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 16 – The penultimate day

I can’t believe we only have 2 full days left in China.

I was awake at 4 am, so checked into our return flights. The trip has flown by.

We are having a lazy day today. Our host has offered for us to wash all our clothes so we have a clean case to go home with. I’m not good at letting others do things for me, but accept. I have work the very next day when I get home l, so this will help me.

We go to brunch at another ex-pat complex. After all the food I have eaten, pouched egg and salmon on crusty toasted bread is just what the doctor ordered.

Back at the house, while the girls get to the washing, the boys play pool. They really are competitive.

When you stay with people in China you have to register at the police station within 24 hours, so while the boys played we went off to register.

Tonight we are going out for dinner. It’s called the lost plate! You get onto a tuk tuk and are taken to 4 different restaurants ending up at a pub.

As Beijing are preparing for the 70th anniversary of China’s peoples republic, there were warnings of potential traffic jams and road blocks, so we decided to head into the city early.

We parked up not far from the Hutongs. As we drove, I recognised some of the restaurants we had eaten in whilst with Viking.

We arrived with plenty of time so went to a pub that sells a massive selection of draft beers.

We were a bit peckish so I ordered some spicy nuts and crackers. When the crackers arrived, the guy serving us poured what looked like water over them. I thought it was a bit odd, but as it hit the bowl the crackers were in, steam came off it!

The crackers was absolutely amazing. I thought whatever he had done would make them soggy, but they were so crisp. They were also cold but very tasty.

We eventually headed to our meeting place for the tuk tuk ride. Again we were early so found a lovely place opposite for another quick drink.

A word of warning about drinking anything in China! What goes in must come out! The toilets are not always great! Most are just holes in the floor and many don’t have doors on them!

There was due to be 10 of us on the trip, with maximum 4 to each tuk tuk.

4 of the group were running late so we were given a beer to keep us going.

Eventually 2 of the 4 arrived, but we had to leave without the other 2 as they were under pressure to get us around before some of the restaurants closed.

Just as we were heading off the final couple arrived so they managed to catch us up.

The tuk tuk ride takes you through the Hutongs. They are very windy. It is great seeing into the alleys, peoples houses and bars etc.

Our first stop was for noodles. They were amazing. I learnt on the Viking trip that Shanghai to Xi’an is rice country. Once at Xi’an it’s noodles, so we have only had them a couple of times on the trip. These were the best I’ve ever tasted.

Next was a Mongolian BBQ. We had a couple of dishes here. The first was a beef dish cooked on a griddle, the next a lamb one along with mushrooms. I don’t eat lamb but the beef was delicious. They give you a pot to which you add chilli, garlic and another seasoning to your liking. When the meat is cooked you dip it into your mix before eating.

Throughout the evening there was unlimited beer or soft drinks, which you would take from restaurants to tuk tuks etc.

The third stop I wasn’t sure about as I heard it was a pie. I had no reason to worry, it was the best pie I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what the pastry was made of, but I would say it was steamed, although the bottom was caramelised.

The pies were served with a selection of dishes.

To go with this, they gave us a bottle of the fire water to share. I did have the one shot but no more! It is lethal. Hubby couldn’t say the same. The boys in the group finished the bottle off!

The final restaurant we had About 5 more dishes which included my favourite dish – Kung Po chicken, before heading back to the pub we had started our evening at. Another beer was included in the tour.

It was gone midnight by the time we had finished and it had been an absolutely amazing experience. I would certainly recommend it.

I think we were all ready for our bed by the time we got home!

Day 15 – Staying with friends in Bejing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We sat in the garden chilling before heading to bed.

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 13- The Great Wall

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

Although yesterday I said this was my third favourite hotel this trip, I think the bed was the most comfortable so far. I slept so well.

We have a good routine going in the mornings. I wake up and make a tea for me, and coffee for hubby. While my tea cools I grab a shower.

As our case left the night before us in Xi’an, I didn’t have my Avon So Soft Spray on yesterday. As I look in the mirror now, I see that this was the perfect opportunity for the mosquitos to have a party on me. I have 6 bites around my neck and chest and 3 on my legs.

After my shower I completely cover myself in the spray. I’m not given them another day of fun!

We go for our first breakfast in this hotel. The dining area is beautiful with colourful lanterns everywhere.

There is a great selection once again from western to Chinese.

