Friday, 4 April 2014

They're back and so is the sun!

Although the weather has been a wee bit off we have still managed to sit around the pool and have a swim every day and the food around here is amazing so we haven't suffered. Well with the possible exception of our waistlines!!!

Still we did manage to continue to have the occasional disaster, which hopefully prevents this blog from being completely boring throughout. like when Joan came back from breakfast and I saw her earring lying on her pillow. We spent the next hour stripping the bed and moving the furniture to find the gold back thing. I said let's just get a new pair and then we'll find it so we bought her a new pair and two days later as predicted I found it, sod's law.

In an effort to make the most of our last week we went to  Stuart beach, a lovely stretch of sand on the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was perfect and although the sea was a little lively, nevertheless we ventured in for a plodge (Geordie for paddle). I was very surprised that the water was quite warm and decided to go in further to have a swim. (Ok so I needed a pee).

What happened next was with hindsight, totally predictable. We were jumping over the larger breakers, when Joan shouted "Bryan, mind your glasses!"  I decided she was right and started to get out. At this point the sea picked me up, whipped off my glasses and threw me back on the beach. It then swept a huge wave over me in an attempt to drown me I think or to distract me whilst making off with my spec's. Either way I ended up being hauled upright by a very concerned Joan, spluttering and coughing. Me not her.

Fortunately I had a pair of prescription sun glasses in the car, but that night I had to drive back from the restaurant with a pair of Joan's PINK reading glasses. Being America, finding someone to make a pair of bi-focal glasses virtually while you wait, was not a problem, so we did. I got an eye test, and two pairs of really nice glasses for £140, marvellous. So that was ok.

Obviously now all will be fine for the last couple of days, err, no.

Kay & Tom organised a barbecue with their next door neighbours and they produced some really delicious burgers and side salads. It was just lovely sitting outside chatting and drinking in temperatures around 75 deg. Sadly all good things etc and we arrived at our last day together. We started with a trip to the beach, but kept well clear of the water. Basically because there were flags flying to indicate dodgy sea life and dangerous rip currents, plus of course my glasses were new. On enquiring we learned it could be anything from sharks to jelly fish that sting. Then back for some last minute packing.

Tom bless him, insisted on driving so I could enjoy some wine without worrying about drink driving. We started at a very nice waterside bar, then went on to a lovely restaurant. Finally we drove to Stuart old town where the ice cream shop was still open and just sat outside eating the most wonderful ice creams that taste divine. It is impossible to describe just how yummy these ices are, and they make something like 30 different flavours mmmmmmmmm!

So, it was finally time to say goodbye, the time we had all been together was marvellous but we were missing home, it was time to go. That didn't make it easy though and there were a few wet eyes in Stuart that night.

The next day having told me NOT to get up too early, as I always do on the day we travel, Joan awoke at 5am! She had managed to check in on line last night so all we needed to do was get to the airport by about 1.30pm. About 11.30 we were going around the airport again having missed the exit for the rented car return, thank God we were early.

So there we are, nothing can possibly go wrong now, the bags are checked and we just need to get through customs and security. Err, well actually it can, somehow my belt vanished so I spent the rest of our journey home ensuring I didn't lose my trousers!

Finally our good friends Pam & Colin, reliable as ever, met us and took us home, plus Pam provided some delicious home made scones and a pint of milk. So here we are enjoying a lovely cuppa and Pam's scones with a nice layer of butter on top.

So thats it, hopefully this has not been too boring to read, I enjoyed writing it anyway. It is my attempt to put into words what a wonderful time we have had. The perfect holiday, good food, wonderful friends and lovely warm weather.

Lots of love
Bryan & Joan xxxx

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The rotters! They took the weather with them.

Tom & Kay went on a cruise Sunday 23rd and the weather went with them! In fact Joan and I have had to change all our plans. We intended to go to the Gulf coast on Saturday for eight days but due to this being the peak season in Florida, we were advised not to travel there on Saturday as the weekend would be the busiest time, so we returned to Orlando for the weekend with the intention of going to Clearwater on Monday.

