Day 17 – Our last day in China

It’s our last day in China today! Tonight we head off to the airport for our flight home!

We have a slow morning after last night.

I need to go back to the Pearl Market before we leave, so we head over around mid day. This place still amazes me. If I had the time and money, I could spend all day here.

I get to a couple of things I want. I could certainly get carried away here but I’m strict with myself! I have a lot to squeeze into my case already.

After shopping we go to Linda’s for dinner. We order noodles, egg plant, chicken Kung po as well we 2 other dishes. It’s our last chinese meal in China. All the meals we have had here have been good, and this one also doesn’t disappoint.

As we sit outside eating, I can’t help but smile when I see their delivery van! It’s a bit different to our Amazon delivery or the postman!

After lunch, we are all quite tired so retire to our rooms to lie down and have a quick snooze!

We spend the rest of the time chatting away or packing.

Finally it is time to head to the airport. I can’t believe the holiday is over. It has been the best ever.

I would definitely recommend Viking River Cruises if you ever want to visit China. They treat you so well, everything is so organised and you get to visit and learn about so many new places.

We were also lucky to be able to spend a few days with some great friends who showed us even more of China.

As we take off I close my eyes and capture every single memory into my brain. It has been the best 3 weeks ever.

Until next time!

Day 15 – Staying with friends in Bejing

It’s funny but after over 2 weeks in China I’ve seen so much. What I hadn’t seen though was an actual house. Lots of apartments, but seriously, not one single house.

When we arrived at our friends last night, I was so shocked to see their house. It is so not what I was expecting. 2 living rooms, dining room, breakfast kitchen, 5 bedrooms – one is used as an office, 4 have en-suite and the master has a walk in wardrobe which is bigger than the dining room at home and a fantastic, enormous bathroom, area for gym and a balcony overlooking the front living room. If that wasn’t enough it has a double garage and a basement where they have a full size pool table, Darts board, bar, lounge area and even space for a full drum kit. To put the icing on the cake it also has a large garden. It is definitely a dream house.

This morning they have taken us to Hong Qiao, or as it’s also known, the pearl market. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was enormous, and simply sold everything.

We wanted a handbag for a gift and a cap for hubby! What we ended up with was 2 bags, iPod headphones, cap, T-shirt, 4 scarfs and a camera lens! If we had more money, we could have bought so much more !

Afterwards we went in search of tea. If you read my previous blogs you will know that I’d been to some tea places with the tour but the prices were too high for me to justify buying them. Our friends knew of a road full of tea suppliers. We only went to one of the malls, but that was enough. I’ve never seen so many places that sell tea. Everyone was so so friendly.

Our friends wanted to try Lychee tea. They were more than happy to give us a taste. It wasn’t for me as far too sweet, and for me it tasted like liquorice. They bought some and at 80 yuan for 500 grams it was a bargain. For £1O they have enough tea to last years.

The initial place didn’t have the chrysanthemum tea I wanted, but they took us to another one that did. Again they happily made us some to try. I loved it. So light and refreshing. I bought 500 grams for less than £20. As you reuse the leaves multiple times, it is going to last years.

Wandering around the mall, and when I say mall I have to point out it’s very basic, we looked at teapots and tea caddies. I ended up buying 2 tins for less than 50p and a beautiful chinese tea set. I have no clue how I’m going to get this all home.

It’s been a brilliant day and so different. We have been to places where the locals shop. We have also learnt there are 2 prices. One for tourists and the other for locals! My friend got us some amazing deals.

This evening the boys are playing pool before firing up the braai. I decide to throw some darts. I’m trying to think when the last time was that I played. I think it must be 35 years! I’m very pleased when I get 4 bullseyes!

I’m so glad we added these extra days on with friends as we are seeing another part of China and I’m still loving it.

Dinner was fabulous. Steak, jacket potato and salad. It was just what I needed.

