A new life in Belize

SEE A PALM TREE......... EVERY DAY ..........FOREVER

This is our story of leaving the rat race to enjoy a relaxing life in the sun. Some people will miss us .....but not as much as the tax man.................... We stood on the precipice ......held hands ......... and jumped ..........whooooooooaaaaaa
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  • Here the trio caught at the same time and i got to hold the fish :)

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Marrakech

Towards the end of our month long trip island hopping in Greece , it became apparent that we were both travel weary after moving about for 6 months. We had a one way ticket booked to Sri Lanka and then planned to travel to the Philippines , Cambodia and Thailand . We should have been really excited , but really it was exactly the opposite. Living out of a carry on back pack had taken it’s toll. So we ditched the tickets lost most of the money and headed back to blighty . Fate sometimes deals you an ACE and it just so happened that Earl the Pearl Strickland was doing an exhibition match at Lennons Snooker and Pool hall where we used to hang out in the day time. What a great night and Sean the owner gave me a slot to play One of the greatest pool players of all time … I broke ..took one shot at a quarter ball and it was over he ran the rack …. The weather was awful so we decided to book a last minute deal to Marrakech before we flew home. We stayed in a large hotel with expansive gardens right in the medina. We were looking for the old world and certainly found it in Marrakech.

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This photo was taken in 1909 , we used to sit in a roof top terrace at this exact spot and watch the madness of the medina market. It was exactly the same as pictured

As you walk through the pictured square above you pass a long line of horse drawn buggies vying for tourist dollars. Billions of flies descend on you and soon you work out to find an alternative route the next day. It sounds funny but this was exactly the experience I was looking for. The square is full of hawkers trying to get your photo taken with apes wearing fez’s and snake charmers with wailing flutes.  Do not EVER have your photo taken with animals like this on your travels. They are mistreated , beaten , pitiful shells of their former selves , but this is the culture that exists in this surviving old corner of the world . Who am I to say what is right and what is wrong. Groups of men sit around under umbrella’s smoking  , spitting and playing instruments without a care in the world. We walk by a small table set up with what appears to be white stones . On closer inspection it’s the local dentist … he has a some false teeth palettes and large variety of teeth he has wrestled from peoples mouths. I spy the silver tooth pulling grips and imagine the horror of the screams accompanied by the flute playing snake charmers … it would make a great scene in a movie. There is a small wooden box , I didn’t even dare to ask what was inside.. we move on quickly before he catches our perfect white smiles ..may be he is missing a few rare specimens for his ” COLLECTION”

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Here we witness the guys qualification , not a smart certificate in a flashy glass fronted silver frame .

 

The souks are famous here, a rat run maze of narrow covered alley ways , no street names ,no maps ,you walk in and are consumed by it. Rays of sunlight stream through small holes in the roof as you are jostled along with the flow of thousands of people. There is a sign  no Motorcycles hanging ..obviously no one would ever try to ride through so many packed people in such a small narrow space. The first one nearly clips us as it hurtles down the narrow alley we jump into a shop door to avoid it.. the owner smiles and welcomes in… it’s a lamp shop with over 1000 lamps in ….. selling exactly the same lamps as the other 1000 lamp shops we pass. Out of 5000 shops we pass in the souks ..there seem to be only 5 different types . Lamps , rugs , spices , jewellery, and clothes. How do they all make a living , this is the old world where just a little tourist dollar is enough to get by on for the whole week. There is something to be said for living a ” simple life” .

 

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The amount of flies that lubricated these figs and dates was mouth watering to say the least. I took this photo before the heat of the day so we could actually see the fruit beneath.

We find a little Riad down a back street that serves mint tea and food. It is a sanctuary from the madness of the street outside as soon as we walked in through the door down a passage and out into the sunlit garden the noise magically disappeared. We went there everyday just for a rest from the hustle and bustle. We went back at night to find they are closed …such a shame as the tagines we saw looked amazing.

