Day 7&8 – The Mountains, the Scenery and the Wine Tour with Ron

Yesterday, (day 7) we left Kimberley for Penticton.  According to the various maps and apps, it was to be a drive of either 7+ hours of 5+ hours.  In the end, with a few sight seeing stops it took over 8 hours.  It was tiring, especially for the Mr as he is doing all the driving.  However, what a scenic route!  It is absolutely stunning!

 

We left Kimberley by 09.00 and followed the Sat Nav out of Town towards the USA border towards the Okanagan Valley. The primary town of the Okanagan is Kelowna but we are heading for Penticton. Which translates as “a place to stay forever”  Here we will visit the lakes and take in a Wine Tour which has been recommended by Robyn and Adam.  First though… the journey.

Most of this trip is through the Mountains, we will pass through some of the most spectacular scenery as we travel through the Kootenay Pass, Bonanza Pass and on over Osoyoos before arriving at Penticton.  You can check out these by using the links but to say that this is the scenic route, is a total understatement.

We were held up significantly on the Bonanza Pass as there were resurfacing works on the road.  We had to wait in a queue of traffic until it was safe for us to follow the ‘Pilot Vehicle’ through the gravel topped single lane which went on for around 3km.

This is a ‘wildlife corridor’ and we were warned by road signs that we may see Bears, Caribou, Elk and Deer on the highway…truth is…we didn’t see anything, disappointing but we laughed as we went, as we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife, it seemed that every shadow on a rock, could be a Bear!

The sat nav at one point, took us the wrong way, which set us back around 45 minutes but we went into Subway at Fruitville and asked the waitress who pointed us back the way we came and that we had to drive via Castlegar.  So, after finishing our sandwich we got back in the car and set off again.  It is hot – 32 degrees and we are thankful for the air conditioning in the car, even though it makes you dry and thirsty.

We finally arrived at the Plaza Motel Penticton at around 5.30pm.  We are on the first floor, the room is basic and the air con is noisy but we are quickly settled and looking at Google maps for Indian food.

We found a restaurant that was 28 minutes away (really?) … it was in fact more like 45 minutes but was well worth the walk.  The food was delicious and the staff were very accommodating.

After dinner, we walked to the lake … all I can say is WOW! Apparently this lake is 300 metres deep and the locals and holiday makers treat this area like a beach.  The views are stunning.

We sat at a bar and had a couple of drinks, until we started to feel tired, it has been a long day.  We didn’t fancy the walk back, so we called a taxi … what a great day.  We shall sleep well tonight!

The Wine Tour with Ron

While were planning our holiday, we suggested that we may want to do a wine tour.  Robyn and Adam have been to the Penticton area a couple of times for a tour of the Wineries in this area.  They gave us a card for ‘Sunshine and Wine Tours’ Penticton and we got in touch with Ron.  The response was almost immediate and booking the trip was extremely easy.

We toured on our own with Ron and not with a party.  Not that we have any problem with going with other people but it was a different and more relaxed experience going on our own.  We had more time to take in the scenery and listen to our hosts explain about the wine, how the wineries came about and all about the research and history of wine making in this region.  It was very interesting and the people are so passionate about their wine.

Ron was a great host and I can highly recommend his company if you ever get the chance to come here.  He was polite, interesting and great company.  We were treated like royalty …oh and he took us to a great place for lunch!  This is an experience that will stay with us always.  Thanks Ron!

 

When we got back to our room, it didn’t take long before we were both snoozing.  Sunshine, wine tasters and a pasta lunch had taken it’s toll today zzzzzzzzzzzz

Awake at 5.45 pm, type up the Grannyrant, quick change and back out.  No rest for the wicked. We wanted to stretch our legs and get some air.  Walk off the wine.  We walked the ‘shorter’ route (according to Google maps) back to the lake.  8 minutes it said!  45 minutes later and having stopped off at a drug store for throat sweets for the Mr, we arrived at the lake again.  The temperature is still around 32 degrees but there is a cool breeze coming off the water and the locals are saying there may be a storm coming.

We spent a couple of hours at the lake and then strolled back to our room.  After a cup of tea, we were in bed by 11.  Tomorrow, we move on to Clearwater …. Goodnight from me and a goodnight from him … Granny 😊

 

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Day 6 & 7 – Kimberley

Up really early, seems to be a habit.  We have been getting up before 07.00 every day apart from the morning after the stampede when we slept until 08.00.

We decided to have a lazy morning, we ate toast and had lots of tea and coffee and the Mr searched the cable TV stations to see whether the England (World Cup) match was on TV.  I am a martyr to football, even on holiday but I don’t mind really, it gives us chance to take a breather and relax.

At around 14.00 we got in the car to drive down to the town.  Kimberley is a historic town with a Bavarian feel to it.

I would imagine that during the Ski season, there would be Bavarian music and beer drinking around the town.  It is a small town, very pretty and the people are friendly.  We visited the local shops and Sullivan’s Pub which looked very plain from the outside but had a traditional bar area and a patio.  We chatted to locals and listened to the wild stories of the group of bikers, taking a pit-stop from riding their Harleys through the mountains.  They told of sightings of Golden Eagle and Bears.  Things we haven’t managed to see yet but we are only just starting this trip.  We remain hopeful!

We stayed in town and decided we would eat early, then go back and try out the hot-tub, so we walked along to the Chinese restaurant at around 5.30pm.

The had no ribs, only Chinese Pork so I went for that as a starter.  The Mr, had Veggie Spring Rolls.  The portion size, once again, is enormous.  I probably had 30 pieces of pork in a bubbly batter.  I have to say, I’m not a fan of these huge portions, it’s like every plate of food you order is to share with a family of four!  We have no way to save it and eat it later.  We had a Curry each and steamed rice.  It was lovely food but I had to waste so much.  Maybe I should ask for half portions?

