Spain for a Day

Saturday 14th March

It was an early start for us to catch the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in sunny Spain. We had been a little concerned about the coronavirus and its implications on our holiday, so we had regularly checked the FCO’s latest travel advice and we were good to go………or so we thought!

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As soon as we were on board and in our cabin Jane got the antiseptic wipes out and gave our bedroom a thorough clean, this is not a time to take any unnecessary risks!

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I thought the best way to avoid any contamination was to sit on deck and take in some sun. Whilst I was out getting a tan everything in Spain was changing quite dramatically and extremely fast. The FCO’s advice changed from avoid the 3 infected regions, to “only essential travel allowed”. The ship was full of people trying to get any information on what we should do next and this was pretty difficult to get hold of. Rumours of all campsites having to close, along with all restaurants and bars, were abound! We also heard that everyone was told to stay indoors and not only should they not drive anywhere, they were not even allowed to walk the streets!

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So as sunny Santander came into sight our plans had changed from a relaxing month in the sun to how are we going to get back.  We were lucky to be one of the first cars off the ferry so our immediate plan was to try to get back on the same ferry………..no luck there ,as many people had travelled up from the Costas overnight and the ferry was full.  Some kind passenger that we had been speaking to on the crossing pointed out a booth where they were taking bookings for upcoming sailings. We were lucky enough to secure the last space for the caravan and the last cabin on the Tuesday sailing from Bilbao, so all we had to do was find somewhere to stay for two nights.

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This was easier said than done.  After a few false starts and a few failed attempts to solicit a bit of sympathy from campsite owners, we settled for the less than salubrious surroundings of the car park at the Eroski supermarket.

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This did have one small advantage as I was amongst the first in the shop when it opened.  We were all given plastic gloves as we entered the store, and were only let in in phases.

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Once inside it was an Aladin’s cave of toilet rolls!  Even though that’s not what I went in for I bought a pack for gifts for when we eventually got back to the U.K.!!

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After every transaction at the till every checkout was thoroughly cleaned before you were allowed across the blue line to pay for your own basket of goods.

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Jane stayed in the caravan whilst I rounded up the essentials to help us survive our 36 hours in Spain. Top of her list was wine, well mine too if it comes to that, crisps, biscuits, chocolate, bread and milk were amongst the staples to keep us going!

 

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I was a little worried at buying these as the instruction were all in Spanish but Jane found a website with an English translation so that was alright!

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Our next night was spent on the dock of the bay, its sounds far more appealing when Ottis Redding sings about it. Cold, wet and windy and packed in like sardines was the reality! During the night we heard a lot of shouting and screaming…….and in the morning were told that an Albanian had tried to get into next doors caravan under the cover of darkness!  He was chased by the owner wielding a baseball bat and wearing his boxers!

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At last we were on board and ready to come home, but we were informed that we had to stay in our cabins for the duration of the crossing……and then I heard the dreaded words “all restaurants and bars closed!”  Jane’s immediate reaction was to send me back to the caravan to get some travel essentials!

The crossing passed with very little incident, and the crew were marvellous bringing us 3 meals during the journey…..you can tell what’s important to me!

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Time to get in to the car and head home. Charlotte had asked us to stop by at Sainsbury’s to pick up some food for the potential lock down!

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Whilst in the store I met up with an old work colleague from my days running the Food Barn, when he used help run Batleys cash and carry.  Paul is now part of the management team of the Sainsburys at Hedge End and today he was making sure that there was no panic buying on the toilet rolls, whilst every single checkout was going flat out!

 

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I thought I would share a post to make you smile during this most serious of times.

I was hoping my blog was going to feature another trip to Spain for some winter sunshine……….now it’s going to be all about trying to stay sane whilst

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1 Diana Drive

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When we started doing all our travelling, there was always the outside possibility that my dad  might be able to sell his field for building, and if that happened then we might be lucky enough to be able to build a house in his back garden.

 

And the fantastic news was that both these things came to pass, and we were to be able to start building a house each, one for all dad’s boys!

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This was the view from the  bedroom window where we stayed at dad’s between our trips abroad in the caravan.