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Sickly sweet refreshing mint tea , one a day keeps the squits away.:)

We went on a trip to the Ourika valley in the Atlas mountains to visit a traditional Berber village and climb up to the 7 waterfalls. It didn’t say in the glossy brochure that you needed to be a mountain goat to get up there. As we drove in a taxi uphill along the valley ..there are thousands of sofas by the river for people to sit and eat at … not covered up but just there where the sun breaks over the top of a steep mountain. People come here on the weekend to enjoy the river as the sea is to far away .. I suppose their version of Skegness or Blackpool. We hire a guide and start up the path to the waterfalls . We cross rickety old wooden bridges  and start our ascent upwards after 1/2 an hour we are clambering over large boulders and scaling rock faces the guide pulling us up . The rock is granite but has been polished smooth by millions of visitors , luckily we got there early ,so are the first ones to go up .. Eventually we get to a place where you have  to leap across the river on to a polished angled rock on the other side . We decide against it …. as we walked around Marrakech there were lots of tourist with plaster casts on their feet .. there had to be a connection to this place. We start to make our way down and are nearly at the rickety bridge and I see a woman in flip flops hobbling with a walking stick. I stop her and ask if she speaks English.. She does ….  I tell her to turn right around cos she ain’t going no where  .. she looks relieved and said thanks for telling me…  guides will do anything for a dollar!!!!!!!

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We took a picture of these two berks … cmon how touristy is this!!!!!

The old city was vibrant and the square at night was something to be seen. Every local that we met was friendly and we didn’t get hassled half as much as we thought we would. We found the out of the way old world we were searching for …… now back to Belize to finish the house off we started before we left …  Parrots and palm trees … WE HAVE MISSED YOU !!!!!

It’s all Greek to me!!

We left the Turkish port of Fethiye and caught a ferry over to Rhodes . I opted for the large ferry so we would have a smoother ride. As we sat on the dock ready to board we were looking at this small oddly shaped rusting hydrofoil called the Flying Poseidon , H remarking that it looked like a death trap , boarding was called and as we head to the large ferry we were diverted .. I looked at the ticket and in the bottom right had corner it said POSEIDON.   Luckily this didn’t turn out anything like the 1970’s disaster movie with the doomed ship .. our Poseidon adventure went without a hitch. We arrived in Rhodes and expected to be caught in the middle of thousands of refugees , but we didn’t see any. In fact none in the whole month we travelled the islands. We headed straight for our favourite little gem Lindos , the medieval village with narrow winding  streets bars and restaurants leading to the  acropolis over looking the sea. We spent our days at St Pauls bay  in the protected calm waters , and the nights eating on roof top terraces…. Lindos it was good to be back ,like visiting an old friend  :)

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St Pauls bay  Lindos … most people miss this idyllic gorgeous bay .

 

We decided to take a plane to our next destination Crete as the ferry ride was over 8 hours long . The 40 minute flight was a bargain at 30 quid and we based ourselves in the concrete jungle of Heraklion . Our 3 day stay here was to visit Knossos , the mythological home of the Minotaur. The truth behind the story was that a huge 5 story palace was built over an existing town so there were maze like streets under the lower levels. There was a practice of people running towards bulls and doing a hand vault over their backs ,showing bravery. So we have a maze and a half bull half man legend, that would devour anyone that went in. The site was exceptional  and luckily we arrived before the hoards of tourists arrived in their air conditioned buses following their umbrella clasping guides. We visited the Archaeological  Museum  and saw the very best discoveries from around the island. We left the concrete jungle and took the bus to Rethymnon and stayed the night. we were there 20 years ago and went to find a little bar called ” The Lemon Tree” situated in a hidden court yard with a huge lemon tree over head. We also wanted to try and find a bar tender we met , which should be easy as everyone knows everyone in these Greek towns. We look for an old  random guy and pick the owner of a jewellery shop . He tells us someone cut down the tree and now its a t-shirt shop. He also knows the bartender .. but he died 4 years ago .. so our trip had a sombre moment … everything is constantly moving forward …. and so did we as we left for the island of Ios.

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A wall relief from the Palace of Knossos depicting bull leaping

We arrived in Ios on a huge high speed catamaran car ferry, as the ferry stops off at different islands the process is very hurried people barking at you quickly quickly ..move along quickly. We have small backs weighing less than 7 kilos for our entire trip, I see an old lady who must be 130 years old dragging a case , people barking at her quickly quickly .. trust me she ain’t going know where fast … We get off the ferry with no plans and no accommodation , H is a little anxious , but as in life I assure her , there will always be someone who wants your pocket full of money. A smartly dressed woman approaches us and offers us accommodation flashing a glossy brochure.. 30 euro’s a night for luxury accommodation is enough to tempt us in to her car. What a place it was , fantastic pool , views overlooking the sea and 3 mins walking distance to the lively village of Chora. Luckily it was the end of the season and it was DEAD just how we had planned . No puke in the street , no shouting voices at 4am when the clubs turn out , just an old quaint hillside village. If you are a party animal this is surely the jewel in the crown June , July ,Aug. We catch the the local bus to Mylopotas beach which is stunning , easily making my top 3 beaches on our world travels. The rocks in the hill side have silver like flecks which erode and are washed into the sea , when you walk through the crystal clear water flecks of silver shine back at you truly amazing.

