On 15 August, after four and a half years and a tearful good bye, we departed Jakarta bound for Europe en route to New Zealand(!?) We had a whirlwind Grand Tour planned involving five weeks, four countries and a complex spreadsheet to keep track of all our arrangements!
Our first stop was Lagos, Portugal to see Toby and Josephine and Andre, Mimi and Elise who also flew over for the week. It’s always a pleasure to be in Lagos, the weather’s good, the food and wine – fabulous and it’s always great to spend some time catching up with the family. One day we headed out to the west coast for some surfing, another day we shopped in Albufeira, yet another day we ate the most scrumptious grilled sardines in a café by the river in Aljezur.
As luck would have it Anthony was cruising down the west coast of Portugal on the final leg of his second “European tour” and arrived in Lagos marina on our last afternoon. It was great timing, we spent the afternoon on the boat and gathered all the family together for a windy al fresco dinner on the cliff above Praia do Camilo. Luckily the restaurant provided fleecy blankets so we enjoyed our dinner all rugged up!
The following week we spent in Devon and the first visit was to Mum’s. She was in great form and Bandit the dog was keeping her well exercised. Unfortunately the weather was terrible but we did get the chance to pick copious quantities of blackberries, intended for a pie for Mimi but unfortunately Toby got there first! One wet day we visited the Fleet Air Arm Museum (like all the other grockles) but it was the only opportunity I’ll get of stepping inside Concorde. It was so much smaller than I imagined decor a la 1970’s – but still fascinating!
We also spent a couple of days with Dad and Anne and it was brilliant to see them in such good cheer. Dad let us loose in the garden with the chainsaw. The first task was to pollard a couple of willows by the hen house. We did a pretty good job, the fence and hen house remained intact and the hen laid an egg to celebrate! The next job started with a pruning lesson followed by an apprenticeship on the apple trees then a full on assault on the elm trees, everything got a haircut! Good one, Neil!!
After we left Devon we had the nightmare drive from Hell up the M6 to Leeds, it took 9 hours and we averaged 36 mph, the speed limit of a sleepy English village. Grrr . . . ! Paul and Laura we’re wonderfully welcoming when we finally arrived and a large gin and tonic soon helped to see the funny side. Laura and Paul are firmly putting their roots down in Leeds; a new house with a view over the Aire valley and a baby on the way. We enjoyed a couple of days with them looking around Leeds and walking along the canal, the area has a fascinating industrial history.
We spent the last few days of August in France. We had planned to meet a friend, Sandy, for a few days but she couldn’t make it so we hired a car and had a tour of the Loire Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed our daily picnics on the banks of the river with a bottle of wine, a baguette and a slab of pate and cheese . . . heaven! Orleans and Tours were both picture perfect mediaeval villages, in fact all the villages looked like postcards. We were glad of the GPS as helped us to find little back-road vinyards and we even visited a chateau, at Chenonceau on the Cher river.
Back in Blighty we headed up to London to visit one of our Jakarta mates named Goz. I had never pictured having a holiday in Hounslow but that’s where Goz was staying and we ate some great curry! We spent a day in Greenwich as tourists, we visited the Cutty Sark and the Maritime Museum and even climbed the hill (where I used to toboggan!) to see the Observatory. We went to several pubs and the market – it was a busy day! The next day we went to the British Museum then met Goz and went to see an exhibition of photographs by Dennis Hopper. We sure fitted a lot in!
After all that we needed another week in Devon to recover and once again enjoyed Mum and Dad’s hospitality. This time Toby was around so lots of fun and good chats and, of course, gluttonous quantities of food and drink. We also caught up with Suzie and Fi Cummings and spent a day driving around Dartmoor and South Devon chatting! It was sad when it came time to say good bye to the family but it is just au revoir for a bit longer than normal and we are already looking forward to the next time.
Our last stop in Europe was in Oslo to visit some other Jakarta mates, Debbie and Vergard. We were lucky as the good weather was still holding so we saw Oslo with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. We stayed with Debbie close to the centre of the city. She showed us around her area which has good smattering of restaurants and bars, some good shops and we had some cozy evenings together. Vergard organised for us to go sailing on the Oslo fjord with his friends in a 100 year old boat named Carmen IV. It was a lovely evening, many thanks to Frode and the crew – and to the skipper of the other boat that towed us in when the wind dropped!
Now we are back on board Distant Drummer and it feels great!! We’ll be staying in Nelson marina for the next month or so then we’re planning a trip up to the North Island in November.
Sorry this blog has been a long time coming, we’ve just internet on the boat sorted out. More coming soon!
Suzy and Neil