Sunday, 18 September 2016

Holiday in France - 8 to 18 September.......

Thursday 8th
Lovely leisurely morning. Really easy drive (for three hours) to sisterS and bilK's. They cooked, we all ate, watched Jersey Boys film and eventually all up to bed.

Friday 9th
All up and breakfasted and tackled the luggage-in-the-boot jigsaw puzzle. SisterS and I got comfy in the back (we are both short and sit low in Hubby's car, so I'd made booster seats and foot rests for us, she loved that) and men in the front. Last check of "have we got everything?" and we were on our way!

Their house to Folkestone was an easy 2.5hrs, but we did have just under an hour delay on the shuttle.....the Marshall at the front of our queue told us that one cause was a dodgy carriage door that took 10 mins to open and close each time, then there was the Ford Escort car rally convoy when 26 of them boarded an earlier train and one went up the ramp when it shouldn't and damaged its underneath spreading oil over the ramp, sending the following cars sliding backwards down the ramp! And while we were waiting he got messaged over his radio about a Rolls Royce that had gone the wrong way and blocked the entrance to the train refusing to move, so they called the police. So an entertaining wait :-)

Our first night was at the Brasserie Des Sangliers, in a small town called Crecy-en-Ponthieu.
First of course a drink outside, still really sunny and warm.
Then a local walkabout and discovered a really small museum.
The curator was adorable. He insisted on guiding us around and explaining as much as he could so he could practice his English (a big struggle for him).

Saturday 10th
We were back on the road early for the six hour journey and arrived about 6pm (ish) at the Novotel Hotel in La Rochelle. We'd made a couple of stops, first at Angers but no food places were open so apart from also stopping for fuel and loo at an Aire we managed with the snack bag I'd packed. After we checked in at the hotel we went out for a walk (desperately needed as we were all car-shaped). Down by the harbour we found a scruffy looking outdoor cafe and had, amongst other things, burgers, beers and live jazz. Shame it was a great success for only three out of the four of us.

Sunday 11th
We wanted a lazy day after all the driving but lots of walking locally. Our hotel is right in town but actually set inside a park, so to walk to the centre we have a very pretty route.
 La Rochelle also has a great marina, beach and foody streets and we seemed to walk them all.

Unfortunately I now seem to be the only one totally insect bitten, I noticed the first ones a few days ago but today's have reacted the worst with my left hand really swollen and one on my leg blistered right up. My companions have none, so I'm at least providing a service by keeping them away. More than a dozen bites hot itchy and kept me awake for two nights!

Monday 12th
We took a walk down to the marina for petit dejeuner (breakfast) and went to a restaurant where the bread was fresher, the croissants flakier and the waitress smilier than the place we went to yesterday! Then back to the hotel just to get in the car and drive to Île de Ré, which had been very highly recommended, making stops on the island for driving/eating/drinking at La Flotte, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré and Sainte-Marie-de-Ré and the rest we drove through with some very narrow roads!

Very hot day but we found a little shade on a bench outside a church to have our picnic lunch  then took a look inside.

Back at the hotel we had a late afternoon laze on the hotel terrace by the pool (men had beers of course) then later out for a yummy Italian meal.

SisterS and I also had a nightly ritual with whoever was on reception asking for tea bags and fresh milk to take to our room, they provide kettle and stuff but never quite enough of the stuff we want and those little pots of long life creamer is yuck in tea!

Tuesday 13th
Just like yesterday we made our way to the same restaurant overlooking the marina and the lovely waitress remembered just how we all like our breakfast! Impressive!

We had this day planned long before we'd even arrived in France. Many years ago SisterS worked with a lady who with her husband moved to France and has lived here for 15 years, they've always kept in touch and sisterS has visited twice before (second time with bilK). As soon as they knew we were staying nearby we were all invited for lunch and even sent precise directions. We also have the satnav (which sisterS calls "Satarina Navratilova"). They live in Montmouton, Écoyeux just over an hour away but the hardest part was getting out of La Rochelle as roads were closed because of the market and the satnav couldn't cope!

We were all very warmly greeted and shown round Y&D's lovely home, sisterS admiring the changes since her last visit, and even their dog kept saying hello

Conversation never stopped, lots of laughter, lunch was drinks and nibbles followed by a really delicious five courses! Not sure I'll need to eat again this week! They have a pool and we'd taken swimming things but it kept raining so nobody got in. We stayed for hours and hours they made us so welcome.

Wednesday 14th
For breakfast it was back to the marina and our favorite place, but different staff were on so it wasn't as good, shows it was that one waitress that made it special. Today we visited Île d'Oléron, very highly recommended by Y&D and they are so right it's a beautiful island. We stopped at La Cotiniere and Saint-Denis'd'Oléron and drove around the rest.

Tonight's meal was in a classier restaurant, we ordered three courses each and had three more "amuse bouche" dishes too!

