Rain and mud

We’ve now been in the UK for almost four months. I doubt we’ve had more than a week of rain free days in all that time.

We’ve been trying to embrace the cold weather by getting out for country walks. We’ve bought boots, fleeces, warm waterproof jackets, hats and even gatters to protect our lower legs and boots from the worst of the wet and mud.

On Sunday we tackled a 10.5km Pub walk in the Peak District. It was written up as a particularly pretty walk, an easy walk, and suitable for most weathers. The second half of the circuit was supposed to be on a hard dry limestone surface.

We waded through almost knee deep,  squelchy mud for much of the first half of the circuit. At times it felt like the mud was going to suck our boots off our feet. One woman we meet coming in the opposite direction said there was deep water flowing where she’d never seen water in thirty years.

About half way around the circuit I spoke to a couple of people coming from the opposite direction. They both confirmed the normally dry limestone was now a virtual river. They had come downhill through it, but didn’t recommend we tackle uphill in the opposite direction. So we retraced our steps, back through the squelchy, almost knee deep mud to the starting point.

The plus’s for the day were that it didn’t started raining until we were sitting down to lunch in the village pub, and the roast beef we had in the village pub was superb.

We called into Pauls cousins, who lives in the Peak District, on the way home. He told us that by now the ground is usually frozen solid in the deeper layers with only an inch or two of mud on the surface. It’s just that this winter it’s not stopped raining, and there’s been very little freeze.

It’s bad enough having to be away from our lovely warm Australia, but to have to be here during the wettest winter on record totally sucks. We’ll still keep walking, but until the mud either dries or freezes over, I think we’re going to stick to more defined paths along canal banks, or around reseviours. All that mud is just to hard and isn’t enjoyable.

Im now only a couple of weeks off overstaying my visitors visa. Pauls waiting for his English passport, and when it arrives I’ll try to get my visa extended. We’re hoping that with Paul having an English passport it’ll help with my extension. The visitors visa only allows a stay of a total of six months out of every 12 months. It’ll cost me nearly £800 to apply with no guarantee, and no refund if it’s not successful. I daren’t leave the country for any more short European visits, I may not be allowed back in. So, for now I’m stuck in this awful weather with no chance even of a short escape.

Goodness knows what’s going to happen if I can’t get a visa. I guess I’ll stay on until they deport me. After that if Pauls dad hasn’t managed to be rehoused I guess Paul will have to stay here, and I’ll have to find someone who can reconnect the battery in the ute, and get it going for me, and someone who can manoeuvre the caravan out of the tight storage space. I can probably tow it once it’s out at a push. Goodness knows how I’d go though at getting it into a caravan site, and setting everything up on my own. Not only that, but it’s likely to happen just as winters starting again in Tassie. I don’t think I could stand a third winter in a row without any summer.

But i’ll cross those bridges if and when I have to…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog change of direction.

Originally I created this blog so as to have a record of our planned ongoing trip as Grey Nomads travelling Australia. However, due to several unplanned changes in direction our road trip is undergoing a lengthy interlude. Hence, my more recent posts have had nothing to with The Life of Riley on Wheels.

My love of writing has been somewhat in conflict with trying to remain true to my blogs original intention. Today though I’ve made a decision to forget the blogs original intention entirely for now and will use it more frequently to record our current happenings, and in some instances just thoughts inspired by either events or experiences.

When circumstances permit we’ll be back in our caravan, traversing Australian roads, and then my blog will return to its original purpose.

Puerto De La Cruz – Tenerife

We arrived back from a wonderful week of sunshine and blue skies in Tenerife last week. All we knew about Tenerife prior to booking our break there was that its a popular destination for Brits seeking summer sun during their bleak winter.

After booking we started doing some research, and fortunately, more by good luck than good management, we had managed to book at Puerto De La Cruz, which is towards the northern end of the Island. We absolutely loved it.

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Our apartment

The pool in the middle of the complex.

Our self catering apartment at Casablanca was spotlessly clean, comfortable and more than adequate. The weather, which was our reason for going there, didn’t disappoint. The nights were mild allowing for a good nights sleep, but were still warm enough to justify leaving the ceiling fan on low. By 10.30am it had warmed enough that the sun lounges around the pool were beginning to fill up, and yes, we spent some time lazing around there soaking up the sun. Although not a first for us, it isn’t something we would usually do. We’re spoilt for sun in Australia and it’s something we tend to take for granted. After several months of living under the grey skies of England I now understand the Brits desire to lie out in the sun soaking up every bit of it. The evenings were warm and mildly balmy. Short sleeves were definitely the order of both the day and the night.

