Tintern Abbey

Wednesday 8th November

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What a beautiful  day to visit this stunning ruin.

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The sunshine made it easy for me to capture some lovely pictures.

Who would have thought that all those years ago this was the birth place of Tinternet!

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We had a very pleasant walk around the outskirts of the Abbey.  It’s great to be able to visit these places on a bright Wednesday in November when everyone else is at work, because its so quiet!

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The leafy footpaths around the Abbey are at the height of their autumnal colours. It is a real feast for the eyes!

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On the odd occasion that I take hold of the lead, Pixie is still trying to get close to Jane…….well, she does have the all treats in her pocket!

Thursday 9th November

Caerphilly Castle

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It was a lot colder today for our exploration of Caerphilly Castle.

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I was wondering if anyone famous had been born in this town when “just like that” we saw this statue of lovely Tommy Cooper.  He gave us all many laughs through the 60s and 70s.  He was a great hero of my childhood and I have many happy memories of watching him on our little black and white T.V!

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The statue was unveiled by another famous welshman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who was apparently totally amazed by the huge turnout for the ceremony.

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Caerphilly had made a real effort with their Remembrance day poppy displays.

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It was all so poignant on a bleak freezing cold day to see the all the red poppies around town.

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Pixie had to tread “caerphilly” around the dragons (Jane and the Welsh ones!), we didn’t want to wake them up !

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House-sitting in Chepstow

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November 4th

For the first couple of weeks in November we are house-sitting for Sharon in Chepstow. She and her mum are off to New York on the Queen Mary 2, and while they are away we get to look after Pixie, her cocker spaniel. So we have got plenty of excuses to go for long walks and explore this part of Wales.  This is the view from Symonds Yat Rock, a beauty spot in the Wye Valley.  We took a lovey drive following the many bends in the river, and the autumnal colours were stunning!

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We can see Chepstow castle from the lounge, kitchen and bathroom windows. Very popular with schools, so it seems! Also it’s not too far to take Pixie for her night time stroll!

The week before we came to Wales we took our nieces 10-pin bowling – you can see from the photos that the girls gave it their all! I only just managed to win…….. I know I’m a little older than they are………..but they had the bumpers up!!!

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My nieces, from left to right, Esme, Zena and Eleanor.

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Not sure where they got their good looks from, certainly not from my side of the family!

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It has been great being around Romsey again. We got to visit the town hall to hear Zena sing as part of the Romsey Children’s Youth Choir.

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Dad and I played a few holes with Elliot who is a teaching professional at Royal Winchester. It was a warm, bright  afternoon, ideal  to pick up a few tips.

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Anyhow, I digress, back in Wales………

Jane really wants to get a dog but I’m not so sure, so this is a good test for both of us. I don’t mind the dog walking……..

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……..but I’m not so sure about all the messy bits!

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Whilst we are staying here in Chepstow, I have been getting up early to drive to the David Lloyd club in Bristol. It’s just like the old days, scraping the ice off the windscreen at 6 in the morning! One thing about driving to Bristol for the health club is that I have to cross the Severn Bridge twice every day. Most of you already know I have always had a fear and feel very uncomfortable about driving  over large suspension bridges. Up until now I have only had the odd occasion to have to cross these bridges. But with all my travels this year these bridges appear more and more  frequently. So this next two weeks should really help me put this strange fear to bed !

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During a quick visit to Monmouth, I enjoyed the architecture, especially the tower on the bridge, and Jane enjoyed the shops, especially Joules!

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Matlock Bath

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Saturday 21st October

As the rain lashed down on the caravan, Jane began to regret her decision to pre-book the tickets to the Matlock Bath Illuminations. The tickets were booked on Tuesday morning when the sun was shining, what could possibly go wrong planning that far ahead?

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“Oh well” we all said, ” lets go anyway”. We decided that a pub meal and a drink would fortify us against such a foul evening.

 

But as luck would have it, as we stepped out of the pub at 8 o’clock the rain stopped and we were able to make our way to enjoy the evening’s event in the dry.

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A lot of effort had been made by an awful lot of people, to make the illuminated craft that cruised up and down the river. The children loved the magical effect of the lights reflected on the river, and I thought it was pretty good as well!

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It was hard to believe that most of these creations were based on small rowing boats, and you could sometimes just glimpse of a pair of arms rowing furiously! After the boat parade there followed a spectacular firework display. The pyrotechnics were greeted by lots of oohs, and aahs from the crowd, the loudest cheers coming from Kev and Val who throughly enjoyed their evening!