Thursday 15th
SisterS was told about a theme park we would like which isn't full of rides or tat. So we booked online for Grand Parc du Puy du Fou. It was about two hour drive away so we skipped our usual breakfast and drove off early with our croissants in a box!

However I try to describe the place would not do it justice, so here is the link.
It is history, divided into eras and portrayed in shows. Sounds simple but it is far from simple, each show is an extravaganza!  You cannot hope to see every show (and they tell you that often). We first collected headsets so each show came to us as an English translation.

Our first show was
Experience the romantic adventures of Richelieu's Musketeer's, set against the backdrop of a giant 17th century theatre (covered theatre with 3,000 seats). A magical show with capes, sword fights, flamenco ballets and incredible special effects!
.......And the arena filled with water!

Our second show was
Discover the biggest day show in the Grand Parc du Puy du Fou's history. Follow the glorious destiny of a french naval officer in 1793. The life of this hero of the American War of Independence will definitely change during an ultimate fight for freedom.
........And this was all done in a 360° cinema with very live performances enhanced with film while the audience rotated to where the action was!

Our third show was
A spectacular medieval adventure inspired by the legend of a mysterious lance with magical powers.
......And the horsemanship and acrobatics on horseback was breathtaking!

Each show was just over 30 mins so with walking around the Parc to the right place, arriving early, being seated and being entertained by the warm-up guys it was nearly an hour each one, so all too soon it was time to go, but not before a stop for crepes mmm. We will definitely have to come back to see more.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was raining and we were all too tired to walk into the town centre so we ate at the hotel, which actually was really nice and no more expensive than we'd been paying elsewhere.

Friday 16th
We'd packed up the car and checked out of our hotel and on the road just after 8:30am. There was a slight delay leaving as sisterS had to make another check on her son and his partner who are currently on the labour ward awaiting their first baby. Hard for us all to leave the safety of WiFi when expecting such exciting news!

We've had torrential rain all day, so got wet loading the car and got wet when stopping for breakfast at an Aire, then got wet when trying to stop for lunch so ate in the car.
We were booked into the Hotel de la Cathedrale which is right near the Cathedrale (of course) in the middle of Rouen. We arrived about 4:30pm and drove round and round then parked on the road and then hunted through the boot for all the raincoats and walked. A young lad, seeing us confused, crossed the road to offer his help, he couldn't speak English and didn't know the hotel but thought he knew the street name so with lots of pointing and our merci's we splashed on. Found the hotel and the men got instructions on where to move the car to (they had to walk back and drive exactly to where we'd stood with the young lad which was nothing like the receptionists directions).

Into our rooms and immediately connected to WiFi but no further news from the parents-to-be!

It was a really charming old hotel with lots of character. Flushing the toilet in my room was hilarious as the very old suction/pump/small pipes system was really really noisy!
This was the view from our bedroom window

But unfortunately there was no bar or restaurant, so the men forced themselves out in the rain again to look for the best place to eat, with the incentive of a couple of beers each. They did remember to come back for us and out we all went. Our waiter spoke quite good English but we soon realised he'd learnt all he needed to know just to get his diners through the menu. We managed and all had a great meal with the men sharing a bottle of wine. As we finished desserts they got the most important phone call saying their new granddaughter had arrived! Lots of very excited conversations on the phone and passing the phone around the table. BilK ordered champagne and even though we explained the poor waiter hadn't a clue what all the fuss was about hahaha.

Saturday 17th
The plan had been to leave the hotel by 9am to reach Calais an hour before our 12:20pm train booking but we were all too excited to hopefully meet the newest family member, so we skipped breakfast and checked out at 7am and when we arrived at Le Shuttle terminal we were given a boarding pass for the 10:50am train, then read on the display boards that there was an hour delay. So into the terminal building to buy coffee and croissants. ....but just as we sat to eat the board changed for us from "wait to be called" to "please proceed" so breakfast became takeaway! 
Au revoir France, we loved this holiday.

But our adventure didn't end there! Nobody wants a great holiday to end but we had the best reason ever to rush back. Now UK side and a slow journey as the M25 was its usual crawl/standstill/crawl. Arrived at sisterS and bilK's house in time for a quick lunch then off to the hospital.

How adorable is she?

Out for dinner which didn't go quite as hoped but I'd found a 40% discount voucher and we all eventually enjoyed our meals so not awful just another tale to tell.
None of us were late to bed, it had been a long and exciting day.

Sunday 18th
Up quite early and bilK cooked us a yummy English breakfast.
Then all too soon we hugged and kissed and Hubby and I headed home.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Nothing better than family hugs........

Tuesday late morning was friendDJ's funeral. Wow there must have been about 150 people at the crematorium service, trouble finding somewhere to park and definitely standing room only inside the chapel and flowing outside for those that couldn't even get inside. His coffin was a guitar case with stickers saying "this way up" and "now on tour" etc. The service had many family and friends personal contributions and once outside we all hugged and chatted friends and family together. The wake was supported by many musician friends performing on stage for him. He was such a kissing cuddling person himself I hope he was looking down.

