Archive for February, 2016

Mauritius 1

Posted in Uncategorized on February 29, 2016 by David Palmer

The air con ensured we had a good nights sleep and it was with reluctance on my part to get out of bed at the unearthly hour of 8am.

Showered and dressed we made our way through the early morning heat to breakfast. Disappointingly, though they drive on the left and speak English, the place names are in French and  so is breakfast! Right up Sue’s street but not mine. Sweet pastries hold no attraction, even in the morning before the senses and taste buds are fully functional. I downed some fruit and quickly followed it with some thinly sliced cheeses and ham. Ok, the bread was good, but there are plenty of nationalities that make decent bread, ciabatta for one!

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The Hertz agent arrived on time (10am) and we soon had the paperwork done and acquired the  keys to a Suzuki Alto. Around an hour later we were on the road heading up the coast to discover what ever there was.

First stop was at a national park recovered from an old sugar mill, it was too large an area to explore fully in the heat so we settled for a short walk around the ruins before moving on to Roches Noires. A lovely beach, one of many that we were to discover today.  Moving on from there we came across a shopping complex in Goodlands. Here we bought plenty of water and not enough beer for refreshments during the week. I bought a sausage pizza to eat later.

We found another lovely beach at Grand Gauber and after a little look around we sat awhile and I ate my pizza, Sue munched on some fruit and pretzels (I think she’s gone Frenchified!)

The binoculars have so far come in handy as there are always lovely views where ever we stop and pretty little islands offshore to speculate on.

Never driving for more than 15 minutes before stopping and finding something to look at or walk through we worked our way northwards up the coast to the very top of the island. We must put our feet in this blue sparkling ocean before we move on to the Seychelles, there surely can’t be vicious spiny urchins on every beach?

We topped the island and on our route south came across Grand Baie, so far the most built up resort we have come across. Never-the-less a picture postcard in every direction. Here as a distraction from the white sandy beach we did a spot of shopping, Sue looking for a Dodo and me trying to keep out of her field of view. Returning to the car and beach for a while we watched a game of boule taking place under a canopy of Banyan trees, it was so cool.

With my GPS playing up we headed back to our hotel arriving around 6pm.  After a very short nap we dressed for dinner and then headed back up the coast  to Mauritian restaurant we had spotted earlier in the day. I ate creole and Sue had an Indian.

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Back at the hotel we sat with the beer we had bought and watched a three piece band play across the pool from us for about an hour before having a walk along the beach in the starlight and retiring to bed.

Urchin to get there!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2016 by David Palmer

Saturday morning and Sue was up for 7am and me soon, both eager to escape the cold winter days of Harborough. Annoyingly it was bright and sunny.

By 9.30am we had checked the packing of the previous day, satisfied ourselves that all the required paper work was in order and stowed away (in duplicate) in our hand luggage and were racing down the M1 towards Gatwick.

We were not due to fly until 8pm so we planned to have lunch at the Gatwick Manor Hotel for 12.30pm, just a couple of minutes away from the off airport parking I had booked. What a great call that turned out to be. The hotel was a lovely old Elizabethan mansion that has now been taken over by Premier Inns. The food was lovely and the beer acceptable, I even managed to watch a bit of the Italy v Scotland Six Nations game as we sat in the lounge afterwards enjoying further refreshments. We left the hotel just after 3pm and checked the car into parking then made our way to the terminal and found the BA check in desk.

As we were early we had lots of choice as to seating and this turned out later to our advantage.
After navigating passport control we both spent our ‘waiting time’ in Jamie Oliver’s Bar that just happened to showing the England v Ireland match (great result). As the game finished we were called through to the departure gate and boarded our  12 hour Boeing 777 flight to Mauritius.

We were in ‘lower-class’ seating and on this occasion being unashamedly a member of the lower order, paid dividends. As the flight was predominately Anglo Saxon and therefore highly class conscious, the majority of our fellow passengers had paid extra to be away from the likes of us. The result being Sue and I with fellow passengers in close proximity, had loads of room to stretch and kip, while those at the front of the plane were crammed to capacity.

