Note Number 57…A Writing Retreat…

I’ve just returned home after four nights away in the beautiful Devon countryside, in the village of Sheepwash. It was a writer’s haven. Good healthy food, endless cups of tea or coffee, (and delicious wine), homemade cakes, flapjacks, gluten-free or vegan if required. Debbie Flint knows how to look after her guests at Retreats For You

Wine O’Clock…Table Laid for Dinner…Debbie working hard in the kitchen.

I loved my bedroom which was spacious, well-appointed with kettle, tea, coffee etc., towels, bathrobe and slippers. A writing desk close to the window where I could look out to a street in the village.  My one concern had been that I would have to share a bathroom (although large) with three other guests. I need not have worried. I never once met anyone coming in or out, nobody ever had to knock on the door to disturb me and I didn’t have to knock on the door to get anybody out! There was another bathroom on the ground floor, so we all managed very well thank you.

Retreats for You the big white house in the corner. My lovely room. The Village Square  and Pub at Sheepwash. Two lovely horses walking by my window. 

This was a screenwriting retreat organised by Retreat West . Our teacher, for three mornings was C M Taylor, or Craig to us. You can follow him on Twitter @CMTaylorStory. He shared his screenwriting and novel-writing expertise with us and we were all enthralled. Well, I’m easily pleased. NOT TRUE! This week I have learnt; techniques for structure, planning, character building (fictional character that is not mine) and so much more (what a cliché cop-out). From a personal point of view, I recieved some solid advice about which point in the story to begin my novel, which I hope to finish one day AND I would like to write the screenplay for it. A girl can dream can’t she?

the gang

All working very hard…(I need a haircut!)

Above all it was a productive, fun week with lovely people, all with one common interest— WRITING.

Amanda, Sylvia, Gayle and Craig…hope to see you all again soon and Debbie of course oh and Linda and the lovely young… something beginning with N…but not Ninette, I am so bad at names (help me out here screenwriting chums).

I am going back in November for the flash fiction retreat run by Retreat West, you can find the link here…hurry, there are only two spaces left!

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I have borrowed a book from the library in the Phonebox, I went cycling twice in my four day visit, I had a brilliant time. Devon is a beautiful county 

 

Note Number 56…All about our Trip to France…

I’ve recently spent two weeks in France with The Man, where I’d hoped to cycle along the banks of the Loire, picnic in the sun with a glass of Rosé from Provence. Relax and enjoy the flowing of the river, the afternoon sun and listen to him read poetry lovingly in my ear. Well, the weather put paid to all that. Torrential rain and heavy low cloud, mist and showers followed us from Cherbourg to Biarritz, here, they said the weather had been bad for several months! It was hard to believe. I did manage to get on the bike a few times and twice with The Man, so all was not lost but what a disappointment. This blog post has been a long time coming and I’ve got no man here to check for mistakes. He’ll read it later and no doubt be emailing comments or writing them in the comments section below. We can’t all be perfect though can we? (I fear some of the French spelling could be suspect). Anyway, take it or leave it, I won’t be offended.

first ride out Biarritz

First Time Out on the bikes – Biarritz (nice château in the background – our home for two nights – see photos below)

We did stay in some beautiful hotels and some not so good but the accommodation, on the whole, ranged from comfortable to luxurious and as you’ll see by the photos it didn’t rain ALL the time.

We travelled from, Cherbourg to Vannes, then on to La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Burgairalles, Vaison-La- Romaine, where The Man cycled up Mont Ventoux three times from three different start points on three consecutive days — Chapeau! (that’s what they say in the cycling world apparently). After Provence, we headed to Bourges, Saumur and finally St Malo where I left him in the drizzle and mist to cycle his way back down through France to Nice. (Mad or what?) I drove back on my own to Cherbourg where I caught the 18.30 ferry to Poole and home to Dorset before midnight.

I’ve picked a few photos from each place and given a little narrative to accompany some of them. We had great food, wonderful wine, visited many interesting little towns and loved it all — in between the rain. Enjoy.

The Streets of Vannes — our first stop. Nice hotel with plenty of parking. A galette for supper, quick breakfast the next morning and back on the road.

La Rochelle — Lovely, I enjoyed this town and the evening stayed fine for us. We managed somehow to eat lunch and dinner which we don’t often do but both were most enjoyable. But with only a one night stop there wasn’t enough time to really explore.

