A cheeky weekend away

A few weeks ago we noticed an advert in the newspaper for a weekend break, which included a visit to the RHS flower show at Chatsworth. It was a really good deal, so we phoned up expecting it to be fully booked but no, they had a few spaces remaining. Oscar was all set to be away for the weekend too so it fell perfectly for us.

Early on Saturday morning we arrived at the coach stop to be greeted by a very funny driver and a lovely, comfortable coach. After a couple of stops to collect more people we were  on our way. The weather wasn’t the best, cloudy and drizzly most of the time travelling, however by the time we arrived at our scheduled visit, Stratford-upon-Avon it had stopped and the sun was trying to make an appearance. We had four hours to explore, so first we had a walk around the historic streets.

After our stroll we took a cruise along the River Avon, it was sunny and warm. We were given a map and audio guide to hear more information on the sights along the way.

Then it was back onto the coach for a short trip to the hotel for the evening, Jury’s Inn near Leicester. We were being housed in B wing, we all pointed out it sounded like prison, and judging by the look the staff gave us it wasn’t the first time they had heard this ! The room was not prison like, it was huge, we had a double bed each.

The evening meal was decent, the beds very comfortable and breakfast was lovely. Then back onto the coach for a 9am departure. Stephen, the driver, was excellent and we arrived at Chartsworth house at 10.25, five minutes early.

And then the fun and excitement began…

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We walked round all the stalls, chatting to people and getting ideas for things to make and do.

Then onto the floral marquee to find new favourites and pick up some plants and seeds to bring home. The scent in this tent was amazing, and without being there you can’t really explain it. heady, at times overwhelming, sometimes subtle. The thing that struck me most was being able to pick out the different scents from different flowers. The colours and blooms were stunning, and I took lots of photos of plant labels and have copied them into my allotment book with descriptions of the type, height and spread of each plant.

We had a look around the beekeepers tent and then sat down near the river for a glass of Pimms and listen to the band playing on the field.

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Lastly we wandered around the show gardens, they are a lot smaller than I expected, however it’s good to see what can be achieved in such a small space, as most people don’t have huge gardens and some of the ideas can easily be used on the allotment too.

I had a chat with some vegetable growers and after tasting a couple of things and seeing some interesting plants I came home with only two packets of seeds.

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I’ve already sown a couple of these and am excited to see what happens.

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Holidays !

We have just had a lovely two week break on the island of Fuerteventura. It was wonderful to spend a couple of weeks without alarm clocks, school, work and to do as we pleased.

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The weather was warm, around 23 degrees most days, down to 14 in the evenings. The locals walked round in jumpers and coats, whilst we wore swimwear, t-shirts and shorts.

The hotel was in a quieter resort and was a sport hotel, which was fantastic for Oscar as the pool was cold so he still had plenty to keep him entertained. We had tennis, badminton, squash and basketball courts, a football pitch, and table tennis. So plenty to keep him busy and active, whilst I could lie on my lounger reading plenty of books. Perfect.

A five minute walk down a small hill took us onto a prom and a twenty minute walk to the local town (the hotel provided a free shuttle bus), we loved this walk as it was very open stony land, full of chipmunks and tiny lizards. We started taking an apple from breakfast and feeding it to them.

We booked a couple of trips to break up the holiday and see more of our island and took a day trip over to the neighbouring island, Lanzarote. This island was very different, even though it was only a half hour boat trip away. The boat was glass-bottomed and Oscar loved watching the fish swimming around it, until we started sailing when the waves started making him feel a little sea sick so we moved to the upper deck and he was fine. Lanzarote is also a volcanic land, but this one is still active and we had a tour of it and the national park created after the last eruption. It was amazing to feel how hot the floor was, and they have created a cafe and use the heat from it to cook the food, like a giant barbecue. The beaches here where very different, black sand from the volcanic rock and popcorn stones from coral.

We also had a jeep tour of Fuerteventura, it was very bumpy and lots of fun. The guide was hilarious and very knowledgeable.

In the evenings after dinner, Oscar played football until sunset, then he joined me on the bar and we played cards and pool.

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It was lovely to get away, catch up on some reading and sleep, have lots of quality time.

 

My Liverpool

Liverpool is a busy city, full of people, noise, music, eating and drinking. Sometimes there’s so much going on that we fail to see anything.

I’ve always loved the museums and galleries but sometimes you just need to grab a camera and walk around the streets.

