Our time in ’Sept Fonts’ comes to an end …

And just like that it’s over and no lambs were delivered! And nothing died! ‘Sept Fonts’ is translated to ‘seven springs’, and there are two lakes fed by those springs! This one with the geese / ducks is lovely. The farmer next door decided to have a bonfire, hence the smoke coming through the trees! I was going to take another picture on a sunny day, but just keeping forgetting and then it kept raining, so this is all you are getting!

We did get the chance to visit a few more places – La Rochelle, Melle, Rockfort ……

Keep out … the mighty towers [in La Rochelle] protecting the city, with a bit of help from me!

The day we went to La Rochelle, it was sunny mostly and a bit chilly. I did brave sandals but ended up with a jacket and a scarf and cold feet! La Rochelle is a coast town with a colourful history. Louis XIII, who stayed in ‘our’ Priory, undertook the Seige of La Rochelle back in some century long ago [circa 1627], and during WWII it was a base for the German Naval Fleet. I think the recent Red Bull ‘divers’ who dive of that tower on the right [St Nicholas Tower] add a more positive note to history!! The other is la Chaine Tower [it housed the ‘chain’ to the port] and these two medieval ‘towers’ guard the entry to the port, and have done since 1345. It now is the entrance for a large marina and of course a lovely place to explore.

Colin is walking along the original part of the wall toward the first lighthouse tower built – it took 30 years [in the 15th century]. It is the oldest medieval lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast, and used to hold prisoners at different times over its life. There were some lovely old houses along these cobbled streets, but none had lovely balconies looking out to the sea ….

This is the entrance to the old city [the Clock Tower], it too is pretty impressive. Beyond are all the cafes, shops and patisseries. I loved the wonderful selection of meringues in this patisserie. We actually had French sticks with ham/salad and then just sat in the square, people watching. It is amazing how many people still smoke here in Europe! It just seems to be a huge part of the culture, young or old – they are all smoking. So very weird coming from a country where it is not the norm anymore!!

Melle was the next town on our travels. We did some of the pilgrim trail walk, passing by the three famous churches. One [Saint-Hilaire’s] is a UNESCO site and was rebuilt in the 12th century! It is still used to this day. Saint-Pierre’s was also built in the 12th century with Zodiac signs lining the entrance doorways. Saint-Savinien’s is the oldest church. From the early 1800’s [and for nearly a century] it was converted to a prison and you can find ‘graffiti’ etched on the door and walls from the prisoners. It has been restored but only for historical purposes – it is not used as a church anymore.

It would have been a cold place as a prison! It did however have perfect acoustics! Ah, eh, eee, oooo, oouuu 🎶 Not that I think the prisoners would have been singing!

I couldn’t read the French prisoners ‘graffiti’, and alas there was not English conversion for us [maybe it said ‘I was here!], or even another soul to ask – we were the only people in all of the buildings. The joys of travelling in the off-season.

How they built these buildings, with such architectural flare, is a wonder – they are incredible. I stood in all three of these churches and did the ‘doh-ray-me’ and the acoustics were just amazing … wished I had a singing voice, but alas Colin tells me I am tone deaf, but I thought my tone deaf sounded great [where is my friend Ulrike when I need her?] A choir would sound a-maz-ing!

Rochfort, another port town was next on our to-do list! It has this incredible building, the Corderie Royale – at 375m long, it was where they used to make ropes for the big old ships of a bygon era! We spent a couple of hours here learning about the history of rope making. The was a ‘corderie expert’ who as part of his display made fantastic ropes items that you could buy in the shop – think placemats, doormats, key-rings and a ton of other things. Such a fantastic building and incredible to think it was built on a bog! Only half is available for the corderie museum, the other half is used for functions.

Next to the corderie was one of the old ships, where you could see all the rope that was used. Just amazing. And next to that was a high ropes course that had been designed to be like an old ship, and was in a dry dock – some very clever thinking here!

We had a walk around town, but again we seemed to time our visit while the shops are all closed for the two hour lunch break – it has been quite strange getting used to this. So stopped for lunch in a lovely cafe on a square, had quiche and cake and watched the world go by. The only thing about these lunch breaks it that means that window shopping is all that is available to me!

So our time in France has come to an end. We have had an amazing time looking after ‘our’ farm, and the home owners were such lovely people! They took a chance on us to look after their amazing priory and all their animals. We have a few new skills to add to our dossier.

For now though we are at Bordeaux airport, all checked in for our flight to Athens [via Paris airport!]. We have two days to begin with [in Athens] and then are heading to one of the islands [Andros] for a few days. We will probably island hop a bit, before returning to Athens for a couple more days and then onto our next Mr and Mrs Smith ‘assignment’ which is in Veliko in Bulgaria.