After dinner last night I felt so bloated, so I decided to just have fruit today, however I did allow a small smoked salmon roll to sneak in too.

We leave the hotel at 7.00 am for the 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. I am so looking forward to this, I just hope my bladder holds out for the duration of the drive!

I’m pleased to say I made it. The trip reminded me of when I was a kid going to the seaside. Searching the landscape for my first sight of the sea. We drove through the Badaling Hills which is the highest point of the Guangou Gorge. As I look around it is all so beautiful, and then, there it is, my first view of the Great Wall. It was amazing.

During the drive Terry our guides tells us all about how it was made, the staggering length of over 6200 miles in total.

We get off the bus and all quickly head to the ‘facilities’ as Terry calls them before starting the final part of the journey to the wall.

To get to the wall you take the Funicular up. I’m so pleased as I was expecting a climb! It takes just over 3 minutes and gives you a chance to take in the gorge a little.

Once at the top, you walk out and it’s there right in front of you. We take our first steps onto the wall and I can’t believe I’m here.

Terry is there ready to take our cameras so that each couple or group can have photos together.

The section we are on is part of the best preserved section. We decide to walk up the steep part first while we have fresh legs.

Some of it is steps , other parts slopes. Going up is very steep at times, but the views are amazing. 360 degrees of outstanding views in fact.

As we walk along the wall I have to keep pinching myself that I’m here.

When you see how far into the distance the wall goes, I can’t help wonder how on earth they got the bricks up here, nether alone to build it. It is a really beautiful, incredible landmark.

After the wall we visited a Jade factory. Hubby and I loved a table and 2 chairs made of Jade. It was only $1.8m, so we ordered 2 sets!! In our dreams!

They showed us how they cut the stone and the different colours. I always thought it was only green, but you get all variety of colours including red, yellow, blue and white.

After a tour we head upstairs for lunch. We have the usual array of dishes, but this time as well as the beer they gave us a bottle of ‘fire water’. We all take some on our table and toasted each other before downing it in one! Jeez, I now know why it’s call fire water! It was so bad we had to have a second toast!

After lunch we had time to walk around the shop. I decided to treat myself to some lovely blue earrings. I wanted a pendant to go with them, but sadly they didn’t have one in the same colour.

Some of the pieces were quite expensive like the table and chairs. These bracelets were from £1000-£1300 each, although they did offer 30% discount!

It was lovely walking around though looking at the pieces, especially when you know they were cut from one piece of rock!

We then took a walk along the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. The walk is lined by 18 massive statues of elephants, lions, camels, and mystical beasts, protecting the tombs of Emperors. As we walk through the tree lined avenue, Terry explains the meaning of each of them and the old customs and suspicions. It is so peaceful and the smell of the pine trees adding to its calmness.

At the end of the Avenue you pass through the Great Red Gate which is more than 400 years old. With its 3 archways, it is one of the largest stone archways in China.

We start the journey back to the hotel. As we drive we pass buildings for the Beijing Olympics, which Terry points out for us. One of the beauties of Viking, is that you get a whole lot more than you expect every day and Terry is such a fabulous guide, explaining everything to us. He also cracks quite a lot of jokes which gets the whole group in stitches.

Back at the hotel we have a few hours to ourselves before leaving for dinner.

In the basement of our hotel and across the street is a big, high end shopping centre. The memory card on my small camera is already full and Hubby’s camera is close to being full, so we decide go on the search for a camera shop. Jimmy from Viking had suggested there may be a store in the basement of China World opposite the hotel. After a while we find a shop and are pleased to buy two 32MB cards for less than £12 each.

We arrive back to our room with 1.5 hours to spare before going out to dinner.


I’m so full, I really can’t cope with any more food. It’s a different style to normal with custard filled dim sums at the beginning as well as custard tarts.

I sample a little of some of the dishes, but I’m just still so full from lunch.

After dinner we join Kellie and Joe, a lovely couple from USA, who we have met on this trip, for a drink in the bar before heading to bed! It is the end of happy hour so Prosecco is 2 for 1 until 9 pm. We made it with 6 minutes to spare!

The mini bar in the hotel is free so we finally retire to our room for a drink before going to sleep.

Reliving a special day from my childhood

Today is going to be a real blast from the past!  It isn’t going to be the usual day you would expect someone to want to do to celebrate their 50th, but for me it is very special.

