SUNDAY 1 MARCH 2015 – Claire has been offered a company car so I join her and Natasha to look at the Hyundai I30 which is a contender. Once the salesman knows why she is looking we are completely abandoned! Claire & Richard are out to lunch so I cook up a Christmas dinner style meal for the rest of us. Early morning I’ve had a reply to my text to Brian to say that Dee (who had the same transplant as Steve) is fading. We’re gutted and struggle for the next few hours until just after 5pm we hear she’s gone. It’s really upsetting and yet another harsh reminder of just how many don’t make it and how lucky we are that Steve is doing so well.

MONDAY 2 MARCH – It has been snowing in the night so we scrape off the car and head towards the Midlands. Bad weather, road works, traffic jams and accidents abound and it takes us almost 4 hours to do what would normally be a max of 2 ½ journey. After being very poorly a couple of weeks ago Mum has made a remarkable recovery and is on good form. We lunch at Wetherspoons being amazed by their Monday Club ham, egg and chips at £2.49. Spend the evening at Netty & Ian’s catching up on their recent adventures to Helsinki and Edinburgh.

TUESDAY 3 MARCH – Ian’s out early to work and Netty goes round to Bobby’s to look after Olivia. When Netty comes back with Olivia we have a Teddy Bear’s picnic tea party in the lounge. Olivia is great entertainment. Steve’s a bit weary so I go round to Mums alone. She’s not eaten so I have a second lunch with her then we play Scrabble. She’s not been out today so join me for a walk around town and seems to be doing really well. Tonight she is off to Wolverhampton with the Theatre Club to see Oklahoma so life is pretty good. We join Netty & Ian to go to the Four Alls for an evening meal and they do well catering to my gluten free needs. By all accounts a new law says that restaurants must have a list of some form of labelling menu’s to show this now.

WEDNESDAY 4 MARCH – First stop on the way home is at the Stafford Boat Yard where John & Shirley have “Horace” out of the water to pain the bottom. It’s a really lovely boat that feels very homely and from talking to them I think it is something we could enjoy had we not got many other plans in the pipeline. We’ve still got over 3 hours journey so stop off at “The George Inn” at Spaldwick. Our lunches are delicious and fortify us for the rest of the journey. Arrive back at Merryhill Leisure at 4pm and by the time we go to bed everything in the van is up and running, the heating has warmed it up and all the unpacking is done (the benefits of travelling light). It’s really nice to be home again.

THURSDAY 5 MARCH – We’re usually lucky with the weather here and I manage to get washing on and pegged out. The old open shower area has been divided into cubicles and looks really nice but it does make it difficult to scrub each others’ backs. We take a walk around the park and stop off at Ian & Pauline’s for a cuppa. She’s about to go out to Dereham so invites me along for the ride. We have a good wander around and don’t get back until after 4pm. Ian & Stella call in to say “Good-bye”. They’ve sold back to Orchard Caravans and won’t be coming again now the park is no longer naturist. A lot of other vans are up for sale and a few have already been sold. At the moment there are a lot of different ideas as to how people will continue here.

FRIDAY 6 MARCH – In spite of the nice day Steve lingers in bed whilst I do a bit of cleaning up. Given that the van has been empty for 8 weeks there is surprisingly little to do and no signs of damp. Steve has signed up for the 6 week cancer survivors HOPE (helping to overcome problems effectively) course at the Big C centre. I drop him off and we meet up with fellow stem cell transplant survivor Emma who is also doing very well. With 2 ½ hours to kill I take my time shopping in Sainsbury’s. In the foreign foods sections I’m amazed to see “cock flavoured soup mix” – not sure I fancy it. Picking Steve up we talk through the course which has similarities to things we did at Penny Brohn. Steve has now set himself the challenge of dong 10 minutes yoga each day and it looks like I’m in too as his form say “with my wife”! Funnily enough whilst Steve was in the meeting I picked up a leaflet from the Buddhist Centre in Norwich where they do drop in yoga sessions so we agree to give that a try next week as well. Make our first batch of homemade soup with mixed root veg the flavour of the day.

SATURDAY 7 MARCH – It’s about 20 minutes drive to Broadlands naturist club where we meet the membership secretary for a look around. It’s more rustic than Merryhill and a member club so you are expected to help out with jobs etc. It wasn’t an option last year as we needed our own toilet and shower but now Steve is much better we can manage using club facilities. It’s similar to YSS but a bit more upmarket and has an electricity supply for the vans but not sure it isn’t a little too rustic for us to live for much of the year. Return home for lunch then I leave Steve listening to then watching football whilst I pop out and make a start on buying food to stock our freezer. When I get back I make a batch of cream of mushroom soup and bake a gluten free chocolate cake that contains courgette – tastes way better than it sounds.

SUNDAY 8 MARCH – We are blessed with another nice start to the day. I clean the back of the van whilst Steve does the front and it is soon looking really good. One of the park members is insisting on wandering around in the buff and has a bit of a run in with Jenny who threatens to call the Police. Whilst we are enjoying our boules session Jenny and Alan drive up followed by a Police car. They have a bit of an altercations with “F” refusing to dress even to go to the Police station at which point he is told that if he doesn’t get dressed they will arrest him. “F” holds his hands out for the handcuffs then gets escorted to his home – presumably to be forced to dress. We’re all a bit shocked and deflated to abandon the match. Given that this is a private park only for members rather than public land we are not sure what offence has been committed as no one was offended by his nakedness. It’s all go as we just have time for our Sunday roast before heading to the indoor pool. There is a naturist swim each Sunday from 2.15 to 3.45 and it is really well attended. Apparently 2 Police cars were here, one took “F” away whilst the other stayed to get statements. We must live in a wonderful part of the country if this is the most pressing matter for 2 Police cars. Eileen and Colin invite us back for a cuppa and chat and we make it home just before the rain starts.

MONDAY 9 MARCH – Join the Yoga class at Norwich Buddhist centre £5. During the 1 ½ hours we feel ourselves being stretched in places we didn’t know could stretch and realise just how inflexible we are. The class is good but we both struggle to understand the instructors’ accent as she is from Poland. Meet up with Emma and go for a drink. Listening to her and Steve chatting I realise how common it is to have after effects of chemo and that many people don’t just pick up where they left off after treatment has finished. In fact in the whole scheme of things Steve is doing remarkably well – but that’s not to say I won’t continue to push him! At Cinema City we catch “The second best exotic Marigold Hotel”, £7 and thoroughly enjoy it.

TUESDAY 10 MARCH – It’s so hot in the morning that we break the new club rules and sit out basking in the sun in temperatures up to 28C. Graham calls round and invites us for a cuppa in the afternoon. Along with wife Maureen they ran a business in Warminster dealing in model railways so have interesting tales to tell.


SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY – The dull windy day does not invite us outside at all. Play cards, watch TV and chill. Pay an extra Euro 5 (£4) pppn to upgrade to the buffet breakfast starting from tomorrow which should work well as we run out food supplies down.

SUNDAY 22 FEBRUARY – We make the most of the buffet breakfast to fill up for the day. Manage to make a walk out along the front and to the casino between downpours. Using up our groceries I oven bake rice pudding which turns out rather well. Steve’s lucky that they are showing the Liverpool match in the hotel bar.

MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY – At the Dolmen Hotel we rendezvous first with Nigel and Ingrid and then David arrives. We leave about an hour later than planned so shelve the idea of going to Vittoriosa and head straight to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Arriving early afternoon it’s amazing how many tourist coaches are there with people eating in the fish restaurants. We settle in to Cafe du Paris just before it starts to rain. From the Euro 10 (£7.50) special menu I have fish soup whilst Steve has bruschetta than sea bream, wine and limoncello liqueur. Other than the down pour, which leaves David’s feet in a river, it is lovely. Hang around until the rain calms then end up connecting buses all the way back as the rain kills our ideas for other things. Can’t resist reliving the casino of a few Euros’ before going back to our hotel.

TUESDAY 24 FEBRUARY – There’s a brief sunny spell in the morning but after our waterfront walk we reach the casino just before a downpour. It’s windy as well so lots of people scurry into the entrance behind us to escape the weather. Enjoy the Euro 5 (£4) lunch and it’s one of the days when the lunch price also gives you Euro 2 betting money. Added to our vouchers we manage to leave Euro 19 in credit. It’s still blustery and we notice the free pick up shuttle arriving so cheekily ask the driver if there is any chance of a lift back to our hotel (the shuttle is really only to get you to the casino and you have to make your own way back). He agrees and tells us this is the worst February on record and that in December just before Christmas they actually had a few flakes of snow which is unheard of. No matter other than the rain being a bit miserable we have made the best of everything and had a wonderful time.

WEDNESDAY 25 FEBRUARY – Our last day, fortunately a dry one to start with as we head on the buses to Vittoriosa/Birgu. This is one of the “three cities” on the headlands opposite Valletta. Its quirky place with narrow twisted hilly streets mainly lined with attractive plants. There are many old “auberges” and historic buildings. At one side is the modern marina harbouring the super yachts. Close up they are like mini cruise ships. Chatting to crew on “Plan B” (goodness knows what Plan A was) he tells us they normally winter in the Caribbean but as the Russian owners were not coming out this winter the yacht has stayed in Malta and will cruise the Med in summer. On the way back we alight at St Julians with the intention of having a coffee at the top of Portomaso Business Tower. Unfortunately it is closed for renovation and as it starts to rain we quickly get back to the bus. Final visit to the casino where they get their revenge and leave us Euro 11.50 short on the day (but still well up overall).

THURSDAY 26 FEBRUARY – We’re quite happy to be leaving on this wild wet and windy morning. The Resort Hoppa mini bus arrives on time and after 3 more pickups we are off to the airport. It’s very quiet and quick to get through – speeded up by the fact they don’t ask you take liquids or anything out of your bag. In fact security is so lax we accidentally pass through with a 200ml bottle of medicine in a pocket which is a bit of a worry. Our Ryanair flight is a little late taking off and most passengers are soaked by the time they get on board. We have great views of the snow capped French Alps en route. We land in Leeds/Bradford airport ENGLAND at 2.35pm. Catch the “Flying Tiger” bus into Leeds (£3.60) then after a short wait another out to where Claire works (£2.10). Arrive just as she is finishing which is perfect. Hop into our car and following her back to Northowram. Daniel & Natasha are in so we get chance to see them before they head to their Dad’s. We eat with Claire before Richard arrives home and eats with his kids – it’s quite a balancing act they have going on with people coming and going doing different activities.

FRIDAY 27 FEBRUARY – Visit Mom and Dad in Keighley and also pop into town to pick a few things up. Manage to get Steve a real bargain on a dinner suit for our next cruise, at £5 we can even afford to abandon it at the end of the voyage. Sort out coach details for Mom to come and visit us in a couple of weeks time whilst Dad is in respite. Return to Claire’s for the evening.

SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY – Claire goes out early and manages a run of over 16 miles. Lisa & Mick are coming over for the evening so I do a shop and spend the afternoon preparing lamb dopiaza, chicken biryana, dal and other Indian food. I muddle through modifying recipes but it all goes down well. Lisa & Mick have just booked to go to Thailand for their 25th anniversary in December so we have a good chat about that. Play Canasta with Daniel and stay up late having a great time with everyone.

