Wednesday, 28 October 2015

France and on

The journey to Portsmouth took longer than expected, but was still within the time we’d allowed so all was well. The cabin was comfortable and we both slept very well, the journey just wasn’t long enough! An easy journey through France followed though the first three hours were in fog when it cleared it was very warm. Doris the sat nav excelled herself and brought us straight to the house down some very narrow roads giving us no chance of following Judith and Richard’s instructions. 

Part of Judith and Richards house. Swimming pool and hot tub beyond the trees
The house is amazing and we are very lucky to be able to spend some time here.

View from the swimming pool
The conservatory
The weather has been variable for the couple of days we’ve been here, thunderstorm last night and raining just now, as we were planning to reload the car, but beautiful yesterday when we wore far too many clothes to walk into Belves, and sunny but cooler this morning when we went for a walk round collecting a bag full of chestnuts and walnuts. Walnuts being what the area is famous for, apart from fois gras, which doesn’t appeal though Brian says it’s delicious!

Lounge and dinning rooms, kitchen beyond
Belves on the hill
Belves is a medieval town, so no surprise I guess that it is on a hill, as are we, so a harder walk than expected but very pleasant never the less. We arrived in lunch break so it was quiet, nosing around little streets, meeting a cat on a windowsill also wanting to go in for lunch, but still quite keen for some fuss, as she was when we met her again later sleeping in a flowerpot!

The market square in medieval Belves
Back to the tourist info to buy tickets for the troglodyte tour, cave dwellings discovered under the main market square. While waiting for our guide the hairdresser opened and her two cats came out to enjoy the sunshine, one of whom was also very keen for some fuss making himself comfortable on my lap! So along with the fourth cat and an old dog and the fluffiest puppy I liked Belves! It feels very odd being in the house here with no animals to look after, I sort of feel we are here under false pretences, so at least I had someone to stroke!

Jackie finds a cat in a side street
The tour was very interesting, led by, a very pleasant, women who had to do it all twice, once in French and once in English for the benefit of us and another couple. The village seems to have been surrounded by a moat at some point which when drained was used defensively in times of war – soldiers lying in it to repel attackers, and the rest of the time by families who lived in single rooms dug out of the sides of the moat, not very pleasant as they must have been cold, damp, smokey and smelly as the families and their animals all lived together, the unhygienic conditions compounded by the fact that the moat was used as a dumping ground by all and sundry for all sorts of things! 
And another
At some point the moat was covered over and the people moved out. The dwellings only being discovered when a truck fell through the road into one of them! All in all an interesting way to spend an hour particularly as it appeared we had missed a downpour while we were underground!

Belves from inside the town walls
The troglodyte cave dwellings under the market square
Packing again today to head to Spain, overnighting in Zaragoza, it seemed rude not to have a look round so we are actually spending a couple of nights there before heading off to Dad’s.


A walk in the woods near Judith and Richards house in Pechaud
Friendly locals on our walk

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Final pack and goodbyes in the UK, France here we come

The last few days at Redmarley D’Abitot flew by for us.  

Gingers final snooze on the bed
We did a trial packing of the car to make sure we can get everything in for the long drive through France, which included an opportunity for pussy cats to creep into the car for a good look round, meaning we had to be careful before shoving another bag in!

Jackie chatting to Judith at Redmarley
We had a trip back to Alvechurch to return the bikes for storage in the huge garage attached to the magnificent old house owned by Jean, Pauline’s friend, another trip to Jackie’s dentist to check on a tooth giving her a bit of trouble (nothing he can do he said, except take it out!) and then an evening meeting with Jackie’s old, ex and current BBC colleagues for a beer in the Selly Park Tavern and balti in the Royal Watan, opposite the old BBC Pebble Mill centre (now sadly demolished).