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Mylopotas beach probably the best in the whole of Greece.

The island of Paros was next , just a short 50 minute hydrofoil ride away .. the ferry is packed with Chinese tourists and as we come to dock they all jump up and rush to one side to take pictures it is pure bedlam as people struggle pass the mele of clicking cameras luckily our sleek back packs cut effortless through then , if not with the odd push and jab of the elbow from H  :) ….  we walk of the ferry no one there to part us from our money , but I spy a guy with a brochure at the gate and he drives us 7 miles to the other side of the island to a lovely fishing village called Naoussa . Pedestrianized  winding streets lovely eateries and boutique shops a chilled laid back place OUT of SEASON. We decide to move the next day to another place and find a studio apartment with sea view lovely pool and snack bar including huge breakfast for 2o euro’s , I’m sure there has been some mistake in the price so I check again. They are about to close for the season but keep open for another week , as there are another two couples there. We are waited on hand and foot and even get to pump out some MARLEY MUSIC  around the pool on their sound system. We hired a beach buggy ,which is totally f*cked  and barely manage it around the island , the worst vehicle hire in my life EVER ..but we survived:)

 

We then hopped over to Mykonos for 3 days and again bagged a great funky hotel over looking the old town 30 euros a night , they had a bug problem in one of the wodden beams in our room and I asked to be moved .. they moved us into a room that I can only describe as the star wars room. Futuristic white smooth clean lines with neon lights amazing. The old town was lovely by day and night and we took a boat ride to the adjacent island of Delos . It is the most significant archaeological site in the whole of Greece and is where modern society grew from. Today it is a ruin but we hired a guide who gave us the low down.

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The windmills in Mykonos with knobhead tourist who insisted in getting in my photo

Leaving Mykonos behind we headed to our last stop of Santorini from where we would catch the last charter flight out of the season. We did 4 days in Fira and partied a little:) , then head back to Parissa where we lounged on the black sand beach necking beers. The place we were stopping in was having a wedding … a wedding in Greek islands always means gun fire , well lots of guns fire and the obligatory Kalashnikov assault rifle   and you have one hell off a party .. 5 thousand rounds later .. not a policeman in sight …well I suppose they are all at the wedding anyway:) …  I have my first foot massage on the beach , she nearly destroys my foot and leaves me with a bleeding cut in my toe H is laughing hysterically ..NEVER again … we finished our last night with a meal in Mataxi mas a little hidden gem place where they do slow cooked lamb …. to die for .

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The breath taking Fira perched on the volcanoe caldera of santorini

To sum up the month island hopping trip … it’s business as usual in the greek islands no refugees , no money shortages or problems at ATM’s , exactly as it has always been … DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE IN THE NEWS

 

Turkey is NOT just for Christmas

Turkey had always conjured up visions of filthy eateries , days spent on the toilet wasting your holiday and people hassling you to buy something. I could not been any more wrong. H wanted to meet Slim and Chunky (S C) on holiday so we booked to meet them at the start of their second week in Turkey. We stayed in Hisaronu , just up from Oludeniz famous for the Blue Lagoon( not the film). This holiday involved a lot of drinking …which was not the norm for us:) BUT we somehow survived !!! SC were talking about a boat trip around the coast , when we got the price we decided to privately rent the boat for the day as it was quite reasonable. We sailed from Fethiye to Oludeniz and had the boat for the day. Three old salty sea dogs met us and welcomed us on the boat and before you knew it ,we were on our way out of the harbour drinking sweet tea. The Captain asked if I wanted to try fishing , I asked what bait they were using ,on which he held up a drinking straw. I’ll start fishing AFTER the first fish is caught I said to him. Five minutes later BANG a tuna was pulled in. I jumped up grabbed my drinking straw on the end of a hand line with a hook sticking out the back and instantly caught another tuna. H, slim and chunky jumped up and before you knew , everyone was hauling tuna in. At one point we had a triple hook up. Slim had the biggest fish of the day. We caught 12 ,but could have had 50 if we had circled the area. The crew cooked up the fish with Pasta it was absolutely delicious.

