The European work and travel adventure started encouragingly well (aside from the sleepless transatlantic flight) with beautiful blue sky (the first day of the year we were reliably informed 😉 !!) It started with a visit to London (Geoff – work) and then being driven around the sunny Kent countryside by a very kind friend whose tour largely comprised of kicking us out of the car at various destinations, prodding us in the direction of a country pub for food and dragging us , non compos mentis, on a brisk walk in bluebell filled woods – all in an attempt to keep us awake and avoid the slippery slope of jet lag 😉
Whilst I then headed briefly to Windsor to visit my parents (the usual lovely day visiting Windsor and the River Thames with mum – on the second sunny day of the year 😉 ) and later dragging my octogenarian father on a hike through Windsor Great Park which involved tottering slowly from one conveniently placed log to the next (as the Queen obviously can’t quite find the funds in her pension to invest in a few park benches in her back yard for her aging subjects!). Poor Geoff missed all that excitement and flew out to Stuttgart for a day of meetings.
And then northwards to sunny, rainy, freezing, and finally, warm, Cheshire (that pretty much covers any 5 minute period of time in the deep dark north of England in summer 😉 ) for a weekend of celebration with Gary and Tracey who had just got engaged … It flew by in a whirl of gastro pubs, curries and farm shops with homemade fudge (yummmyyyy). The highlight for Geoff being a gastro pub which has 150 different gins behind the bar 🙂 I think between Gary and Geoff they probably tried them all!!! 😉 We found time in between eating (we do miss English food from time to time 😉 ) to stroll along the canal entertained by the weekend barge drivers incompetently bouncing their way from one bank to the next (our own theoretical abilities to control a barge on the water being superlative, of course ;-). We also finally got to meet Gary’s oldest friend, Rob, over a curry (could it have been any other way?) which was a hoot – and discovered his wife, Rainzley, has unparalleled talents in the baking department – no-one has ever specially baked and hand-delivered me my very own victoria sandwich and my very own ginger cake (good and bad news – obviously!) and the memory still brings a nostalgic tear to my eye 😉 I did share them … sort of ….maybe a little … honestly ….;-)
The weekend continued with a very English day in the fabulous old city of Chester – we always forget just how beautiful it is in those elusive moments of sun. A vague attempt to walk the walls and stretch our legs was followed by beer and lunch at a gastro pub patio in the sun …
Finally, I did some much anticipated bonding with our new furry “nephew” Ollie (if we hadn’t been continuing en route around Europe he would have been catnapped upon departure from Cheshire and hidden in my hand luggage).
The weekend did end with a terrifying request from the newly engaged couple to me to be wedding planner for the forthcoming event … at. some destination to be decided …( basically anywhere so long as it isn’t blighty!) Obviously I am honored and I will proceed courageously with the enormity of the task I have been given …
And then off to Harrogate to visit my best friend Caroline and her family in Harrogate for the week – fab as ever – chaotically busy as usual – poor Geoff (again!) got to work for the week whilst Caroline and I enthusiastically tackled the tea shops of Yorkshire…to be fair we were probably burning off 1 or 2 calories a day running up and down the hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the coastal paths of Yorkshire’s Robin Hood’s Bay … at the time it seemed to be all up and not much down to me but it could have been that the 5 whole cakes I’d consumed by that stage pretty much single-handedly were beginning to take their toll 😉 Frequently lost (we are girls after all – with no sense of direction other than the ability to sniff out the next tea shop – and, of course, we had left the map in the car) 😉 – it did allow us the opportunity to engage with some of the more colorful locals. I was relieved that Caroline was fully in tune with the guttural intricacies of the rural Yorkshire accent otherwise I’d still be wandering lost in a daze now 😉 I’ll admit that I wasn’t fully concentrating when we cross-examined one particular middle aged farmer in welly boots and up to his neck in mud (somewhat stereotypically accompanied by his pet whippet). He could have been speaking BBC English for all I would have noticed, so mesmerized was I with his interesting hair arrangement – it may have been a combination of a knitted (perhaps crocheted??) comb-over and a whole can of hairspray – who knows – it still haunts me now 😉
The week ended as it began – with an introduction for Geoff to “the girls” tea shop and pub lunch life. I don’t think he had fully appreciated , up until then, the vigor and enthusiasm with which we hunt down Yorkshire’s finest tea shops in search of coffee and homemade cake. I fear it may have been a baptism of fire for the poor soul – by the time it had reached 11am and no cake had been successfully located – 2 manic cake-driven women in an enclosed vehicle without a coffee break can suddenly get quite hormonal 😉 😉
So ….. eventually … out of the rain and cloud of the northern British Isles and on to the rain and cloud of Gaie Pariiiiiis!!