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I watched the Krays portrayed in ‘Legend’ and a few other TV shows during the flight. Sue attempted one film and preferred to sleep when not eating.

The temperature on landing was in stark contrast to our take-off. However we Mauritius airport is well laid out and relaxed and surrounded by some wonderful scenery, it was a shame we didn’t have a window seat on landing. I changed some currency in the terminal before finding our transit to the Verandah Palmar Beach Hotel.

The friendly Muslim driver narrated throughout our 45 minute journey along the coast. We agreed that Russian tourists are anti-social and ignorant and best left in the motherland. I was to see our driver again later in the afternoon when I left my reading glasses in the taxi.

We checked into our air-conditioned ground floor room situated a few steps away from the reception and pool.

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First skirmish was left along the beautiful beach which is shared by several other establishments. However, the sparkly turquoise ocean seem so inviting I slipped off my sandals with the sole purpose of joining the many already splashing among the waves. Two steps and I stood on what seemed some green mossy seaweed to find that a spiny sea-urchin was lurking underneath. I never made the waters edge and spent an unpleasant hour back in the room with Sue brandishing tweezers and a needle digging holes for Britain.

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With most spines eliminated from a sore sole we again attempted the tricky left turn on the beach and were successful. I think we have wandered around a mile and a half along white coral beach and among mostly French holiday makers before returning to our air conditioned haven.

Later, as the evening approached we negotiated a tricky right turn on the beach, triumphantly avoiding any natural traps. By the time we were back safe in our room, it was dark.

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We ate a buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant with the intention of watching the Karaoke in the bar afterwards, but we didn’t stop long and two sleepy Brits went to mow a meadow.

Winter Days

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2016 by David Palmer

On the Friday after our return from a much warmer southern hemisphere climate we entertained the Rothwells and Jamie with a couple of curries, one being made from the spices that I had bought at the Spice Farm in Suva. No one complained, so I guess that it must have been acceptable, though I was hoping it would have a unique Pacific kick,  I think it failed on that ground.

The usual entertainment at the first family meal on return from holiday is to subject the clan to a showing of the ‘Holiday Video’. However, I hadn’t time to create my Tarantino masterpiece, so the family had to sit enthralled as I showed the unedited 16 mins 22 secs of the Australia Day fireworks display. After the first 5 mins of spectacular pyrotechnics, those that had access to mobile phones appeared to more engrossed with that technology. How sad that the current generation appear to have very little focus for anything exceeding a few minutes, Sue and I sat mesmerised.

Sue has thrown herself wholeheartedly into the U3A (University of the Third Age).  Not a day seems to go by without her boots being worn on one ramble or another with one of the three groups she has joined, or stylish loose fitting clothing worn for Tai Chi or Wand (I think that class is led by Harry Potter) and I guess I shouldn’t forget the Local History group that she also disappears off to. I wonder is they will be covering the development of local hostelries in the area?

Since returning I have looked after Mia on several occasions, each time we have managed lunch and refreshments  at the Black Horse in the Foxton. The staff now recognise her and there is always biscuits forthcoming and a friendly ear scratch. Charlotte joined me on one occasion and both sisters on another.

As we will be away,on the 18th Charlotte, Jamie and Sarah took Sue out for an early Mother’s Day lunch at an Italian restaurant in Kettering. A lovely thought and great planning. Mia and I consoled ourselves in Foxton.

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The following day Sue and I joined Jamie at his works in Sutton Bassett. They were trialling a new venture: Hog Roasts. At the weekend the company were holding their first H/R event in Cannock for over a 1000 people and we along with other family members of the work force were invited for a freebee to practise. It was very good and very filling.

The day after that Sue and I went to see Fleetwood Mac in Northampton. It was Jamie’s Christmas present to me and it was a marvellous evening. Remember Albatross? Magical!!!

The other day, Sue went to see ‘Brooklyn’ at the Odeon in Kettering. Sarah came over with Mia to produce a video on the equipment I have in my study for a presentation she was giving at work. Charlotte dropped by to see her sister and we went out for lunch to Mia’s favourite watering hole.