We sat in the garden chilling before heading to bed.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 14 – Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Rickshaw Ride

Today is our last full day on the official Viking Tour. We are leaving the hotel at 7.45 am to travel to Tiananmen Square before heading to the Forbidden City. Either before or after lunch we will be doing a Rickshaw ride. It should be a good final day!

We arrive near Tiananmen Square and queue up. Terry already has our entrance tickets for us.

In the next few days there is due to be an important event in the Square, so security is very high.

We have been queuing for some some now, but not moving. We can see that Terry has gone off and we can hear him talking to officials in our earpieces. I can see him talking to many of them and on his phone too.

Eventually, he pulls us all out and breaks the news to us. The police won’t allow us through without seeing our visas! Terry has tried everything. As we don’t have them with us we can’t visit the Square.

We are all disappointed, but there is nothing we can do and we know Terry has really tried for us. We can all see he is really disappointed for us too so we all reassure him that it’s ok, we understand.

We talk a walk to meet our bus to go straight to the Forbidden City.

In the meantime Terry warns the other tour guides that were coming after us. They were in the queue too so would wait to see what they said to them.

We reached the Forbidden City and any disappointment I was feeling soon disappeared. Oh wow! I didn’t expect it to be this big or beautiful.

I can see why they say it is the worlds largest palace complex, with 980 buildings and 9,999 rooms. I wonder if they ever counted the rooms and if so, why they didn’t round it up to 10,000?

The palace dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Terry explained all the pavilions, courtyards and gardens to us, including the concubine courtyard and room. Sadly you could only see in through the glass to this room.

The whole place is just stunningly beautiful and I was so pleased we could spend so much time there. Even if we still only saw a fraction of it.

I’ve since heard that the other groups were allowed to enter the square without their visas! I’m jealous but these things happen.

We left the palace and headed to the Rickshaws, where we had a 20 minute ride around the Hutongs. These people must have really strong legs, cycling with hubby and I in the back. It was good fun even if they used the Rickshaw in front as it’s brakes.

It was time for lunch now. For the first time this trip it was actually quite late for lunch, and I was thankful for this.

I have to say, this was the best lunch I’ve had all holiday. My favourite was a chicken dish with nuts including walnuts. It had a bit of a kick, but I loved it.

This was our last meal with our travelling companions As we were checking out tonight. It is a night earlier, but we are going to stay with friends who are living in Beijing for 3 nights.

We say goodbye to the group, although I’ve missed Terry, which I’m gutted about. I leave a thank you note and a tip with reception for him though. He has been an amazing guide.

We get back to the hotel, pack and leave at 6 pm. I’m going to be sad leaving the tour part of the trip, but the holiday isn’t over yet!

I have no idea what our friends house looks like, so I’m excited.

We arrive and it’s huge and beautiful. Nothing like what we have seen in China up to now.

Tonight we go out for dinner in a western pub. A chicken Dorito is just what I needed after 3 weeks of chinese food!

We sit in the garden of the White Swan. It’s so different to what we have been used to, but it’s perfect to catch up with our friends. I’m looking forward to the next few days, to see a different side to Beijing.

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 6 – Jingzhou – school and old wall

I woke up around 6.20 am and looked through our patio doors. The sun was just rising over the Yangtze River, it was so beautiful. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures.

Today we are mooring in Jingzhou where we will visit a school in the morning then this afternoon visit the old wall.

We dock just before 7 am so I watch the boat as it moors. Our balcony faces the port side so after breakfast we sit on the balcony watching the comings and going’s. Men are fishing on the bank, others just walking around.

Each day the staff give us a small booklet with has the latest news from home. We obviously get one on Britain which is a great idea.

Our bus is leaving at 9 am to take us to the school so we have plenty of time to sit and read before we need to leave.

We are just back from our school visit. I wasn’t sure what to to expect. When we arrived we were greeted by 100’s of children ranging from 6-12, all waving at us. They would come up and high 5 you.

We were treated to a little show where 3 groups of children performed different dances. We were then taken to see them in their classes.