 

Bordeaux. Stunning Cathedral and the Buildings of the City are uniform in colour and architecture.  I found it a little overwhelming, so many people. No parking at our hotel and we had to park the car in an underground car-park and walk. Which, is okay but not ideal. Things were a little tense in the car with me driving and Geoff navigating via the satnav and google maps but we made it without coming to blows. We had a good walk round in the evening but I was happy to leave and move on in the morning.

Beautiful Biarritz

It was very wet on arrival at this gorgeous hotel, we were early and our room wasn’t ready but they welcomed us into the house and we sat in the sitting room to have a snack. I took the opportunity to drink a glass of rosé and tried hard not to be too miserable about the weather. We drove into Biarritz for supper but as it was a wet evening we didn’t spend any time looking around. Another time perhaps. I did like the place.

The Hotel Chateau de Clare de Lune Click to view

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Biarritz Bike Ride

We cycled from our hotel to Anglet and then along the coast to Bidart and back to the hotel. Negotiating some pretty steep hills to get us up from the beach and onto the higher coastal road. Thank goodness for my battery.  I don’t know how Geoff does it, must be in the thighs.

We stayed in a small town called Brugairolles whilst visiting friends who have a house in Cailhau, both villages are close to Carcassone, but we didn’t visit this time as we’d not been impressed on our last visit. The landlady at the B&B was very sweet and couldn’t do enough for us, but she was unable to give us a key and waited up for us to come home. We were very late the first night and felt like naughty boarding school children when she opened the door to let us in!

Mont Ventoux

It’s all about The Man and why not? I was very proud of him cycling three times up this amazing mountain which features frequently in the Tour de France. It’s 21k (approximately) of cycling uphill and then zooming down the other side. At the top, it can be cold, 9deg on one day when it was 25deg at the bottom. He set out to do it and he achieved it. Well done Geoff! I only drove up once and that was enough. The other two occasions I met him at the bottom.

While Geoff cycled I explored the area around Mont Ventoux visiting the towns of Sault and Malaućene.

Sault — a lovely town in the centre of the lavender growing area. We were a bit too early in the year to get the whole experience but I would like to go back when the fields are in full bloom. July/August I think.

Main Street on a Saturday in Malaućene. . .I bought some local strawberries from smiley man and then thought the lady at the other stall might be a bit upset (didn’t want to mess with her) so I bought cherries too.

Aurel Village - lovely

On my way back to collect Geoff I passed through Aurel a delightful hamlet

washing

I also visited the launderette !!!

As a treat we stayed in Le Beffroi in Vaison-La-Romaine for our last night in Provence – it was beautiful, check it out here.

Onwards — to the Centre of France and Bourges…long drive but worth it.

Hotel de Panette Probably one of our favourite hotels. Lovingly restored and they’re still working on it. Click here to take a look at their website.

The photo below is the main door to the hotel and their next project is to restore it to its former glory — you can make a financial contribution if you like 🙂

door to hotel

More of Bourges — click on a photo to see caption

laundrette again

Oh…and I went to the launderette again…

Our last proper stop-over was Saumur and I loved it. The sun shone (a bit) I went for a bike ride to find the Cadre Noir de Saumur (it’s all about horses) and we went for the longed-for cycle ride along the Loire Valley for 36k. Great apart from where the river had flooded the cycle path and it turned into a kind of obstacle course with The Man carrying the bikes up the thirty-nine steps (with a little help from me when it was my bike).

Our Bike Ride along the Loire

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My visit to the Cadre Noir de Saumur is worthy of a blog of its own but I’ll just leave you with these few photos. I spent a wonderful hour and a half looking around. It’s the National Riding School of France and the students, masters, grooms, helpers, in fact, all of the members of this unique school seem to be genuine horse loving people. The horses live a life of hard work and pleasurable relaxation. They have every facility that any equine could need. Then, at the end of their working life, they’re sold on for only around 1000 euro but they must go to a good home where they will have an easy retirement. They check every year to be sure they are being well cared for. Ahh… isn’t that lovely?

Saumur Hotel Château Bouvet Ladubay and a few shots of Saumur

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And finally, St Malo where we stayed in the old town. A wonderful example of a fortified city. The satnav refused to find the road where our hotel was situated and as we wound our way through the narrow one-way streets it was easy to see why. Rabbit warren doesn’t even come close.  The evening we arrived the weather was not too bad but the morning when Geoff set off on his bike ride was cloudy, misty, dull and disappointing. What a shame.

