Eat Well – Feel Well

If any of you know me, you will know that I have a keen passion for healthy eating and lifestyle.

With the current situation, it can be very challenging to eat well or exercise or in fact do a bit of both!

As a member of Slimming World for over 3 years I have learnt a few trick along the way, that said, the last couple of weeks have really been difficult for me too so I have had to re-evaluate my own lifestyle.

Eating

When you go to work every day, you will have a routine of when you will eat and when you will eat it.  Some people will have breakfast before leaving home, others will take it with them.  Lunch is usually something you made the night before or a quick run to Tesco in your lunch break.  What ever it is, you had a structure and with the exception of the work biscuit tin, you had it all under control.

Now you are working from home, suddenly everything has changed.  Not least because the supermarket shopping has been a bit like playing bingo.  It is times of change like this that can have a dramatic impact on our eating habits.  This in turn can impact our health and well being.  So what can we do about it?  Here are a few tips that I find work for me:-

Plan – Even though you are at home, still plan when you are going to eat and what you are going to eat.  If possible, keep to a structure – eating at specific times.  The night before plan all your meals for the next day.  If you can, why not prepare them then too.  It will stop you deviating from what you planned.  Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you can’t still make up your pack lunch!

Stop – It is a known fact that people who sit at the table with no distractions such as computers or TV eat less.  Use mealtimes as family time, or time to relax.  You will find you will enjoy your food a lot more.

Water – Water is vital throughout the day.  Sometimes hunger is actually thirst.  Have a glass of water with your meals.  You will feel full quicker.

Creative – Be creative with your cooking.  I know that with the limited fresh food available recently I’ve really had to be creative with some of my meals.  It is a great way to bring new ingredients to your table.  Don’t be afraid to try different things.  Ask friends and family for ideas.  I have a little book that I keep and when something springs into my mind I write it down.  I then work on that to come up with new recipes.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time to prepare.  If it fails there is always beans on toast!

One of my favourite programmes was Ready Steady Cook.  I watched every episode and have all their recipe magazines – and there were lots.  This is what gave me the inspiration to cook.  If you haven’t seen the programme it is on again now, or try and get it on catch up.  It might inspire you too.

Snacking – I’m not going to say don’t do it because that would be unrealistic.  However, I will ask you to carefully think about why you are snacking?  Is it boredom?  Are you lonely?  Sometimes, snacking is to replace something that we are missing.  If you fancy a snack give yourself 15 minutes. Try to distract yourself with something.  If you still want it then, then have it, but in moderation.  If you want chocolate only have a square then wait another 15 minutes!  Better still, don’t have it in the house or choose healthy snacks such as fruit.  Boring I know but you will be glad of it after a few weeks of working at home!

Exercise

The next thing to consider is exercise.   With the current restrictions of only being about to go out for an hour once a day, I am sure many of you have suddenly found your steps have dramatically reduced.  

Exercise not only helps us regulate our weight it is also good for our health especially our lungs and heart.  

Plan into your day 1 hour of exercise.  It can be just walking the dog, or taking the kids for a stroll around the estate.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just getting outside will make you feel a whole lot better.

When you are back at home, try and be active as much as possible.  Have a little jig when cooking dinner or brushing your teeth.  Put some music on and dance around the room!  Instead of going up and down the stairs with your hands full, take one item at a time.  You will be amazed at how many more steps you will get in that way.

We don’t know how long these restrictions will go on for.  However long they last, make sure you are looking after yourself inside and out.

If you want some help with ideas for recipes I am more than happy to help.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 13- The Great Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 12 – Beijing

Our alarm was set for 6.30 am this morning although hubby and I were awake about 5.30 ish. Not sure why hubby was awake, but for me, whenever I have something important to do, I worry I will oversleep.

Today we have to leave our room by 8.30 am to be on the bus. We are flying to Beijing today!

I’ve made tea and showered. I start to get dressed as my worse nightmare happens! The night before we had to take our clothes out for today as our cases had to be out by 10.30 pm. In my head I’ve taken out shorts, vest top, bra and pants. Now dressing what I’ve actually taken out is 2 vest tops, shorts and bra!

I cannot believe it. I checked it twice last night. I’m usually so careful. I check with reception but my case is already at the airport. It’s not good, I’ll have to go commando!

Hubby looks at me and my shorts! He doesn’t think it’s a good idea so offers to take one for the marital team! He gives me his underwear! My hero!