WEDNESDAY 11 FEBRUARY – We both feel like we have colds coming on. Steve spends the whole morning in bed resting. It’s probably the hottest day so far and I enjoy a bit of sunbathing but find I can’t sit out in it anywhere near as long as I used to. I take an afternoon walk and guess many locals are still on holidays as all the waterfront restaurants are packed out.

THURSDAY 12 FEBRUARY – We take the bus to Anchor Bay, made famous as the area where the set for Popeye movie was built. Its Euro 10.50 admission but you can view “Sweethaven” from the cliff tops around the bay. We got a plan at the entrance and can pick out Popeye’s and Olive Oyls houses other features of the set. It’s a stunning location with the ubiquitous beautiful blue water in the bay below. Near Cirkewwa we take the buffet lunch at Riviera Hotel – Euro 16 (£12). Sadly it doesn’t live up to how good it looks. Almost all the cakes have that kind of greasy white mock cream , the ice creams has very little taste and the other desserts are glorified instant whips. The country bus to Ghajn Tuffieha gives us a fantastic ride. We do lots of loops around Mellieha passing through their bus terminus 3 times. Get off at the wrong stop and have to walk along country lanes passing an amazing prickly pear hedge surround a farm. Ghan Tuffieha is a golden sandy beach on the south of the island in a pretty bay. You reach it down steps but as it has clouded over so we just enjoy the view.

FRIDAY 13 FEBRUARY – Visit the casino for the Euro 5 (£3.70) lunch which is excellent value – main course, dessert and a drink. My pork loin is cooked to perfection, tasty and a little crispy on the outside but juicy inside. We use more of the Euro 20 for Euro 10 vouchers and leave after covering the cost of our meals and more. Now as much as I dislike gambling I do enjoy it when we can pull off wins like this. Today is the premier of the movie “50 shades of Grey” and with the afternoon senior special at Euro 4.15 (£3.10) I reckon there will be more than 50 shades of grey in the auditorium. The Empire is a lovely old theatre with many character features but modern auditoriums. Surprisingly there are less than 20 of us at the 4pm showing – maybe they have read what a mediocre production it is.

SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY – We stroll to the shop then Gormina’s Bakery and get Valentines treats – Steve opts for pizza whilst I have a gooey cake. I’ve figured out that the occasional food with gluten is tolerable but still playing it cautious and eating gluten free most of the time. Topaz Hotel is putting on Euro 2 (£1.50) return shuttle buses to the Valletta carnival. Arrive in the city at about 5pm. The afternoon parade of floats has passed through but they are scattered around the streets as are many of the dancing troupes. The costumes are amazing, somewhat traditional and almost all with a musical theme and people wearing masks. The back of the costumes is as dramatic as the front. There’s a dance competition in the Main Square and lots of side shows. We’d been told this would be the quietest night with it being Valentine’s Day and it really is easy to see everything without being stuck in crowds. As it gets darker the second parade of floats begins and we also notice people’s costumes light up. We explore more of the city and enjoy stunning views from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Floodlit by night it is amazing how many more buildings we pick out including the stock exchange in what looks like a marble church. The St James Cavalier centre for creativity is within part of the fort. It has rooms on all different levels accessed down narrow curved roof corridors. One exhibition is “flying sculptures” by ELKA, a collection of photos around the island each with artistic flying debris. We have a fabulous evening even though we may not have had the full effect of the carnival on a busy night.

SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY – As soon as the rain stops we hear screams from the outdoor pool. 3 young men are braving the obviously freezing water, maybe it’s a good hangover cure. After a bit of morning sunbathing we walk around to The Boathouse for lunch. It’s a lovely setting and sitting on the deck we could easily be on a ship. The restaurant serves gluten free Mediterranean and Chinese food but unfortunately the two different kitchens are not co-ordinated. Steve’s Chinese arrives 45 minutes before my meal. Stop off for a quick drink and divvy from the Casino before Steve stays at Apple Bar to watch the football. At the hotel I enjoy a swim and Jacuzzi indoors. Almost immediately after I develop cold symptoms and conclude that it is what caused us both problems before. The Valletta carnival on TV is manic with everyone stuck in crowds (Steve wouldn’t have coped) but there are more floats and they seem more animated than the ones we saw.

MONDAY 16 FEBRUARY – It is clearly half term week here and in UK. A group of Welsh teenagers and their teachers are here, fortunately staying in a different block to us. We are woken by the sounds of them being thrown into the swimming pool, one is even fully dressed. There is also a group of younger Maltese children here all wearing the same tracksuits so it’s pretty busy. Walk to the casino for a Euro 15 (£11) payout. We have a really bad night. First Steve is awake for almost an hour nonstop coughing and then a big thunderstorm starts with claps of thunder directly above us and then torrential rain.

TUESDAY 17 FEBRUARY – In between the morning downpours I nip out to the chemist to get Steve some linctus for his tickly cough. Medicines seem pretty pricy here with a small bottle costing over Euro 7 (£5) but if it does the trick who cares. On line I learn that Mum is really quite poorly and not improving. She’s not eating well so Netty has cleared her freezer out and ordered Wiltshire Farm Food deliveries of homemade meals. We will now consider going down to visit before heading back to Norwich. I manage an afternoon stroll to the supermarket as my patient is hankering for green tea and dark chocolate. Unfortunately the Cadbury’s Bourneville doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as the very dark chocolate we have been buying in Lidl. Steve manages to get up for an hour or so to play cards but mainly spends the day in bed. The weather is so bad that the grand finale carnival parade gets cancelled. Around 1am there is an almighty clap of thunder and a short burst of the hotel fire alarm. For almost an hour the storm hovers nearby with cycles of lightening, a rumble followed by a mega clap of thunder and the hotel alarm going off. When this stops the rain starts and noise outside as some idiots take to the pool.

WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY – No surprise that the Internet and TV’s are not working. Turns out our hotel was actually struck by lightning during the storm. It’s a pretty miserable day with lots of wind and rain but fortunately dries up before we head out for the evening. At Ghandi Tandoori restaurant we meet up with Nigel and Ingrid and their new friend David. He’s from Northumberland and recently moved into a chalet on a holiday park after his wife died last year. Sadly she was just getting over ovarian cancer when she got leukaemia and died within a week from pneumonia – scary. The food is no match for the Yorkshire curry houses but the company is good and we have a nice time.

THURSDAY 19 FEBRUARY – With the storms behind us it is nice to be able to spend the morning basking in the sun. After our casino lunch and flutter we stroll along the promenade then sit and appreciate just how lucky we are being in such a nice place.

FRIDAY 20 FEBRUARY – Take the bus to Xemxija and alight by the roundabout where we have been intrigued by the Olympic rings and torch stand. The park is dedicated to the modern Olympics and even has a podium to stand on. Using a guide book for the Xemxija Heritage Trail we begin by walking uphill to the Roman Road. An old man is coming down the road spraying all the weeds and it turns out he is one of the people who thought up and created this walk. There are 20 points of interest and we immediately see the road and drainage channels, dry stone walls, a menhir (large standing stone) and caves. There are many apiaries on the hill side and within you can see the alcoves where arches create niches with shelves holding terracotta beehives that face the small openings to the outside. An information board tells us about the old carob tree, about 1000 years old, and explains how the seeds were used as weights hence carat being the measurement for diamonds. Everything on the tree has some useful purpose. As a Pilgrims Way the roadside has a wall with crosses etched on to it and chains to fasten people to – not sure what that is all about but brings to mind 50 shades of grey! At the top of the ridge we have views down to St Paul’s Bay and across to Mellieha. We visit a Neolithic temple, corbelled huts that would have been used by the farmers, a Punic tomb, farmer’s huts and more cave dwellings. There are many Neolithic tombs where people were buried in a crouching position so the entries are narrow and you need to be careful not to accidentally fall down one. It’s interesting terrain, the views are fabulous and the weather is perfect for walking. At the far side of the ridge is a world war 11 defence post and remains of roman baths that were only discovered in 2000. It’s suck a lovely day we catch another bus and walk up to the Red Tower at Marfa Ridge. This time we have view of Mellieha Bay, the Gozo Channel and the south coast. The tower is linked in with National Trust so we get free admission. The most striking story is that it is a shrine to St Agatha an Italian martyr. She is the patron saint of breast cancer patients after having her breasts cut off during torture and surviving. Return to St Pauls Bay and walk the coast to the casino. Not only do you get free non alcoholic drinks but you can have complimentary sandwiches or toasties. We are there for the afternoon prize drawer (based on free tickets each time you visit) and Steve is lucky to win Euro 25 of credit on his betting card. Manage to turn this over and walk out with Euro 22 so another good result – having said that if I wasn’t with Steve he would have carried on gambling the whole lot! My cold seems to be reviving so we skip going out in the evening in favour of a bath and an early night. Neither of us seems to be able to completely shake off these colds and hacking coughs but at least it isn’t stopping us doing too much.

Posted by: glenswatman | February 13, 2015

20150201-10 Malta bus rides and walks around the island

SUNDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2015 – Another sunny morning and slightly less windy judging by the fact we have a view towards the towns. Having said that when we head out for an afternoon walk we have to stick to the side streets as the waterfront is wild. I visit the indoor pool, luckily alone as it is really narrow and had anyone else been there it would have been impossible to swim the short lengths.

MONDAY 2 FEBRUARY – I’m chatting to the tour rep when Steve gets collared by someone from Azure. She explains that by going over to Golden Bay to look around the Radisson Hotel we will get Euro 30 in vouchers that we can use to book tours. Mention that we are absolutely not interested in time share and she says this is not that. Join her for the car ride over and then quickly realise that even if it isn’t time share it is very similar. In fact it is a combination of time share, holiday ownership and a holiday club that supposedly gets you cheaper flights, insurance etc. Although it is the top hotel on the island we don’t like it as it is way too big and impersonal and the rooms could be in a hotel anywhere in the world. Like last time they promote all the things they offer including exchanges to do cruises but as soon as I ask to see them pointed out on the booking site the ones we might be interested (including a board spectrum search for a Caribbean cruise) don’t materialise. We do manage to get a few drinks and a light lunch before we shake them off by eventually convincing them it is absolutely of no interest to us. Get back to our hotel in time to spend the afternoon sunbathing.

TUESDAY 3 FEBRUARY – Exchange our voucher for the open top bus tour and also buy the Captain Morgan harbour cruise discounted from Euro 15 to Euro12. The ticket includes a free shuttle from our hotel to Sliema ferries so no need to do battle with the congested local buses. Timing is perfect we board the 10.30am sailing underneath blue skies and with sunshine to enhance all the sandstone structures. The boat takes you in and out of the different creaks on harbours both sides of Valletta often with stunning views of the city. We pass numerous super yachts dwarfed by the enormous super tanker style container ship. The ferry for Gozo carries a large banner saying “Lidl welcomes you to Gozo”; bet they don’t have many motorhomes visiting that store! Although commentary is in English the strong Maltese accent and rapid delivery make it difficult to concentrate on but we get the gist of it. Back in Sliema we walk along the front and are a bit miffed to find that all the harbour cruise companies (including Captain Morgan) are offering the trip at Euro10. At one of the many cheap “hole in the wall” outlets Steve picks up a slice of egg bacon and sausage pizza slice (Euro1) and a sausage roll (80c) whilst I get a bag of chips to put me on. Bit of a farce catching the shuttle bus back as road works mean the first bus sails past, the next one doesn’t show and after almost an hour of waiting we only just manage to flag down the open top one. You have to go to the Valletta cruise terminal each time to change buses. We pass the half hour wait sitting at a roadside cafe having drinks whilst taking in the beautiful view across to the other peninsulas. We leave on Aussie Joe’s bus and he says that as the only passengers he will cut across inland rather than get caught up in the traffic and road works on the coast road. No idea what locals think as a double decker bus hurtles down the country roads but we sure enjoy the views over the dry stone walling and into people’s homes.