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I said goodbye to The Man and sent him on his way. I drove to Mont St Michel but the carparks were enormous, full and a queue a kilometre long so I began to wind my way towards Cherbourg and stopped on the way to admire the windmill and view the mount in the mist in the distance.

bye bye GB and lads

BYE BYE, YOU MAD LOT! St Malo to Nice June 2018 

Mont St Michel and the Little Windmill 

coming home

Land Ho! Dorset Here I come…

I took so many photos it was hard to choose which ones to upload and even harder to edit and in the end, I confused myself. So If you see one that is in the wrong place just keep it to yourself and bear with me. Bye for now.

Note Number 40…Cycling, Creating Havoc, Circumnavigating… IOW

Er...someone taking the P?

Kelvin, The Man and Lou…someone’s ‘aving a larf! 

This wasn’t my first visit to the Isle of Wight, if you remember, we went in August 2016 – for The Man to cycle round it. He went again a few weeks ago so you would have thought he’d had enough but no, he had to do it again. This time it was a team effort with the members of Bridport Cycles. It was the inaugural Kapton Krypton HandiKup IOW. A cycle ride for a club member who has the big C and wanted to set something up for the time when he might not be here. It was decided they should make the first ride in 2017 and that he could participate in his own memorial ride, (which would be a first). Twelve of the riders cycled from Bridport Cycle shop in Symondsbury to Lymington on Friday 13th to catch the ferry.  On Saturday, thirty-two of them cycled around the IOW and then on Sunday, ten cycled back to Dorset and their various homes around the county. A bloody good show I say. The Man did the whole thing and I was very proud of him…around 215 miles in total. I tagged along behind, carrying bags, spare parts and a pump…  One member was lost on the Friday due to mud on the road and a subsequent broken wrist, he bravely cycled on to the half way point of the morning, Ruby’s Cafe in Wool and then cycled home again…What a star.

Broken Wrist

Brave Man…home at last nursing a broken wrist…There’s always next year Lloyd  (photo curtesy Liz I assume) 

On Saturday evening there was dinner at the Albion Hotel, who, despite very late notice, managed to turn out a scrumptious meal for thirty at a very reasonable cost to all. In fact, they were only given our menu choice at 7.30pm and dinner was served at 8pm. Not bad eh?

I wrote this poem on Saturday afternoon and I’m sharing it with you here.

KK HandiKup – Isle of Wight Circumnavigation

A couple of Richards, a Tom Dick and Harry,
A Cat and a Bev, don’t think there’s a Sally?
I find it hard to remember the names
And when in their Lycra they all look the same.

They cycled around either clockwise or anti
Some followed their own – modus operandi
Stopping for coffee, tea and for lunch
They really are an eclectic bunch

It wasn’t a race but they wouldn’t be told
Some of them rushing as if going for gold
Others taking time, enjoying the ride
Cutting the corners – I’m on their side

I drove the back-up, following the mob
Well, actually, I wasn’t really sure of my job
I decided at lunch they could manage without me
And retired to my hotel for cake and for tea

Nobody wanted a pill or a plaster,
On the day, there was no major disaster
Surplus to requirement, of me there was no need
So I set about organising the evening feed

We had dinner on Saturday at the Albion Hotel
Which is stuck in the 80s, not a great sell
They did their best with the troublesome lot
I fear, the managers, may have lost the plot

But, prizes were given, people did shout
Others moaned and gave a good pout
But, I hope they all had a jolly good time
And didn’t find it too much of a pantomime!

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The photographs are not all mine but I hope nobody minds me using the odd couple that aren’t.

Note Number 39…Home and Away…

Jpeg in the shade of an olive tree

Jpeg back in her home country…I actually think she prefers England…but who knows? 

We returned to the place in Italy where we lived for eight years and it was a strange experience. Full of mixed emotions and a short journey of discovery about the impossibility of turning back the clock. We had a wonderful time when we lived there. We loved the weather and made good friends, but folks move on and things change. For four weeks, we stayed in a lovely house in Montevidon Combatte, about 4 kilometres away from Petritoli, our Italian ‘home town’. We were meant to be on holiday but it never felt like that to me. It was as if I still lived there. The consequence of which meant that I couln’t be bothered to go sightseeing – in fact I couldn’t be bothered to do anything which is not only silly it was a waste of time. I must admit I did enjoy lazing in the sun by the pool

We had a fabulous pool and the surrounding Marche countryside was as lovely as ever. 