Now, as I grew up, my mum always said my underwear should always match. I mean, what if you had to go to hospital. Since then, I always make sure I’m suitably dressed! Today though, needs must!

I look in the mirror and feel a little bit like Mr Bean! I can’t help but laugh!

The plan is, as soon as we get to the airport we go shopping, either for hubby or me!

It’s absolutely lashing with rain as we leave. I hope it improves for Beijing.

We arrive at the airport and quickly check out the shopping. It’s not looking good. We have 10 minutes until we need to be at our gate and ready to board! We have to accept that hubby is going to have to stay commando! Then we see it. Is it a mirage? Thankfully no! There is in front of us a Victoria Secret. I quickly run in and bought a pair of pants.

We have 5 minutes so I run to the ladies and change and swap with hubby! Phew! He really is my hero today. One of the many reasons why I love him so much.

We board the plane. As we arrived at the airport we were handed 2 very large lunch boxes. Probably 30 cm square each, from the same restaurant we are at last night.

On board, we open them and wow, so much food. The sandwich was 5 layers! A pot of what looked like sausage rolls but sweeter, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, almond Croissant, 3 slices of a sponge slice and a banana. Just as we opened it the air hostess came round and gave us a bag of food too, with a bottle of water.

I currently feel like I’m going to pop with food. I eat some of it but a lot is left.

On the way to airport our guide Terry had told us about his childhood. The struggle and sacrifice his parents made to give him and his brother a good life. I felt so guilty that I had food here that could help a family out. If you have read my previous blogs, you will know how I like to help the homeless out. Now I felt even worse. I might not be rich, but I have a lot more than some, and I’m so humbled.

The flight is very quick. Less than 2 hours. It is actually very comfortable.

What Viking do well is making travel easy! Our luggage is always taken care of, so we only have the look after ourselves. It takes all the stress out of it.

When we land it’s raining again! Seriously, it needs to do one!

We are still going to do a tour so are praying the rain eases, which it does. First we visit a bell tower. It’s only rung once a year for Chinese New Year.

Opposite is a beautiful chinese building.

Inside the bell tower, we get a tea tasting experience. I’d been to the presentation on the ship on tea, but this was actually tasting the tea.

The lady doing it was so funny and the whole experience was really good fun.

She explained why the tea was so expensive, so now I understand why it seemed expensive on the ship.

After the taster you could buy the teas. I love my tea, but I’m still struggling to pay so much for it.

We then walk down the back streets. It’s so narrow and I’m intrigued. We suddenly arrive at someone’s house.

Terry jokes that the owner looks like Jackie Chan and he does. We sit in is lounge while he tells us his story. He has birds in his yard that are taking away in chinese. It’s really fascinating.

When you see how they love, you can’t help wondering how they cope when temperatures drop!

The owner was so lovely and it was an enjoyable visit.

We then take an early dinner.

On the third floor (our second floor) we were treated to another chinese banquet and a new beer – U8.

The group we have been with for the last 2 weeks mostly come from different parts of America. We are loving hearing all their stories and getting to know each other.

After another meal where I feel like a beached whale we head to our hotel. It’s 6.30 pm and the traffic is bad, but it gives us a chance to look at the buildings.

We finally reach Kerry Hotel and get our room key. Our cases are already in our room. As we open the door we wonder what it will be like.

I’ll be honest, we were disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an amazing room. I’m currently laying on the fabulous grey chaise lounge writing this! It’s the bath that disappoints. The previous 2 hotels has a free standing. This is still really nice, we have just been spoilt so much.

On the other hand, the toilet is something else! It’s all electronic. You can even have a sit down shower and dry, if you know what I mean!

Tomorrow we have a 5 am start, so we have pooped to a local shop and picked up some wine and beers to drink in our room. Tomorrow the Great Wall awaits us !

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

Another 6am wake up call today. This will be the theme of this trip I am sure. It is great to wake up and have a beautiful cup of Chinese tea, or two while getting ready. I am really a massive fan of it. I will definitely have to bring some home with me.

Today we are off to old Shanghai and Yoyuan Gardens but not before breakfast.

Chinese breakfasts are also a favourite part of the day. Hubby commented about how adventurous I am being with my food. I am determined to try new things each day. Today was pork stuffed dumplings. I also had to have my boiled eggs in tea, although I learnt today it also has Soy Sauce in it. I really need to try making them when I get home.

Today is also the first official day of the trip – Imperial Jewels of China. The last few days were an optional extension to the tour. Everyone will now have arrived, so it will be interesting to see what they are all like and where they are from. The people we have met so far are mainly American or Canadian, with only another couple from the UK.

