We’re in Heaven!

We are spending a couple of nights up at Casa Debbio, Deb & Jim’s mountain holiday house in Italy and let me tell you we are in heaven.

Since we were here last the garden has progressed beautifully….and the views are just as we remember.

The last of the summer flowers are just hanging on.

The chestnut trees are shedding their nuts.


The walnuts are almost done.

The persimmon won’t be too far away from picking.

The pomegranate are ripening well.

And the kiwi fruit are looking great.

How could you ever tire of this view?

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If you are coming to Italy and would like a relaxing holiday or you enjoy hiking this is the place to stay.

http://www.casadebbio.com

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We are back in Italy

What a joy it is to be back in Italy after 5 years to visit Deb and our other friends.
Ponte a Serraglio is still as lovely as ever.

It has been so nice to spend time with Deb and catch up with Cherry and Aldo.

Of course the food has been fabulous. Nothing is better than fresh Italian pasta.

Actually, it is all delicious!

We decided on a trip over to Pietrasanta for the Medieval Festival. We arrived early to see these art pieces which have been installed in the piazza.

In the late afternoon the crowd gathered and the festival began. Dancers and jousters put on their displays but the flag throwers were the highlight. They band announced their entrance – the flag throwers are very skilled – it must take a lot of practice!

We still have 3 more days here so you will see more soon.

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London

What a busy time we have had in London.

Our hotel overlooked Kensington Gardens.

We toured the city on the Hop On Hop Off bus.

The views from the London Eye were pretty good…don’t you think!

We visited both the National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum. This is just a very small sample of what there is to see.


We are now in Italy for the final week of our holiday….more to come on that soon.

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Oxford

Cited as one of the best university, Oxford caters for approximately 24,000 enrolled scholars per year. Its 38 colleges are spead throughout the city and many are fabulous buildings. Bars, restaurants and shops cater for the wide range of academics who attend Oxford, as well as all the support services required to keep the university functioning.

To get a good overview of the city we rode the city sightseeing bus. Most of these photos were taken from the top deck of the bus.

On our tour along the Thames River, which runs past the city, we passed where the Head of the River rowing race is held. It is surprisingly narrow for the eight competing boats to manoeuvre the course.

Oxford is a very exciting and interesting city – we really needed to spend more time here exploring.

Now off to London for a few days – then Italy for a week to visit friends.

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Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace has been the residence of the Dukes of Marlborough since the palace was completed in 1722 and is the only non-royal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The land was gifted to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, as a reward for his military triumphs by Queen Anne. It is also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

Today over half of the palace is open to the public, while the remainder continues to be the family home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough. On the walls in the interior of the palace are priceless family portraits and large tapestries depicting historical battle scenes in which the 1st Duke is prominent. Contemporary French artist Yves Klein currently has as exhibition at the palace – you can not miss the bright ultramarine artwork and sculptures in the photos.

The formal Water Terrace and Italian Garden are close to the palace. The grassy landscaped parklands designed by ‘Capability’ Brown between 1763 and 1774 has many walking paths to explore.

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Classic Cotswolds

Bibury, a typically beautiful Cotswold village was once described by William Morris (1834-96) as “the most beautiful village in England”. The cottages of Arlington Row are said to be the most photographed and beautiful cottages in the country.

Referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ Bourton-on-the-Water has several little bridges that cross the River Windrush. Charming shops line the river and tourists meander the banks enjoying the sunshine.

The lovely little village of Upper Slaughter is on the banks of the River Eye. The oldest part of Manor House hotel dates back to the 15th century and the front is said to be Elizabethan.

Naunton is another very small village and here the River Windrush flows through the village and its water meadows, making it as picturesque as all the other villages.

Burford’s sloping high street offers lovely views down the street and then up into the countryside. The streets are lined with elegant shops, cafes and a collection of building styles.

It seems that all the houses in these villages have lovely gardens which adds to the beauty of the villages.

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Mevagissey & Fowey

The small fishing village of Mevagissey is spectacular. The twin harbour provides sheltered safe waters where the colourful fishing boats rise and fall as the tide ebbs and flows.

Sole, lobster, skate and plaice are the main catches. Seafood restaurants and Fish & Chips shops are plentiful in the village, which dates back to 1313.


We visited again a few days later and the tide was out. Makes for a very different look of the village.

The visitor parking area for Fowey is high above the village. Taking the walk down is okay but we definitely caught the village bus back up to the car.

On the River Fowey the deep harbour the Fowey allows large vessels, including cruise ships, to enter the estuary. The narrow winding streets have a great variety of restaurants, cafes and shops to entice the visitor to part with their money. It was a pretty gloomy day when we visit.

By mid afternoon the rain started in Fowey; seems to be the normal weather pattern for us at the moment.

