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.

 

A little about me …

There are often these lists floating about on social media, and usually I don’t complete them, but love reading people’s answers, you learn surprising facts about people you think you know quite well.

I thought it would be a good way for you to learn a little about me.

  • Who are you named after : I am named after an elderly lady my mum knew. Unfortunately just after I was named the Gilbert O’Sullivan song – Clare was released and it became a hugely popular name. Personally I don’t like it, but not sure what I would prefer to be called. 
  • What is your favourite meal : I enjoy flavoursome food, strange thing to say but let me explain. I love chilli, ginger and garlic. I love Indian, Italian, and Thai food. Well cooked, well seasoned food. I can’t abide coriander, lemongrass and mashed potato. 
  • What is your favourite smell : I love the smell of newly cut grass, of lavender in the garden, lilies and tomatoes in the greenhouse, but my most favourite smell is my freshly showered boy snuggled up next to me watching tv. 
  • What was your favourite holiday : A difficult question to answer, I’ve been very lucky to visit some wonderful places and many I would love to return to for various reasons, but there are so many places still to visit. However there are two places that I will definitely return to again, India and Italy. I love India and have been a few times, the last time I was 6 weeks pregnant. The people, food and country are amazing, so many temples, shrines, cities, and beaches to see. Italy is beautiful, and where I was married. A country of historic cities, Rome, Milan, Venice, Verona, and my favourite Florence.
  • What is your favourite book, author and/or genre : I’ve always loved thrillers and horrors, Stephen King is still a firm favourite but over the last couple of years I’ve discovered Liane Moriarty, I’m not sure what genre these books would fall into but she is a wonderful storyteller with characters full of warmth and life. I have laughed and cried during these books, they leave you feeling like you’ve made some new friends and wanting to know them more. 
  • What is your favourite ice cream flavour : I love a really good vanilla ice cream, a honeycomb, last year I had a gorgeous rhubarb and ginger. 
  • What was the last movie you watched : Aquaman (in the cinema) and all the Spiderman films (not my choice – at home) 
  • What is one thing you like about yourself : I’m a caring person and will try and help anyone, if I’m able, or get help and advice when I can’t help directly. 
  • If you were a crayon what colour would you be : Without doubt I would be purple.
  • What is your hair colour : Light brown, with lots of  hidden grey (with help).
  • What is your eye colour : Brown 
  • Coffee or tea : I discovered a few months ago Moroccan mint tea in a restaurant, they make it themselves, after chatting with the owner she gave me the name of a few brands that have a similar one, my favourite is Tea People Moroccan mint, its a loose leaf tea so you can add as much as you wish to make it weaker or stronger. I’m avoiding coffee, only because I prefer it  with sugar and am trying to be good.

So that’s a little about me. Anything else you’d like to know feel free to ask, however I reserve the right not to answer…

 

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.

My recent break away

This year, for the first time in many years I wasn’t working over Christmas and Oscar was away with his dad so I decided to treat myself. I bought myself a three day break at a hotel with spa, which fitted in with my 50 things project. I looked around at different sites, hotels and spa’s but finally found one I liked the look of.

Crewe Hall – part of the Qhotels group – A grade 1 listed hotel. From the moment I turned into the tree lined driveway I knew I had made the right choice.

Being a solo traveller I was a little apprehensive but the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful. Check in was quick and simple and I was assisted to my room with my bags. And what a room it was….

The old building is spectacular inside, beautiful rooms and ceilings, stunningly decorated, especially with all the Christmas decorations.

I spent the first afternoon wandering around the maze-like hallways, discovering more and more rooms, the library, Malt bar, chapel and numerous reading nooks with plenty of comfy chairs.

I was bought vouchers for Christmas, so after a relaxed buffet breakfast on day 2  I headed down to the newer wing which has the spa, and booked a few treatments, a facial, a body exfoliation and massage. It was relaxing, luxuriant and if I’m really honest I felt a little guilty at enjoying the me-time.

I spent some time in the gym and plenty of time swimming, in the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. It was lovely sitting pool side reading in the warmth whilst looking at the snow outside.

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It was a perfect break, a time to recharge and catch up on some reading in beautiful surroundings.

A trip to be repeated…. hopefully.

The London photo challenge

Sometimes cities can seem a little ‘educational’ for children with all the museum and galleries, especially as they focus on learning and don’t always make it fun. So I decided to give Oscar a fun focus and a reason for us both to use our cameras.

This was the list …..

  1. Buckingham Palace
  2. Tower guard
  3. A duck on the street
  4. A street performer
  5. An underground sign
  6. A view from the sky
  7. A view from the water
  8. A shoe in the wall
  9. Street art
  10. The smallest police box
  11. A London Met police officer
  12. A Tardis
  13. Paddington bear
  14. Harry Potter
  15. Queen Victoria
  16. With a superhero
  17. Big Ben
  18. Nelsons column
  19. Tower Bridge
  20. The London Eye
  21. China town
  22. Wembley way
  23. Bobby Moore
  24. A shop or sign with your name.

And here are the results …

We had a good time and made some happy memories. Still plenty to see and do so tie to plan another visit.

Our London holiday – Part 1

A few years ago I took Oscar to London, he loved it and ever since has been asking to go back. So this is what we did.

We started off on a sunny Monday morning, travelling in style with Virgin trains.

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A lovely, laid-back relaxing journey to a very busy London Euston. Our accommodation was a short walk from the station, in the Garden Halls in the University of London. I was a little unsure about what it would be like, it was much cheaper than most hotels in the same area, but I wasn’t disappointed. The room was clean and comfortable with bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers and a desk/chair area. The Wi-fi was excellent and plenty of plugs in the room. The bathroom was spotless. Down the corridor from our room was a kitchen, which we had full use of, it included a fridge, microwave and kettle plus tables and chairs. The games room has old style arcade games, which Oscar loved. We never got chance to use the tennis courts but these were also included in the price !

The restaurant was lovely and breakfast was everything you could ever ask for, hot, cold, English, continental plus much more.

 

Our first afternoon we just wandered around, got our bearings and sorted out my oyster card for using the tube, (little tip children under 11 travel free on the tube with an adult using an oyster card).

Tuesday we were up and out early, after a hearty breakfast. Onto the tube and a reasonably short journey to Wembley stadium. The weather was beautiful and we arrived with plenty of time to look around the concourse, see the statues and read the plaques before our tour started. The tour took us all around the stadium, from players changing rooms and bathrooms, VIP area, different parts of the stadium seating, including the Royal box, press conference room and the technical area pitch side. We had a little rivalry going on as Oscar wore his Everton top and another family were Manchester United fans, the banter about the Rooney/Lukaku switch was fun and the two boys got to lead ‘their’ team out the players tunnel, after shaking hands like good team captains should.

 

 

 

From here we had a short walk and decided to try a different form of transport, the Emirates cable cars. I didn’t realise how high it went until we were on it but the view was amazing, even if Oscar didn’t appreciate it.

 

We decided to try a third transport option of the day and took the river shuttle back to the city.

As it was a lovely sunny day, so we decided to make to most of the sunshine and spent the afternoon at the Tower of London, it was a little expensive to get in (thankfully Oscar was free with his Blue Peter badge), it was interesting to see the torture devices in the tower, the Crown jewels and trying on some very heavy armour.

 

After a busy day we took a slow stroll back towards the hotel and 27,000 steps later we fell into bed for a much needed sleep.