Each child came and took one of our hands and asked us to sit in their seats. They are grade 2 children so haven’t learnt English yet. We tried to talk to them. My hubby was across the classroom from me and I could see about 4 children around him, fascinated by his camera and beard!

Many of the children board at the school while there parents work in Shanghai or Beijing. They only get to see them about once a year. The little girl with me was a boarder too. It broke my heart to think of her not going home to her parents each night.

Their grandparents would be playing a big part in their lives, but there is nothing like a mothers love and I’d imagine she must have missed her parents so much when first sent to school.

She was so cute. When I left she gave me a big hug and I can’t help but wonder if she is missing affection? I have nieces her age and I couldn’t imagine them not seeing their parents for long periods of time!

In China the parents devote all their money to make sure their children get the best education possible, so I can see why they have to board their children if they want to earn good money in the city for them, but it is still very emotional.

When you leave you can give a donation to the school which of course we did.

Now back on board I’m chilling on our balcony after another great lunch of prawns on toasted bread to start, pork ribs for main and green tea icecream for dessert. I mustn’t forget my glass of fizz!

When we returned to our cabin we had a lovely surprise. We have got friendly with another couple on the boat. They have a suite which also came with a bottle of champagne. As they don’t drink it, they had it sent to our room. I couldn’t believe how thoughtful they were. Hubby and I will certainly enjoy it, so thank you Joe and Kellie.

As I sit here on the balcony I notice a women on the bank. She is washing her laundry in the river. If you look at my photos above you will see how dirty the water is and I can’t help but wonder how clean she gets her clothes.

She first wets the item in the river then lays in on the bank where she takes what looks like soap and scrubs the items, first with her hands and then her feet. She takes a long time with each item before rinsing them in the river. It seems sad that this is her only way to wash her clothes.

I could sit here forever watching the world but I need to head to the bus again to go to the old wall.

It’s only a short trip but gave us an opportunity to visit the city walls and experience some of the locals selling fruit. It was nice just to walk around and see how they live. A man was carrying 2 buckets of water hanging then on either side of a plank of wood balanced on his shoulders. Little moped trucks were piled high with boxes or scrap metal etc.

The county really fascinates me.

We get back to boat around 4 pm so we have time to chill in our room catching up on the BBC news before we have to get ready for dinner. It’s a western menu tonight.

As I look out from the balcony there are now some men swimming. I give them a wave and they happily wave back. They swim over towards our boat for a closer look. Others are fishing. We decide to go up to the top deck for a walk and people watch more.

It was perfect timing as we were just setting off again down the river. We stayed a short while just soaking up the quietness and reflecting on their way of life. Eventually it was time to shower and change for dinner. But not before watching a he sunset.

Before dinner there is a briefing on what is happening tomorrow, as we travel through the 3 Gorges. I am expecting a huge change in the landscape tonight as we sail towards them.

After dinner there is a show where we will be shown different traditional dress. Sadly hubby has come down with a cold today so I’m not sure if he will make it.

We decide to go to get he shied after all and it’s good fun. The staff are dressed in an array of costumes and perform traditional dances for us. It’s all bright and colourful. A lovely end to another good day.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 4 – Saying Goodbye To Shanghai

It was a bit of a lay in this morning. The alarm was set for 6.40 am. Today we leave the Westin hotel in Shanghai to go to the airport, to fly to Wuhan where we will board the Viking Emerald.

I’d packed most things last night so this morning I only had to shower and pack the toiletries into the case, ready to be collected at 7.30am.

We don’t leave the hotel until 10.45 am for a 1.25 pm flight, but Viking are sending our luggage ahead. We don’t see it now until we are on the boat!

After the cases are outside our door, we settle to have our last morning cup of tea in our room before heading to breakfast.

As we have scales in our bathroom hubby thought it would be good to get on them as see how much Our weight has changed in the last 5 days. We seem to have eaten so much I wasn’t sure I wanted to know! In for a penny, in for a pound, I got on them. I had stayed the same! Woo hoo I was so pleased. Then hubby got on. Drumroll please………….. he had lost 1.4 kg!! How on earth did he do that ? I was gutted! He is always lucky that he can eat and drink what he likes and not worry too much about it. That’s men for you ladies! I can put weight on just eating lettuce!