Here the trio caught at the same time and i got to hold the fish :)

Here the trio caught at the same time and i got to hold the fish:)

As we had the chartered the boat we cruised around leisurely all day. We got to stop at a bay where big sea turtles were eating seaweed off the rocks at the bottom of the bay. There were plenty surfacing around our anchored boat and we went snorkelling to get a close up. The turtles were bigger than I thought, diving down with them I realised some had 5- feet long shells. At certain points the captain took us to hidden coves with beaches so H could get off the boat and go for a dip in the water . It was a really great day,  cruising ,relaxing with friends ,and listening to chilled vibes, on flat calm seas .The fishing memory will certainly last a life time  :)

Cooling off in the crystal clear waters , with the boat in the back ground

Cooling off in the crystal clear waters , with the boat in the back ground

Chunky was a regular to Turkey and talked me into a Turkish Bath and then a shave with a cut throat razor. H was really keen on me at least having the  shave:) . We ventured off on our own and before a knew it ,I was stripped to my shorts and in a sauna sweating like a pig at 100 degrees. We exited the sauna and jumped in to the cold plunge pool ,which was very refreshing. Next we entered a large octagonal room completely decked out in magnificent marble, the middle of the room was a huge raised heated marble slab that you laid on to dry off. There was soft piped music and you could easily have fallen a sleep in there it was so relaxing, UNTIL there was the crack of a towel and the rub down guy came in.  Chunky let me go first so I could get the FULL experience. The guy thrashed me with a towel , vigorously rubbed me down showing me the dead skin he was removing from me , shouting DIRTY DIRTY , he then worked up a lather and covered me in bubbles and scrubbed me down again. He then rubbed oil over me and I was done . Chunky had the same and after we were wrapped head to toe in towels and given apple tea to drink whilst we dried off.  Later we went for a shave AGAIN I went first , a cut throat razor was produced and he set about me ,at one point he stopped and told me to stop talking as I’d caused him to knick my throat. He shaved me twice, lit a stick with rags on and blew fire into my ears and up my nose. The gave me a full head ,shoulder and hand massage. What an experience it was cheap as chips , I’d do it every week if I lived there.

The worlds chance to eradicate me , I got knicked BUT survived JUST :)

The worlds chance to eradicate me , I got knicked BUT survived JUST:)

I had one thing on my bucket list for Turkey , really the only thing I came for. To jump off the top of Babadag Mountain and soar above Oludeniz and the blue lagoon on a tandem paraglider. I tried to get extra sports cover insurance but it was difficult to arrange , so threw caution to the wind and decided what the hell you only die ONCE. Chunky was over the moon as he had always wanted to do it so we went with SKY SPORTS a very professional set up. We were transported by mini bus up the mountain and when the door opened a girl screamed oh my god. She had seen the short paved run strip that disappeared off the mountain side. At 6000 feet it’s the highest commercial jump site in the world. The pilot who I was with was the Turkish long distance champion and had been doing this 18 years. He said, once we are up the danger is over. We just need enough speed to get off the edge of the cliff ….WHAT EVER HAPPENS KEEP RUNNING.  A quick run and we were lofted into the sky on a strong up lift , we soared like eagles .. it was well worth the money and risk. Chunky opted for the aerobatics and bagged the video to go with it. I wanted the maximum amount of time in the air. We came down with buildings either side of us down the main street and made a perfect landing.  Thanks to Slim and Chunky for showing us Turkey and all it’s delights at a fraction of the cost of Greece, I would definitely go back ..especially for the Kebabs :)

Soaring in the Turkish skies , the brown trail behind me I photo shopped out  :)

Soaring in the Turkish skies , the brown trail behind me I photo shopped out:)