WEDNESDAY 4 FEBRUARY – With good weather forecast we head off on the bus first to Mosta. The church there stands out a mile because of the enormous dome, the second largest unsupported dome in the world. It’s beautiful on the wall with enough low key decoration to make it appealing without being over the top. The church is also famous for a miracle on 9 April 1942 at 4.40pm. A German bomb pierced the dome, fell amongst a congregation of about 300 and rolled across the floor of the church but failed to explode. A replica is in the sacristy. To catch our next bus we wander through the ancient streets and pass by the headquarters of the Malta Liverpool FC supporters club en route to the out of town bus stop. We catch the country bus out to Dingli cliffs and alight near Bobbyland. We’re intrigued by the name and call in for a drink. Notices on the wall explain that during the war this was an RAF base and a bar was created here inside a Nissan hut. Later the new structure was built around the hut and the hut removed. The cliffs here are quite unusual in that the area leading up to them is boulders then the cliffs drop off to a very low plateau. This platter appears to be very fertile with lots of different coloured green areas indicating farming. Below this is a small cliff dropping into the ocean. It’s really scenic and a footpath has been created all along the top leading up to a chapel at the highest point on the island. Nearby is a golf ball style radio station. It’s hardly windy at all and in the sunlight makes a stunning spot to visit. Spend the afternoon on the hotel balcony. Meet Nigel and Ingrid at the casino where we only manage one free buffet from our gambling profits! Return to our area where Steve watches the Liverpool match at the Spaghetti Junction bar.

THURSDAY 5 FEBRUARY – Spend the day at the hotel relaxing with me popping out once or twice for a stroll.

FRIDAY 6 FEBRUARY – We’re on the bus by 8am heading towards Cirkewwa to catch the ferry to Gozo (Euro 3.65, £3 return). Just miss the 8.15 and wait for 9am sailing. It is a sunny but windy day making for quite a bouncy crossing. Our holiday presentation gave us the free Malta Sightseeing bus tickets (normally Euro 17 each) and we hop on the first 0940 departure. It’s very windy up top but we are rewarded with fine views as we head down to the orange sandy beach at Ramla Bay. The bus doubles back and makes a 10 minute stop at Savina Creativity Centre, linked in with the Duke of Edinburgh who approves of their home made products and as part of his sponsorship they must come up with 2 new products each year to send to him. The samples are delicious but expensive e.g. Euro7 for a tiny jar of chilli pickled onions. We get a 10 minute stop at Calypso Cave where the original cave, Where Odysseus was entertained, has collapsed. However you do get fine views over Ramla Bay. Ggantija Temples are regarded as the oldest free standing structures in the world but judging by the pictures and the fact we can see nothing from the bus stop we figure there is little left but a few piles of rocks. Make our first stop at Marsalforn, the biggest holiday resort on Gozo. The wind is creating terrific ways that pound into the narrow bay, over the walls and on to the main road. They are so unpredictable that Steve gets copped for an involuntary shower. We walk west around the headland for more superb views and mesmerising waves. Have to sit indoors at the waterfront cafe to avoid a soaking but it is very atmospheric. The bus commentary fills us in on island history until we stop at the pilgrimage Basilica of Ta’Pinu. 2 different people had callings in the original chapel and recovered from illness and word spread so much that a huge basilica has been built around it and the Pope has also visited. Testament to the many miracle cures are letters, silver plaques with depictions of the recovered limb and also sticks motorbike helmets and other aids no longer required or that covered an injured part. Must admit we both feel a moved and a little tearful sitting in the original chapel. There’s a steep walk up the hill past the Stations of the Cross and giving us stunning views of the area. Next stop is Déjà where even on the steep road in we are impressed as we can see the famous rock arch and also the quirky inland sea created when the roof of an enormous cave fell in. The “Azure Window” rock is stupendous – Great Ocean Road eat your heart out. Maybe we have dropped luck with the wind creating amazing waves that crash onto the rocks and give up 10m spray but we are blown away by it in more ways than one. Refreshed by a large ice cream sundae from a stall we visit the inland sea which is also enchanting and has waves rolling up a pebbly beach backed by tiny colourful boathouses. Further round the bay are more rocks at the entrance to a deep gorge that leads inland below a big watch tower. We think it is a truly beautiful area of natural beauty. Lend was originally a small fishing village but now a small holiday resort with a few hotels and lots of restaurants, not only waterfront but today some have water lapping at your feet. Again the waves enhance the cove and almost make it difficult to depict the caves. It seems amazing that on calm days you can go out here on a pedalo. Pick up a walking track around the headland and into a gorge and won to a small bridge that crosses it. Given that the buses come round each 45 minutes we opt to return to the harbour for a coffee until the bus comes. Ironically and unusually we again get very hot drinks (delicious hot chocolate and a good size portion of hot chips all a Euro1 (75p) each. Having been led to believe Gozo was more expensive than Malta we now think it is just the prime waterfront spots that have higher prices but a few feet back, and still with a water view, you get great deals. Our last stop of the day is the main city of Victoria, aka Rabat. It’s difficult to get to the citadel due to renovation work on the whole area but we are rewarded with fine views to both sides of the island. Heading back the basilica of St George is very impressive inside. Passing a museum we see free entry today and are lured in to look at many religious things depicting the story of the island. We’ve missed the first bus so pass a little time at Bee Hive cafe which is busy with locals including Police. They obviously realise 50c (35p) for hot drinks, 25c (18p) for a hot pasty, 80c (60p) for a cake and 1.20 (£90p) a small pizza is great value and everything is really good. Catch the last bus back to the harbour and make the crossing after dark giving us a nice view of Mgarr Harbour area lit up. It’s almost 8pm when we arrive back after an absolutely fantastic day on gorgeous Gozo. Having taken over 200 photos I’m going to have fun editing them. Think we will go back sometime and do a few places on our own but as all buses are hourly and go via Victoria we did the right thing today to get a good overview.

SATURDAY 7 FEBRUARY – Sunbathe in the morning then walk over to Qawra only to find The Boathouse is not open for lunch as advertised. As it is such a nice day we settle on Champion Kiosk where we can sit on the terrace and admire the view and activities in the bay. A few people are swimming and there is a Dutch company have a boat from which they are sending out a mini submarine to do surveys within the bay. Steve walks down to check out the water and gets a bit more than he bargained for. His croc style shoe slips off and crouching down to retrieve it he ends up with a wet bottom when a wave comes in. Spaghetti Junctions gets Steve’s business for the football showing.

SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY – Around 2am we are woken by an alarm. Peering into the corridor I spot a couple of men racing through. They say there is a fire but everything is OK. Steve looks out of the patio doors and sees smoke coming from a room in the other wing on the same floor as ours. As it gets worse I venture back into the corridor and notice the fire door near our room hasn’t closed as it is wedged open. As I go to shut it I spot smoke coming along the corridor round the corner just as a couple appear. I ask “are we evacuating?” and hear “you’d better”. Returning to our room I remove the wedge and close the fire door. We look out again and can see that the smoke has subsided and everything seems to be under control. When we get up in the morning we walk up the corridor and see the burn signs around the room door and burnt scraps of carpet nearby. I report the fire door being wedged and learn no one was harmed in the fire. Take the bus out beyond Mellieha to the Red Watchtower stop. Set out to walk along Marfa Ridge with ocean views on both sides. Initially it is a wide road with lots of side turnings to the left to different bays. This is an area for hunting in season so no surprise to hear lots of gunshot. The road narrows and leads to a headland. A new chapel has replaced the original that went with the crumbling cliffs and a plaque to a boy who lost his life here. Good warnings to stay away from the edge. Crossing the headland we walk through a tent style campsite to the north coast. There we have views of Comino and towards Gozo. Pass another campsite with lots of static caravans. As we walk along the north coast we cross numerous pretty bays each with lots of rustic holiday homes in village style. The scenery is lovely with fine views and wonderful ocean colours. Stop for a drink at the first bar soaking up the sun and taking in the scene. It’s almost a shock to cross another bay and find the majestic Rambla Bay Hotel in front of us, a huge contrast to the rustic holiday homes. Catch the bus back to Mellieha where we grab a bit to eat before visiting the huge cathedral which is closed but doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the stunning views from just behind it. Early evening there’s a change in the weather with a big thunderstorm.

MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY – Make the short walk to the next village of Buramarrad. Boy is the wind cold and biting. Visit Scott’s supermarket and head to the cafe for a warming drink. Pleasantly surprised to find the hot drinks are free. Once we get back we enjoy the indoor pool which is like a warm bath.

TUESDAY 10 FERUARY – It’s a lovely day and a public holiday so we head off on the buses. Travelling via Valletta we reach the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. The pretty bay is full of brightly coloured fishing boats and it reminds us of similar places on Crete. It may be small place “I Place” claims to be the only restaurant on the island with I pads as menus. We stroll along in both directions then stop at Cafe Paris for drinks having learnt that the places at the far edges of resorts are cheapest. In fact their lunch of starter, fresh fish main course, carafe of wine and Maltese liqueur is tempting at Euro 10 (£7.50) but not at 10.30am. The next village along is Marsaskala but it seems less appealing. Connecting via the airport we head to the Blue Grotto. The boats aren’t running today but we get a nice view from the panoramic lookout. It’s a stunning location on the south coast so we walk along to the temples a mile or so away. Many cars are parked at the look out, mostly with elderly people inside having a nap in the warm sunshine! It doesn’t seem worth paying to see the Hagar Qim ancient temples as we can walk right up to the fence and see a bunch of rocks under a canopy but the setting is wonderful.

Posted by: glenswatman | February 1, 2015

20150121-31 Exploring Malta and a change of hotels

WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY – It’s a lovely sunny blue sky day and we had intended to make the most of it and go to Gozo but Steve is really whacked. Sit by the outdoor pool where I chat to Frank and Margaret, also avid travels who gain my admiration when they say they are off ski-ing next month even thought Frank is now 79. Couchsurfer Dave arrives and joins us for lunch in the apartment. We have much in common as he is also a nomad, has a motorhome in Spain, lived in a naturist resort, enjoys holistic therapies and now lives on his yacht. He tells us about his voluntary job here as a Radio presenter and how his show helps publicise the plight of the African migrants who have arrived here after barbaric treatment in their own countries. I want to do a big shop at Lidl now we are staying here for another 5 weeks but they are all in the Valletta area. Dave offers to take me there on his way home to Sliema then drop me at the bus to come back. Although a little more expensive than Lidl in Spain the quality of the fresh produce seems far better than in the local shops and I have to contain myself to only buy what I can fit in 3 large bags. Not sure what the driving whilst on the mobile phone laws are here but our bus driver does a pretty good job of doing both almost all the way back! Good job I stocked up as Steve really doesn’t feel like going to the Casino evening buffet as planned so at least we have plenty to eat. Settle in to watch the first episode of Lark Rise & Candleford. Friend Teresa in Japan told us about it when she heard that we used to run a Post Office and jokingly wondered whether we had robbed it as had the lady in the series. Fling every possible treatment at Steve with tea tree gargle, eucalyptus bath and massage then tiger balm on his chest and it does seem to help at lot.

