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Scotland Bound- Part 1

back Yard 2Our flights from Brisbane to the United Kingdom, landing in Columbo, Abu Dhabi and Manchester, could not be said to have been without event but finally we were at our ultimate destination- Dore, Sheffield. And while this part of the world has oodles of old-world charm, we had a mission to achieve. Scotland.

Aided by Tom and Monique, we planned a 4 night get-away, based on their road trip the year before. Airbnb was the site we used to book each night’s accommodation and the venues were affordable and suitable. The next morning, we hired a Mini Cooper and began our northern quest.

Windermere was our first night’s stop- a short 200 kilometre drive NNW from Dore. The countryside was magical- narrow lanes, stone fences and lots of sheep. The houses we passed were often stone with slate roofs. Our B and B room with its private ensuite, sat perched a short walk up the hill from Lake Windermere. Breakfast was taken underground in a charming breakfast room in the basement. And so began the first of many walks we would undertake on our three week holiday- broken only by our lazy days watching the cricket.

Lake Windermere was very pretty with small islands dotted across the lake and plenty of water birds and local perch and brown trout. We had a walk through the cemetery and partook of a massive cheese platter. I discovered Chile produces a very decent Sauvignon Blanc and continued to enjoy it throughout the UK!

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Off early the next day, our destination was Edinburgh. On the way, we stopped at Lake Keswell, enjoying more water fowl and a beautiful view of the lake, not to mention a lovely walk.

Then it was on to Lowther castle which was completed in 1812. The castle has a varied history, playing host to royalty and nobility for a century or more before being abandoned.

At one stage in WWII, it was occupied by the army and in 1957 it was partly demolished. Today, the castle ruins stand beside a grand façade and the only occupants are the castle gardens. The gardens and fields are extensive, however, and well worth a walk.

Having taken so long to explore Lowther castle, we arrived in Edinburgh late afternoon and decided that this city would need to be explored another time. However, we did discover Edinburgh castle- perched on a hill in the centre of the city – as we drove out next morning. And the Kelpies fascinated me- they are 30 metre high horse head sculptures, completed in 2013.

And that is where I leave you this week- on the way to the Scottish highlands. Stay tuned for beautiful snow capped mountains when I continue my Scottish adventure next week.

Bernadette x

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Our UK Adventure

IguanasYou will remember I left you last week as we arrived back in Brisbane after a wonderfully relaxing Island Hopper cruise with P & O. We had a week back in Brisbane to prepare for our three weeks in the United Kingdom. My husband and I had never been on a long-haul flight before and were anxious about how we would cope.

columboIt was not good news when we were told our 10.30 pm departure would be delayed a couple of hours and then we would have to stop off in Columbo and collect a new flight crew. Still, I settled back to enjoy catching up on movies such as The Greatest Showman and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As an author, it’s vital to fill the creative well and inflight entertainment is the perfect vehicle. I loved both movies. I also re-watched the first Twilight movie somewhere along the line and only wish I could have watched all three.

Our arrival in Abu Dhabi was met with the news that we had missed our flight and would be hosted free of charge in Etihad’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. A nuisance sandstorm stopped us from appreciating the beauty of the city. We enjoyed two meals and a lovely four-hour sleep then returned to the airport to resume our journey.

Finally, eighteen hours late, we landed in Manchester and were met by Tom, our oldest son. We were to base ourselves in Dore, Sheffield. The countryside we travelled through was immediately so different to home. I loved the stone walls and sheep and the lovely flowers and stone houses. There is something about natural stone that really speaks to me.

The home we were to stay in was cosy with a cute little private English garden and pear and apple trees in front. How great would it be to be able to pluck a fresh apple from a tree on your way to work? We explored the immediate surrounds and then Tom’s partner, Monique, helped us plan our Lake District and Scotland adventure.

And that’s where I leave you this week. Stay tuned for the first of our trips north from Sheffield.
Bernadette x

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Island Hopper Cruise- Part 2

PV approach 1By Day 4, we were getting a taste for cruising- no social media, all food included, drinks at mainland prices and plenty of on board entertainment- not to mention great company. We’d survived the rough departure from Brisbane up the coast, arrived in warmer and calmer climes and dipped our toes into the social scene on board.

Pv approach 2.JPGDay 4 saw our early arrival in Port Vila. The entry into the harbour was spectacular. We joined another tour and were driven around the area taking in a tribal cultural experience. We were greeted by a tribe of warriors and then met the chief, after which we were offered a fruity snack. To top it all off, I got to hang out with two local iguanas- don’t miss the little guy on my hat!

Port Vila was a city of contrasts- great beauty and serious poverty. There were five- star resorts as well as residents who had very little. I would love the chance to return some day and really get to explore the bays and beaches. The city area had few road rules or speed limits, so you had to have your wits about you as a driver or pedestrian. Josie and Sam enjoyed an outrigger canoe experience, along with snorkelling in the water between the two islands above.

After a fantastic Port Vila experience, we returned to the ship, determined to come back one day.  It’s only a two hour flight from Brisbane – very conveniently located- you can live as upmarket or casually as you wish.

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Facing us were two sea days before our arrival back in Brisbane. Determined to get the most from our cruise, we threw ourselves into the activities, watching movies, shopping the specials, having a small win at bingo, attending the music quiz each night and managing to snare an illusive spot for the four of us at the Luke Mangan High Tea.

As a last fabulous hoorah, Michael and I sang Karaoke late into the night, then went to our rest, satisfied we had had wrung every last experience out of the cruise.

Highlights of the cruise were:

  • delicious and varied food options included in your price
  • a fabulous entertainment staff and cabin stewards
  • fantastic island experiences
  • absolute relaxation
  • great time spent with our family

Recommendations:

  • don’t buy the drinks package
  • do take friends or family with you
  • go ready to have fun and unwind, far from social media

And that’s my Island Hopper Cruise report. Highly recommended!

Stay tuned for part one of our UK experiences next week…

Bernadette x

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Island Hopper Cruise- Part 1

IMG_0221And so began the best four weeks of my life! Not knowing what to expect from our first cruise, we set sail from Brisbane for New Caledonia. Our travelling companions were Sam, our middle son, and his partner Josie. Embarkment day was my birthday, certainly a day I will never forget.

IMG_0230After a short delay boarding the ship Pacific Dawn, we sailed up the coast, able to catch a glimpse of the Glasshouse Mountains as the sun set. It was rough going, really testing those who had yet to get their sea legs. Thankfully I was fine.

IMG_0231Day 1 was a sea day- the ocean was an incredible blue and we had fun spotting flying fish- boy can those little guys soar! That night was the first night of the Pop Star heats. I sang Shania Twain but had no luck getting through.

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Day 2 dawned fine and smooth with New Caledonia on the horizon. We had time to take part in a delicious wine tasting before setting off for our tour of Noumea.

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Soon it was time to return to the ship for the Back to School blast!

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Day 3 was Lifou day and my personal favourite. We took tender boats to the beach then enjoyed an Islander tour, topped off when I went swimming off the beach and patted a turtle! We sat within the parliament hut where all the island decisions are made and were given a woven headband. There was even a feast prepared for us!

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By now, we were getting a taste for cruising- no social media, all food included, drinks at mainland prices and plenty of on board entertainment- not to mention great company.

Stay tuned for my next instalment where we arrive at Vanuatu and then head for home!

Bernadette x