I couldn't stay long at the wake as I'd already made other plans for sisterS, nieceV and my latest great-nephewC (he's now three months old) to visit and sleepover, they live about three hours drive away and I'd already missed some of our visit by telling them not to arrive till after 3pm.

When we were finally all here together we had a great time and sisterS was very generous (he's her first grandchild) so I had many many gorgeous baby cuddles!
Wednesday Daughter and O joined us for lunch too, so lots more cuddles all round. All to soon they were on their home!  

Friday, 26 August 2016

Hate seeming ungrateful but.........

.......Hubby bought me a new phone for my birthday.

It actually didn't arrive in time so I had a photo of it stuck inside my card.

Bit of an extravagance I thought as apart from a bit of a memory shortage my phone was fine. I'm not on a contract so no free upgrades which I've always liked, hate the changing for changing sake.

When it did eventually arrive I couldn't just move my sim across as the new phone needed a different size. Hubby got onto the Vodafone helpline and after they'd checked all security questions with me he was on there for ages and finally they promised the new sim would arrive by the following Tuesday.

The new phone is bigger (awkward for popping in a jeans pocket which I mostly do) and the outside is really slippy (awkward for in and out of my bag (I've ordered a silicone back cover which hasn't arrived yet)!

While we were waiting we did some data transfer with a Google app which mostly worked but not straightforward. Couldn't really test it out without the sim though. So many passwords to remember or reset. Then of course my old phone and tablet were objecting as passwords had been changed!

The following Friday we replayed the whole Vodafone helpline thing again as the sim hadn't arrived, we also realised that as I'm on pay-as-you-go that service isn't free and my credit was going down too fast, however they promised the new sim had now been ordered and would be with us by the following Tuesday!

Phew it did arrive and it has seemed like a fiddle-fart-about every time I pick up the phone. All the ringtones and notifications were wrong, it did when it shouldn't and didn't when it should have. It hadn't imported my contacts so lots of time tethering but the old phone was short on memory so it struggled.

That led on to us checking the tariff I'm on and seems the cost of texting on Vodafone is the most expensive unless you top up and earn their freebie package regularly! Oh the hassle I see ahead if I change provider and need to move my number!

So the old phone is now switched off and I'm using the new one. I will get used to it. Oh note to self, still need to Bluetooth it to the car!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Water play.....

O spent the day here and it was another hot day so with R he played with water.

 They loved filling 50 water bombs at once.

Hubby was fixing the water feature.
I was staying in the shade as much as possible.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Saw the Queen doing whizzpoppers...........

Bet you've guessed already, I've seen The BFG

I quite fancied seeing this as soon as lead characters were promoting it on chat shows and magazine programmes. So I invited R to the cinema......she declined as she really doesn't like the cinema, too loud and too in your face!

O had changed his mind about being a Tudor and Daughter had brought him home to his dad a couple of days ago, today we had him here while M was running his Creative Computing Club and O said he'd love to come see a film with me.

3pm on a Tuesday and screen 11 was almost full. We both loved it, only problem was O having the fidgits as he's a bit light for the tip up seats, wish I'd taken in his car booster seat. It was also nice to be inside for a couple of hours as it was up to 29°C outside.

Of course it's a great story like all Roald stories are and this Disney production had Spielberg magic. I believed every character and totally fell in love with the BFG himself, Mark Rylance has the most amazing facial expressions and warm loving expressive eyes!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Sneaky proof........

While the others are back in Tudor land R is living with us.
Two things R is reluctant to do is outside physical activity or posing for a photo, however, I wanted proof that she was helping me with gardening.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Gone but not forgotten.......

Very sad news yesterday that friendDJ lost his battle with cancer, he fought long and hard, never giving up hope. We were told he slipped away peacefully surrounded by family with his hands being held. He'd recently told me holding hands made him feel safe so I was pleased he had that at the end.

Today facebook is full of tributes to him, he was so loved.

He was very much a part of our friends group. He loved live music, in fact he had played in local bands himself for many of his younger years which is how bfriendM got to know him as he was following the band her drummer boyfriend played in. While chatting she discovered his love of painting so she dragged him along to our art group. After art we always went to Olive's Bar which hosted live bands on a Thursday night so of course friendDJ came with getting to know the whole gang, although he often wandered off to chat to the rest of the room! He loved a good dance too. As I was the only one there without my Hubby friendDJ would often be my slow dance partner.

He will always be remembered, as a very talented musician and artist, he loved life and everything in it, he hated injustice, he appreciated all pretty things and noticed if I was wearing a new top or had nice perfume on. He would help everyone with anything he could without wanting anything in return And he voiced all this so we all felt loved.

RIP friendDJ.