I will be sure to keep you enlightened of our adventures 😊

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin”

Bonjour from rural France …

We are now relaxing in rural France at ‘Sept Fonts’, after a very busy time in Ireland! Well maybe not relaxing … 60 chickens, 5 sheep, 2 lambs, 8 ducks, 4 geese, 3 rabbits, 2 ginormous pigs [he is probably 300kg and she is probably 250kg – at least], 2 cats and 1 gorgeous dog are keeping us busy!! And also a couple of dozen geese /duck eggs in an incubator!! Which is not good when the power cuts out!!! One of our sheepees may have lambs over the next 10 days, although I think I would prefer them to do that when the Home Owners are back, although it would be very cool if we had brand new lambs! What an adventure 💖

I love pigs, but this girl isn’t the cute pink 🐷 I was thinking of 😂. They both love a scratch, but you wouldn’t get me in their pen, for all the money in the world!!

We applied for this sit a couple of months ago [it is in rural France] and we decided that we were up for the challenge and something different. The ‘home’ is an old Priory House which dates back to the 15th century. The current owners (from Ireland!) have decided to restore it and are currently 3 years into their project. It is going to be amazing [when it is finished], but in the meantime it is a labour of love!! I would love to visit here if we are ever back this way. Louis XIII stayed here in May 1621 during the seige of Saint-Jean Angely [Aulnay] – there is a plaque on the wall to commemorate his stay.

The walls of the ‘house’ are a couple of feet thick and are just amazing. It is the most beautiful limestone. There are several out buildings, but I think that they are past the point of restoration! In fact this beam blew down in the recent stormy weather we had!! It is so heavy, so it must of been some wind we had! I feel like I have been staying in my very ‘own’ castle …. if only I had servants 😂 🏰 💖

Our small village (Aulnay) has a supermarket and it sells wine [but not paracetamol?!?]. We sure don’t need to buy eggs though!! We are enjoying making our own meals again after our few weeks in Ireland – believe it or not, you get very disinterested in eating out night after night. It is only just up the road, so really very handy for us, which is great – less things to look at [because it’s small – although they do sell a variety of household decor things, gardening and a few clothes] It can be trying to decide what things are in French – I wanted tomato soup and got tomato purée – well it did have pictures of tomatoes it!

The landscape that surrounds us is really flat and grows wheat, barley and sunflowers. For as far as the eye can see, it is a kaleidoscope of greens and browns. Spring is in the air but the trees still look ‘lifeless’, bare of leaf with their ‘arms’ stretching out, as they stand silently waiting for their leaves to burst forth. The paddocks are freshly ploughed (dark brown), recently ploughed (light brown), freshly seeded and sprouting, giving them a lime green glow, new growth which is apple green or a few weeks growth giving it a deep sea green. The horizon is scattered with huge wind turbines in every direction – standing like sentinels watching us, as we go about our daily lives (maybe I could write a science fiction book!!). We saw a lot of these [turbines] in Ireland as well.

We had a trip to Saint-Jean d’Angley which is the closet, biggish town! It had very cute buildings and we enjoyed just ambling around here. Because it was Sunday, most shops were closed although we did find a wonderful patisserie 😊 Mr Johnny B, if you are reading this … Colin said you would go mad trying to make things ‘square’ here! Actually, you just wouldn’t be able to! That wood has been in those buildings for hundreds of years … it is a little bit twisted and a lot crooked. 🔨 🔨

The villages around our area of Charente-Martime are all very quaint. You can just imagine them with horse and carts passing up the cobbled lanes – although now a lot them have tarmac over the top! There are not a lot of footpaths to speak of, but it isn’t really very busy, so everyone in cars are pretty relaxed. The houses all look a bit sad at the moment, but I am sure they will be ‘picture perfect’ when the bougainvillea springs to life.

We have visited Cognac, which is home to Cognac!! There are so many distilleries here, most I have never even heard of. We went to Remy Martin and thought we would do a tour, but you don’t just turn up! You book and then you pay €30 each, which is nearly $50NZ each!! That is 10 bottles of wine!! I don’t even like Cognac, so we flagged booking a tour and just had a walk around the city. It is beautiful, has a lovely river and gorgeous park. I just love walking around and soaking up the people, the buildings and window shopping.

Le Jardins are open to the public at Hotel De Ville. They are very beautiful, the bulbs all coming up, the blossom trees all bursting forth. What a lovely park to be able to walk through.

I just love this ‘lady’ relaxing at the end of a waterway. I couldn’t work out who she was, as you were unable to read the plaque!! It has faded to the point of being useless and Google was no help either!

We have sat in a few squares and had coffee and cake, well actually I have had cake and shared a ‘corner’ with Colin. The patisseries are all just so unbelievably beautiful and neeeeeed to be eaten.

So that is us for now! We have visited a few more places, but I will catch you up on those next time!

“Travelling is an education itself”

May the sun shine upon your face …

But alas the rains have certainly fallen while we have been here!

From Derry we travelled to Balleymoney and stayed in an AirBnB with Dave who was a fantastic host, but best of all he had two spaniels – 1 x 7yr old [boss of the house], Oscar and 1 x 5 month old puppy Ruby …. love, love, love.