Scotlands wettest summer for 40 years

We hadn’t been to Scotland and were saving it for when we got old. Now we’ve moved to Belize we decided to see on our trip and waited most of the summer for a decent week. This didn’t happen so short on time we decided to go for the week with a forecast for sunshine and showers. We started our trip North and stopped over with the “Geordie lass” just below Edinburgh in a house she’d rent for the week with her family. Next day we headed past Glasgow and ended up in a place called Tyndrum , which had a great pub and a crap chip shop . The chip shop had the words REAL FOOD  outside .. I think the word SH*T  had fallen off between the two prominent words:) . What Tyndrum does have is a great camp site called The Pines , it has great facilities and even piped music in the bathrooms ..BIZARRE but great . We broke camp early in the rain and headed for the Isle of Skye. We drove past beautiful Loch’s and vast Glens and mountains , unfortunately it pissed it down the whole time and we saw nowt. We arrived in Skye , who’s name comes from the Norse word  Sky   which means ” Cloud Island” . Those Viking left out the word miserable:) . In high spirits we pitched our tent in the rain lashed mountains as we finished a brief glimpse of sun produced this photo.

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In the middle of the Cuillins mountain range just after the rain had stopped

 All there is at Sligachan is a Hotel and whisky bar , which serves great food and has 220 types of whisky. It was voted 2015 best bar in Scotland meaning it’s the best whisky bar in the world. We were playing pool and knocking back pints when a bloke (man) asked me what whisky’s I had tried . None I replied I don’t like the stuff, he said you’ve come to Scotland for the one and only time in your life and your in the best whisky bar and you are not even going to try one .. NOPE was my curt reply. Well the next night , after the guy rope was ripped from our tent in fierce winds and we’d decided to flee this wild place, we were having one last drink. I got to the bar saw all these bottles of whisky and decided the bloke from the night before was right. I asked the bartender what was there best whisky and she replied a Link wood 54 , coincidentally 54 was the year it was made and the price for a single shot. I inwardly gasped and hid my surprise by replying ..you got to be f*cking kidding me 54 quid for a shot. She smiled and said here’s the menu there 219 others to choose from. I looked at it for a minute , it might as well be written in Sanskrit , I had no idea what anything was. So I looked her straight in the eye and said i’ll have the Link Wood …she stuttered  REALLY  ..lets do I said I’m only here once. She searched the bar for 10 minutes and eventually another bar tender told her where the bottle was … it’s in the cellar right to the back , there is a dark corner and in that corner there is a box , it’s in there. A few minutes later she appeared with a presentation box in her hand ,and as she walked along bar the whole place came to a stand still, the 6 other bar staff stopped what they were doing and stared at this bottle of whisky. One of the bar tenders came up and said who’s having that .. she pointed at a rain lashed , wrinkled t shirt clad ,oaf ( me) , he said REALLY in a broad Scottish voice , can I pour it . They had trouble getting the bottle out of the box and it was at that point I realised no one had ever opened this box and when they produced the bottle it had it’s original seal around the corked top. It was a virgin bottle and the bar tender was so excited he had his photo taken with the bottle. I motioned to him to sniff the cork as he opened the bottle , which he did savouring the smell. He poured the drink into a Glen Cairn whisky glass and I said to him have the first sip , he said your joking aren’t you ,a whisky that expensive and you are giving some of it away. I told him I didn’t like whisky  and needed someone who knew about these things to tell me if it’s any good. At this he burst out laughing. He savoured the smell, taste it , rolled it around his mouth and commented on it’s flavour, texture and accents..  turned to me and said it’s a gud un ( nice). I got back to H who gave me a few sharp words ( bollocking) cos I’d been gone over 15 minutes and explained it was a special whisky , well she had a sip and it wasn’t for her. For me ,other whisky’s  I had tried before had been  sharp , but this one was smooth and had an oaky taste. H said if that whisky is so special then I bet that glass will fit in your pocket , it did and will take pride of place in a dark corner in Belize:)

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54 quid you’ve got to be f*cking kidding me:)

We made our escape from Skye , why bonny Prince Charlie ever went there it’s beyond me :)  and drove back through Glen Coe and ended up in Troon. We stayed in The Cherries B and B  which backs on to Troon golf course and were looked after by Margaret ( I talk to my self, but I know it ) . We asked her for somewhere special to go for the day and she sent us to the lovely Loch Doon , here there is a ruined castle that was moved from an island in the loch to the loch side . It successfully thwarted a English siege in the 13 hundreds and we had a picnic inside, as the sun came out. It is certainly a hidden gem.

