Monday, 18 January 2016


Sorry for all of you who put comments on our blog and had trouble.

We had blog set so we could monitor comments, only neither of us were getting notification of comments.

Have now changed this so comments will appear - a bit late, but will be prepared for next time :)

Friday, 15 January 2016

All packed and ready to go

Our final day started off with clear blue skies and a bowl of porridge for breakfast. We had done most of the packing so decided that we would have a walk into town. We enjoyed the clear weather and decided that a look at the town would be our final hurrah. We wandered through the shops looking for the final bargain which were purchases at Boots and a card shop.
The Beaney was our next stop and this is the local museum, art gallery, library and gathering space. Well worth the visit and Stephanie even admired the Star Wars exhibition. After departing the building we made our way to Patissiere Valerie for tea and cake. It was delicious and a real treat. So much better than Gert and Henry’s in York. 
When we left the rain started but it was only light. We then visited Virginia at work, looking at the swollen rivers on the way and admitting that the ducks had the right idea of sitting on the bank.
Back into town, we made a final stop at Lakeland to get the cake liners for Marilyn. Looking through more shops for bargains we found ourselves admitting that we were tired and waterstones, the book shop beckoned for a browse, followed by lunch. As this was our final stop after the bank for changing money, and Boots for instant photo printing, we walked home under increasingly greyer clouds.
The final pack and a decision that an extra case may be needed as we did have allowance for it. Googling we found some at Debenhams for £30 ish, phone Virginia to check if she had a spare sports bag and decided the back pack would do, to fit the extra cake and books in. All packed and weighed okay we felt.
Luke arrived home and changed after doing his homework. Virginia arrived home just after five so we piled into the car to pick up the younger two and go to Chiilam for dinner. An exciting ride down Stuppington Lane with puddles and all. The Woolpack Inn was our destination and a very nice place it was. Virginia loved her present and we had fun with crackers, jokes, and colouring in while waiting for dinner. The meals were lovely with Callum deciding that he needed to eat from the adult menu and he did make a grand effort to eat the most enormous burger.
On our way home we went past a discount store to check out suitcases and the bargain case was acquired. Repacking the final items to even out the case weights, we had tea and biscuits, watched John Deed for the final night and went off to bed before Mark arrived home. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Last day in London

Enjoyed our last supper at The Crowne Plaza. As checkout wasn't until midday, we decided to take advantage of this and head to Kensington Palace which was just up the road and then come back to check out and deal with bags.
Again a lovely day in London, so we enjoyed our walk to the palace admiring the lovely crescent houses along the way. A 6 bedroom 5 reception house which we had seen the other night, will only set  you back a cool £12m. 
As the palace hadn't opened when we arrived, had a bit of a wander round the garden. Got chatting to the gardener. They were enjoying the spring like weather and pleased to see crocus, mini Iris and lovely snow drops out.
Got into the palace right on 10 and walked around all the rooms allowed. Unfortunately the fashion exhibition was closed, but there was still plenty to see. After getting some advice of what we should see at the V&A we headed back to hotel to check out. This was a very painless exercise and we were able to leave our bags there in the process. 
So it was off to the V&A. We had hopes of seeing the shoes and Al Thani jewels from India exhibitions. However, once we realised it would cost something like $50 each to see this and as we only really had 3 hrs at the maxi, economy got the better of us, and no it wasn't the accountant who had the deciding vote.
We instead visited the 1600-1810 European exhibition which had been recommended to us at Kensington Palace. We even managed to tag onto a museum tour, which provided some interesting tidbits along the way. After the exhibition tour we felt a cuppa was needed, so found our way to the cafe and enjoyed a bite to eat.
Headed to the modern section of the museum and as with all modern art, there were some interesting displays. Our visit ended with a trip via the gift shop. The shop was somewhat disappointing, with selection and price...who could afford to buy here!
Back to hotel picked up luggage, across road to tube station and off to Victoria. Got lucky at Victoria as a very kind gentleman offered to take the bag up the steps, but did say it was a bit heavier than he had expected!
So ends our four days in London. Saw a lot but as always still so much more to see and do.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

It's windy at the top.