After eating, we drove back up to the apartment and proceeded to suss out the hot tub.  We haven’t brought bathing costumes, so underwear it is.  We had a hoot!  I went in and out of the tub, trying to get the timer to work on my camera and then trying to dash back in a get in position for the picture in 10 seconds!  The water was more out of the tub, than in by the time we managed to get a couple of decent pictures.

Later on, after we were out of the tub, we sat quietly on the veranda when I almost squealed as a Deer walked right in front of us.  I rushed to try and get my camera to no avail but thankfully Mr Holt caught this amazing sight on his iPhone just as she walked away.  This has made a gorgeous day perfect!

So to bed, tomorrow we move on to Penticton via the Kootenay and Bonanza mountain passes Goodnight lovely readers ….Granny 😊

 

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Day 4 & 5 – The Mall, Thai Food, Stampede and the Start of the Road Trip

Calgary Stampede has been going on ever since we arrived and the whole city is teeming with Horses and Cowboys/Girls – there is a real carnival atmosphere.

This event is massive and we have tickets for tonight’s Chuck Wagon Racing and Grandstand Show.  It is the 50th anniversary of the Grandstand show, which is a variety show with singing, dancing, fireworks, magic and something for all the family. We can’t wait to go… but that’s later tonight and this morning we have some serious shopping to do.

We must find a Stampede shirt for the Mr, there will be the obligatory trip to the Pandora shop and lunch at the food hall.  Also, Carter is a huge Spiderman fan, so we want to buy him something Spiderman related.  This little chap, still can’t get used to our names, so we seem to now be ‘Grandma’ and ‘Brother’ forever … that suits us fine.

Shopping complete, we head for the food hall.  We just can’t get used to the portion sizes here, so as usual I ordered way too much food.  I had a Gyros wrap with salad and the Mr went off to get some Thai Noodles with Prawns.  I saw someone with fries and it was a small portion, so as we were going to share our fries with Carter, I ordered 2 portions.  When they came, it was enough to feed a small army for a week… we left more food than we ate!  Lesson learned … don’t ever order 2 of anything!

Towards the end of our shopping it was getting close to nap time for our little man, he was becoming slightly agitated (understatement), so Robyn took him back to the car while we went to buy a new electric razor for the Mr to replace the one damaged by the baggage handlers throwing the bags around.  We watched them loading the plane at Toronto and they just drop the bags from a great height!  I forgot to mention earlier, along with the razor, a whole bottle of styling spray was burst in my case, so when we opened it, apart from a lot of my clothes being wet, they smelled like a Hair Salon, took me back to my days as a Stylist at Barnett’s Ebbw Vale!  Anyway…I digress…

We spent part of the afternoon repacking our cases ready for tomorrow’s road trip and then when Kate arrived we tried on our shirts and boots etc for the Stampede.  We are all so excited and me and the Mr are so glad it’s going to happen this time, as we were so disappointed when it was rained off in 2010.

At 4.30 we were ready.  We will meet Adam at the Thai restaurant for an early evening meal, then he’s taking Carter home and me, Robyn, Kate and the Mr will go on to the Stampede Ground!  Once again, we have no sense when we order the food and when it arrived at the table, we were ‘gobsmacked’ by the amount.  I have never seen portion sizes like this in my life.  I think my jaw actually hit the table!

We had Shrimp Pad Thai, Chicken Pad Thai, 3 portions of Thai Curry, (some Shrimp some Chicken), Crispy Chicken and 2 portions of rice!  The curry came in a bowl that would have held 4 portions back in the UK and needless to say, there was enough food for a further 2 days to take home after we had eaten! OMG – we are all stuffed!

Carter and Adam left after supper, as the show will be too late for the little man and the rest of us bundled ourselves back into the car to go to the Stampede Grounds.

We found a parking space quite easily considering the amount of people looking for spaces and we walked along to the ground with the swell of people all going in the same direction.  The atmosphere is amazing, it’s like a real old fashion fairground with sideshows, fairground games, huge trucks and show houses, live animals for the children to pet and learn about from the farmers and loads of food and drink stalls.  There are marching bands, zip wires, candyfloss, donuts, hotdogs, popcorn…you name it…they have it!  I think everyone should come and see it, at least once!

We got to the stadium and found our seats, we were in the centre at level 5 and we had a perfect view of everything.  This is the 50th anniversary of the Grandstand Show and it has been dedicated to the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans.  The opening was, as you would expect, very patriotic, with the singing of the anthem, a helicopter fly past with a Canadian flag trailing underneath and tribute to all ethnic groups that make up this tolerant and diverse nation.  It was quite emotional to be a part of it and we are so glad we were, tonight, it would be fair to say, that we feel like Canadians and part of this big friendly community, even if just for a little while.

And they’re off!

The Chuck wagon racing was so exciting, 4 wagons in each heat, pulled by 4 horses.  They do a figure of 8 and then along with their outriders, each team does one circuit of the course.  These horses fly!  They go so fast and the skill and speed of the outriders as they hurtle around the track alongside their team wagons is a sight to see!  We each chose our favourite wagon before each heat and although there was no money involved, we were all quite competitive.  The noise from the crowd during the races was unbelievable as the wagons and horses sped to the finish line!  Chuck wagon racing reminded me of what it must have been like 100s of years ago when pioneers went on the long journey to take part in the land races, where they had to race their wagons and put a flag in the ground to stake their claim to their own piece of America!  What a way to start a new life!

The Grandstand show was on immediately after the Wagon racing and during the interval, we queued for the bathroom (as you do) and ordered more Beer from the waiter as they prepared the stage for the show.  You can’t help but appreciate the amount of preparation and hard work that goes into this event.  It runs like a clock and with military precision.