Talking of food, we then went down for our last breakfast in Shanghai. I’m sure the breakfasts for the rest of the trip are going to be just as good but in the meantime we savour the selection available to us.

We now have just under 2 hours before we leave for the airport so I relax on the chaise lounge in our room and catch up on @MYDIY on YouTube with Kathy. Today she is making scarecrow wreaths. They are so cute. I do enjoy watching her videos. The only challenge is in China you have to use a VPN to use your phone or iPad. It keeps cutting off, which frustrates me. I do finally get to watch it all though.

Right, it’s time to check out. We still have 2 weeks left of the holiday, but it’s still sad to be leaving Shanghai. We really have had a great time and our room has been so comfortable. The bath especially which is free standing and big enough to fit 2 people side by side! The boat will only have a shower but fingers crossed our rooms on Xion and Beijing will have baths too.

We are now on the bus to the airport. Terry is giving us an update on what will happen when we get to the airport. He is a character. He was telling us that when he sees phrases on movies he has to check it is suitable for tourists.

We arrive at the airport and are given our passports and boarding passes as well as our lunch boxes. Viking do make things so easy for you. All we have to do is go through security again.

We head to our boarding gate and all open our lunch boxes. It was supposed to be a club sandwich. When we all opened the bags there was a roar of laughter. Many of us instead of a club sandwich got something with a purple and orange layer! It tasted of butternut and yams. Hubby was lucky and got a club sandwich so kindly split it with me.

We were also given a banana and 2 madeleines which were nice. I was craving bananas so it was timely.

Our flight is boarded as I settle down. Hubby has taken the window seat again. The gentleman next to me has an awful habit of picking his nose. Not a little go by a full on rummage for most of the flight. To make it worse he was flicking it or wiping it on his table. I was literally heaving. I was desperately trying to not look, but it was so difficult. I was desperate to get off the flight.

There was some positives though. The air hostess noticed I was reading my book so put my light on for me. They also brought around water for us which I kept on my lap, not wanting to put anything in the seat pocket.

I did have a look at the duty free shopping magazine though. Now, I have to say I have never seen anything quite like it. When I first opened the magazine I came to knives, saucepans and kettles! If that wasn’t bizarre enough, I turned over and saw fridge, cooker and bikes! I couldn’t wait to see what their trolley looked like. Sadly I didn’t buy anything as my baggage allowance might have been exceeded!

The flight landed and thankfully the guy next to me rushed off so I was able to get my antibacterial wipes out without offending anyone !

As Viking were taking care of our luggage we just had to identify it so they could check everyone’s had arrived. As we left the airport Terry informed us that the sandwich issue was a mistake and had ordered us all a KFC to eat on the bus. That was a really thoughtful gesture and went down well with everyone.

Unlike UK KFC this wasn’t fried but marinated chinese style and was delicious.

Before going to the boat we did a detour to Hubei Museum where we first were treated to a traditional bell performance followed by a tour of one of the exhibitions.

The Bell performance was so relaxing I could have fallen asleep. I was so enchanted. The musicians and dancers were in traditional dress using old musical instruments, which were beautiful in themselves.

We were then given a private viewing of an exhibition of Marquis Yis. When he died, he had buried with him 13 girls and women whose ages ranged from 14 to 26. All were killed as human sacrifices. Within the tomb were musical instruments, food and wine vessels along with furniture. He believed in the afterlife, so all the items were placed in the 4 chambers for him. The women were to care for him and play him music. The tomb was discovered when some soldiers were trying to build their houses. It was really fascinating.

After the museum, we headed to the boat. As I got off the bus and I walked down the gang way I was so excited.

When on the boat we are greeted by the staff who take us to our stateroom and show us around. The staff are all very friendly and really want you to have a good experience.