The morning started earlier as we wanted to be at St. Paul's at opening. Breakfast was great once again and we then became part of the commuter traffic as we used the underground to get to St. Paul's. A quick look around to see which direction, past the reinstated Temple Bar and we paid the £18 to visit the cathedral. This gave us an audio guided tour with pictures to match. An excellent solution to having thousands of guides and groups wandering around. We did the main sections and then it was time to ascend into the heavens. First stop was the whispering gallery which really worked as Stephanie can attest. Steps up to that level were easy to climb as the staircase was very wide. 
Next set of narrow stairs took us up to Stone Gallery which is outside and around the edge of the dome. Great views but the wind could have taken Mary Poppins out for a ride. Up the final set of iron circular stairs to the Golden Gallery which is just below the very top of the building, this would be about 350 ft high. Excellent view all around but the wind once again was ferocious. Great selfies at this level. 
Once down on the cathedral floor, we took advantage of the guided tour and explored the myriad of famous people that are buried or immortalised in the crypt. A final visit to the cathedral shop, with no bargains to be had and we departed for a Starbucks coffee. Snacks, courtesy of the Crowne Plaza, eaten we decided to head back to hotel to meet up with David Lithgow.  We had a quick look around Covent Garden, before the taking the tube to hotel and receiving a message that David was on his way. Pit stop to off load shopping at hotel and we piled into the very nice vehicle David was driving. A short drive and the Westfield shopping centre with accompanying building works was our destination. David knew the place so parking was easy and off to the restaurant row. The Italian place was gone so Wahaca (Mexican) chosen. Fairly ho hum service, we ordered drinks and meals. This place advertises that it's spoons go missing so some how David ordered dessert which meant that three or four more spoons have been taken on adventures. Great spoons but decided that it would be difficult to eat cereal with. 
After leaving David we travelled by bus back to Trafalgar Square to the Portrait Gallery. Lots of famous and some not so famous faces were on display (ours not amongst them) we were chased out at 6 pm. Leicester Square beckoned and there was a premiere of Creed happening so we chose to avoid the crowd and attended the movie "Joy". Great movie and interesting story about the start of tv shopping channels. Another tube ride with a garfunkels dinner and a long busy day is over.
Yet another fine day. 
 Three of the four spoons which may have disappeared from restaurant!

What Sale!

Leisurely start to the day, with a great breakfast at the Crowne Plaza. Definitely recommend hotel it is a great location oh and breakfast is pretty good too!
Walked to natural history museum as Virginia wanted to see if the exhibition had been changed so she could take photo for kids. But alas no, so it was a quick trip via the gift shop and out to catch the bus to Piccadilly Circus.
We walked up Regent Street stopping off at various shops to see what they had to
offer. Like yesterday the quality of sale items was limited but we did get some good food samples which previously had been unheard of in London!
Had a stop for tea and tea cakes at Liberty and Diane may have purchased some fabric.

A wander along Oxford street which saw us done for shopping. Caught bus back to hotel where Virginia collected her luggage, now in a Buckingham Palace bag (upgraded from tescos) and headed to Victoria station to catch train back to Canterbury. 
We had a cuppa and then headed off to the Devonshire Arms which was just 800m up the road to have dinner with Diane's friends Tina and Duncan.
Another day done and dusted in London.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Next Stop London

Took the 8.40am train to London this morning. We got to Victoria Station London about 10.30, put some funds on our much used Oyster cards, with Virginia purchasing one too, which will come in handy for visitors in the future!
Found our way to the Crowne Plaza in Kensington, thought we would just have to drop luggage off and check in later but the room was ready. Dropped the luggage off, got ourselves sorted and headed out. It was during the luggage drop off, that Virginia who had prided herself on bringing minimal luggage (all fitted in a small tescos shopping bag) realised no nightie!!!
We walked from the hotel into Knightsbridge, past the natural history museum and V&A. First port of call was Harrods. No matter how many times this shop is visited, we always find some thing new. Harvey Nichols was the next stop, had thought about lunch here, but instead free samples got us through until we could find a cafe which suited us better. This turned out to be in Waterstones on Regent Street. 
Taking the path through Green Park we got to Buckingham Palace about 3.45pm. We were told a little early for our tour, so we visited the Buckingham palace shop while we waited. Virginia, who wasn't doing the palace tour, decided she would do a tour of the queens gallery to help pass the time before she became our personal paparazzi!
After our security check and waiting on chairs inside the ambassadors entrance to the Palace, Steve our guide took us into the quadrangle and through the official entrance, just like we were Royal visitors.   A short introduction, drop off our coats and off we went going up that wonderful staircase that you see in many photos. Going into the green room, blue room, ball room (state dining room was under minor maintenance so missed out), the painting gallery and white room.
The tour took about two hours and finished with a glass of champagne and a trip to the gift shop. Once we had finished our shopping we were then escorted out to the quadrangle again and through the main gates to the awaiting paparazzi, well Virginia!
Walked to tube, got off at South Kensington, found a nice restaurant to have dinner (Wildwood). Back to hotel and relax.
Beautiful fine day!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sports day.