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Sunday 22nd October

Another rainy start to the day, so there was nothing else we could do but to sit in the caravan and read the papers.  There is something very cosy about rain hammering down on the roof of the caravan, and being sat inside with a coffee, pork pie and the papers!

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The rain relented about 2pm, so our local guide (Kev) took us on a trip to Kedleston Hall, home of the Curzon family .

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I remarked about the lovely view to one of the National Trust guides, and she mentioned that the Curzon family had a village of hovels moved that stood in the way of the outstanding vista!  No problems with planning permission in those day then!

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Although the rain had stopped, it was still a tad chilly, just as well we had all wrapped up warm then!  Inside the hall we found a treasure trove of ornaments, many of which came from India, where George Curzon , 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, was Viceroy of India from 1899-1905.

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The view uninterrupted by the hovels, but they did leave the golf course there!

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Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head !

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Thursday 19th October

One of the best things you can  do on  a rainy day when you are caravanning in the UK is to visit a National Trust property.  So as the rain poured down we headed off for Sudbury Hall.

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Also on site they have the Museum of Childhood. We all had much fun remembering all the toys we played with as kids, Jane was excited to see a hoop and stick just like the one she had as a child, Kev was more excited with all the puddles outside and was sorry he didn’t have his wellies on so he could go for a splash around but Val wouldn’t let him!

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Friday 20th October

I have been getting up early every morning and driving to the David Lloyd club in Derby. The first few mornings were a pleasure, as although at 6am it was a bit chilly,  the skies were clear and full of stars. However the last couple of mornings have been very foggy and have added another 10 minutes to the long 40 minutes drive. Still its a very good way to get going in the morning and to start the day. (I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon after having not made it to the gym this morning and this blog is the sum  total of my achievements so far today!)  Friday, late morning we set off in the rain to explore Buxton. Buxton seems like a lovely place, but we really didn’t get much time to look around as the rain was so heavy that we were just running from one piece of cover to the next! We will have to come back and look around in the dry!   We sat and ate our sandwiches in the car like a couple of old farts, just like everyone else in the car park. At least we had a good view!

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The rain did stop long enough for a little walk around the village of Ashford in the Water, a very appropriate name !

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It was great to stretch our legs and get some fresh air……

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But the break in the rain was short lived, so the only thing to do was head to the Chatsworth Estate farm shop and get some more pork pies to quality control, and maybe some cake, its just as well I was down the gym in the morning !

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Well, I lasted until the 20th with the sober October challenge, then Kev made we have a glass of wine. We had a bottle of Jongieux, which we had bought in the summer on our trip to France, it was lovely and it didn’t last long ! Oh well we will have to go back next year and buy some more.  I’m not sure if  it was the wine I had drunk or Kev’s pure brilliance at Upwards but I lost again!!!

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The Peaks

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Wednesday 18th October

Its great having your own tour guide with you. Whenever we go away with Kev and Val we can be assured that Kev has done plenty of research of the local area. Today’s outing took us to Dovedale and a walk along this beautiful valley.

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The little bit of moisture in the air made the stepping stones quite exciting.

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There was a good track alongside the river which made for safe going under foot.

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We met up with Olivia and Alice and their Dad along the trail. They were a lot more hardy than us, as they were camping in a tent alongside the river. We were finding it a little chilly in our caravan with the central heating on! The girls took pity on Kev and I and gave us each a chocolate bar, as we looked like we were running out of energy.  Many thanks girls !

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After three and a half miles we reached the halfway point, Milldale

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Time for a sit down, and our lunch. We attracted a few friends hoping for a few crumbs.(just in case you think I have taken a bad photo, I couldn’t get consent to post the heads in this snap!)

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The autumnal colours added to the atmosphere

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The walk was fairly quiet with most people just walking from the car park to the stepping stones. They missed a trick, as we all throughly enjoyed the peace and tranquility of this hike!

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A little rain on the return journey added to the power of the fast flowing waters.

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Time for me to get in touch with my inner caveman, now where’s my club?

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Back on the Road Again

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Before we got back on the road again we had to catch up with things at dad’s.  One thing I had been meaning to do for ages was to catch up with my old school buddy Tony Prince. We had got back together on Facebook  a year or so ago, but hadn’t met up for 40 years since we left school. We had a great time taking a long stroll down memory lane!

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Whilst I was out gallivanting Jane was back a dad’s giving Sally a knitting lesson. I’m looking forward to seeing Paul’s face on Christmas day !

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We are making the most of our National Trust membership this year. Mottisfont Abbey  is not far away from Braishfield and a lovely place to visit on a sunny afternoon.