The next morning we headed to Donegal and travelled through Letterkenny and Ballybofey [just loving these names]. The Irish countryside reminds us so much of home, although it is much flatter with mostly only the rolling hills, taking us along the Wild Atlantic Way scenic drive. We stopped at a lovely BnB and headed into town for some dinner, a pint of Guinness and Irish music – how more Irish could that be 🎶 ☘️

After a lovely breakfast we drive around to Slieve League [which is a rival to Cliffs of Moher]. Wilder and less visited, we are glad we made the effort to head out to the west of Donegal to visit these towering cliffs. They are three times higher than Moher and drop dramatically into the Atlantic Ocean. It was pretty windy [and foggy] so we didn’t do the cliff top walk way, although did climb most of the way to the top.

Colin of course got as close the the edge as he could, with no worries at all about being blown over!!! There are sheep on parts of the cliffs and I can well believe that one or three are lost to the seas below!

We carried on towards Galway through Ballymagroaty, Ballyshannon, Sligo, Ballysadare and Tuan. Another AirBnB for the night (just ok!) and then into Galway in the next morning. It is a lovely city and we spent a couple of hours here walking around and seeing all the lovely sculptures, the canals and the gorgeous shopping village. Fortunately it didn’t rain but was still overcast, windy and a bit cold.

Wherever we go, whether it is in a big city or in a small town, there are always sculptures and art work to commemorate someone or something. This one was to Oscar Wilde.

After lunch we headed for the Cliffs of Moher. It was blowing a gale, had been rainy and the ‘Irish mist’ was hanging in the air, giving the cliffs a moody, melancholy feel. It was unbelievably busy [so glad we didn’t visit in the high season!]. The visitor centre that has recently [circa 2007] been built is incredible and has been built into the hills like a cave and plays host to nearly 1.5 million visitors each year. I asked how many people fall of [the cliffs] and they politely said that “every effort is made to keep people within the ‘walls’, but people make there own choices” – a politician in the making was that young man, that he was! I googled it and someone had only been blown over while taking a selfie a few weeks prior and approx 15 person die each year 😲. The famous ‘table’ is not accessible anymore … you wouldn’t have got me on it for love, nor money anyway – even with the luck of the Irish running in my veins!!

From the cliffs we headed on down to Kilrush for the night where we had booked a glamping pod in Kilrush marina. What an awesome experience! It was pretty wild weather and the marina was pretty choppy, so our wee abode had a slight ‘rock-n-roll’ to it … but we woke up to a nearly perfect morning, the sun was even out and no rain to be seen 😊

Rough when we arrived … calm when we awoke 🌞

Back on our road trip of the Wild Atlantic Way we headed of to catch the ferry to Dingle. While waiting for the ferry, we met a couple who had been in Christchurch as part of the earthquake rebuild. Both Irish, met in Christchurch and returned home together. It was lovely to chat with them, they were fascinated with our travels and invited us to their wedding later in the year!! They are back in New Zealand early next year, so may even visit us at home.

Once of the ferry, it was back on our scenic drive to Dingle. We took the Connor pass which is the highest mountain pass in Ireland. The roads are winding and narrow, the views spectacular even in the mist. We did stop a couple of times for photo ops, but it was so windy and cold that we just carried on for lunch in Dingle, which is such a gorgeous village.

When they say Wild Atlantic Way, it couldn’t be a truer statement. Some parts of the coast are so remote, but all along are outcrops of houses where farmers toil away at the barren and desolate coastline. It does however have a romantic feel here, and the sun rises and sun sets are meant to be incredible [just some sun, would have been good!].

Mile after mile we are seeing ruins – stone buildings that hold long forgotten memories of a time gone by. And if its not houses / barns, then it is churches crumbling, with the graves silently standing guard around them. It is hard to imagine people living in these stone houses, so tiny with little windows and the weather just so unforgiving!

From Dingle we headed [via Inch, which is a lovely peninsular] to Castlemaine for the night in an AirBnB. It took us ages to find it as google maps doesn’t seem to link right through the App! Actually we have had this problem at nearly every single place in Ireland!!! Our hosts took a while to warm up, but really they had no choice with us two 😂. They were a little bit shy, and then we blew in! By the time we left, they probably needed a rest! It was clean and comfortable and nice breakfast, so we were all set up for our drive to Cork. Not sure those hosts are cutout for having people in their home … we probably put them off for life 😂

We had intended to do the Ring of Kerry but we were fogged in! In some places we couldn’t see more than 50m. So to Cork we headed via Ballyvourney, Macroom and Blarney. Of course we stopped in at Blarney, to kiss the stone! I couldn’t do it!! Jesus begorrah, it is madness! Colin did and has now been gifted with eloquence!!

The grounds, castle and Chateau are all gorgeous. The descendants still live in the Chateau. Imagine having that sort of history 😮 All the spring bulbs have popped up and the trees are all budded up ready to burst. Spring is in the air.