Today was sports day for the children so we were up early to return the car which was painless. On our walk back a very kind gentleman offered us a lift home. Stephanie wondered why Diane was getting in the car when she realised it was Mark. 
Next stop was tennis lesson with Callum. The venue was a plastic dome which was slightly chilly. Callum is a good player although the shortest in his group.  Back home we had time to thaw out and a cuppa then off to gymnastics with Emma.  The view was interrupted by the Christmas decorations which hadn't been removed. Emma is learning new skills of skipping and high bars. Midday came and class was over so back home for lunch. Luke's rugby was at school so he set off while we had lunch. We got up to the school and found his team warming up. The game was played against Kings College and eventually won  17 - 10. The sideline comments from rules expert Stephanie and proud mother 
Virginia were entertaining.
Back home a quiet evening was planned with some tv watching, games on the Wii and tablets, as well as stitching by Diane.

Essex and Cambridge

The morning started with a cuppa in bed (so spoilt) and a phone call to AJ and Leon. After getting dressed, we walked off to the village food hall to buy croissants and takeaway coffees. We then walked the long way home and when we got there Dawn was ready for breakfast. 
A discussion of the days plan was undertaken and decided on driving around some of the local villages. Sorting cars we departed and first drive through was Ickleton followed by the village of Hinxton. These were smaller villages with less amenities than Great Chesterford. The stop on our wish list was Grantchester of TV series fame. Our stop here saw us visiting the church and doing the short guided tour with the assistance of their brochure. We were lucky enough to discuss the filming and the changes with one of the church ladies, who explained a number of the changes the filming wrought as well as some of the changes in the village. The advent of the TV series has meant an increase in visitor numbers also. We then walked to the other end of the village and had coffee in a very modern pub - The Rupert Brooke. Our walk back to the car took us past The Green Man pub so we decided a TV experience luncheon was on order. Tagliatelle and filo parcels were ordered and consumed.
Enjoying the first day of winter sun we arrived in Saffron Waldon (original location for saffron growing) where Dawn attempted a police station visit and we did the short walking tour around the highlights of the village. 
After our day of sightseeing we headed south to Canterbury arriving back at Virginia's a little after six, having completed nearly 2000 kms 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Visiting time

Today we started with a visit to another one of Diane's relations, Jenny and John. They lived a short distance away from Jane. Had a coffee with them then it was on the road to head to Salam Toney for our lunch date.
The weather started off a bit murky but did improve. Travelled along the A14 and at times one of the lanes of the dual carriageway was bumper to bumper trucks!
Arrived at our destination just before one. The village where Sylvia lives is very cute. She took us out to lunch at a 16th century inn. We both had Guinea fowl, not something we would get at home, very tasty.

From Sylvia's we headed back down the A11 towards Dawn's place at Great Chesterfield. We had been given a key to get in as Dawn wasn't sure when she would be home. Arrived about 5.30, Diane proceeded to open the door only to be greeted by the alarm!! We had been told by Syliva that the alarm would not be in. So a frantic phone call to Dawn, as the alarm screamed in the background to get the code. 

We got ourselves settled, with Dawn arriving a short time later. Dawns partner Jim arrived for the evening. Had a pleasant even chatting and enjoying a nice glass of wine!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

In a county far far away

If could see the road in front of us it wasn't raining if you couldn't then it was!
A detour to Sherwood Forest to spot Robin Hood or even Maid Marion or Diane was happy with Friar Tuck! Did appear this area was good pig country, although by the size of some of the dung hills it appeared rhinos may have been there instead of pigs. 
Continuing along we found ourselves back on the A1 and a few drops of rain. The momentary lapse with the sunshine was over and it was a grey day again. As we got closer to the Kettering area we found ourselves going from Nottinghamshire, to Lincolnshire and back all in the space of a couple of miles.

