Archive for May, 2017

Lima

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2017 by David Palmer

We were warned not to eat or drink too much alcohol at altitude as the digestion works that much more slowly. Pisco Sour is certainly in the latter category, around 2am I woke with hangover/headache. A couple of aspirin later I went back to sleep and slept until 7.30am. Luckily, I only had the one glass of this Peruvian nectar.

Breakfast was the usual international affair, though the option of a probiotic yogurt was a nice touch. The fruit bowl had the addition of a fruit we have never seen before, beetroot looking, with seeds and to Sue’s liking but not mine.

Afterwards we headed down to the beach again and chose to walk along the path that led the opposite way to yesterdays ramble. Sue’s has a poorly foot so we stopped at every opportunity to watch the locals and see the sights. While sitting on one bench in a little park we made friends with a pug dog and its owner. The little dog was very scatter brained, but amusing. It passed a pleasant 15 minutes or so watching his antics. The path ended when a ravine with a road cut across our route, so we headed into the city and found a nice cafe. We stayed for half an hour, drinking the superb hot chocolate they have out here and people watched.

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We returned to the hotel and Sue had a short nap while I had Peruvian pie in a local shop. Later we had another short walk to stretch the legs and ended up having ice-creams before returning to catch the bus for our afternoon tour of the city. The ice cream tastes as if it is made from yogurt, very refreshing.

There was fourteen in our party that had opted for the city tour and we all met in the Foye of the hotel before boarding the bus. We first stopped very briefly at an archaeological site that was being worked on. It looked like a flat-topped pyramid from several thousands of years ago. It was originally made of adobe bricks and was being renovated using the same method. It looked quite spectacular and very special, but unfortunately we didn’t get off the bus to investigate further. Disappointing.

We moved on into the old city stopping at the central square. Here we did have a chance to wander and marvel at the stately buildings. I managed to photograph the changing of the guard in the government palace. From the square we visited a chocolate making establishment . We were treated to the usual talk on the process of growing, harvesting and making chocolate and then had the opportunity to sample the delights of the end product. The liqueurs proved to be very popular and I purchased a couple of bottles.

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Moving on we visited Lima Cathedral and its associated convent. A fascinating building especially the crypt and story of Saint Rosa, whose skull is kept there and a painting of what she looked like.

Our guide informed us that for nine months of the year Lima lives under a cloud. January, February and March are the only sunny months. I was pleased that we are not just unlucky with the murky conditions, this is the norm for the locals. It was getting dark on our return to the hotel and the traffic was bad, giving us a great opportunity to watch the citizens of Lima as the went about their business. They are very much reliant on public transport and seemed happy to stand in line waiting. I guess their reluctance to return a wave was down to the lack of sunshine!

We headed off to the park of last night for our evening meal, but chose a restaurant across the busy road from the park. A nice meal, but unfortunately the main course was preceded by two free Pisco Sours! They were a little sweeter than the previous evening and Sue enjoyed hers. Only the morning will tell if we have acclimatised. It was to bed when we returned to the hotel as it is a 2.20am wake-up for our flight to Puno tomorrow.

Lima has a population of ten million, the country itself only has 30 million, so it is a very busy city. Miraflorres is where the majority of hotels and tourists reside. This is a policy of the government. In the past and still to the present there has been a severe problem with gang culture, when quite  few locals and tourists were blown up in the very square that we visited today, it was decided to move hotels and tourists to the safer district of Miraflorres. The security in this district is very obvious. We found it similar to that of Copacabana, uniformed police on street corners, escalators, in fact everywhere. Today, on entering the chocolate outlet there was a line of riot police (with shields) who were only too pleased to be seen being photographed with some in our party in silly postures. Makes you think doesn’t it what living in the UK could be like?

 

A Journey to Peru.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2017 by David Palmer

Our journey to Terminal 2 Heathrow went without a hitch. The M1 and M25 were fairly quiet, probably do to it being a Bank Holiday sunday and that we left Harborough at 1pm. Remarkably we only saw two caravans and hardly any lorries all the way to London.