I tried, unsuccessfully, to write. I managed to produce four poems whilst staying near Lucca in the apartment on my own with the dog. The Man cycled from Rimini to Pisa with his mates from More Adventure … but after that short period of time, the muse disappeared – stage left.

Now, we are home in Dorset, the weather on Thursday was beautiful and welcoming after our long drive back. We stayed in two different places this time on our return journey. The first stop was Asti where we had a brilliant apartment, close to the centre, with secure parking and it was seriously dog friendly. Fabio (the owner) was most welcoming and couldn’t do enough for us and Jpeg, which went over her head of course. She travels quite well but after six hours in the back of the car she’s had enough. We do stop every now and then for short breaks, not just for the dog to stretch her legs but for us too – and to change drivers.

Our excellent accommodation in Asti

Asti did not grab me, there was no ‘wow’ factor to it, except for the enormous car-park in the centre, the biggest town centre car park I have ever seen. It is used for the annual Palio (horse race). I didn’t realise they had one so something I must read up on. I’m not sure the photo does the size of the car-park justice…but it was a whopper!

Asti Central Car Park

An average meal was taken at the Tartufo D’Oro and the man overcharged us… we paid for someone else’s pizza and bottle of water as well as our own food. Should have checked the bill more carefully GB! We paid cash so no chance of a refund. Anyway, I think I’m at the end of the line with Italian food. I love it, but the menu does not vary from place to place…I don’t care if I never see another slice of prociutto crudo (Parma ham perhaps to you), accompanied by formaggio (cheese) and melon…for at least ten years.

Next stop was Bourges, (which I kept calling Bruges, much to The Man’s amusement)…
I am in love…

i love bourges

We arrived somewhat harassed as the trip from Asti took much longer that we expected with traffic hold-ups etc., fortunately we had started early in the morning (09.45) so got to our accommodation before dark. I had chosen the hotel Chatueau De Lazenay because the room had a little kitchenette which would allow me to cook. Sadly, it was lacking in utensils of any kind and although Eric, at reception said we could ring down for anything we wanted and they would bring it up. I couldn’t be bothered. My enthusiasm for cooking up a delicious meal flew out of the window to join the aforementioned muse.

The best thing about the hotel was the situation. It was beside a beautiful lake with a path surrounding it for walking, running and cycling of 6k. (Actually, I’m not sure about the cycling). I took the dog out as the light began to fade and she had a wonderful walk, as did I. Following her supper, she gave a big sigh as she finally got into her bed and realised she was out of the car…at least for the time being.  She is so good and always relaxes fully in any B&B, hotel room or apartment that we rent, allowing us to go out and eat without any fuss.

The lake and the pathway and Jpeg (she’s not too keen on the water but was fascinated by the birdlife) 

We took a taxi into town for an extortionate €20 to the restaurant Gargouille….  A great meal was had, French cuisine is always excellent and it was a welcome change from Italian. I had decided to embark on #soberoctober so no wine or champagne for me on this trip but I did have a delicious glass of lemonade. The Man had vegetable soup, steak, and lemon meringue pie. I had fish and chips followed by pannacotta with bourbon biscuits and forest fruits, served in a kilner jar. No photos I’m afraid. I became irrationally embarrassed at the thought of photographing my food with my Iphone…but I did photograph the drinks!

soberoctober

I cannot wait to go back to Bourges next year when we plan a longer trip around France. I want to explore this beautiful town and all it has to offer. We are in fact, going to take lessons to improve our French beyond O’ level standard…at the moment, whenever I open my mouth to speak French, Italian comes out!

A little taste of Bourges…

Note Number 32…Family…

bearhunt

Popsie (AKA The Man) and granddaughter, out on a bear hunt…he’s really getting into the action. 

I have been fortunate in the last couple of months to catch up with most of my close family members. After six years, my daughter, her husband and two children have relocated from New York to Bristol. It’s great to have them so much closer, even though it’s still a couple of hours door to door, there’s no airports and flying involved.  With FaceTime and Skype readily available the grandchildren know us well and we have been in contact every week while they’ve been living in NYC.  Both of them were born there and the eldest, Evie has a great Brooklyn accent, soon to be lost to the Bristolian brogue perhaps? Emily has been away from England for sixteen years in total, ten of those years spent in Australia. A big change for her and I’m impressed with how she’s coping with it all…so far. But, even the Australian dog seems to be settling in well, enjoying the joys of a garden and less crowded parks. I recall Brooklyn dog walking with mixed feelings.

coming home

Coming Home to England….Emily, Daryl, Evie and Orla…

 

matt in a hat

Matt in a Hat (a big one)…It’s impossible to visit Bridport without popping in to  Snooks the Hatter! 