I have managed a couple of runs up to my allotment and on both occasions made a dent in the large acreage of leeks I planted earlier in the year. I gave half away, but we now have a freezer full of leeks, and there is still 140 left to pick. They will have to wait for our return in April. No doubt they will take the opportunity to grow larger!

This week, I managed to pick up a tummy bug which caused concern as we are going away for quite a while, so I visited the doctor. As a precaution I now have two lots of tablets, annoyingly, one of which prevents me from consuming any alcohol until they are finished. And, I feel OK now!!!!

Sue decided to join me in feeling unwell and spent a day on the settee with the shivers, though being made of sterner stuff seems to have shook it off with nothing else other than paracetamol.

Breaking news:

Sarah and Lee are making wedding plans. Provisional date is August 16th, 2017. Long way to go yet, so no panic.

Jamie and Harley seem to be getting serious and are talking engagement. Jamie and Harley had a meal last week with Harley’s parents. Watch this space.

Lucas has followed his grandad’s lead and written his first book. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet, by all accounts it is quite amusing. He has also taken to cross-country running and doing quite well.

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Sydney4

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2016 by David Palmer

Another lazy start. First we had to load our Opal cards with another $20 as we were running out of credit. We did this at a kiosk just outside the hotel before catching the train to Circular Quay.

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It was a hot sunny morning and we were looking forward to the cooling breeze we would get on our ferry journey to Taronga Zoo. The boat was in so we just ‘tapped on’ and boarded, finding a seat inside, we soon moved onto to deck with most other passengers, to catch that breeze. The journey took only 11 minutes but as you can guess the scenery passing by was delightful, even more so as there was not a cloud in the sky. As first the new cruise liner in port (Carnival Spirit) eased by, then the Opera House, followed by the Harbour Bridge, quickly followed by the Governors Mansion before we headed out into the main stream and found a route through the tangle of other craft of all dimensions making their way to some unknown destination.

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Arriving we made our way up the hill to the ticket office and from there to the cable lift which took us to the top of the ascent and the centre of the Zoo. Whether you like zoos or not, the views of the city from the top are worth every cent of entrance fee. I think it is a must for any visitor to Sydney. Walking towards the Koala enclosure I heard an Aussie bloke say to his Sheila, “Wow, take a picture of the Harbour Bridge from here.” “Why”, she said turning away. I caught his eye and whispered, “She has no soul.” He nodded.

We followed the windy paths downhill to each of the location where the animals were imprisoned/conserved (depending on your point of view) until around halfway we came across a restaurant and had a very nice lunch. Unlike similar establishments in the UK, where you are trapped withing the venue, the price of food and drink is extortionate. Not so here. They do not take advantage of your captivity and the costs are as cheap as you would find anywhere else.

Next we headed off to see the Meeerkats. The sky darkened, lightning began to flash and the heavens opened. It lasted around 20 minutes, we took shelter under a canopy next to the elephant enclosure (they stayed inside there over-sized house).

When the storm abated we joined the queue for the seal show. Despite the maelstrom of just a few moments prior, magically in a very short while all the wet seat were taken. The seals performed well, though we felt the show itself was rather short and we have seen better. But I guess no animals were harmed during the performance and no trainers eaten.

We continued on down the hill looking at the remaining exhibits until we reached the exit.

The ferry back was as swift as the journey there, but hotter. Disembarking we opted to sit in the garden of the ‘Gin Palace’ (I kid you not) and have refreshments while we people watched again.

Next door was the Sydney Museum of Arts, so that was our next port of call. It contained a lot of Aborigine art which we thought was a little too simplistic for our taste. Susan proclaimed that she had taught 5 year olds to do better. I agree.

Returning to the station for the train back to Central we were joined by Sydney’s commuters (it was 5 o’clock). Despite the throng we or anybody else that we saw had any trouble getting a seat. What a brilliant transport system this city has.

Back at the hotel I had a skype call with Sarah while Sue had a soak in the bath.

We chose to eat in China Town which was around a quarter mile from the hotel. After considering quite a few establishments we eventually chose a Thai restaurant! It was a good choice. Stuffed we returned to the hotel, watched a bit of TV then walked the quarter mile to Slumber Town.