We parked the car in a new venue for us, the Easy Hotel, a franchise of Easyjet. The hotel itself looked pretty basic, but the car park was made of good solid tarmac and looked as if it would support the Fiesta for the duration. We had to wait around half an hour for our bus pick-up, but a driver on a drop-off run only, took us to the airport as it was the end of his shift. Such kindness.

Avianca only support self check-in. I agree that the process IS pretty straightforward, as long as you are willing to give it 100% of your concentration, be under the age of 30yrs and enjoy sticking, very sticky paper to suitcases. The machines allocate you seating and this is why Sue and I ended up sitting behind each other in the middle aisle of the plane. Very annoying. We were later annoyed when the same process was thrust upon us when we bought a meal deal at WH Smiths in departures. As we were freshly practised, this time we managed to purchase the correct items (after a lot of confusion and heart searching and questioning whether we have the will to live in this ‘do it yourself” techno world). We ate our food sat next to each other, in seats of our choosing.

Our flight wasn’t until 10.40pm, so it was a long wait. It is amazing how long you can sit, sipping a pint of beer. The Avianca flight to Bogotá thankfully left on time.

The 10.5 hour flight was not a pleasant one. Both of us cramped between two other passengers on either side and hardly any leg room. Thankfully the food was great and we did manage to get some very restless sleep. We landed slightly ahead of schedule and found our transit gate without much problem. Again the flight left on time, but this time we had leg room and were sat next to each other. Oh joy. They fed us a passable breakfast on the 2.5 hour flight into Lima.

Immigration, security, and baggage reclaim went like a dream, as did meeting our transfer where we met with quite a lot of ‘soon to be’ new friends. Then it went a bit sour. We were forced to wait a long time on the transfer bus while four of our group were searched for. It eventually transpired that they had missed the connection in  Bogotá. We left for the Jose Antonio Lima hotel situated in Miraflores. A lovely well situated 4 star establishment just a few blocks from the sea.

The rooms were not ready so as a group we went for a wander, first to the beach and then Sue and I went off to explore the town itself before returning to the hotel and checking into our room on the fourth floor.

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After showering and a change we set off again to explore. First we exchanged some money and then hit the beach again. We spent the afternoon wandering and discovering; Pooh Bear, some paragliders taking off from the top of some very high cliffs and a light house. We stopped awhile and savoured some very flavour-some hot chocolate  taking in the very hazy views. The little islands we had glimpsed off-shore earlier in the day had now disappeared in mist and the humid heat of the morning had made way for some rather cooler air. As it began to darken we made our way back to the hotel for a much-needed rest before venturing out for our first authentic Peruvian meal.

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We had discovered a little plaza next to a large municipal building which conveniently had a very picturesque park alongside on our last foray into the city, there were a few traditional Peruvian restaurants there and we made a mental note to return and sample their delights. This we did. Sue had a chicken Peruvian thing and I had a grilled Peruvian fish thing. They were tasty and satisfying authentic. We enjoyed our meal watching the locals promenade and in the park a magical little market had popped up attracting all sorts of characters. We had been recommended a drink called a Pisco Sour by our tour organiser, it had to be sampled. Now I am a beer person. I don’t like spirits or cocktails, they are a complete waste of time as they are 1. Too small and 2. too quick to drink. Pisco Sour is cocktail sized but has the mentality of a pint of beer. You don’t drink it quickly. The sharpness hits the palate first causing the lips to recoil in horror, followed by a warm smooth, mouthy, reassuring glow of all is well, until the heat and gaspingof what ever alcohol is used, sears the throat, contorting the face into a comical smirk that does indeed cause a little titter of pleasure. WOW. I like this drink and no, I do not want to know what goes into it (that would be too dangerous), but I shall repeat this Peruvian Zip Wire again! Sue didn’t like it.

Afterwards we had a canter around the park market before returning to the hotel and bed.

