Birthday Celebrations

IMG_0911Only back for a day from Switzerland and we are back to the airport to pick up our friends John & Deirdre who have been invited over to the Island by Mel, our youngest who is celebrating a significant birthday.

No car problems this time – we had a flat battery when we got back form Switzerland – but some inclement weather for the first day – not shorts weather at all.

First of all a visit to the Sound to seal watch then after dinner for a walk along Douglas head (weather had got better) but surprised John got a “Welcome to Guernsey” message on his phone.

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EE obviously has renamed the Isle of Man as Guernsey

The next day it was back to the airport to collect Sarah & Harry who had overnighted at Gatwick and caught an early EasyJet flight.

Having borrowed a car seat from a former colleague we were well equipped to take Harry and Sarah around the Island.

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End of the line for the Horse Trams?

 

 

It was Harry’s 2nd visit and this time we were able to take in a walk along Douglas Prom and see the Horse trams.

Harry wasn’t sure they were running (that was us telling him) but as soon as he saw them his face lit up “They are running” were his excited words.

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Douglas Horse trams

The locals love them but hate to go on them and would also hate to see them be stopped. The saga will continue.

 

Anyway, Harry had to go on them of course and one ride up and down the Prom before stopping to try and get a non dairy ice cream for him, unsuccessfully, sadly.

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John asleep on the Electric Tram

The Isle of Man has more trams than this though and it was off to Laxey on the Electric Tram to watch the Laxey wheel and the 3rd type of tram on the island – the one that goes up to the top of the Mountain – but certain people couldn’t stand the pace!

 

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Meal at Harbour Lights, Peel

The following day was the big day with a walk on Port Erin beach followed by a meal at the Harbour Lights in Peel. 

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Mel & Simon

A lovely meal for the birthday girl with lots of friends, colleagues and family but sadly missing ~ Flic who had to attend a work orientated course in the UK.

 

A tired Harry – as were the rest of us – and the following day Harry & Sarah had to leave for home in Jersey and for once EasyJet was on time(ish) but definitely not cancelled.

That’s it for significant birthdays for a while then, not sure whose is next but less of that – it is TT in a week’s time and we have Homestay guests arriving.

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London in June

IMG_217816 June

Most of the bikers have gone home but the boat is still quite crowded with a fair smattering of camper vans and we are leaving the good weather behind for the rainy UK with a big black cloud hanging over the north of Liverpool but only a few showers on our way to Shrewsbury for our overnight at the Holiday Inn Express.

Remarkably no evidence of the flooding that is seriously affecting the nearby Wolverhampton area.

Watch most of the England  v Wales football match in Euro 16 on the ferry but no sound unfortunately.

17 June

Leisurely breakfast and we head off to the local Kia garage and try to get to Aldi. Garage linked with Ford and whilst salesman at Kia was helpful and said a brochure would be sent, it hadn’t arrived by the end of the the following month.  Ford salesman more helpful but after trying our suit case in a B Max came away with just brochures.

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The Feathers, Ludlow

 

Long queue on road towards Aldi with cars turning round, so no point in going and head for a garden centre for lunch followed by a drive to Ludlow for a walk around the market.

Some wonderful buildings that have survived the test of time but sometimes difficult to get photos without cars and/or people in the way.

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Ludlow street

Dinner tonight at an Indian restaurant in Moreton-in-Marsh with Phillip & Sylvia.

 

There was a lot to catch up on with their family including Christopher and Claire’s new arrival after Claire’s exceptionally long labour.

Head to Holiday Inn Express, Apsley for a few nights and, as usual, there are very limited parking places.

On our travels over the last two days there have been considerably more “Leave” posters by the side of the road than “Remain” but the nearer we get to London, the more we see “Remain” posters. (Ironic really as I wrote this at the time but in publishing this some 2 months later after the “Leave” vote)

18 June

Despite National Rail’s website saying that Apsley station was manned today, it wasn’t  – so we couldn’t renew our 60+ travel cards and had to make do with just day returns to London. 😠

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Stage set for The Go Between

Bus from Euston to Oxford Street and another to Piccadilly circus to get to The Apollo Theatre to see The go Between starring Michael Crawford.

 

A new musical which sadly may not last long as on arrival, we were re-allocated seats in the Stalls rather than the Dress Circle and even then the Stalls were not full.

The set itself was a bit dark with songs that were good but sadly not catchy enough to remember after the show.

The acting, however was wonderful, with Michael Crawford on stage the whole of the show as a young boy reenacted what Michael Crawford’s character had done as a youngster and the consequences that followed.

An intriguing story which needed a bit more concentration than many other musicals and a wonderful show nevertheless and very well acted.

Dinner in the Spaghetti House in Haymarket, where Sal had a surprise birthday meal some years ago. Table near the doorway allowed us to see some of the fast cars pass including a Gold Bentley.  Sadly, I didn’t have even my phone camera ready.

19 June

A day with Nick & the boys in Cambridge, Ute was in Germany with her father, a lovely meal and met Peter’s girlfriend.  Lots of discussion about the forthcoming EU Referendum, in which we don’t get a vote.  Nick’s family is very left wing leaning and wants to stay in.  Peter doesn’t get a vote as he is not yet 18.

Not so much trouble parking tonight, hotel not full.

20 June

A very wet morning for another trip to London, this time to take up the rest of the present the girls bought us for our birthdays (the first was Saturday’s show).