At the end of May, my son Matt from Thailand came over for a few days, he’s been living away for over 20 years. First in Sydney, Australia, then Singapore and now Thailand. I don’t think he’ll ever come back to the UK. It was lovely to see him and even better that we all managed to get together for an evening in Bristol…at least most of us, Wills, the photographer couldn’t make it due to work commitments but he did meet up with his brother in London. Joe, (Will’s twin), who is a nurse, working and living in Bristol was with us. Of course, at our family gatherings there’s always one missing and that is Tosh, tragically lost to us in January 2011. But that’s another story which I think most of my readers know about already.

No photos of all of us in May 2017 but here’s one from the past…2009. An oldie but goodie and we’re ALL in it, including The Man’s lovely girls Jackie and Lottie.  We’ve changed a bit since then mind (how’s that for Westcountry speak?) and not just the hair colour. We’ll have to do another family shoot next time we’re all in the same hemisphere and include the new members…

The Family

Italy 2009 

At the beginning of June The Man and I took a trip to Menorca to visit my brother and his wife. They’ve been living abroad for many years…over thirty I believe. It was a fleeting visit and we certainly packed a whole lot of stuff into three days. My brother drove us the full length of the island from Mahon (he lives close to here) to Ciutadella, where we had lunch. Then back to the middle and up Monte Toro the large mountain. The weather, which was a little inclement for only one day, cleared as we got to the top, so we were able to appreciate the view.

the view as the clouds cleared

View as the clouds cleared from Monte Toro

The rest of the time we were there, we spent sunbathing, eating, drinking and sleeping…all the ingredients needed for a good holiday!

Both pictures are the port at Mahon…the boat on the right The Man thought was best suited to us…ha ha ha I’m not keen on any boats but I guess I could make an exception for this one. #dreamonbaby

Top Left: the pool, top right: My brother Tony and wife Maggie (he’s older than me…just so you know). Middle Right: plate of delicious baby squid. Bottom: Me and The Man enjoying outside, evening dining,  at Restaurant Tamarindos, in the lovely village of Es Grau. 

menorca

shoes copy

Loved these Menorca shoes called Abarcas…I bought three pairs and can’t wait to go back and buy more

jeanandme copy

Me and my sister Jean (she’s older than me in case you wondered) 

I even managed to catch up with my sister in the month of May, haven’t seen her in ages but I drove up from Dorset to Surrey to visit her for just one night. It’s important to do these things as and when you can. She’s just become a grandmother…such a wonderful thing to be. I’m loving it.

Being Nonna

Fun Being Nonna (it’s Italian for Grandmother)…not sure what kind of mystical animal I was being made into…

window shopping

Window shopping on the Gloucester Road…makes a little girl very happy…

Take care everyone. Despite the awful events occurring in the UK and the rest of the world, there are also many good things going on. Oh dear…I do write such trite at times… ha ha ha. Enjoy the lovely weather, your families and friends and be sure to visit them and/call them as often as you can.

Note Number 27…We’re Spending the Kid’s Inheritance…

A little poem followed by what we did for Easter Weekend…

We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
And hoping that they won’t mind,
As we fulfil our dreams and ambitions
Keeping our bodies and minds alive
Because, until we reach the end of the road
And hear that inevitable knock on the door
We’re spending the kid’s inheritance,
And, we’re enjoying it, further more

We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
On doing as much as we’re able
Like, city breaks, beach holidays, classy hotels,
Sunshine, roses, champagne and those
Wonderful visits to London to see
The ballet, or theatre, or an art gallery
We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
We’re retired and at last we are free

Don’t worry, we’re not really selfish
And, there’s something I really should add
Most of our kids are now better off
Than their soon to be skint mum and dad!

Ninette Hartley © February 2017

Last Easter weekend we spent in London…a city break. We stayed at the Royal Overseas League in St. James’s where we are members. It’s a wonderful club, where they had a deal; four nights for the price of two. It’s perfectly situated for central London, shopping, theatres, museums etc., We packed in a lot of stuff…

nononobike

The Man Enjoying Window Shopping….(nooooo- not another bike!!) 