Like most cities (except those in Canada and New Zealand) come alive when the sun goes down and Lima is not an exception. What a vibrant and exciting experience it is to walk its  streets when the population come out to eat and play. I liken it to Kuala Lumpur, and that is high praise.

It’s Warfare!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2017 by David Palmer

Since Jamie and I returned from New Zealand the family have met up quite a few times. Charlotte was first to call in to choose which of the two (near) identical Kiwi necklaces I had brought back she was going to have. Sarah, (Lee and Mia) came a couple of days later and collected hers. I had bought a slightly larger Kiwi necklace for Sue and accompanied it with another ornament for the mantelpiece.

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Sarah’s birthday was on the 23rd, but on the 21st the whole family met up early in the morning for a surprise birthday present organise by Lee. Sue remained behind to look after Mia and the boys while the rest of us travelled over to Wellingborough for a full days paint-balling.

As it was a Sunday, there was a lot of other eager ‘would be’ soldiers keen to splat the paint. We divided our group into two in order to join the day’s two warring factions. Sarah and Charlotte joined me and the enemy was Lee, Suraj and Jamie. There was around 20 or so on each side of differing ages. There was a large contingent of 11 year olds celebrating another birthday.

It was an excellent day playing at soldiers. We played five games (scenarios), 15 -20 minutes attacking and then the same defending. There was a break at half time and an even longer break between games, and they were needed as when you are pumped up with adrenalin exhaustion kicks in fast.  There  was a few incidents during the day. First, was being shot by one of my own team members (yes, it does hurt) and on a couple of other occasions the children got caught in the open and were mercilessly gunned down. You are requested to stop firing when you raise your hand to indicate you have been hit and allowed to leave the field of combat, however there were teenagers on each side and they were quite trigger happy. Tears were shed.

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On another, more serious incident, one of the teenagers was caught picking up used un-splatted paint balls. This is a ‘no-no’ as once fired they expand slightly and then clog the rifle if fired again. If caught you are deemed to be dead and have to leave the field of combat. The teenager kicked-off big time, shouting and threatening the marshals. The police were called and the guy ran off, jumped into his car and sped away when they arrived. It all added to the excitement of the day.

One of the most confusing games was called Zombies. There were four birthdays being celebrated and the lucky ones were deemed ‘undead’ and had to take on the forty or so ‘living’. Of course if they did hit one of us then we also became a Zombie. Very unnerving to play in such a game when you are not sure who is who!

Around midday we were supplied with a lunch of pizza and it was needed. On the way home I treated our little band of mercenaries to much-needed drinks at a local pub.

The following day, Sue and Charlotte drove over to Stamford to meet up with Sarah. She was having a trial run with a hairdresser in readiness for the wedding in August. I spent the day in the allotments, trying to catch up with my planting.

On the 25th I had Mia for the day, but it was such a hot day she suffered in the heat that I only took her for a couple of shortish walks. It was even hotter the following day when we had a BBQ with the Rothwells. Jamie and Ashton had booked a cottage in Padstowe and were travelling down to Cornwall, Sarah was working and couldn’t join us.

I have spent most of my time in between, preparing the house to be left when we fly off to follow the Incas on Sunday. The pool is clean, the hedges are cut, and the lawns mowed. I just need to pack now!

 

Jacque Preacher

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2017 by David Palmer

It was a particularly stormy and miserable night. The kind that ducks tuck their heads deep under their wings, to escape the unpleasantness. The RV rocked and shook with the increasing gusts of rain-sodden air. Jamie stirred for the third time and pushed open the sliding door of the camper van, home and sanctuary for the last two weeks, but seemingly not tonight. Answering again the call of nature he rendezvoused once more with Pirelli, the new-found love of his life, but on this occasion, there was to be no return to the comfort and warmth of pillow and duvet.

Tall, handsome and with determined chiselled features, his father woke from a peaceful sleep. When the elements were screaming outside, that is when this man of the British Civil Servants  (Education Dept.) slept his deepest.  Noticing no quilted form slumbering peacefully in the bunk above, the first hint of concern appeared on the usually confident face. Had those of the black shirts and fern slipped in during the night and made good their promise to continue their world domination? If so, this had now become personal. The lion had been awakened and would roar. KIWI ( Korporation for Insidious and Wicked Incidents) would regret the day they had decided to cross Jacque Preacher!