That aside, it was pleasant to stroll the streets, absorb more chocolat croissant calories and pass the hours in a caffeine induced high.
Whilst I spent my second evening alone in the safety and relative luxury of a very nice hotel near Place de la Concorde avoiding the drizzle, Geoff was busily sweating over a hot overhead projector presenting to the French team at work.
Seems I missed all the excitement for once – when he finally made it back to the hotel at midnight he brought with him tales of riots; football hooligans clambering over the Arc de Triomphe; drunk drivers speeding round it in circles (in their 2CV’s 😉 ) at 70mph whilst hanging onto the roofs of their cars and simultaneously waving the Paris Saint Germain football team flag; scaling the Eiffel Tower (!!) (you have to admire their sense of adventure) and general debauchery and misbehavior along the otherwise peaceful and upmarket streets of the Champs Elysees …… all observed at a safe distance by about 3000 armed police 😉
It seems the Parisian team had won their first major football tournament in 19 years, and, of course, it’s always nice to celebrate these things with some senseless hooliganism 😉
Keen to leave not so Gay Pariiieee for the sun of Dubrovnik, Croatia, we dashed to the airport to discover that Croatia Airlines thought it would be a great day to strike – joy! Charles de Gaulle airport is not the best place to while away the hours. A rather depressing cross between an underground metro station (with miles of strange moving tunnels) and a bus station in a “republique de banane” 😉 Time for a remodel I think.
Geoff particularly enjoyed queuing with all of the other displaced Croatia bound travellers for a stale and almost priceless tuna roll ….. followed later by killing some more time standing in line for a bottle of water …… interestingly, he discovered that you CAN buy a stale tuna roll without a boarding pass upon your person but you absolutely CANNOT buy a bottle of water without one – just something to bear in mind in case you ever plan to experience the delights of C de G airport and don’t have hours to spare standing about in line as we did 😉
As the hours passed, the misery increased and our hope for making the connecting flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik slowly dwindled – until – suddenly there WAS a plane after all to whisk us away from the misery of CDG’s Terminal 1 bus shelter. Yippee – hope soared – it would be tight but we could make it with 15 minutes to spare if Zagreb International airport was veryyyyyy small and we ran very fast. Motivation was high for the sweaty cross terminal sprint as the next flight to Dubrovnik (maybe…if they didn’t cancel it completely…no guarantees, of course..) wasn’t for another 9 hours …
… see separate blog for Croatia at https://avidwanderers.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/croatia-may-2013/
…and after Croatia… it was onwards, upwards and westwards once more – back to blighty (still raining, sunny, cold, warm – and this time adding hail to the list – not bad for the end of May). Time for a quick family reunion for Geoff to celebrate Auntie Val’s birthday and his dad’s forthcoming 70th…which was fab … and to re-bond with our young niece and nephew and to meet niece number 2 (all 3, very cute but still an excellent contraceptive 😉 ) We are waaaay too old for all those sleepless nights and repulsive diapers 😉 ) Give me a kitty litter tray and the odd furball expelled at 4am under the bed and I am a very patient and tolerant parent 😉
Very exhausted we headed to our final destination – London – work meetings for Geoff – sight-seeing for me in a London I barely recognize now – dinner with friends – more bluebell-filled woodland walks in Chislehurst (the poshest suburb I’ll ever be invited to 😉 ) – and finally we collapsed on the plane (after nearly 4 weeks of travel and 7 flights) to sleep …