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Part of the Queen’s Gallery exhibition

This time we take car to Stanmore and use our Oyster cards into London on the tube which is much cheaper than the London Midland train. Only about 5 spaces left in the car park and therefore a long walk to the tube in the rain.

 

Manage to continue journey after tube on top front seats of a No. 11 bus and after a stop for a coffee in the new area between Victoria Station & Westminster Cathedral, head for the Queen’s Gallery.

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Pictures by Allan Ramsay

 

I had worked about 100 yds away from here in the 1970s for about 5 years but never been inside.

Not as big as I had thought but nevertheless full of wonderful pictures.

The exhibition at the time was Scottish artists and with the aid of a tablet we were given a fascinating insight into the artists themselves and the subjects.

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Pineapple with Cockroaches by Maria Merian

Next up it was an exhibition of drawings of butterflies and whilst I wouldn’t have said I was a keen butterfly watcher, the drawings certainly captured them well with an accompanying story about Maria Merian who visited South America in the very early 1700’s and then painted many of the pictures.

 

Dinner tonight was the last of the present and was in a Marco Pierre White restaurant right at the end of the King’s Road Chelsea.

Again, a No.11 bus had it’s top front seat available and we alighted at Sloane Square for afternoon tea at John Lewis watching the world towards N London from their fifth floor window as by now the rain had gone and the afternoon/evening was a lovely summery one.

A leisurely walk down the King’s Road, something I probably have’ done in 40 years or so and a lovely meal watching the commuters return from their busy day.

Our meal was a three course meal with one side for the main course, other sides being extra.

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“Big Ben” from the top of a No. 11 Bus

 

Can’t remember what the overall cost would have been had we not had the meal as a birthday gift but it would have been expensive.

Again, top seats on a No.11 bus back to Westminster, change for the tube and back to Stanmore.

Nowhere to park again but hotel happy for me to park in disabled bay.

21 June

Meet up with Sarah & Harry At Sainsbury’s London Colney – they had been in the UK for a visit to Thomasland near Tamworth & a christening at Hereford Cathedral.

The Christening was supposed to be a church in Hereford but the party couldn’t find the key to the church so they held it in the Cathedral!

Sarah still remembered the Sainsbury’s from when my mum & dad had lived nearby so a meet up there for an hour or so was a good place to meet before she & Harry headed off to Gatwick and we headed off to Woodford to Pete & Lorraine’s.

Some well appointed alterations to Pete & Lorraine’s house have made it more spacious and lighter. Another fabulous meal and a great catch up – was it 40 years ago since we first met in Tunisia?

22 June

An early start and a drive to Clearwell to pick up a couple of things left there, see Rob and a very long and slow journey back up to Liverpool for the ferry home.  What should have been a 3.5 hour journey from Clearwell turned into a 5 hour journey and we avoided more M6 problems by going via Chester.

Some time to rest and catch up at home before our next journey – to North Devon.

Switzerland

IMG_0800Friday 13 May

Now that’s a civilised time for travel: 10:45 BA flight to London City with some wonderful views across the Essex countryside as we seemed to take the long way round via the Essex coast North East of Southend.

London City airport has improved considerably since it was first opened with reasonably comfortable seats, nothing too over priced in the shops but still a popular and therefore busy airport.

Delay getting into Geneva due to a rain storm so train journey delayed and we don’t get into the hotel in Morges until half six. Meet up with Martin and others of his group in a nearby bar for some drinks before we head for the crowded local Italian restaurant where we are lucky to get a seat. Large quantity of food and not too overpriced at SFr 55 + tip and we head for bed in a very comfortable and quiet room in the Hotel de la Couronne.

Saturday 14 May

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Morges market

Breakfast in the hotel was SFr 28 each so we had opted for me going out to get a croissant thinking I would have to go some way.

Little did I know that there was a Saturday street market right outside the hotel and the first stall was a bakers.

That’s breakfast sorted and I am back in the room before 5 minutes is up.

We are meeting at Morges railway/bus station at 11am so it is a quick walk in the by now, more crowded market and we come across two of Martin’s friends that we were talking to last night so join them for coffee before our 10 minute stroll to the bus at the station. They didn’t have a meal last night!

Bus journey to St Prex, the next village, not sure what the locals thought of 20 or so Brits and Americans joining their local bus.

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St Prex village

 

Short walk along the “promenade” with it’s perfectly manicured trees to the jetty for our boat journey.  However, Martin has just received a call, the boat has strokes down!  It was the first charter of the season and the engines failed to start.

It was the first charter of the season and the engines failed to start.

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St Prex

No boat trip so we adjourn to a nearby park for our picnic in by now what is becoming a more windy and wet day. There is shelter though under the trees.

The food was prepared by Nelly and Marlese as we later understand the caterer backed out.

Wine was flowing freely, much of it from Morges vineyards.

Our next adjournment was to a local vineyard operated by father & Son, M.Kind.

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Wine tasting at vineyard

Goodness knows how many glasses of wine we consumed – all of it very palatable.  Not sure what happened to the video we were going to see though.

Back to the hotel for a sleep before we meet again at Jameson’s – a locals bar – before setting off on a long haul up a hill ( Sal was not impressed! ) to an Indian restaurant attached to a theatre.

Not a bad meal bearing in mind the numbers they were catering for. Fortunately, the journey back to the hotel was downhill and, taken slowly did not cause too much difficulty.

Sunday 15 May

After going out to a nearby patisserie for croissants, no market today, we settle up and make our way to the station for our next adventure – to Montreux on the train.

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Fairmont Hotel in Montreux

 

Our journey from Morges is comfortable even in 2nd class and we exit into the town I have often wanted to visit but only before managed to pass through or change trains at.

We have indulged ourselves and opted for a few nights at the Fairmont in Montreaux, with lake views and a wonderfully comfortable bed.

The hotel is really only a short walk from the Station so no need to get a taxi; however, not surprisingly, our room is not yet ready – it’s not yet Midday so we leave our bags and walk on the lakeside through the Sunday market stalls along to the Freddie Mercury statue.

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Freddie for a Day

It is Freddie for a Day today and there are look a likes everywhere and music coming from inside the covered market hall.

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Market stalls at Montreaux lakeside

Our room is ready and we have an upgrade which means our room has two windows and is about as big as our living room at home with a settee, desk, bed and the usual amenities.It even has BBC1 & BBC2 on the TV and absolutely splendid views across the lake to the, predominantly, French side.

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Our upgraded room

 

Monday 16 May

A Bank Holiday – Whitsun – so lots of people still around, including families.

After a lovely breakfast with freshly cooked omelettes, we head off with our free Riviera passes on the 210 Trolley bus to Chillon Castle, about 2km outside of Montreux.

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Chillon Castle

We get half price entry and, armed with a guide in English, head into and up the 40+ rooms some of which are still decorated and furnished as if we were still in the 16C when the castle was first established.

A wonderfully preserved castle with so many ancient artefacts to look at including painted ceilings, fabulous wooden artefacts, painted ceilings and a secret tunnel where, presumably, a woman’s lover could escape if required.

Some interactive displays for children but predominantly some very old artefacts with descriptions in both English and the local languages.

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Bedroom inside Chillon Castle

Chillon castle has a very strong connection with Lord Byron, the writer, and spent much time at the castle.

It would be easy to spend more time in the castle especially to read up on some of the fascinating exhibits and history of the castle.

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Inside Chillon Castle courtyard

Before the coach loads of tourists began arriving, we head back into Montreux and the Queen museum hidden away in the Casino.

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A Freddie costume

Not well signposted, only knowledge of it’s whereabouts coming from a few brochures and the internet – there is virtually nothing at street level to show it’s existence.

 

Exhibits from the whole of the life of Queen including many outfits once worn by the late Freddie Mercury and a mixing room where you can adjust the sound for two pre-recorded samples.

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Me mixing

A fascinating museum and well worth the hour or so spent inside.

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Montreux in the dusk

Dinner again in the Jazz club and a walk in the dusk which still managed some interesting photo opportunities across the lake.

Tuesday 17 May

A better day weather wise and we head for St Gingolph on the ferry, just managing to catch the first one of the day.

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Lac Leman paddle steamer

2nd class discounted travel is absolutely adequate and the paddle steamer vessel, Vevey, similar to La Suisse which we saw yesterday, is brilliantly turned out with nicely varnished seating and wood window frames.

We sit outside until the wind gets to us as we head for the Swiss landing stage of St Gingolph via the eastern end of Lac Leman at Villeneuve.

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Where are we?

St Gingolph has two villages, straddling the border between France and Switzerland down the River Morge.

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Where are we?

Not a lot to see on the French side on the main road other than a small supermarket, to stock up on goodies, and the ubiquitous Patisserie but we do find a cafe on the waterfront for a couple of crepes for lunch but there is nothing really to entice the tourist back to the French side.

 

Two hours later and we are back on the Paddle steamer, Vevey, crossing the lake towards the Swiss city of that name.

More crowded now than before on the ferry but warmer with less wind.

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Sal del Castillo in Vevey

Disembark and a short walk takes us through the main square, used as a car park, to the bus and rail interchange.

 

A trolley bus takes us through the Eastern side of Vevey to the terminus of the St Pelerin funicular railway, an unmanned railway to the village of the same that I used back in the mid 1990s when I attended a course at the Mt Pelerin Hotel (now Le Mirador Resort & Spa)

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Vevey from Funicular railway

The route of the railway takes us up some very steep inclines, past numerous hamlets and small patches of land used, predominantly for grape growing.

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Vinyards adjacent to Funicular railway

 

The cafe at the terminus is closed for the day so our plans for a coffee and a look over the lake to France, where we had just come from, were thwarted.

Instead, we take the next car down admiring the view of Vevey, get on the waiting trolley bus at the bottom terminus which takes us back to the hotel.

I venture out to get a pre prepared salad for dinner, saving probably SFr 70 in the process and managing to photograph some of the artwork on the lake front.

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Artwork on lakeside at Montreux

A lovely sunset for out last night in Switzerland on this journey.  We must return!!

 

Wednesday 18 May

A bit of confusion at checkout as we had been told breakfast was included, and we had been charged for it.

Without any quibble, the hotel removed the charges ( SFr 80 per day ) and we headed for the station for our comfortable train journey to Geneva Airport and our return to the Isle of Man via a three hour wait at London City.

Another holiday over and with guests arriving tomorrow we won’t have time to feel tired.

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

IMG_2062Monday 25 April

We have only been home since 20 April  but here we are off again this time by ferry to Liverpool, we have to wait to board for over an hour as the incoming ferry takes time to disgorge cars and a couple of coaches so surprised that we leave more or less on time.

Slow drive down M6 & M1 dodging hailstorms and impatient drivers without lights in an early dusk because of the hail. Temperatures down to 2C!

We have opted for a stay at the Holiday Inn at Brent Cross, just at bottom of M1, within easy reach of the tube for tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 April

Hotel’s free shuttle to Brent Cross tube saves a bit of a walk and we end up at Greenwich in the cold and sleet.

After a coffee & cake in a little backstreet café, we browse Greenwich Market, not well populated, but do buy a couple of prints of old London.

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Cutty Sark (well, most of it)

After a walk around the outside of the Cutty Sark we head to the Old Royal Naval College museum for some warmth and shelter from the sleet.

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Naval College Museum

 

What a little gem of a museum with fascinating history of the college and the nearby painted gallery and the chapel.

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Painted ceiling, Old Naval College, Greenwich

The painted gallery is just that, every wall and ceiling is painted with, in the case of the ceiling and one wall in particular, magnificent murals.

 

Students of the nearby Music College occupy some of the adjacent buildings and we were fortunate enough to hear the end of a concert by a string quintet in, again, a magnificently decorated chapel.

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Chapel at Old Naval College

 

This Museum complex is just a little gem hidden away from the bustle of the Cutty Sark and the majority of London’s tourist attractions.

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Chapel ceiling

My advice: go there and marvel at the wonderfully restored decorated rooms.

 

Now off to Canary Wharf for an early evening meal and then on to the O2 for a concert by Jeff Lynn’s ELO, their first tour for possibly 30 years?

Some children aged about 30 going on 10 sitting behind us did spoil the occasion a bit for us as they talked to each other over the music but with our hands behind ears, we did manage to concentrate on the music.

Some good visual effects and some wonderful playing of hits such as Mr Blue Sky, When I was a Boy and Telephone line just to name three. They still have the ability to entertain even after all these years and will feature at Glastonbury this year.

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O2 audience for ELO

Crowded on the way out of course, and we make a wrong decision to get a cab to London Bridge station instead of battling with the crowds to get down the tube.

 

£32.80 later and sat in a traffic jam at about 11:15 pm about half a mile from the station entrance we decide to walk the rest of the way to avoid an even bigger and extortionate taxi charge.

No more London taxis for us, me thinks.  Surprisingly crowded Northern Line for half eleven at night on a Tuesday.

Managed to walk virtually 4 miles today, despite knee problem, biting wind and hail storms.

For a video of Mr Blue Sky, try:  https://youtu.be/3igc3vaieHk

Wednesday 27 April

A late start and a visit to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre, first time we had been there in probably 30 years, with special time spent at John Lewis to talk about cameras, not much else there that was of interest though.

Get stuck in North Circular road traffic jam on way to Flic’s so a bit late getting there.  Dinner in Woodley with Gary joining us and a drink afterwards at Barbara, Gary’s mum’s flat before a more speedy journey back to the hotel.

Thursday 28 April

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My new camera – Canon 70D

Breakfast in John Lewis after a new camera purchase as my birthday present and a drive up the A1 to Bedford for a catch up with John & Deirdre.

 

A drive out to a centre created to give employment to some homeless people by selling books and bric a brac donated to the centre and then back for a dinner out at The Three Tuns in nearby Biddenham.

Friday 29 April

It takes us over 5 hours to get from John & Deirdre’s to the ferry terminal, the penalty for travelling on the Friday before a Bank Holiday. Two hours to the M42 turn off for Birmingham Airport and another three + hours, with stops for coffee and fuel to Liverpool.

Stop start all the way up the M1 and on the single carriageway A5.  Just as well we went that way as the M6 was apparently worse!

Ferry on time and back home after another exhausting but successful few days.

USA – Anna Maria Island

IMG_0629Wednesday 6 April

Late check out, shuttle to Avis car hire to be met with some totally in customer focuses staff.  First in line, have to wait over 5 minutes with no apology for two staff just walking out and ignoring me – not a good advert for the firm!

Get car and out with a SatNav that is playing up and despite me twice telling it we are in Florida continues to direct me thinking we are still in California.

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Our home for two weeks

Eventually it works and we head for Anna Maria Island, a long strip of not very high land, virtually totally built on but peaceful once you get past the initial traffic jams.

Our room is ground floor and unlike the Tahoe lodge has limited but sufficient kitchen equipment.

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Relaxation

 

 

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Relaxation

Drinks on the patio followed by a walk to the pier to watch the Pelicans dive bombing the fish, lots of youngsters wading in the water collecting shells, some of which still contain fish.

The restaurant at the end of the road is absolutely packed (and was every time we went past the rest of the week.) but is expensive.

I should have come in earlier from the patio as there are lots of midges or biting type insects around and I am well and truly bitten!

Dinner in, and copious amounts of American investigative TV watched before bed.

Thursday 7 April

Late wake up (just before 10!) and a leisurely day with food shopping and a general view of the area. The area is so peaceful, virtually no traffic and a lovely 25 mph speed limit which helps.

Another walk on the pier this evening but no diving Pelicans, shame I didn’t take the camera last night.

My back is covered with midge bites, they obviously like me and now they are starting to itch so it is just as well we bought the Eurax.

Friday 8 April

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Sea front house

Another leisurely morning with a walk along the beach looking at some of the wonderful waterside houses and then out to find a book shop and a few other shops just to get more food.

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Searching for sea shells

The pier walk tonight was even better than last night with Pelicans flying around, a couple of dolphins swimming underneath us, seagulls fighting and young girls still looking for shells.

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Pelican mid flight pre dive
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Anna Maria Pier with the Skyline bridge in the background

Saturday 9 April

A bit breezy and cooler today although understand that there was snow in the Isle of Man today!

Mel will be pleased as she has just got back from the Californian beaches.

Drive all along Anna Maria Island from north to south, over the bridge to Longboat key, off the other end to St Armand’s circle and over the bridge to Sarasota.

Along the way, passing many condos, small holiday lets and only a few individual houses. Nowhere to park in St Armand’s circle unfortunately.

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Someone tell me what this is please?

We are going to the Botanical Gardens, an oasis right by the waterfront.

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Jumping fish

 

 

Different areas representing differing areas of the earth, bamboo area, desert area, rainforest area to name a few.

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Water’s edge at the Botanical Gardens

Strategically placed benches allowed us to sit and stare out to sea to watch the Pelicans diving, seabirds flying around and fish jumping, all in full view of us at the far end of the gardens, behind the wedding venue.

Youngsters were catered for as well with a good play area and a carp feeding area.

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Payne Mansion

 

The adjacent house was included in the price but only the ground floor.

Apart from the wonderful marble floor and an exhibition of Cost Rican masks from Boruca there wasn’t a great amount to see in the house.

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Costa Rican masks

The masks were developed as long ago as the 16th C to frighten the Spanish invaders.

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Not a particularly comfortable seat

One of the hottest days today with temperatures hitting 100F in the car when we returned to it.

Very welcome A/C as we head inland to a local JC Penney for some retail therapy afterwards and back for dinner and a walk on the pier.

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Pier walk

 

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Flower on a tree

An enjoyable place to spend a few hours when the sun is out – so much to see.

 

Sunday 10 April

We didn’t use the car today, just stayed by the villa, did the washing and walked to and from the other side of the island before venturing out again onto the pier for sunset.

Monday 11 April

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Lifting Railway bridge with yellow work train in background

A drive to Bradenton for a walk along the waterfront watching the rail lifting bridge lowered to allow two work vehicles pass and returning for lunch at an ice cream parlour.

 

Drive out to a very empty Premium Outlets at nearby Ellenton but only a pair of shoes and a gift bought.

Back for a dinner and a walk on the pier. Over 3 miles walked in all today.

Tuesday 12 April

Knee not good overnight so an early wake up but do manage a walk towards the other pier stopping at a sheltered picnic site and returning.

Stop to watch the fish under the nearby bridge and a Manatee suddenly appears underneath and swims out to sea. Why was my camera lens on and the camera turned off?  Missed a good picture.

A couple of the villa staff have recommended Captain Kathey’s boat as a good boat ride so off to try and find it but get lost as Sat Nav doesn’t recognise what I put in, we end up in Target at Bradenton for a few supplies before heading back, finding Captain Kathey’s this time.

Book a 2 hour boat ride tomorrow at 2pm although only because a local phoned her for me.

Wednesday 13 April

No Manatees this morning down by the bridge and no dolphins in the water either.  Manage a paddle in the sea before lunch and off for our boat ride.

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Captain Kathey at Starfish restaurant

Location of boat ride a bit difficult to find, but it is behind Starfish restaurant.

 

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On board for our boat trip

On time, Captain Kathey, her dog and a mate arrive, disgorge the passengers from the previous tour settle us in and we are away.

 

No safety briefing for the 5 adults and two 7 year old girls who appear not to be offered life jackets although they were available for the previous tour which had children.

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Rope swinging, I think not!

 

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Captain Kathey’s dog

The other passengers are from Glasgow although some spoke with a Manchester accent. Away up the inlet underneath both Cortez and Manatee road bridges and off to Gilligan’s island where we get off.

 

A real desert island moment as it is completely uninhabited (except for the midges that is).

My days of rope swinging are over though.

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A conch

Back on the boat we head for a sand bar where we are lucky to see a dolphin whilst Captain Kathey finds us a conch and a crab to see and some sand dollars to keep.

 

Off to the other side of the bay to see some of the boats moored around Bradenton Beach some of which were lived on and included one clearly cooking his dinner on a BBQ at the back of the boat.

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Bradenton Beach Houseboat

Living on the boats is apparently a bit of a problem for the city.

 

Back over to a bird sanctuary where we see loads of Cormorants and a pink pelican.

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Pink pelican

Our two hour trip ($30 each) was soon over and we are back on dry land for a somewhat early dinner at Starfish, a very popular place right on the sea front with Pelicans for company.

 

Usual walk to the City Pier for another lovely sunset.

Thursday 14 April

Take free Bus to end of island to have a walk on Coquina Beach, quite busy, even on a weekday.

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Sailing off Anna Maria Island

 

Quite popular is the parascending and the sailing just off the southern end of the island – maybe something for the future when we have better knees.

We will be back here tomorrow for a swim but have one back at the chalet first.

More walks on the pier tonight.

Friday 15 April

Drive out to Coquina Breakfast for our first breakfast out in Florida with a view to having a sit on the beach and a swim. Trust us to choose a day with cloud and dropped – to 75F – temperatures. did manage a quick swim though.  Brrrr!

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Birdlife on the beach

Walk to end of island, about a mile, disturbing some of the birds resting by the shoreline.

 

Walk around historic area and drive to Bradenton Beach area for a polo shirt.

Saturday 16 April

It’s Saturday so football on the TV before we have a brief walk & lunch before a Skype call to Sarah & Harry who were a bit jealous about where we were, 100 yds. to the beach.

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The north of Anna Maria Island

 

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Rod & Reel Pier, Anna Maria Island

Walk to Rod & Reel pier and a brief walk on the beach to the north of the island, then drive around some of the other roads with their lovely houses.

 

More midge bites.

Sunday 17 April

Another football morning, and a swim at Coquina Beach father a walk through a farmer’s type beach market selling mostly non food items including some interesting beach signs on Decking type wood.

Skype Flic & Gary – no news on selling Flic’s flat sadly although a couple of viewings recently.

Monday 18 April – Our last day.  😂

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Anna Maria Church

 

Try to hire a golf cart /buggy for a couple of hours but no joy, none available.

Proof of car insurance is also required anyway or we would have to hire without insurance.

Walk through church grounds instead to canal side for views of some wonderful canal-side properties followed by a walk on the pier with it’s planks of dedication, it is still windy.

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Anna Maria Pier dedications

 

Off to Bradenton for a bit of retail therapy for a specialist item and then back for a swim by the pool after watching an entertaining Stoke v Tottenham football match (0-4).

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Anna Maria Island Pier at dusk

Dinner out at Olive Garden, our second meal out whilst in Anna Maria Island – eating in has saved us probably $50 a night.

 

Our last night, so last sunset at the pier.

Tuesday 19 April.

Last walk on pier with an appropriate flypast of Pelicans.

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Pelican flypast

 

Say good bye to friendly staff at complex and off via I-4 to Celebration, for a walk around the lake and a lunch followed by a leisurely sit by the lake.

Very sorry to leave Anna Maria Island, possibly the nicest place in Florida and one we should certainly want to come back to, possibly in November but it is off home

Usual crowds at Orlando airport but security line exceptionally long, it taking us over 30 minutes to get through by which time they have dispensed with asking people to take iPads and computers out, “everything in your bags” was the cry – why is every airport different?

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Lake at Celebration

Plane not full at all which is why we were quoted over $850 for a upgrade to Club Class.

There were empty seats in Club, only half full in World Traveller Plus and a good number in World Traveller.

Unfortunately, some of the seats were occupied by children some of whom took it upon themselves to keep everyone awake with their crying and general noise.

Wednesday 20 April

Only about 90 minutes sleep was achieved last night which of course wasn’t good as we landed 30 minutes early and had over 7 hours to wait until we could drop our bags off. An awful breakfast, orange juice warm and croissant cold and hard.

We are now travelling back home wearing the chunky walking boots and thick jumpers we had on whilst in Lake Tahoe as we were up to the limit for our EasyJet flight home.

An ELO concert in London next.

California Coast

IMG_0251Sunday 3 April

After breakfast in the hotel, as no Denny’s nearby, it is off to the train journey to Santa Cruz from Roaring Camp Train station.

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Entrance to Roaring Camp

 

Ours is a diesel and it has some open carriages much to the amusement of Harry on the way down the hill to Santa Cruz beach.

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What are they all looking at?

 

The steam engine only goes around the woods at Roaring Camp although this does take some time.

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Steam engine at Roaring Camp

Stopping to avoid trespassers on the bridge we soon get going again through redwood trees and by the sides of rivers meandering down the hill.

 

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Old man walking over 200+ year old bridge

Lots of people walking and cycling with car passengers at a couple of level crossings waving to the train passengers.

 

On reaching the outskirts of Santa Cruz, the train reverses on a triangle before riding the rails in the middle of the main promenade road to it’s stopping point.

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Santa Cruz beachfront

 

We all get off for an hour or so on the beach and to buy drinks and souvenirs if that is your wish.

I wouldn’t say I would rush back to Santa Cruz, the beach was a bit dirty, a few pieces of glass were scattered on the beach which could have caused damage to feet but of course being Sunday, the place was absolutely packed with all shapes and sizes as well as sporting types in evidence.

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Santa Cruz beach

 

A fairground environment existed on the boardwalk with lots of amusements including something that shot you up into the sky at break neck speed, a bit like a sitting version of an inverted bungee jump – not for the faint hearted.

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Sports on the beach

Far more civilised was the cable car ride which seemed to be popular.

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Homeless camp near railway

 

Back on the train which seemed less crowded, perhaps some folks had got on the first one from the beach this morning and returned on ours.

On the way back we passed a couple of camps of homeless people and re-passed the faces carved in the crumbling earthworks that had been cut out for the building of the railway.

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Faces in the soil

 

The tunnel each way was an interesting experience especially as I was at the back of the train on the return journey for the guard to get off the train and lock gates to the tunnel “to stop the homeless sleeping in the tunnel” we were told.

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Tunnel and gate

After our three or so hours from start, we were back at the Roaring Camp Terminus after a good day out.

 

By now, there were virtually no tourists left at the Camp, but a wedding reception was being held in the vast expanse of a barn type building – good use to help the finances.

Overnight at Holiday Inn Express, Watsonville for the next two nights with a dinner in Applebee’s.

Monday 4 April

Drive to Monterey for a visit to the Aquarium which is very crowded for a Monday but understand it is Spring Break week so lots of children around including some on organised tours.

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Shell fish

 

Fascinating few hours spent looking, and feeling, some of the fish and other wildlife.

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Penguin feeding

Penguin feeding was popular to start with but it perhaps went on a bit long for some of the younger viewers.

 

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Some fish are weird

The octopus was interesting but the highlight was the bird swirling around in the water in an attempt to force smaller fish and insects to the top for feeding purposes.

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Monterey

 

Our lunch today consisted of a freebie Chirondelle square and an ice cream each eaten in the Chirondelle cafe in sight of the Various seafood restaurants which somehow, Mel wouldn’t allow me to photograph her nearby!

Before setting off for the hotel, a drive around the “17 mile drive” park with it’s stunning views and sumptuous housing.

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17 mile drive view

 

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Anyone for golf?

Too windy to get out for long though but we did manage a few steps near the lone pine rock and a couple of other places including a very isolated golf tee green.

 

Dinner tonight in our room, we do know how to live it up followed by packing and off on our next adventure tomorrow.

Quote of the holiday from a receptionist at the hotel; “I would like to travel and go to England but only really want to go to places where they speak English. Do they speak English in England?”

Tuesday 5 April

We have made a booboo and whilst it was planned that we would head off to Florida for two weeks and leave Mel to fly to the UK with Sarah, Ali & Harry, we forgot that she had to get to the airport some 5 hours after us with no chance of there being any room in Sarah & Ali’s car from Watsonville to the airport especially as Sarah had bought a new snowboard!😧

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Mel’s lunch fund

A few options explored but another car rental and a taxi were too expensive so Mel is off with us to spend s lonely 5 hours in SFO watching some downloaded films on her iPad using the free Wi-fi and my contribution to her lunch – no smaller notes available.

 

Lots of traffic on way to airport, takes 2 hours instead of the planned 80 minutes.

Take an American Airlines flight to Charlotte with an hour or so stop over and then another to Tampa getting us in at 11pm (8pm San Fran time).

Manage to have got priority boarding at San Fran through security passage which was helpful but no free food on the five hour flight which is not helpful.

Pass south of Lake Tahoe in the distance and then over the desert, probably Salt Lake City in Utah. Cabin staff say we are arriving 18 minutes early, pilot says on time which is a bit worrying. Actually we are off the plane about 5 minutes earlier.

Grab a slice of pizza whilst changing planes in Charlotte and we are off to Tampa on time just over an hour from when we land – will our luggage arrive?

Arrive at Tampa at about 11:30pm with no one else around – yea, our luggage is here. Taxi to hotel for a long sleep.

Tomorrow it is off to Anna Maria Island.

Lake Tahoe

IMG_0181Saturday 26 March

On route to Lake Tahoe we stop off at Roseville crazy golf course at Sunsplash which is a definite hit with Harry although he preferred to pick up the ball when it had gone through the obstacle rather than let us play to the end of a hole. He is only 4 though, we keep reminding ourselves!

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Sarah, Ali & Harry on the crazy golf course

Sarah has bought a new snowboard to replace the one she learnt on a few years ago so it must be a bit of a squash in their car on the long drive to South Lake Tahoe which is reached after a drive to over 7000ft and back down to the lake.

Too early for check-in so coffee time in Peet’s before grabbing some food, collecting lodge key and off in the Nevada border direction.

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Cabin 41 South Lake Tahoe

Our property for the week is a rustic wooden property built in about 1930 nestling in pine trees on a road that appears to have many permanent residents in.

The house has been extended, has good amenities, probably too many cooking items, but is short on mugs and were you to take away all the chipped plates, bowls and glasses you would struggle to have enough for all guests. Nevertheless comfortable if very cluttered.

We have downstairs bedroom, which is just as well as the thought of climbing the spiral staircase in the middle of the night was not appealing to either of us. The third bedroom is off the 2nd bedroom so Mel has to walk through Sarah, Ali and Harry’s room to get to her room!

The one downside of the downstairs bedroom is the central heating which is noisy with a large bang when it starts up or turns off.

Sunday 27 March

A day to reconnoiter for us whilst Sarah, Ali & Harry try the skiing. Try to get to TJ Maxx but being Easter Sunday it is closed.

Harry didn’t particularly like the skiing so Sarah & Ali brought him back to us whilst they went off skiing/snowboarding. Harry enjoyed himself around the supermarket and in the backyard.

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Harry & Mel on the Bessie Bike

That, however wasn’t enough for adventure seeking Harry but fortunately we found a “Bessie bike” concession so for an hour or so we had an interesting ride through an area that in the summer would be used as a camp site.

I must admit Mel did most of the peddling as my knee was rather sore – as a result of possibly twisting it just before we left home.

Monday 28 March

Sarah, Ali & Harry are out by 08:30, Harry to ski school whilst Sarah & Ali are off on their own. We are all expecting a call from the ski school for us to collect Harry but no call marerialises, he must be having fun.

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Lake Tahoe in the snow

Sally, Mel & I set off by road around South Lake Tahoe in a clockwise direction stopping off at several photo points between South Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay before reaching Tahoe City, a sleepy little village. (why do Americans call small places “cities”?)

Stop for lunch at Rosie’s kitchen whilst the snow starts falling. A lovely lunch with some interesting hanging toys and other items at the restaurant.