1. Friday train from Crewkerne to Waterloo. Lunch at the club. Evening a visit to the Dominion theatre to see An American in Paris. A new show, a stupendous show and well worth a visit. The dancing, mostly balletic, is wonderful, culminating in a fabulous pas de deux with the leading characters, Jerry Mulligan played by Robert Fairchild and Lise Dassin played by Leanne Cope. The Man said it was the best bit of ballet he’d ever watched.

american

2. Saturday we went to the Regent Street Cinema to watch an uncut version of Novecento (1900) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu. An epic five hours and twenty minutes of film plus a forty-five minute, interval. The story covers 1900 – 1945 showing the situation in Italy between the Socialist party and the Fascists, seen through the eyes of two boys, born on the same day, one a peasant, whose family live and work on the estate belonging to the family of the other. I wasn’t sure I could sit through such an epic but actually it was like reading a good story, settling in and not putting the book down until you had finished the whole thing. I loved it.

regent street cinema
3. Sunday we took ourselves off to the Imperial War Museum but only managed to cover three of the five floors in four hours. We’ll definitely be going back. The Holocaust Exhibition was particularly powerful with images, artefacts, interviews with survivors and a lot more. Disturbing, informative and thought provoking.

tulipsstjames

Beautiful Tulips in St James’s Park – We walked to the IWM 

4. Sunday evening we were treated to a musical concert at the club. Not something I would normally choose, a soprano, Sarah-Jane Lewis, and a piano, but I have to say, the singing was beautiful and the pianist, Simon Lepper, accomplished and not bad looking. The songs were short, diverse and Sarah sang in three different languages. We were given the programme with all the words translated so it was easy to follow. A glass of wine after the concert and a chance to thank the artists for their performance, rounded off the evening.

The Steinway….and The Programme

5. Monday, we were to meet a couple of our children for lunch at Dishoom in Carnaby. The Man had bought a couple of pairs of shoes on Saturday morning and I had said in a mad moment, ‘I’ve always wanted a pair of DMs.’ Well, we were early for our appointment so had a walk around and lo and behold there was the original Doc Martin shop in Carnaby Street. Had to be done!

dms

THE BOOTS…photograph credit Will Hartley 

In the evening we went to see The Wipers Times (so called because the British soldiers pronounced Ypres Wipers) a first world war play written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, at The Arts Theatre. A completely opposite venue to the Dominion it was an intimate theatre, more like a club, and the production was low key but splendid. Based on a true story about the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters who found an old printing press in the burned out ruins of Ypres and decided to print a satirical newspaper covering the war. The main men, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson, co-editors continued to produce the journal throughout the war. It was an instant hit with the troops but not so popular with the top brass. Spoof advertisements, agony aunts, musical hall jokes and routines and always taking a jibe at those higher up. If you can catch this play it’s a must.

The Arts Theatre Bar – loved the light fitting… The Programme for The Wipers Arms

Back home to Dorset on Tuesday we felt we had crammed plenty of culture into our weekend away in London and hope it’s not too long before we can cram in another. In the meantime, we’re attending as many of the 22 films showing over the next five days at the Bridport Film Festival, From Page to Screen. We’ve already seen, In the Heat of the Night and Their Finest, both bloody brilliant and only a hop down the road.

I love being Retired…

feelingenergetic

Note Number 20…A Glimpse of Madeira and the High Life…

The Hotel Taken from the pool and Reid’s Tea Terrace 

We have just returned from an amazing ten-day holiday at Reid’s Hotel in Funchal Madeira. It was a holiday of a lifetime, (apologies for the cliché).
We should have been travelling to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, but after a busy 2016 I just couldn’t face the lengthy flights, but, we wanted a little bit of winter sun so ended up in Madeira, spending about the same money as a two-month vacation in the Southern Hemisphere! However, I’m not sorry.

The hotel did not disappoint and the room with a promised view of the sea, was spacious, with a desk and two armchairs as well as an enormous bed. A luxury marble bathroom and separate WC. I loved it! Reid’s has been around for 125 years and the atmosphere is unique. Photographs of rich and famous people who have visited in the past are kept in glass cases in a large walk-through lounge which joins the old hotel to the new bit (you can’t tell the difference between the two).

Room with a View…and early morning sun…

The gardens at Reid’s are tropical and lush with paths and seating areas throughout. I cannot emphasise the beauty of the place enough. The staff at the hotel were friendly and rushed about attending to our every need and appeared to enjoy their job. I don’t generally like being waited on, but they made me feel as though it was no trouble at all and that they genuinely wanted to help make our holiday the best it could be. On the tables by the pool there were little buzzers that you could use to call a waiter.