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A great place for a picnic , another English invasion

 As we were in the area we dropped in on our Scottish pie making friends from Belize , who had moved back to so there son could get a better education. We arrived Harry pulled up his shirt and there were 7 holes in his chest covered by large plasters , he explained he’d been in for an operation. We think Carla had knifed him and we only stayed the one night , leaving early in the morning:) . To sum Scotland up … we expected rain and it didn’t disappoint the people were great and the scenery was stunning , BUT they don’t half talk funny up there:)

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Re united still the same old scallywags:)

Ninety seconds in Siena

We flew to Italy for a week of relaxation as the UK was taking it’s toll on us :) . Good old Ryan air got us there and back for 90 pounds each . We landed in Pisa and had booked a room for the night .On arrival at the property the woman said there had been a PROBLEM ( F*ck)  oh dear I thought ;)  BUT not to worry we had been up graded to a swanky hotel which was better than we had booked . We headed off to get a photo of the leaning tower but it was useless , thousands of tourists milling about so we went for something to scoff and had a little tipple and a wobble back to the room . The next morning I was out by 5.30am to snap a photo at sunrise …Not a soul in sight … took the photo and grabbed two large chocolate pastries H was very happy to see me:)

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The sun forced its way between these two buildings pushing one to the side ….Incredibly no one else witnessed it!!!!

A quick and easy train ride brought us to Poggibossi  , jumped in a taxi and arrived in the medieval historic town of San Gimignano.  Perched on a hill over looking rural Tuscany , it is famous for it’s impressive towers. It was rammed in the day with tour guides , but retained a charm in the evening with lovely rustic restaurants.  San Gimignano has a great Torture chamber exhibition with the most graphic bone chilling descriptions of every piece of equipment they used. If these things were used today there would be much less crime and social problems Guaranteed. We spied a bottle of Grappa and had a glass or two before we went out . It reminded us of a wild night in Dubrovnik with friends , but we choose not to over indulge.

san Gimignano

Next we hopped on the train again and landed in Siena for the Il Palio. We had been here before ,but narrowly missed the world famous horse race. We had booked a place at the city wall and it turned out to be a hidden gem. Al Tuscany is run by a family which own a 15th Century huge palatial house. The walled city was buzzing in anticipation of the big day , but rain had postponed the race scheduled for Sunday. We had to book another night and our host made sure we kept our room as there is no where to stop if not booked in advance. Monday morning we got to the Il Campo ( main square where the race takes place) at 9am we picked our spot next to the fence inside of the course. Its free to stand inside the square to watch the race and between 350 -500 euro’s to sit on the seats around the outside. The race takes 90 seconds as they career around the square 3 times bare back on horses with only a bridal and a whip. There is one rule ..first rider past the post on a horse wins .. kicking punching whipping and pulling your opponents off their horses is allowed. So at 9am we only had another 10 hours and 30 mins to wait for the 90 second race. Over the day the square filled up and is closed off completely at 6pm when 60 thousand people have been crammed in. Luckily we still had access to beer and pizza which managed to sustain us JUST:)

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we are stood opposite the bull drawn carriage .. photo taken from the clock tower

At 7pm the atmosphere was intense ,then it hit me … the Italian HUM ..  B.O and the heat of sixty thousand people I will never forget , for H it will be the 10.5 hour wait :)  . The horses then lined up and after a few false starts they were off , the roar of the crowd was deafening and an electric atmospheric buzz could be felt. 90 seconds later a canon went off and the race was over and the race tracked was invaded by members of the supporting contradas ( sections of the city) . A huge fight broke out and spilled into the crowd which we hastily managed to steer away from. My parting memory of the palio was seeing the umbrella that we had shielded ourselves from the sun all day, being thrown like a spear into the crowded square. We survived the palio  …. JUST….. and we had a hearty boar stew and a few bottles of wine to calm our nerves :)   .. We spent our last night in Lucca  before leaving from Pisa the next day .. BUT we will both remember the 90 seconds in August for a very long time and for different reasons:)

The leader led all the way and was given at dummy at the end as his reward ..its all about tradition :)

The leader led all the way and was given at dummy at the end as his reward ..its all about tradition:)

The need for speed

Before we left the UK I took my Dad to the formula at Silverstone as I could only get two last-minute tickets. So as part as the big trip we booked two more tickets for this years race for H to experience. We got two great seats on farm curve at the top of the grandstand and the weather was sunny throughout the race and rained the last ten minutes which added to the excitement of an unscheduled tyre change resulting in a win for the golden boy Lewis Hamilton.

