Ian & Jane Meet Liz & Phil (Almost!)

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It had been years since either of us had visited Windsor Castle, so with a break in the torrential rain forecast we headed up the M3 to visit the Queen.

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We tried to ask this chap here with the large black hat, if Liz and Phil were in, but he was very noncommittal! I suppose if I was stood around all day balancing a large black hat on my head then I wouldn’t be that chuffed!

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After all the rain we had been having over the last few weeks, it was great to get out in the fresh air and to enjoy an almost blue sky.  We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy the castle without too many other people around so there was very little queuing to be done, which is great for me!

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I will definitely have to polish my shoes a bit better if I am going to compete with the guardsmen!

The iconic Round Tower, which apparently has 200 steps to take you to top, has a height of 65.5 metres.  From here you get a great view of the historic Windsor parkland, the Thames Valley and the full extent of the Castle.  I say “apparently” as we seem to have missed this aspect of the castle and had to make do with the views from much lower down!

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This is the Upper Ward, to the right are the Visitor’s apartments, in the middle of the photo are the Private Apartments, and the archway on the left hand side leads to the State Apartments.

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Jane is checking out the gardens in the moat of the Round Tower getting ideas for the new house……..ideas well above our station!

It’s amazing how fast four grenadier guards can march when it’s lunch time!

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A view from the castle down to the town, with St George’s Chapel on the right. A certain Harry and Megan were married here last year………..and we didn’t get that invite either!

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Just across the river Thames from Windsor,  is Eton.  Jane was very interested in going there to see all the school boys dressed in their finery, and I was interested in visiting the place where one of the world’s finest creamy desserts was born.  We were both disappointed!

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Last Formal Night

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What a good-looking bunch, they certainly all scrub up well!

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I’ll drink to that !

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Paul with all his “young ladies”

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Available for hire, two ageing night club bouncers!

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Its not often that I manage to capture a photo of Paul without a silly expression on his face!

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Zena thought the air conditioning was a little bit on the chilly side, but I don’t think anyone noticed!

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Jane lost her handbag, but good news, the girls found it!

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I think we should start a girl band………maybe we should call them “Little Minx”

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Don’t mess with the Krays!

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I’m not too sure if my red cheeks were caused by the sun or the wine, oh well!

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Zena really enjoys her drink!

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Eleanor giving that slightly “moody” look!

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Paul and dad taking a break from the Brexit discussions!

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Canaries Cruise – Lanzarote

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Our next port of call was Arrecife in Lanzarote. We had booked a tour to The Parque Nacional de Timanfaya and we were told that this would be like nothing we had experienced before………and they were right!

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It was like we had walked on to the moon. Lanzarote has been the site of the most extensive eruptions in the Canaries in recent centuries.  A major geological upheaval occurred in the 18th century.  Between 1730 and 1736 more than 100 volcanic vents in the west of the island began ejecting lava in an area which is now known as ‘Montañas del Fuego’, the Mountains of Fire.

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During the prolonged eruptions of the 1730s, which was one of the most sustained seismic events in our recorded history, lava flowed over fully 200 sq km, or about one quarter of the island’s surface, burying eleven local villages.

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And in 1974, the region’s importance was recognised with the designation of a protected National Park status. The ‘Parque Nacional de Timanfaya’ or Timanfayo National Park (named after one of the unfortunate destroyed villages) was created. And since then, the whole region has become a tourist attraction, and the most distinctive feature on the Island of Lanzarote.

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Have you ever had that feeling of having the devil on your shoulder and no angel to balance it on the other?

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I suppose it really was a bit devilish of me to start a game of hide ‘n’ seek in this rocky terrain!

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We weren’t too sure which way to go……….just as well that the coach driver saw the sign in time!

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There are no rivers in this area and very little rainfall so the solidified lava has not been eroded as other such areas might have been.

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This huge volcanic field covers about one quarter of the island’s surface.