As I have said before, having a birthday which always fell during our families 2-week summer holiday, meant that most birthdays just blended into the holiday.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents made a fuss of me, but you know what it is like as a kid, once you hit the beach the day itself isn’t important.  That was until one very special birthday.

We had driven to Ilfracombe and my parents suggested we walk along the harbour. There moored up was a big boat!  Well as a kid anything larger than a dinghy is a big boat.  Dad thought we should go on board and have a look around!   Little did I know was that they had booked it as a surprise trip for me to visit Lundy Island.

Now, this is where the story of that day is told over and over and over again!  I have always been a bit of an independent madam!  It is no surprise then when offered help to board the ship I declined it, and the inevitable happened.  I fell in.  To make it worse, I refused help on the way back too and the same thing happened.  On the plus side, it has entertained my parents for many years.

When I was thinking about how I wanted to spend my birthday, that birthday surprise always came to the forefront of my memories.   I researched it and the boat still went, but not from Ilfracombe on my actual birthday. 

I really wanted to spend my birthday with my friends but wasn’t sure either if they would be interested in going to Lundy.  If you don’t know about it, it is a little island off the shores of Devon.  It is a nature reserve run by the National Trust.  Puffins use it for their breeding grounds and seals and dolphins can also be seen there. 

There are only 28 people living on the Island, with just a pub, church and shop in the way of facilities.  That said, there is something calming and magical about the place.  Well for me anyway.

I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t go to the Island on my birthday.  I did see though that a boat left from Bideford the next day.  Unfortunately, it was due to leave at 8 am due to the tide.  Now, not being funny, but having to get up and be on a boat ready to leave by 8 am the morning after your 50th was not a realistic option!

After further explorations, I found a lovely man – Colin – from Lundy Charters who was based in Clovelly who could take us over to the Island on the Saturday at a more leisurely time of 9.30 am!   My amazing friends all agreed to come with me.

So, the morning came, and we all headed off to Clovelly.  We were told to park in the Anglers car park.  As we get there, we soon realise it is also the same day as a festival so there is absolutely no parking.  If you haven’t been to Clovelly, it is built on a very steep hill.  The road down to the harbour is a 25% hill!  The road is single track so there are wardens at the top, middle and bottom with radios ensuring that traffic is only flowing one way at any given time.

After a lot of worry about where to park, we were advised to park up in the main car park and get the land rover back down which was shuttling people that day.  Hubby suggested rather than all 8 of use going back up to come down again, why don’t the drivers just go up and us ladies stay at the bottom.  A very good idea. 

As I jump out of the car, I ask hubby if he would like me to take his rucksack with me, which he did.  I head off to take in the activity of the harbour while hubby takes the car back up the steep road to the main car park.

I’m stood chatting when it hits me!  I have the car keys!  My car is one that doesn’t need a key to start it, but it does need to be in the car when it is being driven.  In a blind panic I find the warden at the bottom.  I explain the situation to him.  I now have visions of my car broken down halfway up the hill, no-one being able to go up or down!  He kindly radios to his colleagues to see if there is a problem.  The land rover that went up after him has arrived at the top. Thankfully the car somehow made it without the keys! 

I’m now panicking as to how is the car going to be locked?  The warden kindly tells me to take the land rover back up, lock the car then come back with the land rover.  Roger the driver was so lovely.

The journey back down was with a group of pirates that were performing that day in Clovelly.  I hadn’t even boarded the boat and the day had already been memorable!

Finally, I can relax, and I meet up with Colin to board his boat.  As I get on, I can’t help but say the most ridiculous thing!  ‘Ooh it smells of fish’.   This brings roars of laughter from my friends.  Why?  Well it’s a fishing boat we are on!

The boat sets sail and we are taking longer than I remember the journey to the Island to be.  As we sail, I take in the views.  I do love the sea so much.  So many seabirds hunting for their dinner.  A seal passes us just long enough to see him, but not enough for a photo.  I am desperate to see dolphins but sadly that isn’t to be.

Gradually the island comes into view just as a puffin flies past.

We land on the island and I already feel nostalgic.  It is a long steep walk up to the main part of the island where the only public toilets are.  We have a stop to look at the shop.  We only have a few hours so prioritise what we want to do.  One of my friends hasn’t seen puffins up close before so we decided to head off to their nesting site.