Jameson Whisky was on our destination, after visiting Cork, but it was €22 each for the tour… we decided that having already done a whisky tour in the north we wouldn’t bother with this one! It was a beautiful building and lovely grounds. We hadn’t made an accommodation booking as we weren’t sure what was happening, but after a search on AirBnB we found a lovely place, who were happy to take our late booking. Again we had trouble finding it, but our hosts were great with their communication so all was well. Didn’t meet them until the morning [as they were out] but they were very easy to get along with and of course we invited them to NZ!

Next stop Waterford … had a walk around the town and a look at the shop – there is nowhere to see it being made! Some very impressive pieces, but not in our budget!

Waterford is a lovely town, full of Viking history. It is the oldest city in Ireland and has had many battles over the years [the Vikings, the Irish, the Normans …]. It has a lovely feel to the place and we had a wander around before heading to Kilkenny.

We did the tour here, which Colin had on his to-do list. Didn’t really get to see the place in operation but it was still interesting. Kilkenny is the name for the international brand, here is Ireland it is known as Smithwick’s. I don’t really like it, so was happy to have the lager.

Next stop was a wonderful AirBnB in Kilkenny. Our host Hazel was just amazing and we really enjoyed out time at her place. She couldn’t do enough to make sure our stay was perfect and we got to meet her two gorgeous dogs, which always gladdens my heart.

So Dublin was calling! We had a flight to catch to Bordeaux, so we booked ourselves two nights in Dublin. It was a flying stopover here, but we visited Guinness [had to really], did the hop on /off bus tour, Colin went to a museum while I wandered around the park and the shops! We also visited the famous Temple Bar, had this amazing harp bridge outside our window and walked over the Ha’ Penny Bridge along with 30,000 other people! Back in the day it used to be 400 people a day who would pay ha’penny to cross … they should still charge a small amount!

Just loved this incredible street art made from recycling!

So that is Ireland done and dusted. It has been amazing being here, we needed more time and I hope we will be back.

Until we meet again … 💖

“If you are lucky enough to be Irish … then you are lucky enough” ☘️

And may the wind always be at your back …

Especially at the Cliffs of Moher! [but more on that later]

Ireland has been on my ‘bucket list’ for such a very long time, and although I had planned to be here for St Patrick’s day, it didn’t quite work out like that with our other adventures! So although it has been a bit cold, a bit wet, a bit grey, a lot windy and a bit miserable for most of our days, we have been having an amazing time.

When we arrived in Dublin we hired a car and headed to Northern Ireland. I was on a pilgrimage to explore the footsteps of my Dad (he used to work on a farm … that he did!). Michael Doherty [Dads second cousin] was going to be in Castlederg (he and Dad were born there) while we were here, so we made our plans around meeting him [as he is the ‘oracle’ on everything Doherty]. I feel blessed with the luck of the Irish to have been able to meet him here in Ireland.

We stayed in the Mourne Mountains for a couple of nights [before heading to Castlederg] and did the scenic drive up, down and around them. The landscape is gorgeous – lush, verdant rolling hills which have amazing stone/rock fences or neatly trimmed hedge rows. Every vista was hanging with mist adding a magical feel, and as the rainbows appeared you would look for that wee leprechaun on his pot of gold or the fairies dancing on the sunlight. 🧚‍♂️

The roads are narrow and bordered by rock walls or hedge rows or even village homes which are precariously close to the road. There are church’s around every corner, and if you haven’t seen a church for a while, you will see castle ruins. And ‘littered’ across the country are small stone homes from an age gone by. Often the new house is built right next to the old one. When we were in Alberta there were hundreds of timber barns and homes and here in Ireland it is small stone houses or barns. I just love them and took untold photos.

On our ‘Mourne’ drive we ended up in Newcastle for lunch and had a walk along the waterfront. We had a ‘sunny moment’ before a storm blew in. And when I say blew in, I mean really blew in … check out the tree!!! We had passed through Rostrevor, Kilkeel, Ballymartin (lots of towns starting with ‘Kil’ and ‘Bally’) and were staying in a very comfortable AirBnB in Hilltown. The rolling hills, scattered with ‘Irish’ sheep and the first signs of spring were all around us, but alas the sun was playing hide-and-seek!

From the Mourne Mountains we traveled across to Carrigan which is in the Republic. We stayed here two nights so that we could visit Castlederg and meet Michael. He very kindly spent a few hours taking us around the place to various places that had a connection to my family history. First port of call was St Patricks Cathedral where my Great-Grandparents grave is and also where Dad was baptised. From there we visited another few cemeteries and churches, had a tour in and around the greater area and drove past a house that Michael lived in when he was young. It is a ruin now, but it was fascinating to hear his stories. After lunch we had a look at the ‘new’ arrivals on the family tree and discussed how amazing it is that we [the NZ Doherty’s] would be missing of this tree is Dad hadn’t done Ancestory DNA – the results have been astonishing. I just feel that having been here in Ireland has given me such a connection and am so grateful to Michael for sharing his ‘findings’ with me. I know you are reading this Michael, so from me to you thank you

We drove on the next day back across to Carrickfergus to our next ‘pilgrimage’. I was determined to find Dad’s mate Ned, who he was in Australia and NZ with and Iris from the farm – I found both 💖 We called in to see Iris first but she was out, so we carried on up Islandmagee to find Ned. Now the address I had was Ned, Mulloughboy! I was expecting to find 6 houses and him in one of them!! It is a bit bigger than when Dad was last there (couple hundred houses!) so we asked the first bloke we came across and ‘oh begorrah’it was Ned. Can you believe that! Anyway Ned could hardly believe it, apologised he hadn’t shaved [he said he wasn’t expecting visitors 😆] and then we made plans to go out for dinner the following day, as he had a family function that evening. He sure would have had something to talk about!!