Life in the fast lane ..H took her ear plugs ..said it was for the race car noise ..of course it was :)

Life in the fast lane ..H took her ear plugs ..said it was for the race car noise ..of course it was:)

We next headed out to Ibiza hijacking the Sibbo’s romantic weekend away without the kids. Before we left the UK Mr Sibbo made me go halves on a bottle of Don Perignon  ( D.P ) , which to me ( uncultured ) tasted like Prosecco and knowing him, if I hadn’t seen the bottle I would have bet my house it was. We were arriving before them on a different flight and in duty free I saw a vintage reserve D.P and bought it as a surprise. We then hatched a cunning plan to fool him. We purchased a cheap Prosecco that had a rip off label that looked like D.P  and had it chilled down and put it inside the D.P presentation box. When he arrived I gave him the box ,he was very excited ,opened it then his face saddened when he realised it was just cheap Sh*t that we ( us and you the reader ) enjoy. I said come on then lets open it and he begrudgingly started to unwrap the cheap foil top. I whisked out the real chilled bottle and hid it behind my back , proclaiming you don’t think I’m that cheap do you . You should have seen the grin that emerged oh his face. This was just the start of a great weekend of drinking and partying ,culminating in a night at the world famous PACHA night club. It was without a shadow of a doubt the single best clubbing night of my life. Idris elba was spinning the tunes and Bob Sinclair finished of the set  as the sun rose. The next night we went to San Antonio and bagged some free seats at sunset whilst Pete Tong did his thing.. we must have drunk the place dry and the night ended with the immortal words …. Harvey Nichols  ( Private Joke)

We arrived at Midnight as it opened before it got rammed and had the pick of the best FREE seats in the house ..WHAT A NIGHT

We arrived at Midnight as it opened before it got rammed and had the pick of the best FREE seats in the house ..WHAT A NIGHT

We left Ibiza and flew to Bibao then caught the bus across the border to Biarritz where we picked up a car and stayed the night. We then left early morning at 5am to be greeted by the youth of spain still partying as it was Bastille Day ..getting in and out of Biarritz is a complete nightmare sat nav is a must. We then had the most magical drive on the back roads of France over the Pyrenees  and headed to the first mountain top finish of the Tour De France this year. La Pierre San Marten is a ski resort perched at the top of the mother of a mountain. We had to park 4 miles from the top and walk up . I remarked if they can ride up it we can walk up it …. I was nearly wrong, it was one hell of a slog but we made it:). Then the 8 hour wait began for the riders to arrive. We picked a spot 100m from the finish perched on some rocks that gave a fantastic view across the whole of the mountains it was quite breath taking. I bought the obligatory tour de france yellow jersey and prepared for the carvan to arrive. We were directly opposite a huge tv screen where we could see the race unfold. A family of Canadians camped at our feet and I predicted a Froome win by 45 seconds dropping Quintana on the climb . I called it correct with Froome winning by 54 seconds …the goose bumps I got as he appeared around the corner was amazing ..i’d fulfilled a 30 year dream of seeing a mountain top finish ..it didn’t disappoint and could never be topped. The day after we saw another stage as they flew past us on the road and then went to Pau to see the magnificent Chateau . The next day we headed to Toulouse to drop the car off and fly back . On the way we called in on some friends we’d met at the Dry Tortugas 8 years ago and it was as if it had only been last year . We sipped Champagne and reminisced it was a lovely afternoon at their gorgeous 16th century farm house.

The photo below is the ONLY photo of this stage which was taken my me ,as the Canadian guy with the fancy camera  took so many pictures of the advertising caravan parade, his battery died … Let this be a lesson to all the budding Photographers out there!!!