I think I have been reading too many Lee Childs novels, sitting in an airport lounge with time to kill does make the mind wander a bit. Probably too much on this occasion. The above script is a true account of our last night in NZ, but with a few exceptions that I am sure are obvious.

With little sleep, we woke at 6am and were showered, packed and breakfasted for 7am. It was still blowing a gale and the rain was heavy when we set off to drop off the RV. Rush hour traffic in Auckland is no laughing matter, the 17.5km journey took us an hour and fifty minutes! On arrival, the van was checked and passed with flying colours, I even got a refund because we hadn’t used any gas. The downside is that both Jamie and I have put on a bit of weight through fast food grazing. Two coffees later we were on board the complimentary shuttle bus and heading to the airport.

We wasted another couple of hours (grazing) while we waited for the check-in desk to open. With passport control and security negotiated without mishap, we set about wasting even more time for the departure gate to be displayed. We did a little more grazing with the last our NZ coinage.

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The flight left on time and yet again we were lucky enough to grab a bank of three seats each and  managed to get quite a bit of sleep. I think out of the 17.5 hours I must have managed nearly 10 hours, Jamie, less so as he worked his way through the entire  Star Wars films (I didn’t realise there was so many!)

Transit through Doha went smoothly and on time we flew another 7 hours to Heathrow. The food was good and plentiful on both flights. There was no drama with our rucksacks and they appeared on the belt quite quickly. Exiting the terminus we found our shuttle stop to the car park and the bus turned up straight away. The car was there waiting for us, well done Purple Parking.

The motorway traffic up to Harborough was considerably lighter than on the way down and we had no delay. On arriving home, Jamie went to check on Maddy (rabbit) and Sue put on the washing machine and started loading it up. It was a great road trip full of adventure and surprises, but it is also lovely to be home and be able to give the mind and body a rest from doing things. That first cup of home-brewed coffee was the trigger to return to relax mode. Well until at least until tomorrow, then it is back to chores again.

Rambling and a bit of Culture

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2017 by David Palmer

Before we settled down for the night in our mobile nest we took a walk down to the harbour and spent a few minutes watching a couple of Asians catching fish off the dock. The water seemed alive with fish of all sizes and catching them was as easy as ‘fish in a barrel’. The lights of the buildings must have been attracting them,  they were leaping out of the water as if the sea was boiling. I disturbed a long legged, crane like bird that was taking advantage of the situation, it squawked its annoyance at me and then flew the short distance to the beach we had just walked along. Later, on our return journey to our RV, it must have succumbed to sea-rage. as we walked back along the road to the camp site, out of the blackness it came swooping down screaming its anger. Landing just a few metres behind us it followed us up the road, occasionally squawking some obscenity until it was satisfied we had been admonished then it stood in the middle of the carriageway, defying us to confront it. We didn’t.

We woke late in the morning and after breakfast and showers we walked back to the harbour, wary of any long legged seabirds we came across. We thought of catching a boat over to Mansion House Island, but the boat was leaving in 10 minutes and the cafe on the island was closed for the season, we decided against it as we had no food to take with us for the day, and no time to buy any provisions.

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We set off to drive to Mahruangi Regional Park as it looked like it had an interesting coastal walk.

On the way deviated into the Puhoi valley and discovered that it contained a historic village. We visited the Bohemian Museum in the centre of the village. A very keen and knowledgeable  curate (we were the only visitors) who gave us a conducted tour of all the exhibits with a lengthy explanation of each item. The village was settled by Bohemian emigrants from the 1840’s. and has largely remained so. It was interesting. We moved on to the far end of the village to the cafe and cheese store. Jamie had some cheese cake and I bought some cheese.