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan & The Eden Project

The Lost Gardens of Heligan and The Eden Projecct are not far from where we are staying here in St Austell.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan had been lost to brambles and completely overgrown since the outbreak of WW1. In 1990 the largest garden restoration project in Europe began the mammoth task of uncovering the lost gardens. Today over 20 gardeners and estate workers maintain the garden and cultivate heritage plants and vegetables throughout the seasons.


The garden is divided into landscaped ‘rooms’ and this is the Italian garden.

The vegetable garden.

A few animals for the kids to enjoy.

And the beautiful flower garden.

The Eden Project offers quite a different experience.

Once a huge crater as a result of mining china clay, the garden has been established as a horticultural spectacle with the massive covered Biomes to show off the worlds most important plants.


The Rainforest Biome

The Mediterranean Biome

We were surprised to see an area dedicated to the South West area of Western Australia.

This is a photograph of the original site.
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Both gardens were lovely and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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Padstow, Rick Stein’s & Newquay

Padstow has a large influx of daily tourists, partly thanks to the popularity of Rick Stein’s TV shows. He has a big presence in the town, with 5 eateries, a deli, fresh fish outlet, cooking school and accommodation and other business interests. Known locally as ‘Padstein’, it is a lovely small fishing village on the Cornwall coast.

High on the ‘to do’ list in the UK was lunching at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant. To ensure we didn’t miss the opportunity we made our reservation on-line back in April. As you can see we were the first to arrive, but it didn’t take long for the restaurant to fill up.

Our entrees were:
* Fish and Shellfish Soup with Rouille, Parmesan and Croutons
* Char-grilled Sea Bass with a Mango, Avocado, Prawn and Chilli Salsa

And the mains:
* Seared Cod on reduction of red wine and shallots
* Indonesian Seafood Curry with Sea Bass, Hake, Prawns and Squid

Excellent food, service and setting. It was everything we had hoped it would be.

We also visited nearby Newquay today, UK’s surfing mecca. The town sits high on the seaside cliffs and below is a wide beach with the surf rolling in.
 

What a great day we have had – we even had sunshine for most of the day!

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Dartmoor National Park

The weather at the moment is being very uncooperative! After consulting the weather app we decided today was the best day to explore the Dartmooor National Park in the county of Devon. Perhaps the app needs a new setting to advise the visibility!

As we entered the park we were lucky to see a few of the Dartmoor ponies that roam the countryside.

Before we drove into the fog the moors looked lovely and green.

Along the way we passed these two gorgeous little bridges.

On the edge of the Dartmoor NP the exclusive golf club at Bovey Castle looked very elegant.

On the eastern side of the moors we stopped for lunch in the little village of Chagford, a historic stannary town, with buildings dating back to the 15th and 16th century. The town was quite somber as we believe a funeral in the local church was taking place.

On the way back we stopped briefly in Tavistock on the River Tavy. The busy Pannier Market was a great find.


I wish we had had more time here but once again the afternoon rains sent us homeward bound.

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The South West Corner of Cornwall

We have been really looking forward to our visit to Cornwall and so it was with great anticipation that we headed off today.

First stop…St Ives. We parked out at the ‘train park and ride’. These first glimpses of the West Cornwall coast are taken from the moving train.

From the train station we strolled down to the waters edge.

We arrived quite early so it was pretty quiet and easy to get around.

From here we travelled to Lands End. Unfortunately rain and wind meant we didn’t get out of the car.

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Next stop was Porthcurno to visit the Minack Open Air Theatre which sits right on edge of a rock outcrop overlook the sea. But…..closed, performance on and we could not get near the place! I wonder if they go wet!

Next stop – St Michael’s Mount. Although we arrived on a high tide the walk had been cancelled today due to inclement weather!

Our final stop was Falmouth and the weather was good. A walk around the main shopping streets and the harbour was very relaxing.

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Hereford

Hereford, in Herefordshire in the West Midlands, sits on the River Wye. It has been a great base for the past week.

The Old House is a timber-framed Jacobean building, built in 1621, and is now a museum.

We enjoyed a coffee down on the River Wye.

Hereford Cathedral, which dates from the early 12th century, has architectural style from Norman times to modern technology in recent renovations and repairs.

Indian restaurants are very popular over here so after a drink at the Barrels we dined at Marygolds.

Our apartment, The Flat 72, is on the second and third floor above Guy Patience. Guy & Laura rent out the apartment above Guy’s barber shop. Very comfortable.

From here we are moving down to Cornwall for the next week.

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A Family Connection

Jim’s brother, David, has researched their family history and this story begins in the Staffordshire and Shropshire areas. David and Lynette visited in 2015 so we followed in their footsteps to see the villages as well.

David had the information on the burial site of their nanna’s grandparents, Josiah & Elizabeth Prince; both are buried in the Cannock cemetery in county Staffordshire.

Amazingly, the house in which they lived on Newhall Farm, 2 miles from Cannock, is still standing. It is the three story building in the following photos. Next door the Newhall Farm Hotel has been built to replicate the style of the old stables.