After leaving Ned we called back in past the farm to find Iris, but she was still out but we did find her son who called her and we made plans to visit the next day. It was just wonderful to meet both Ned and Iris, who very kindly shared the fond memories of Dad when he lived in Islandmagee. When we took Ned out for dinner we were able to call Dad on ‘facetime’ so he could have a quick chat with Ned. All in all visiting Islandmagee and Castlederg has been “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” [it’s a real word!]

We managed to get a day in Belfast and did a Black Cab Taxi tour. It was only an hour but it was great and covered the history of the troubles and the Wall, and how Belfast is becoming a dynamic city for the future. There is still some of this wall standing but now it is called the Peace Wall. We also visited the Titantic exhibition but that was a bit underwhelming!

From Islandmagee we headed North [anti clockwise] up through Larne, Ballygalley, the Glens, Cushendall, Cushenden, Torr, Ballycastle to Carrick-a-Rede where we walked the planks! It was wet, windy and wild and a swing bridge. OMG, I am really pushing the limits but, I got out there and did it! Actually, by the time you are in a queue and people are behind you … you just have to do it!!!!!!!

From there we headed up and around to the Giant’s Causeway where it is everything you have ever heard about … just a wonder of the world. So cool to finally be able to take my own footsteps. Our drive in around the north has been lovely, there are sheepees and lambs everywhere, daffodils by the thousands – it’s a thing where everyone plants them and they are like yellow glitter on the landscape.

We stopped in at the Mussenden Temple on our way to Derry. It has a fascinating history built in 1785 as a summer library for the lady of the estate. It is perched 120ft above the sea below. The estate itself has beautiful grounds and the temple has survived longer than the home! We were fortunate enough to have a break in the weather here, but it wasn’t long before another rain shower came at us from across seas, so we headed for Derry.

Derry is a lovely town which was ‘walled’ in the 17th Century. We did our own walking tour here and just strolled around enjoying it while it wasn’t raining. It is really lovely, has wonderful buildings and street art and of course a church or three!

I have so much more to share, but that’s it for this instalment from Ireland 🇮🇪 ☘️ 😊

“May your troubles be less … and your blessings be more … and nothing but happiness come through your door”

Our last week in the UK! (all fixed!)

Goodness time flies when you’re having fun – it is amazing to think we have almost been here a month!

We have had a few more outings, so let me give you a quick catch-up:

We visited the Stockport Hat Museum [as we had seen it from the train on our trips up to Manchester]. What a wonderful museum, giving a fascinating insight to the hatting industry. We spent hours here learning about the felting process, the hatting process and here about how the saying ‘Mad as Hatter’ came from the hatting industry as they used mercury in the felting process, which gave the workers mercury poisoning. Apparently the saying “pop goes the weasel’ comes from the hatting industry too. One of the tools is called a weasel, and when work was low they would ‘pop the weasel’ into a pawn shop so they could by ‘half a pound of tuppenny rice’ ….

Quarry Mill is a gorgeous property that is about 3.5km from where we are staying. It is an old cotton mill on the River Bollin, built in circa 1780’s. It has working machines from way back when, apprentice houses (for the children who started when they were aged 9!!), the Quarry Bank House and also Styal Village on the border where the adult workers lived. Such a beautiful place, but oh my, the horrors from that industrial revolution make our working lives today seem a bit easy!! When we visited on the Saturday they had some of the machines going and it was unbelievably loud. So not only were they deaf [from the noise of those machines], they also got ‘cotton lung’ [from inhaling the fluff]. We walked here twice as it is such a big property to explore. It is a lovely walk along the river and through the meadows.

Colin has family who live in Preston [his mum’s side], so we took ourselves on a journey up to visit them. We had to plan it for a Sunday as they were having strike action on the rail network on the Saturday. On the Sunday the services are a quite reduced, so what would be an hours drive took just over 2 hours on the train!! We were really only able to have lunch with everyone [Pamela (cousin) and David, Martin and Elaine, and their daughter Adelaide and Kyle and his fiancé Sally] before we had to take the train back, which took best part of 2.5 hours. We have made a commitment to care and fully look after this cat, so although she probably would have been okay, I just couldn’t leave her any longer. Pamela and David [who visited us in NZ 14 years ago with Martin and Kyle] very graciously came down to Wilmslow a couple of days later where we had a lovely long catch-up, and out for a pub meal, which was really lovely.