Sydney3

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2016 by David Palmer

Woke earlier today at 8am. Blue sky and white puffy clouds greeted us as we left the hotel bound for Central Station. The plan was to ‘do’ the Opera House.

The journey to Central Quay involves just three stops and we were soon outside the iconic Sydney landmark taking the obligatory photos. The area around the Quay can get very busy, but this early in the morning it was fairly quiet so we seized the opportunity and found the booking office and managed to get our selves onto the 11.15am tour.

A leisurely circuit of the building with more stops for yet more photos and then a sit down in some deck chairs put out to take in the view. The ‘Voyager of the Seas’ was docked right in front of us next to the Harbour Bridge. We knew it was bound for New Zealand as we had chatted with a couple of its passengers on the train.

Leaving the cruise liner we found the start of the tour, met our guide, kitted ourselves with some hitech blue-tooth earphones to enable us to hear the commentary and then had our photo taken (professionally). We were in as group of 12, all English speaking. We visited the three Theatres and treated to a description on how it was constructed, all very interesting, but a bit of an expensive disaster that in the end turned out looking right. Inside it is pretty impressive.

Sue visited the shop on exit and added another Christmas bauble to her collection.

Afterwards we strolled over to the botanical gardens, as it was getting rather hot we hopped on to a Choo Choo Train that toured the grounds. The gardens themselves are huge and varied. Well worth a visit, but best done on the ‘hop on hop off’ Choo Choo. We only hopped off once, at the end of the Peninsula to see Mrs McCreadies seat. There we had drinks and a snack before catching the train back to the entrance.

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We considered catching a Ferry to somewhere but couldn’t make our minds up, so we opted for people watching with drinks at the Ferry Terminal at Circular Quay.

Glasses empty and ogling done we caught the train back to the hotel. On the way up to our room Sue picked up some leaflets from the Foye and by the time I had flopped exhausted onto the bed she had decided that she fancied going on a Sydney Ghost walk (as described in one of of the newly acquired pamphlets).

Back down to the foye to see the Concierge and a brief phone call had us booked on that nights walk. Having only just been on the train from Circular Quay, half an hour later we were returning. The walk was to start at 7.45pm outside Mr Cadman’s Cottage and at 6pm we were sat just up the road at a restaurant having a meal. On completion we strolled to the quay and watched the Cruise ship leave before meeting our guide James and 2 other Aussie couples.

The walk lasted well over 2 hours and followed the usual format of gore and death with spooky going ons that we were assured were all true and corroborated. It was very entertaining, not to the level of Matilda but a good way to spend an evening, listening to stories and visiting places we would never have done so on our own. Yes, in parts it was a bit spooky, for some.

Leaving our fellow believers to the rest of their evening, we again made our way back to our hotel and this time I didn’t get off the bed.

Fiji 11

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2016 by David Palmer

Another early breakfast, this time because we were scheduled to leave the ship at  8.15am. We had woken at 6.30, showered, dressed and in the Windjammer for 7.10am. Our suitcases had been taken from the corridor sometime during the night and stored down below.

We met Steve and Ellie in the Promenade and we gave them our Opal cards as they still had cash on them and they were staying in a Sydney hotel over night and were hoping to go to Bondi Beach. We chatted with them for awhile over coffees in the cafe before finding a seat in one of the lounges and waited for our number to be called. Our flight wasn’t until the late afternoon so I had booked a trip out to Manly Beach and then a transfer to the airport.

We were called early, proceeded to disembark, picked up our luggage in the Terminal and then found the coach that was taking us to Manly. All went very smoothly. There was only 14 other cruisers who had opted to do this so we could all spread out and have a window seat. We were surprised to find that we had a guide with us and would be stopping off at various locations around the city to take photos. Sydney is a beautiful city (the bits we saw) and you soon discover that the Aussies are truly proud of it.

We had just less than an hour to spend in Manly, named after Captain Cook landed there and described the natives there as being confident and manly. We took the opportunity to do a spot of shopping before exploring the beach. In my opinion a much better beach than its more famous neighbour in Bondi. Prettier and a better variety of shops. Not surprising that its beach has been used in a well known Aussie soap.