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The Buzzer or Call Button…

It took me about half an hour to pluck up the courage to ring it one morning, as it seemed such a decadent thing to do, but when the smiley waitress arrived, happy to serve me with a cocktail and a sandwich all my concerns vanished. Other guests were similar to us. I had expected a lot of stuck up toffs but on the whole they were ordinary people enjoying spending their well-earned money. There were of course a few whose opinions and demands could be heard above all others. But, as one waiter told us, ‘We learn to be just friendly enough and we respond to how we are treated, if the person doesn’t smile or speak well to us, then we serve them but we don’t make good conversation. We leave them alone and give them the bare minimum.’ Most of the older staff have been with Reid’s for many years, over twenty at least, which has to be a good sign. Although the hotel was originally family owned, it is now in the hands of Belmond (new branding for Orient Express) but, essentially, the atmosphere remains that of a family run business. That is probably the secret of its success. A grand hotel which feels like home from home.

A little slide show for you….

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We didn’t manage to take a basket sledge because by the time we had reached the top of the hill on the cable car it was too late…another time perhaps.

The breakfast was the best spread I have ever seen in a hotel, there was literally everything you can imagine, the choice was unlimited…fresh fruit, cereals, bread, croissants, pastries, cheese, ham, smoked salmon and other fish, plus bacon, eggs, vodka and champagne, etc., there was literally everything you could wish for.

Amazing Breakfast…and…

Amazing Desserts…and…

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Amazing Tea on Reid’s Tea Terrace… (oh and we also had scones).  By the way, the little round brown cake at the back with an almond on the top I believe is a Madeira Cake…they don’t have anything like the pale lemon flavoured cake that we know as Madeira…how about that? 

I have been thoroughly spoilt and The Man was responsible. We did attend the fitness centre (him everyday and me for seven out of the ten) and tried only to eat breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner never the three. On two occasions we ate breakfast and then a Reid’s tea. We walked from the hotel to Câmara De Lobos, about 7.5k…we got a taxi back then I went swimming and The Man went to the gym. Câmara De Lobos, was a place often visited by Churchill where he sat and painted the little fishing village. He also stayed regularly at Reid’s with Clementine, I believe.

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Câmara De Lobos – Churchill’s Favourite Village on Madeira (so we’re led to believe…)

Random Snippets about Madeira…

It’s an island in the Atlantic approximately 1000k South of Portugal and close to 600k from the North African coast.

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Over the Sea and Far Away…Madeira sits in the Atlantic…

 It has several micro climates so you cannot easily predict the weather but it is warm most of the time. We experienced between 13 and 23 degrees for our ten-day stay. Rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon or vice versa. Five of our days were sunshine all the way.
Bananas grow everywhere.

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Bananas – taken through the mini bus window…hence the reflection

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Sugar Cane also grows in Madeira

Espada (pronounced ESHPAADA)is the local fish and it is not pretty . Apparently it looks a bit like an ugly eel. We were told that it is line fished from more than 2000 metres deep in the sea around Madeira and that when it is pulled up the pressure causes the fish to burst so that all the innards come out negating the requirement to gut and clean the thing…sounds disgusting doesn’t it? You eat it pan-fried with banana, if you want to have it in the traditional way.

Limpet Rice served with Espada and Banana…

The poncha drink is local rum, honey and lemon… (It tasted a bit medicinal I think)
Tea at Reid’s hotel is a must for any tourist.

img_3245Poncha…as drunk by me…

Madeira has the highest cliff in Europe and you can stand at the top of it and look down through a glass platform.

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It’s a Long Way Down…

There are Levada (irrigation channnels) walks that can be taken but we didn’t go on this occasion, but if you want to see more look here

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Somewhere in this photo is a Levada Walk…I know because our guide Christina said so…

A replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria is moored in Funchal and does daily trips out to sea…not sure it’s entirely propelled by sails now though….

Painted Doors in Old Funchal Town….

There was so much to see and do in Madeira, we merely covered a few of them. A day trip out took us to the North side of the island and the weather was very changeable from wild, windy, misty and wet…to sunny and bright, although the sea remained monstrous.

Changeable on the North Coast…these photos were taken less than ten minutes apart.

One of very few places on the list for a return visit…Have you been?