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An interesting coastline.

We were about 20 minutes walk from the sea front and the main shopping area, and walking in the other direction, about 20 minutes from their beautiful botanical gardens. The area is hilly, so with at least two walks each day in one direction or the other we managed to get our daily exercise in.

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Bougainvillea – so reminiscent of by beloved Australia

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Amazing trees (these were in the Botanical gardens)

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My favourite – Elephants Ears.

The flora on the Island was beautiful and almost made me homesick for Australia. Colourful bougainvillea, orange trumpet vine, oleanders, hibiscus, gorgeous ferns, palms and by favourite – elephants ears. The beaches near us were mostly volcanic, so black sand, not inviting for beach walks but still with a beauty of their own, and rock pools and waves provided for an enjoyable beach vista.

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Beautiful, white tigers.

We took a trip one day to Loro Parque, a huge wild life park. It was relatively cheap considering what they have there. Orcas, Dolphins, Sea Lions, and Parakeets – all with regular shows throughout the day. Then there’s the normal (and some not so normal) zoo life – penguins, meerkats, white tigers, ant eaters, flamingos and some amazing birds and parrots. It was a good day out.

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A beach at the south end of the Island.

On our second to last day we hired a car and drove down the more touristy areas at the southern end of the Island. We were so, so pleased we were in Puerto. The southern area seemed so tacky and purpose built compared to where we were staying. Accents in Porta were a mix of Spanish, German, English, (and Australian if you count our own accents), and various other European accents. Down the south of the Island there seemed to be more English accents that anything else. The shopping and eateries around Puerto catered a lot more to the locals than those in the South. In the South everything seemed geared to tourists.

And now onto the driving. Having never driven (or been a passenger) in a left hand drive car, and driving on the right side of the road, it was with great trepidation that we hired the car. People say you get used to it, but in one day, I certainly didn’t. I had thought it would sort of be like driving on the right hand side of a one way street. How wrong I was. Being on the other side of car is weird and I kept thinking we were going to hit the curb. We came close a few times I’m sure. Also, turning into roads takes a lot of concentration to make sure you don’t find yourself driving into oncoming traffic. Then theres the street signs in Spanish to try and decipher. Would we do it again – perhaps in America where theres English signs, but I’m not so sure I’d want to repeat the experience again in a country that’s not English speaking.

It seems very popular here for people to book ‘all exclusive’ holidays abroad. I’m so pleased we stuck with self catering. We found a little local supermarket and bought our yogurt and berries for breakfast, and our salad ingredients for lunches when were home. Most nights we walked into town and meandered down the back, cobbled streets seeking out authentic Canarian restaurants with a local clientele. We found some amazing little places and ate some pretty good food, paying very little for it. One small restaurant that we found there was so, so memorable. The owner who spoke very little English managed to convey to us his recommendations, which we went with. An amazing fresh tuna salad for two, followed by fillet of lamb served on Canarian potatoes, also a dish for two. The lamb…. oh the lamb!! We both agreed it was not only the best lamb we’ve ever tasted, but the best meat dish we’ve eaten – superb.

The restaurant, Bodega Julian, was a very small family run business. Twice throughout the evening the father picked up his guitar and played while his beautiful daughter sang. The song was in Spanish so we didn’t understand a word of it, but her voice was beautiful and we could imagine the words were that of Spanish folk song ballad. We felt so sorry for those tourists that had purchased an all inclusive package deal holiday. They missed out on so much. We felt sorry for them even more on our last day there which was the one and only time we ate at the restaurant in our resort – how very ordinary.

Clutter, clutter everywhere

Apologies for using this blog to vent, but I have to let off steam somewhere. If I don’t vent here I fear I’ll vent verbally and cause an unnecessary upset.

i just don’t get the clutter mentality.

I don’t get why good plates that are used occassionally needed to be stored high up needing a ladder to reach while them, while the sideboard where they should have been be stored was full of sewing machine parts for a sewing machine long gone, and other equally as useless stuff.

I don’t get why storage poofs were full of old VHS tapes, old paperback books (Pauls dad doesn’t even read books), and remote controls and warranties for TVs that have long gone. The poof was so heavy it could barely be moved.