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On our return to the city we had one last photo stop  which gave us splendid views of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and our cruise ship, soon to depart again, without us.

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We were the first drop off on the coach at the International Airport Terminal and had plenty of time to work our way through check-in and passport control. The airport was relatively quiet and we were through to departures in record time. While Sue did a spot of shopping I sat in a bar and added to this blog.

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The flight from Sydney to Hong Kong left on time took 8 hours and 40 mins and arrived 15 mins early. We had a 2 hour transit before catching the 12 hour 45 mins flight to Heathrow, it again arrived 15 mins early. Not much to say about the journey other than in Hong Kong we disembarked at Gate 60 and had to walk to Gate 1 to catch our onward flight. Conveniently there were several conveyor walkways on route as I gauge the distance to be about a mile. Lucky we didn’t arrive at Gate 80!

As we left the Arrivals Hall the bus was in to take us to the car so we were soon on the M25 heading north. Luckily we spotted motorway info’ signs notifying that the M1 was shut and managed to divert onto the M40 before we passed its junction. We were home just before 8am.

Fiji 10

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2016 by David Palmer

Today we woke early especially to visit a rock. Quite a special rock, the Captain had informed us yesterday that he would be diverting his course to pass within 1000m of the tallest sea stack in the world. It was just off the Lord Howe Islands, and rose over 500m from the sea and extended over 3000m to the sea bed. It is called the False Pyramid.

Breakfasted by 7.30am saw us up on top deck with a few other early risers. It was very windy and quite chilly. The warm blue skies had gone to be replaced by racing clouds and more perturbing some of them carried rain. We braced ourselves and ploughed into the wind towards the bow of the sip. There, in the distance you could just make out the huge rock rising vertically from the ocean. It was far too unpleasant being buffeted by the elements to stay so we found a spot on the lower deck sheltered by some steps, but still giving a good view to the side. We would wait for the stack to pass by.

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I guess we must have waited for around an hour before the mass of volcanic rock slid into view. Prior to that we had a passing shower and Sue had returned to the cabin to fetch sweaters. The Captain had been on the PA several times giving us data on what we were seeing. Having done this route many occasions it is only the second time he has seen the stack. As we neared the huge spike, thoughts of the Costa Concordia passed through our minds. The ship slowed down as we neared and this gave everyone a great opportunity to take as many photos as they wished. By now the decks were crammed and our long wait was rewarded with uninhibited views.

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With the stack receding into the distance we returned below to begin our programme of activities for the day.

The lecture today was based on the humour of different nationalities. Many clips were shown for YouTube to illustrate the various points. Most amusing was Paul Hogan’s presentation at the Oscars, his earthy Australian speech ‘brought down’ the mainly American celebrity audience to reality an they were not comfortable. Very funny. Of course Barry Humphries (Dame Edna Everidge) being interviewed by Parkinson with Tom Jones is a classic ‘put you down’ clip.

Afterwards Sue went to read her book on the deck and I sat in the schooner bar and read my book, but she soon joined me as though the sun had come out and it had warmed up, it was too breezy. From there we went to lunch in the Windjammer.

On the way back to our cabin from lunch we met our Cabin Maid who mentioned that she had left the liquor in our room. When we got there we found a case containing four bottles of spirits. On close examination of the box I noticed that it had the wrong cabin number. I found one of the other cabin Maids as ours had gone off duty and the box was eventually relocated to its rightful owner, 7253 instead our our 7523.

Sue toyed with the idea of going for a Forensics lecture in the afternoon and I returned to the Schooner to listen to music and read my book. Later she joined me and as I had just finished my Sherlock Holmes and we sat listening to some splendid live music.

When we eventually returned to our cabin we packed our cases for removal overnight.

Before the evening meal we watched a show in the theatre, comedy, singing and dancing. At the end the crew of the ship came on stage to bid farewell.

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We had company for dinner, Steve and Ellie turned up and we spent 2 hours chatting and eating. The stewards also sang another farewell.

Afterwards Sue opted to have an early night and I went to watch Mad Max 3D in the cinema. A daft film full of action that I wouldn’t recommend anyone to see unless you have 2 hours to waste.