THURSDAY 22 JANUARY – It’s a dull morning so we wallow in bed watching another enjoyable episode of Lark Rise. Get up at 11am and find that it is raining and we are in the midst of the thunder and lightning storm which may explain why we both have headaches. Spend part of the afternoon in the gym and using the pool and Jacuzzi which is nice and relaxing. Steve’s still not well in the evening so we give the planned outing to see “Elvis” a miss and stop in watching more of Lark Rise. In spite of following the same routine as last night Steve has a really bad night and ends up going into the spare bedroom.

FRIDAY 23 JANUARY – I’m getting a little concerned about Steve now so find out our options for seeing a Doctor if he Steve gets worse. Turns out the quickest thing would be to go to the main hospital which I passed on the bus route to Valletta. It’s another stormy day so we hunker down and watch movies.

SATURDAY 24 JANUARY – We walk to the shops between showers. Even when it’s not actually raining you can easily get wet as the drainage is poor and the Maltese drivers seem to take great delight in driving quickly through puddles and splashing pedestrians. Discover “Vegmix too” shop which has better quality fresh fruit and veg and the cheapest water so far at Euro 2 (£1.60) for 6 x 2 litres. In fact the way the Euro is going it is probably even cheaper as we are now getting around Euro 1.30 = £1. In the evening Steve heads out to watch his football and sitting in the hotel lounge I get chatting to Martin & Cassie. They also live in a static caravan own a motorhome. They are only here now as Martin has had a shoulder operation and can’t drive. Exchange info on places to visit and eat in Malta.

SUNDAY 25 JANUARY – Making the most of the sunny morning we set out to explore. Can’t decide where to go so opt to catch whatever bus comes first. It’s the X3 heading towards the airport but we can get off and visit the fortified town of Mdina. It’s a little gem with attractive streets and ornate buildings. It’s just starting to drizzle when we spot an advert for a museum rooftop terrace cafe serving hot mulled wine and biscuits for Euro 2.25 (£1.50). We have a view of the dome of St Paul’s cathedral and glimpses of the coastline far below. There are numerous museums (all with a charge) and churches (all closed) but overall we just love wandering around. On the opposite side of the bus station is Rabat with more interesting alleyways to explore. Their St Pauls cathedral is very fancy inside and in our opinion way over the top. Return via some back streets and discover a small bar that almost looks to be in someone’s front room. They are advertising cups of soup at 75c (60p) and we’re in. At least Steve is as I realise they are sachets of “cup a soup” and contain wheat so he gets mine as well. I order a coffee and the barman suggests Steve tries some local Maltese bread which turns out to be a whole sandwich filled with a kind of salsa. Amazingly the total bill is only Euro 2.80 (£2.20) and we’ve been entertained by the local men in there as well. Steve’s been doing a lot of coughing and spluttering whilst walking around so we head back to the apartment arriving early afternoon and just before the rain starts again. We’re just about to head out for a meal when Couchsurfer Dave calls and is in reception. He opts to join us for dinner across the road at The Boathouse. It is a totally gluten free restaurant serving Italian and Chinese food. We opt to share the food and order an unusual Capresse pizza with lots of vegetables on it and ham. Chinese veg stir fry and a portion of chips. Freshly baked bread is also served with the meal and it lovely to be able to tuck in without worrying if I am going to end up in pain later. They call it apple pie but the dessert is more like a sponge cake with apples in but served with cream it is very nice.

MONDAY 26 JANUARY – The weather looks OK with just a few showers forecast around noon. Steve suggests I go for a ride out on the buses. It’s a small Toyota Coaster bus that does the route to Golden Bay on the opposite coast. I’m thinking of walking along the coast past Ghajn Tuffieha Bay to Gnejna Bay then into Mgarr to catch another bus. Heading in to black clouds it is no surprise that we get a downpour even before arrival. An English couple are waiting at the bus stop and tell me they have done the walk and it was terrible. The track is like clay and you either end up sinking into it or on the embankments you slip and slide. Other than a hotel there seems little else in the area so I stay on and alight near Xemxija and after getting a soaking waiting for a bus I get on one towards Cirkewwa. Passing through the town of Mellieha it has stopped raining so I alight to browse around. No sooner have I come out of the Euro shop than the heavens open up. Luckily I am carrying a poncho so can cover myself and my bag easily. Pressing on to Cirkewwa we pass a campsite on the right with just one large American motorhome with slide outs and on the left a sort of rustic holiday camp with old caravans and shacks all painted a pale aqua colour. It has stopped raining so I get off as soon as we reach the coast intending to walk a bit. Foiled again as by the time I reach Paradise Bay there is another downpour. It’s tempting to hop on the ferry to Gozo as I can see the sun shining there but instead head back to the apartment for lunch. Call in to a chemist to pick up some medicine and lozenges for Steve. It has brightened up again so I venture off on the X3 airport bus. It is a circuitous route zig sagging a way across country but there is always something interesting to see, views over the country or nice buildings in the towns. Drainage is obviously a problem here as every time we get to the bottom of a hill the road is like a lake. Just before the airport I spot a massive Lidl and hop off to pick up a few things. Needless to say by the time I come out and have walked half way to the bus stop it starts raining again. Trying to jog a bit one of my shopping bags breaks and I have to clutch it to me. At the Valletta bus stop the first one that comes says B’bba so guess I am in luck and it is going to Bugibba. The bus swings by the airport then continues through unfamiliar countryside and down to the coast. We veer off up an unmade road and stop by a pickup truck. The driver gets out and they start taking jerry cans from the back of the truck to put the petrol into the bus! Dropping down to a bay I spot a sign saying Pretty Bay – oddly named as it is a container port. I check out my map and find we are just about in Birzebbuga and at the opposite end of the island to Bugibba. The driver suggests I hop off and get on the bus behind to Valletta then change again. I’ve bought frozen salmon and fish and as all journeys are slow I am starting to get concerned. Naturally it rains when I have to change buses at Valletta but at least boarding at the terminus I am assured a seat in what is to become a very packed bus. It’s way after dark and I’ve been on buses for most of the day and am feeling a bit sorry for myself when I pick up the brown paper carrier bag that I bought at Lidl and it breaks due to being wet from the defrosting food. I create a make shift bag with my poncho to get me back to the apartment. Steve’s had a restful day finding that lying still means he doesn’t cough and hurt his ribs.

TUESDAY 27 JANUARY – I’ve figured out that the corner apartments have the best of both worlds with a front balcony sea view and side balcony to catch the afternoon sun. I enquire and am shown 402 with 4 balconies, (one on each bedroom and 2 in the lounge) an en suite shower room and a Jacuzzi in the main bathroom. Steve is spending a lot of time in bed so having a brighter room with sunlight should make him feel better. We make the move and it seems to be a good one as we enjoy sitting out in the warmth. I use the Jacuzzi like a washing machine to catch up on laundry and hang it out to dry in the sun and breeze. Late afternoon Steve is up for a short stroll to Champion Kiosk for a coffee. A couple of hardy souls brave the water to swim off the rocks below – must be tourists! Sat outside a man breaks up his biscuit to feed the birds and what a gathering. As bedtime we realise we have made a bad move as it is really noisy from the traffic below. Closer inspection reveals that the patio doors are single glazed and have gaps. The noise continues throughout the night then gets worse at 5am when the buses start.

WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY – We’re both pretty tired and figure we have explored all room options at Sunny Coast. Walk to Topaz Hotel to see if the apartment we liked is still available. At this stage we reckon that having a sunny room beats the ocean view. After considerable negotiation we manage to secure the deal at Euro18 (£14) as previously offered. Get back just before another downpour. It’s dry but incredibly windy as we walk over to Oracle Casino. For Euro 7 (£5.50) you get a buffet and drink and although not outstanding food it is excellent value for money. Steve’ picked up a voucher offering Euro 20 of betting for a Euro10 deposit and he opts for it to be used on the slots. Mainly playing 1c a line over 25 lines Steve does quite well. Most of the time we haven’t a clue what we are doing so have to keep calling the attendant to instigate the free spins. Meanwhile we get free drinks. In the end Steve cashes out Euro 25 so we’ve had a free evening and been fed and entertained.

THURSDAY 29 JANUARY – In many ways we are sad to be leaving as this would be a cracking place in summer when you want shade and cooler apartments. Our pre arranged Euro 10 (£8) car picks us up for the transfer to Topaz Apartments where we put our luggage in the room and food in the fridge whilst they are cleaning. I leave Steve sat in Hotels Royal Oak pub watching Andy Murray playing tennis whilst I explore the nearby area. The car driver pointed out a cash & carry which I would otherwise have avoided but turns out to be a massive supermarket with good prices. Most shops seem to be catering more to locals than tourists and have better fruit and veg and lower prices (water even down to Euro 1.70 for 6). Return and settle onto our balcony after lunch. Think we will have sun from first thing until after 4pm which is great. Steve wants to look around the area so I plan what should be the most direct route to the coast. Emerging from the side streets we are well and truly blasted by the wind. The enormous waves are crashing over the jetty making it unusable but creating wonderful waterfalls as it cascades over the side. Steve has a few coughing fits so we cut back to the hotel. There are many more English movie channels so we settle in for an evening of viewing.
BUGIBBA 1 – TOPAZ HOTEL T432 (Euro 18, £14 night)

FRIDAY 30 JANUARY – It’s a cloudy morning so I hang the washing on the lines provided over the bath tub. The first bus to Valletta is full and passes us by so we take the next bus to Bugibba bus station where we can be sure of getting a decent seat on the Valletta bus. We stroll around exploring a few different areas until it starts to rain. Duck in to Danis cafe for a spot of lunch after which it is dry. We’ve only walked a couple of miles but I can see Steve is whacked so we head back. In the evening we walk to the nearby pub for the quiz. It’s pretty poor effort with a woman coming round to each table area and relatively quietly reading out the questions which takes ages. As a team of 2 we only get 16 out of 20 whereas the winners have 18 so not a bad show.

SATURDAY 31 JANUARY – We can appreciate our new location with the sun streaming into the rooms. It is very thought and inland looks hazy from dust blowing. I drag a bed to the window area and lie inside but still getting the sun. We attempt a walk out but quickly realise it is far too blustery for Steve. In the afternoon I go for a circular walk whilst Steve watches football in the hotel pub.