The show’s main entertainment is sung and danced by ‘’ a very talented group of youngsters, who are a real old fashioned ‘song and dance’ troupe.  They are so slick and professional and it’s obvious that it’s something they are proud to be a part of.  The show was hosted by the Granddaughter of the man who first introduced the Grandstand show 50 years ago.  I would have found out the name for you all, but the Wi-Fi is down and we have no data signal in the mountains.  I am going to have to save this post to my Dropbox and upload it when we eventually do get a signal.  Anyway, you can Google it, I’m sure!

The lead singer of ‘The Archies’ sang ‘Sugar Sugar’, which was a big UK hit in the 70s for those who remember that far back.  We also saw a ventriloquist, a comedian with a stutter who was hilarious, an illusionist, who escaped from a straightjacket while dangling from a burning rope attached to a bear trap!  ‘Eddie the Eagle’ flew in on his skis!  Yes … Eddie the Eagle Edwards no less. We had a drum troupe suspended in the air, an acrobatic roller skating duo, which was one of the scariest things I have watched, as her head skimmed the ground, while she was dangling from a rope attached to her partners neck.

Then there was the most spectacular Finale… with fireworks, lights and a giant blow-up 50th birthday cake that we almost missed as we were too busy watching the pyrotechnics!  Phew…what an evening of entertainment!  It was amazing – everything on this holiday so far has been amazing.  When we finally got to bed it was almost 1.15am and we were totally exhausted but what a great show… and so to sleep with a head full of sights and sounds to remember forever!  

The next day… We were awake by 07.00 but there will be no time to write up the blog.  Breakfast, finish packing and then off to pick up the hire car for our Road Trip through the mountains.  You can see the Rockies in the distance from Calgary and even though we have been before we haven’t been on our own and also, the Mr hasn’t driven here before and especially not in a left-hand drive automatic car.  You cannot get a manual gearbox car for love nor money from the hire companies and for those who don’t know, driving here is mainly on long straight roads that go on for 100s of kilometres, so it makes sense to drive an automatic.  Fuel, is half the price that it costs in the UK with a litre costing around $1.30 approximately 80p.

We ordered a Chrysler Malibu but on arrival we were shown to a lovely white Nissan Altima.  Lovely roomy car with a boot big enough to sleep in should we get lost!

We followed Robyn back to the house to pick up our luggage and the cool box (borrowed from Kate).  We have Beer, half a bottle of Chardonnay, Tea bags and one of Robyn’s Banana loaves with chocolate chips, …we will pick up some groceries on the way.  So, after some big Welsh cwtches for Carter and Robyn it’s Tata for now (until we return in 2 weeks) …Rocky Mountains here we come.

The start of the journey was wet and misty, (no not inside the car :-).  The weather has cooled today and there is thunder about.  As we head towards the mountains the rain became heavier at times and the temperature, which up until today has been around 28 degrees, has now dropped to a chilly 13!

We would drive for almost 5 hours today and should arrive at Kimberley, early evening.  We travelled around the outskirts of Banff National Park and then through Kootenay National Park.  This is Bear Country and there a is a slim chance we could see either Black Bears or a Grizzly… I am hopeful but not expecting to see them.  When we were here in 2010, we saw a Black Bear with babies cross the road and a young female Grizzly leaning on a wall near Lake Louise…what a sight and as stated before, they were gone before any of us could grab the camera!

During the drive we saw 2 Foxes, a Deer and a few Buzzards but as we were driving quite quickly, photographs were not possible.

Arriving at Kimberley at around 5.30pm we drove to the destination on the Sat Nav and found that the road was completely blocked by roadworks.  We tried to find another way in but to no avail until we stopped and asked someone working on their car.  It was a long way around but eventually as we drove up the hill the Mr said “this is where we stayed in 2010!” “oh yes…you’re right” says I, which was a really odd thing to happen, as Kate found this place for us on Airbnb.  Sure enough, the apartment is 100 metres from where we were before and the restaurant is right across the carpark.  Cushty!

We unpacked, looked in all the cupboards, opened the hot tub …yes…it’s hot!  Checked the Wi-Fi and logged in, although as I said, it’s not very reliable and the data signal is practically zilch.  We tried out the log fire.  On exploring the veranda outside there is a gas barbecue and we have everything we could wish for and more for this 2-day stopover.

Dinner tonight was Pub-Grub, Fish and Chips for the Mr and a Sirloin with veg and rice for me

So it’s Goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from him.  TTFN – Granny 😊

 

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Day 3 – Bowness, Bow River and Sunburn

Good morning, it’s 07.00 on Monday morning and I’m writing up yesterday’s activity.  It’s a glorious sunny morning in Calgary and I have just posted a happy 21st birthday message to my lovely grandson Callum.  We always miss his birthday as it’s always when we are away in July, so he’s had his card and present before we left. One of these days though, we will hopefully see him on the actual day!

Yesterday was another relaxed family day.  Singing songs with Carter, Old Macdonald, Baa Baa Black Sheep and generally making lots of noise and fun with this lovely little boy.  He is a real character.  He also agreed to try on his Welsh Tee shirt sent over from my daughter Joanne.  He loves it and didn’t take it off for most of the day, well… at least until he had soaked himself spraying the garden!

Tomorrow, we plan to go to the Grandstand Show at Calgary Stampede.  We are really looking forward to this as when we were here in 2010, it was rained off for the first time in 125 years and we had to have our ticket money back.  Fingers crossed this sunshine continues and according to the forecast it looks like it will.