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Tuesday 17th October  

                                                  The Peak District

We drove up to the Peak district early on Monday morning to hopefully miss the hurricane that was forecast for the afternoon. The traffic was light so it was an easy drive and we arrived just after midday, well before the strong winds. I was, however, concerned about the strange light and the unusual colour of the sun.  I put that down to the fact that we were that much closer to the Arctic circle and that it gets darker much earlier this far north!  However, later on the news it was explained that it was caused by the strong winds and the sands of the Sahara causing a weather phenomenon!!

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The first port of call in this region was Bakewell. Jane and Val spotted the home of the Bakewell pudding (not tart).

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With a little bit of gentle persuasion on their part, I had my arm twisted to try the local delicacy. I have to admit that with a small portion of low calorie custard it tasted GREAT!

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After that, a stroll along the river was needed to burn off a few of those calories !

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I was worried that after such a big lunch we might not have any tea, so as luck would have it we passed a pork pie shop and I was able to get supplies in for the evening.

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Bakewell is also home to one of the many bridges covered with padlocks. I’m not sure if these are set up as romantic gestures or as a great profit maker for the padlock manufacturers !

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Although it was cold enough for most of us to wear coats, there was one amongst us that choose to to parade his legs to all and sundry in this small market town. He wouldn’t admit it, but I bet he was b****y cold!

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The sun was shining so were able to see this lovely town at its charming best.

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Whilst on our way to our next National Trust property Jane and Val spotted a shopping village. The were so excited that they ran up the steps to the shops.

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I think the name says it all !

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A spectacular drive through the rolling countryside took us to Ilam Park.

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This is a National Trust property which is also a youth hostel. It was great to see so many kids having fun playing in the surrounding fields and enjoying the truly special setting!

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Time To Go Home

 

 

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Thursday 28th September

Thanks to Adrian and Ange for a great break in their home in Corfu !

Sadly the last night was all too soon upon us.

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We spent the last evening at Aries restaurant in Gouvia, the food was lovely although some of the staff decided to nibble on a table!

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Kev looked decidedly worried that the flames were going to get his dinner, so he wolfed it down in double quick time!

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Too much time in the sun and too much orange juice and Kev certainly looked TANGOED!

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Whilst Zorba the greek is being danced by the hard working waiters, Marisa is checking photos of Rory her new grandson!

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We all had a great evening, although Kev was a little quieter than normal!

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Marisa was a little suspect about the chicken……………..

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Although Jane had a sneaky suspicion !

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Jane has tried all manor of ways to disguise her nose picking, we all thought this was the most successful!

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Tracy even gave her a round of applause….

 

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Looks like Marisa has got another, more up-to-date photo of Rory.  Chris can’t believe his luck, surely it must be his turn to look at the photos !

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Corfu airport, everyone had had a fantastic holiday, and we were all sad to be going home…….. Well there’s always next time!!!!!

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Culture Vultures

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So far, the only culture we have had this holiday has been the Greek yogurt! So Chris, Marisa, Jane and I headed for Achilleion, a palace built in Gastouri by Empress of Austria Elizabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sisi [Marisa’s nickname!]

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This beautiful Palace is perched high on a hill with stunning views of Corfu and Albania.

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There were quite a few coaches full of passengers from visiting cruise ships, but there was still plenty of space to explore.

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And at times, moments of solitude……………….

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….. to enjoy the views.

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After our trip around the palace we went to one of Jane’s favourite places to watch the planes taking off from Corfu airport. On our way across the narrow causeway we were nearly knocked down by a mad motorcyclist!!!

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We managed to get a table with a great view of the airport and surrounding area; the view was better than the food.

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Marisa was so excited that she stood and waved to the plane for hours!

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Albania

We took a day trip over to Saranda in Albania. The tour guide that took us on the ferry was called Yoda and Chris remarked that she was even more scary than Jane……… however who knows now after she reads this !

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Albania was far quieter than we were used to on Corfu. The places we got to see were lovely and clean, and the people very friendly. The was a lot of history here to take in!

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Marisa and Chris sat patiently waiting for the show to start, only to find they were 2,000 years to late!

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Butrint is a UNESCO  world heritage site and was a colony inhabited since prehistoric times.

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Butrint has been a Greek colony, a Roman city, it experienced a period of prosperity under Byzantine administration, then a  brief  occupation by the Venetians.

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The city was abandoned in the late the late Middle Ages after marshes formed in the area.  There you are I, took it all in!!! ( with a little help from Google!)

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After a lunch with views over Saranda,

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we headed to another National Park.  The road to the site was tricky to say the least, especially in a coach ! Many of the cars we saw seemed to be struggling with the gravel surface and the hairpin bends. When we finally arrived we saw the Blue Eye. a spring which supplies most of the drinking water for this area.