Watching the weather forecast on Sunday we realised that rain was forecast for Florida and the Gulf coast was going to get the worst of it, so we changed our plans and decided to stay on the East coast and find a hotel near the beach.  We drove all the way down the coast and found that for most of the way there were no hotels at all! It was mostly private estates of holiday properties. The couple of hotels we stopped at were sort of isolated, so all we would have would be the beach, no restaurants even.

Eventually we reached Stuart where we know the area. We were quite tired by now so rather than continue to drive south in the hope of finding something that suited us we decided to stay here for the week. There are loads of lovely restaurants, lots of shops and a super beach 5 miles away. Ok, not a hotel on the beach, but loads to do.

Thanks to our friends Tom and Kay we already know all the great places to eat and how to get to the beach. As we hoped, the weather has not got as bad as it is on the Gulf plus the temperature will dip today and then go straight back up to 70+ for the rest of our time here. Our hotel is cheaper and the pool is heated and just outside our door, I think we made the right choice.

Of course one thing you can do in any weather is shop, and Joan is a black belt at it. Also we have grandchildren so off we went. Then having had a long argument about just how big they are we Face Time them and discover something, they grew, so next day we were back in the shop changing a couple of things for the next size!

Tomorrow it will be cool enough to walk to the ice cream parlour mmmmmmm.

Lots of love
Joan & Bryan

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Still in Stuart getting fatter!

We say getting fatter because everyday Kay or Tom would say, hey today were going to this great place and it was, and the food was amazing plus of course the company was great. They have some fantastic Seafood restaurants in and around Stuart and we tried quite a few of them.

If we ate at a restaurant at lunchtime we often had our evening meal at their house and Tom made some really great salads. One night we wanted to get a taxi so as not to worry about having a drink, but Tom insisted on picking us up and taking us back which was really good of him as our hotel was about 6 miles away. He continued to do this from then on. It's not that I drink a lot but they have a zero tolerance of drink driving and I'd had enough contact with the authorities thanks.

They were preparing for their cruise and had some other prior arrangements so although we saw a lot of them every day, we had some "Us" time as well.  One day we spent some time at the pool and another we went to a lovely beach, where we intended to have a swim but the waves were just far too dangerous.

On Thursday late afternoon we went to a Mexican restaurant called Guanabana's near a place called Jupiter and it was fantastic. We ate and drank far too much as before six o'clock food and drinks were half price. Google it and see how amazing the place is.

They persuaded us to stay an extra night so Joan could go for a manicure and pedicure with Kay on the day we had planned to leave. This also gave us time to enjoy their amazing ice cream shop which I took full advantage of! Then about 4.30pm we went to spend our last evening together. They fed us again, plus we met their very nice neighbours who we had met about 8 years ago when we visited them. It turned out they had been at the same restaurant as us last night but we didn't see each other. I think they hid.

 You would think they were fed up with us by now but Kay and Tom urged us to come back for our last two nights for a final visit on our way to Miami to get our plane. Who could refuse? Certainly not us, so we booked our room before we left today, Saturday 22nd.

After a very restful time a little drama was well overdue and we managed to inflict some on ourselves  with ease! Because rooms are at a premium on the Gulf coast we decided to go there via Orlando after the weekend. Joan was going to buy me a better Apple  iphone, yippee! By now we know where to go and made the journey with ease, parked and went to the Apple store. We met the same young lady we had dealt with before and spent a couple of hours chatting and getting the phone.

When we left we could not locate our car! The temperature was in the low 80's and we are desperately searching the rows and rows of cars. It's very boring and complicated why this happened but suffice to say it wasn't our fault and we did finally find it after 30 minutes.  However not until Joan had lost several pounds!!!! But she didn't freak out, bless her.

Bryan & Joan

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I got an iPhone! Well every cloud etc.