We arrived at Diane's cousin Janes place and after a cuppa and sandwich we set off for a trip around the pretty villages. A first stop at Wraxton to see the Montagu marbles in the church was fortunate as the flower ladies were just arriving and let us in. These marbles have just been cleaned at great expense but they are stunning and to find four in a little country church was amazing. Driving along we travelled around the outside of the duke of baculeach's residence, Boughton Park. Very nice house and great estate. Really pretty cottages and our next stop was Geddington, where we walked over to the Eleanor cross, watching a young man drive his little car across the ford which was very flooded. Still he did make it. Negotiating the school traffic we headed off again going via the place where Ben and Alyssa work and along some of the flash streets of Kettering. 

Home in time for Nigel to visit, a pleasant couple of hours passed with Ben and Alyssa arriving for dinner. Peter was home and a lovely dinner of shepherds pie and peas followed by blackberry and apple crumble with custard was enjoyed by all members of the family. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Captains log. Stardate 5 January 2016

We spent the day in York. Started off with a nice breakfast in the hotel and then a short drive to the park and ride at Monks Cross. A whole £2.80 each later and free parking we were on our way into town. First stop the information centre and then across the road to York Minster. A short wait for our guide and we discovered that the Minster was built on a previous Norman cathedral and Roman barracks. 
We had decided that the absence of rain meant we should climb up the tower, so 275 steps later we were on the top of the Minster. It was very narrow but the girl at the ticket desk assured us that we would fit in the spiral staircase (25 inches wide). The views were excellent and on a fine sunny day the horizon would have been in sight. The Minster has a flat tower as the weight was too much when they were building it in the 13 and 14 centuries. After getting down we continued our tour with the chapter house, having a short conversation on either side of the room, going down the undercroft and being lucky enough to view the church Christmas banners hanging in the Quire. "Ask and you shall receive", Diane wanted a look so asked and the verger let us up close to them. 
Upon leaving we walked around part of the Walls by the Minster to the next gate, Monkgate Bar. The short days meant we made the decision not to walk the whole wall as we still wanted to wander the streets. Good rampage, The Shambles, & Shambles Market led us to the worst cream tea in England. We then wandered a few more places before heading back to the Viking Loom embroidery shop and York Museum. We were expecting a textile exhibition but had chosen the wrong museum so went in anyway. A very interesting 75 minutes later we had been into the philosophical society reading room (where Stephanie read us the book about the Queens knickers)learnt all about extinct species (including a Moa), Viking treasure and more Viking, Roman and Tudor facts- did you know Henry VIII waist was 52 inches when he died at 59 years.
A final stop at the info centre and we went to the oldest pub for an early dinner. Quite nice. Back on our bus and to Monks Cross we decided to go into the shopping centre and did a bit of retail therapy including dessert from Marks and Spencer (where you can buy your 5+ a day prepackaged).

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A drenching

Up early to the sound of the alarm clock. A phone call from home for Diane before breakfast was a pleasant start to the day. A great breakfast downstairs at the Camberley with Cumberland sausage and lovely coffee. We packed the car and took off to the info centre. The rain was light so that was okay. The pump museum closed for the winter season so outside photos only and you could smell the sulphur from one of the springs. Harrogate has had a spa for nearly two centuries but the hot springs have been used for longer. We then tired to visit the Harrogate body lotion shop but they were closed for renovations so we wandered the remainder of the streets. Duttons for Buttons, an embroidery shop and a fabric shop later Diane had bought some goodies for home. Back to the Camberley and off we went to Whitby. 
The promised finer weather did not really eventuate and our trip across the top of the moors was rainy with blue sky at one stage. Arriving in Whitby to rain we parked the car and once again hit the info centre. What great souvenirs they had. We walked around the village and over the river to climb the 199 steps to St Mary's church. They had a display of Christmas trees put up by locals and organisations. Our favourite was the donkey trust one. Next stop at the top of the hill was the abbey and its ruins but they were closed–only open at weekends in January. Back down the steps and the heavens opened so refuge was sought in Whitby mall and a fabric shop later we continued on our way. Up the opposite hill to the captain cook monument for the obligatory selfie. Once done we took off back to the car while the heavens opened and we got drenched. The decision was made to have an early dinner at Trenchers. A regular size haddock meal as ordered and when arrived we felt that they had the wrong size on the plate. It was delicious and well worth the stop. Back on the road for the drive to York, it was dark and felt like 9pm but it was only 6pm. The weather did not improve but no flooded roads had to be bypassed. Google maps missed our hotel but a u turn later we were settled for the next couple of nights.