Owner Jay at Diwans
As has been the case on a number of occasions, ex BBC people outnumbered those still working there, out of 12 people (including me, the only non BBC person) there were only 5 are current employees. Jackie was seated a little too far down one end of the long table so was a little distant from her friend Sarah (who receives, scans and emails to us all our post and allows us to use her address as our UK residence) and her favourite colleagues, so couldn’t join is as much as she would have liked. The conversation down our end, with the union representative and a couple of other current employees was very much the BBC, which for me was quite interesting, but it was a good evening, even though the service was very slow and it was 11:00pm before we got away, with an hours drive back to Redmarley and starving pussy cats wondering where on earth we were!

They seemed to forgive us though and, the next day, after repacking the car again, Judith and Richard returned with the four dogs and we were back chatting ten to the dozen, catching up on their holiday and our forthcoming visit to their house in France, our first destination once we leave the UK. 

With Ian and Helen in Diwans
To give them a bit of time to unpack we took the four dogs for a long walk over the nearby woods, us being experts with them now, after looking after them in June. Jackie was pleased as punch when Ginger cat chose to spend our last night there with us rather than go in with ‘dad’ Richard.
After a lazy breakfast we headed off back up the M5 to Denise (my sister) and Pauls house in Solihull (actually), where we are now, for another 3 hours.

With Denise and Paul on the hills above Henley In Arden
Had a great 7 mile walk with them on Friday, starting and finishing at lovely Henley-in-Arden, with great views over the surrounding hills and taking in the church in Preston Bagot, before returning along the canal for a well earned beer in the White Swan on Henley High Street.

With sis Denise outside the church at Preston Bagot
Friday evening was our final meeting with Ian and Helen where we stayed the night so we could have a beer or two. G&T’s then a walk into Moseley for a beer at the Prince of Wales, fabulous balti at Diwans where owner Jay was in attendance with his usual entertaining chat, followed by a few more beers at the Old Moseley Arms. We used the juke box to the full and finished up jiving and dancing between the tables, amazing what a few beers can do!

Back to D&P’s on Saturday, feeling a bit jaded, so they took us out to Packwood House a National Trust owned old stately home, where we toured the house, but decided against a garden walk when we saw the heavy rain outside!

The church at Preston Bagot
It’s Sunday afternoon now and later on we drive to Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to Le Havre in France, setting off on the wrong side of the road at 8:00am for the drive to Judith and Richards French house in Pechaud in the Dordogne. We hope to be there around 4:30pm before it’s dark! 

The Stratford On Avon canal on the way back to Henley
The roast lamb dinner is cooking, we’ve seen Steph and Sam and baby Rory, the car is packed, so it’s our final few hours in the UK for 6 months and, although we’re really looking forward to France, then Spain to see Jackie’s dad on the Costa Blanca and the 5 months skiing in France, we are sad to be going, it’s been a fabulous summer in some lovely places in the UK and it’s made us realise just what we have here and why so many people want to come here. Still. We’ll be back in May next year…

A swan made from old tyres on a canal narrowboat

Henley in Arden High Street

After walk beer in the White Swan

Outside Packwood House

This is a garden ornament in Denise and Pauls garden. The rain had stopped, the sun came out and glinted on the rain drops on the spiders web. Art?

Steph and Jackie with little Rory and Sam putting Paul right with his ipad

Little Rory

Rory having his dinner and proving that it is impossible to feed a baby without having your own mouth open at the same time

This was little Charlie cat whilst Jackie was packing to leave Redmarley. She wanted to come with us!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Busy? Busy? What an understatement!

Repacking our gear in an effort to be able to get it all in the car!

Lovely evening with Alex and Rob, Alex had conveniently forgotten to remind Rob that there were 5 cats in this house as he is not a fan! She however is, big time, so happy Alex. Great to catch up, and we were really pleased they could fit us in before they go off climbing in Kalymnos this weekend. 