We visited the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, which is a bit like MOTAT in Auckland. Colin like it better than I do! Anyway, we had a visit here and all in all it wasn’t too bad! They had some working displays of the cotton weaving machines and some of the old generators, which complimented all the other industrial revolution things we had seen.

I read a wonderful book about a dog called Treo and his handler Dave and their deployment to Afghanistan as part of the bomb detection unit. It was funny, sad [I cried!] and gave me a completely different understanding of what happens for those soldiers when they are on an overseas deployment to a war-torn country. Anyway I discovered that Dave lived in Congleton when they returned and that Treo has a monument for his war effort there. It is not far from us, so we caught a train and a bus and went to this gorgeous village to visit. We found the memorial reasonably easily and I had a picture with the famous Treo.

So Louise and Tim have had us out a few night this week, as it sadly has to come to and end! So we went to the movies on Monday [to see Bohemian Rhapsody] and then out for dinner. Then we went to The Oak Wood for drinks on Thursday, out for Thai meal with the family on Friday and for a pub lunch on the Saturday [with Louise’s parents].

Louise also took us to All Saints Church in Daresbury to visit the Lewis Carroll memorial window, which depicts Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll as part of the window. It [the window] was commissioned to mark 100 years since the birth of Lewis Carroll – this name was only ever his pen name, his given name was Charles Lutwidge Dogdson. The church has built an annex with all things Lewis Carroll. A really interesting place to visit and easily missed if you are not in the know.

On Saturday after lunch we headed to Halifax where we visited Piece Hall and the markets. I had been here with Louise 30 years ago so it was wonderful to visit again. We had tea and cake [shared] before returning to Wilmslow via the Halifax Gibbet. The ‘Gibbet’ was installed in the late 1600’s and is a early type of guillotine. There is a plaque with names of the 52 known people to be beheaded!! A fairly brutal way for life to end when you are a petty criminal.

So as our week came to an end we had one more catch-up. This time is was Colin’s Cousin Keith and wife Eileen [his Dad’s side]. They were flying out of Manchester airport on holiday, so came down from Cumbria a day early to see us. We hadn’t seen them since they were in NZ 8 years ago, so it was great to see them again. After a having a coffee we headed up to Wilmslow and had a lovely meal with them. We had only just sat down and I knocked my half pint of lager over Colin!! Amazing how wet you can get from a half pint!! Keith very kindly took him over for a change of clothes!! [What a way to make an impression!]

So that brings our time in the UK to end for now. We have had an amazing time over the last month. Looking after Benson has been great, such a fun kitty-cat. Of course seeing Louise and Tim (and family) after 30 years was an absolute highlight and our time with them has been fantastic. We saw Colin’s cousins as well and have seen and done so many wonderful things AND had so many pub meals that we are on soup for the next two weeks.

So as I finish this we head to Ireland – a visit here was at the top of my ‘to-do’ list, as I want to explore places that are part of my Dad’s history. We have of course had the opportunity to meet Michael (Dad’s second cousin) and all going well, we will see him again in Castlederg, where he and Dad were both born.

So, we’ll see you in Ireland x

“The only impossible journey … is the one you never begin”

Ps: just a quick comment on the rubbish – to be fair to everywhere else I have commented on it!! The rubbish on the train lines, around train stations, along motorway junctions is an absolute disgrace … I just cannot get my head around why?!? It will be interesting to see if I noticed it at home?!?

When it snowed it was very pretty … but awfully cold!

Our local car dealer is Aston Martin! And there is a Porsche shop, as well as a Bentley place…so you can imagine what the frock shops are like!! No shopping for me here!

Wilmslow is a fairly posh neighbourhood (we didn’t know that when we applied – it was just close to Louise and Tim!). We have been able to catch the train or the bus to explore locally and also to head up to Manchester, although we were snowed in one day, and it has been so cold that it has taken days for the snow to melt, making walking a bit treacherous ⛄

We spent the first day here with a walk up to the local supermarket to get our supplies and a bit of noesy around. I also went for a walk along the river that runs close to where we are staying. I met lots of dog owners and almost wished that we had a dog on this ‘assignment’ until I saw how muddy they all were! Nope, Benson the cat is fine for the cold and the wet, and she is such a fun kitty-cat. She just loves cuddles and playing … especially as I sit down to catch up on my blog!! Seems the iPad is a magnet 😁

On the Saturday Colin and I went and helped with the Care UK charity container pack. It was great to be able to help with this and sort more donated items for the next one [container]. We met lots of lovely people and someone who had recently been to New Zealand. It is always great when people have had such a lovely time in our home country. Afterwards we headed out for a pub lunch and then spent a lovely afternoon with Louise and Tim – they are not sick of us yet 😊

Colin thought it might be a great idea to get a car here in the UK, then we could take it to Ireland and Europe. We found a car online and headed into Manchester for a look. The one [car] that was on the ‘www’ had been sold, but he saw another car buried in the back corner under a pile of leaves, with flat tyres, flat battery, covered in moss and mould, BUT it was a Toyota! After chatting to the man, getting it started [it sounded good have been sat for 7 months] he said “yip, I’ll have it”. It was agreed that we would pick it up the following week once they have got it two new tyres and a MOT check and done a valet!!