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We carried on to our original destination. The park is on a promontory, very picturesque, but then I guess, all of New Zealand is! We set off on the route that seemed to us to cover the best sights on offer. We were correct in that assumption, but we didn’t factor in some the elevations required to reach those sights. The NZ’s grade their walks, with ‘Walks’ being OK and ‘Tramps’ being exhausting. Most of our route was tramping! Beautiful, subtropical bush walking that got us both sweating profusely, but on reflection, highly enjoyable and so worth it for the views and experience itself.

In readiness for our flight tomorrow, we elected to drive south of Auckland to the campsite in Drury that we had stayed in earlier as it is relatively close to the airport. We were lucky, we managed to bag one of the last powered spots on offer. Jamie repeated the roast dinner of a few nights prior, while I microwaved some chicken chowmein I had purchased earlier in the day in case we selected a site with no access to food. We spent the rest of the evening in the Irish bar.

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Trees and Lakes

Posted in Uncategorized on May 15, 2017 by David Palmer

Today we were heading further north, up to Waipoua Forest. It is famous for being the location of NZ’s largest living kauri tree, Tane Mahuta, ‘Lord of the Forest’ and we were keen to see what all the fuss was about.

It was around 200km away and as we set off early we were parked up in the small dedicated car park around 9.30am, after first having a small deviation to visit the park information office a couple of kilometres away.

There is a small decontamination station at the entrance where you first brush, then spray your boots to prevent the dreaded kauri die-back disease from reaching this specimen.

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The tree itself is reached by a very short stretch of walkway that winds briefly through the subtropical forest. Yes, this is an imposing giant; 13.7m girth, 17.68m trunk height and a total canopy height of 51.5m. One feels very insignificant (and peaceful) standing alongside its massive frame. The trunk is so straight and wide, but what makes it so unusual are the branches which sprout from the very top of it. Each branch itself is the size of a large tree. The photos don’t do its hugeness any justice, to fit it into one frame I had to set the camera to panoramic mode, turn it on its side and stitch three shots together. We were the only visitors at this time of the day and we didn’t have to share this “Lord’ with anyone but his fellow serfs and the strange calls the  bird life create in this part of the world.

We were keen to find NZ’s 2nd largest kauri tree. After a short drive, another decontamination procedure we first discovered a stand of four kuari trees together, called the ‘Four Sisters’. Interesting.  The Tane Mahuta’s little bother was another 30 minute walk away along a meandering path that passed many examples of the species but not yet impressive enough for us to stop and stare.

Yep, it was big. To me it looked bigger, though as a specimen it was not as well-preserved, it had obviously suffered some damage in a past storm to its top canopy. One large branch was evidently missing. Injured perhaps, but still majestic. On our return to the RV, we met some other worshippers on their way to pay homage.

Some 40km away was our next stop, the Kai Iwi Lakes. They consist of three clear blue, freshwater lakes that have stunning white sandy beaches.  When we arrived, apart from a ranger with a chain saw there was only one other couple present. We had a good wander around, revelled in the heat of the day, thought briefly about swimming trunks but the water temperature was off-putting (well it is winter).

We circumnavigated the lakes, stopping frequently to take in the sights, before discussing our options for the rest of the day. We had planned an evening kiwi walk a little further north and in quite a remote area, but we were showing under a quarter of a tank of fuel and the nearest gas station was back south in Dargaville. We chose to get fuel first, have lunch and then consider our options, which is precisely what we did.

Whilst in Dargaville we purchased some Fijiola fruit. We were so impressed with this pleasant and unusual tasting fruit we bought a second bag of them. They are only in season for three months of the year and the locals go mad for them. This year has been a bumper year for them.

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Our target for the afternoon was a camping site on the opposite coast at a place called Sandspit. It looked an interesting area so we thought we would go and find out. We stopped at a small township on the way to buy a few provisions for the evening meal. We arrived as it was getting dark and checked into what seemed a very upmarket establishment next to a marina containing some very nice yachts.

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As a variation to our usual evening activity of cider and cards, we micro-waved a couple of boxes of ‘sweet and sour pork’ and enjoyed the contents.