Robyn and Adam decided on Enchiladas for supper, so we checked whether we had all the ingredients and confirmed that we did.  Sounds lovely, we have eaten some great food since getting here to their house.  This morning we had French toast with bananas and cinnamon for breakfast, with Maple syrup for those who like it.  Then we sat out on the deck for a while in the sun, until it got so hot that we couldn’t stand it anymore.  I think we may have burned in the sun, so we may regret sitting so long later in the day.

For lunch we had home made Banana Bread with butter and coffee.  It was lovely and between the four of us and Carter, we ate the whole loaf…but that’s fine because Robyn baked 8 loaves and there are some left in the freezer!

Carter woke from his nap and we decided that when it gets cooler later, we would take Piper the dog to the dog park and go for a walk along the Bow River.  For those who followed this blog in 2010 when we were last here, you should remember that we had a near death experience in this river, or at least that was how it felt at the time.  This is the reason I will never, ever sit in a raft again.  You can refresh memory here if you feel the need.

This trip was far calmer and the river at this point runs quite quickly but their children and dogs paddling in the water.  Piper paddled in the water and the males in the party spent time throwing stones in the water and skimming stones in rock pools while I took some pictures.  It was lovely but the sun was still hot!

Dinner was on the way and we had some beer and white wine spritzer while we were waiting.  The enchiladas were scrumptious, with black beans, sweet corn, chicken, onions and all sorts of other good stuff.  Oh … and oodles of cheese!  We were all stuffed at the end of this meal and during the cooking, we realised just how hot the sun had been and noticed the red stripes on our skin caused by sitting outside too long without sun screen!  Robyn was especially red and sore and had to apply copious amounts of Aloe Vera lotion to take the soreness away.  We then had lots of laughs as she strapped Kate’s ice pack around her head to try and cool down.

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By the end of the evening we were all shattered and one by one people left us to go to bed, leaving me and Robyn talking until midnight … and so to bed.  Tomorrow is Stampede day!  TTFN …Granny 😊

 

 

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Day 2 Calgary – Playing, Planting and Planning…

Day 2 was always going to be a relaxed day.  Following a mammoth journey yesterday we needed to take it easy and enjoy the down time.  We both got 6 solid hours of sleep and even though we woke up slightly discombobulated, we were both feeling pretty good.

We are staying in my cousin’s basement apartment, which is great.  It’s spacious, we have our own bathroom, there is a sun deck right outside the door and it’s quiet.  A great place to type up a blog early in the morning and relax.

At around 08.00 we showered, dressed and went upstairs to find some tea.  Robyn was already up with Carter.  Carter is 2 and half years old and a real cutie.  Kids are so interesting at this age and although it took him a while to get used to the visitors, he quickly built up the confidence to have a conversation with me and the Mr and appeared comfortable with us being around.

Adam was soon up too, so now we had met and greeted everyone that we missed through arriving after midnight and we just enjoyed each other’s company over breakfast.  We should make the most of family time, it is so important, especially when we all live so far apart.

We sat at the high table in the kitchen, had some toast and tea and a long chat about family news, I passed on the best wishes sent from family at home, we caught up on all the wedding and baby news and information about Mam and how she was doing at her new home.  It was a lovely relaxing morning.

A little later, we got to talk about the garden at the house and how the local Bunny population are eating every plant they put in the ground.  I love gardening and although I am not an expert, I wanted to find a solution, that didn’t involve shooting, trapping or poisoning any Bunnies!  So, we Googled ‘Bunny proof plants’ and came up with some ideas.  We all decided that we would have a relaxed day, mooching about the Garden Centre, going to Costco for some groceries for Dinner and then on the Liquor store for Wine to accompany our meal.

We bought some hardy Lilies, some Lavender and big potted Strawberry plant for Carter.  We bought some Malbec and a nice bottle of Barolo to go with supper and decided that we were having Salmon with a dill sauce.  Yummy, can’t wait!

When we arrived home, it should have been nap time for Carter but he was having none of it.  We were planting flowers and he wanted in!  So, we got stuck in, digging with our hands and some garden tools, planting and with Carter on watering duties!  He also seems to have forgotten my name, so I am now called Grandma! …

The planting was soon all finished and we all stood back to admire our work.  The last time I was here, we planted Lilies in Saskatoon, this time in Calgary.

Carter by this time was overdue his nap and although he was exhausted he really fought against going to sleep.  After almost 45 minutes of being upset he finally settled to sleep.  This watering business had tired him out!  While he napped we had a well-earned drink.  Beer for the boys and a very long G&T with loads of ice for the girls. Iechyd da!

Kate arrived!  Kate and Robyn are sisters and so she is also a first cousin.  It is so lovely to see everyone and after hugs all round and passing on her Cardiff Starbucks collection mug and a gift from home, we had a quick catch up on the past few days, our planting earlier in the day and hearing all her news about buying her first home.  Trouble is, we now were on our second G&T and the boys were about 4 beers ahead already!  The Mr is not much of a drinker and we are still a bit jet-lagged, so this may not end well 😊

We are planning a 10-day road trip starting Tuesday and Kate was keen to help us plan a route, so we set up the laptop, got on to Google maps and starting mapping out a route.  Within no time, we had booked our first stop at Kimberly the last time we passed through this place we saw a Black Bear and her babies crossing the road.  We have managed to find a whole apartment with log fire, hot tub and everything we need for around £75 per night… whoo hoo we now have a plan!

We have plotted 4 main stops, with lots of smaller stop off points for sightseeing, excited is an understatement!  Kate left us later to go off to a birthday party but she’ll be back for supper tomorrow.  It was great to be all together and so relaxed in each other’s company even though it’s year since we last saw everyone.