The stateroom has a king size bed, sofa, coffee table, dresser and plenty of wardrobe space. On the balcony we have 2 more chairs.

The bathroom is basic with just a shower but I was over the moon when I saw they use l’octaine products. They had these on our previous cruise with them, and I have to say I do love them.

As it was after 7pm we went straight to dinner. Tonight was a western menu. You choose off a menu and as is Viking, they cater for all tastes.

I had ham and melon to start, salmon with new potatoes for main and sorbet to follow.

Alcohol is free during mealtimes so they keep you topped up with a drink of your choice. Mine was white wine.

The dining room is set out in tables of 8 so you get a good chance to meet and get to know the fellow passengers.

After dinner we have a briefing on floor 5 in the bar area so get ourselves a drink. Carey who took us to our room earlier serves us and he has already learnt our names, which I think is brilliant in such a small amount of time.

We are due to sail at 9.30 pm so hubby and I go onto the top deck. The buildings around us are lit up and change colour in unison. It is spectacular.

We sit on the desk for a while over a glass of wine, until the lights are now a distant memory.

We planned to have one last drink in the bar before bed, however we got talking to another couple and settled in for the rest of the night.

As we were outside of meal times you pay for your own drinks. We were recommended the drinks package. For £250 for both of us, we could have unlimited drinks. We decided this was a really good deal and signed up for it. I was even more glad I did it when I found out you could have fizz too.

Finally it was time for bed!

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.

How is it Monday already?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Monday already. How does it come round so fast?

It’s like Groundhog Day when the alarm goes off! While I try to wake myself up to take the dogs out for a walk with hubby, Fido is there jumping all over the bed in excitement! Lola is a bit like us. Actually no that’s wrong. We do get moving when the alarm goes off, whereas she lies there moaning, groaning and stretching! She really doesn’t do mornings !

At least now the mornings are lighter! Chilly but spring is definitely here!

The weekend was good. For a weekend with nothing planned it was fun.

Saturday morning was a leisurely start. An amazing brunch followed by a spring clean! I do love it when you give the house a good going over! Hubby was productive too in the garden. It’s the first time this year he has been able to really get out there! It looks so much nicer now with the spring bulbs coming through and the new shoots appearing. It’s amazing what a bit of sun can do!

Saturday evening hubby had offered to cook dinner! If you know me you will know that rarely happens! He had seen a recipe in the latest Tesco magazine for a Chinese soup! As long as I made sure he had all the right ingredients he would make it for me!

OMG, for a man that doesn’t cook very often it was amazing! I know he followed the recipe, but even his chopping and presentation skills were spot on! Restaurant quality.

You can see what we ate here on my YouTube channel.

We ended a perfect day by watching Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a great film don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I’d go and see it multiple times. Hubby thinks we feel that way because we already knew the story, and maybe he is right! I’d still recommend you watching it though.

As the days are brighter we decided on Sunday to take the dogs for a longer walk. We opted for Earlswood Lakes. I haven’t been there for years. I printed a walk off the internet and off we went!

Now, I have to point out that today it wasn’t our fault! I know whenever we go on long walks hubby and I will always take a wrong turn at some point, but today wasn’t down to us!

The route we picked didn’t include a map! The instructions looked clear when we started, but soon they didn’t make sense. We had to ask directions a couple of times. Well I did! Hubby wouldn’t ask lol!

Eventually we gave up on the route and did our own thing. We didn’t mind. It was nice just to get out!

As we headed back to the car it dawned on me! We went the wrong exit out of the car park at the beginning! No wonder it didn’t make sense!

At least it made us chuckle!

The afternoon was relaxing with a visit from my wonderful parents.

As with every Sunday in our house we had a lovely roast to finish off the weekend.

Next thing I know the alarm is going off and it’s Monday again.

As we arrive at the station the car park is more full than usual! I’m dreading the train now. I’m expecting to crush my way on!