An English win at a mountain top finish in the Pyrenees ..The things that dreams are made of

An English win at a mountain top finish in the Pyrenees ..The things that dreams are made of

H’s and my Dad share their birthdays one after the other so we decided to do something they’d never forget ..we took them to the Spearmint Rhino club ( well I would have done)  but we opted for second best and hired a private trip on a narrow boat along the Chesterfield canal and treated them to Lunch. It was really nice to be away from the hustle and bustle and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was going to ask the guy piloting the boat to take a picture of us , BUT H suggested I take the photo as not to spoil the shot or risk breaking the camera :)

I was going to ask the guy piloting the boat to take a picture of us , BUT H suggested I take the photo as not to spoil the shot or risk breaking the camera:)

Iceland – The nocturnal sun

At the end of June we went for a long weekend to Iceland as we missed it for H’s 4oth . It was her number one must do thing on this long trip. The flights were very reasonable at about 160 quid return each through Icelandic air. We arrived and immediately bought two bottles of wine , absolute vodka and a Captain morgans rum from the duty free before you exit the airport. If bought outside the airport the drinks are 300% more. We had hired an apartment right in the centre of Reykjavik  called Kalli’s apartment we had room number 5 A.K.A  the ” Rock Star” room because the shower is opposite the bed and you can see right in. A funky apartment with everything you need right in the centre , but no rowdy noise.

We had booked a trip inside the Thrihnukagigur Volcano where you are lowered down 400ft inside a dormant magma chamber, the only place this is done in the world. It was a 2mile hike across the lava field at the top of a mountain. There was still snow and the wind was biting hard ..good job we had our goose down jackets. Crazily they were having a heat wave and it was the middle of summer, anything over 10 Celsius is regarded as a heat wave .. how lucky were we  :)  . We were on the peasant tour at 200 quid each , the Quaffer tour landed by Helicopter for 400 quid. We arrived at the Volcano and were split into small groups of 4 to be lowered down in a cage by winch which took 6 minutes into the inky black hole. At the bottom it was flood lit and you could walk about ..it was great and much better than I anticipated ,well worth the money.

Just outside the mouth of the magma chamber

Just outside the mouth of the magma chamber

A rainbow of colours painted the walls all the way up the vent ..H colour co-ordinated :)

A rainbow of colours painted the walls all the way up the vent ..H colour co-ordinated:)

People always say that Iceland is expensive but we found it very similar to English prices . We drank heavily water and booze:) , and ate great food .. most notably a fabulous steak at the swanky Grillmarket  and also ..and it pains me to say it …The BEST fish and chips EVER ..even better than Papa’s and that’s saying something. What is expensive are the trips and tours . But you can do the GOLDEN CIRCLE tour  quite cheaply for about 50 quid each. We chose the  Night tour  as the sun doesn’t set and it wouldn’t have any kids on it. We were not disappointed we went first to the where two continental plates meet , which is the reason for all the volcanic activity on Iceland . We then where whisked off to the hot springs which border a lake and spent 2 hours in the different  pools ranging from 30 degrees to 42 . There was no rotten egg smell and it was very peaceful looking over a large lake .. every now and again there were bubbles coming from underneath H but she assures me they were naturally occurring :)  .  Next we went to the Gilfoss  waterfall, the power of the water is amazing comparable to Niagara falls , whilst we were walking back to the bus we came across a woman holding her face , she had been walking with her hand in her pockets (it was cold …we took gloves) and tripped falling on her face.  I checked her over and patched her up with the first aid kit we always carry , trying out the iodine powder spray I’d just bought ( note to self it makes your face orange)  she was bruised bloodied and banged up but she survived ..I told her she looked like a ROCKY extra that made her smile ..she was a tough Yorkshire lass … who now has a great party story.

Gilfoss waterfall around midnight .. with a rainbow to boot

Gilfoss waterfall around midnight .. with a rainbow to boot

Next we visited Geysir  the hot springs park just down the road and where the  number 5 tallest geyser in the world erupts every 5 – 8 minutes. A rope keeps you just far enough to be safe , but two young boys were scolded by steam when the wind suddenly changed a couple of months earlier.

Geysir park , where is ok to fart cos no ones gonna be able to tell  :)

Geysir park , where is ok to fart cos no ones gonna be able to tell:)

At the weekend Reykjavik kicks into full swing and the main street is full of bars which get busy around 1am , very strange walking around with sunglasses on in the middle of the night / day . It’s a friendly place and everyone speaks English. It’s so close to England can’t believe we never went before  ..so if you are thinking about it …  F@£& it , book it .. you won’t be disappointed.

Took this photo at 11pm on our way out for a tipple on the town.

Took this photo at 11pm on our way out for a tipple on the town.

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