Salmon, Dill sauce, green beans, broccoli and rice with Barolo to wash it down.  Phew, Robyn and Adam, that was a great meal!  A few more beers and a few more Vino Collapso and so to bed before 11… Tomorrow morning the jet lag will be completely gone, so it’s goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from him …. TTFN…Granny 😊

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Preparing for Take Off

Leading up to this holiday, it has been a momentous year.  My Mother who has been ill for almost a decade with Alzheimer’s, came to the point where, despite all our efforts as a family, she was no longer able to live unsupported in  her own home.  I won’t go in to detail here but suffice to say she was no longer safe.

While this saddened the whole family, we made the decision to find somewhere she would be safe and well looked after.  We were lucky to be able to get a place quickly.  It was not an understatement to say that it was ‘gut wrenching’ walking her in the door for the first time but it has worked out well. She is extremely happy.  She has built up friendships and the staff are amazing at ‘The Rookery’….. hence we (the family) are now able to once again book holidays and trips, safe in the knowledge that she is looked after 24/7.  Even a weekend away was planned with military precision in recent years to make sure she was catered for.  I am very proud of how we looked after Mam and will continue to do so.

Anyway, to go on.  This was also the year of my 60th birthday being born in 1958!  So just before Christmas we started talking about returning to Canada as we said we would return, on the last visit in 2010.  However as you read above, it was difficult to plan a long trip.  So we hatched the plan and then made the final decision once Mam’s situation was confirmed.

In between we have had a few other things going on, one being my 60th birthday. The Mr booked a trip and until I was at the airport, I had no idea where to… I was a really lucky lady and spent a wonderful week in Rome, sightseeing, taking photographs, eating lovely food and drinking beautiful wine.   What a great surprise and all this was planned alongside planning to return to Canada.  Phew what a year so far!

Another thing that had to be sorted was what to do with Mam’s house?  It was always said that after Mam’s days, I would move there as she has a garden and I don’t.  I love gardening and used to try and help her plant things when she was more able.  The garden was a place of happiness for Mam and holds lots of family memories of her and also my Dad (who died aged 52).  So after consultation with the Mr, my brother and sister and my children, we made the decision to sell our house and move to Mam’s.  This needed to happen quickly as we didn’t want an extra house to upkeep.. so as we speak, we have two houses, which are both upside down and full of stuff to either dump, take to a charity shop or recycle and we have left it all behind to fly across the pond!  On the upside the wheels are in motion to empty and sell one house.

So On Thursday, we left home in the morning and got the coach from Newport to Gatwick.  We would stay at The Marriot on the airport and then fly out in the morning.  The journey was pretty uneventful but it did take 5 hours 35 minutes to get to Gatwick!

We had a lovely meal at the hotel, the food and the service were brilliant, however, being me, there had to be a hitch and I succeeded to upset the little dish of Sweet Chilli sauce all over my top.  It slid of the slate it came on and bounced on my lap… there had to be something!

Fly day – We were up at 07.00 and as it was only  a 10 minute stroll to the terminal, so we decided to walk and not take the shuttle.  It was a lovely sunny morning so we thought walking was a better idea, especially as we would be sitting for hours in the plane(s).

Check in was quick as we were quite early but we were told that there was a delay of 1 hour 35 minutes due to the plane not leaving Toronto on time because of thunderstorms.  So we had breakfast at Jamie’s Diner and then did a spot of last minute airport shopping.

Once the plane arrived, boarding was swift and we had nice seats with plenty of leg room.  The flight was good, not too much turbulence and good in flight entertainment. The food was a choice of Sweet Pepper Chicken or Penne Past with Tomato Sauce.  By the time they got to us though, there was no Chicken left…good job I like Pasta isn’t it!

The Mr had his usual veggie option which came as ‘Gluten, Lactose, Veggie – special meal’  we still have no idea what was in it and it looked pretty bland but it was food, so he ate it anyway.

Later on we had a G&T and a beer and I promptly managed to catch the strap of my bag in the lap-tray and chuck the whole G&T over the Mr!  What a nightmare, he was now sitting in a puddle of G&T and we had 3 hours of the flight left!  As usual though, he didn’t make a fuss and the stewardess replaced the drink fee of charge and brought towels etc to wipe the seat. Happy days …

Landing at Toronto was bumpy to say the least but we were quickly off the plane and on our way to customs.  All passport checks are electronic now but I failed to manage this as apparently I am too short for the machine to take my picture.  I am 5’2″ and I am sure there must be shorter people that me, so a pretty high percentage of people will struggle with this process.  Anyway, I had to go to a desk in the end, so if anything it was a longer process and not a quicker one.

“Connecting flights are down to the left Ma’am” said the Transat lady at the desk… another short stroll which took over 20 minutes of brisk walking and we arrived at terminal B2a for the internal flight to Calgary.  Just as we arrived at the gate my Fitbit hit 10,000 steps, which is surprising when you think we have been on a plane for the last Seven and a half hours!  I have no idea how to update the time on my Fitbit so we will be 7 hours behind for our whole holiday, it seems.. unless I can work it out.

Toronto to Calgary took around 3 hours and on the way in we saw a gorgeous sunset.  By the time we landed we had been on the go for 23 hours in total.

My cousin was there to meet us at the airport and there were hugs and kisses all round as we waited for our baggage.  Short drive to her house and a long, sloppy ‘hello’ to Piper the Pooch before we finally got to bed 24.5 hours after leaving Gatwick.  Phew what a day!

I am now writing this at 06.30 in the morning local time after having a great night’s sleep.  Planning a relaxing day today with lots of family catch up time and to get over the trip.

More to follow as we go ….TTFN Granny 🙂

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Abertillery Workmen’s Welfare Institute Revival! Part 1

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Abertillery Workmen’s Welfare Institute  (AKA The Stute) was recently put up for sale for the sum of £70,000 …… yes, £70k can you believe it?!