I look around breakfast to get my first view. Most of the people here will be on the same trip, getting something to eat before we leave for our trip at 8 am.

We are a large group so for the rest of the trip we have been allocated our guide. We still have Terry who has been with us since we arrived which we are really pleased about.

We all meet in the hotel lobby where Terry checks the batteries to our voice boxes. These will be with us throughout the tour so we can always hear him. We were also given badges to write our names on. This is new as we didn’t do this on our last Viking trip. I’m so bad at names this will really help me.

The weather is awful. It is pouring with rain and a lot of today is outside. The hotel has provided umbrellas in our rooms which will certainly be needed today, plus we have our waterproof jackets.

We get on our bus and meet some people from the day in Suzhou and discuss what we all did yesterday. New arrivals were feeling tired after long flights the night before. I remember how tired I was and have been thankful for the extra days to help me adjust.

The first stop is a trip to old Shanghai. It only takes a short time on the bus. I have to say, from now on, I’m sorry but I won’t able to confirm the cost of the things we see, as Viking are excellent at including all tours in the price of the trip!

As we walk to the old town from the bus, it is still pouring with rain, but it doesn’t take away the beauty of what I saw. Traditional Chinese buildings surround us. It is surreal when I look up and see the top of my hotel roof from down here. I feel I’m in a completely different city.

I’ve learnt that in China it is as important to look up as it is to look straight ahead. There are so many hidden gems in the roof tops. Beautiful architecture including many carvings.

We walk through the old town to Yoyuan Gardens which dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Here it is really important to look up. Carvings of ancient warriors and dragons adorn the roof tops. The curves of the roof add to the beauty. It’s still raining but we still enjoy walking around some of five acres of gardens, through rockeries, pavilions and grottos. It is just so peaceful here.

We are then given some free time to explore the garden and old town more.

In a shop window a lady is making something which looked like a sweet dumpling. She saw us watching and smiled a beautiful smile before showing us what she was doing. Another thing I have found is that the Chinese are so friendly.

The rain hasn’t stopped so we are relieved when we head to our next destination – a silk carpet and embroidery workshop. I have to say, the silk embroidery absolutely blew me away. One piece in particular was of a leopard cub. See what you think :

It is absolutely stunning isn’t it.

A lady is sat showing you how they are made. Some take over 200 days to make. It is a great skill to be able to produce something like this. Plus what amazing eyesight they must have.

There were carpets too. Sadly whilst I’d have loved to bring a few back, they were not in our price range this time, but who knows, if we win the lottery we could be making a call!

From here it was time for lunch. In China, it’s not unusual for lunch to be served from 11.30 am.

We were told that lunch would be dim sum in a local restaurant just above the carpet and embroidery workshop. I wasn’t expecting much except a sample of a few dim sums, so when lunch arrived, I was blown away. It consisted of about 10 different dishes ranging from noodles, fried rice, egg plant, beef and chicken dishes to the dim sum itself. This was accompanied by a local Chinese beer.

If I’d have realised how much food was coming, I’d have cut back on breakfast. I know I could have said no to some of the dishes, but it smelt and looked so good. It tasted good too. This is the trouble with Viking, they give you the most amazing food everyday, you can’t help tucking in.

After lunch we visited the Shanghai Museum. Over 4 floors you can explore art and antiquities from over 5000 years. For us the statues were of most interest, but each floor was full of amazing things.

Can you believe that this is actually a pillow. I’m not sure I’d swap my feather ones for it today!

After the museum the tour should have ended with a trip to the bund. Due to the rain it was decided to delay this until tomorrow morning, so we all headed back to our hotel, arriving back at 3 pm.

As if we hadn’t eaten enough, dinner was to be served in the Crystal Garden Restaurant in the 5th floor. We decided to have a bottle of beer with dinner. The cost in the hotel is 58 Yuan which is about £7.25 for a 330 ml bottle. I didn’t see the wine list so can’t say how much it is.

I have been having wine in my room each evening while getting changed. A Chinese wine from the local store is about 42 yuan (£5.25) and has been really nice though.

After dinner we got back onto the bus to another hotel to visit the Shanghai Theatre, to see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. I was sort of expecting something like the Circus Du Soleil, however this was very different to that. We were not allowed to use photography during the 1 hour show so I can’t show you any pictures. What I can say is that that it was a really good night out. A lot of humour, audience participation (well for the unlucky ones that got plucked out of the audience) and some very talented performers. I would certainly recommend a visit.