After a short while, we find out that they have already left.  Gutted and being short of time we head back to the pub for a spot of lunch.

After lunch 6 of us head to the disused lighthouse to explore.  147 steps up give you a 360-degree views of the island.  It is very beautiful.

After heading back to meet the rest of the group it is almost time to head back to the boat.  We decide to pop onto the beach first and dip our toes in the sea.  Well it has been a long time since I got wet here so it would be rude not to.   At least this time it is just my feet!

As I look amongst the rocks, I find some amazing sea creatures. A poor crab is rescued by a friend. It really has been another great day.

We walk back up to the jetty where the boat will come and get us.  As I look down it dawns on me!  When we arrived, the boat was level with the jetty.  Now the tide was out it was about 10 feet lower!  How on earth were we going to get onto the boat!

Hubby points to a rusty ladder going down to the sea!  Is he serious?  Sadly, he is.  One of my friends is even more in a panic as she is wearing a dress!

As Colin arrives back with the boat, he confirms our fears.  We are going to have to climb down that ladder and land on a bobbing boat!  Then walk around the edge to get into the main part of the boat! Oh boy.

I am the last to go on.  My body is shaking.  I am willing myself to stay calm and not to let go of the ladder!  I slowly make my way down.  Colin is there to steady me.  I step off the ladder onto the boat.  It was scary but I made it, completely dry!  I was so happy!

All safely aboard we head back.  The sea is no longer calm.  As we hit the waves, we get soaked.  Thankfully it is a warm day.  I could move to somewhere less in the line of fire (or waves), but suddenly I am that child again.  I am having a great time. 

After 1.5 hours we arrive back in Clovelly.  My friends probably are not as enthusiastic about the day as me, but they don’t show it.  They really have proven they are great friends today.

We walk back through Clovelly itself to the car park just as the rain starts.

When back at our apartments it is a quick shower and change before heading down to the seafront for fish and chips. As we call for our friends in their apartment, I realise surprise number 2. Another fabulous birthday cake. This one has red shoes, a handbag and bottle of bubbly on it. So me! More bubbles flow. I really have been spoilt.

The sun is back out, so we sit on a bench eating our chips and taking in the surroundings before heading back to the apartment.

We return to our apartment for more drinks, some of that amazing birthday cake, and a game of Mr & Mrs.  If you have never played this, you should.  It is hilarious.  My hubby and I always lose, as hubby is useless at answering the questions, even after nearly 12 years together!

It is time to draw the day to a close!  It was everything I hoped for and more.

Tomorrow we head home.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday weekend.  I have my 6 friends and hubby to thank for that. 

See the day here on my Youtube Channel: –

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

It is here! I’m finally 50!

The day has finally come!  I am now officially 50.  I’m oddly excited about today.  Yesterday was a great start to my celebrations.  The day was just as I had hoped with the glorious sunshine, sea views and great friends.

I’m up really early.  I’m like a little kid again. I can’t sleep with excitement.  It isn’t like I’m waiting for my presents as my hubby has already given me that.  It is just that I don’t want to waste a moment.

I look out of the patio windows from our bedroom and can see the sea.  It is lovely and calm.  Outside I can her the seagulls.  It is such a perfect day.

Hubby makes me a cup of tea and I sit on the balcony taking in the views.  It is really peaceful here.  I’m soon ushered into the shower!  Hubby and my friends are up to something!

As I walk back into the room, I notice they have now put up a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner along with a ‘50’ birthday balloon and decoration.  My friends hand me cards and presents.  A trip to Kew Gardens.  I have always wanted to go so I am so excited.

My friends kick me out the kitchen while they cook me breakfast.  I’m such a control freak when it comes to cooking so this is hard.  Mind you, my friend is too, so she certainly gives me a run for my money!  I don’t mind though as it is my birthday.  I am happy to be spoilt.  It isn’t every day you turn 50!

After a delicious cooked breakfast, we decide on the day’s agenda. It is another glorious day, so we don’t want to waste a moment of it.  We decide to go to Croyde Bay.  I used to stay there as a kid with my parents for our summer holiday.  We would camp in our big orange 3-bedroom tent.  I remember there was a children’s club on site which we used to go to.   I absolutely loved it there.  The camp site was just opposite the beach, so we almost rolled out of our tent onto the beach.  It never seemed to rain for the whole 2 weeks.