The Stute –  was built by Miners and paid for weekly from their wages. It is a very important building within our community and it has sadly closed and become run down.  The picture below shows damage caused from the leaking roof.

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In it’s hay-day The Stute was a focal point for the thriving Community of Abertillery, a place where Coal Miners and their families, could meet to socialise,  learn and take part in sporting activities and it even had a swimming pool!

You can check out it’s history on a blog called “Out of the Blue Artifacts”  by Graham George Bennett  a local man who has been collecting information for almost the whole of his life.  This blog provides and amazing insight into The Stute previously called the Powell’s Tillery Miner’s Institute and many other areas of interest about South East Wales and beyond.  Pardon the pun – but you could say that this blog is a mine of information!

To cut to the chase –  we seriously need support to get this building reopened. We need funds to decorate, fix the roof, clean up and get the building fit for purpose and reopened for all ages and abilities within Abertillery and surrounding areas.

We have set up a ‘Local- Giving’ site in order to raise the much needed money to allow us to bring The Stute back to it’s former glory, we are looking for local people to join us as:

  • Trustees – Do you have building knowledge, are you a funding/fundraising expert?
  • Volunteers – Could you help remove rubbish, clean up, paint, carry out minor repairs?

We only need an hour or so per week and attendance at one meeting per month.  There is no financial risk to Trustees.

Please help us preserve this building for future generations.  You can donate by clicking this link  or pressing the Red Button Below.

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Hopefully we will meet at the Cafe in the Stute for Coffee before long, until then please help us raise funds and donate to reopening this building for future generations………

Granny 🙂

E mail –  Abertillerystute@outlook.com

Twitter –  @Aberstute

Facebook – SOS Save our Stute 

 

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CAMPING – So worth the effort!

Oh yes….camping, where do I start?  I have camped most of my adult life, when the kids were small, we went to the Gower, even before we could drive!  My Dad would drop us in the field with a mountain of stuff and pick us up in a week …. it usually rained the entire time but we still had a good time!

Nowadays though, the kids have flown the nest and me and the Mr have a VW Camper called Boris the Bold.  We bought him 8 years ago for the princely sum of £4,350 and we have never looked back.  We have travelled across Europe, driven up high alps, through forests to the seaside and lakes all over Europe and in the UK.

We have camped in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, France and so many places in the British Isles …too many to mention and if you snoop at my  Facebook photos, you can see evidence of our travels!  There are also stories and write ups on past pages of this blog.

 

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BORIS THE BOLD AT HEILIGENBLUT ‘ALM CASINO CAMPSITE’

My reason for posting this though, was not to harp on about the trips we have done in the past or to ponder as to why, when we go away to a weekend event in Boris, we take more ‘stuff’ than we do when we travel for 3 weeks in Europe?!  Rather to tell people why it is so worth the effort.

 

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BORIS AT GARMISCH PARTENKIRCHEN 

First there is the weather and scenery, the pictures speak for themselves but this scenery looks different throughout the day, so if you camp near high mountains, you get a different view at 06.00 than you do at 15.00 and the sunset is early, so it goes cold at night.  We have sat outside our Van at Heiligenblut at 08.00 in 25 degrees, eating breakfast and at 11.00 there was a storm and 8cm of snow in July!  You don’t get this when you stay in a hotel.

We also camp at every opportunity and we have camped as late as November and once even in December.  There really are no constraints and a lot of campsites open all year round.

At night, you can sit out until late and then, (as long as you have the privacy) leave the curtains open and see the millions of stars in the clear night skies.  There are a lot of campsites, where ‘lights-out’ means total darkness and this is when the sky comes to life!  I have lost count of how many shooting starts I have seen while lying in the Rock and Roll bed in the back of Boris.

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BORIS IN THE DORSET COUNTRYSIDE NEAR DURDLE DOOR 

This year we travelled in a car and booked Hotels.  It was a great holiday travel wise and we got to see some gorgeous sites.  The downside was, if there was a day that you wanted to relax, read a book or enjoy the sun, hotel rooms do not offer any outside space to do so.  On this year’s holiday, we only had an outside space at 2 out of 8 hotels.  Boris, is an outside space on wheels and as they say in the camping game “Home is Where you Park it”

So, I think we have decided that if we want a relaxing holiday, lots of different views at any given time of day.  The ability to please yourself, relax, eat ‘al-fresco’,  enjoy nature, freedom, wildlife, weather, conversation, zero wi-fi (apart from when you need to post a Grannyrant) and a total ‘switch off’…. then camping is the way to go.

Whether it be 2 man tent, T25 or any other means of being outside…go for it… it is so worth the effort!

Bye for now – Granny  🙂

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THE ADVENTURES OF CILLA THE CITROEN – Homeward Bound

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We’re going Home

So, as usual the Gulls have had us awake since around 04.30.  We still try to catch another hours sleep but it’s almost impossible…… as soon as the first rays of sun appear in the sky they squeal and screech, circling around the sky outside our window.  The 3 youngsters are still trying to laze about and not fend for themselves but they are all flying now… they are still squawking for their Mother like spoiled brats.

The Mr, who is usually very sympathetic to wildlife is now wishing he had a gun!  He is only joking of course but the lack of sleep is getting to us both!  We stayed in Brixham recently and I’m sure we didn’t have so much Gull trouble…… oh well we’re up now so we may as well get on with it.

So after paying the bill, handing in the keys and trundling down in the tiny lift with our bags, we are once again on board our trusty Cilla for the homeward leg of our adventure.

Sally Sat Nav says 12 miles and 22 minutes to the Car Ferry, should be a breeze.  It was. .. Until 5 miles out when there was a diversion.  Thanks to the Gulls, we had left earlier than planned and have time to spare because this looks confusing!  We followed all the other vehicles who were also following the diversion signs for about 2 miles.  Sally Sat Nav was saying “make a ‘U’ turn! ……where?! So we went all the way around a roundabout and sure enough, good old Sally redirected us toward the car ferry.