We slept like two little logs, which was not difficult as the bed was soo comfortable, it was like sleeping on a cloud. We had to try and sort my blooming phone out which had gone into melt down mode and just kept cycling through its turn on then off steps. I am sure it just needed to be attached to a computer and told to behave but it appears to be female and will NOT be told anything.

Having located the repair people and been told all they can do is reset the whole thing so all data is lost, which would not help at all, we opt for the sim being cut down to fit an iPhone as advised by the Apple store. So reluctantly I accepted that I had to buy an iPhone, Yes!!!! Now all we had to do was get it to work outside of the shop which even with their help took two more visits plus downloading the manual.

Next day we went to see Mickey Mouse at Disney world which was very good and very tiring, but it seemed we were back on track. It was the next day that all the upset really hit us and we were just in overload meltdown mode, especially Joan, who suddenly decided she couldn't face another busy day and the I4 was too busy to drive on. It was then that I realised she had been worried sick and got stressed to hell, so we settled for a day just around the heated pool, followed by a short trip to a Thai restaurant and an early night, just what we needed.

We left Orlando and drove at a leisurely pace down to Stuart to meet up with our American friends Tom and Kay. The plan was to find our hotel and ring them, but in the event we could not locate it. It was made doubly difficult as lots of the streets were closed for an arts festival!!! The joke is, after 8 years I actually remembered where they lived, so finally we gave up and drove there. As usual the welcome was very warm and Tom had shoved a cold beer in my hand and a glass of red wine in Joan's, almost as we walked in the door. Just what the doctor ordered.

They then sat us down and produced 4 huge steaks plus baked potatoes and a nice tomato salad with Palm hearts, oregano etc , it was delicious. Then they showed us to our hotel which apparently we had almost found.

 Next day they took us to Shrimpers for lunch which is a nice restaurant we had been to on our last trip here where you sit by the water and watch the Pelicans.  Our mission today is to buy a fishing reel for Joan's brother Jim. Normally we would worry about buying anything for somebody else it's hard enough to buy for Joan! However Jim is such a nice chap it should be ok. So far we have been to 4 Walmart stores where he says they are sold and not found one. Then we discovered that nobody has ever heard of his first choice, plus the other one can be delivered in 7 to 10 days, err we leave on Friday. However Stuart is a sea fishing and boating Mecca so Tom took us to a tackle shop where we got the reel plus it was loaded with the correct line so we feel pretty smug now.

One of the great things about visiting Kay & Tom is they always have a family dinner when we are here and we get to meet up with everyone. That means ten people around a table chatting and laughing. It is the sort of close family who live in the same town,  so what you get is a lot of noise and stories and just a really great loving atmosphere. Plus an amazing Caesar salad made by Tom and several helpings  of a lovely broth type soup made by Kay which is a family tradition and was so filling I didn't want any breakfast. Joan's favourite was the dessert, ice cream with pecans, salted peanuts and fudge sauce!!

Sadly in all the excitement we forgot to take a picture so we could remember everybody.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

March 12th 2014 will certainly be remembered by us!

This is our first trip this year and if it had continued as it began I think it would have been the last!

So March 12th 2014 started for us at 4am and our dear friends Pam & Colin arrived dead on time and whipped us to the airport. Bags checked all the way through to Orlando, great. It was all going too well so BA threw in a 30 minute delay which upset Joan because for her birthday Jamie & Tim had bought her executive lounge access so we wanted to take full advantage of it. We did enjoy a very nice breakfast and sat and read some upmarket magazines and the papers. All very civilised, a thoroughly enjoyable way to fill the waiting time for our Orlando plane.