Little Charley cat hiding in our bag, hoping we won't notice!
Sunday we spent rationalising and compressing our packing which made us feel much better as we now think we might have some chance of fitting it in, sadly though, the big green bag that Charley decided to pack herself into the smallest corner of is the one we are not taking. She did try and convince us that she is a French cat, and would like to see her first home again, and that she is a Norwegian Forest cat and would like to spend some real time in the snow. All we have to do now is convince Judith and Richard to let us borrow her…….!

The bag is full, those two pillows and bed linen are not going to go in as well...
Well, maybe they are! Hope it doesn't spring open on the way!
Monday we went off to the orthopaedic hospital to find out the prognosis on my Achilles tendon, the bad news is there is nothing really to be done, but the good news is that at about 6 months it should turn a corner, which it has done, and that skiing or walking on it will do it no harm. I did try on a ski boot and strode up and down the street, in the rain, outside Mum’s and have to report that it didn’t seem to hurt, so hopefully it will all be ok. 

With Abi and Jackie in Moseley Park
This was followed by going to Abi’s for a cuddle with Sooty who seemed very pleased to see us and lunch out with Abi. She then took us to the park in Moseley which we’ve never been to as it is a private park, it’s not that she has a key but if you go to the travel agent and give them a deposit they will lend you a key. It was lovely to see and to hear Abi reminisce about her Saturdays spent there as a child while Mum was shopping in Moseley.

And this is the photo she wouldn't want me to publish, but if she will make a silly face as I take the photo what does she expect?

Tuesday and we waited for Simon and Diane ( their blog of their travels: to arrive, slightly concerned as we hadn’t actually spent long with them on Cat Ba Island in Vietnam, but we have all read each others blogs and have communicated relatively regularly by email. 
With Simon and Diane at Symonds Yat
Once they had arrived and Diane had changed from her ‘corporate’ clothes she was wearing for the interview she had in London we decided we needn’t have worried, the wine, conversation and time flowed with a vengeance! They had taken a year off, half of which they spent in South America, which is why we wanted to pick their brains as it is definitely on the cards for us. 

Simon, Jackie and Diane on Yat Rock,Symonds Yat
Here's our blog entry of our meeting with them on Cat Ba island in Vietnam: 

And here's their entry of the same canoe trip at Cat Ba:
On a wire bridge over the River Wye
It was great being able to talk about New Zealand and Oz as we had been to many of the same places, sometimes because they had been reading our blog, and Cambodia and Laos as we had been reading their blog! Sadly for them they now have to go back to work so are looking for jobs. They’ve been back a month and are still travelling round catching up with friends and family while feeling a little adrift as their house is still let out!

As we've all travelled through SE Asia we have seen many groups of young mainly Chinese people posing for photos using these finger signs, so they just had to do it!
The lovely scenery at Symonds Yat
We thought we’d take them to Symonds Yat for a walk as neither of them are familiar with the area which was great, though Brian and Simon between them seemed to take us on a fairly random route! Fortunately Diane made the executive decision that got us heading back in the right direction and all was well! We finally made it to the Inn at Redmarley in the evening, we have been meaning to go in all the nine weeks or so we’ve been here so we were glad not to be disappointed. 

Outside the old Town Gate at Chepstow
Thursday we went to Chepstow for a look round the town before showing them Wintours Leap. Although it was a bright day the weather has really gone chilly so we hadn’t fancied climbing but we did scramble down and up the easy way down. Last night again the wine flowed along with the conversation, so I don’t envy them their drive to Ipswich! We do have a lot in common and really look forward to catching up with them skiing, climbing in Spain or back in their house in Edinburgh.
In the old streets of Chepstow
Simon, Diane and Jackie
Descending 'Easy Way Down' at Wintours Leap (sorry about the finger in the corner!)
Fred bear comes for some morning fuss
Even shy Lottie cat came out into the sunshine
But she wasn't that keen on being picked up!
Oh, and by the way, we finished the 3D jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal with 2 pieces left over. Only trouble is, we don't want to take it apart now! We'll probably leave it until Richard and Judith come home on Wednesday of next week