Both grandparents were born in the UK.

Nanna, Ivy, was born at Bridgnorth in Shropshire. It was market day when we visited so very busy in the village square.

Pop, Bill, was born at Newport in Shropshire only 20 miles north of Bridgnorth. It is another very pretty little village – but rain forced us into The Barley for lunch!

Thanks for sending us the information David. We had a great day visiting the sites you suggested.

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Beautiful Bath

The lovely city of Bath is located in the Somerset countryside. Local honey-coloured Bath stone has been used extensively in the Georgian architecture. The many chimney pots can’t go unnoticed.

Built as a spa town, Bath still draws many visitors to ‘take the waters’. The Roman Baths still flow with natural hot water but bathing is on longer allowed. More modern facilities are now in use. We didn’t join the queues to see to see the Roman Baths – several tourist buses had beaten us to the ticket line.

The Bath Abbey, which was restored in 1616, is noted for its fan-vaulting, tower and large stained-glass windows.

Completed around 1775, The Royal Crescent and The Circus are curved streets with Georgian style houses. Today it is still mostly private homes, with the exception of a small hotel and museum.  

Pulteney Bridge was completed in 1774 with shops across its full span on both sides. The curved weir below was built across a river in the early 1970s in order to control the water level. The nearby garden offers a lovely place to enjoy some green space.

On our way down to Bath we crossed the Severn Bridge near Bristol which was completed in 1996. The bridge allows easy access between Wales and England and is 1.6km long, 136m high and has a clearance of 47m. The longest span of the bridge is an amazing 988m long.

The weather was lovely for us in Bath. We enjoyed the views from the open top of the sightseeing bus.

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Malvern, Tewkesbury and Ledbury

Leaving North Wales we are now staying for a week in Hereford, a great base in the Midlands to visit the West Cotswolds and surrounding area. The rolling hills in the countryside are beautiful.

On our first outing we visit Malvern, Tewkesbury and Ledbury.

Malvern is in Worcestershire and lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Malvern is also the home of Morgan Motors so Jim toured the Morgan Factory to see how these sport cars are handmade by very skilled craftsmen.

Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, lies on the meeting point of the Avon and River Severn, giving it a lovely riverside setting for visitors to enjoy.

It’s 17th century black and white half–timbered buildings, overhanging upper-storeys and narrow alleyways make it a very popular tourist attraction.

Ledbury is a market town in Herefordshire, and again has the black and white half-timber buildings. The central Market House, which had originally served as a grain store was completed in 1653.

Whilst the hedgerows can inhibit the views of the countryside at times, there are still plenty of opportunities to see the lovely scenery. Except when travelling to longer destinations we are using the quieter backroads and avoiding the motorways.

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Caenarfon, Anglesey and more

Caenarfon Castle was built on the southern end of the Menai Strait which separates North Wales and Anglesey. The construction of the castle began in 1283 and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During Edward I’s invasions of Wales, its location was a strategic stronghold in the region. It is also the castle in which Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Crossing the Menai Strait we did a short drive around part the Isle of Anglesey.


The surprise of our days travel was driving into Llandudno back on the mainland. With it’s sweeping waterfront promenade this seaside resort town has long sandy beaches and a pier, the nearby wilderness of the Great Orme has views inland to Snowdonia National Park.

The waterfront buildings are all B&B’s and boutique hotels offering upmarket holiday accommodation all year around. I don’t think we saw a private residence on the Main Street.

We had driven this way to see Rhos On Sea and the huge wind farm off the coast. The huge ocean wind farm has 160 wind turbines of 150 metres (490 ft) tip height above mean sea level and is the fourth largest operating offshore wind farm in the world. The offshore substation is also visable from Rhos on Sea and is capable of providing power to 30% of homes in Wales.

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Beddgelert & Snowdonia NP

After leaving the Yorkshire Dales we are in North Wales for a few days to visit the Snowdonia National Park.

Our accommodation is in the very pretty little village of Beddgelert.

The name Beddgelert means in Welsh ‘The grave of Gelert’. Legend has it that in the thirteenth-century, Prince Llywelyn the Great went out hunting and left his faithful hound, Gelert, to guard his young son. An enormous wolf entered the house and Gelert attached and killed the wolf in the baby’s room; knocking over the crib and bloodying the surroundings. On his return, Llewelyn entered the room to find Gelert covered in blood and the child missing. Enraged, he stabbed the dog and as Gelert was dying, Llewelyn heard his son crying nearby. Pulling back the crib he found his little boy safe and well; lying near the wolf’s torn and bloodied body. Llywelyn, filled with remorse, realised his mistake and so buried his faithful dog in the field near the village.

Travelling from Beddgelert to Llanberis we cross the mountains on the Pen y Pass. This area has several slate quarries. The views are stunning.