The flight was very straightforward and we managed to sleep a bit and enjoy a film. About an hour out from Orlando I managed to get a dodgy tummy, not good on an airplane! This was the start of our troubles as upon landing they announced, ok you can switch on your mobile phones now. As mine came on a very scary lady with a gun got on and said DO NOT PUT YOUR MOBILE PHONES ON! It is an offence under USA law. So I frantically tried to put it off. It would NOT go off and worse it started making a noise announcing that it was coming on and was scanning this and that, oh boy. I tried again and it went into sort of melt down mode whereby it kept switching on making a noise then going off. So I frantically whipped the battery out, that stopped it and we proceeded to customs where they take your finger prints and photograph your iris. It is 5.30pm and just a half hour drive to the hotel so we should be there by 6.30 at the latest.

The man then says will you come with me please, firmly but still polite.  Joan is now rapidly descending into panic mode, but she had to go and get the cases as if they remain on the carousel they probably blow them up! I am trying to tell her we will be alright but I didn't realise she was worried about driving to find our hotel in the dark. I on the other hand am keeping a weather eye out for anybody coming into the room and pulling a pair of rubber gloves on! Finally after everybody else has left the arrivals hall a chap walks in, says he doesn't know why but apparently somebody in Washington queried my prints and he then stamps my passport, says hope you have a great holiday and let's us go, phew! So we are all set just pick up our pre-paid rented car and we are off.................................NO!

It is now getting very late and we've been up about 20 hours, when the lady at the desk says she is sorry but she can't process our car from the voucher we have although she does have a car in our name waiting? How the hell that works is totally beyond us, but it's ok because we have the confirmation email on our iPad. This says, thank you for your payment of £359 for a Toyota......etc etc. from Avis! No that won't do as we have NO RECORD OF YOUR PAYMENT. So Joan says,  which bit of thank you for your payment on your official headed note paper are you having trouble with? Quite politely I thought, considering we've now been up 22 hours.

At this point I get them to agree that if we leave them a credit card payment we can sort it later, yes? Good lets go. No this card is in Joan's name and the booking is in mine and our other credit card is also in her name. Oh boy now I am getting angry. We don't wander abroad with loads of cards we take a special dollar card to America, why? Because they use dollars there. Now the next bit is our fault I admit but Joan has forgotten the pin which is on her home. Sigh.

Finally with the help of the girl, who to be fair has been battling with her manager all along, we get a car. It's enormous, and it's dark out so apparently in Joan's eyes this means I won't be able to drive, especially after 22 hours without sleep. She is in serious panic mode and yes we did miss a turning and have to go back but come on they drive on the same side as they do in France. Plus she seems to forget the 3000 miles I drove when we went to New Orleans! Anyway finally we got to our hotel at 10pm exhausted but fortunately it was very nice with a really comfortable bed.

We knew we would have to eat but we're too blooming tired for very much so just settled for a starter and a beer. Finally to bed, goodnight B&J xxx

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Well we're all speaking English but it's too hot to really be England!

Wednesday 25th September

Précis:- We tried to contact Kaye, had a swim and sat around drinking. The end.

Another scorcher and we are hoping to hear from Kaye and get to see her B&B at Oiron. We have contacted her and sort of expect she may turn up here anytime, unfortunately we don't have her number so can only email. The good thing is wifi here is quite reasonable so we can catch up with things and email her again. It's too hot to worry and the pool looks really inviting so in we go for a nice swim.

I'm not sure what else we can do to contact Kaye, let's see what tomorrow brings.

Lots of love
Joan & Bryan xxxx

Kaye's place at last, what a transformation!

Thursday 26th September

Précis:- Joan contacts Gluiness book of records with new record and we finally meet up with Kaye. .

Awoke early to a cloudy sky, is that it for the fine weather we've enjoyed for nearly all of six weeks? Hope not. At last Kaye sends email and is coming at 10am, so Joan says well I'll just check the bank then as we have wifi.

BIG mistake, she goes white as a sheet and her blood pressure hits new all time record high as the screen says you have NO accounts!?!?! After I gently coax her off the ceiling we find a number and call the bank who keep her on hold for nearly 20 minutes. Finally a very pleasant lady apologises for the delay, tells Joan all's well, it is only a software problem and she has 500 more calls to answer!