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They have dived 50 metres in the spring and there is yet more to explore. The water comes out at a cool 10 degrees and is lovely to drink straight away.

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A 40 minute ride back on the hydrofoil and we were back in Corfu. A great day out!

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Tickety-Boo a Week in Corfu !

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A week in Corfu with Jane’s sisters Marisa and Tracy with their other halves Chris and Kev. A visit to Paliokastritsa on their first full day so they could chill out and get a bit of sun.

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A chance to see my skills with the snorkel and mono fin…………….

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Not really sure that I have got the hang of this……………

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………My god! where has he gone??????

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After the exertions of the day a cocktail with a view before the drive home, well except for me, I had a coffee!

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Although that was still too much for some!!

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On a slightly cloudy day, a drive down to the airport to see the planes was the order of the day……

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A visit to the monastery …….

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Was followed by a session of hat trying on and a cup of coffee. We certainly know how to have a good time !

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We got a lovely view of Albania on our drive to Kassioppi.

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The next sunny day took us to Kassioppi and another cup of coffee. Then off to the beach for a picnic.  What a beautiful place!  I did have a problem at one point however, I managed to get all 4 wheels of the Ferrari off the ground, not through excess speed though, but because the road was so steep and the angle so sharp the car ended up like a see-saw. We did manage to get free after a couple minutes (seemed like a life-time!) much to the relief of us all!

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The beach was a bit busy for a picnic, but we managed to find a quiet spot !

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Kev buys a bespoke hat from Agatha, but Tracy says no to the earrings!

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I had an unsuccessful geocache hunt in this picturesque bay which had everyone wondering what the heck I was up to!

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A swim in the pool was a must every day…….

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And a swim in the sea was a bonus if the day went to plan

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Chris did struggle with the finer points of using the sun beds, but luckily Jane was on hand to give him some help!

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After having  such a wild time during the days, the only way we could keep the excitement levels up was by going down to Gouvea (the Las Vegas of Corfu) to see the Albanian Elvis. The show was actually very good but there were time when he reminded me more of Freddy Starr than Elvis Presley !!!!!!!

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To keep the excitement up to fever pitch we had a celebrity BBQ chef flown in. My cousin  Adrian and his wife Ange popped over to see us, and stay in their villa.

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I’m sure I said hot dogs for tea!!

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And what a good chef he turned out to be……….. must be all those tips I have given him over the years !

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The morning after the night before!

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Ange turned out to be multi talented too, she can water the garden and drink a beer a the same time!

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Well what can I say……. captions please!

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Marisa and Chris prepared us all a lovely meal, and being very organised (unlike me) they also did most of the washing up!

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The next morning after all the hard work has been done , time for a leisurely breakfast in the sun.

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Followed by a serious sunbathing session, now that Chris has got the hang of the sun bed!

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And happily for us, we all love that Kev loves a nice slice of cake, which means we all get to sample his fine selections!

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Trains and Boats and Planes

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Monday 18th September A.M

Andy was looking for an experienced helmsman to help take his newly-repaired yacht back to its mooring at Ipsos.

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I gave the boat the usual “once over” before taking up the commission ……………..

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There were a few last minute things I wanted fixing  before I was happy to set sail on such a demanding voyage………….

 

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So, confident I could get the yacht back to its home port and moor safely I set sail. At the crack of dawn with the sun just rising over the yardarm we left Corfu town for Ipsos.

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With Ipsos in sight……………..

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…………I stepped out of the way and handed back control to Andy. There was obviously no way was I going to be in charge as we entered the harbour. The boat was berthed with such precision in a gap so small it would of been difficult to park your bike!  Thanks Andy for letting me come along for the ride.

 

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Monday 18th September P.M

After the morning’s expedition, Jane was ready for me to set the compass in the direction of the nearest supermarket to stock up on provisions for the imminent visit of her sisters.  The first stop was the local bakery to get some cakes (really for Kev, but i’m sure we will have some!)

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…………if you look carefully you can see the last two people off of the plane, and of course it had to be Tracy and Kev!

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Tracy entered the country in her normal shy retiring way!………….

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Closely followed by Marisa, Chris and Kev.

 

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Back at the villa, the first thing everyone wanted to do was jump in the pool. Then it was time for a little light refreshments, beer, wine and bacardi followed by a lovely home-cooked meal! After the peace and quiet of the last two weeks, I think we are in for a lively fun-packed 10 days !  ( P.S There were no trains, it was just the way my mind went!)

 

 

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