We have just spent three weeks in the UK, mainly with family, but also with the opportunity to meet up with friends. Originally, we were responding to a request from our eldest daughter, for help with the children while she had to go on business for a week to Mauritius. There is a nanny who comes in in the mornings to get the children ready and take them to school, and then picks them up from school, brings them home, and cooks them their evening meal, ready to hand over to Mum at about 6.30 pm. However, we were needed for the overnight periods. That was the original purpose but we decided to take the opportunity to extend our stay so that we could travel north to where we used to live before coming out to Spain. My wife had an appointment in Ramsbottom with her financial advisor to review her investments. We stayed with some very good friends nearby and also met up one evening with a couple who come out regularly to Frigiliana on holiday, and went out with them for a meal. And we had to visit the lady who used to clean for us. She is 91 years old and absolutely amazing.Still driving, she swims at the local pool three times a week in the morning and then goes dancing in the afternoon, plus regular holidays abroad with her daughter, Saga or Age UK. We had also intended to have a few days on the Isle of Wight, but unfortunately my wife was not well at the last moment, so we had to cancel. She was soon recovered and it did mean that we got to spend a bit more time with the family. Apart from everything else, this turned out to be quite a gastronomic holiday. Our younger daughter lives in Cookham and invited us over to go for a meal at Tom Kerridge's new venture, Coach in Marlow. It's the first time we've eaten off a two Michelin star menu, and the food was absolutely fantastic; I was much less impressed by the service, however; their USP is that dishes come from the kitchen as soon as they are ready, and so it may be that people in your party don't all get served at the same time. Our first courses arrived pretty close together, but for the second course, my daughter's meal arrived, five minutes later my wife's arrived but it was another fifteen minutes before my food was delivered, swiftly followed by the side order of cabbage which the other two had ordered to go with the dishes they had already finished. My comment to the manager that I could live with when the dish is ready, but this felt more like, when we get around to it was not well received. I was told that they had explained the system to me beforehand. It struck me afterwards that all decent restaurants serve food as soon as it is ready, the difference being that the chef makes sure that orders for a particular table are all ready at the same time! I won't be going back. By contrast all of the other places where we ate managed to serve everything together. Ramsbottom has been transformed as a gastro destination since we left in 2008. A number of new eateries have opened to augment what was already on offer. We ate at two old favourites and at two new ones. One of the new ones was The Eagle & Child. This used to be a pub that struggled under a number of owners, but has recently blossomed under new owners, who (without Michelin stars) have a menu to equal that of Coach, and cooking to match, but with the benefit of swift, efficient and friendly service. A measure of its standard is that the executive chef, Eve Stanton, was one of the three North West chefs competing in this year's Great British Menu. If anyone knows whether she won or not, I'd be interested to know, as unfortunately we weren't able to watch the Friday evening programme. And so now, here we are back home once again. This is a lovely time of year; all the July/August heat has gone and we have temperatures in the mid-twenties and lots of sun and blues sky. It's good to be home!
Sadly the Canada trip is off. AS you know I've had a couple of health issues recently, so when I went to top up my travel insurance to cover my pre-existing conditions, the best quote was frightening. Firstly the amount of the extra premium and then the shortfall between the maximum cover for cancellation and the total cost of the holiday would have left us with an exposure of several thousand pounds. Booking now for a holiday in June next year meant that there was just too much time for either another TIA or worse, or a recurrence of the cancer that could prevent travel. So the only sensible thing to do was pull the plug and think again. We didthink again, and so now we have booked a new holiday, still by train but shorter and a lot cheaper. We travel with Eurostar, then other smart trains first to Berlin, then to Dresden and finally to Prague, with side trips to Potsdam, Nuremberg and Colditz. Not only does that fulfill my wife's long held dream of visiting Prague, but it also leaves money to do a couple of other trips at some stage, as well as a de luxe celebration locally (Spain or the UK) with our daughters and granddaughters.
We are in England at the moment. Part of the time we are doing some child minding while Mum is away on a business trip to Mauritius. Then we shall be going north for a few days to the area where we lived before moving to Spain, some more time with the family and then a few days on the Isle of Wight before heading back to Frigiliana. We always enjoy these trips, but we've taken the opportunity to set up a big holiday while we're here. Another "trip of a lifetime", which makes three in all. Next year we celebrate fifty years of marriage and so we knew we had to do something special. Two sessions with Trailfinders, whom I cannot recommend highly enough, and we can now look forward to flying to Montreal in late spring and then making our way via Quebec City and Ottawa to Toronto by train. A few days in Toronto, and then we fly across to Calgary where we spend a couple of nights before picking up a hire car and driving to Banff, then Lake Louise - though we will actually stay at Lake Moraine - and to Jasper where we check in the car and board the Rocky Mountain Explorer train for a two day train journey with an overnight in Kamloops, through the Rockies and on down to Vancouver where we will spend a few more days before flying back. The cost of all that is unnerving, but as the northern saying has it, "There's no pockets in shrouds."