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It was fascinating watching the construction take place.  Some days an awful lot was achieved……….

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Whilst on other days the weather was totally against any progress and we just had to sit looking out of the window and dream!

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When Jane took over the job as site foreman the work rate increased dramatically !

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And we were soon up to the second floor.

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And then not too long after we had a roof……

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And now here we are, almost finished, they are just putting the final touches to the road surface and then we should be able to drive home unimpeded!

1 Diana Drive, named in memory of my mum who sadly is no longer around to see how fortunate her 3 boys have been!

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The Southwest Coast Path

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The south west of England is one of our favourite parts of the country. We have visited here many times before and its charm never ceases to beguile us. Every time we come down we always do at least one coastal walk,  and it was with this in mind that I have set myself a target of completing the whole of the coastal path in the next 10 years, filling in all the gaps that I haven’t previously walked.

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The idea was first put into my head by my mate Kev who has also walked a lot of the path before, but he also wanted to tie it all together so he could say he had “done” it!

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You can either start the walk at Minehead or Poole, and we had chosen Minehead as we had the book “Walking the Southwest Coast Path” (by Paddy Dillon) and it would be a lot easier to follow the route in the direction that the author had written it.  Jane had recently read the “Salt Path” by Raynor Winn, an account of an older couple who were down on their luck after having lost their house and business, and the redeeming effect this journey had on their lives.  I also read it and would recommend it.  I would also highly recommend this first leg of our journey.  We were very lucky with the weather, as you can see, and that of course puts you in the right frame of mind to start with!

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Although both Jane and Val thought the 6 mile walk was all uphill, they did admire the view from the top of the ridge………….

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And they were both very pleased to see the downhill section as this signalled the end of the hard part of the walk.  Mind you navigating your way down this slope was not that easy!

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Back down to sea level, and now it’s only a mile and a half of flat walking before we get to the pub!

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Although some of it is along the beach on shingle, and that’s quite hard work!

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The good thing about attempting these walks out of season is that there is hardly anyone else about and you really get to experience the peace and tranquility of these beautiful areas!

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The pub is in sight, time for a drink and an ice cream!

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At Last…..Time for a Catch Up

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Well it has certainly been a long time since I have had time to sit and update the blog.  Well when I say I haven’t had time what I really mean is that trying to get the time and the motivation together at the same moment has really been the big problem!

Anyhow I will give you a quick update on what we have been up to since the last blog and give you a brief idea of the places we hope to visit this year. We are both looking forward to taking the caravan down to Spain next month to catch a bit of winter sun.

Just in case you were thinking the photo above is of Daniel Craig and Sean Connery, it is actually me and my cousin Adrian on our way to a secret cinema James Bond evening in September last year.  Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of the bond girls that accompanied us, well none that Jane would let me publish! The evening was all based around the film Casino Royale, we were given a rendezvous in London where we were met by agents who directed us to a building. On entering we were briefed by “M” that we had to get clues to stop the world from being blown up……or something like that! I thought the set was fantastic and the actors playing the scenes were great but I found it a little difficult to figure out what I was meant to do, maybe  all the vodka martinis (shaken not stirred) had something to do with that!

 

We have had a few trips out in the caravan…. not as many as I would have liked due to a major mechanical problem with the van, that required it having to have a new axle fixed (ouch that was very expensive!)

We had a trip to Devises in late September, from where we took a trip to Lacock in Wiltshire which is a small village that a lot of you have probably seen, but wouldn’t know you have as it been used as a location in many films and T.V programmes, such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,Scenes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald were also shot here.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, and  The Wolfman, starring Anthony Hopkins  were also shot here.

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We were lucky with the weather and managed to enjoy a few walks along the canal which was next to the caravan site.

I also cycled many miles along the towpath, this was necessary for me to burn off the extra calories I had taken on board by eating all the different pork pies that they make in Wiltshire.  Well I had to try as many varieties as possible didn’t I ?

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There are a fair few pubs in walking distance from the campsite, its nice to have to have a destination in mind when you are having an early evening stroll……………

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As long as you are back before it gets too dark………..you don’t want to end up in the water!

 

 

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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

 

IMG_55684th August 2019

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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