Posted by: glenswatman | January 22, 2015

20150111-21 Of to marvelous MALTA

SUNDAY 11 JANUARY – Carol has booked us all into the Goldstone Wharf for a Sunday lunch. Joined by Pete we manage to put the world to rights. Since last seeing them Carol has been given an MBE in the New Years honours list so we are keen to learn how the presentation will be done. We all go back to Paul & Elaine’s where Steve plays pool with Pete. In the evening we chat to Paul & Elaine, mainly about holidays. They have a static caravan and we learn a few new things from them including the fact that even as a non naturist site Merryhill fees are still very reasonable.

MONDAY 12 JANUARY – Arriving at Telford we find Mark has a day off and is home. Good job as Netty is out doing her twice daily walk around the block. They suggest going to “The Meeting Place” at the town centre for lunch as Netty really likes the all day cooked breakfast and it gives us longer to chat. Netty has just booked to go away with Lauren and family so has that to look forward to. She’s still battling her illness but the latest tablets have improved things on some fronts. Arrive back in Keighley at 5.30pm.

TUESDAY 13 JANUARY – I do another sweep of the Keighley charity shops and pick up a party dress for £1.75. I’m only buying cheap ones so I can abandon them in Auckland after our cruise. Spend the evening at Keith & Sandra’s. A delicious meals as always – Keith has been to his butchers and bought gluten free sausages for me along with speciality ones for everyone else. They are off to Tenerife next month so we won’t see them again until they come over to Norwich in May. When we leave around 10pm we are surprised to find it a light covering of snow that has now turned to ice creating quite a job clearing the car windscreens. Must check on line if de-ice loses its power after a couple of years as we find it of little use.

WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY – There’s been a bit more snow in the night and worse still strong gales are forecast for later. With the laundry out of the way I pack for our trip to Malta. At Mom & Dad’s I install Skype on her I-pad so we can have video chats whilst we are away. Driving over to Claire’s we notice quite a lot of snow over the tops. I cook up Viennese cabbage and roast peppers to go with the pork that Claire prepares. Whilst Claire takes Steve into Bradford to meet Richard for the football match I crack on with baking. To help with the Anthony Nolan fund raising people have been baking cakes and taking them in to Claire’s work each Monday and selling them for donations over 50p. Its Claire’s turn and I make plain, cherry then cheese scones for her to freeze for next week. Lying in bed the wind is howling and I wonder whether we will be able to fly out in the morning. Steve arrives back just before 11.00pm and has really enjoyed watching Bradford thrash Millwall.

THURSDAY 15 JANUARY – It’s very much a rude awakening at 4.15am and we’re pleased not to hear the wind. Claire drives us to Leeds Bradford airport and will continue to work and do an early morning run. According to the news this is a lull in the weather and snow is due later today so we are really lucky. There are very few queues and we are soon aboard our Ryanair flight with seats in the middle of the aircraft. It seems very warm on board and Steve begins to get flustered but I realise and get some ice and water from a flight attendant. We take off on time at 6.45am and our flight path takes us over Sicily with good views of Mount Etna. After just over 3 hours we land in MALTA. Again we sail through the airport and soon find our pre booked Resort Hoppa shuttle. We paid for a mini bus but end up in a private car with one other lady. Rene is from Riddlesden and stays in Bugibba each winter and tells us about walking groups that meet in the bus station each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Our journey takes us through the centre of the island and past the old town of Mdina with magnificent fortifications. Sunny Coast Resort & Spa is in Qawra (pronounced owra) and right on the waterfront. We’ve booked a land view 1 bedroom apartment but are a little shocked to find the land view is actually looking directly across the road into other buildings. The receptionist shows me one higher up which is slightly better but I explain that although we have booked for 1 week we may stay up to 6 if we really like the apartment. I wrote and put in a special request for a quiet south facing room but their rooms face west land side and north for sea view. She shows me a 2 bedroom one with sea views and other than it not getting the sun it is really lovely. We can have it for this week at no extra charge and then work out later what we want to do for next week. As we’ve only paid £107 for the week it’s a real bargain. Whilst they are preparing the apartment I leave Steve relaxing in the lobby whilst I take a walk. The promenade is lovely with rocky ledges and beautiful blue sea. The hotels are on the opposite side of the street to the swimming pools which are by the ocean. Clever photography in the brochures means you don’t realise! I see a busy waterfront cafe and check out the menu for later. Return through the back streets and find a few shops and lots of bars and eating places. It seems strange being in an obviously foreign place but with signs and people speaking English. Arrive back and Steve is in the apartment and ready to go out to lunch. Our meal at Champions Kiosk is good with chicken, salad, couscous and chips for me, homemade lasagne for Steve. Hot drinks are all Euro1 (80p) and the meals a reasonable Euro5 (£4) each. At the next table are English Nigel and his German wife Ingrid. Nigel used to live in Malta and is able to give us lots of info. He’s a really interesting character and we may return on Sunday to meet them for lunch. We walk as far as the aquarium then Steve feels weary so we cut up the back streets to get back and pick up some water (6 x 2 litres Euro2.40). They desalinate sea water here and although it is perfectly safe to drink it has a strange taste. Fresh Maltese crusty bread (rice cakes for me) ham, cheese and tomato make a lovely tea. We’ve been given a fan for the room as the heating is only on a certain times of day and we are soon really warm. As darkness falls we appreciate how nice the promenade looks all lit up. There are just a couple of English channels on TV so we settle for a movie on the laptop to round off the evening. With a choice of a double and twin room we opt for the twin room with Steve saying he will move into the other one if his coughing gets too bad.

FRIDAY 16 JANUARY – We’ve had a quiet night with Steve only getting up once. There’s a mini market in the complex so we pick up a few bits for breakfast. The Hoppa bus transfer company invited us to a welcome meeting at the nearby Qawra Palace Hotel. We know it will be selling tours etc but go along in case we glean some information – which we do. Steve’s struggling with his cold so heads back whilst I seek out the biggest supermarket around “Trolees” which is a Carrefour. It obviously started as a small shop that extended backwards, upwards and sideways so it’s hard to find things but they certainly have a good range. I buy as much as I can carry back. Steve has checked out our spa area which is really nice with an outdoor pool, indoor pool and Jacuzzi included and fees for sauna, squash and beauty treatments. After lunch I leave Steve resting and set out on a long walk. I gather information at the bus station then follow the coastal promenade and discover a bocci club. It’s the Italian version of petanque with interesting variations. Eric from Barnsley explains you throw a pea size ball then try to get near it with a mix of small balls and round wooden cylinders. For Euro 1 (80p) pp you can borrow their equipment and play as long as you like unless others are waiting. Cut back through the back streets which are so cock eyed they would be hard to navigate without a map. Steve’s a little better and after a cuppa we visit the spa for a soak in the not so very hot tub and for me to swim.

SATURDAY 17 JANUARY – It’s a blue sky sunny day so Steve is keen to do a walk. I lead him along yesterday’s route following Bugibba promenade then continue to St Pauls bay where we spot interesting ancient rock cut bathing pools with carved steps. Stop for a cuppa at a waterside cafe then continue almost to Xemxija. The whole walk is stunning with so many different bays with points of interest and we are constantly amazed by the clear water with different shades of blue. We consider catching the bus back but it is such a nice day that rather than pay Euro 1.30 (£1.05) for a 2 hour ticket we might as well buy a Euro 1.50 (£1.35) all day bus pass and take a ride further along. Xemxija is a south facing resort removing the problem of being unable to have a sea view and sun on the balcony. I check out Porto Azzurro hotel which might have worked for us except they work being carried out on the 6th and 2nd floors. The bus continues through the countryside and to the large town of Mellieha which is above Mellieha Bay with one of the few sandy beaches in Malta. It is pleasant enough but there is very little down on the coast and it is a very steep and long climb up to the town to find even a supermarket. Back at Bugibba bus station we stop at a nearby cafe for egg and chips Euro 2.85 (2.30). Steve wants to watch the Liverpool match at 4pm at the nearby Qawra Palace Hotel but I decide to make the most of the bus ticket and head off to the capital city of Valletta. The first bus past our hotel takes the country route which is really interesting. Pass the amazing Mosta rotunda and make numerous stops at the various hospital entrances before dropping down to the coast at Msida bay with a very busy marina. After about an hour the bus arrives in Valletta and I head towards the old town over a bridge with fortifications. I’m immediately impressed by the unusual old buildings and continue to be amazed as I wander ahead towards the fortress at the end. Colourful wooden balconies abound and each street seems to have something really appealing and it all exceeds my expectations. At the fortress I turn right to follow the coastal path with fine views across the grand harbour to numerous headlands with interesting buildings. Spot the Holland & America Rotterdam as it sets sail, what a fantastic cruise stop. I get back to the bus station at dusk and reckon that Valletta merits a good couple of days to do it justice. Arrive back just before Steve who has enjoyed the match with a win for Liverpool. He even snagged the free tea and cake at the hotel when he noticed everyone picking it up without needing to show the room key as indicated. They say Malta is a love it or hate it kind of place and we have really taken to it already.

SUNDAY 18 JANUARY – We’ve arranged to meet Nigel and Ingrid at the kiosk for lunch. I don’t know whether we make bad choices or it is very busy but the food is not as good as last time. Nigel entertains us when his chips arrive cold. The Maltese lady on the next table says hers are fine but she doesn’t like them too hot to eat anyway. Nigel promptly picks up both dishes and feigns going round the tables asking people to try them both and express an opinion. They cook him another batch that he jokes are too hot but as he says you can wait for them to cool but it would be no good waiting for the others to warm up. Steve’s still struggling with his cold so heads back to the room whilst I set out exploring Bugibba whilst checking out other accommodation. Years ago Mom stayed at Topaz Hotel which is far away and in from the coast. The kindly Manager tells me they have a type of apartment which is really a 2 separate bedrooms, kitchenette and bathroom but for 2 people you could adjust the twin beds in one room to create a lounge. He shows me one overlooking the pool, with a slight inland view and where you would get sunshine on the balcony. I’m quite impressed as the Hotel has a beautiful indoor pool and Jacuzzi and is nicely appointed so surprised when they offer it at Euro10 pp per day reduced by 10% for long stay coming out at Euro 18 (£14.50) per day in total. Although we prefer being on the coast this would be a good back up plan. Return along the main road the through the Kennedy Gardens. Other than a small cafe by a grassy square it is basically tracks through a scrubland with a few trees.

