With due thanks to Margot, we had a brief taste of the life of a retired Brit living in Spain. As anywhere, it seems the more you put in the more you get out, and it was good to get a sense of the real Spain (and some of her issues) from locals we met. Infrastructure much better than the last time we visited, and a new government about to be sworn in (albeit with the EU demanding yet more cuts to public spending). However, if what you want is sun and cheap living, there appear to be worse places to live.
Slightly surreal to temporarily join the local choir to practice parts of the Messiah, but as us singers know, there is nothing like choral music for bringing people together.
Beer and tapas in Almoradi
Hot springs at Archena, near Murcia
Hot springs at Archena, near Murcia
Marina at Torrevieja
Post market and post lunch at La Marina
A few words on recent visits to Brittany and Somerset for our ‘annuals’ this year. Together as a family for a week, then a follow-up week for ‘Er and me in case we needed it. In the event, and even with another rural retreat in France, all was well and a second complete holiday following immediately on the tail of the first was a complete bonus. Highly recommended. Rural locations in Brittany and Somerset meant visits to out-of-the-way locations that would not normally expect a visit – such as Brest, Lesneven or Kingsbury Episcopi – each with its own attractions. But we also went to the more popular attractions including Mont St Michel, Rennes, Sparkford and Yeovilton.
Ferry – off to France
Mont St Michel
Restaurant La Coniche
Aston Martin Lagonda – Sparkford
Concorde 002 – amazing from any angle
The secret of a successful holiday (with offspring)
Another visit to Bryony in Aix, this time with Rebecca. A different place to stay, a lovely old house on the hill above Aix, which meant driving to and from the property (so not too many evening sherbs in town). Wonderful to walk around the old town again, see the university and travel a little further afield. Sunday included a day trip to Monaco, (a monied place!), with coffee in front of the Casino – and this time not dressed to enter (memories of missing the last bus back to Nice years ago with work colleagues and walking the streets until morning).
Looking forward to a return visit in March – this time with Rebecca and Livi. By that trip I will have visited Bryony more times in Aix than I have visited her in Exeter – shame on me.
Market in Aix
A Cezanne sunset
Our lodgings in Aix
In response to Livi’s proclamation that last year’s stay at Charmouth (which coincided with the Sidmouth Folk Festival) was the ‘best holiday she had ever been on’, we thought we should repeat the exercise as we were rapidly running out of daughters interested in coming on holiday with us and thought we should make it vaguely appealing as a result. So back to Charmouth, back to Sidmouth (thanks Blowzabella and Mara) and back to the Bee Hive Café. Grey skies and cooler temperatures were not going to be an issue for this week. We were even joined by Bryony for a few days at the start.
Jamming at the Bedford Hotel, Sidmouth
With Charlotte at Sidmouth
All comers’ Morris dancing
Weather cheered up for Bee Hive Cafe
With all the kids in Spain, there was an unmissable opportunity to do something whilst they were away. That was a visit to Lewtrenchard Manor, our honeymoon hotel, and still in the hands of the original owners (after a brief, sad episode in the hands of Von Essen). Our visit coincided with a tour of the house and gardens, which filled in several missing details of an extensive history, much of it intertwined with Rev Sabine Baring Gould (of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ fame), whose ancestors owned the estate for many years and which he spent much time improving. A few days away at this place seemed like much longer, and a great opportunity to meet up with a fellow St Oswald…
Tour of the gardens with the Head Gardner
This lawn is better than ours…
Church next door has an opulent interior
Lewtrenchard – must be the Jopsons…
A short break to Zebrugge (to celebrate our wedding anniversary) gave us the opportunity to compare the QM2 with an earlier (and only) cruise on the QE2. Both were staffed by extremely professional and courteous staff, but the QM2 was more like a Las Vegas hotel compared to the understated elegance of the QE2. Sad to hear about the slow demise of the latter ship. The brief visit to Bruges was a welcome break, but not sure Winchester Market has much to worry about in the global Christmas market stakes!
Birthday October 2008 – Central Lobby
Wedding Anniversary 2014 – Grand Lobby
Singing in the Queen’s Room 2008
The largest ballroom at sea – 2014
QE2 Deck and funnel
Balcony staterooms 2014
New York October 2008
Early morning in Bruges December 2014
QE2 getting ready to sail
QM2 getting ready to sail
QM2 from the QE2 – final transatlantic trip
A first for us, taking two weeks holiday slightly apart. Having spent a splendid week in Dorset, I went back to work for two weeks, only to have another week’s holiday. Highly recommended – two bites of the cherry, two ‘end-of-term’ feelings, and the second week didn’t go nearly as fast as normal. Our second week was at the Cider Press on the excellent Cadhay Estate just outside Ottery St Mary. I hadn’t been there since Uni (and the infamous burning barrels on 5 November). We were fortunate that the main house was closed for the bank holiday, so spent a few evenings in the wonderful gardens as well as looking around the house. As we were by ourselves, a rather gourmet week, starting off in London at Le Gavroche with their amazing set lunch. Weather proved very sympathetic, providing warm dry weather when needed (such as in the middle of the River Exe for lunch).
The Cider Press
View from the Cider Press
Outside Le excellent Gavroche
Outside Le equally excellent Gidleigh Park
Onboard Le somewhat different River Exe Cafe
The imposing parish church at Ottery St Mary