We are now back in our hotel. Tomorrow we catch a flight from Shanghai to Wuhan where we will see our home for the next 8 days – Viking Emerald.

Viking are as efficient as ever. They already have our passports to check us in. We just need to leave our cases outside our hotel room door at 7.30 am tomorrow and the next time we will see them will be in our cabin.

When we arrive at the airport they will provide us with lunch boxes to keep us going until dinner too.

So it’s time to say good night for now and enjoy our last sleep in our amazing hotel room. I shall really miss it. Our time in Shanghai has been amazing and thank you to the staff at the Westin Hotel and the various Viking staff for making it so special. Terry will continue with us throughout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Day 3 – Montenegro

Today was a very early start. We had arranged a private tour for the 5 of us to Montenegro. Due to having to go through border controls, we had to be ready by the old gate at 7 am.

If there is a small group of you this is a great way to get around! Your guide will custom your trip based on the time you have. For us it was a full day tour, 11-12 hours. It worked out at about 64 Euro each but this included our own minibus and guide just for us!

It’s important to check if you are doing some day trips if you need your passports. As we were going to a different country, today we did.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect in Montenegro.

As we drove across the border the landscape really unfolded. Beautiful mountains framed the view!

Our first stop was a chance to get out and see the view across the ocean. Stunning. An old abandoned building to our left showed us the reality of this country.

Our next stop was to take in views of 2 small islands, both with churches in the middle! Both very tiny but beautiful. Our guide explained that we could take a boat over to one of the islands if we wanted to, which of course we did!

The trip went from Perast and took only 10 minutes and cost only 5 Euro each. I should mention that Montenegro only accept Euros.

There was so much history in such a small place. The views again were breathtaking.

Back on the mainland we took a few minutes to visit the old town before heading to our next destination.

Kutor is a stunningly beautiful old city. Walking around the tiny streets it is steeped in history. There is a city wall however you can’t walk around it like you can in Dubrovnik.

If you look carefully at the photo above you will see the wall stretching up into the mountain. This was a theme over here. You could walk up that part of the wall however you would need a full day and proper walking boots to fully experience it, which we didn’t!

We did go up the parts of the wall you can see in the main frame which gave great views over the harbour.

There were some amazing yachts moored there! A girl can dream!

Budva was our next and final stop! A smaller old town greeted us. Our guide took us around again and explained the history to us.

A quick stop off for a late lunch over looking the ocean was perfect. Food and drink is a lot cheaper here compared to Dubrovnik. Beer for example is under €3 a pint.

At around 3pm we headed back to Dubrovnik. Our timing was perfect as the heavens opened!

As we reached Dubrovnik the sun blessed us again!

I’d decided to cancel our original restaurant booking as it was slightly too far. We were later home than expected so only had 30 mins to shower and change, so we decided to go back to Restaurant 1838. It was so good last night, why not !

It didn’t disappoint! I had the mussels again! Oh and of course they gave us those amazing drinks again. I’m definitely going to try and make them when I get home!

Another great day in Dubrovnik! Well mostly in Montenegro, but this was turning out to be a fabulous trip!

I’m looking forward now to preparing my YouTube videos over the weekend to really share with you the beauty of this trip.

Tomorrow is our last day in the beautiful country. We have another trip planned! Stay tuned !

Day 2 – Game of Thrones

Today I’m so excited. We have booked on the GOT walking tour. It’s scheduled for 2 hours and promises to show us where some of the episodes were filmed.

I’d booked the tour through a company called – Get Your Guide. I’ve used them before and find their website really helpful. At only £17 per person it is very reasonable.

We met our guide Boska at the meeting point. Today was an unusually large group – around 19 of us, so we were given headsets so we could hear him fully.

To say Bosko was passionate about GOT is an understatement. In fact he auditioned to be an extra and was successful, but for personal reasons he couldn’t take it!

Funny enough, our taxi driver from the airport was an extra. He showed us very proudly a photo of him waking behind Cercei when she did the walk of shame!

We started our tour by walking up to the old fort! As with Dubrovnik it’s a bit of a steep walk, but the views are really worth it!

The entrance fee to the fort isn’t included in the tour price so you need to factor another 50 Kuna per person (approx £6).

Once inside the fort the magic of GOT unfolds. You do need a little bit of imagination due to the fact that on the set the fort has more levels due to special effects, but Boska has plenty of pictures to help you visualise it better.