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The volcanic soil is very nutritious and is great for growing, however the wind and the lack of water doesn’t help for cultivation. The only things that seem to thrive are grapes, figs, almonds and onions all grown without artificial irrigation.

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Most of the grapes go in to the production of wine, and Jane chose this bottle to bring home with her.

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After the tour we all went back to the ship for a spot of lunch, and in the afternoon Jane and I went out for a walk to explore the town of Arricife.

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We were exploring after most of the ship had got back onboard and so we had the place to ourselves again!

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As it was so quiet we had the time to do a bit of geocaching without being noticed and giving the game away!

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We caught the last courtesy bus back to the ship to leave this small town to fall back in to its normal quiet sleepiness.

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Canaries Cruise-Tenerife

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This is the view from one of the high spots on the island of Tenerife

 

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Thankfully the wind was blowing the clouds along at a fair lick so we did get to admire the vista!

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The roads in this part of the island were very narrow and this made the coach trip from the ship very interesting……   especially when you met another bus coming the other way!

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Our trip took us to the Playa del Roque de las Bodegas…………..

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Which was a small village with a small beach and a few shops and restaurants…………….

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We stopped and quality controlled the local cheese and wine along with some freshly baked bread, which was delicious.  However, I’m not sure if the long drive was worth the effort in this case!

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On the way back to the ship we made a brief stop at the tiny village of Taganana.

Until 1968, villagers lived their daily lives all but a world away from the capital and the rest of the island. The locals survived on agriculture throughout their history, beginning with sugar canes planted by the Spanish conquerors. Later on, grapevines were added to the hamlet’s main produce.

Before the construction of other roads, only the Las Vueltas road linked Taganana to the island’s main highway.  The path has so many twists and turns that it’s said there’s a bend for every day of the year.  Even so, it only took a matter of years before more and more visitors became attracted to this once hidden wonder.

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After a morning travelling the long and (very) winding road we settled down to an afternoon of reading our books by the pool!

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Canaries Cruise-Palma

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La Palma was our next destination after departing Madiera. That evening the ship set up a caribbean style BBQ on the pool deck

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Dad got into the groove very early on and was watched by many eager female admirers. We did have to ask him to tone it down a bit, and as he was twisting like he did last summer we were all worried that he might put his back out!

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I did have a lot to drink that night, so much so that I felt like a shadow of my former self in the morning!

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Here we are arriving at Santa Cruz de la Palma which is the capital of the island of La Palma.  La Palma is the most north-westerly island of the Canary Islands and is the fifth largest of these seven islands.

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It was only a short walk from our berth to the main shopping street, however I was more interested in the architecture  and scenery than the many perfume shops that were on offer!

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So dad and I went our own way and left Jane to do a bit of shopping on her own.  Dad was a little worried while I was walking the sea wall and he insisted that I hold his hand!

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I was also a little concerned when dad asked me if I had seen that great pair of knockers over there………………….but I needn’t have worried!

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Jane has often asked me where I get my shy retiring introverted nature from and I have to be honest with her and say I don’t know!

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Dad and I went back to the ship and had a bit of lunch and waited for Jane’s return, and then in the afternoon Jane and I took a taxi tour of the island.

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The island is home to the Roque de los Muchachos which at 2,423 metres is the second highest mountain in the Canary Islands.  The highest is Mount Teide on Tenerife.

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I was assured it would be a great view……………if it wasn’t for the clouds!

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Well if you can’t see the view then why not act like silly buggers!

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We were being watched while we were mucking about……you can’t quite see it but this gecko is looking heavenwards in dispair!

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The long drive to the top was well worth the effort, the clouds cleared and the sun came out and we were at last blessed with some stunning views.

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Our taxi trip was in the late afternoon and all the bus tours from the ship were in the morning which meant that we virtually had the whole place to ourselves.

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This area is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park and was designated as such in 1954.

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There were so many paths and tracks that I would have liked to explore but time was against us and we had to return to the ship……..oh well, that’s another place to add to the list of destinations that require a return visit!