We then started on the insurance process!! OMG – it is almost impossible. After many online enquiries, visits to two brokers [online enquiries won’t accept NZ Licence numbers, or no fixed abode, or no phone]. Finally after a day out in Knutsford we found another broker who was able to secure us insurance …. just need the car now! So we hadn’t heard from the car people as promised – so Colin is now chasing them, but they finally fess up that the mighty Toyota Motor has too much chassis rust! So back to not having a car! Anyway, after all that we have decided to hire a car in Ireland (next destination) and see how we get on without it when we get to Europe! All in all it was the most frustrating experience … and to boot the insurance was going to be NZ$1600 for a NZ$1000 car!!

On another day out in Manchester we visited the John Rylands Library [is sometimes confused as a church as the building is in a similar style] which is now part of the University of Manchester. It was opened in circa 1900, and is a beautiful building with the most incredible neo-Gothic architecture and a expansive book collection, some dating back centuries ago. It also has these most beautiful stained glass windows and decorative ornaments and statues.

After visiting the library, we just wandered around the city, checking out the canals and all the amazing street art and fitted in a visit to the mighty Cathedral.

We have also visited Knutsford which is a gorgeous village a short (45 minutes) bus ride from us. Knutsford, like Wilmslow is premium property with plenty of footballers and actors. We visited the heritage centre and saw the incredible tapestry, walked through Tatton Park (unfortunately the house wasn’t open), had lunch in a grand pub before catching our bus ‘home’. Actually we visited a insurance broker first, who very kindly sorted our insurance … and you know the rest!!!

Part of the Knutsford Tapestry…a really interesting ‘snapshot’ of the town for the new millennium. Every child who was at school in 1997-1999 put at least one stitch in it. It is 40 ft long and has lots of interesting stories ‘woven’ into it.

King Canut pebble mural.

We also went out with our lovely friends Louise and Tim for a beer at a local [The Oak Tree, in Alderley Edge]. I am loving having friends close by (well 30 min drive for them!), and being able to pop out to the local. Those of you who know us, will know that we are reasonably social😍

So that’s us for now. Benson the cat has been great, such a fun cat who always just wants to play, is always nicking my pens, or trying to nick my necklace!! She is one of the reasons that I have gotten so behind with my musings!! When I am writing or planning, she is there ‘helping’!! And she is the reason we are here, so love and cuddles first 😻

Cheshire / Greater Manchester has been great, and we have a few more things to see and do before we move on.

This memorial is outside Manchester Piccadilly station – it is a tribute to all the soldiers who returned home from the war blind 😢

So until next time, take care.

“Life is short … do stuff that matters”

A wonderful reunion … and lots of sightseeing!

It was so incredible to walk out of Manchester airport [after flying from Malta] to see my gorgeous friend Louise [and her husband Tim] after 30 years. We have had the pleasure of staying with them for 9 days and have had the most sublime time. It was just wonderful to finally meet Emma and William [their children], and just so lovely to see her parents again.

Such a fabulous thing to be ‘on holiday’ with them [Louise and Tim] and have our lives organised in the most enjoyable way. Of course the first thing we had to do was have a pint at the local (Ring O Bells, Warrington) and this led us to have several pints, in several pubs over several days!

Day two – saw us heading to Yorkshire to see Louise’s parents, and of course for a pub lunch (Hollins Mill, Sowerby Bridge). I used to visit Louise in Halifax when we were here in 1986-1988. Colin and I were lucky enough to have a holiday on Louise’s parents canal boat, so we visited their new boat and remembered the wonderful holiday we had with them [it was only two nights, but it is a memory that we always talk about – if anyone will listen 😂]. We were so excited to hear that Louise’s parents are coming to New Zealand later this year – our first booking!!

On Wednesday evening I went with Louise to volunteer at CareUK which is a charity that distributes donated items, to refugees in Syria and Greece and any local people who require support. The amount of items donated is staggering, but it creates a huge job for the volunteers to sort it. I was pleased to be able to do a couple of hours to help out.

Day three – up and at it early as we were heading to Carlisle for the day. The train trip from Settle to Carlisle is a reasonably famous trip, so after dropping Will at school we beat a hasty retreat up the A-something and an M-something [motorways]. When Tim put the details into the SATNAV it said we had plenty of time to catch the 10.22 train! But after getting caught in a snarl up on the M-road it took our arrival time out to 10.26am! After breaking away from the hold up and the madness of the Manchester traffic we made great time heading north. As we took our last exit from the motorway system we had 6 minutes to spare at arrival, BUT we [well Tim] inadvertently found ourselves back on the motorway again. After a bit of a diversion we were back on track but on all these gorgeous country lanes. We did a bit of rallying [at one point flying I think!] making up time, then getting stuck behind a hay truck before finally arriving at the Settle Station with about 3 minutes to spare 😮

The train trip up to Carlisle is about 1.5 hours through the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines. The scenery is stunning and this trip, complete with tunnels and the famous Ribblehead viaduct was just so beautiful. Of course the awesome company and refreshments on the way made it a wonderfully relaxing trip [especially after the madness of catching the train!].