Filming was done in July and August mainly, when Croatia is at its hottest! Can you imagine how the actors and extras coped in that heat in their costumes! It apparently got a little bit smelly as the weeks went on with long days and no time to wash the costumes!

I was amazed at how many different scenes were filmed from this small location. It was mainly used as the Red Keep, but other locations were also filmed there!

The view of the old town from the top is spectacular. If you are not a GOT fan it’s worth going up for that alone!

It was reassuring to see the local cat keeping guard for us !

You can also see the park where Joffrey and Sansa were married! Hubby and I had walked through it the day before completely unawares.

You learn all about the tricks of filming including using mirror image to move islands ! How do you tell? Check how many left hand people are in the scene!

Next stop was the harbour where Jon Snow said his good byes along with other scenes.

We then walk back into the old town. Thursday and Saturdays are cruise ship days so the town can get very busy. To avoid the crowds we were led down some lovely old alleys until we reached the steps where the walk of shame was filmed.

I was stunned at how much they compensated residents to move out or close businesses down to allow them to film. Even paying per window for them to keep their shutters closed!

All in all this was an amazing tour. I would certainly recommend it as a must do.

The tour ended with a photo opportunity in the iron thrown!

At the harbour was a lovely restaurant which we visited for lunch. Such a stunning setting and a perfect end to the morning.

As we finished lunch the rain started. Not hard but enough to send a lot of the people from the cruise ship back so the town wasn’t so full.

We decided to visit an exhibition on Photography of War. The Entrance fee is about 50 Kuna but worth it.

It’s not a joyful experience. Very humbling and heart wrenching. Photos over 2 floors on wars in Iran, Yugoslavia’s, Croatia, Afghanistan, Bosnia etc. The truth behind war! I’m so glad we went but it brought tears to my eyes.

It’s hard to imagine that Dubrovnik was in a war zone not that long ago. You would never know today.

After a relaxing walk around another part of the harbour we headed back to our apartment to get ready for dinner.

Tonight’s restaurant was called 1838. It’s right on the waters edge by the main entrance to the old town.

This restaurant is an absolute must.

The food is amazing. I had the mussels (89 Kuna) with a side salad (35 Kuna) and shared a litre of their house white (140 Kuna).

As with the previous night we were greeted with a complementary starter and plenty of bread.

When we paid the bill we were given the best drink I’ve ever tasted! Prosecco, lemon sorbet and vodka! OMG, I loved it!

It had been another great day. Tomorrow had more surprises to come !

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss when I start uploading my videos next week. Here is today’s : https://youtu.be/niVu4o0xHdw

What a fab weekend

I can’t believe it’s back to work again so soon. This weekend has been amazing. There are 3 reasons why it was so special:

1) A 4 day weekend

2) The sun was out

3) It was hubbys birthday

The 3 combined meant we had a fun filled weekend.

As you know, we both have a very early start during the week. To be able to wake up when we wanted to, relax in bed with a couple of cups of tea, and getting up when we wanted was magical. The dogs loved it too. Especially Lola who isn’t a morning girl.

Friday we decided to go into Birmingham for the day. A bit odd you may think for people who travel there everyday for work! Whilst we work there, we never really go into the centre.

With the worlds biggest Primark, hubby was intrigued as to what it was like. I needed to get him a birthday present from my parents do this seemed like to perfect excuse to go.

I have to say, shopping for men’s clothes is a nightmare. He wanted a lightweights jacket. Do you think we could find one? It was so hard! It seems that men only get a limited amount of space in stores! Very frustrating!

As hubby isn’t a shopper, we agreed we would get his things together, then he would go off and do some photography around the city while I shopped for me!

Check out what we bought here !

After a few hours we met up and had lunch on the canal at Marco Pierre White Restaurant- Bardolinos! It was so lovely to chill out and enjoy a nice late lunch together!

Saturday was even more chilled which just a hair cut for me before heading out to Hubbys favourite Thai restaurant for Dinner.

Sunday was his actual birthday so after another lazy start, we went off for a nice long walk around Charlecote. With the warmth of the sun, it was a perfect day out!

In the evening we celebrated with friends at their house.

The last day of the weekend was equally as chilled! We visited a museum at our local airfield which was a training airfield for British, Canadian, American and Belgium RAF. Reading stories of bravery and lives lost, it was very humbling. A spot of brunch at the cafe followed by a bit of gardening and a braai, it certainly had been a magical weekend!