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Canaries Cruise-Funchal

 

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The vast majority of the Smith family set sail from Southampton for a 12 day cruise around the Canary Isles.  By saying the vast majority I mean Dad, Ian and Jane, Paul and Sally and my nieces, Eleanor, Esme and Zena.

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It didn’t take long before Paul Esme and Zena were in the jacuzzi…………………..

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And Jane was posing happily for another holiday snap………………

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Dad was just content with sampling the gin and tonic and reading his book!

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So here we all are, suited and booted for the first formal evening of the cruise. I think we all scrub up quite well, but then again modesty has always been one of my strong points!

The next few day aboard the Ventura were spent swimming, sunbathing, reading and having the occasional drink, oh and did I mention there was food available 24 hours a day?

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Our first port of call was Funchal in Madeira. We arrived here slightly later than planned as there were two medical emergencies onboard that required, in the first instance a helicopter to airlift the sick passenger back to Southampton hospital; and in the second instance the ship had to be diverted to mainland Spain where a young girl with head injuries (and therefore couldn’t be flown due to the pressure change) was landed at Vigo. We were later told by the captain that both were making excellent progress!

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There must be something about a pair of bare boobs that brings the child out in us blokes…..and Paul is no exception !

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Here are Dad and I with the Ventura in the background. We were both surprised to find that Jane had entered us into the ship’s knobbly knees competition, but on reflection I can see what she meant!

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A short walk from the ship (or in the case of Jane, Dad and myself, a short bus trip!) and we were at the cable car ready to get our panoramic view of city below! Paul, Sally and the girls take it all their stride!

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It was the girls’ first ride in a cable-car and Zena was particularly excited!

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And what a great view it was, although the altitude did affect dad’s knee cap!

 

 

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One of the churches at the top of the hill was very colourful, it was a shame that at the moment I was about to take the photo the sun decided to hide behind a cloud, but I think you get the idea!

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Eleanor was making the most of her time ashore, using the WIFI to catch up with her friends…………well OK so was I, I really don’t want to miss out !

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A traditional Madieran toboggan ride is an exciting and quick way to get back to town….

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However we took the more sedate cable car back down to sea level!

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And here we all are, ready to head back to the ship for a bit of afternoon tea!

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This little fellow made me jump whilst I was looking for a geocache in the city centre, well when I say little I’m sure he was 4 foot long!

 

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Rob and Julia’s Beach Hut

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It had become a long-standing joke when Rob invited Steve and me down to visit his beach hut. It was 15 years ago when this invitation was first extended, but in all that time we had never been able to all get together at the same time.

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So after a lot of diary shuffling we all managed to make a date for early August. There wasn’t much shuffling on mine and Jane’s part, being retired, and Rob has started to wind down a bit so no problem there…………..It was just getting Steve and Sara to finish early on a Friday afternoon……………..

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While we were waiting for the workers to arrive, Rob decided to serenade Jane with his versions of The Beatles greatest hits.  Julia and I had both heard these renditions many times before, so we went for a swim!

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When Steve and Sara finally arrived Jane was so plastered that she couldn’t get out of her chair……….mind you I was struggling myself!

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And so, as we sat on the beach at Mudiford and watched the sun slowly set over Christchurch, we wondered if we might get another invitation to this lovely tranquil place…………….we had behaved ourselves well and Steve had almost been on time, give or take an hour or so, so I think we might be alright!

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After all the wine we had imbibed it was just as well we booked to stay in Christchurch for the night. In the morning we were greeted by this lovely view of the River Stour.  After a hearty breakfast it was time to return home to pack for our cruise to the Canary Islands………

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Thorpe Park

A Trip to Thorpe Park for Zena’s Birthday

 

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To celebrate Zena’s 12th birthday we took her and her friend Izzy up to Thorpe Park for the day.  We got there early so that we would beat the rush and get on the rides without too much queuing…………..