MONDAY 19 JANUARY – Steve’s still struggling but feels he ought to make the effort for a walk. Catching the bus from directly outside our hotel towards Sliema Steve does well until we get to Paceville when lots of people board. He feels a panic attack coming on so we quickly battle our way through the passengers to get off. We spot the waterfront and head down to Portomaso a beautiful enclosed marina surrounded by luxury apartments. Following the coastline we find a kind of cat sanctuary where you are invited to leave cat food or make donations to help the strays. Given how many there are we personally think a better campaign would be to pay for them to be neutered. Spinoala Bay in St Julian’s has the lovely traditional brightly painted boats and in the corner the “love monument” with an upside down word in concrete and areas where people have put padlocks. Continuing to Balluta Bay we are accosted by a lady who assures us she is not selling timeshare even though it sounds similar. Her offer of 2 free hop on hop off bus tickets for Gozo (which we need anyway), a bottle of wine and drinks sounds a good exchange for about an hour’s spiel. We become interested when we learn that “Discover Access” holiday club offers 8 weeks late breaks (booked 2 months to 24 hours in advance) from £99 week plus 2 weeks of “dream breaks” booked a year in advance at £299 for or £399 for 6 people. Extra weeks may be available at £99 or even less if there is a surplus. Normally £3900 for a 10 year membership we talk him up to a 1 year for £1400 with the option of paying £2500 at the end to upgrade to the 10 year package giving a total of 11 years for the same price. He will also include 4 weeks now at the Riza in Qawra. Reading the small print there are one or two things that don’t quite add up so I insist on looking at the website as though I was a member wanting to book a break. Nothing in Australia comes up as late breaks and even checking England, Caribbean and other locations only a handful of places are on offer and all above the £99. The rep appears shocked and suggests they may have another website with more offers but we’re out of there. Stop for lunch at a promenade cafe and are joined by a family of 2 adults, 1 small child and 2 barn owls. Suspect their business is creating photo opportunities but I reckon they have missed a trick by not dressing their kid up as Harry Potter. On paper the waterfront hotels here look perfect as they are south facing so have a view and sunshine. In reality the area is very crowded mainly with Arab school children and doesn’t feel quite so good. Bay View have a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment which other than having a shower rather than a bath tub it ticks all our boxes until we hear the very special discounted price of Euro 1760 (£1400). Steve can’t resist the Subway deal of coffee and a freshly baked biscuit at Euro 1 (80p) and takes it with us on the bus back. We conclude that we prefer the Bugibba area.

TUESDAY 20 JANUARY – At Qawra Point we meet Dawn who shows us her apartment for rent, it’s lovely but has no view at all and is overlooked by apartments so not a contender. Just off the main square we can’t resist the breakfast deal at Granny’s, Euro 2.95 (£2.35) for 3 rashers of bacon, 2 fried eggs, tomato, baked beans, 2 sausages, toast and a drink. It takes about 10 minutes to walk the half mile inland to Topaz Hotel where Steve is quite keen on the 2 bedroom apartment that John shows us. Walking back we get a brief shower, the first rain we’ve had in what should be wettest months of the year. At Sunny Coast receptionist Lillian asks what we have decided and we mention the offer at Topaz at Euro18 a night and say that we appreciate the offer here of Euro 39 a night but it’s more than we want to pay. In the end the Manager comes out and agrees on Euro 150 (£120) a week with us staying in the 2 bedroom sea view for now but we may have to move over Valentines weekend. Still a touch call as Topaz rooms have the sunshine and the outdoor pool area is sheltered from the wind but overall the sea view and closer proximity to everything wins – better the devil you know. Steve has found a bar just below us showing the football. I’m not sure whether going out in the evening was a good plan as he has a terrible night spending most of it coughing and spluttering.

Posted by: glenswatman | January 13, 2015

20150101-10 Exciting plans

THURSDAY 1 JANUARY – At noon we rendezvous with Will, Ian and Stella for a walk to the Swan pub at Ringland. Dave, Carrie and her Mum Joan have driven ahead. The pub has recently changed hands and the upmarket “wine bar” image seems rather bleak compared to the traditional pub it used to be. Alison and Ian also join us later on. After walking back we carry on our chat at Dave & Carrie’s new home in a Tingdene. Needless to say much of the conversation is about Merryhill becoming a textile park in February and how it will affect us all.

FRIDAY 2 JANUARY – Neighbours Dave & Denise call in for a drink. They also bought their caravan last year but as local people there is absolutely no point in them having it if they cannot be naturists. Their idea is to sell their caravan off site and just accept the loss, the alternative being to pay the monthly fees until they can sell it on site. I’ve got a busy day doing that last of the laundry and a double pack for our 10 day trip to Yorkshire and the Midlands then 6 weeks in Malta. Steve visits the surgery in the afternoon for his 27 month MMR injection.

SATURDAY 3 JANUARY – We’re all packed up and on the road by 10am. It’s a miserable rainy morning for our 4 hour journey to Yorkshire. At the point where we stop for me to drive we both laugh at how we look like a pair of old codgers with aching backs. Arrive at Claire’s new family home in Northowram. Although it is almost 2pm Daniel and Matt are still in bed and everyone else is out. Claire gives us the grand tour and the 5 bedroom detached house feels much more homely than their last one. Natasha returns from her shopping spree and shows us all her bargains. In the evening Daniel cooks a Mexican meal with nachos followed by fajitas and it is delicious. He thrashes me at a couple of games of Canasta before bedtime. I say bedtime as Claire & Richard are the first to head up and it is the early hours of the morning before the house falls silent from the teenagers activities.

SUNDAY 4 JANUARY – By gum it’s an overcoat colder up North. After breakfast we drive to Clifton to visit cousin Karen. Since we last saw them Karen has rented her house out, moved in with Milos (who has just retired) and in March will be moving out to Spain to be with Milos. They pick our brains in readiness for their lifestyle change. We thought the four of us were going out to lunch but unbeknown to us Karen has invited all her family over. First to arrive are her son James and his wife Emma quickly followed by daughter Sarah, partner Mike and Karen’s Mum, Auntie Pamela. It’s a lovely surprise as we haven’t seen everyone for ages. In fact they have all been invited for lunch at Milos’s house which gives us more time to chat. Everyone is amazed at how well Steve is doing. Lots has happened since we last saw everyone, Sarah is expecting a baby and Emma and James have got married. By mid afternoon Steve is flagging (he still finds it hard to cope with lots of people and noise) so we leave and drive to Keighley where we have booked into the studio where Mom and Dad live. We spend an hour or so with them then retire to our little haven upstairs.

MONDAY 5 JANUARY – I have a walk into Keighley and find that Nationwide offering us the best insurance possibilities by topping up with worldwide, 180 days and all countries at under £500 for the two of us. This inspires me to go ahead and get our cruise to Australia booked. I pit one or two companies against each other. Mark at Planet cruise secures the deal. Cruise & Maritime 41 night trip to New Zealand on the Astor down from £5839 starting price, offered at 2 for 1 and knocked down to £4946 for an ocean view cabin. This cruise ticks numerous boxes, it avoids Steve doing a long flight, we visit Caribbean Islands, cruise through the Panama Canal, go to 3 islands in Polynesia and are on a small 600 passenger ship. Just have to figure out the journey back at some point!

TUESDAY 6 JANUARY – It’s dull and drizzly, as it has been since we arrived in Keighley, but I’m keen to join the Stumblers for the walk. Meet Sandra and the rest of the group in the bus station to go over to Ilkley. The walk takes us up through Darwin Park and onto Ilkley Moor with splendid views. We’ve only done 4 miles when we get back so I opt to stay on in Ilkley and add another mile or so wandering around town. In the evening we head up to Sandra & Keiths for a lovely meal and a real good catch up.

WEDNESDAY 7 JANUARY – I’ve already written to alert our Aussie friends of our return and immediately get responses and start with a plan to spend Christmas with Bev & Norm. I take a walk into town and can’t resist picking up 2 dresses and a flouncy skirt for the cruise – well who could when they were reduced and only cost £5.25 for the lot. Knowing we arrive in Auckland and then fly to Australia with a baggage allowance they are cheap enough for me to abandon en route. Richard and Jane have invited us round for an evening meal where we are joined by Margaret and Ray. Jane has found a Jamie Oliver FODMAP tagine menu which fits in with my diet and also their Moroccan theme as their recent holiday there. As usual Richard cooks up a storm and we have a really lovely time with much hilarity.

THURSDAY 8 JANUARY – Steve helps out by pushing Dad up to the surgery in his wheelchair. It isn’t far but the slope makes it too difficult for Mom t to do. It’s the usual drizzly day but I make a short walk around town for exercise mainly and also get a bit more than I bargained for with a trim. Using the walk in £4.99 cuts place all goes well until I mention that I would prefer the back cut in a little and end up with a wedge. Not convinced I like it but as they say a bad hair cut never lasts.

FRIDAY 9 JANUARY – Richard picks Steve up to take him to play snooker in Shipley. I go to Bingley to check out the charity shops for cruise dresses and pick up another nice one but splurge at £5! The heavy rain and wind cause me to abandon shopping so I pick up Steve we visit Lisa who is on night shifts and takes a while to wake up properly to chat. Haven’t seen her for quite some time so lots of family news to catch up on including the fact that Sian and Lewis are moving in to a rented house together.

SATURDAY 10 JANUARY – Drive down to the Midlands and head straight to Mums. She’s doing really well and on top form. It’s a pleasant day so rather than take her out for a meal tonight we opt for lunch. At the Four Alls Steve is very impressed by his bacon and brie French stick will a pile of curly chips. Mum tucks in to her dinner and we have a good chat. After dropping Mum home we visit Bobby and he helps with a few computer and phone problems. Olivia has grown a lot since we last saw and looks more like a little girl than a baby with her longer hair style. Spend a pleasant couple of hours with Netty & Ian before a brief return visit to Mum on our way to Newport. Final stop of the day is Paul & Elaine’s where we stay overnight.

Posted by: glenswatman | January 1, 2015

201421-31 Ending the year at Merryhill

SUNDAY 21 DECEMBER – The cold windy day induces us to stay home festering.

MONDAY 22 DECEMBER – I quickly realise that having an afternoon Doctor’s appointment at 2pm is brilliant as they have just come back from lunch and there are no delays! Steve’s stayed home so I head into Dereham for a bit of shopping. Seeing the full car park at Tesco I opt for the self scanning system thinking it will save me heaps of time – wrong, it does nothing but frustrate me and I actually give up half way round. I wander round the main town then pop into Morrisons’s which is surprisingly quiet with no queues at the check outs – so who says Tesco’s is doing the worst this year?

TUESDAY 23 DECEMBER – After a wander around Norwich we head to The Waffle House, the chosen rendezvous of Steve’s donor Marc. He’s sat by the window with his girlfriend Lindley and it is quite an emotional meeting. He is obviously delighted to see how well Steve is doing and they talk through both of their stories. Having found the match Anthony Nolan paid for Marc and Lindley to go to Sheffield and stay in a hotel for 3 nights whilst the stem cells were taken. Luckily they got enough from Marc on day one and other than having some discomfort at the time he was fine. They are a lovely couple and also have wanderlust and will be getting married in Dominican Republic next year. They are keen to see us again so we should be able to catch up with them in Leeds which is where they live. We do try to thank Marc but needless to say actions speak louder than words and we are sure he can tell just how grateful we both are.

WEDNESDAY 24 DECEMBER – We nip into Anne and Nigel’s for a drink then head over to Tesco’s for a couple of last minute things. Unfortunately we haven’t turned the freezer on otherwise we could have loaded it up with all the food that is being discounted. Bread 80% off and even free sprouts. We do take a few bags of sprouts to distribute to people back at Merryhill. Spend the afternoon at Nigel and Anne’s joined by Emma and Dan and we play their version of “Shit head” with much hilarity.