Kaye arrives and whisks us to the house she has transformed to a really lovely B&B. We are amazed at what she has achieved and are so impressed, it really is amazing. Like all massive jobs like this she has had her drawbacks but it certainly seems to have been worthwhile.

We enjoyed our visit and went off to a lovely little restaurant in an adjacent village for lunch with her son and his young lady. The only down side is it rained for a couple of hours! Time to go home I think, campsite bills paid, a couple more stops and we will be at Angela's on Monday night. Joan just said, "do you realise we've been in shorts ever since we arrived in August?" Oh yes, and it's been great!!!

Lots of love
Bryan & Joan xxxx

Friday 27th September

Précis:- we go to an Aire and fail ordering a glass of wine.

Awoke to thick mist and lots of dripping moisture everywhere, don't get me wrong it hasn't rained it's just Autumnal. We got a nice early start and as we only intend doing a fairly short day unless we hit major road works we will arrive just after lunch. This proved to be true and we pulled into the Aire which is actually the town hall car park just after 3pm which was a bit of a worry as they had a sign up saying it was free from 5pm until 10am,  oops!

As it turned out the whole place was being refurbished so nobody seemed to mind when having been joined by another van we levelled up and got our chairs, wine etc out and sat in the sun. Being outside the town hall we were in the centre of the village and after a pleasant stroll around the various eating establishments we decided where to eat later, plus most important, found where the bakers were for the morning.

That night we went to our selected bistro and I excelled again by ordering Joan a large glass of red wine in French. Then I nipped to the loo and came back to discover a very puzzled Joan sitting with a whole bottle!

Lots of love
Joan & Bryan xxxx

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Two days in one as really apart from driving we did nothing.

Monday 23rd September

Précis:- started on journey home, drove a lot, spent night on Aire, drove some more. The end.

We left Beach club Charlemagne around 10am and drove to Agde where the entire population were apparently intent on buying food so having managed to get a tank full of diesel we decided to get out quick. I am convinced that France is determined to rebuild it's roads to get out of the recession. Everywhere we've been there are major road works, it's amazing.

Anyway we finally got to the Aire at Cournon d'Auvergne which is attached to a campsite so we could easily walk in and us the facilities, however ours were cleaner so we didn't bother. We arrived at about 4pm and it was red hot.

All the way there Joan had been worried because it only took 15 vans and it might be full by the time we got there. (Joan, as you all know, has to have something to worry about otherwise she is really worried! ) There was one van there and we were able to park in a quiet little shaded corner and relax with our chairs out and long drinks, smashing.

After a very peaceful nights sleep we awoke very early and because we had no Baguette I settled for cereal with a promise of bread for lunch. We really needed to get to a supermarket for food and also of course diesel. Being early we thought it would be simple, big mistake! Clermont-Ferrand is a very big city and like the rest of France is being rebuilt with the resultant traffic jams. We managed to fill up with extremely cheap diesel and after   Circling around for half an hour I lost it, and drove out of town ignoring the b....y sat nav. who had been recalculating every few feet!!!!

When you are heading north from here it is virtually climbing straight up. I'm not kidding it is a long climb up and up for ages and really the rest of the journey is spent going down hill pretty steeply. Our destination was just past Limoges and when we finally had a break I said to Joan, surely we are so early if we go diagonally across on some smaller roads we can go direct to Airvault saving a day?

The total distance was 215 miles and Joan was worried as it took 7 hours, but I did get two snoozes on route. This little campsite at Airvault is really funny, it's like I imagine Singapore was in the 30's, it is full of English people being very English. Don't get me wrong they are all very nice but it is so strange not to see any other Nationalities here plus, they all seem to know each other and come every year. We haven't seen a rolled umbrella yet or copy of the Times but there's time.

Happy Birthday Carole we hope you have a good one xxx

Lots of love
Bryan & Joan xxxx