As it pulls onto the platform I look through the windows. A few people are standing but there is still daylight! I’m shocked but pleased. What happens next shocked me even more ! I got a seat! Woo hoo! I can’t believe it! Maybe Monday isn’t going to be so bad after all!

Have a great week!

What a week! Thank you fridge and freezer!

I don’t know about you but I always find that whenever there is a bank holiday the week drags!  This week was no exception!

For some reason every 1st of the month this year I have developed a cold!  So on 1st April as I was having a lovely walk around Stratford Upon Avon, I could feel my throat start.  You know that feeling that you are swallowing glass.  For me that is always the first sign!    I would have liked to have spent Bank Holiday Monday in bed, but had my stepdaughter staying so that wasn’t an option!

As the week developed the cold got worse.  I really didn’t have an appetite which meant planning for meals was really difficult, as I didn’t know what I wanted.  It is so easy to just pick at junk when you are feeling like this!  I was in the office for the 4 days this week and despite feeling as bad as I did, I still made myself go to the gym!  I couldn’t go at the same pace as other weeks, but decided any exercise was better than none!

When it came to food, I was really good and decided that I would make sure I had every meal planned out for work at least.  That would be my biggest challenge as there is always a lot of biscuits and cakes around.  I decided that carbs was the way to go, so made a big batch of pasta salad which I split over a few days.  I reheat it at work with a couple of light cheese triangles.  Melted they make a lovely cream sauce which is part of my HEA.

Evening meals were more of a challenge.  I would take things out of the freezer that morning.  The problem was I really didn’t have any energy when I woke up, so by dinner time my levels were even lower!  Thankfully I always have a fridge full of fresh vegetables.  Again I loaded up with carbs by slicing up new potatoes and cooking them in garlic frylight with every meal!

By Thursday my motivation was rock bottom!  To make it worse, on the way home our train was stopped between Stetchford and Lee Hall stations.  The conductor said there had been an incident at Marston Green Station and so we had to wait.  Eventually after what felt like hours, they advised us that they were taking us back to Stetchford where the train would terminate.  It turned out that someone had run in front of the train in front of us!  You must be in a terrible state to feel that is the only option for you!  The train driver must also be so traumatised.  Its such a horrible thing to happen.

We are now though stuck at a train station miles from where we need to be.  If any of you commute regularly you will know that we are all creatures of habit!  We stand on the same spot on the platform each day so we meet the same people.  One of the ladies on our train quickly got onto the Uber App and ordered a taxi.  It was going to take 20 minutes but that was better than waiting to see what was going to happen – i.e. could there be a bus service laid on?  Even if there was it wouldn’t take us to our station as there is a low bridge!  My husband and I and another lady who also gets our train with us decided to join Natalie with the taxi and share the cost.  As we were quite far out, Natalie’s husband offered to come to Birmingham International to pick us up, so the taxi didn’t have as long to travel.   We finally got to our car at the Station an hour later than normal.  We still then had to drive the 30 minutes home.

I have 2 border collies who would be expecting us home.  I checked the CCTV to see if they were ok.  Bless them, as soon as the time comes for when we are normally home, both move to watch the front door.  I wonder what goes through their minds when we are late!

They were so happy to see us when we got home.  No accidents either, although Lola quickly told us to stop saying hello to her and let her out!!

I’m already exhausted from the cold, I’m now late home and the dogs still need to go for a walk.  We decide that it really is too late for me to start cooking!  Phew I was so relieved! But then the decision of what to eat!  If we had still lived in Warwick it would have been easy!  Fish, chips and mushy peas  for my husband and chicken kebab meat with salad and lemon juice for me!  We do have a chip shop in our village but it doesn’t do kebab meat as far as I know, and I don’t really like chips and definitely don’t like fried fish or anything in batter.  So that leaves Chinese or curry.  Hubby didn’t fancy a curry so a Chinese it was!  We didn’t have a menu as I have only eaten there once when I first moved to the village so went in blind.  I know what hubby usually likes so decided to play safe.  Beef and black bean sauce with Singapore noodles for him, and chicken in oyster sauce for me.  I should have ordered boiled rice but really couldn’t face it, so decided to pinch a few of the noodles! It was actually very tasty!

My cold was getting worse by Friday so I was so pleased I already had lunches sorted in fridge.  I quickly grabbed a lamb, chicken and dhal curry from freezer for dinner that night which I would add boiled rice to!  I am so pleased I have free food in the freezer for times like this.  It would be so easy to turn to junk food right now!

By Saturday morning I have had it!  I feel like death and decide that I’m staying in bed for the day.  I don’t have any real plans for today so I don’t need to get up!  I am not one for staying in bed.  I am the one up and out walking the dogs at the crack of dawn, or doing housework!  I knew the dishwasher needed emptying and the washing basket was full, there was dog hair on the carpets and don’t get me started on the kitchen floor!  Right now none of that mattered!  Well until  the postman woke me at 2 pm to take a parcel for my neighbour!  Then my OCD kicked in!  I couldn’t just lie around when there was so much work to do!

After a couple of hours cleaning I finally curled up on the sofa, only for my hubby to ask if I wanted to join him to walk the dogs.  I didn’t have to, he knew I was unwell, but I thought the fresh air might do me good and anyway, I needed the steps!

I decided I needed to pull myself together and make something for dinner!  I had some turkey mince in the fridge which I was going to make a pizza with (I will have to share the recipe with you sometime!) .  I didn’t fancy that now but I did fancy a lasagne!  Its amazing how you crave carbs when you are ill!

My husband doesn’t really like turkey but what he doesn’t know doesn’t kill him!

I mixed the mince, 1 chopped red pepper, chopped onion, tinned tomatoes, 10 slice chestnut mushrooms, 1 pint of beef stock (to hide the flavour of turkey!), pepper, 4 tablespoons of Worcester sauce, 2 tablespoons of tomato puree into a frying pan and cooked it for about 15 minutes. Just before the end I added 2 large handfuls of mixed frozen vegetables.

I lined a lasagne tin with sliced courgette.  Added a layer of the mince mixture then topped with lasagne sheets.  I repeated this until all the mixture was used up!

I then mixed 500 g of quark with 3 eggs and topped the pasta.  Baked at 150 degrees on low shelf for 50 minutes.  Then added grated cheese and cooked for another 10 minutes.

I served it with garlic bread.  For hubby it was the shop bought bread but for me I took 2 slices of wholemeal bread (HEB), sprayed with frylight butter and spread with Lazy Garlic.  Both were baked in oven for 10 minutes until golden.  Absolutely delicious.  I also have another 4 portions left for the freezer for lazy days!

My husband was even heard telling my parents today how nice it was !!

Today i’m treating my parents to Sunday dinner.  I’ve booked Charlecote Pheasant by me.  Its a carvery and really good value for money.   I had pate to start, that was the healthiest option, then a lovely roast for main.  I was trying to keep on plan but its very hard at carvery’s as you don’t know what they have cooked the veg etc in.  I opted to fill up on the protein so had a slice each of ham, pork and beef, 1 yorkshire (well its not a roast with out one!), carrots, beans, red cabbage and 2 of the smallest roast potatoes I could find.  It was all cooked so well.  I decided to skip dessert.  I did have a look but nothing took my fancy so decided not to have one for the sake of it.  If you ever want lunch out I would recommend it.  For 4 adults, 3 having 3 courses, me 2,  including 2 glasses of wine, 1 pint Cider and 1 pint of coke it all only came to £80.

The restaurant is bright and traditional.  There is plenty of room if you want to bring a large group.

I’m now suitably full so I won’t need to eat again until tomorrow.  Lets just hope the week ahead is better!

Looking back this week could have been a complete disaster.  You can’t plan when you are going to feel ill, but you can plan for those times when you need something quick any easy.  Keep your fridge full of fresh vegetables and the freezer full of healthy options.  Batch cooking is your savour on weeks like this.  Planning is the key to successful food optimising !