It has all changed now.  It looks all modern and probably a lot more expensive than 50 years ago.  We didn’t go in this time as we had parked on the opposite side of the beach.  The tide was out so there was a large expanse of sand to enjoy.

The rocks were full of muscles.  This is where I got my love for them from.  They are too small to eat now, but one day there will be a massive crop.  In Dubrovnik, I ate them every day.

Lifeguards now patrol the beach.  They look like they should be in Baywatch.  I don’t remember that in my childhood either.  The sea is now full of people body boarding.  In my day it was just dinghy’s.  We had one which mum and dad would take us out in every day.  Mum would pack a picnic of crusty bread with cheese or ham, and squash.  I don’t remember if there was cake or crisps, but I certainly remember the crusty bread!

We would sit amongst the sand dunes with our windbreaker.  They were hot and the sand so light.  I loved running up and down them.  Now at 50 I’m more of a gentle stroller!   Hubby and I had a lovely walk amongst the rocks and across the beach.  I was feeling so nostalgic, but very happy.

We had brought my stepdaughters body board with us.  I have to confess I had never done it before.  Oh well, there is a first time for everything.  While hubby watched the belongings, I joined my friends in the sea!  When you first get in, it takes your breath away, but as soon as you get fully wet it was actually nice and warm.  Mind you, maybe a strapless swimsuit was not the most appropriate swimwear to be wearing!

Ok, I am never going to win prizes for body boarding, but I had a great time.

After a few hours we headed back to the car.  In the carpark there was an icecream stall.  Well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? These were Judes icecreams.  I have never heard of them before, but they were amazing. I may keep my eye out for them again.

Our other friends were coming down that day to join us for my birthday celebrations.  We were not sure what time they would arrive but decided to head back towards the apartment.  If they were near, they could come and join us.

Yesterday when we were in Bideford, we found an old ship that was now a bar.  This seemed the perfect place to go and have a drink on my birthday.  The weather had been great all day, so we sat on the deck enjoying the views.

We hadn’t heard from our friends so headed back to the apartment anyway to shower and get ready for the evening.  Again, I was ushered into the shower.  They really are sneaky folks my hubby and friends!

As I came back into the room, I was greeted by a beautiful chocolate cake with candles, and the obligatory ‘happy birthday’ song!  They were really spoiling me.  The cake had been made by the lady who looks after my dogs for me and was absolutely amazing in looks and taste.

It was time for champagne!  Well it is my 50th you know!

My other friends are sadly held up on the M5.  It is going to be touch and go if they make it in time for dinner.  I keep everything crossed.

Thankfully I get a message to say they are not far away.  It’s going to be tight for them to get into their apartment, showered and changed, but they can just about do it.  As they arrive, I greet them with cold beers and bubbles. It’s the least I can do.  In return they hand me champagne – well what else – and a present!   A voucher for me to choose an experience.  I haven’t had time to look at it yet, but I can’t wait to see what delights await me.

We all head off to the restaurant.  We go ahead to secure the table and to take the pressure off them a bit.  We are eating at Moran’s on the seafront.  It is the same place we had cocktails last night!

The food is delicious and the company great.  This is just the birthday I wanted.

Check out my video of the day on my YouTube channel: –

We head back to the apartment for some more drinks before it is time to draw the day to a close.

This has been an amazing birthday.   Everything I had dreamed of.  I have my friends and hubby to thank for that.  Tomorrow I am reliving another birthday from years ago!

Day 1 of my 50th Birthday Celebrations

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

The celebrations started with a lovely meal out with my hubby at a local restaurant – Baraset Barn.  The food there is amazing and the converted barn cosy, with a lovely atmosphere.

Thursday morning we were up early to head down to Devon to really start the celebrations.  We have booked 2 apartments in Westwood Hoe for 8 of us.  Hubby and I and 2 of our friends were starting on Thursday with the rest on Friday.

The weather was absolutely beautiful.  As we couldn’t get into our apartment until 4 pm we decided to detour to Bideford.  A quick stop off at Morrisons to get some supplies and lunch, we then headed to the sea front to find somewhere to sit and eat our lunch.  It was so beautiful.  We then took a walk along the sea front.  I say sea, but it is actually an estuary taking you out to sea. 