Now I’m back on the train and it will soon be a distant memory, but at least they will be good memories!

Have a great week.

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!

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!

So what are you doing this weekend?

I’m so glad it’s Friday. Early mornings and busy weeks mean that by Friday I’m exhausted.

I’m so excited this weekend! Why? Because I have absolutely nothing on!

Ok that’s strictly not true. The house will still need cleaning. That washing basket won’t empty itself. Believe me, I’ve asked it so many times to no avail! The dogs will need walking and of course we will need feeding, but apart from that I have nothing on!

Tomorrow there will be no alarm clock waking me up! Ok technically again, I won’t set an alarm. I will just have Lola and Fido waking me! The challenge will be how many times I can send them back to bed before I have to give in and put them out!

If it’s around 5 I don’t mind. I can put them out and all go back to bed, but if it’s after 7 it’s a dilemma. Is it worth going back to bed to sleep? Shouldn’t I just pop the kettle on and watch tv in bed with a cuppa? It’s always a tough one!

The main thing is that this weekend, I don’t have to be tied down to doing anything at a certain time.

I know it’s sad, but I find weekends like this so precious. It’s a chance to recharge my batteries and spend time on things I enjoy.

We may end up packing lots in, but it will be at a far leisurely pace than normal!

So whatever you are doing this weekend enjoy it!

Happy Friday !

New Year, New Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking about those less fortunate!

Last week I got a text from a delivery company to say the wine I’d ordered from Slimline Wine was being delivered ! I was so excited ! As I left work I had a smile on my face.

As I started my walk to the train station, I passed my first homeless person!

I see many homeless everyday on my walk to and from the train station.  It is so sad to see so many of them.  Mostly men, but sometimes women too.

It goes through my mind every time I see them, why are they here?  Some, I know have mental health problems, other have fallen on hard times.  But what is the story for the others.

I’m going home to a lovely warm house, food on the table (well when I cook it there will be), and my latest wine order!  When did these people last have that?

As the temperature drops, I can’t believe they would choose this to a home indoors ? Who would, so why are they here?

I do try to support them as much as I can.  The odd £1 here, a sandwich or cup of tea there.  I do try to avoid giving money, as I know some would use it for drugs or alcohol, but not all.  If I am popping into a shop and I see one of them outside, I will add something extra to my shopping, to give them.

As I pass them each day, I wonder how many of them feel invisible?  How many people have walked past them that day and not even acknowledged them?

On this particular day, I’m rushing home to get my train.  Suddenly, I stop myself in my tracks.  I know, on my journey home, I am going to see some people who won’t have that luxury of a bottle of nice wine tonight.  They probably won’t even have a bed.  I feel very selfish.  I turn around and head to the local Tesco shop by where I work.

Inside I look around.  There are still a good amount of sandwiches available.  I decide to pick out a few packs.

On the way to the station, as I pass a homeless person I offer them a sandwich.  The first ones got a choice.  You can’t imagine the excitement of the first man, when he saw the tuna sandwich.  It made me feel so humble.

As I continued my journey, I passed out sandwiches.  As I reached the station I still had 1 pack left.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Then I saw a pile in a door way which obviously belonged to a homeless person.  I gently placed the last sandwich down on an old sleeping back.  It should be a nice surprise for when they return.

I appreciate that not everyone is able to do what I did.  I certainly couldn’t afford to do it every day.  There are far too many homeless people around to make an impact on my own.  What is important though, is that we do what we can.  It doesn’t have to cost us anything.  A simple hello or smile is free.

We might not realise it, but that simple acknowledgement could mean everything for that person.

I also try and give them items of warm clothing, hats and gloves.  Rather than put in a charity bags, I like to know I’m making a direct difference to someone.

If you are trying to lose weight and have chocolate or biscuits you don’t want, why not pass it on to them?  They would appreciate anything.  Everyone I have spoken to, or helped has been so grateful and polite.

A couple of years ago I got to know a lovely young man and his dog, who were homeless. He never wanted money, but was always so grateful for a cup of tea or something to eat.

He was partially blind. He couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have an address !

One day, someone decided to set up a ‘Just Giving’ page for him. The aim was to get enough money together to get him a little place to live. People donated as much as they could afford . Others provided donations such as old plates etc. The smallest of donation all added up.

Very soon he was off the streets and safe!

Unfortunately, not everyone on the street is so lucky .

So the next time you see someone who is homeless, don’t put your head down and ignore them.  Say hello.  Give them a smile.