I managed to sort those two things out but it was met with much resistance, worse than pulling teeth.

I don’t get why warddrobes bursting at the hinges, full of clothes that will never be worn again aren’t sorted out. There’s no room for ironed clothes to hang without being so tightly packed they get creased up, and I wonder what the point is in ironing them in the first place. An attempt  to get dad to sort them out was met with, “it’s usual to wait till someone’s dead before you sort out their things”.

And to top it off there’s a bag bag hanging in the laundry, you know the cloth bags where you scrunch up your plastic shopping bags to reuse as kitchen bin liners, well today we were out of kitchen bin liners when I suddenly remembered the full bag bag in the laundry.

Its not full of supermarket plastic bags. It’s full of bags left by charity shops to enable people to donate their surplus clothes. The bag bag is full of them, there must be at least 50. Why would someone who won’t throw out any clothes want to keep bags for recycling clothes. I just don’t get it.

No, I don’t get the clutter mentality!

 

 

3 days in Prague

Prague – yes, we made it. We’ve arrived home yesterday after having spent five nights away with Paul’s cousin Margaret and her husband Geoff. Two nights were spent at the airport hotel at Gatwick, and the remainder of the time exploring beautiful, old Prague.

Prague absolutely lives up to it’s reputation. We arrived around mid-day, and had three nights, and three and a half days there.

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About 4.30 in the afternoon – already dark, and freezing. First day there and I bought a much needed fur trimmed hat.

Firstly, for anyone who plans on going to Prague and happens to be reading this I’m going to start with the ‘could have, should have, would have’. The most important thing I’d recommend is to make sure your accommodation is district 1. There is an abundance of choices to fit most budgets. We booked through a local travel agency and having done some homework, asked for accommodation close to Old Town Square. Old Town Square is virtually in the central point of all there is to see in Prague. We were offered a couple of options, both of which were in district 2. They looked relatively close on the map. Ha ha – if you haven’t guessed already, the map was very deceiving. We were at least a  half hours fast paced walk from Old Town Square. As I’m not the fastest of walkers, it was closer to an hours walk for me.

Prague is definitely a ‘walk around’ city, and even if we had wanted to use taxis, we never saw any available for hire. With our accommodation so far from the centre it meant it wasn’t viable to go back for a mid afternoon rest and freshen up.  We were leaving our hotel around 9.30am and pavement bashing continuously for 12 – 13 hours. Had we been near Old Town Square all of the sites we visited were no more than 30 – 40 minute walk away. We could have given far more time to actually seeing what there was to see rather than spending time and energy getting to the starting point. And we could have had that all important afternoon ‘time out’ back at our digs.

And now onto Prague and it’s Christmas markets. What a joy. The Christmas markets are set up everywhere, but nowhere better than in Old Town Square. Whilst I’ll post a photo there is no way a photo can do any justice to the experience of actually being there. Firstly the smells….. Legs of hams being rotisseried over wood fires, the heavenly, sweet aroma of their special cinnamon scrolls, sausages (real sausages, more like a salami than what we know as a sausage) also cooked over wood fire pits, and  spicy hot wine and cider everywhere. Yes, we had a few. Then there’s the Christmas lights, and the huge Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is the biggest I’ve ever seen and the lights are synchronised with very powerful orchestral music. Absolutely amazing. And all this is set up with the back drop of glorious Gothic and Baroque architecture that Prague’s so famous for. It was all very magical and almost surreal.

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What a tree. What a church in the background. What a place.

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Cinnamon rolls being cooked over hot coals – taste as delicious as they smell.

On the second day we joined a tour which was mostly walking, but included an hour boat trip, about an hour for lunch, and a short tram ride up to the castle district. The tour provided a great snap shot of the main tourist attractions in Prague.

After day two we were at a bit of a loss, and spent the rest of the time pretty much aimlessly pavement bashing over already well walked territory. We planned to explore the Lessor area more thoroughly but somehow lost our bearings and never quite got there. We forgot we had a map, and had we remembered and taken a look, we were only a street or two away from where we were trying to get to. We didn’t look at the map until after we had returned to Old Town. Grrrr!!!!