We went through French Border Control, produced our passports, then further on they stopped every car and opened the boot.  A bit further on we went through British Passport Control all ok, then we were stopped a second time and asked to open the boot.  The security is much tighter than when we have travelled before.  This is a good thing and we don’t mind the waiting, better safe than sorry but some people become very frustrated by all the stops.

At last, Cilla is in line 30 and we can sit and wait to board.  There is a bit of confusion as boarding started surprisingly early and some people hadn’t returned to their cars.  This caused a slight hold up but a after about 15 minutes we were all packed like Sardines on Deck 5.  We clock our position so we know where to return to.  “Red stairs, Deck 5b, come down the stairs and turn left” …… now we get up the stairs as quickly as possible to grab a window seat and the Mr is almost first in the breakfast queue!  ….. Result!  Full English and now we are set up for the long drive from Dover to home.  Mind you in comparison to some of our long trips on this adventure, 250 or so miles should be easy and we will be driving on the right side of the road!

The driving is tiring but well worth it as you get to experience things you would otherwise miss, like the Belgian Petrol Station, where you have to go in and pay (even though you don’t yet know how much you will need).  So for instance, you go in and give them €40, then you fill up and if it’s only €33 you go back in again for your change? Seems odd but I bet no one drives away without paying….the pump doesn’t work until you go in and pay or your card is authorised.  I just wish they would explain this to us before we have spent 10 minutes trying to work out why the pump isn’t working!

Anyway, on the Ferry, breakfast finished I go and look at the Duty Free.  Bargains are hard to find these days as you can buy most things cheaper in our supermarkets. I had a bottle of perfume reduced and also, Bombardier Sapphire Gin and a bottle of Prosecco Ice which I’ve never seen before and for £4.99 I thought I’d give it a go!  Just hope it isn’t like vinegar!

Finally after around an hour and a half, the White Cliffs of Dover appear on the horizon…. I always think about how the soldiers must have felt, coming back from the  trenches, it must have been such a welcome sight after the horror and devastation of war and they would be thinking of their families and  those who didn’t make it home.  It makes me feel so emotional…..

 

We left the Port at 11.20, so Sally Sat Nav says ETA at home is 15.05. It’s 250 miles or so and this is obviously dependant on being able to travel at the national speed limit the entire time …… you must be kidding!  The Mr was driving the first stint and after 100 miles we decided to stop for a coffee and a bathroom stop.  We don’t want to push it, we have hardly slept for 3 days and travelling is always tiring so we will take our time.  I have done a fair bit of driving this holiday but the Mr is a bit of a car hog and will only allow me to drive the car (my car incidentally) when he is absolutely knackered! So now we are back in the UK I have reclaimed my car and I am determined to drive the Lion’s share of the journey home today.  So when we stopped I said “my turn”… amazingly he agreed immediately, “he’s more tired than I thought”(I said under my breath).

So, with 155 miles to go to home, we set off back into the queue of traffic on the M25.  We should have been home by 17.00 at the latest and I want to call in and surprise my Mother.

BBC Radio 2 traffic warnings were not sounding good for our route.  We heard reports of a Hay lorry on fire, an accident further on with 2 lanes closed.   So we turned the music up on Steve Wrights Big show and sang along with the music…. loudly!  No good getting crotchety about it, we are on our way home and the people who are involved in the accidents are far worse off than us.

Stop-start-stop-start….. Oh… after 2 hours it was still no better. Occasionally we got up to 40mph but then before long it was at a standstill again.  Sally Sat Nav was trying to re-route us via Southampton and Basingstoke but I was having none of it, we stayed on the M4.  Then we heard that there was another huge queue between Chippenham and Bath…. they weren’t exaggerating it went on and on and on.  My Daughter and Son in law are travelling to my Son’s today, so they are on the M4 too, going down to Portsmouth.  We text them to say we were stuck in traffic.  They told us they were just passing Bath and the queues on our side of the M4 went on for miles.  BUGGER!  That’s all we need.  About 10 minutes later, we spotted them on the other side and we both blew our horns as they hurtled by and we just sat there in the queue!  Seems ridiculous that we are both on the same motorway!

At 17.00 we were still plodding along at a ridiculously slow speed and we had text Simon Mayo to see if we could get a mention on his Drive Time request show.  More loud singing and listening to the requests.  As we were singing and playing the drums on the steering wheel… so other cars went by doing the same thing and smiling at us.  Funny how you share brief moments with people you don’t know in these situations! We never did get a mention from Simon!

Finally, just past Bristol the sign said ‘END’…… We still only managed 40mph but at least we were moving at last…… the next queue was for the Bridge and then it was pretty plain sailing all the way to Mams.  We finally arrived at her house at 19.25… it took five and a half hours to travel 155 miles and I did it without a bathroom stop.. Not bad for a Granny…….

So after catching up with Mother, shopping for basics as we have no food or milk etc… We finally arrived home at 20.30…. Phew what a day!

We are now sat on the patio, with a log fire, relaxing….. Home sweet home!

To summarise the holiday would be difficult but I’ll try…

2,396 miles in 22 days….. 8 hotels, some good, some bad….. 13 languages or dialects we tried to deal with but not very well…… 6 Tram journeys…. 6 Castles…. High Alpine roads….. Funicular Railways….. Almost €400 in fuel….. €247 in parking fees …..The Lipizzaner Horses…… Hop on, hop off buses….. Over 22 days the average we walked was 7 miles per day … total 154 miles.