I recorded the day on my Youtube video here:

The apartment was ready a little earlier than expected so we decided to go and check it out.

It was just off the seafront in Westward Ho.  I had upgraded to the Premier Apartment at Westbeach Resort.  I wanted to wake up looking at the ocean on my birthday, so this was the best way to guarantee that.  I am so glad I did.  Our view was beautiful.  We were looking right out across the sea.

The apartment itself was very modern.  2 bedrooms – 1 double – 1 twin, a nice bathroom with bath and rainfall shower, plus a kitchen which was fitted with fridge, freezer, oven and microwave.  Even a proper coffee machine.

I quickly unpacked. Our friends were on route, and after a long journey down, I promised to get a cold beer and G&T ready for them.

When they arrived, we sat on the balcony enjoying our drinks.  It was such a gorgeous day so we decided to go and explore Westward Ho.

It only took us minutes to be on the seafront.  There were plenty of restaurants, bars and shops along the main promenade.  It was very clean and tidy, with a lawned area, childens play area and a large array of planted borders.  The tide was in, so you couldn’t see the sandy beach sadly.

After a walk around we decided to have a drink in Morans, an Asian restaurant that we had booked for the next night, for my actual birthday.  We sat outside drinking cocktails and beer with prawn crackers!  Well it would be rude not to!

Next door was a great fish and chip shop!  As we were at the seaside it was the obvious place to go for dinner!  A brass band was setting up outside, so we sat on a bench eating our fish and chips listening to the music.  It was such a lovely evening.

We headed back to our apartment and sat on the balcony enjoying a few drinks. Slimline wine for me. It was a clear warm evening as we sat watching the sun set over the ocean. What a magical way to start my birthday celebrations.

Tomorrow is the big day!

Stay tuned to see what happened next.  I will also be publishing the weekend on my Youtube channel so don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

1969 was a great year!

1969 was a great year for many reasons in particular:

  • Richard Nixon became the 37th president of the USA.
  • The Beatles gave their last public performance.
  • Boeing 747 became the largest aircraft and made its first commercial flight.
  • Concorde took its first test flight.
  • Sir Wally Herbert reaches the North Pole and becomes the first man to cross the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean.
  • Judy Garland died.
  • Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
  • The halfpenny ceased to be legal tender.
  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC One for the first time.
  • Lundy Island was given over to the National Trust.

Oh, and not forgetting another important event!  At 2.15 pm on 2 August a baby girl weighing in at 8.12lb came into the world!  She was longer than the average baby, but then she always like to be different!

Yes of course that girl was me.  I cannot believe that I have been around now for 50 years.  It feels so old, but time seems to have flown by.  It isn’t until you stop and look back on your life that the reality really hits you.    If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am actually ok about being 50.  I’m in a really good place in my life, and even though life throws me curve balls, I know with my hubby, together we will get through it.

I’m celebrating the day with some of my closest friends.  We are off to Devon to relive probably one of my only real memories of my birthday as a child.  When I say I don’t remember any others, it isn’t because I didn’t have a good childhood.  Far from it.  I had 2 of the best parents ever.

As my birthday falls in August, we were always on holiday, so the day tended to blend into the holiday more.  Mum always got me a cake with candles on and they made a fuss of me, but could I tell you what else I did, then no.  That was except for 1 very particular birthday.

We were in Devon and out to Ilfracombe for the day.  There was a boat in the harbour, so Dad suggested we go have a look around it.  What I didn’t know was that mum and dad had booked a trip to Lundy Island as a surprise for my birthday.  That day has stayed with me forever.  Not least because my parents won’t let me forget it!  Not because of the Island, or the treat.  Oh no!  It is because as a very confident child, I wouldn’t allow anyone to help me board the boat!  Splash – I was in the water!  Yep that was me.  Miss accident prone!  As we didn’t have any spare clothes with me, I just had to dry off.  Thankfully it was a warm day.

On the way back, when offered help, I declined again.  I wasn’t going to fall in twice was I?  Oh no of course I wasn’t!! Splash – yes in I went again!!  My parents love retelling that story to whoever will hear it!  Along with a few more incidents such as my zip line experience, which I won’t go into today, but still have the scars! 

Despite that, I have such happy memories of that day.  The excitement of being on a boat for the first time.  Seeing the birds and looking around the Island was so special.  It seemed only right then that for my 50th I should go back and revisit the Island.  Plus with it being 50 years under National Trust it seemed meant to be.  I refuse this time though to fall in, so if help is offered, I intend to take it.

Sadly, I couldn’t get a boat actually on my birthday, so we are going the next day.  I don’t mind because the whole weekend is my birthday.  Well it isn’t everyday you turn 50 is it!  I’m going to be milking it.

We have our own boat.  Not the normal ferry.  I have been liaising with Colin from Lundy Charters.  We are going from Clovelly this time, which is apparently closer than from Ilfracombe.  I am hoping to see Puffins, seals and dolphins, so will have my camera at the ready.  I’m just hoping the sea is calm after the night before!  We have a Thai Restaurant booked and no doubt there will be lots of bubbles involved!

We are starting the celebrations off tonight with a meal out.  Just me and hubby.   The question is, do I open his present and card tonight or take it with me?  I’ve said I don’t know.  I will have to decide later, I think.

We then head to Westward Ho for 3 nights with friends.  My babies are staying at home as they don’t allow dogs on Lundy Island.  I will miss them dearly, but they will be well looked after.

I don’t know what else we will be doing over the next few days.  That is what makes it fun.  Maybe fish and chips on the seafront.  Our apartment overlooks the sea, so I’m excited to be able to wake up on my birthday looking at the ocean.  Hubby doesn’t know it yet, but I will be expecting a cup of tea made of course by him, while I sit on the balcony admiring the view.

There are 8 of us in total, so whatever we do, I know it will be a good laugh.

Over the 50 years, I have learnt that if you have good family and friends, everything else isn’t as important.  I’m the happiest I have ever been.  I don’t know what the future will bring.  I’m living for today.  What I do know is that I have some amazing people around me.  I feel the luckiest person alive to have my hubby, my fabulous parents and family.  I have some great friends.  Every one of them is different, but that is what makes them special.

I’m actually really excited about the weekend.  I’m sad my parents won’t be there to spend it with me, but I will call them on the day.  I never miss speaking to them on my birthday.  They are amazing parents and love them dearly.  No doubt I will be calling them a few times of the weekend.  I know they will be waiting to hear if I made it on the boat and back without falling in! 

So, I am embracing 50.  I am thankfully for the memories I have already made, and looking forward to the new ones I will make in the future.

My advice is, don’t worry about the little things.  Treasure those that are close to you and live life to the full.  I’ve made mistakes over the last 50 years, but I don’t regret them. If I hadn’t lived the life I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And of course it rained!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly we had to eat indoors again!

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

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

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

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

Here is the video to my weekend:

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

Have a good week.

Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

Day 1 – Dubrovnik exceeded my expectations!

I’m currently sat on an EasyJet flight from Dubrovnik airport en-route to London Stansted! I live in the midlands so I really have no clue why I chose Stansted, but hey ho!

The flight is under 3 hours. Not too bad.

We arrived 5 days ago. Our flight was 6 am so we arrived with almost the whole first day ahead of us!

We arrived at our apartment before it was ready! Apartment Lukre is a 2 bedroom apartment, 5 minutes walk from the main entrance to the old town. Off a small kitchen area is a beautiful balcony with fabulous views of the old Town. Perfect for having dinner on or as I did, sit and enjoy a lovely cup of tea. If I was lucky the church bells would be ringing out. I never tired of it!

The owner of the apartment was lovely. So friendly. They can collect you from the airport if you wish and arrange trips for you.

They also have a double room next door to our apartment which our friends had. At 115 euro for ours and 55 Euro for the room, it is definitely value for money and a great find.

Even though our apartment wasn’t ready, the owner let us leave our bags so we could get out and about.

The 5 of us in our group headed off to the old town.

If you are a fan of Game if Thrones, you will fully understand why it was used for filming the movie!

As you walk through 2 sets of gates you come upon the Main Street! It’s beauty takes your breath away.

There is a water fountain like no other to your right. The water is cold and refreshing, so don’t forget to fill your water bottles up there.

One word of warning! There are a lot of steps in the old town! The pavements can become very slippy when it rains. It is definitely a place where you leave your heals at home! Comfortable shoes will ensure you enjoy the best of this beautiful old town!

The town is full of small streets and alleys packed with churches, beautiful buildings, shops and restaurants. It might feel daunting but you don’t need to worry, you can’t really get lost.

