date night!   The destination this time was the Peak District.  Its only 1.5 hours away so not too far.    As with all our weekends away we make sure we have planned things to do!  I book the hotel and leave hubby to sort out the activities.

We set the alarm for 7.30 but are actually awake for 6!  How come when you don’t have to get up for work you wake up early?

Hubby has found a fabulous walk around Chatsworth Estate which he found in a walking book  – Ordnance Survey Peak District Outstanding Circular Walks – Walk 4.  It start at Baslow and is approximately 4.25 km and should take 2 hours.  We both have an App on our phones so tracked it.  Ended up doing 8.71 km and took us 2.23 hours.  That’s fine as I’ve never done a walk with hubby where we haven’t gone a bit further (alright we took the wrong track!).  It was a beautiful sunny day.  Perfect to be out in the countryside.

This time of year is even more beautiful as not only are the trees and flowers coming to life, but the fields are full of lambs.  These little chaps looked like they were enjoying themselves.

The walk takes you across Chatsworth Estate ending up walking past the house.  If we had more time, we would have had a look around.  Maybe next time!

As we go back to the car, we consider dropping off at Hardwick Hall before heading to our hotel!  We put it into the Sat Nav, but it takes us to a back entrance where we can’t get through!  We try alternative routes but fail.  The rain sets in and its 4 pm so we decide its probably best to head to our hotel.  Its been a great day and perhaps a bath and a chill is now in order!

We arrive at our Hotel for the night –  Eastwood Hall.  It’s a mix of old and new. We are in the new part. There is a wedding on and a rugby tournament for boys around 10 years old. Its all very noisy in a nice way but thankfully our room is away for all this.

We have 1.5 hours before dinner so decide to have a bath and chill.  I say a bath but for a husband who is over 6 foot it’s a bit cramped.  We have brought some drinks with us so he enjoys a few lagers – well it is his birthday while I have an alcohol free fizzy wine.  Don’t turn your nose at the thought, it was actually quite nice!

Dinner is in the main restaurant.  3 courses including a bottle of wine. As my hubby has been having lager all night he continues with them, while I enjoy a bottle of white wine.  There is a large party of ladies in the restaurant which my hubby decides are from the women’s institute.  Who knows, but because of this the service is a little slow. We don’t mind as we are having a relaxing evening. The waiter though feels he must apologise with free beer and fizz for me!  Oh well if he insists!

The food whilst slow is amazing.  I had asked for dairy free and they gave me lots of choices.  In the end I had fish cakes to start, steak for main and sorbet with fresh fruit salad for dessert!

I couldn’t finish all my wine over dinner so we retired to our room with the remaining wine and a pint of larger for hubby.

It had  been a great day and tomorrow was still to come.  Everyone thinks that exercise only happens if you do sport or go to the gym!  I absolutely doesn’t. Today we have done 17,552 steps!  Not bad for a day when we have seen so much and had such a good time!

Here are a few photos from today to tempt you to do this walk.  Who knew exercise could be so much fun!!  Not only that you get to see some amazing views and nature at its best!

Catch up later for what we did tomorrow!

The long grey winter months may finally be over!

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Is it me or does anyone else think the winter months have really dragged this year?    Yes we have had more snowy periods than the previous year, but its still been reasonable temperatures! I don’t think its been overly cold, just grey and wet.

I was fortunate as I went to South Africa in November but apart from that I don’t think  I have seen the sun since about September last year.   With the long dark nights, apart from walking my dogs, I really don’t have the enthusiasm to do anything.  The garden is neglected, the car needs a wash and those planned walks in the countryside just a pipe dream.  The food I’m cooking is warm and hearty, but I’m longing for the steak cooked on open coals, sitting on my bench with a nice cold glass of Slimline wine.  It seems such a long time since I did that!

You go outside, your neighbours are all tucked up indoors, people and more grumpy and hurrying to get back in the warm and dry!  Such a depressing time.