After a walk in and around Carlisle we of course stopped for a pub lunch (The Apple Tree, Carlisle). We did a bit of shopping before heading back to the train, for the trip back to Settle. Well we had not long got underway when there was a delay on the track. Our 1.5 hour trip ended up being 3.5 hours!! Of course every time the train stopped, it was in places where we couldn’t see anything and by the time we finally got back it was dark!! A little bit frustrating but the complimentary wine was a nice touch and of course it gave us more time to catch up. It was a wonderful day out.

Day four – had a lazy start to the day and then went for a walk in and around where Louise and Tim live. It was cold and it did try snowing but we braved it and really enjoyed exploring their neighbourhood. Pork Pies and mushy peas for lunch followed by a relaxing afternoon and endless cups of tea.

Then it was ‘glad-rags’ on and out to the Village Hall, Appleton Thorn for a sneaky pint before a wonderful dinner at La Boheme. This was their treat, for our 30th wedding anniversary. It was such a special dinner with exquisite food and just wonderful to be sharing a celebration with them.

Day five – saw us head to Bradford to the Science and Media Museum which was great. It has displays from all sorts of media, including film and TV as well as its own movie theatre and the wonder lab science exhibits. I really loved all the old photography / equipment here. There was a fascinating ‘installation’ of the terms and conditions for our media devices in the “Never Alone” which showed you how we are connected all the time. The terms and conditions for FITBIT, Facebook, Insta and Snapchat take hours to read so they just give you the option to select “I Agree” but you basically sign your life away!! A very thought provoking concept, to see it printed out onto scrolls and hung on the walls with some reaching the floor! I couldn’t get a good shot of it, so I burgled one from online (nothing is safe!!)

Believe it or not, from here we headed to the New Beehive for a pint before the ‘boys’ went of to watch Bradford play [they lost 4-0] and the ‘girls’ went shopping for essential items for the charity. A quiet night in and a movie was the perfect way to end the day.

Day six – exhausted! I forgot to mention that I arrived with the beginnings of a head cold! I stayed in bed until at least 11am (missing church!!) but managed to get myself together to travel with Tim, Will and Colin, to meet Louise and Emma at the pub (Egerton Arms, in Little Budworth [circa 1797 – it has been an ale house for most of this time apart from a couple of stints, the most recent in 2008] – top photo) for a delicious Sunday lunch. This is the quintessential English Pub with a lovely atmosphere and great beer 🍻

Day seven – Today we headed of to Chester – what an absolutely beautiful city. We walked around the fortified walls which were built in the 1st century by the Romans, stopped for a beer (at the Bear and Billet – the building is circa 1664) and then lunch at the Albion (which had wonderful posters and memorabilia from WWI). With a fascinating medieval feel to the place and all the gorgeous Tudor buildings, together with the River Dee and the absolutely gorgeous Cathedral, Chester was an absolute delight.

After a wonderful day in Chester, we visited friends of Louise and Tim’s for a drink in The Plum Shed [circa 2018]. Mark very kindly welcomed us into his garden bar. What a fabulous ‘garden pub’ it is. Colin was uber envious and I feel a garden bar may be on the cards when we get home. If I could Trip Advisor it I would say … a gorgeous modern bar, with an exceptional host and wonderful decor. A wonderful place to gather with friends and enjoy a tipple or two! 🍻

Day eight – we headed to Liverpool on a cold and grey day and visited the Albert Docks which is a fabulous place. With the river Mersey and the canals connecting here it is a busy ara which I am sure in the warmer months is bustling and vibrant. The Royal Liver Building is pretty impressive (when it was built in 1911, it used to be the tallest building in Europe) with its huge (18ft) copper Liver Birds [called Bella and Bertie] atop watching over the city and the sea.

Of course, the famous four were from here!

The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral was next on our ‘to-do’ list. Built in 1967, it is known locally as the ‘Wigwam’. It was originally designed in a ‘traditional’ design, but after WWII there was not enough money to finish. They finished the crypt in 1941, which is underneath, and then finished the building in this modern design. It is the largest church in the UK and seats 2,300 people.

Day nine – saw us packing up and getting ready to head to Wilmslow to look after ‘Benson’ the cat. Louise [now with my cold – friends share] and Tim are back to work. We weren’t expected [in Wilmslow] until later in the afternoon, so we took ourselves for another walk. It had been snowing, was pretty cold and grey but we ‘rugged-up’ and arrived home quite a while later to have a later lunch, before Tim very kindly took us to our next ‘Mr & Mrs Smith assignment’.

So Benson the cat is a super friendly, sassy kitty-cat and we are in a lovely apartment, not to far from the train station and shops. We are here until the 12th of February, so will be exploring the greater Manchester areas.

So that is the news, not quite up-to-date but as good as it gets for now!!

“Wherever you go … it becomes part of you somehow”