We ate Greek, Indian, German, Italian, Chinese, Austrian and traditional food in 4 countries and as we passed through the Netherlands we actually travelled through 5 countries.

Spatzle. .. Sachertorte. ..Strudel…. Kren… Pumpkin seed oil or Kernol…. Salami…. Bratwurst….. Spinach dumplings…..Omelette. … Crevettes. ….Continental breakfasts…..

Snow…Rain….Wind….Heat….Sunburn…..Mozzie-bites….Hay-fever….Jippy Stomach and glorious sunsets.

Seagulls… thunderstorms….traffic jams… Road works… oh I could go on and on…. all in all, it was absolutely amazing and me and the Mr didn’t have a cross word, even when he wanted to shoot Gary the Gull!

This is Granny ranting for the last time this holiday, thanks for taking time out to read…. bye for now xx 😉

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Posted in The Adventures of Cilla the Citroen 2016, TRAVEL & HOLIDAYS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE ADVENTURES OF CILLA THE CITROEN – Bye Bye Ostende

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Last day in Ostende

We were right it was a sticky night, without air conditioning we need the large window open, so as a result I now have 3 really angry Mozzie bites, we need the Apotheke (Pharmacy)….. When I get bitten, the bites always flare up and are hot and angry.  We are also knackered from no sleep.

The plan today is that after breakfast we will walk to the Main Church in Ostende.  If you have ever been there, you will know the one I mean, Sint -Petrus Pauluskerke (Saint Peter and Paul’s Church) on Boudenwijnstraat.

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It was built in 1899. It is a Roman Catholic, Neo Gothic church and its spires are 72 metres high. The stained glass windows were destroyed during WW1 & 2 and the replacement windows were created by Michiel Martens.  It is really impressive inside and out and if you ever get the chance go and see It!

We take a few photos (well as lot actually), then we took a walk down through the main shopping area, it was heaving with people and we popped into a few shops when we spotted something different.   Mostly the shops are exactly as at home these days and you rarely see anything anywhere in Europe that you can’t buy at home.  This is why we stopped bringing holiday presents home ages ago.  What do you take?  Chocolate, booze, fridge magnets?

As we had almost finished our walk we stopped at a small bar in the square for a drink, it was lovely, under the umbrella, cooler and with a breeze.  For a few minutes, the breeze became a wind and there were a few grey clouds.  The waiter said “it should rain at 14.30”…. really? Sure enough at 14.28 I felt 2 spots of rain on my arm and everyone was glancing at the sky…… that was it!  A 2 spot rain shower but what a difference, I reckon it had cooled down by at least 5 degrees… far more comfortable.

Before we left we looked at the food menu and decided to reserve a table for the evening.  The waiter said it was advisable to do so if we wanted to guarantee a table.  We thanked him, paid the bill and walked about 500 metres to our hotel…..the minute I took my shoes off, I realised I had left a bag behind. So I trudged back along the street and across the square.

The waiter spotted me “Aha… it is in the bar” he said loudly …. “The little green bag with the olive picks in”.  Phew!  “That’s great, thanks for that” I said and picked it up from the bar.  I’m glad I got the bag back because most importantly my Mozzie Cream was in there!

In the evening we went back to the bar, the waiter recognised us immediately and gestured to the table he had reserved for us. I ordered a Rib Eye Steak and the Mr ordered Cod. We shared a nice bottle of Red wine and were at the bar for around 2 and a half hours.

We chatted about the fact that neither of us have tried the Mussels ….ever.  I am not a lover of seafood.  We both love Fish and Prawns but following a few tummy issues in the past I’m not keen to try Seafood again.  Also Moulles do not look appetising at all and I am pretty adventurous where food is concerned.

So after paying the bill and tipping the waiter we left for a final walk along the seafront.  What a difference, much cooler, cold even! We were in thin tee shirts and others were in cardigans and coats.  It was once again an absolutely stunning sunset…. “We should sleep tonight” we said in unison…”it’s so much cooler”….. How wrong could we be?!

We got to bed around 11.15, it was indeed cooler, well…slightly cooler. At 01.30 we were both still awake. Kids screaming, doors slamming, cars driving up the one way street and because they are so narrow the sound is deafening.  These cars have booming speakers and modified exhausts….. At 03.20 a family of Gulls were squawking and someone was clattering up and down on a skateboard…..Oh ….what a long night!

So this morning after a few hours very broken sleep, we look like death warmed up and can’t wait to leave Hotel Cardiff!  While this place in interesting and quirky, it is not recommended I’m afraid, too hot, too noisy and too 1950s!

If you remember, the car park was a 10 minutes’ walk away, so before breakfast we took some of our stuff back to the car and then walked back for breakfast.  On the way, once again we saw a young Gull we call Gary. He has obviously flown the nest before he can fly properly and his Mother has been feeding him on the ground and then flying back up to the other youngsters on the roof.  He has been on the ground near parked cars all the time we have been here and practices his wing strokes often. I hope he manages to survive until he can actually take off!  I’m sure he is responsible for the Gulls calling loudly all night!  Cheers Gary!

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Gary the Gull!

So on we go to Dunkirk, we are only staying one night and apart from a traffic jam on the way the journey was a doddle. The Ibis Hotel is central and as soon as soon we arrived we went out for a walk to the Marina while our room was being made up.

In the afternoon we watched another family of Gulls on the roof opposite the room, the youngsters are being encouraged to fly by Mother Gull.   At the time of writing, 2 out of 3 have become airborne in the last 15 minutes and one is sat on his backside waiting to go.

They are squawking like crazy and we are hoping they will quieten down before bedtime.  Ferry home tomorrow. We sail at 10.00…..over and out….. Granny.

Posted in The Adventures of Cilla the Citroen 2016, TRAVEL & HOLIDAYS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment