New England

Hey, I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. Another part of the holiday recap here.

So, after a day in Montreal we got a bus down to the USA. We crossed the border 4 times during this trip, and going into the USA was not a good experience. Our bus was late, but then it was in the queue for the border for 2 hours before we even got off the bus to be interrogated by the officials. Anyway, I think we ended up being about 3 hours late by the time we picked up our hire car, but there was still enough time for a touristy visit.

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We could not go to Vermont without going to Ben and Jerry’s world! We did the tour (it was something like $4 each so not bad)- it was quite interesting although the factory only goes in the week, and this was a weekend, so some of it was a video instead. Then had a free sample (which was pretty big- Andy’s had an entire oreo biscuit in it!).

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On the exit of the tour they had posters for the top 10 flavours, so of course I had to have a picture by my favourite! Then we joined the queue to buy an ice cream. We shared two scoops- one hazelnut one and one peanut butter/caramel one. They were good, but we had eaten breakfast very early (7am), been on the bus for hours, and this was around 4pm, so both of us decided that we should have had a smaller size- it was a bit too sweet.

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They even have a flavour graveyard there…

Anyway, then we drove to our B&B which was just gorgeous. It was in New Hampshire (Jackson), and by the time we had driven there it was the evening. Trip Advisor to the rescue- there was a pub within walking distance (The Red Fox Bar and Grill)- they did the most amazing salad with roasted pear, nuts and goats cheese- I was sold!

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On the drive to the mountains- a lovely view across the valley but huge clouds…

The weather was more overcast the next day. We headed out to the White Mountains National Forest, but got caught in a torrential downpour (when even the wipers on the fastest speed could not clear the rain)- we did have raincoats but we would have been soaked in seconds. We went to a visitor information centre to find out about the Old Man of the Mountain (the profile of a face on the side of a cliff that collapsed in 2003- there is now a memorial there, and do not under any circumstanced make light of the situation because the locals are very cut up about it- you could get memorial t-shirts and everything…). There was a walk to view it, but it was still pouring so we headed to another section of the park for a lovely walk to a waterfall (Flume Gorge).

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We even saw a bear cave- run!

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After a couple of hours we headed back to the car, and as the rain was coming our way again headed to some outlet shops.

In the evening we went to the Red Fox again- they had a brick oven for pizzas so we shared a veggie pizza and the grilled pear salad.

The following day we had breakfast at the B&B (which was fantastic- every day they had available fresh fruit, home-made granola, little home-made pastries, juices, teas etc, and then they had a menu for their cooked items- some sort of pancakes and some sort of French toast were on offer every day. One day I had French toast with bananas and pecans and one day spiced apple pancakes. Delicious.)  Anyway, back to the trip. It was raining again (hard) so we popped to some other outlet shops- I got some bargainous Gap jeans for about £18, and some Lindt chocolates.

Then we drove to Freeport in Maine. It was a really pretty town, with some outlet shops but also some quirky places too. After a few hours wandering around (and a Starbucks “lunch”- we don’t tend to have lunch on holiday- we each had a drink and shared a piece of pumpkin bread as we were hungry) we drove out to see the lighthouse at Rockland. You had to walk along a breakwater for about a mile, and it was really misty, so pretty spooky. We kept hearing fog horns but could not see the ships!

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It was pretty, but not like the sort of lighthouse I imagined! Walking back was strange too as we could not see the mainland because of all the mist. We still had a bit of driving after that (a couple of hours) so by the time we reached the town we were starving. We saw a Friendly’s diner and so that decision was made. They did do a veggie burger, but they also did tomato soup with a grilled cheese, and I fancied the soup so went for that with a side salad.

As we finished our meal the lights flickered and huge crashes of thunder rumbled about- we had to sprint to the car and were drenched! The storm was crazy- lightning every 10 seconds or so, and such heavy rain. The sat-nav took us straight to the hotel, and luckily we could park under cover to unload the car.

The next day we woke to glorious sunshine, and luckily those were our only really rainy days. I don’t mind a bit of rain and of course we pack raincoats, but some of that rain was so heavy we would have been soaked in seconds which is never fun. And of course the views are not quite as stunning!

Do you have lunch on holiday? We tend to have breakfast and then a snack like a cereal bar or banana, and then dinner.

Does rain stop play on your holiday, or do you carry on regardless?


Montreal parts one and two

So after our whistle-stop tour of Ottawa, we were off to Montreal. Our holiday was a bit of a complicated road trip- we got the train to Montreal, spent the afternoon and evening there, and the next day got a bus down to the US, returning to Montreal for a few days at the end of our trip.

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After dropping our bags at our hotel we went for a walk to the old town. We came across Notre Dame (they have loads of churches named this in Canada), and then later on found a street festival for Christmas in July.

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There was a live band playing Christmas music (of course)  and loads of food trucks. We hadn’t had lunch and were pretty hungry- we found a gourmet grilled cheese van so went for one each, sat on the grass in the evening sunshine. Lovely.

On our walk back we came across a Second Cup (a coffee chain) and they do a London Fog, which is a latte made with Earl Grey tea (they use full leaf tea bags) and vanilla syrup. It is so good, so I had one for dessert.

The next time we were in Montreal was our final few days. Our hotel was close to the main shopping street (like Oxford Street) but we were also near a lovely park. I say near, what I mean is a 30 minute steep uphill walk to the park!

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2014-08-05 22.17.30 2014-08-05 22.28.28It was worth it for the views of the city, and we even saw baby racoons! So cute, although some people were feeding them, which is banned, and made me a bit annoyed.

The next day we packed loads in. We got a ticket for the underground, and started off going to the Olympic park. There is loads on the park now, including a planetarium, botanical gardens and indoor zoo.We opted for a walk around the botanical park, which was lovely.

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I found this giant sunflower plant and took the picture for my Mum as she loves sunflowers.

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After walking around for a few hours we got the train out to where the Grand Prix track is, and walked around there for a bit. It was baking.

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There was a park there too so we had another walk around the park. The FINA world masters were being held there (swimming) so there were loads of people walking around with ID tags and we could hear lots of cheering coming from the pools.

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Oprah Chai latte- made with rooibos as well as black tea, and extra spices

Then we got the train back to the city centre, did a spot of shopping, bought a cold drink (lunch?) and headed back to the hotel to work out where we should go for dinner. It reminded me of London- especially where we were. Very busy shops, businesses, and nice parks. But also a lot of bars or fast food places- we had to hunt to find places to eat.

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Now I have had a bit of an obsession with Hurraw! lipbalm. I ordered some from i-herb, and then found it in Wholefoods in London. But I was running low and thought I would look out for it on holiday, as it was bound to be cheaper. We didn’t see any Wholefoods, and all the health shops that I checked didn’t stock it. In the end I was googling one night and found that it was sold in American Apparel for $4 , so when we walked past one I stocked up. They did an offer where every 3rd one was half price, and it hardly weighs anything so I bought quite a few! I would not have gone in if I had not known though. Thanks google!

One our final day we went out for breakfast (more on that in a minute), but as we were getting the bus to the airport in the afternoon we didn’t have long. We went down to the old town for more of a walk, got caught in a heavy rain shower, and then walked back through the main shops.

We ate at Resto Vego one evening, which was a veggie/ vegan cafe where you served yourself and then your plate was weighed. All the ingredients were listed (in French and English) and they also had symbols for gluten free/ dairy free and a few others. I had a lovely quinoa salad with coconut and different veggies, loads of salad bits, some ginger tofu, and some avocado. They had hot things like bean burritos, pizza, stir fries etc too but I didn’t fancy those. A great place to stop at anyway.

For our final day we had our evening meal at Lola Rosa, which was another veggie cafe and amazing. Usually there are only one or two veggie options on the menu, so I just go with that, but I was spoilt for choice which makes a nice change. Andy had a bean chilli which he loved, and I had a quesadilla with avocado (you could choose avocado, ratatouille or spicy sweet potatoes as the topping)- it was all cooked fresh too, and came with a salad.

Usually for breakfast we would get something from a cafe, like a muffin or scone, but on our final day we fancied a proper big breakfast. We had found somewhere online, but could not find it, but then came across the amazing Eggspectation. Oh my word if you like american breakfasts then this is the place to visit.

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I never used to like French toast (too eggy) but we had some lovely breakfasts at a B&B and I found the French toast more filling than pancakes. This was brioche French toast with maple syrup (had to be done- we were in Canada where I think you have to have some every day), a mountain of fresh fruit, and something creamy in the pot (not sure what that was). Amazing. And kept me going for hours- the next thing I had was a hummus and veggie pot thing at the airport at around 6pm!

Montreal was a great city to visit. One of the friendliest I have ever been to. After arriving the first time we were stood looking at a map trying to work out which tube line to get to our hotel, and two people stopped to offer help (and not taxi drivers trying to pick us up, but locals on their way to work). One our second arrival there we came out of the underground station but needed to head north- again we were only standing still for half a minute looking at street signs and someone asked if we needed help (and pointed us in the right direction). Everyone in the shops was so friendly, welcoming us to Montreal/ Canada, seeing if we needed anything else. Genuinely the most friendly people. It was a big city, so we did need the underground to get around some days, but a lot of it could be walked. I do think finding places to eat takes some research, as most of the places we walked past were very touristy burger bars – not places we would choose to go to (like Leicester Square or something)- but plenty of choice once you knew where to look.

How do you go about finding places to eat on holiday? Trip Advisor has been our friend!

Awesome Ottawa

Hey peeps, I hope everyone has been well. For the last two weeks I have been away on holiday- we got home Friday morning, and then I was at a hen weekend (not sure it is the best cure for jet-lag) but now I am home properly so get ready for some long recap posts!

First up was Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

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We had an afternoon flight to Montreal and then got the bus to Ottawa the same day, and so had a full day the next day sightseeing. The city was really walkable- everything was so central. The houses of parliament were right by our hotel, and they did free tours (you had to get a timed ticket though so best to get one early).

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While we were waiting for our tour time we walked on a little tour (from our guidebook) and at one point could hear a band. Then this came into view! They were accompanied by a couple of police cars, so the roads were just sectioned off as they marched past, then immediately reopened!

The tour was really interesting- I don’t know much at all about Canadian politics (other than they have the “Queen of Canada” as their head of state- I did find it funny to hear her being called that) so the tour guide went into a bit of detail about the two sections of parliament (they are more sensible and have non elected but non inherited positions instead of our House of Lords). The guide also talked about the building- the clock tower was modelled on Big Ben, and there was the mot amazing library- we were not allowed to take photos but it was so ornate with floor to ceiling beautifully carved shelves- apparently like something from Harry Potter.

After that finished we walked around the city some more- there were lots of lovely shops to browse, as well as plenty of memorials – there was one for jazz musician Oscar Peterson (there is a picture here as I didn’t take one)- it was him sat on a bench by a grand piano (with space on the bench for picture posing) and music was being played too which was lovely.

2014-07-24 15.47.35This was the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument which I thought was just stunning and thought-provoking.

We also walked through a park and by a canal and saw loads of black squirrels- I had never seen them (or even heard of them) before. Then we had a little rest in the hotel before heading out for the evening (when we arrived the night before we were lucky to receive an upgrade to our room- probably as it as late so not many rooms left I imagine- and one of the services was a turn-down service; this one was super posh and when we got back they had even put on some jazz music for us- so fancy!), as every night during the summer there is a special light and sound show on the Houses of Parliament, called Mosaika (again, images here as Andy took some with his camera but I didn’t try with my phone). The show is free, you just turn up and sit on the grass and enjoy. Amazing.

For food we ended up in the same diner twice- Zak’s diner made amazing pancakes and French toast for breakfast, and then I had a lovely goats cheese, spinach and strawberry salad for dinner.

Last summer we went to Victoria on Vancouver Island and Ottawa reminded me of that- some of the architecture is very British, and it was nice and compact. The gorgeous weather helped too! There are loads of museums there too, and had the weather been bad we probably would have visited them, but seeing as it was such wonderful weather we made the most of sightseeing outdoors.

It was a great start to the holiday anyway. Have you ever been to Ottawa? 

Kermit, let’s begin, describe the day you played Berlin

Yup, that song was in my head for our whole trip! Luckily I loved the Muppets Movie!

Way back in May we had a trip to Norway and then Germany. Originally we were going to Norway for half term, to tour and then to run the Oslo Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon on the final Saturday. But then it got cancelled, and then we looked at hotel prices in Norway. They were rather large.

So on Friday night we flew to Bergen (we didn’t get to our hotel until gone midnight), then were up early the next morning for a tour of a fjord. The wrong one, it turned out.

The idea was to do the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour- a train from Bergen, then a bus, then a boat, then another train. We got on the train, got off an hour later (along with everyone else) to be greeted by about 15 buses, all with the tour name on the front. We got on one bus, but then were told to get off as there were no seats. We then had an hour journey, before getting off and getting on a boat. At this point I was worried there would be no toilet on the boat, so I went quickly in the little tourist information shop, and when I came out the boat was about to leave so I had to run. I mention this because the people on the boat didn’t check the ticket…

Anyway, Andy mentioned that it didn’t look like how he imagined, and when we looked at the bus ticket we realised we had managed to get on the wrong bus. We did wonder where the other 14 buses were! This led to a rather panicked 5 minutes (we were on a boat, in the middle of a fjord, heading goodness knows where…) before Andy managed to get internet on his phone and find out where we were. Luckily the boat stopped after an hour, and we went to the tourist place there, and booked boat tickets for a return journey (and then a bus)- it was a long day!

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast in our hotel, before heading to the funicular. It had beautiful views of the city, and lovely marked walks. We walked to a nearby lake, before heading back and treating ourselves to a cup of tea (we were tempted by sharing some cake, but it was £7 for a little slice!). You could get the train back down, but there was a marked trail so we did that instead- it was very steep in places but really nice as it was mostly paths through woods.

We then had a wander around the town and out to a little park, before getting our bag from the hotel and heading to the airport.

We were off to Berlin!

Again we arrived quite late, so the next morning decided to not set the alarm and have breakfast in our hotel. It was only after we sat down and had ordered drinks that we found out it was a buffet- 20 Euros each. Anyway, at least it had plenty of options for me, and meant we didn’t need lunch!

We walked miles! To the Brandenburg Gate, to a big park, various memorials.

We sat in the park for a bit in the afternoon- bliss.

Ritter Sport was everywhere! I fondly remember it as a corner shop staple from when I was little, and I was very excited to find this mini selection pack. I loved the chocolate with cornflakes in there, but sadly could not find a big bar of it.

We saw lots of these bears, but I only remembered to take photos of two!

And one was at the airport!

The next day we bought passes for the trains, so went a bit further afield -Jason Bourne spotting in Alexander Platz, seeing Checkpoint Charlie and looking at various parts of the Berlin wall. I found it really interesting as I didn’t know much about it. I don’t really remember the wall coming down, and I didn’t realise when it was built. There was lots of information to take in, but it was done well (although nothing was glossed over).

The final day it rained, but we only had the morning before our flight, so we went to a few indoor things- the holocaust memorial had a centre below it so we spent some time reading all the individual stories.

Then it was time for a spot of shopping before braving the rain to walk back to our hotel. By this point my jeans were wet through.


Berlin goodies

Delicious Ritter Sport (Nugat, confusingly for me, is not nougat but rather a lovely praline filled chocolate) including some special winter flavours (they were cheap too!)- caramel orange and coconut macaroon. I have had the caramel one, and that was OK, but I have high hopes for the macaroon one- saving it for a special occasion! Plus a Starbucks cup. At work we are only allowed cups like this, and Starbucks actually do dishwasher safe ones, whereas most insulated ones aren’t suitable. Plus the lids fit. I bought a pretty one in Hawaii but the lid doesn’t go on properly so I can’t really use it. We also bought magnets for both places, our fridge is getting ever more crowded.

IMG_5699They did a Berlin one too, but I liked the castle on the back. I would love to go back to Germany and travel around Bavaria a bit- it looks so pretty.

 Have you ever been to Norway or Germany?


Beautiful Lakes (no scrambling please)

So we are back from nearly a week in The Lake District, and what a lovely week it was too.

On Tuesday night we drove up most of the way, staying in a Premier Inn somewhere north of Manchester. I had been to the allotment that day for a few hours and was very snivelly- thinking it was just from all the seeds, but I ended up with a bit of a cold. I tried to stay awake to keep Andy company and managed it for the most part!

Anyway, that meant that in the morning we only had 90 mins ish of driving instead of 4 1/2+ hours, so we drove in to Kendal for a walk.

Then we went to a visitor centre (which involved driving past Holbeck Ghyll, infamous from The Trip, which of course meant we could not stop doing awful impressions of their great impressions…..), had a little walk by the water and then drove to our B&B which was just lovely- in Windermere but also on the same road as Bowness (which is on the lake itself). It was a short walk (15 mins ish) down to the lake, so we spent the afternoon and evening wandering about, had some dinner, and then walked by the lake some more.

The next day we got the car ferry across the lake and went to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s house, before having a few walks elsewhere. We were lucky to arrive early as we got pretty much the last parking space, and as you get a timed ticket to enter we had to wait for around 45 minutes. There were rabbits in the field to watch which kept me entertained!

Then we had a good walk around a little lake, but one we got back to the car it started raining, so we headed into Ambleside for a little lunch. There were some lovely looking places, and we ended up in The Apple Pie, which was lovely- lots of choice. We were going to have tea and cake, but the main menu was so good- I had a lovely roasted veggie and hummus sandwich with a salad, and Andy had a chilli, which meant we were full for ages after. As it was still raining we headed back to the B&B, but back in Bowness it was much brighter, so we walked up to Windermere, and then followed a walk up to the top of the hill for lovely views of the lake and hills beyond. We then went to the original (I think? or flagship?) Lakeland shop (I never knew that this region was called “lakeland”, but it explains why so many other shops are called “Lakeland”- I bought a few bits and we were going to go to the cafe but we were too late. They had an amazing looking lime and pistachio cake- I need to try out those flavours myself at some point.

So we bought some crackers and hummus in a supermarket for a late tea, and walked back down to the B&B, and then down to the lake as by then the sun had come out. Gorgeous.

The next day we were heading up to Keswick, and on the way we stopped at Aira Force– a lovely walk up to the waterfall and beyond.

The weather was just stunning- we could not believe our luck.

We walked beyond the waterfalls for a bit- I think we walked for a couple of hours here.

The waterfalls were so pretty.

And I love being in the woods on a sunny day- the dappled shade is so pretty.

There was a cafe (not National Trust it emphasised!) so we had a tea and shared some toffee cake- our first cake of the holiday!

Then we drove into Keswick- we were a bit early to check in to our B&B so we parked in the town and walked around for a bit- it seemed lovely (and a cafe/ cake lovers heaven!).

It was heaving! We checked in (our B&B here had some great veggie options on the breakfast menu, and was big on keeping green, with local wood and slate being used in all the rooms etc) and then went out to get an early dinner but everywhere was packed. In the end we went to The George Pub, as they did a veggie lasagne whereas some places had no veggie options at all. To be honest I am not a massive pub fan- and this one was not endearing me – it was a typical old pub with tiny dingy windows, old carpet, mis-matched furniture etc, and I was worried that we would be paying loads for a microwave ready meal, but actually it was proper home cooked and home made, filled with chunky vegetables and topped with goats cheese, so much nicer than I had expected. The pub was so busy (we had to share a table with two lots of people) and it was such lovely weather so we decided to head out and enjoy it. I fancied a tea, and although lots of places were closed we happened to walk past Foxglove, a health food store, which also served tea, so I had a delicious Earl Grey (and also picked up a couple of mini Beond bars).

We walked down to the lake and then into some fields (full of lambs! I love seeing the lambs)- such a great way to spend the evening.

The next day the weather was just as amazing- clear blue skies- so we got the boat across with the plan of walking up Cat Bells- apparently an “easy” walk with a little “scrambling”. Well, it turned out not so good for people with a fear of steep things.

The going at first was steep paths, which were OK but covered in little bits of slate so they seemed rather slippery. One bit was very steep but apparently there was another way back down. But then we got to this bit. Well I got further up than this, to the bottom of the rock part. Andy climbed (it was more than a scramble) to to the top, and then tried to point where I should go. I got about half way up and then got stuck. You did have to climb it though- and I mean holding on to rocks with both hands and hauling yourself up, there was no path at this point. And I am not confident at this at all. I don’t like steep things, and I didn’t like being able to see all the way down the hill to the lake- it made me realise how high we were. Then my legs would shake from nerves, and then I would miss my footing and slip, and get even more nervous. Plus I knew that even if I got up, coming down would be even harder. So I stayed there while Andy continued on to the top. I came down part of the way on my bottom and the rest of the way slower than a snail.

After that we got the boat the rest of the way around the lake, and then walked into town for a late lunch. We were recommended Pumpkin by the B&B owners, and it did not disappoint. Delicious wraps, paninis, sandwiches, salads and cakes all made there, plus a lovely range of teas. I was spoilt for choice, and in the end went for a wrap with goats cheese, roasted peppers and home-made apricot chutney- yummy. We also shared a slice of carrot cake which was amazing. We decided that a late lunch was easier than trying to find a restaurant in the evening. Again I picked up hummus and crackers in a supermarket, although Andy bought some chips, and we went for an evening walk around the lake, past the lambs again.

On our final day we went to Whinlatter (it was Easter Sunday so we chose somewhere that would be open)- there was a trail through the woods that was rated “challenging” but we thought it would not be as bad as the mountain walk! The walk was lovely- very steep at times but with some wonderful views at the top, and I just love the fresh air of a forest like that. It said to leave 3 hours but we were back in just over 90 minutes, so we stopped for a drink in the tea room, and then did The Gruffalo trail through the woods- fun.

Then we went to Castlerigg Stone Circle, before heading back into town, for another late lunch at Pumpkin.

Home-made hummus (which was a bit spicy!) in a wrap with roasted veggies, a deli salad, and some pretty calpol-pink Suki Red Berry tea.

We picked up some cake for later, and then walked the other way around the lake – we ended up walking out for about an hour so had to turn back as we were not sure when it would get dark. We had to walk through a field full of little black lambs, and on the way back a big group of them were playing right by the path!

So cute!

On our final morning we enjoyed breakfast before popping into town to pick up some sandwiches from Pumpkin- this time I went for a panini with mozzarella, home-made basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, plus a caramel shortbread (I thought that would travel easier). Then we hit the road for the long long LONG journey home. Actually the traffic was not too bad- we hit a few sections where we had to stop, but generally the going was good. We had some old radio 5 film podcasts to keep us entertained. In the end we stopped at about half 2 at a Sainsbury’s- I popped in to get us some soup for dinner, while Andy ate his sandwich in the car park before we carried on and I had mine in the car. The whole journey took us 5 1/2 hours so it could have been worse, but honestly we could have nearly flown to New York in that time! That part of England is so far away. Also, here is a good fact. Lake Windermere is half way between Lands End and John O’Groats. That surprised me a lot!

I bought quite a few goodies while I was there, but I shall save them for another post, as this recap has been rather long! Well done if you managed this far!

Have you ever been to the Lake District? The last time I went was 20 years ago! It was great to go back and we were so lucky with the weather too.

Do you mind long car journeys? I find them a bit painful in this country- I like Devon but again it is such a long way away. But then when we have been to the US the miles seem to fly by as their roads as just not congested (and the scenery helps too). The film podcast has been our top discovery for long journeys though as you can download all the old ones too.