Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Summer in February

Where has January gone? We are into February already. Here the in the north west of England we have snowdrops,crocus, daffodils and hellebores in flower. All earlier than usual. Probably as a result of the mild weather that we have been experiencing. We have had a few cold days and a couple of frosts, but no snow. Just a lot of rain and wind. One side of the garden has been water logged and the lawn is rather soggy, but that did not stop husband from cutting the grass last week! It must be a first,cutting the grass in January. Normally it is not warm enough to cut the grass until late March.

Part of the reason for cutting the grass is that with the mild weather, it has grown at a time of the year when it does not normally do so and it is also partly because we are about to resume our gap year, with a trip Down Under, leaving at the end of the week. We shall be away for nearly six weeks, which now seems to be a daunting prospect, although when we booked the trip last Autumn  it seemed like a good idea. As much as I want to go to see Australia and New Zealand, I am beginning to be concerned about what I shall be missing at home. The Spring flowers are starting to come out and they could well be over by the time we return home. Also I have decided that I really do not mind our cold Winter weather as long as I can dress up warm. I know that this is going to be the trip of a lifetime and it will be just that, as I do not think that I shall want to go away for such a long time again.

I do not mind flying itself, but I am not keen on long haul flights and the consequent jet lag and in order to get there, there is the small matter of the long haul flight or flights. We have two seven and a half hour flights, with a three hour transit stop over at Dubai airport, about which I have heard some horror stories - I just hope that they are not true, before we reach our stop over destination of Singapore. After three nights in Singapore we have another long haul flight down to Australia, where we shall have six nights. Then we fly to New Zealand. It is Summer down there and the temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees Centigrade, which is rather difficult to think about when the temperature here is in single figures. At least I do not have to try to pack the thick clothes that I am currently wearing.

The photograph is of Lamorna  Cove - the setting for the film Summer in February.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

A New Year to remember

This time last year I wrote a post about a memorable holiday that we had taken over the New Year period.  We enjoyed it so much that we decided to go again and we had another unforgettable holiday. The first holiday was enjoyable and memorable, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. Consequently, when we decided to go again I wondered if we were mad or very brave. Last New Year's Eve I had eaten something which did not agree with me and I spent New Year's Day feeling very sorry for myself. Then at the end of the holiday husband had come down with a bug, which made him feel so rotten that he took an unprecendented three days off work, followed by a cough that last the whole of January. Surely lightening could not strike in the same place twice. We would have been very unlucky if the same thing had happened again. In any case you do not need to go away, or even abroad, to eat something that does not agree with you and bugs can be picked up anywhere and everywhere. I must admit that this time I was ever so careful about what I ate and fortunately we managed to avoid any bugs. The recent holiday was memorable mainly for the right reasons. And we are thinking about going again for next New Year.

For those of you wondering where we have been, we have recently returned from Funchal on the island of Madeira. You are probably thinking that Madeira is only a small island, so why do they keep going back?  Yes, it is small, but there is plenty to see and do and most importantly we are on holiday. We are there to relax and enjoy ourselves. There is no need to be chasing around all of the time, dashing from one tourist sight to another. We are allowed to take it easy. Have a coffee, glass of wine or a beer while watching the world go by, reading a book or looking at a tablet. Years ago we used to spend two weeks lying on a beach and roasting ourselves in the sun. I do not think that we need to feel guilty about doing very little. That is what a holiday is for. We actually try to strike a balance between being down right lazy and running around like headless chickens.

We are not the only couple to have fallen for the charms of Madeira. Many of the guests at the hotel, that we stayed in, are returning guests, which probably has as much to do with the hotel itself as it does with Madeira. We met up with some people that we had first met on our previous visit. Then there were other guests who were returning guests, that we had not met before. All interesting people gathered in the same location to celebrate New Year, relax and enjoy themselves.

At lunchtime on new Year's Eve we walked down into Funchal for a spot of lunch and to enjoy the atmosphere. The previous evening we had walked down to Funchal to eat and had been surprised to find the Cunard liner the QE2 (Queen Elizabeth II) berthed at the marina. By now she had moved and was anchored out in the bay with her tenders running a shuttle service between the ship and the quayside.

 There were now four other cruise ships berthed at the marina with a further six, including the QE2, anchored in the bay. Funchal was heaving with the additional passengers from the cruise ships swelling the numbers of  holiday makers actually staying in Funchal. It was like a carnival atmosphere with a band playing and market stalls selling necklaces, sunglasses, wood carvings and souvenirs etc. By mid afternoon we had to leave it all behind, to walk the 40 minutes up the hill to our hotel, in order to get ourselves ready for the evenings celebrations.

So showered, primped, preened and dressed for the occasion in DJ and long dress we took ourselves down for the drinks reception before the evening's meal. By 11.30 pm the meal was over and it was time to collect my wrap, to go outside onto the terrace, to watch the fireworks from the marina  at midnight. Outside on the terrace the waiters we serving sparkling wine and the band from the dining room had also moved outside. The temperature was mild and with everyone in a mellow mood after dining and drinking well, it was a wonderful atmosphere as we awaited the beginning of the firework display. If there was a count down to midnight we did not hear it, because we were too far away, but we did have a wonderful view of the 129,000 fireworks which lasted eight minutes. Funchal's natural amphitheatre and the ten fully lit cruise ships, in the marina and bay, adding to the spectacle of the occasion. We retired about 1 am, but there was more music and dancing for those that wanted it.

On New Year's day after a late breakfast we went for a a very breezy walk along the coast and had lunch by the this beach.

 Something that we could never do at home on New Year's Day!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

Duty done with the relatives. Now it is time for some 'me time' or 'us time' as we spend new year somewhere warmer and drier than the UK. This is what I am expecting to see at midnight.

Happy New Year wherever you are.