The small things in life can make a huge difference.

Can dogs make you a better person?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our walk from Pooley Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yew Tree Tarn From Coniston – Lake District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the signposts we were 1.5 miles from Coniston.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk around Buttermere Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am so glad when I see our cottage.

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

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

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

 

 

No connection!

It’s weird how reliant we are on our phones and computers !

This week I’m away in the Lakes with my hubby 2 dogs and stepdaughter.

We have a little 2 bedroom cottage in the middle of nowhere! For approx 80% of our time we have no phone or internet coverage! I have to say, it’s quite liberating!

Everyday we have been exploring the countryside. We have done many long walks and taken some fabulous photos. All will be revealed when I have more than just my phone coverage.

So far in the last 7 days I have walked over 130,000 steps! Waded across a swollen river up to my thighs, walked up mountains and around lakes. We have had sunshine and showers. We have gotten completely soaked. Have cuts and bruises and tired limbs!

Would I change it? Not for the world !

Fido and Lola have been having a ball! Although every night they lay in their beds exhausted, as soon as they see us getting ready the next day to go out, they run around in excitement. Both jumping in the car to take their rightful places! Lola on the back seat and Fido in the boot!

I can’t wait to share our adventures with you when I’m home next week!

Here is a little taster!

Stay tuned !

Is the current heatwave effecting your weight loss?

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

Its too hot to exercise?

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

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

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

Lets fire up the Braai/BBQ

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

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

Why be inside when I could sit outside?

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

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

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

Lets invite friends around for a garden party?

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

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

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

STOP!

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

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

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

So what did I do differently?

Exercise

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

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

Food

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

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

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

I put plenty of fruit in too!

Alcohol

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

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

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

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

Inviting friends round!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck with your journey too!

Top tips when planning a trip to the Isle of Skye

 

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

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

What to take with you?

Food and Drink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midge Repellent Spray

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

Guide Books

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

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

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

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

Walking Shoes

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

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

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

Drive Carefully

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

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

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

Look after your dogs!

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

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

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

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

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

Fuel

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

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

Toilets

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

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

Enjoy Skye

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

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

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

Walking in the Peak District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date Weekend – Day 2

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So I can officially call it a ‘date weekend’ as hubby’s birthday is now officially over!

It was due to be raining this morning, but I am pleased to say that even at 7 am the sun was out.  Yesterday we ran out of time to visit Hardwick Hall, which wasn’t a bad thing as it also started raining around that time. The plan today was to do a 10 km walk however we decided to put this off to a time when we had the dogs with us.  Instead, we will get up, have breakfast and head off to Hardwick Hall.  If we have time later and the weather holds,  we will go for a walk.

Breakfast at the hotel is buffet style.  I always say you can tell the quality of the hotel by the breakfast especially the fruit salad.  If it’s tinned its lower quality, up to all fresh – top of the class!  Today its a bit of both which is about right for this hotel.  The hot buffet is full of variety including the usual suspects of bacon, sausages, beans and fried eggs, along with black pudding, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash browns.  Great for my hubby but not for me though.  I was impressed to see gluten free bread.  This is not always readily available for anyone who needs this.  There is also a good mix of cereals with full fat and semi skimmed milk and even soya milk.  My friend Heather would be very happy with this breakfast selection.

I opt for the healthiest option of the fresh fruit salad with weetabix and semi skimmed milk, followed by baked beans, the better of the fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and a few mushrooms.  I don’t have any toast or bread as I had already had my HEB for a my weetabix.

We check out and head to Hardwick Hall.

Before I tell you about our day, let me give you my thoughts about the hotel.

Eastwood Hall Hotel

eastwood-hall

The above is the photo you see on all the brochures.  It looks absolutely lovely doesn’t it, however this isn’t the part of the hotel you see!  The smaller building next to it is some ambulance depot or something, then you come to the main reception building.

eastwood-hall

The hotel is very large with 150 bedrooms and 36 meeting rooms that can cater for anything from conferences to weddings.  Being a Saturday, there was a wedding on so the hotel and carpark was quite full.  There also seemed to be some rugby tournament for young boys on as there were hundreds of lads running around in their team rugby kits.  Because we had passed this ambulance buildings when we parked around the back of the hotel, my husband thought it looked like the back of a hospital so we were a little confused!