Liverpool has many beautiful places but a short walk away from the bustle of the shops you’ll find yourself in the Baltic triangle, home of the creative people in Liverpool.

So on a cold and icy winter day I took a walk around to show you some of the artwork on display.

Sometimes you just need to ignore the noise and look around.

A day at the opera

I’ve always loved the ballet, the music, dance, grace and beauty but recently I’ve been seeing adverts and posters for opera performances, so for my birthday last year I was given tickets to see a filmed, live performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly from Glyndebourne.

We arrived at the beautiful Liverpool Philharmonic, and was greeted with a cold glass of Prosecco and  shown to our seats. The performance began, and from the opening of the first act to the interval everyone was mesmerised.

The costumes, stage settings, music and singing were beautiful. It was simply stunning. The performers were perfectly cast, Lieutenant Pinkerton had a very American soldier look, the marriage broker was very slimey, Cio-Cio San, the Geisha (Butterfly) had so much emotion, it was wonderful. Although I’ve never seen either this or Miss Saigon before I was aware of the story, and whilst it was sung in traditional Italian we did have the benefit of English subtitles.

During the interval we had a choice of a staying and having the full Glyndebourne experience with an indoor picnic or could venture out. We chose to pop across the road to an Italian restaurant and had an Italian Antipasto and Arrabbiata prawns with flat bread. It was delicious.

Then back for Acts 2 and 3, again the acting, singing and emotion was breathtaking. The lady next to me didn’t know the story and was very grateful when I handed her a tissue near the end. The experience was something I am looking forward to repeating, and will try at some point this year to see a live performance.

I would say, for anyone unsure about ballet, opera or even classic theatre the live screenings are a great introduction, especially for children. You get a look backstage, some insight into the production, cast, characters and story line.

July update part 1

It’s been hot, very hot so finding somewhere indoors to explore was a much more sensible plan.

So after buying a load of tickets for people at Christmas and forgetting myself, I finally bought a ticket and went to see the Terracotta Warriors. I’ve been looking forward to it since they announced it a few years ago.

Thankfully the schools hadn’t finished so the museum wasn’t too busy or noisy. The tickets have a timed entrance and started with short film about how they discovered the Warriors and the purpose of them.

Then you can wander at leisure and see lots of artefacts as well as several Warriors themselves. Every one is unique and they represent many different occupations but also many different animals, horses, birds and cats.

It was fascinating to see and they are at the World museum in Liverpool until the end of October. It has made me more determined than ever to get to China one day to see them again.

Bletchley Park

Whilst away at half term we also visited Bletchley Park, home of the code-breakers of world war 2. A fascinating place and somewhere I’ve always wanted to see, Oscar wasn’t keen until we got there and then was intrigued with lots of code cracking and solving puzzles.

It was quite a small house and grounds with ‘huts’ that up to 10,000 people lived and worked in during the war. It was a top-secret facility and even the locals didn’t know exactly what it was being used for but would have noticed the amount of people coming and going especially at shift change time.

When people where recruited they had to sign the official secrets act and were warned that divulging information even to family would lead to prison, they have had stories of children discovering parents not only worked there but could speak and translate many different languages.

Most of the first recruits came from Oxford and Cambridge universities but by the beginning of the war 75% were women recruited from the Women’s Services (WRNS, ATS, WAAF)

It was amazing to see the Enigma machine and to play with a replica to understand how it worked and just how complicated it really was. The most famous code breakers were Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Bill Tutte, who built the Bombe the machine that eventually broke the Enigma code.

The film Imitation game was the story of Alan Turing and the making of the Bombe and Bletchley Park.

Harry Potter revisited

We had a few days away at half term and took the opportunity to revisit the Harry Potter Studio tour since they’ve added lots of new areas since our last visit and it didn’t disappoint.

We spent around 6 hours wandering, reading and exploring the studios where the Harry Potter films were made over 10 years. It’s a fascinating place, especially seeing the attention to detail that has gone into making all the props, costumes, tapestries, paintings, even the books are fully printed inside just in case they were caught on camera during a scene.

The forbidden forest and creatures are all new since our last visit and it was good fun walking through the mists unsure of what or who we may encounter.

We even got to see the Hogwarts express this time, that wasn’t there on our last visit. They even had costumes and props from the fantastic beasts film (which was partly filmed in Liverpool)

Since our visit Oscar has started listening to the audio books thanks to the library.