Then yesterday something magical happened!  The sun came out!  17 degrees was recorded on my car temperature gauge! Its like a switch has been pressed.   You wake up eager to get out of bed.  You want to walk the dogs a little further!  The garden suddenly looks so inviting.   You head for the garage and dust off all those tools that have been in the corner all winter.  You head out with excitement!   And there under the dead leaves, as you clear them away you see the new shoots of spring!  Bulbs coming into flower!  Plants that have died off starting to push their way back through the soil. You go out the front to weed the borders and you have neighbours coming out of hibernation too!  You all wave to each other and suddenly we all have time to stop and talk.  Its like time had stopped still for 6 months and you want to go out and celebrate this new found freedom!

How many of you also felt like this yesterday?  It is amazing how just a little bit of sunshine can make you feel so much better.    My husband and I like so many other people were so invigorated yesterday.  We were up early, took the dogs for a walk without wearing a coat.  It was just so exciting.  Our lawn mover had died last year and we hadn’t bothered getting a new one, but now it seemed really important that we hit the DIY shop and get one.  We had our usual cooked breakfast – for my hubby that is bacon, eggs and sausages, for me an omelette made with spinach and tomatoes with vegetarian sausages, all free.  We were then set up for the day.  Off we went to Homebase.

We walked in and immediately saw the lawn mower we wanted and put it straight into the trolley.  We should have just left, but the sun is out and we are feeling good so pop out to the garden centre section.  We start looking at all the plants and decide we must get another Acer to replace the one Lola ate the previous year.  Sadly they didn’t have any but we are so inspired to do some gardening, we buy some other plants!

We get back in the car and decide that we should maybe try another garden centre, so off we go to Charlecote Garden Centre.  We have a look around but still can’t find the Acer we are looking for, so the sun is still shining, it would be a waste not to go to another garden centre!   I mean – 3 in one day just for 1 plant!  Its like the sun has drugged you!  The 3rd one though does have what we want.  We are again just wandering around and start looking at things to attract birds into the garden.   We don’t see anything specifically but we do eye a big bag of bulbs to attract the bees.  Well it would be rude to not give the bees a reason to come into the garden.

Isn’t it funny how a week ago, we wouldn’t have dreamt that we would have a day out shopping for the garden.  It would be more clothes, shoes etc!

We decide that time is getting on and perhaps we should go home and start on the garden.

With a heavy heart I have to leave my husband to start the garden without me, as the house also needs cleaning!  I’m jealous that he gets to be outside while i’m inside!  I’ve got my shorts on though and at least it gives me a reason to get the housework done quickly!

After 2 hours of housework, I’m so excited to get outside and join him.

Last year I bought myself a little greenhouse.  It was only a cheap little thing as we weren’t sure if anything would grow in there.  It was a great success so this year I decided to plant more things.  This year I’m doing lettuce again – this was a great go to product last year, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, peppers, beans and 3 different garden plants to bring a bit of colour to the borders!

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I bought myself 3 miniature fruit trees this year.  2 apple, 1 pear.  Its going to be a challenge keeping Lola way from them until they grow big enough!

Then I potter around in the borders.  I  had planted some bulbs when we first did the garden a couple of years ago,  along with some shrubs.  Looking around I find quite a few that were now overshadowed by shrubs, so I rescued them and moved them to other parts of the garden so they could grow and flower.

Then its checking out the damage Lola has done!  Our beautiful fuschia plant isn’t doing much.  It looks quite big until I realise that Lola has chewed most of the branches off lower down!  Thankfully she didn’t get to all the branches, so it has a chance!

I sit on my little bench soaking in the sun looking around at my garden.  I feel so happy today!  I’ve been working away all day without a care in the world.  I haven’t even felt like I’ve been exercising, but I have!  I’ve burnt off calories without even thinking about it.

I’m thinking about the week ahead which promises to be even warmer – up to 23 degrees!  Maybe that braai (BBQ) will be out this week.  Steaks, prawns, salmon are now the key ingredients for my meals.  I’m thinking of recipes that will go with them which are Slimming World friendly and tasty!    I’m no longer thinking of carbs and casseroles!  Its braai braai braai!

Welcome finally to spring and I’m so looking forward to summer!   Now to get my summer body ready, but I’m more motivated to get out and exercise.  Why because the sun is out!