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Snow covered trees

Not sure much snow is going to fall and as it is settling, decide to head back the same way past many decent houses both lake side and higher up the mountainside. Snow on the trees is somewhat magical.

Harry managed all day at ski-school today and by all accounts enjoyed it but when asked what he did, the reply was “it’s a secret”!

Tuesday 29 March

The three skiers / snowboarders are off early again and we follow shortly to the airport for a short helicopter ride over Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe keys.

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Helicopter ride

The keys are built similarly to canal side properties that you find in Florida.

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Lake Tahoe keys

 

A wonderful vista on the flight with opportunities to take many photos and a whole new perspective on the whole area, especially the view of the island in the middle of Emerald Bay.

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Emerald Bay from the Helicopter

Once down, we return to the lodge and then head off on a drive around the lake in an anti clockwise direction stopping off for some photos on the Nevada side.

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Mel hiding in the snow covered trees

Mel then drives the rest of the way round the lake, passing the turn to Incline village a drive that included no less than three roundabouts.

How do Americans find roundabouts? They are a relatively new concept for them, I think but to have three within the space of a couple of miles – scary?

A couple of areas for tobogganing on Friday if Harry is up to it and the snow is still around.

Back in time for a late lunch at the lodge.  Again, Harry enjoyed his day at ski school.

Wednesday 30 March

An overnight smattering of snow but the forecast is for higher temperatures so the chances of it staying are virtually non existent. Whilst the three skiers are off early, Mel and I are off snowmobiling. Sal still suffering from the altitude so doesn’t join us.

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Snowmobiling

We arrive early, get kit checked out and we get into our bus at about half ten for a drive up to Hope Valley.

 

We are split into groups and after a briefing set off up the track, some of which has already lost it’s snow, Mel driving and me pillion.

After about 20 minutes we stop as we and the instructor are the only ones moving.

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The others catching us up

We wait for about 10 minutes whilst the instructor returns to see what the problem is – it was a blown fuse in another snowmobile.

Off again and we gently climb until we reach a stopping point about 8600 ft high ( we started off at about 6400 ft ).

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Shouldn’t this say “no lorries?”

A few photos taken in the thick snow with an almost hidden road sign showing how deep the snow was.

Time also for Mel to practice being a kid again in the snow with her stars in the snow.

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Stars in the snow

The downward journey now starts and steep it is twisting downwards for some distance before we level out and rejoin the main track we used on the way up.

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Photo stop

One unlucky incident was two girls capsizing on a tight bend, actually on the flat, but no harm appeared to be done.

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My turn

Coach back down and after lunch at home we head out for a supermarket visit before collapsing exhausted.

Thursday 31 March

Harry has done well – off to ski school again today so Sal, Mel & I opt for a cruise on Lake Tahoe on the MS Dixie Queen II, a traditional paddle steamer.

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MS Dixie Queen II

 

A beautiful day albeit a bit windy but we are able to sit outside on the top deck. Temperatures now up to about 55F as opposed to about 28F On Sunday and Monday – what a contrast.

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A nice calm lake

A good occasional commentary tells us it is the 2nd largest alpine lake ( it is just under 200 sq miles which is slightly smaller than the whole of the Isle of Man where we live ).

 

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Fanette Island

 

We are headed on the flat waters of the lake, to Emerald Bay for a sail around the bay getting up close and personal with the bay’s island, Fanette, and the shoreline castle – Vikingsholm.

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Vikingsholm

The shoreline castle was designed after the architect visited the Nordic countries for inspiration and is now owned by the Californian State Parks.

Back for a late lunch and a final shop for provisions, a meal and bed. Harry, despite his efforts at ski school for four days is not as tired as we had thought he would be. He has thoroughly enjoyed it and hopefully will remember what he has learnt for next year.

Sarah & Ali are tired though and it is early nights all round for them. Mel is still sore from the driving of the snowmobile, Sal is still sore from her fall and I am still suffering with my knee. What a family!

Friday 1 April

Sarah & Ali take Harry up the slopes into the ever decreasing amount of snow to show off what he has learnt in ski-school but he only lasts a couple of hours.

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Harry snowboarding

 

We all then try to go to a disc golf course in a nearby park but nothing to show you can hire disks or where we can do it from, so head into Nevada for a bit of tobogganing.

 

 

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Broken dreams or broken toboggans or both

Harry however was not over impressed with the tobogganing especially as the snow was by now rapidly thawing. 

Visit the shops in the Heavenly base area before back to lodge for packing and final dinner.

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Seating at Heavenly

Saturday 2 April

Last morning and before we return key, discover a wood pecker has taken a liking to our lodge, sadly not a useable picture available.

Meet up at Zephyr beach before a drive anti-clockwise towards Lake Tahoe City, although this time stopping at Cave rock for a photo opportunity and driving slowly through Incline Village, a collection of sumptuous houses all of which would be in the $millions, some of which are lakeside and others road side.

Lunch in Rosie’s café again and we then make our separate ways to the overnight at Dublin via the Truckee turnoff and up to over 7200ft before reaching Dublin at 367 ft. We can breathe normally again.

Dinner in hotel with a few noisy teenage girls enjoying an weekend bonding with their Mums and it’s off to the coast tomorrow after a wonderful week at Lake Tahoe South. An exceptionally beautiful area with the added bonus of the snow earlier in the week.

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