A must do is to walk around the city walls. It costs 300 kuna (£25) each, so not cheap but worth it! It certainly is a good workout, but the views make it something not to be missed.

Food and drink inside the old town is more expensive than outside, but you can still get some reasonably priced restaurants and cafes.

We had been warned to book our restaurants before coming, as they can get busy, especially on peak times, so we had prebook all nights.

Our first night was at a lovely restaurant in the old town – Konoba Jezuite. The menu was quite varied with mains ranging from £15-£20. Beer is £6 a pint and a bottle of house white around £23.

After placing our order they brought out baskets of bread with a pate dish. All complementary. I opted for the Tuna salad which was gorgeous as my main.

As we paid the bill they brought out cherry liquor! Gorgeous.

We took a slow walk back to the apartment via a local supermarket where we picked up some local wine and beers. It is so much cheaper. About £1.20 a can of larger and £3 a bottle of white wine.

We chilled out in our apartment excited at the day just gone and the days ahead!

I’m really loving Dubrovnik!

Tomorrow is our GOT walking tour.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see the old town in my video.

Why are short weeks so long?

A friend reminded me of this today and she is spot on!

Today is the last working day of our week! Monday was a bank holiday, so why has it taken so long to get to Friday?

It’s one of the mysteries of life? Surely 4 days is less than 5! So on that basis tomorrow should have arrived sooner!

I have some theories! Is it because we are so relaxed from our long weekend that it takes us longer to get back into work? Is it the extra sleep we had that our bodies want more? Or is it just that we enjoy being off more than we enjoy being at work ?

I wonder if people on shifts get the same feeling ?

Whatever the reason, I am so so glad it is Friday!

This said, I do love it when you have a bank holiday! Obviously it means I get more time off, but for me there is another reason!

Bank holidays mean that people are more likely to tag leave onto the break! That then means one important thing – I get a seat on the train to work! Woo hoo!

It might be a small thing, but believe me, it means a lot! No standing squashed up to the person next to you! No listening in to other people’s conversations, being able to write my blog etc etc.

With Easter being late this year it falls only a week before May Day. Then it’s not long until Whitsun! Ooh how exciting! There is hope that for a few days over the next month I will be able to have a relaxing trip to work!

I’ve probably jinxed it now. There will be cancelled trains etc and I’ll be back to standing. Ah well, it’s like the lottery. You have to have a dream and live in hope!

Sometimes it’s the small pleasures in life that make the biggest difference!

Have a good weekend x

A perfect weekend with friends

I’m on my way home now after an amazing weekend with friends!

Our friends live in Bridgend in Wales. After feeling very guilty about how long it’s been since we last visited them, we put a date in our diaries!

So yesterday we drove the 2 1/2 hours to see them. Now if you know me, Wales and I just don’t get on when it comes to the weather! For some reason it always rains on me! This weekend however it was kind! The sun came out. A little bit chilly, but still it was a beautiful spring day.

After arriving our friends took us out to 2 amazing beaches. The first one was in Ogmore-by-sea. So beautiful. The dogs would have loved it.

Next was Dunraven Bay – Southerndown. Again the dogs would have loved this beach, but what was stunning was the rock formations!

Both beaches are absolutely worth a visit. There is something magical about walking along the beach. Listening to the waves. I just love it. Great way to get exercise too.

We headed back to their home and enjoyed a few drinks in the garden in the spring sun. A nice Cedars gin and tonic was perfect ! Followed by a Slim Wine!

As the sun set the braai (BBQ) was lit! Steak, South African sausage were cooked to perfection by our host.

The salads to go with it were amazing. Slimming world friendly pasta dishes and salad. Even a @promise roll for garlic bread. Delicious!

It was a lovely evening catching up.

This morning after a cooked breakfast we headed home via Caerphilly Castle.

Wow, we were totally blown away by it! If you have never been I highly recommend it! I’ll post some pictures on my YouTube channel. In its prime it must have been magnificent! The entrance fee is £8.90 for adults, but well worth it!

Eventually it was time to head home.

We have had such an amazing weekend. Thank you to our hosts Derek and Michelle.

Sometimes just a night away can really recharge your batteries, and getting to visit new places is fantastic.

Here is a fuller insight to my weekend

We will certainly not be leaving it so long next time!