We checked in at reception and the staff were lovely and friendly.  Due to the shape of the building it was a long walk to our room.  This actually turned out to be a blessing as the room was very quiet.  It was clean and tidy and not a bad size. The only negative was the bathroom.  I always request a bath when we stay in a hotel and yes we did get one.  The only problem was you had to be about 4 foot tall to actually be able to relax in it.  The shower though was wonderful.  Very powerful.

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The hotel itself is set in beautiful grounds and if the weather had been better we might have seen more of them.

The restaurant was good with a good selection of food.  The service was excellent.

So how would I rate it?  Well lets break it down and score it out of 10!

Customer Service – 10

Cleanliness – 10

Bedroom – 8 – the bath let it down!

Restaurant – 9 – Fishcakes a bit dry!

Location – 9 – only 1.5 hours from home, good grounds

Value for money – 10 – I paid £110 for Dinner, bed and breakfast and a free bottle of wine with Great Little Break.

Overall – 9.3

So not a bad score.  Would we stay again – probably yes, especially if I can get the same deal again.

Hardwick Hall’s

This is 2 houses in 1 visit.  The first house is derelict and owned by English Heritage, while the other one just a few yards away is fully furnished and owned by the National Trust.  Both having amazing histories.  The sun is currently out so a fabulous day to start exploring the derelict one first!

Hardwick Old Hall

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This sadly is now a ruin but was originally the birth place of an Elizabethan lady called Bess of Hardwick.  One of the things I love about English Heritage sites is that you can choose to do a guided tour or an audio tour.  We always go for the latter as it allows us to wander at our own pace and take lots of photos.

Even though this home is now a ruin, you can still some of its original features.  As you listen to the history on the house and of Bess, you really start to feel like you know her.  By all accounts she really was a formidable women!  She had been married 4 times.  Her first husband died when she was only 16.   Her other marriages meant that she rose to the highest levels of English nobility and became extremely wealthy.  She was a shrewd business women with assets such as mines and glass making factories. In fact she was the richest women in England after Queen Elizabeth I!

Her fourth husband George Talbot really didn’t seem to like his wife very much and actually thought prison would have been a better sentence than being married to her!

It would seem that for Bess, showing off her wealth to everyone was important and that shows in both the halls.

Both homes have amazing views over the Derbyshire countyside.  It is strange then to wonder why Bess built the new Hardwick Hall a stones throw from her birth place.  I mean it wasn’t exactly small!  It was all about wealth I believe.  She didn’t abandon the old house when the new one was built as you would expect, she continued to live in both.  Unfortunately she didn’t continue to keep the old hall in good repair so it eventually became inhabitable and in the 18th century was opened to the pubic to visit it.  You can see though from the photos below what a stunning place it must have been in its time.

New Hardwick Hall

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Bess started building her new home in 1590 and moved in in 1957.    It remained in her family until the mid twentieth century.  The house was designed for her by Robert Smythson.  To show off her wealth, she filled it with the most beautiful of tapestries.  Many of which are still on show today.

The house apparently has more glass than walls!  It was the first English house to have the great hall built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at a right angle to the entrance.

The gardens too are stunning.  They are filled with herbaceous borders, vegetable and herb gardens and an orchard.  We were there in spring so most plants were not out but the daffodils and tulips were beautiful.  I also had a little friend visit me in the garden, who brushed past my knees when I was bending down to take a picture.  He stopped for a while to make sure he got into the shot too!

If you want a day out I would certainly recommend both of these houses.  Each has its own character and charm.   The audio tour of the old house gives you a real insight into who Bess was.  I could talk more about her but then it would lose the surprise when you go and visit the house yourself.

After touring the gardens and houses, the plan was to take a walk around the extensive grounds.  Unfortunately just as we headed off the heavens opened, so we had to abandon that idea and headed home.

As we were driving out of the estate we noticed a carpark which had amazing views back across the houses.  The rain had eased off so we parked up to take some more photos.  We were down by the estate lakes so decided to have a quick walk around them before continuing home.  We are so glad we did as it gave us even more understanding of the vast land that Bess had owned in her day.

Getting out and exploring places like this is a wonderful way to get some exercise as well as to see some stunning landscapes and historical buildings.

We are members of both National Trust and English Heritage.  They cost around £80 each a year for a family ticket, however they are well worth it.  If you have children especially it is a great way to entertain them in the school holidays, teach them some history and also get a bit of exercise. In the last 2 days we have done over 35,000 steps which isn’t half bad!

To see more photos of our walk go to my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/JFgJ74hwPwg

Date Weekend – Aka hubby’s birthday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch up later for what we did tomorrow!