 

Caves and Falls

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2017 by David Palmer

We ate that evening at a take-away outlet called ‘Roast’. We had seen them nearly everywhere but had dismissed them as being a NZ oddity, for local stomachs only. What an experience! A fast food outlet that specialise in roast dinners, beef, chicken, pork or lamb. Take-aways go in a plastic tub of varying sizes (depending on the size of stomach), and eat-ins are served on crockery. The roasts are slightly different as you get a selection of potato, pumpkin and Kumara. A huge ladel of peas is added with  lashings of rich brown gravy and I had a good splashing of mint sauce as I selected the lamb. Wonderful and very popular with the locals.

We spent the rest of the evening sipping local ales in the Irish bar and watched the  Crusaders beat the Hurricanes  in a packed bar. From what I saw the British Lions have nothing to fear from the provincial sides. It seems that it is the fashion to dress up in fancy dress on a Saturday night. We were sat at a table next to Luke Skywalker and a very fetching Princess Leah.

I found it rather chilly during the night and we had to put on the heater.

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We were back on the road for 9am and heading to sub-tropical temperatures in Northland. We drove through Auckland, recognising some of the sights, from what now seems a very long time ago. With the Sky Tower in our rear view mirror we headed along No. 1 Expressway towards Whangarei. We detoured along the coastal scenic route to avoid a section of toll road and it gave us a chance to stop and take photographs of some lovely beaches, before returning to the Expressway.

First real stop was at One Tree Cove which provided good views across the bay towards Whangarei.  We reset our Satnav to Abbey Caves which were just on the other side of the town.

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We parked alongside a small group of other vehicles high up on a lane in the hills looking down on the town and bay. We read the warning notice board that informed intrepid cavers that you explored them at your own risk and that they are designated as dangerous.

Following a very pretty track downwards, passing among weird rock formations that looked remarkably like Henry Moore sculptures. I am surprised some entrepreneurial farmer hasn’t used his tractor to pull them out of the ground and sell them as works of art. I would buy one (at a reasonable cost of course).

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We found the first cave, aptly named Abbey Cave, hidden among a large pile of boulders. The entrance was difficult to climb into, but I with my head torch and Jamie with the light App on his phone glowing (surprisingly brighter than mine) managed to splash down into the darkness and rocks. A shallow stream was flowing quickly downwards and around 40m into the system we came across 4 German tourists in underwear sporting just one torch. We passed, exchanged greetings and carried on until we were soon stopped by deeper water. Switching off our lights we were treated to a free show of Glow Worms. Returning to the surface our European friends were more suitably attired and chatting among themselves. They ignored us as we left, I think a little embarrassed.

We again followed the path and soon came across cave number 2, suitable called Second Cave. We repeated the procedure as before, though this one proved a little easier to enter and also contained Glow Worms, though we didn’t venture as far into this one as the tunnel grew quickly smaller and crawling through on hands and knees in underwear isn’t British!

Cave number three got a cursory visit to the entrance before we decided this one was for those wearing the right gear and not for us.  We returned to the van by way of the track that looped back to the road.

We reset the Satnav for Whangarei Falls, some 4.5 km away. It was on the outskirts of the town and right next to an old folks home. A lovely place for a picnic and plenty of people were doing just that. The falls were pretty impressive with plenty of water cascading over the cliff to drop 26m into a large pool before carrying on downstream. I did a circuit of the top and bottom sections, taking photos then returned to the van. We stopped just down the road for sandwiches before driving into Whangarei centre.

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Whangarei is certainly an upmarket place to live and has restaurants and shops to match, not to mention the yachts in the marina. We wandered for a while, checked out the films at the cinema but didn’t fancy any so decided to make some headway towards tomorrows destination.

We camped that night in a small town called Dargaville at a site that had little cabins made from railway wagons, how novel. We did a spot of shopping at the local supermarket to replenish our supplies. For the first meal cooked in the RV, Jamie made himself chicken, cashew and tarragon tortellini from a ready meal.

We spent the rest of the evening in the local sports bar.