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Charles Bridge

So – if we could do it all again, what could we do differently. Of course the main thing is to stay close to Old Town Square, and for preference somewhere between the square and Charles Bridge. The first afternoon I would have spent exactly as we did spend it, just meandering around Old Town Square and Winceslas Square and generally getting our bearings. Then, rather than doing a walking tour that encompasses everything in a snap shot six hour tour, I’d spend the second day doing a tour of just the Castle area and perhaps the Lessor town area only. The castle area isn’t just a castle, it’s almost a village, and the same with the Lessor town area. Both areas are across the river from Old Town with a few available access bridges. The most famous is the Charles Bridge – stunning. On our walking tour we spent no more than two hours perusing these two areas, a full day is needed.

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Surreal Gothic archetecture – Where’s Rapunzel?

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Neo gothic addition to the gothic church in the Castle area. The first part of this church was built in the 13th century. This addition was completed in the early 1900s. More than 500 years to completion. 

Then there’s the Jewish quarter, which we hardly saw at all and I’m sure a half day wouldn’t go astray perusing the buildings and museums there. We only briefly passed it on our tour.

Most days there seems to be a number of classical performances in one of several spectacular venues. We didn’t do any as we only really became aware of them when it was too late. And we didn’t do the Kutna Hora area, which involves a trip out of the city into the surrounding countryside, and includes a visit to the famous bone church. There is a 6 hour bus tour for Kutna Hora, which I mentioned a few times to my fellow travellers, but no-one seemed to be interested, so I put that idea aside. However, late on our last day Paul said that we should have gone there…  again, Grrrrrr!!

So, thats what we did as apposed to what we could have done, should have done, and in hindsight would have done. So hopefully by writing this, someone reading it has a chance to learn from it and won’t end up wasting two days as we did. Staying in district one  would have allowed us to make the most of our time there. I think we could have seen most of what there is to see and done justice to it all in the time we had.

So, I know this sounds like I’m grumbling a bit. I had a fabulous time. I just didn’t make the most of it and it’s unlikely I’ll get a repeat chance.

 

Many days and many miles later….

Wow! It’s been a long time between posts, a long time and more than 10,000 miles in fact.

The house was finished and photographed for listing on the rental market. It’s a totally different house than the one we moved into in June, and I’m pleased to say, the agent has now found a tenant.

Tom and Paul finished the shed without any hitches. We had all our belongings locked up inside and the house listed for rent by the the 10 October. We then spent a relaxing two days with my sister, Wendy, before flying over to Melbourne. We spent another two days there relaxing before the long haul flight to Manchester. After having crammed three months worth of renovations into three weeks, those few days of relaxation were so, so welcome.

Fast forward another two weeks – Paul’s dad, Glyn, came out of respite the day after we arrived and he’s improved remarkably since then. I have him (and us) on a low salt, high iron diet, and I think it’s helping considerably. He has a good appetite (that’s putting it mildly), and I certainly don’t have him on a calorie restricted diet. Yet he’s managed to lose approximately 6 kgs, which must be from fluid loss attributable to the lower salt. Previously he was buying pre packed meals, canned soups etc and warming them in the microwave. Not really the thing to be eating when you’re retaining copious amounts of fluid and are supposed to be on a low salt diet.

With his heart problems, fatigue is inevitable. Apparently, his heart is weakened so it struggles to get sufficient oxygen around his system. I figured high iron levels can only help, so we’re having one meal of liver each week, one meal with a lot of kidneys incorporated, and I’ve frozen lots of small pieces of liver to add to soups and sauces. We also eat copious quantities of fresh veges. We’ve always eaten more veges than most people I know but now we’re eating much more than we normally eat. It’s amazing how many veges you can get into a blended soup.

Thank goodness for my Thermo-mix. Yes – I brought it over with me. It’s invaluable for blending liver into sauces and soups, and works just like a stock cube for adding flavour. Tonight we had chicken cooked with a mushroom sauce. To make the sauce I used the thermo-mix to cook onion, garlic, celery, a few chunks of liver, a tomato and two large mushrooms. When cooked, I blitzed it all with a small amount of cream, and then added it to a cooked chicken thighs and sliced mushrooms. The liver was totally unrecognisable as liver, and it didn’t taste half bad, even if I do say so myself.

Sticking to a low salt diet means very little pre-bought products. Reading the labels on packaging, there’s way to much salt plus the dreaded corn syrup in so many things. Wow, how clever marketing is. The marmalade Glyn normally buys is marketed as having a reduced sugar content. Reading the label, sugar is listed third behind ‘fructose/sucrose syrup’ (another name for corn syrup). So, sugar has been replaced with dreaded corn syrup. Thanks, but no thanks – I’d rather take care of my liver. I’ll be pleased when they put back the sugar, and leave the fat in milk, yogurt etc back where it belongs. And now I’ll get off my bandstand….

Anyway, between shopping, cooking and gardening we’re keeping busy. The garden was very overgrown when we arrived. The lawn, which was almost a foot high has now been cut, the gardens have been weeded, re-planted and mulched for winter, and we’ve removed a lot of the moss from the paths.

dads back garden

Now with things sorted in the house, and with Glyn currently doing so well, we’re hopeful of being able to take advantage of our time here to experience England in more detail, and also to get to see some of Europe.

On the horizon at the moment:

This Monday, a night in the Yorkshire Dales.

A Week-end in Norwich and an opportunity to catch up with Kerriann. We were hoping to do that next week-end, but then we realised we have a Bridge commitment with our good friends Joan and Gordon on the Sunday, so perhaps we’ll have to put that off to the following week-end.

Early in December we’re hoping to have 3 – 4 nights in Prague. Prague apparently has the best Christmas markets in Europe, and being a bit of a Christmas freak, I can’t miss that opportunity.

And then before you know it, Christmas will be here. There’s talk that this year England may get a rare ‘white christmas’. That would be rather special…

Laying laminate flooring and other things

Last week saw a new roof put onto the shed, the flooring almost completed, the lounge painting completed, the kitchen almost completed, and some other small jobs finished, or on the way to being finished.

Don’t let anyone tell you laying laminate flooring is easy – it most definitely isn’t. Poor Tom and Paul would put anyone straight that would suggest it’s easy. It took them three solid, hard days, most of which was spent on their knees. They finished around 3.30pm on Friday, but at 2pm I seriously wondered if they weren’t going to curl over. They looked absolutely done in. It’s almost finished now, with just a small amount of edging quad to go in on Monday morning.

The newly laid floor and newly hung curtains.

The newly laid floor and newly hung curtains.

Whilst the guys were laying the kitchen floor, I finished off painting what I could in the lounge. After Tom went home each day, Paul would finish painting the bits in the lounge I couldn’t reach, behind the fire place and most of the ceiling.

The heat pump looks much better on white walls. The Eagle was only temporary for today's football final.

The heat pump looks much better on white walls. The Eagle was only temporary for today’s football final.

Last night with the painting virtually finished, and the floor almost completed, we moved the lounge suite, rug and TV unit back into the room, and we hung the curtains. What a pleasure it was to be able to sit in front of TV in a nice room, with curtains shutting out the world for an hour or two last night. None of it’s a perfect job. How could it be in a far from perfectly built house. But wow, what an improvement. We’re very, very happy with it.

So much nicer than dark wood walls.

So much nicer than dark wood walls.

Today Paul had made several tip runs to get rid of a weeks accumulation of rubbish. On the last one he brought back a trailer load of pine chip mulch. It’s not a mulch I particularly like, but it’s very successful at retarding weeds and lasts well. My sister, Wendy, came across from Lonnie for the day and helped me to cut old carpet into strips which we’ve laid around the edges of garden beds and then piled the pine bark mulch on top. Hopefully it’ll keep the gardens easy care and weed free for tenants. Then they’ll only have the lawn to content with, and hopefully when we can come back to the house, the hard work we’ve so far put into the garden won’t have been completely negated.

The kitchen is almost finished. Still to do is the tiling, a bit of painting around the windows and door and hang the blind. We have valances that match the lounge curtains but I don’t thing we’re going to get a chance to get them up. It won’t matter. Hopefully Paul will get those small jobs finish tomorrow.

Next week the guys will complete the shed ready to store our belongings at the end of the week. We have the real estate agent coming on Tuesday to photograph the house for finding a tenant. By Saturday it all has to finished, everything has to be in the caravan ready for when we can come back. All our other belongings have to be packed in the shed. Our caravan and ute have to be in storage and our bags have to be packed for the UK. Next Saturday and Sunday we’re staying with my sister in Lonnie before leaving for Melbourne on the Monday.

It’s been a hard, hard slog, but we’re on the home stretch now. Well, that’s the home stretch on this side of the world. We haven’t had time to think about what awaits us on the other side of the world yet. We just haven’t been able to let ourselves think further ahead than taking each day as it comes here, head down, bum up, and nose to the grindstone.