THURSDAY 25 DECEMBER – We’ve spent many Christmas days at the coast but never in England so take the opportunity to drive over to Great Yarmouth. 20141225_112442 It’s a lovely sunny crisp morning which is perfect for a walk. Caesar’s amusement arcade is open with Santa stood outside so we pop over for a photo and get invited in as they are serving free hot drinks, mince pies and sausage rolls. We walk for a couple of miles and even go down onto the beach but don’t brave the water. Heading back we see crowds of people and investigate to find it is a centre providing Christmas meals for homeless and lonely people. There is a sign directing volunteers and we give it serious consideration but conclude that with us both having low immunity it may be too risky at the moment. Back home I begin cooking our duck crown to be served with plum sauce, roast potatoes, sprouts, parsnips and carrots. Unfortunately I can’t get the oven up to temperature and over 2 hours later at 3.30pm we sit down to duck with barely crispy veg and potatoes but it taste OK. Can’t go wrong with dessert as we each have a trio of special mini jellies with fruit and alcohol in shot glasses and I serve them with fresh cream. When we dropped off the sprouts yesterday Eileen and Colin said they would be alone today and invited us to pop round so we head up there for an hour’s chat.

FRIDAY 26 DECEMBER – It’s a cold and frosty morning and we are managing to keep warm but creating loads of condensation which is becoming difficult to manage. Even after opening windows and doors and wiping down they steam up again the minute we close them and put the heating on. Having a cooking morning doesn’t help but I want to make some carrot and coriander soup, a cottage pie and apple crumble. There’s an afternoon gathering in the clubhouse with people taking over leftovers. Tony & Dave have treated themselves to a “boy’s toy” and entertain us by trying to get their remote controlled helicopter flying. Steve’s decided to take over a bottle of wine which proves a bad move as after just over a glass he is feeling very strange and has to return home. I stay on and join in the fun party dances but suspect I will be aching a bit tomorrow.

SATURDAY 27 DECEMBER – The heavy rainfall in the night stops by mid day and in the afternoon we walk up to take a swim in the pool. Quite a few people pass through and I am sure we all feel better for it. Luckily we don’t have the snow that has brought parts of the North of the country to a standstill.

SUNDAY 28 DECEMBER – Dee & Brian come round for lunch. Dee is struggling to eat again and although she manages a small bowl of homemade soup sickness gets the better of her and she is unable to eat the dinner and dessert. She has lost load more weight and looks really thin and frail but they are able to stay for a few hours for a chat.

MONDAY 29 DECEMBER – ¬No surprise to hear that Dee went for her check up and got admitted to hospital. Hope they can now get on top of her problems. It’s a very frosty morning and not much warmer early afternoon but we attempt a walk. Unfortunately my asthma gets the better of me and we return after about 20 minutes. Spend a lot of time on line and finally book Ryanair flights from Leeds to Malta 15th Jan – 26th Feb at £51 each return. Having never been to Malta before we are unsure which area will suit us best so hedge our bets by using Hotels4u to get 7 nights in a 1 bedroom apartment at Sunny Coast Resort & Spa for £107. The resort also has hotel rooms, restaurants, an outdoor pool, private rocky beach, entertainment and more importantly for us an indoor pool and spa. This gives us the option of staying on or finding somewhere better or even doing a 2 centre visit. Know it will be cooler at night than Spain but it sounds to be warmer in the days, the sea is warmer and it is a place we have never been to and are unlikely to visit in a motorhome. We receive an update from Merryhill saying the park is definitely going textile in March, they have put the annual fees up and also introduced a £10 a month surcharge for paying monthly. I guess this is to try and create more income but have a hunch it will be drive even more people away.

TUESDAY 30 DECEMBER – Our coldest morning in the van with ice on the outside of the windows. Still staying warm inside but finding lots of problems with condensation in the back of wardrobes etc. We certainly won’t plan to return at this time of year again. Thankfully we have a tumble dryer so I am able to get up to date with the laundry.

WEDNESDAY 31 DECEMBER – We de-ice the car in order to head over to the hospital. Steve sees Dr Isobel Gow who tells us his blood counts are all absolutely normal. Steve mentions his ongoing concerns about anxiety, claustrophobia and stamina. She says this is common in people especially those who have held up well through treatment. There are people who may be able to help when we get back in March. She suggests walking poles to help Steve’s collar bone when we are out hiking and says that his stamina will improve in that he will be able to do more but he will stay take a long time to recover from any exertions. Whilst Steve visits the Big C centre I call in to see Dee. She is looking much brighter and is now eating and drinking again. They will keep her in for a few more days but at least she has now had visits from the dietician and other specialists. In the afternoon we wander up for a chat with Gordon and Simone about the future of Merryhill and conclude that we will sit it out for now but may put the van on the market at a high price in case we get it and would then leave. The New Years Eve party is live music from The Curves and comes with a surcharge of £12.50pp which includes a drink. The band play music from all era’s and we enjoy a number of dances but as is almost always is the case the music is too loud for us to talk as we can’t hear what people are saying. See the New Year in gathered in a circle on the dance floor with Auld Lang Syne then a very long period of going round wishing everyone a Happy New Year. If the number of greetings is anything to go by we shall have a fabulous 2015. What a way we have come from last New Year’s Eve with Steve home along in agony with shingles and me in hospital in pain with gallstones! 2015 bring it on.

THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER – South of Torrevieja we park up at Cabo Roig then take the cliff path around the headland. We walk above a busy beach (weather and waves much calmer today) then sit enjoying drinks in a lovely restaurant overlooking the marina. It’s really warm and could have even been a beach day. The walk continues giving us lovely views at each turn with interesting coves and wonderful houses above. Returning through the back streets we pop into an estate agent in case there is one to rent in January but even without ticking many boxes the cheapest comes in at £300 a week off season whilst others are £800 and more. Given that some sell for over Euro1m this comes as no surprise but one can but hope! At Punta Prima we stop for lunch at the Wok buffet and all have our fill, some of us over fill. Don’t know how the poor chef copes being stood behind the hot grill and gas burners in a confined area. Hope we don’t get any extra salt on our food as he is sweating buckets. Chris has requested a visit to Iceland, he is desperate for some fruit malt loaf and they also pick up a few other English treats. They return to the van for a rest before coming up in the evening for tea and to watch TV.

FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER – Norma and Chris call in for breakfast and chat before heading off home in Henry. Once it has warmed up properly (about 11am) we drive to Punta Prima beach area to walk towards Torrevieja. Initially you walk across waste land with small beaches and rocky coves backed by palm trees. The tropical feel is complete when we see a load of colourful parrots flying around. Behind the beach is private land apparently owned by the King of Spain where he has a house. Urbanisation begins at Mar Azul with vast development inland but huge modern beachfront properties. A local Brit tells us that one sold for Euro 3.7m a few years ago. We mention we are vaguely looking for a place to rent in January and they suggest we go to Tilly’s bar and ask for Lynn or Graeme. The bar is in the midst of apartment blocks mainly occupied by ex pats. Lynn shows us the only available 1 bed apartment facing south. It normally rents for Euro 100 a week throughout the year but may come cheaper Jan and Feb – at this point the price is irrelevant as we suspect it would be noisy. We can already hear a yapping dog and Tilly’s bar opposite has music some nights. We walk around the Punta Prima eyeing up potential south facing apartments before moving the car to walk to Playa Flamenca beach. It’s a hot afternoon but unfortunately a cool breeze takes the edge off and we only stay for about an hour. Returning to the apartment we realise how much we like about it, other than it not facing south. Maybe if it is available Jan/Feb it is still our best option. We also realise that unless you actually see accommodation it is difficult to truly know what you are getting as many places here have noisy dogs, noisy neighbours or in the case of Punta Prima a lot of noisy development taking place.

SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER – We’ve been invited to Alison and Bob’s for lunch where we sit on the front patio. It feels quite festive with Christmas music playing and decorations in the garden. As the sun moves we relocate across the road to sit in their absent neighbours garden to eat dessert.

SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER – We want to cheer Tana up so drive to Torrevieja and just as we are walking to their flat we get a call from her saying she is feeling much better and fancies visitors. Alison told us about the “Belem” nativity scene in Torrevieja and we suggest as walk there together. Taking into account that Tana had chemo last week she is doing really well and manages the walk quite easily. The nativity is a huge scene with many sections depicting the local area. It’s a bit drizzly when we walk back but this doesn’t stop us appreciating the promenade along the waterfront where fresh sand has been brought in to replace that which was washed away in recent storms. The waves are still crashing in and the blow hole is performing well. Steve wants to watch the afternoon football but Magani’s only have the Spanish channel. At The Ship (Hispaniola) they are showing the match and Claire and Brian are also there having lunch. Unfortunately it is extremely busy and noisy with people and Christmas music blaring out both making it impossible for Steve to hear the TV and difficult for me to chat to Claire and Brian. The drizzle turns to rain and then a massive storm with torrential rain, thunder and then lightning that cuts off the Internet including the football on TV. Not a good scene all round as Liverpool go on to lose. We make it back during a lull in the rain but heavy downfall in the night keeps us awake with dripping onto the marble window sills.

MONDAY 15 DECEMBER – Make contact with granddaughter Natasha who is 15 today. The rain has stopped but we get showers and it’s a cooler day – good preparation for our return to England later this week. Alison and Bob come round for lunch. I’m having a bit of a using up spell but manage to put together a pasta with prawns, broccoli and onion in a wine and cream sauce followed by oranges poached in Gluwein served with fresh cream. Alison asks if we saw the cheeky man on the nativity scene, apparently in Spain there is always a man squatting down for the toilet or stood up having a wee and this is hidden in a different place each year for kids to try and find. As we didn’t know about it the big kid in me may have to return for another look! We always seem to find loads to talk about and in fact this may be another factor swaying our decision whether to return here in January. The rain stops but our peaceful night is not to be. There is something up on the roof that keeps rattling and rolling along then stopping and starting. Steve spooks me saying it is ghost children playing marbles!

TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER –The storms have passed through (according to the news a weather bomb which has been hitting England much harder) and today it is sunny enough for me to put washing out. Tana & Graham arrive for a card session where we learn some new games and play other favourites. Chip butties sustain us through lunch and it is late afternoon before they leave.

WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER – On new territory we head even further south to explore Dehesa de Campoamor and what a little gem it is. South of the rocky headland of Cabo Roig we find a couple of lovely beaches and a very quiet and seemingly more upmarket area. We really enjoy our walk and then back track to Punta Glea headland with some nice waterfront accommodation which is obviously out of our price range.

THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER – On the internet I’ve found a couple of possible places for us to rent in January so we head down to Cabo Roig to meet a couple who are servicing the apartment. Totally useless as it is facing east and surrounded by trees. The next one is at Aqua Marina Dehesa de Campoamor and sounds great on paper. In reality this one is also east facing and wouldn’t work for us. Luckily when we chatted to Alison and Bob we may have the option of returning to their apartment in January, better the devil you know. We sit out in the afternoon before giving the apartment a good clean and doing the packing.

FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER – Our time is up, boy have our 44 nights gone quickly and what a wonderful time we have had. By 8.30am we are leaving the apartment and a wonderful sunrise behind. Just before we reach the airport we top up the fuel so we can hand in the receipt and get a full refund for returning the car with a full tank. Our flight is a little late leaving and we land in ENGLAND Stansted at 12.30pm. Seems we have hit rush hour as there are massive queues to get through passport control. It’s a beautiful sunny day although a little chilly. Catch the 14.35 National Express coach to Norwich. The journey takes longer than expected due to congestion in Cambridge but we do get to see the Christmas lights of numerous places we drop off and pick up. After almost 4 hours we are back in Norwich and pleased to see Brian who has come to pick us up. Back at Merryhill we soon have the electric on in the caravan and oil filled radiators fired up. We will leave the rest of the stuff for morning. We’re tired but still manage to make it over to the clubhouse for an hour in the bar and suddenly realise just how many new friends we have here.

SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER – We kept nice and warm through the night with the electric duvet and the gas fire and radiators once we woke up. Steve sorts out the water and gas so we are soon fully up and running. At ASDA we do a bit of shopping to get us started then call in to Hellesdon Barns gluten free shop to pick up some Christmas treat for me including Christmas cake. There’s a festive gathering in the evening at the clubhouse. Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire and hot mead is served. We gather round the outdoor Christmas tree and sing carols – very atmospheric. Moving indoors we have all brought sausage rolls and mince pies to share. Games are organised with Steve in the “Robin red breast” team and me in “Jingle Balls”. They’ve taken some ideas from “Celebrity juice” and we manage to make fools of ourselves putting sprouts in our mouth and spitting them down a table at targets and also doing a kind of Chinese whispers of Christmas words but without showing your teeth. The balls beat the breasts to win some Christmas chocolates.

Posted by: glenswatman | December 13, 2014

20141201-10 Playing tourists in Benidorm

MONDAY 1 DECEMBER – En route to the bar for internet I notice movement in the nearby apartment where Claire’s niece and husband live. I pop up and introduce myself to Ian and get invited in to meet Lynn as well. They have a bull terrier called Angus and he has been voted the best in the world and is in great demand to be taken to shows and also used as a stud dog. They are also fellow motorhomers, ran their own business of a pharmacy and retired young so plenty in common. I eventually make it to the internet and book a Benidorm hotel for next week. Abandon my long list of wishes with the only hotel ticking all boxes coming in at over £500 for 2 nights. Instead I pick 3* Hotel Alone in Cala Finestrat, mainly because it offers a gluten free menu and at £88.60 for 2 nights half board for both of us our expectations are low so we shouldn’t be disappointed. I liked recent comments of spotlessly clean, quiet and good food swung and that it is in the Finistrat area near to the quiet Poniente Beach. Steve’s sat out enjoying the sun when I get back but it’s almost too hot for him so we accept and invite to Tana and Grahams for cards. Driving past Playa de los locos we notice it is 27C, what a change from yesterday. They seem to like our games up and down the river and bush rummy which again cause much amusement.

TUESDAY 2 DECEMBER – I’ve invited Lynn and Ian round for lunch and we tuck in to chilli pasta followed by a concoted dessert. In the absence of custard powder I have used rice flower and vanilla sugar to create a kind of custard that turns out a bit like semolina. Served with chopped fresh oranges, wafer biscuits and with grated chocolate on top it passes muster. Making the most of another nice day we head off for a walk to La Mata and pick up Angus en route. Angus really takes to Steve and keeps giving him a nudge so Ian suggests Steve takes the lead. With a 35kg sturdy beast on the end Steve soon realises who is in charge of where they go!

WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER – We take our morning walk in a different area then drive around to the nearby aquatic park. It’s all rather strange and hard to know whether things rare coming or going as it all looks a bit abandoned. Meet Claire for a coffee at Magani’s and catch up on her news. There’s a big change in the weather late afternoon and we end up getting thunder, lightning and heavy rain in the evening and through the night.

THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER- Not the best of mornings but we pack up and head off towards Benidorm. Steve wants to go back to Alicante hospital to personally thank Dr Fernandez and his team. It’s quote emotional heading back to the ward where a number of nurses also remember Steve and everyone is delighted to see how well he is doing. Given that the other 2 British patients with leukaemia died it must be heartening to see Steve and that all their efforts paid off. We struggle to find our hotel as it turns out the street is split into two sections either side of the main road but not opposite each other so we get a good tour of the area trying to find it. Hotel Alone is pleasant enough, large rooms with balcony, two double beds, huge bathroom but all a little tired. Receptionist Nicola is half English half Spanish and gives us loads of info. We make the 10 minute walk down to the attractive but small Finestrat beach then return for lunch. The waiter knows about my gluten problem so shows me the salad bar and tells me a cooked meal will be prepared separately and brought to the table whilst Steve uses the buffet. The food is not outstanding but I’m just happy to know it is safe for me to eat. The Managers son is celiac so he knows exactly what can and cannot be tolerated. After lunch we drive to Camping Torreta to meet motorhoming friends Keith & Sandra from Wales. We last saw them exactly 3 years ago when we were free camped beside each other at Playa Flamenca. We’ve kept in touch ever since and they even visited Steve in Alicante hospital so notice a huge improvement. They still free camp a lot and have found plenty of spots en route from England and also tell us of some cheap campsites for future reference. Return for our evening meal and an early night as all the Hotel entertainment is Spanish, in fact I suspect we are the only English staying there.
BENIDORM (Cala Finestrat) 1, HOTEL ALONE

FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER – My 58th birthday and 3 years to the day since Steve was rushed into Alicante hospital – what a long way we have both come since then. It’s a lovely morning so we sit on the balcony after breakfast soaking up the warmth. Sandra gets in touch and says Keith is not well but she will cycle down and meet us near the old town. We set out to walk there and pass Bali Hotel. We can’t resist popping in and enjoying the views from their outside glass lift that goes to the 45th floor. It was the tallest hotel in Benidorm but has now been surpassed by the infamous twin towers and golden cup of the “Intempo”. It’s really nice walking behind Poniente Beach and taking note of the Spanish in their long trousers and coasts and tourists in T-shirts and shorts. In fact there are many spots along the beach where elderly people are gathered in swimwear doing mass workouts. We meet Sandra by an attractive park area and she secures her bike before becoming our tour guide. We’ve never really explored the old town and are very impressed by the viewing area, quaint back streets, beautiful church and tapas bars. We continue along Levante Beach and part way Sandra leaves us to return for her bike. Back in the old town we visit 2 Palms restaurant that Sandra recommended and they have a gluten free menu. The 3 course lunch at Euro 8.95 (£7) is delicious with lots of choices and really tasty food. The restaurant is tastefully decorated for Christmas and they are playing Christmas music quietly in the background which is really nice. We continue our walk back returning through the back streets and almost below the “Intempo” building which looks even stranger close up. Neither of us is really hungry but we head down for dinner and then walk it off with a stroll down to the beach. It’s a really quiet area with only a handful of people in some of the bars and other completely empty.

SATUDAY 6 DECEMBER – Steve’s whacked after yesterdays walk so although it is another nice day we opt to head straight back to the apartment to relax.

SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER- We fancy a bit of a stroll so start at the north end of La Mata intending continuing along the boardwalk but soon find it fizzles out and the beach walking is difficult. It’s really busy everywhere, this is a long weekend with a bank holiday tomorrow and I think also on Wednesday and Friday. Across the main road there is a national park by the salt lake but the walk there is pretty boring so we give up on that as well. It’s a short drive to Ciudad Quesada a man made city in the middle of nowhere and it feels really strange. Entering under an archway it looks false with a main street full of shops and bars and homes looking like Disney structures with turrets and towers. After walking around we still haven’t found the big club ask a local only to find that is in a different area. Due to the complicated layout of the estate they offer to guide us there and we follow their car through a maze of streets and up the hill. The higher you get the larger the homes seem to become until we reach an area with what can only be described as massive mansions. “The Club” has an outdoor bowling area and inside is a huge area with a bar, stage, restaurant and other entertainment areas. The new owners are English and we get the impression that this is another bit of “Little Britain”. Overall this area has little appeal to us other than it being better than many housing estates in England. Return to the coast and our piece of tranquillity at Cabo Cervera.

MONDAY 8 DECEMBER – Jack and Dot are flying back to England tonight and call in en route. It takes them an hour for their Satnav to find our place via the back streets of Torrevieja. I cook up a roast chicken dinner and round it off with fresh fruit salad and ice cream. They are really taken with the apartment and love the views. Jack is familiar with the Spanish gas heaters and gets it set up for us although we are still a little nervous by the way it initially flares up before finally settling down. They head off late afternoon for their evening flight to Leeds/Bradford, the one that Sallie and Stuart are flying in on. We’ve invited Sallie and Stuart to stay over rather than make the long journey home and their Satnav tells them that La Mata is Cabo Cervera so they also get an area tour. They tell us that today they had snow in Queensbury, which is only a short distance from where Claire and family live. Think we will stay here a bit longer! They went back last Wednesday on their pre Christmas visit and had a family Christmas gathering at the weekend but are now happy to be back here. They’ve brought sleeping bags with them and settle down in the spare bedroom.

TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER – After breakfast we head down to Punta Prima, an area we visited a lot whilst staying in Karen’s apartment. I popped down last April when I was over with Karen but can’t believe the difference with so much development. Blocks of apartments are flying up and there’s a massive one with two buildings just behind a new promenade. We wander along and round towards the naturist beach then return along a previously undiscovered cliff top path backed by some lovely homes, unfortunately none up for rent. A cup of coffee warms us up at Nautilus as it is a warm but blustery day. Return for lunch then a late afternoon game of boules which we fluke a win as in order to stay in the sun we play on the gravel walking area with lots of handicap pot holes. This evening Sallie and Stuart are visiting and staying with friends in nearby Almoradi so leave late afternoon.

WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER – After a really blustery night it comes as no surprise to see the waves crashing onto the rocks and throwing up lots of spray. It’s mesmerising watching them throughout the morning. At lunchtime Chris and Norma arrive in Henry their motorhome, They’ve been camped at La Manga and their Satnav performed well and brought them directly here so thumbs up to Garmin, having said that Sallie and Stuart also had a Garmin model and a brand new one at that. Funny how we have been here for almost 5 weeks with few visitors and now they all come at once. In the afternoon we walk along to La Mata where hardy surfers are making the most of the magnificent waves. More of the promenade has been washed away but they are already busy working on it and creating a better drainage channel. We’d hoped to pick up some fresh fruit and veg at the market but arrive too late, however Steve does spot a bag of oranges that have been abandoned so all is not lost. Its easy walking back along the beach as the sand is really compacted after the storm. Tana has had chemo this week and isn’t up to quizzing tonight so Norma, Chris, Steve and myself head over to Los Rasos and make up a team calling ourselves “Tana’s friends”. We work together very well as we have different areas of expertise and squeeze a win by just 1 point. We could have a Euro 10 voucher to spend on food at the bar but as there is no quiz next week we opt for 3 bottles of wine instead. Our luck continues as I win the raffle but you then have to pick 1 of 4 envelopes. 3 contain a question that you must answer correctly to get the prize (a cumulative pot of over Euro 100) whilst 1 is a direct win. I get the question “in the twelve days of Christmas song what happened on the 7th day”? Without hesitation Norma says 7 lords a leaping and with nothing else springing to mind we go with that. Wrong it was 7 ladies dancing so the prize rolls over. As we would have done in the past Norma and Chris opt to sleep out in their motorhome in the car park below us.

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