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……….but when we got there and saw some of the rides we started to change our minds…….

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But it seemed the more horrific the ride looked, the more the girls wanted to go on it!

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Mind you there is a slight look of trepidation on Zena’s face as she is being locked into place on this photo…………

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It was entertaining enough for us just to sit down and watch the girls having fun, without the fear of us losing our dignity (and stomachs) in the middle of a triple loop!

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But we all managed the really scary queue for the ice creams without too many problems……..

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Although some of us didn’t quite manage to find our mouths!

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Ah that’s more like it, a ride the oldies can go on without having to close our eyes!

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I still had to hold on……..just to make sure!

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And for the final ride of the day we really let our hair down, and went on the tea cups!

A good day was had by all, the girls went on loads and loads of rides and we enjoyed them having so much fun!

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Robbie Williams at Hyde Park

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It’s been a long time since I last updated the blog, so here we go, this is what Jane and I have been up to over the summer of 2019.

Just before last Christmas I managed to buy a couple of tickets to see Robbie William at Hyde Park. So rather than visit London just for the day I thought we would take the opportunity to stay for a couple of nights.

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I decided to drive up to the capital as the cost of train tickets were far more expensive than the petrol and parking would be, and we had the flexibility to carry more of Jane’s luggage!

We stopped off at Kew Gardens on the way, an oasis of calm in a busy city!  There are wonderful displays of colourful plant life everywhere you look………………

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Although the “marigolds” were a little bit disappointing! (This was actually just outside one the restaurant/toilet blocks, just in case you were wondering!!)

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And I wasn’t too sure what Scooby Do was doing outside one of the hot houses!

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And if there wasn’t enough colour from the plant life they also had several art installations to add to the brightness of your day!

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Our hotel was a Premier Inn in Knightsbridge which we had booked 6 months ahead and got a great rate for central London.  Whilst here I took the opportunity to do a bit of geocaching, I really can’t understand why Jane gets embarrassed when I’m on my hands and knees scrabbling under statues on a busy street!

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Our walk to the concert took us past many of London’s world-famous landmarks, and as it was the summer holidays it was packed with many tourists from around the globe enjoying the sights and sounds of the city!

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And in the park there was a reminder of the countryside with a border of wild flowers!

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Well here we are, just about to enter our first festival for many years……………..

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Jane was not quite sure what to do, so finding something to lean against and read the papers was the order of the day!

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And as the hours passed it got a lot more interesting with lots happing all around (but we still didn’t give up our space with the back rest!)

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The sun shone and Sharleen Spiteri was on stage with Texas to entertain us……………

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And as the afternoon passed the park filled up and we were glad that we got there early enough to get a space close to the stage, well when I say close you still couldn’t see who was singing without the help of the large video screens!

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And then it was time for the main man…….Robbie was on………..

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It’s great to see such a shy retiring introverted man overcome his fears and perform to so many people………

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Robbie took time to thank his dad for his childhood, sat in the wings of many nightclubs watching his father perform and setting him on the right path…….they performed a duet to a rapturous applause from the crowd!

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As the sun slowly set the music got louder and the crowd more appreciative…………

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And then all too quickly it was over……….what a great show, Robbie was fantastic, the atmosphere  was terrific and the day was a great success! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but I’m not so sure that we will want to spend a whole day at a festival again……unless its VIP!

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St Malo

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It’s very nearly the end of our short break in France, and this time we are sailing home from St Malo.

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St Malo is more than just a port, it’s a destination in its own right. We always try to add a few extra days here at the end of our holiday to enjoy its unique charm.

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As you can see from these two photos we haven’t changed a bit………….

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Although Jane thinks I might have put on a few ounces!!!!!!

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But I’m sure you will agree it’s only muscle!

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So if you are sailing to or from St Malo I highly recommend that you save a little time to explore this lovely walled town………..

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And the vast sandy beaches………

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And the stunning rocky coastline…………..Enjoy!

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